In recent years, more and more people are converting their traditional hot tubs into saltwater tubs because modern salt systems make hot tub maintenance cheaper and easier. Plus, compared to chemicals found in traditional chlorine systems, saltwater hot tubs are known to be safer and gentler on the skin.
But before we share our handpicked 5 best salt systems used by residential consumers and the spa industry, let’s first get the facts straight, starting with what a saltwater hot tub actually is, the benefits of a saltwater hot tub (along with the disadvantages), and steps to convert your tub into a saltwater tub.
What is a Saltwater Hot Tub?
Saltwater systems originated around the 1980s in New Zealand as a way of cleaning swimming pools more economically.
Any hot tub can become a saltwater hot tub if you add a device called “salt-chlorine generator,” “salt cell chlorinator,” or just “chlorine generators.” Instead of adding chemicals directly to your tub, you add salt instead.
The salt water system uses electricity (and undergoes a process called electrolysis) to convert the dissolved salt into chlorine or bromine. Simply put, this system can generate naturally-produced chlorine.
Pros and Cons of a Saltwater Hot Tub
Aside from the initial investment for the purchase of a salt water system, this method has proven cheaper than traditional chlorine-based systems. But the benefits of a hot tub water salt system isn’t just because of money.
Benefits of a Salt water Hot Tub
- Ideal for sensitive skin and eyes: People with sensitive skin or eyes usually get an irritation soaking in chlorinated water. With a salt water hot tub, the chlorine is generated naturally, which means harmful chloramines are more unlikely to irritate a person’s skin and eyes.
- Improved water quality: The amount of chlorine produced by a saltwater system keeps water soft and buoyant consistently. Also, if you add the proper amount of salt to your system, it will prevent water chemistry fluctuations that could affect pH, alkalinity, or calcium hardness.
- Almost odorless: If you never liked the feeling of chlorine on your skin and hair after swimming, then you’d love that the chlorine generated by a salt water system doesn’t produce the same unpleasant smell. In fact, the water is almost odorless.
- Eco-friendly: Because your hot tub will now be naturally generating its own chlorine, your hot isn’t bringing more chemicals into the environment whenever you drain your tub.
- Cost–effective: Salt is extremely cheap compared to other hot tub chemicals (like chlorine or bromine tablets), so you’d be able to save a LOT of money after converting it into a salt water system.
- Less maintenance: After setting up the saltwater tub, you only need to test the water once or twice a week, and add salt to the system if you see the salt level indicator light up. No more adding chlorine tablets for clean-up. Higher-end salt water chlorinators can even self-regulate, releasing more or less amount of sanitizer at all times.
Disadvantages of a Salt water Hot Tub
There are two expenses that a saltwater hot tub requires: first is the upfront, one-off investment for the system, and hot tub salt cell replacement after 2 to 5 years depending on the cell quality or frequency of use.
Also, despite a system claiming that the device is maintenance-free, you would still need to keep an eye on sanitization levels.
Guide to Convert Hot tub to Saltwater
If you already have a hot tub, make sure you do your research first and consult your manufacturer because not all hot tubs are suitable for converting to a salt water system.
5 Steps to Convert Your Hot Tub System to Saltwater
This easy guide can be followed regardless of the brand or model of chlorinator you decide to purchase.
1. Drain and clean the hot tub.
You must begin the set-up with fresh and clean water, so if there’s water on your tub, drain it first. While you’re at it, clean water lines as well. You probably don’t need any harsh chemicals – stick to a water-and-vinegar solution. Once the tub is clean, then refill it completely.
2. Check water chemistry and sanitizer levels.
Take note of the sanitizer levels, which should be around 1.0 to 3.0 ppm. You might need to buy test strips for this step.
3. Install the system.
Make sure you have a working GFCI outlet (an electrician could install this for you if you don’t.) All systems require this outlet, where the hot tub power supply would be mounted.
Be sure to fasten the cell holder in place. Check the package of your chlorinator kit to see how your system should be connected.
4. Place the chlorinator cell into the water.
The salt cell placement will vary depending on the brand and manufacturer’s instructions. Some are supposed to float over the side of the tub (in-line chlorinators), others will just dangle (they’re called drop-in chlorinators). There is no single correct placement.
Once placed, you can now plug the new salt cell generator into your GFCI outlet.
5. Add salt and enjoy!
After powering up the system, you must check salt levels. You’d have to increase the salt levels appropriate for the chlorinator’s first run. The amount of salt you’d need to add depends on the brand and make, so check the manual to find out.
After the initial set-up, maintenance will only involve adding more salt and cleaning time about once or twice a month.
5 Best Saltwater Hot Tub Systems
The process of converting your hot tub to salt water is very straightforward. You can do it in just under an hour. The most challenging part of your journey is picking which product is most appropriate for your hot tubs. Fortunately for you, we’ve compared and chosen 5 of the best systems for salt water hot tubs currently available in the market today:
- Uses titanium electrolytic cell to create chlorine
- Accommodates up to 7000-gallon hot tubs or above-ground pools
The Intex Krystal Clear saltwater system comes in two versions (one that has a 7000-gallon capacity, and the other with 15,000 capacity). It is designed with a compact casing and an easy-to-use control panel.
What makes this system stand out is the 24-hour automatic timer and its electrocatalytic oxidation process, which splits water molecules into oxidants.
- Comes with a hose and adapters
- Two variants for small and big hot tubs
- Need to purchase a pump
- Smart automatic chlorinator
- Outside of the tub placement
- Generates up to 30 grams of chlorine daily
The ControlOMatic SmarterSpa Saltwater Smart Chlorine Generation System is a highly popular brand. It effectively self-cleans and generates only the amount of salt the hot tub needs, which means there’s less maintenance on your part.
Unlike the ChlorMaker (which is just as popular as this system), the SmarterSpa has a built-in chlorine detection. This is a pretty nifty feature in continuously checking chlorine levels.
- Easy to install
- plug-and-play use (no plumbing necessary)
- auto chlorinating cycle
- 1-year warranty
- Gets sold out VERY quickly
- Self-cleaning reverse polarity technology
- Almost zero chemical maintenance
- Constant-current design (doesn’t rely on salt water levels)
- 10 Built-in power levels
MegaChlor promises to provide “around-the-clock chlorine production” thanks to its 10 built-in levels that remove the need for any external timer completely. It comes from the ControlOMatic family, so you can be guaranteed that the chlorinator works as advertised.
While it doesn’t have automatic cycles and built-in chlorine detection like the SmarterSpa above, it can accommodate up to 17,000 gallons of water and produces a massive amount of chlorine (up to 110 grams per day).
- Plug and play installation
- Generates 110 grams of chlorine per day
- For big hot tub (water up to 17000 gallons)
- Cost-effective (uses only 3 lbs of salt per 100 gallons of water)
- Sometimes reads high salt even when salt levels are low
- Ideal for a hot tub up to 2000 gallons
- Only needs 3000 ppm to operate
- Works without a pump or filter
The Solaxx Salton Mini is a tiny device but is pretty powerful. It could generate salt for a 2,000-gallon hot tub, turning your ordinary tub into a salt water spa without any effort. It is made from a titanium chlorinator cell, so it’s pretty durable.
The Salton Mini is equipped with LED indicators that make it easy for you to know when to add salt or adjust other settings. The cell polarity auto-reverses and in turn avoids unwanted scaling.
- Programmable digital timer
- No plumbing required
- Affordable mini system
- Comes with a 1-year warranty
- Power cord is somewhat short
- Ideal for a large hot tub or pool
- Low maintenance design (no shock needed)
If you have the budget, I recommend you to splurge for a higher-quality chlorination system like the CIrcupool SJ-20. Although this model was designed specifically for pools, it can also be used for in-ground and above-ground pools and tubs.
The Circupool SJ-20 features a reverse polarity self-Cleaning cell. It can maintain pools and hot tubs to up to 20,000 gallons max and monitor salinity levels automatically.
And unlike other brands within its price range, Circupool doesn’t void warranty even if you did the installation yourself. And because it is made with a long-lasting, industry-standard titanium salt cell, you may not even need to use the warranty anymore.
- User-friendly to install and operate
- Durable construction
- Comes with patented Circupool cleaning tool
- Made in the USA
- Generous 5-year warranty
- Not the cheapest pool salt generator in the market
Saltwater Hot Tub FAQs
Still undecided? Here are the most frequently asked questions about converting to a salt water hot tub:
How Much Does it Cost to Convert Chlorine to Saltwater?
Hot tubs cost somewhere between $2,000 and $35,000.
A salt chlorine generator is priced around $500 to $5,000 depending on the size, brand, quality, and other factors.
If you already have a hot tub, then you can just expect to spend money on the salt water system. But if you’re investing in a salt water hot tub from scratch, then prepare to shell out $2,500 to $40,000 for your hot tub.
As for monthly expenses, you can get hot tub salt for about $7 per 40-pound bag.
How Much Salt Do You Need to Use?
Table salt and salt for a hot tub/pool are made up of the same chemicals. The main difference is that the salt used for the spa (pool or hot tub) is much bigger in size and comes in larger bags/sacks. For this reason, it is important not to use salt made for other purposes (such as Epsom salt, table salt, etc.).
In most cases, you need about two pounds of salt per 100 gallons of water.
Seawater has a salinity of about 35 000 ppm (parts per million), while the average recommended salinity level for a salt water hot tub is 2,500 ppm.
Wrap Up: Is it Worth Converting Your Tub into a Salt water Hot Tub?
So which is better: salt water or chlorine hot tub? Is it worth converting your hot tub into a salt water hot tub?
There are more benefits of a salt water hot tub than disadvantages. Just the feeling of how silky smooth your hair and skin are after a swim at a hotel/resort pool or a spa session is enough to make many people bring this experience to the comforts of your own home. So if you’re not happy with your current system, purchase a chlorinator and turn your hot tub into a spa-like hot tub.