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Thread: Autopilot Digital 36 In Use 5.5 Years, Replace With ?

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    Autopilot Digital 36 In Use 5.5 Years, Replace With ?

    I have been using the Autopilot Digital 36 for over 5 years. During those 5 years I have had 4 Super Cells.
    Each sell lasted less the 18 months. Some as little as 9 months. I live not to far from Autopilot. I would always take the cells directly to them to be looked at. The first cell died fairly quickly maybe 9 months, They replaced it no question and did not say what was wrong. The second cell burned the harness so badly it was permanently attached to the cell.
    I was told they had a new manufacturer making the cells and it was a bad cell. They had seen this before and many recently. The third cell died about 10 to 12 months later. I was told it must have been form the same batch and it was defective. This time when they replaced it they wanted to come out and check the whole system. They sent out a tech who looked at my install, checked the pool chemicals and put in another new cell and tested it. He determined I was taking care of my pool and Autopilot system correctly and could not understand why so many cells were failing so early.
    Now the fourth cell has died.
    I went to the Autopilot web site and see they are now located in Tampa. I liked the fact that they were close by and that had influenced my original purchase. I also noted that as of January 2008 the warranty policy has been changed. I would rather buy a new system then gamble on another cell that I pay for. Anyone have any ideas why the cells go bad early?

    I am thinking about changing to another manufacturer. Do any other manufacturers make a cell that would screw into the autopilot plumbing? I would just like to change the main unit and screw in the new manufacturers cell. Also what brands would anyone recommend that should have a longer cell life.
    My pool is 15,000 gallons.

    Thanks for any help.

  2. Back To Top    #2

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    AutoChlor SMC30 is what you are after Cell life is around 7 years. No burnt connectors or anything as there is no high currents going through to the cell. You would have to plumb in new housing though.

  3. Back To Top    #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Strannik
    AutoChlor SMC30 is what you are after Cell life is around 7 years. No burnt connectors or anything as there is no high currents going through to the cell. You would have to plumb in new housing though.
    Are these available in the U.S.?

  4. Back To Top    #4

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    Well, I'm not sure how to respond to your statements without more information on the service call reports. I would need your name and address for this. Can you PM this to me?

    Naturally there are two sides to every story.

    A cell failing without reason can be due to running the cell under a scaled condition repeatedly, or running the system with low CYA levels. or running with low salt levels, or undersizing the cell to the pool....etc.

    In regards the change in manufacturer of cells, these are made internally. Perhaps you meant a change in manufacturer of the cell cords, which would be more accurate.

    A cell cord can "attach" to the cell if the cell was removed for cleaning (acid washing), then connected back to the cell without drying the cell terminals (or prongs) completely. The remaining moisture can cause arcing, which produces heat and can melt the two components together. This problem can also occur by mounting the cell upside down, with the cell prongs facing down, which allows water from sprinklers or rain, to seep between the cell cord connector and the cell, leading to the cell to cell cord damage.

    I'm sorry that you've had 4 cells in 5.5 years. You didn't mention if we had charged you for any of these issues. This is NOT something common with our systems. But if we didn't charge you for 4 cells in 5.5 years, I would have to say we've supported and backed up our system, in spite of the warranty. If we charged you, it may be for the labor, which is not covered after the first two years.

    I'm not saying that you did anything wrong, but just be mindful that all salt systems will experience similar failure if not operated under proper conditions. No one's system is designed to fail after a year.

    Our move to St Petersburg Florida allowed us to consolidate both our manufacturing facilities, the Heat Pumps and Salt Chlorine Generators. Ft Lauderdale is still our Team Horner headquarter, and was not designed to deal directly with the end pool owner. We did so because we do what we need to, to take care of our customers. In your case, that meant allowing you to bring your components directly to our factory. I don't think you'll find that anymore from any manufacturer.

    Again, please send me a Private Message or e-mail with your personal information so I can review your previous service calls to see if I can do anything for you.

    Hopefully you will give AutoPilot another opportunity.
    Sean Assam - Sean@teamhorner.com
    National Accounts and Commercial Products Manager
    AquaCal Heat Pumps www.aquacal.com
    AutoPilot Salt Chlorine Generators www.autopilot.com

  5. Back To Top    #5
    Guest
    I answered you on another forum and after you posted your water chemistry I suggested to you that your CYA is on the low side, among some other minor problems. Initially you were running your salt much too low and that would directly account for the premature cell failure. The lower CYA values, particularly in S. FL are problematic also in terms of cell life as I stated on the other forum.

    Knowing what power level and output percenatage you were normally operating on would have been very telling.

  6. Back To Top    #6

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    hmmmm....... thanks for the added info Waterbear...
    Sean Assam - Sean@teamhorner.com
    National Accounts and Commercial Products Manager
    AquaCal Heat Pumps www.aquacal.com
    AutoPilot Salt Chlorine Generators www.autopilot.com

  7. Back To Top    #7
    Guest
    I am also wondering what type of filter you have. It does make a difference with a SWG. If you have a sand or DE filter you have to keep on top of your salt and CYA level more because of the water removed by backwashing. If your problems are caused by what I suspect then changing brands of SWGs will not be of any help. Better water maintenance will.

  8. Back To Top    #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Venomous
    Quote Originally Posted by Strannik
    AutoChlor SMC30 is what you are after Cell life is around 7 years. No burnt connectors or anything as there is no high currents going through to the cell. You would have to plumb in new housing though.
    Are these available in the U.S.?
    Yeah a few places sell them. One that comes to mind is www.saltcells.com
    There are a few others too, but i will need to check with the office to get their details. Or you can get it from me if you wish.

  9. Back To Top    #9
    Quote Originally Posted by waterbear
    I answered you on another forum and after you posted your water chemistry I suggested to you that your CYA is on the low side, among some other minor problems. Initially you were running your salt much too low and that would directly account for the premature cell failure. The lower CYA values, particularly in S. FL are problematic also in terms of cell life as I stated on the other forum.

    Knowing what power level and output percenatage you were normally operating on would have been very telling.
    I think waterbear hit the problems.
    I will bring everything inline with what he suggests and get another Autopilot cell.

    I will get you the above info you asked for today. Thanks Again.

    Oh and about the post on another site. For some reason this site would not let me register. So I posted elsewhere. Later in the day I tried it a few more times and it finally sent me the confirmation email. I would like to continue my posts here as of now.
    Thanks Again for the help waterbear.

    Almost forgot, I use a Hayward C4025 Filter with 4 cartridges and a 2.5 HP Hayward Northstar Pump.

  10. Back To Top    #10
    I sent Sean a PM and he responded immediately.

    I must mention that Autopilot never charged me for any of the four cells. They were always more than willing to help.
    My thoughts on changing to another manufacturer were based on the tech telling me they had a bad batch of defective cells from a new manufacturer and that I had possibly got two of them. Since each cell replacement was spread pretty far apart time wise, I found it a little strange. It left me with a not so comfortable feeling that it might be an ongoing problem.

    I am going to dig up my old manual to see what the recommended chem levels were at that time.

    And as I mentioned in my above post. I think that my levels may have not really been where they needed to be according to waterbear.
    This seems totally accurate as to why I was burning up cells early. I have to say I wish I was on this forum years ago when I first installed the unit, it would have eased any uncomfortable thoughts I had about Autopilot.

    Thanks for all the help guys and especially the quick responses.

  11. Back To Top    #11

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    TRI-SENSOR ASSEMBLY
    ensures that adequate Flow, Salt Level, and Water
    Temperatures are satisfactory to
    prevent abusive conditions for the
    cell to operate.
    According to the manual salt and temperature shouldn't be the issue as such conditions should've been prevented by the TRI-SENSOR

    I'm not an expert on Poolpilot, so maybe Poolsean would comment on why it wasn't

    To me though, 5 cells in 5 years seems too much to be the salt issue. From experience it's usually bad anode material quality.
    I'd be interested in seeing photos of the anode material, if you still have any failed cells left.

  12. Back To Top    #12
    Guest
    The tri senser will shut the unit off if a low salt condition exists but if the salt is low but still above the low salt cutoff then the cell just draws more current because of the lower conductivity of the water. This can cause premature cell failure with ANY SWG. Also, running the CYA too low means having to run at a higher output percentage which means there is more 'on time' for the cell. Once again this can lead to early cell failure, among a hostof other water balance problems! Combine the two and you almost certainly will have early cell failure!

    Also, the pool pilot has an adjustable reverse cycle time and if it is set too low it can lead to a shorter cell life (but in areas with very high calcium hardness this could be an acceptable trade off!)

  13. Back To Top    #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by waterbear
    The tri senser will shut the unit off if a low salt condition exists but if the salt is low but still above the low salt cutoff then the cell just draws more current because of the lower conductivity of the water. This can cause premature cell failure with ANY SWG. Also, running the CYA too low means having to run at a higher output percentage which means there is more 'on time' for the cell. Once again this can lead to early cell failure, among a hostof other water balance problems! Combine the two and you almost certainly will have early cell failure!
    If that's true - thats an example of a design fault. It means the low salt cutoff should've been set higher. There is really no point having cutoff which doesn't cut off when it's necessary to protect the cells Now THIS wouldn't happen to "any" SWG. I know of at least one which would handle this situation correctly

    With regards to low CYA i'll wait with my comments until we receive the information on how much more 'on time' there actually was.

  14. Back To Top    #14
    Guest
    Then again, the Pool Pilot has a recommened salt level of 3000ppm and can operate at lower ranges while, if I am not mistaken, the Autoclor has a recommened range of 4500-5500 ppm with 3000 ppm being the lowest salt leve before the low salt light comes on. Both units can operate in salt levels up to seawater. It has been documented that higher salt levels can lead to inceased corrosion. However, it seems from the info that I have access to that most Australian SWGs run at salt levels in the range of 4000-6000 ppm while most of the US ones seem to be around 3000-3500 as the recommened range. This tells me that there are possibly some fundimental design differences in the cells and/or supplies.
    Anyone wit a bit more knowledge care to comment? The only experience I have with unhits that operate at the higher salt range are the Poolex units out of Arizona and the earlier Zodaic units (and my commnents on these is if you have nothing nice to say keep your mouth shut!) There seems to be some substatial design changes in the newer Zodiac LM3 units but they still are not among my favorites.

  15. Back To Top    #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by waterbear
    Then again, the Pool Pilot has a recommened salt level of 3000ppm and can operate at lower ranges while, if I am not mistaken, the Autoclor has a recommened range of 4500-5500 ppm with 3000 ppm being the lowest salt leve before the low salt light comes on. Both units can operate in salt levels up to seawater. It has been documented that higher salt levels can lead to inceased corrosion. However, it seems from the info that I have access to that most Australian SWGs run at salt levels in the range of 4000-6000 ppm while most of the US ones seem to be around 3000-3500 as the recommened range. This tells me that there are possibly some fundimental design differences in the cells and/or supplies.
    Anyone wit a bit more knowledge care to comment?
    The version of AutoChlor for US market has a recommended salt level of 4000, with lowest point being 3200 if i remember correctly.

    I'm glad that you see my point, we have set a low limit higher, to avoid the potential problems like the above.
    In Australia (as well as Europe) most, if not all swimming pools run within a range 4000-6000. So far there's been only a handful cases of corrosion documented and most were not related to salt. Now i don't know why it's like that, for me it has always been a given that normal salt levels are within that range. Possibly our pool builders use superior materials and equipment which can tolerate those salt levels. But it always puzzled me, why US has their salt levels so low. I believe the recommendations are not due to fundamental differences in cells, rather a general opinion created in US that salt is bad.

    With Zodiac units, yeah i'll keep my mouth shut. They seem to have constant problems with cell design. Although i must admit their latest cell looks nice , but that's teh only good thing i have to say about it.

  16. Back To Top    #16

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    I abused my 1st SC-48 cell with very low CYA, high CH and possibly low salt for a week here and there. One time after a cleaning it didn't want to play well any more. It still produced some Cl, but the display told me it was not working properly. Initially I assumed it was all my problem and I managed to find a very serviceable RC-15 cell (older cell, similar to SC-60)on E-bay that I got for a steal. I modified my manifold to run the RC-15 (a little longer cell) and I contacted Autopilot, about the cost of a replacement SC-48 to have on hand. Much to my surprise, the local Autpilot rep came over to my house, tested my water with cooler toys than I have and set me up with a replacement SC-48 under warranty. He thought my RC-15 install was cool checked out the condition RC-15 cell, suggested that I run it in the summer when Chlorine demand is high. (That cell rocks, I have to turn the power level down to 1 and it still runs a very low percentage ) The reps attitude toward the whole situation impressed me a lot and really sold me on their company. I take better care of my cells now thanks to Pool Solutions then and now TFP. I just ordered a Spa-Pilot for my hot-tub and you can bet I'll be looking closely at AquaCal if I decide to go for a heat pump. Personally I'd work with Autopilot at least one more time and listen to the great advice you get on here.
    Chris W

    My Pool: 14K gal IG, Pebblesheen, Pentair 420 Cart Filter, Autopilot Digital SWCG, Paramount PV3 In-floor cleaning. UltraPure Ozone
    My Spa: 2007 Down East Windsor SE, Spa-Pilot SWCG :)
    My Kit: PS-234 w/salt test, Refills from Taylor and TFkits

  17. Back To Top    #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by waterbear
    Also, the pool pilot has an adjustable reverse cycle time and if it is set too low it can lead to a shorter cell life (but in areas with very high calcium hardness this could be an acceptable trade off!)
    AutoChlor does to, but until recently we didn't document it, this feature was known only to people who service our units, and to those owners who had problems with too much calcium. I think now due to marketing reasons they decided to make this fact more well known. 8)

  18. Back To Top    #18
    Ok, I found the original Pool Pilot Digital 36 manual.

    It says the salt level should be maintained at 2500 to 3500 for peak efficiency. Then there is a warning that states higher salt levels will not reduce performance of the pool pilot but can cause corrosion problems.

    I was originally running my salt lower than 3000 because of the natural gas pool heater. I was told corrosion of the manifold would be less of an issue. According to the monitoring and maintenance section of the Poll Pilot Digital 36 all my levels were well within the excepted range except CYA. Mine was usually 45 -50 and the manual states a low of 60.

    After the Autopilot tech came out that is when I was told not to go under 3000 and preferably stay at 3200 no matter what the manual says. Also this last cell worked for just about 2 years. The longest of all of them. It failed in early January 2008. I just found all the old paperwork.

    The main unit has always been set to the following:
    The cell power is set to level 2
    chlorine setting is 20%

  19. Back To Top    #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Venomous
    After the Autopilot tech came out that is when I was told not to go under 3000 and preferably stay at 3200 no matter what the manual says.

    The main unit has always been set to the following:
    The cell power is set to level 2
    chlorine setting is 20%
    I rest my case 8)

    Venomous, if you still have any of the failed cells, and are not using it anymore, could you please get the plates out of it, and make a photo of them?

  20. Back To Top    #20
    Guest
    If you are running at power level 2 and 20% output then you would do better running at power level 1 and readjusting the output to maintain the proper FC.

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