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Thread: Salt cell died, high phosphate levels, now salt reading high? Help!

  1. Back To Top    #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Smiths Grove, KY

    Salt cell died, high phosphate levels, now salt reading high? Help!

    First, I want to apologize for the lengthy post in advance, but I am needing some major help! I am new to TFP, but as a first-time pool owner you guys are my new favorite resource. We bought a house in late 2015 with a 9-ish year old pool, so this is our first pool season. We opened the pool 2 weeks ago today and the salt cell died the same day. Between being busy and being out of town the new cell is due to arrive today and we plan to install it ourselves. My concern in with our water readings. Here's the data:
    SWG - Pool guy estimated 20,000 gallons
    Reading from 4/7/16 - 3 days after a professional pool service opened the pool:
    TC: 0
    FC: 0
    pH: 6.9
    TA: 33
    Adj TA: 26
    Tot. Hardness: 128
    Salt: 3000
    CYA: 22

    Within the next week I find a dead bird and a dead frog in the skimmer. Not sure how that happens, but it was gross. In addition, I added baking soda to increase my alkalinity (roughly 6lbs) and stabilizer to increase CYA (roughly 2 lbs). I know those amounts seem small, but everything I read says to add slowly and re-test to make sure you don't go too far. Since the cell was dead and no chlorine was being produced I shocked the pool on Tuesday (4/12/16) and again on Friday (4/15/16). The amount on Tuesday was the amount of shock to treat 16,500 gallons so I knew it wasn't enough. That same day I started to see little algae spots appearing on the bottom of the pool, so I shocked again on Friday using enough to treat 26,500 gallons. I over-shocked hoping to eliminate the algae issue, which did not work.
    These are my readings from today (4/18/16):
    TC: 7.5
    FC: 7.5
    pH: 7.4
    TA: 60
    Tot. Hardness: 140
    Salt: 4700
    CYA: 0
    Phosphates: 2500 (I guess the other guys didn't test this)
    What the heck!? So the guy at the pool store tells me that the phosphates are causing the algae problem. And he said the high chlorine levels weren't concerning given that the pool was just shocked on Friday. Other than the recurring algae spots the pool is otherwise fine - water is crystal clear.
    Here are my questions:
    Why has the salt level increased if I haven't added any salt?
    Is it possible that the high phosphates are causing a false reading?
    Why didn't my CYA change at all with 2lbs of stabilizer? Was that literally not enough to make a difference?
    Is a phosphate remover like PhosFree the best way to reduce phosphates or is there a cheaper way?

    I'm sure I've missed something or left it out, so just let me know. We're very new to the pool game! Thanks for any help!

  2. Back To Top    #2
    Mod Squad Texas Splash's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    South-Central Texas, Marion/San Antonio

    Re: Salt cell died, high phosphate levels, now salt reading high? Help!

    Hang in there and welcome to TFP! The #1 thing you MUST do at this point, before you try to drive to the pool store .... loose you car keys. Stay away. You need to do the following right away:
    1. Take charge of your pool by testing it properly (see TF-100 link in my sig below); It ALL starts there. Pool store tests are notoriously wrong, and it's not difficult to do.
    2. Phosphates are not in themselves responsible for your algae. Lack of proper chlorination is. With no SWG for a while, you needed regular liquid bleach.
    3. Salt change? In accurate testing perhaps. It won't go up unless more is added.
    4. CYA tests are one of the tests notoriously done wrong at the pool store; once again why you need your own TF-100 (or Taylor K-2006C)
    5. Please read the Pool School page (link below) so you have a basic understanding of what these people are trying to pull over your eyes. We see it all the time.

    For now, don't put anything else in your water except for about 1/2 gallon of regular bleach each day. That's it for now. Order the test kit and post a full set of numbers and we'll have you with clear water before you know it. Welcome, and let us know fi you have any more questions.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Oh, and at the TF-100 link, you can order great salt test kits as well!
    Pat (a.k.a. Texas Splash) ~ My Pool: Viking Fiberglass; 17,888 Gal; Waterway Supreme 2-sp/2-hp pump; Hayward Ctg filter; TF-100 w/ Speed Stir
    If you enjoyed your TFP experience, please consider donating to Support TFP!

  3. Back To Top    #3
    Mod Squad
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    DFW, TX

    Re: Salt cell died, high phosphate levels, now salt reading high? Help!

    Welcome to TFP!
    Please add your pool info to your signature so that we can better help you, more here, Pool School - Read This Before You Post
    TFP Moderator
    If TFP helped you or saved you money - Become a TFP Supporter! <--Click here
    2012 build and pics, 20k gal gunite, black onyx pebblesheen, OK flagstone, IntellifoVS, cart filter w/Pleatco, IC40 SWG, Solartouch, 5 12'x4' solar panels, HP50HA heat pump, 8mil solar cover, borates, TF-100 test kit, SONOS, Doheny's Discovery Robot, hot tub on bleach

  4. Back To Top    #4
    Swampwoman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Grand Rapids, MI

    Re: Salt cell died, high phosphate levels, now salt reading high? Help!

    Greetings, Priddy and welcome!

    First off, Texas has you covered on the basics to get started and follow TFP methods -- you won't regret it! I was a new pool owner a few years back and this forum solved problems even the best pool techs in wn couldn't, including a swamp recovery

    So...don't want to distract your focus from your own testing, understanding the cya:FC ratio, dosing you FC correctly, and in this case with visible algae getting ready to perform a SLAM -- which is what we call shocking" here but is more effective because it means to raise your FC to shock level and MAINTAIN

    Before you install your new cell, or give any further thought to phosphates, please start there.

    In a non-swg pool, for example, I was able to stay algae free by maintaining my FC:cya ratio with liquid chlorine DESPITE a phosphate level ten times higher than YOURS. Pool stores advice about phosphate is kinda like a kid telling you they saw the boogeyman. Something was wrong they don't understand, so it has to be the phosphates.

    With that said, there is a "grain" of truth to phosphate chatter in that high levels....and I mean really high levels...can make water more reactive (meaning you'd be quicker to get algae if you're not killing it) if you let the chlorine level drop too low. But you don't want the FC level to be lower than TFP recommended sanitation levels anyway, because algae isn't the only thing a pool owner is fighting -- swimmer health and protection from waterborne illness is the real key.

    One seemingly valid area of phosphate concern *may* be impact on SWG cell performance. In some conditions that research to date has not quite nailed down, phosphate scale can accumulate on the swg plate. Further, swg owners are recommended to operate between 70-80 ppm of CYA, but at a lower FC ratio because the theory is that constant production beats daily dosing -- the higher cya allows the cell to keep up and not have the chlorine it produces immediately consumed by UV. But this lower FC:CYA ratio in high phosphate conditions could possibly make water more reactive if production wanes, run time is too short, etc.

    For these two reasons combined, some swg mfgs have started telling consumers to keep their phosphates below 500 ppb. Yet they have not included high phosphates in any kind of warrany-voiding way, which I find a bit disingenuous. Lots of TFPers on SWGs are running their pools to a sparkly standard with higher phosphate levels than yours. One of our original resident chemists ran his perfectly at excess of 3,000 ppb, and noticed no performance difference after a removal experiment.

    A few of us are experimenting with phosphate removal this summer - mine being the most dramatic at 37,000 ppb...because I am switching to SWG I'd be happy to let you know any anecdotal findings I stumble upon.

    But in the mean time, to have great, sparkly water, my personal feeling is that your priorities should be as follows:

    1. Using pool calculator on this site, estimate he much chlorine to dose with daily for about 4 ppm until you get your test kit.

    2. Get your test kit, and get a definitive number/range on your cya. Dont bother raising your cya to swg recc levels though until after you've slammed (it will take less chlorine that way.)

    3. Follow Slam instructions until clear, using only liquid chlorine, and being sure to pass OCLT (see article.)

    4. Plumb your cell, and if temperature of water is correct (warm enough to produce chlorine per mfg spec), see what your SWG says your salt level is. If in fact it is too high or alternately too low, double check reading with either a kit, test strips, or at pool store (they ave meters that unlike their other tests are accurate if calibrated.) Then adjust accordingly.

    5. Once all the above are functional and your water is balanced, swg dialed in, etc., THEN consider whether you want to reduce phosphates as a prophylactic measure. I'm using SeaKlear in my test and in a few days I'll et you know hoe it did

    Hope that helps give you a plan.
    Cheers to clear!
    In ground extended Grecian, 22,000 gal, Hayward 220t sand filter, vinyl liner, dolphin m4 supreme.
    If TFP has helped you, please click to SUPPORT TFP!
    Helpful Links:
    GET A TEST KIT Chlorine/CYA Chart How to SLAM About Metals & Stains

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