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Thread: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

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    Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    I've dealt with a variety of SWGs over the years, and I have never been a fan of the Pentair Intelichlor systems. To me they seem over complicated, and in my experience have a lot of problems because of it. They also put the brain of the system into the cell, so when a cell goes bad, it costs twice as much to replace.

    So I'm curious to hear other opinions. There must be a reason why some people seem to prefer them.
    TreeFiter

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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    I agree with you. Without a Pentair automation system, you get very coarse control of the SWG output and the cells are more expensive to replace than other brands. Those are 2 pretty big cons in my book. But, if you are buying all equipment together with automation, the extended warranty and integration are a plus.
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    I have a pentair IC40. I got it because I didnt know the pros and cons at the time. It took me a while adjusting the output in 20% increments and playing with my pump runtime to get it dialed in. Now that I know pretty much what the changes do to my pool now, it doesnt bother me so much. I learned it.

    You're right though, the cell replacement is expensive, and whenever mine dies, hopefully a long time from now, I will probably replace the whole system because of that.
    Divin Dave,
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    Mod Squad pooldv's Avatar
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    My answer is pretty much the same. My PB is a Pentair guy, it's all he installs. I haven't had any real trouble dialing in chlorine level either, but it does take some effort and attention and less than 20% increments would help, although it has seemed to oddly work out well at 20% with low demand and 40% with higher demand works pretty well and the boost feature for the occasional high demand days. Mine is only three season old, coming up on four. I haven't thought about what I will do when it is time to replace, but I will definitely keep swcg.

    I love my Pentair VS pump, the filter is fine too. I bought the solar touch because I wanted to be sure it would work with the pump. If I buy a heat pump it will probably be Pentair too because now I am a Pentair guy. All of my Pentair equipment has performed flawlessly, about to enter swim season four.
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    That reminds me of why most get the IC40. In most cases the SWG comes from the builder at the time the pool is built. A reasonable percentage of builders always use all Pentair equipment, so if they install a SWG, they use a Pentair SWG. The purchaser hardly ever has an opinion, so the builder goes with the brand they are familiar with.
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    I didn't realize that the Intellichlors could only be adjusted in increments of 20%. I thought there was a way to adjust them by 10% (blinking light vs solid).

    I can understand how people end up with them when a pool builder recommends Pentair for everything. Not to mention the warranty is great if you buy everything from Pentair.

    I personally have never been a fan of Pentair in general. Their products feel like they were built by someone in their garage. A good example of this might be to compare a Pentair multiport to a Hayward. The Pentair just feels cheap. Their heaters don't seem too bad, but I don't deal with them too much. I've also found that it is often more difficult to perform simple maintenance related tasks on Pentair equipment. An example might be cleaning out the impeller. On a Hayward Super pump you can reach in and pull out whatever is clogging it from inside the pump housing. On a Pentair you can't reach, and need to disassemble the pump. The pump lid design drives me crazy with the twist to lock type lids they use on Pentair pumps. They tend to leak and pull air, and the O-rings go bad fairly often. Not to mention, you are almost certain to bust up a knuckle or two when it breaks free and rotates. I could go on and on (if I haven't already) about the things I don't like about Pentair equipment.
    TreeFiter

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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    I just went back to check the IC40 manual to see if I missed something on less than 20% adjustments. The 20% or 40%, etc light will flash if a number more or less than 20% or 40%, etc is selected from an automation system.
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    If you are using a Pentair automation system you can set it to any number from 0% to 100%. But without an automation system you are limited to 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100%.
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by pooldv View Post
    I just went back to check the IC40 manual to see if I missed something on less than 20% adjustments. The 20% or 40%, etc light will flash if a number more or less than 20% or 40%, etc is selected from an automation system.
    This might be what I was thinking of.
    TreeFiter

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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    I just replaced my first IC40 after 3 years and 9 months of service. It was installed during my original pool build along with my 100% Pentair system. I performed an electronic "autopsy" on this thing and it seems that the plastic skin started to crack horizontally right around the chlorine level buttons; this probably allowed some water intrusion which contributed to the failure. The removal of the top skin revealed the electronic guts which were sealed with a very durable rubberized potting compound. The only things really visible were the LED lights sticking out and the 2 chlorine level push buttons. I imagine that the moisture intruded via the push buttons. With all of the heat and humidity here in Florida, I am very pleased with the IC40's performance. I figure that it easily paid for itself in chlorine tablets and time saved with an automated system.
    Karl

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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Karl View Post
    I just replaced my first IC40 after 3 years and 9 months of service. It was installed during my original pool build along with my 100% Pentair system. I performed an electronic "autopsy" on this thing and it seems that the plastic skin started to crack horizontally right around the chlorine level buttons; this probably allowed some water intrusion which contributed to the failure. The removal of the top skin revealed the electronic guts which were sealed with a very durable rubberized potting compound. The only things really visible were the LED lights sticking out and the 2 chlorine level push buttons. I imagine that the moisture intruded via the push buttons. With all of the heat and humidity here in Florida, I am very pleased with the IC40's performance. I figure that it easily paid for itself in chlorine tablets and time saved with an automated system.
    I'm glad to hear that you are pleased with what you got out of your IC40, but I think that the savings in chlorine tabs and time saved would be similar with just about any other SWG. The key difference would be that with most other systems, when the electronics fail, you replace a $2-300 component. When the cell fails, you replace a $300 component. When an IC40 fails, you replace the whole thing for $500.

    So far the only real argument I've heard in favor of the Intelichlor systems is that they can be integrated into the automated systems. I'm not sure I really see the added value in this. On the surface it sounds nice to be able to adjust the output of your SWG from the control panel inside your house, but in all reality, when or why might you need to adjust the pool chemistry without testing? Chances are if you feel the need to adjust SWG output, you have tested the water, which means you are already near the pool, which means you are pretty close to the pool mechanicals as well (in most cases). So since you would probably be working from the Intellitouch panel at the pump pad anyway, where is the benefit in having the SWG integrated rather than a separate box with its own display. If anything, it seems to me that navigating through the Intellitouch menus would take longer than looking at the display on a stand alone SWG.

    Has anyone else had experiences contrary to what I am saying? I'm interested to hear how/why it is beneficial to have the SWG integrated into an automation system (considering SWGs are typically automated themselves).

    P.S.--Karl, I don't mean to pick on your post, I just get the sense that your comments seem to be more pro SWG than pro IC40, if that makes sense.
    TreeFiter

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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    For pools with an attached spa, the ability of the automation system to turn down the SWG percentage automatically when in spa mode is very important. It is also nice for the automation system to get the flow switch reading from the SWG, so it can provide prime protection.

    You also see a fair number of people who are extremely intent on getting everything, including SWG, controlled from their Internet remote. I don't see any advantage to that related to the SWG, but they still want the feature.
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    Treefiter,

    I'm curious as to your point. You said up-front that you are not a fan of the Pentair Intelichlor systems, which is just fine with me. I'm not a fan of Rolex watches and believe that my $39 dollar one keeps time as well as a $10K Rolex, but.. if my neighbor wants a Rolex because it matches his outfit, why should I care? In my case, my whole system is made by Pentair. If given the option of saving $75 a year by having a different SWG, or having everything made by the same manufacturer, I'd go with the same brand every time, whether it was Pentair, Hayward, or Jandy.

    Jim R.

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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimrahbe View Post
    Treefiter,

    I'm curious as to your point. You said up-front that you are not a fan of the Pentair Intelichlor systems, which is just fine with me. I'm not a fan of Rolex watches and believe that my $39 dollar one keeps time as well as a $10K Rolex, but.. if my neighbor wants a Rolex because it matches his outfit, why should I care? In my case, my whole system is made by Pentair. If given the option of saving $75 a year by having a different SWG, or having everything made by the same manufacturer, I'd go with the same brand every time, whether it was Pentair, Hayward, or Jandy.

    Jim R.
    I'm just trying to understand why I see so many of them out there despite the long list of cons that seem to come with them. So far the only pro I've been given is that they integrate well into Pentair automated systems.

    As someone that cares for other people's pools, I try to recommend what will be best for my customers. I can't really approach a situation with a "to each their own" attitude if in the end, I'll most likely be getting blamed for whatever problems arise. I have a responsibility to the customer to recommend equipment that will work well for them and provide good value.

    I think my opinion goes way beyond saving $75/year. Its more about your pool turning green because your SWG suddenly stopped working. Its about the $200 service call to have a tech come figure out why its not working and then replace a $100 sensor. Its about repeating this cycle every couple of years, and then replacing the cell at twice the cost of most other SWG systems.

    With regard to your preference of having everything from the same manufacturer, I'm curious why you feel that is important. What value does it add for you?
    TreeFiter

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    Saugerties, NY

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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    Some of your comments seem a little unfair. Pentair SWG reliability seems to be in line with all of the other major brands of SWG. There is no indication that they require any more service calls or any more parts replacement than any of the other major brands. The cells do cost more to replace, and there is the steps of 20% issue, but those are the only issues that seem to come up regularly that are in any way different from other brands. If anything the Pentair units have perhaps been a tiny bit more reliable than the average SWG recently, though they did have a run of problems a few years ago.
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion View Post
    Some of your comments seem a little unfair. Pentair SWG reliability seems to be in line with all of the other major brands of SWG. There is no indication that they require any more service calls or any more parts replacement than any of the other major brands. The cells do cost more to replace, and there is the steps of 20% issue, but those are the only issues that seem to come up regularly that are in any way different from other brands. If anything the Pentair units have perhaps been a tiny bit more reliable than the average SWG recently, though they did have a run of problems a few years ago.
    You may be right. I'm going off the experiences I remember. Chances are if they were working fine, I'm not going to remember those instances. Only the bad experiences tend to stick. However, I've never had to deal with a bad temp sensor or a bad flow sensor in an EcoMatic or a Compupool SWG, but I have seen multiple issues with Intellichlors. Don't get me wrong, both the EcoMatics and Compupools have their shortcomings, but their simplicity limits the potential for problems.

    That being said, I think my comments are fairly reasonable. If a sensor goes bad, chances are it will happen pretty close to how I described it above. In a more simple system, it is often easier to troubleshoot and repair. For example, with the Ecomatic systems, I would say 90% of the time, problems are due to poor connections at the cell. Wiggle the wires, and you are back up and running. If necessary, you might need to clean or replace the connector. This is a pretty easy fix and will cost less than $10. Simple system=simple fix. Other than that the only other issues I've seen are the occasional blown fuse.

    With the Compupools, I honestly can't think of a time where I've had an issue, other than cell cleaning. This of course excludes systems that failed under a recall, in which they were replaced at the expense of Compupool.

    I work primarily with the EcoMatics and Compupools, as that is what the company I work for installs. I see hundreds of them, and I have an overall positive opinion of them. When it comes to the Pentairs, I see a handfull of them, and somehow out of that sample, I have seen more than enough problems that became expensive and involved fixes to have soured my opinion of them. To me, that says something.

    To be fair, the Intellichlors are not the only systems that I have found to be problematic. I've seen similar issues with Autopilot systems as well, and its usually a result of a more complicated system offering more opportunity for things to go wrong.
    TreeFiter

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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    I'm one of those people that specified the Intellichlor on my pool build. I specified all-Pentair equipment in order to qualify for the 3-year warranty. I really didn't know anything about the differences between Pentair and other brands, but I knew that I definitely wanted the Intelliflo variable speed pump, so that dictated all my other choices.

    As it turns out, the 3-year warranty came in very handy when the IC40 failed after 18 months. Unfortunately, the replacement unit only lasted about 18 months as well. I used tablets for a couple of years before breaking down and buying a replacement cell. That cell is going into its third season right now and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

    I really don't know if the Pentair units are any more or less reliable than other brands, because I only have my own experience to draw from. My opinion is that ALL pool salt cells tend to be overpriced because there is very little interoperability between cells and controller from different manufacturers. Too bad there's not a standard so that the cells could be replaced with another brand without having to replace the entire power system. I also wish that Pentair sold a "dumb" version of the IC40 for integration with their automation systems. No need for all those buttons and lights if the info can be read from the master control panel.
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by TreeFiter View Post
    I'm just trying to understand why I see so many of them out there despite the long list of cons that seem to come with them. So far the only pro I've been given is that they integrate well into Pentair automated systems.

    As someone that cares for other people's pools, I try to recommend what will be best for my customers. I can't really approach a situation with a "to each their own" attitude if in the end, I'll most likely be getting blamed for whatever problems arise. I have a responsibility to the customer to recommend equipment that will work well for them and provide good value.

    I think my opinion goes way beyond saving $75/year. Its more about your pool turning green because your SWG suddenly stopped working. Its about the $200 service call to have a tech come figure out why its not working and then replace a $100 sensor. Its about repeating this cycle every couple of years, and then replacing the cell at twice the cost of most other SWG systems.

    With regard to your preference of having everything from the same manufacturer, I'm curious why you feel that is important. What value does it add for you?
    If I could somehow replace the IC40 cell with one from a different manufacturer, I probably would. However, it would be an expensive proposition to replace both the cell and the power center/controller. Thus, it's cheaper in the short term to just cough up the money for the replacement IC40.

    The integration with the automation controller is fairly important for programming the power level and for diagnostics, but I think other manufacturers have implemented more effective ways to deal with this.

    I've also had to replace the temp/flow sensor. Fortunately, I didn't have to pay for it because Pentair sent me one as a warranty replacement. However, these sensors should not be failing at all. I work with automation components all the time and this type of item should last indefinitely and not cost anywhere near $100 to replace..

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick_B View Post
    One thing we suggest and it seems to help a whole lot and that is over sizing your salt cell for your pool size.
    That way they don't have to work nearly as hard.

    Something to think about if you have to replace.
    Agreed. I think I did so by choosing the IC40 instead of the IC20 for my 13,000 gallon pool. It was a very minor increase in cost (less than $50, if I recall).

    Unfortunately, the cells failed for reasons that were probably unrelated to their production capacity.
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    Re: Intelichlor SWGs...Pros/Cons

    I did figure out a benefit of the Pentair IC40 that doesn't seem to be the case of others. Before I learned that the low salt warning is meaningless in cold water I put way too much salt in my pool. So much that I didn't have to add any salt for over two years! Oops! The IC40 will give a high salt warning over 4500ppm but will continue to make chlorine. Most others stop, forcing you to drain water to dilute the salt content.
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