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Thread: Salt Water Pool - InteliChlor IC40 Firsthand Experience

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Phoenix, AZ

    Default Salt Water Pool - InteliChlor IC40 Firsthand Experience

    We have installed all Pentair equipment in our pool, including Clear and Clean filter, InteliFlow pump, EasyTouch control and a remote and InteliChlor chlorinator. Most of it worked moderately well with few issues. The major disappointment was Pentair InteliChlor IC40 failing on the 3rd summer of use. The cell has been cleaned regularly, avoiding acid cleaning when not absolutely required, it currently reports 60% life left on its LED display, but the “cell” light is blinking and the EasyTouch reports “Clean Cell” message. Well, it is clean! It is not producing any chlorine.

    We called the Pentair support and spoke to Diane on 8/4/14. She told that these cells only last 2-3 years, basically tough luck our “valued customer”, buy another unit. The day prior (8/3/14), we’ve sent an email to Pentair and were also contacted by email on 8/4/14 by Frank Castro with Pentair Water Pool and Spa Inc. Frank seemed interested in helping (so it seemed at first), suggested we test the water (pool equipment manufacturer’s classic playbook: blame the water, pool owner). Tested the water, it was fine, except phosphates were elevated. Frank then tells us that the InteliChlor is actually working fine, it is the phosphates that cause the chlorine level to be low. Well Frank, in case Pentair has not read its own manual that states “Cell: Shows the status of the IECG. Green (flashing): The IECG needs to be inspected. The blades may have calcium buildup. The IECG is not producing chlorine.”

    After I’ve mentioned to Frank what the manual says, he has stopped responding to my emails. I’ll follow up with him, but my guess the next thing he’ll tell me: tough luck our “valued customer”, buy another unit

    Having used salt water system for 3 years now and having dealt with associated issues caused by the system and now the InteliChlor failure, I’ve learned few things:

    1. Salt water chlorination system causes Ph to climb rapidly and required more frequent addition to Muriatic acid to the pool.
    2. Manufacturer claims of salt system lifetime should be disregarded as a naked advertisement unless backed by the warranty and fellow pool owner reports of such.
    3. Salt water pool system is much more expensive to buy and operate (see below my estimate of 10-year cost vs. chlorine tablets).
    4. Salt water system solidifies calcium from the water and the salt cell when switches electrode polarity (new ones do) to shake it off, the calcium “dust” is injected into the pool. Someone called this calcium dandruff.

    Here is my cost estimate based on what we’ve spent and some input from my associates who are using chlorine tablets:
    1. Salt Water Cost:
    a. Initial system purchase - ~$1,000
    b. Salt - ~$120 for a large pool, added every time the water is changed out (recommended every 3 years) - $120 x 3 (times in 10 years) = $360
    c. Replacing salt cell - ~$640 every 3 years - $360 x 3 (times in 10 years) = $1,920
    d. Additional muriatic acid cost – will ignore, but certainly increased due to salt water system.
    e. Total 10 year cost: $1,000(a.) + $360(b.) + $1,920(c.) = $3,280

    2. Chlorine Tablet Sanitizer System Cost:
    a. Floater $12, replaced every 3 years - $36
    b. Chlorine tablets (bucket from Costco) - $90 for a year supply - $90 * 10 = $900
    c. Total 10 year cost: $36 + $900 = $936

    The bottom line: there is no even comparison. Did I mention that the salt cell needs to be removed from the system and cleaned using acid every ~3 months. So it is also higher maintenance.

    What I haven’t mentioned is that we also have DEL Ozone Eclipse 2 Ozinator, we’re quite happy with it. It is a corona discharge unit and is capable of generating more ozone than UV systems. Running ozone with chlorine, we kept chlorine very low (~.5 ppm) and the water was very clear, no algae or any other issues. The pool is much cleaner that at any of our friends who either use salt water system by itself or chlorine tablets. When the InteliChlor died, we didn’t know as the Pentair EasyTouch doesn’t warn you, unless you visit diagnostics screen, we’ve noticed algae growing on pool steps. So, Ozone by itself, at least with the unit we’ve got that is not sized to be the primary sanitizer, is not enough to sanitize the pool. But we did like the results of using low chlorine with ozone.

    So my conclusion is that the most economical system that will get crystal clear water without headaches or additional maintenance is using a good ozone unit and a chlorine feeder (e.g. Hayward cl220), running chlorine very low. That’s exactly what we’re going to do with our pool.

    Meanwhile, we’re very unhappy with the quality of the Pentair InteliChlor unit, their technical support and Pentair not standing behind their expensive products.

  2. #2
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    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Default Re: Salt Water Pool - InteliChlor IC40 Firsthand Experience

    Hi Val;

    I'm usually reluctant to allow "this is great!; that is horrible!" posts like yours. We've always felt that the PoolForum was for the purpose of helping people solve problems, rather vent about them.

    But your post has some relevant data. I've installed a number of Intellichlor units on commercial pools, and have not been at all pleased with their performance. The consensus here is that the Intellichlor units are the worsts of the big company (Autopilot, Jandy, Hayward, Pentair), and that the Hayward (Goldline) or AutoPilot units are much preferable.

    And now that Pentair has eviscerated their warranty on products sold directly to consumers, that's even more reason to avoid those units.

    Let me make several comments, and then ask YOU to decide what I should do with your post.

    1. As I noted, based on my own experience and on reports here, the Intellichlor units have distinctly sub-par performance, compared to other models.

    2. Some of the problems you have experienced reflect the poor water quality (hard, mineral laden) and high evaporation rate characteristic of pools in southern Arizona, and are not common among SWCG users elsewhere.

    3. The LACK of problems with algae and oxidation you seen also reflect your Arizona location. Ozone is a good oxidizer, but useless against algae . . . . but then algae is not nearly the problem in the desert that it is in humid damp areas like my own location (Chattanooga). In general, the drier the region, the less algae is an issue. Also, solar UV + even low levels of chlorine is a fantastic oxidizer . . . and most pools in Phoenix get PLENTY of sunlight.

    4. You mention the Hayward CL220. Somewhat ironically, just as Pentair's Intellichlor units are apparently the 'worst of the breed' among SWCG units, so the Hayward is probably the worst of the off-line tablet chlorinators, largely because the metering valve rarely works as intended. (The CL200 online unit is even worse, since it not only has the bad valve, but adds a horrendous restriction to the pool's water flow!) And in general, off-line chlorinators are a source of mysterious pool problems, because they tend to introduce an unrecognized 'air leak' into the suction side a pool piping systems - if connected across the pump. OR, if they are connected across a flow restriction, they create the same problems as the horrendous CL200. The online Rainbow (Pentair!) RB-320 is much preferable, IF you're going to use a trichlor feeder.

    5. You seem to be completely unaware of the chlorine / CYA (stabilizer) relationship. CYA allows you to protect chlorine from sunlight, which is a great thing in Phoenix, where you'd otherwise lose 1/2 of your chlorine -- regardless of the chlorine level -- every 15 minutes during the day. But, CYA works by chemically 'hiding' the majority of the chlorine in an inactive form, where's it's immediately available once some of the 'active' chlorine is used, but otherwise, out of the picture. What you need to know is, that pretty much the minimum effective level of chlorine is NOT some arbitrary ppm level (say, 0.5 ppm) but rather a percentage of the CYA level. In this case, free chlorine (FC) levels below 5% of the CYA level are largely ineffective both at sanitation AND killing algae.

    6. It's not clear whether you understand the role of a 'residual sanitizer' and that ozone is not one. On home pools this is less critical, since you're presumably swimming with folks whose 'germs' you already share. But it's a huge deal in commercial pools and pools used by non-family members, because *most* disease transmission in pools is person-to-person, rather than pool-to-person. The pool water simply serves as a 'carrier' to transport the 'germs', in the same way that air 'carries' sneeze droplets from a person with flu to the uninfected. A sanitizer RESIDUAL interrupts this process, by killing the 'germs' while they are on their way.

    Chlorine provides a sanitizing residual, present at EVERY point in the transmission path. In fact, it's the strongest and fastest acting sanitizing residual available to pool owners.

    Ozone does NOT provide a residual for one simple reason: it's way too toxic to allow an ozone residual in the pool. The pool ozone industry tends to omit the fact that ozone gas is FAR more toxic than chlorine gas, but the fact remains that it is. Consequently, ozone systems are designed to PREVENT ozone from leaving the piping system and reaching the pool.

    Anyhow, that's enough for now.

    But my question remains: what do YOU want to do?

    If you came here just to share information you have, and possibly to debate the merits of ozone systems for pools . . . then I'll leave this thread in the "China Shop" section (as in "bulls in the china shop") where I've moved it. You may want to take a look at this SUPER-long thread which already addresses this issue:

    But if you want to learn, or if you have questions, then I'll move the thread to the SWCG section.


    Ben Powell

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