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    Credit: NICK ORABOVIC

Just because salt chlorination is largely an automated process doesn’t mean it is maintenance-free. Here are a few tips for keeping the system functioning in top form, and preventing many problems before they start.

Practice cell hygiene.

Salt cells are designed to degrade over time as they provide ions for the chlorine-generation reaction. Though cells often will last a year or more, high bather loads or poor water chemistry can wear them out much more rapidly. Thus, it’s crucial to visually inspect the cells at least once a month, and clean or replace them as they show signs of wear and tear.

Choose wisely.

Using treatment products that are specifically tailored for saltwater pools will provide superior performance in the long run. Salt isn’t all just salt; chemicals such as copper and phosphates are common in many brands not tailored for salt chlorination. So use a reputable brand, and check the label to make sure you know what else is being added to the water. That awareness will go a long way toward preventing problems.

Test, test, test.

Testing water regularly — at least weekly for chlorine and pH, and monthly for parameters such as total alkalinity, calcium hardness and cyanuric acid — will provide a clear idea of where the water chemistry is headed, and what’s needed to prevent common issues like calcium scale. A little regular rebalancing often is all that’s needed.