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How To Tell If A Salt Cell Needs Replacing

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

Salt cells are a very important part of your saltwater pool’s technology but unfortunately, they don’t last forever.

Over time, they should be replaced when they become damaged or worn out – but when is this and how can you tell if it’s time to replace your salt cells? 

If you need a bit of guidance when it comes to your saltwater pool’s maintenance, then this is the place for you.

We are going to be taking a closer look at salt cells, the salt systems of saltwater pools and how you can properly maintain them.

This way, you can stay on top of your saltwater pool’s maintenance so you can continue to enjoy it all year round with no blocks or delays! 

So, let’s dive into learning about salt cells! 

What Are Salt Cells?

Salt cells are just another name for the cells in your Salt Chlorine Generator (or SCG for short).

This generator is a main component in your saltwater pool’s salt system and plays a huge role in keeping your saltwater pool clean and safe for swimming and use. 

Saltwater pools (see also ‘Salt Water Pool Cost’)¬†are powered by a salt chlorinator generator that turns salt into chlorine and helps your pool stay clean.

This is a natural way to produce chlorine rather than relying on the pool owners to purchase their own and generally requires less maintenance than conventional pools and their chlorine systems.

This is why more and more pool owners are switching to saltwater pools. 

Salt chlorinator generators are made up of two main components. One of course is the salt cells, and the other is the control box. 

The control box generates the electricity that the cells use to turn salt into chlorine.

It features a small screen and other display features that help signal alerts and notifications that relate to the progress and situation of your salt chlorinator generator.

It plays an important role because not only does it help you notice if there is an issue with your saltwater pool, but it also connects your saltwater pool to your home’s electricity. 

The salt cells, however, are electrolytic converters that can be found behind the filter, heater and pump of your salt chlorinator generator.

They are cylindrical and stretch as long as a foot and half in length. They work when water is passed through them, using the electrical charge to convert salt into chlorine. 

Don’t worry – that electrical charge is not powerful enough to harm you, only enough to turn dissolved salt into chlorine for your pool.

From here, the chlorine acts just like it does in any other pool – it kills any bacteria and germs in the pool water and also helps prevent any plants or algae that may grow in the pool.

So, salt cells are a hugely important part of your saltwater pool’s technology and are key to keeping the water safe for you and your family to swim in.

However, nothing is perfect and you may begin to notice problems with your salt cells over time.

When To Replace Your Salt Cells 

Over time, problems will crop up with your saltwater pool’s salt cells. However, not every problem related to your saltwater pool is related to the salt cells so it’s important that you are aware of what signs point to faulty salt cells. 

Popular symptoms of a faulty salt cell includes the following:

You may have noticed that the Cell Warning light is displaying on your control box.

Even if the light is displaying inconsistently and is repeatedly turning itself on and off, you should take this as a sign that something is wrong with your salt cells.

Alternatively, your control box may also have a Check Salt warning light or message that appears on the display screen.

Even if your water samples are coming back as normal, you should still check your salt cells – it could be a sign that they are on their way out. 

You also may have noticed that your pool has little to no chlorine. You should be able to notice this through taste and smell, but other sure signs of this is if algae begins to build in areas of your pool. 

Other noticeable symptoms of faulty salt cells could be a higher voltage than normal or an irregular amperage. 

In general, a salt cell should last on average five years (or 10,000 hours) before needing to be replaced. This is just a rough estimate however and not all salt cells will last as long.

In fact, some salt cells may even exceed that estimate – but if you have had the same salt cell for five years, then it could be that it’s time to replace it. 

However, there are a few checks you should try first to make sure that you definitely need to replace your salt cells and that it is not an issue elsewhere. Check out the possible solutions below! 

Possible Solutions

If your salt pool is suffering from any of these symptoms, you should check your salt cells and do a few basic checks to make sure everything else is working properly.

The first step is to check when was the last time you cleaned your salt cells. Sometimes, a clean is all they need to go back to functioning as normal, while other times they need replacing completely.

It is recommended that you clean your Salt Cells after every 500 hours of use, so perhaps that is all that you need to do to fix the problem. 

You should also ensure that the salt cell system is turned on and that the unit is powered up properly.

Without enough electricity, your salt cells will not be able to function to make sure that all connections are tight and that the control box is receiving enough power. 

And finally, you should always check the temperature of your pool and its salt level.

How To Tell If A Salt Cell Needs Replacing

This is because some saltwater pool systems shut off the chlorine system because the pool is too cold and does not need it – so this could be another reason why your pool has no chlorine.

Also, if your salt levels are measuring between 2,500 and 3,500, then it could also be that your salt system is registering that there is enough salt in the pool and that it does not need anymore for now, temporarily shutting itself off. 

Carry out these checks first before moving on to the next step which is cleaning your salt cells. 

How To Clean Your Salt Cells

Before you replace your salt cells, it’s worth cleaning them and trying them again first. This could solve your problem and save you a lot of money, so it’s definitely worth a try. 

First, you will need to turn the power off to your control box so it is safe for you to start removing the connections that hold the salt cell in place.

This will allow you to safely remove the salt cell without getting a shock. 

Check down the metal places of your salt cell. If there is a lot of build up of scale (a white, hard material) then you will need to address that issue. 

Start off by rinsing down your salt cell to help get rid of any debris. This is not always necessarily flakes of scale – it could be leaves, twigs or bugs that have somehow gotten into your salt cells. 

Then, you will need to fill up a bucket with a solution of hydrochloric acid and water.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to ratio is that you should have one part of hydrochloric acid to every four parts of tap water.

Remember that when handling hydrochloric acid, you should always wear gloves and eye goggles to protect you from any irritating fumes or spills.

Pop your salt cell into a cleaning stand that has the cord section of the cell sitting at the bottom. Pour your cleaning solution into the salt cell so the blades are completely covered.

The solution should make a fizzing noise and will perhaps bubble – this is a good sign that the hydrochloric acid is working and reacting with the scale. 

Allow the solution to work its magic for at least fifteen minutes. If your solution is still fizzing or bubbling, then continue to leave it soak until this reaction stops. 

Once this is done, you should dispose of the mixture safely and rinse down your salt cell before you reinstall it into the system. Power it up and see if it is back to working as normal. 

If you are still experiencing problems, then perhaps it’s time to find a replacement. 

False Alarms

Sometimes, we may misinterpret the problems we experience with our saltwater pools as a problem with our salt cells, so it’s important to understand what else can be causing problems with our pools. 

Sometimes, a faulty filter or low pH balance can be behind the chlorine levels in our saltwater pools dropping suddenly.

Before you go replacing your salt cells, it’s also worth checking these other potential causes before you spend money on new salt cells that you don’t need. 

You should also make sure that you understand the control box on your salt system too.

Different brands will have different lights and messages on the LCD screen, so always keep the manual at hand and check with it every time you have a message. 

This will help you to avoid misreading the control box and waste your time trying to solve a problem that does not exist. 


It’s important to remember that salt cells do not last forever. They will eventually fail, but they will usually give you plenty of warning first.

So, try to replace them  before their lifespan has completely expired and you are left with an unsafe, unclean pool. 

The best way to tell if a salt cell needs replacing is to look at how much buildup of scale there is inside the cell.

If you clean your salt cells and are still experiencing problems, then you can easily pick up some replacements and swap them out. 

Then, you can get back to enjoying your saltwater pool in no time! 

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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