Aqua-rite under-reporting salt level?

spannertech

Member
Apr 22, 2019
5
Los Angeles, CA
Two weeks ago I cleaned out my salt cell (a CMARCHA40-2Y by Calimar which claims to be T-15 equivalent about 2 years old) with diluted muriatic acid. It was really pretty clean, no visible build up of anything but the "inspect cell" led was on solid so I thought it was the right thing to do.

Last week my early-morning pool guy left a note to say my salt generator was not generating any chlorine. I looked and it was reading 2200ppm. The manual seems to say it needs to be at 2700 or more for best generation. The low salt and check cell lights were both flashing. The generating light would sometimes come on for a bit, but not stay on. I made the assumption that I needed salt. So I dumped in 3 x 40lbs and that brought it up to 2700 and then I added another yesterday and it settled at 2800. The generating light now comes on solid. I texted pool guy to let him know this. He texted back telling me he tested the salt level 3 weeks ago and it was 3650. I reached for an old analog Myron meter I was given and that now reads around 4500ppm - very high.

So it looks like I completely goofed adding the salt and was misled by the Aqua-rite under reporting the salt level. Is my cell bad? Is the Aqua-rite bad? Is there any harm in having such a high salt level (it will get diluted in time, losing about 2"/week to evaporation, 40,000 gallons pool) or is it urgent that I do some diluting? Thank you in advance for any responses. OP
 

mguzzy

Gold Supporter
The first sign of a dying cell is the controller under-reporting the salinity typically. And if you get dupped into believing it, you will typically put in too much salt thinking the reading is correct. Hence you figured it out with a separate test. Go through the diagnostics in this wiki and check the other readings. If you are at 4500ppm you will just fry the controller with too high a salinity.
 
This just means the Temp sensor is going bad. Happened to me. Salinity is a calculation based on Cell Current, Temperature and is calculated by an algorithm in the Controllers software. I Replaced the internal sensor with a 9.1k resistor (to start) to test the cell. Cell worked fine for 2 weeks no issues. Do not replace the cell till you have performed this test or at least check the resistance with a simple Ohm Meter of the sensor.

I then ordered and external sensor, installed it and wired it in. Total Cost $30. That is BIG savings.
 

mguzzy

Gold Supporter
This just means the Temp sensor is going bad. Happened to me. Salinity is a calculation based on Cell Current, Temperature and is calculated by an algorithm in the Controllers software. I Replaced the internal sensor with a 9.1k resistor (to start) to test the cell. Cell worked fine for 2 weeks no issues. Do not replace the cell till you have performed this test or at least check the resistance with a simple Ohm Meter of the sensor.

I then ordered and external sensor, installed it and wired it in. Total Cost $30. That is BIG savings.
Hey 'Waverider... can you work up a step by step on this.. It will satisfy the fingers of he DIYer's out there and I bet would be wiki worthy
 

RJ-45

In The Industry
Jun 6, 2021
147
Charlotte, NC
CMARCHA40-2Y by Calimar only last about 2 years if you are using it year round on a 40,000 gallon pool. I have replaced a bunch of them after 4-5 years (used about 5-6 month per year in my area).

I would consider them to be good cells consider their price.
 
It all depends on the Salt Cell. I had a replacement Generic cell from as opposed to an original Hayward Copiously Inflated Price Cell. I actually prefer the Generic as you can see what is going as it is semi transparent and has lasted longer than the Original. I have the $297 40k Cell that I purchased 5 years ago for $267. Great Value, as I said it is still going strong with this mod. mine is used 365 days a year. The process is the same, the Wire Colors are the same. The only difference is that Hayward makes it difficult to get the wire cover off as they goup it in with an awful black silicone compound. But once it is off it is easy. I can take a photo of the inside of mine and post it though ...... here it is.
 

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RJ-45

In The Industry
Jun 6, 2021
147
Charlotte, NC
The generic system we are using allow you to switch the temp sensor from internal (inside the cell) to one in the flow switch. I find that design to be very smart and easy to make the switch by end user in a just few minutes. You can just call for the special version of the flow switch if you are getting Hot or Cold message but your water temp is within normal range.
 
The generic system we are using allow you to switch the temp sensor from internal (inside the cell) to one in the flow switch. I find that design to be very smart and easy to make the switch by end user in a just few minutes. You can just call for the special version of the flow switch if you are getting Hot or Cold message but your water temp is within normal range.
And What System is That, Calimar I presume? Mine is the Original Hayward Aqua rite I purchased in 2009 with a different cell. I have repaired the controller a few times and upgraded the power system to the Relay Type. It is still going strong. The Cell is their weak link. Done on purpose I would not mind betting so you keep buying them. Generics are way better.
 

RJ-45

In The Industry
Jun 6, 2021
147
Charlotte, NC
I suspect all the generic system we are getting are made by same company including the Calimar brand. As the guts (after you remove the cover) is identical. I have swapped parts (PCB including the display board) from one to another brand, they all work fine. Their cell is also exactly the same. I don't think their cell is weak, as I have multiple versions of the Calimar cells (5k, 7k, 10k hours) they all last very close to the rating if proper water chemistry is maintained.
 

mguzzy

Gold Supporter
It all depends on the Salt Cell. I had a replacement Generic cell from as opposed to an original Hayward Copiously Inflated Price Cell. I actually prefer the Generic as you can see what is going as it is semi transparent and has lasted longer than the Original. I have the $297 40k Cell that I purchased 5 years ago for $267. Great Value, as I said it is still going strong with this mod. mine is used 365 days a year. The process is the same, the Wire Colors are the same. The only difference is that Hayward makes it difficult to get the wire cover off as they goup it in with an awful black silicone compound. But once it is off it is easy. I can take a photo of the inside of mine and post it though ...... here it is.
Thanks 'Waverider... Is this the thread where you first mentioned the temp sensor issue...
I'm doing some cross referencing for the peeps that are hunting for info on this.
 

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Thanks, that was when I first recognized the problem and started looking for a solution. I since figured it all out and came up with the one I posted here.

OK. Once I found the issue was the sensor and contacted the saltpoolstore's customer NO SERVICE WHAT SO EVER Department, as I had 6 months left on the warranty it is a T-15 compatible cell. They wanted me to send them my cell for "Testing". The warranty was pro-rated and IF they proved it was bad they would give me 30% off a new one. CATCH, that was 30% off the FULL price which made it $100 more than if I just went to the website and purchased it. so a complete waste of time sending it in, not to mention the fact the pool would be without a salt cell. This is what I would have done if I could not repair it.

So I decided to fix it myself, and with the help of a simple voltmeter / Ohm Meter, I figured it out. It was not rocket science as after scouring the net, while there was not definitive explanation there were lots of little bits available that an Engineer like me could easily put together.

I may be FORCED to buy from the SaltPoolStore again, because of the price of the Cell, but I will not be so naïve as to think there is actually a warranty of 5 years. Yes they would replace it in the first year, so to me it is a 1 year warranty.

Considering my Cell is now 5 years old and pumping out Chlorine gangbusters, I probably will not have to worry about it for another few years. I did buy an external sensor (Hayward Type for $12.95 from Amazon) and I "May" install it. However as the cover of my cell is so simple to get off, I kind of like having control over the temperature. The original Temperature sender was always off and the salinity was never the same as my pool store's tests, and in the winter, when the pool was 65*F the Cell only read 50*F and I was forced to put chlorine in manually. Now I know a lot better.

I may even start a business diagnosing Salt Cells, and providing a kit to repair the sensor. It is so easy to fault find. I could do it over the phone with someone, and they could send me the cell for repair :).

Dead Give Aways.....
1) Temp on controller seems off
2) Chlorine PPM is obviously wrong
3) Resistance on Pin 6 and 10 is either way above 10k or way below 5k (Mine was 2.7k)
4) Lights on Controller Check Cell and Salt will not reset and go off.

I know the cell sometimes really does go bad, but unless it is leaking and the element is worn out, it could probably be fixed. ALL the ones I have seen, without exception, but I admit not that many, have only had a sensor problem, either it is bad completely or just way off calibration. The easiest thing to fix.

Good luck and do not be scared to give it a try. But PLEASE ensure the power is off on the controller before doing any Cell stand alone diagnostics, or unplugging the cell. I can give you the resistor and Potentiometer values for your specific climate. Mine is and 8.2k Fix Resistor in series with a 5k Variable Resistor, that covers my all year temperature range. You could also just set it for 77*F and just use it all the time, it will not affect the function of the cell.
 

mguzzy

Gold Supporter
Good luck and do not be scared to give it a try. But PLEASE ensure the power is off on the controller before doing any Cell stand alone diagnostics, or unplugging the cell. I can give you the resistor and Potentiometer values for your specific climate. Mine is and 8.2k Fix Resistor in series with a 5k Variable Resistor, that covers my all year temperature range. You could also just set it for 77*F and just use it all the time, it will not affect the function of the cell.
Oh.. I think I get it. You clipped the temp sensor in the cell and added a pot that produces a similar range to fool the controller into thinking its whatever temp you set it to. Is that right? So my water temp drops into the high 40's in the winter. I could set the pot so the controller thinks its 77F and it will ignore the low temp and run the SWG anyway. I wonder what effect that has on the SWG operation at that temp...

Anyway, I think my current SWG is doing just what you describe. I noticed about a month ago that my heater was showing a different temp than the SWG controller. But the temp disparity seems to come and go. This week I noticed the High Salt and check cell lights flashing, but then it would run normally. I think I will do some basic diagnostics tomorrow and see what is going on.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
28,291
Is there any harm in having such a high salt level (it will get diluted in time, losing about 2"/week to evaporation, 40,000 gallons pool) or is it urgent that I do some diluting?
Water lost to evaporation does not take any salt with it. So, the salinity will not decrease, it will increase due to salt in the fill water.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
28,291
I noticed about a month ago that my heater was showing a different temp than the SWG controller. But the temp disparity seems to come and go. This week I noticed the High Salt and check cell lights flashing, but then it would run normally.
The cell is after the heater.

So, the temperature reported by the cell will be higher when the heater is on and the amperage will go up, which is probably why the high salt warning light came on.

For Aquarite, the high salt warning light comes on at 8 amps.

If you are at 7 amps and the water temperature increases by 10 to 17 degrees when the heater is on, then the amperage can easily hit or exceed 8 amps.
 
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Oh.. I think I get it. You clipped the temp sensor in the cell and added a pot that produces a similar range to fool the controller into thinking its whatever temp you set it to. Is that right? So my water temp drops into the high 40's in the winter. I could set the pot so the controller thinks its 77F and it will ignore the low temp and run the SWG anyway. I wonder what effect that has on the SWG operation at that temp...

Anyway, I think my current SWG is doing just what you describe. I noticed about a month ago that my heater was showing a different temp than the SWG controller. But the temp disparity seems to come and go. This week I noticed the High Salt and check cell lights flashing, but then it would run normally. I think I will do some basic diagnostics tomorrow and see what is going on.
Yes to the Pot But I put an 8.2k resistor in series to limit the resistance to a 8.2k minimum. Otherwise you will confuse the controller into thinking the sensor has shorted if you are not careful. Test it with a Fixed resistor, 10k will give you 77*F. I would love a waterproof pot that I can install in the casing, but I cannot seem to find a suitable one. Good luck with your diagnostics and fix. Here is a Chart for a 10k Thermistor.
 

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C0d3Sp4c3

Well-known member
Dec 10, 2018
209
Inland Empire, CA
Pool Size
20000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Aqua Rite (T-15)
The Aquarite controller will default to 77°F if the built in Thermistor is removed or either one of the two Thermistor wire is broken. This is confirmed at least for the build r1.59.
 
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mguzzy

Gold Supporter
Simple to test, turn the heater off for a while.
Well the heater is not on usually. I only turn when I warm up the spa or I want to add a few degrees to the pool. I happened to notice the difference in temp when I was heating it for a recent party. And then again when I looking at the pool temps during a recent heat have. At one point the SWG indicated a temp 10 degrees higher than the spa heater and I thought.. that is odd ( I turned the heater on long enough to get a water temp reading and then turned it off). Then I checked it again later and it was back within several degrees of each other. I suppose I should check with a regular thermometer. This cell is in its 7th year of operation.. so I am thinking it getting old and cranky. I know the cell is under reporting the salinity like they do when they get older. That's why I thought I would try this hack.
 
The Aquarite controller will default to 77°F if the built in Thermistor is removed or either one of the two Thermistor wire is broken. This is confirmed at least for the build r1.59.
It may do if you turn it off first. If you do it while the controller is on, it throws an error light, at least mine did. I did not try to turn it on without the resistor in the circuit.
 

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