AquaRite SWG showing 0 average and 0 instant salt levels

Nov 10, 2019
7
Palm Springs, CA
I have an AquaRite salt water generating system installed in March of 2009 for a 19,500 gallon pool. Since install, I've replaced the original Hayward T-cell-15 cell a couple of times, about when these things are supposed to wear out (living in Palm Springs where the temps can exceed 120 degrees in the summer, I probably push mine harder than most folks). Swapped in a Calimar T-15 replacement cell last August and all has been fine since.

Today I noticed that the average salt display was reading 0 ppm. I'm used to very low values when salt levels are low, the cell is full of deposits, or the cell is on its last legs, but never full blown zero. That's a new one for me. Power light was solid green, but Inspect Cell and Low Salt were solid red as well (Generating light was off). I pulled the cell and took a look, but to my surprise the deposits on the vanes (or whatever they call the cathodes\anodes inside the cell) could be considered "light-moderate" at best (worst?), about the level you'd expect to cause a salt display of 3200 drop to 2300. Nothing major and certainly nothing I would expect to cause a zero reading.

I cleaned the cell anyway. No difference. Powering up the system resulted in solid green Power and Generating lights once the Low Flow light went out. But at that point average salt continued to show 0, cell voltage read 31.3 volts, cell current read 0 amps, and instant salt was 0 as well. Forcing the cell to actually create chlorine by flipping the switch to off momentarily resulted in the usual internal click, but the readings just described never changed. After about a minute or so, the Generating light went out and the Inspect Cell and Low Salt were back to solid red.

My guess is that the main PCB is fried in some way and the solution is to simply swap in a new one. But before I drop $160 plus tax for the replacement board, I'd love to have someone either tell me "I've seen this many times and a new PCB is the easy and obvious fix" or "I had this happen once but after soaking the board in a solution of equal parts Simple Green, extra virgin olive oil, and WD-40, it's working better than ever."

Any advice?

Nick in Palm Springs
 
Nov 10, 2019
7
Palm Springs, CA
Oops! Forgot to mention the temp. I also thought it might be a low temp issue (the water is about 59 degrees right now) so I fired up my heater today and circulated spa water until it got to 78. No difference in the display. As for the real salinity, I haven't checked it since late August when it was 3300 according to Leslie's Pool Supply. No way it's gone to zero. Splash out since late August would be near zero (we tend to gently enter the pool so as not to spill our cocktails) and I've added no more than about 2 inches of water once a month between then and now, so if the true salt level is down (and I am sure it is to some minor degree), it's not enough to trigger these sorts of readings. That said, a trip back to Leslie's tomorrow morning would be a cheap (i.e., free) way to eliminate a possible explanation before I pull the trigger on a PCB order.

Thanks!
 

mknauss

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
May 3, 2014
23,451
Laughlin, NV
Would not really trust their salt reading anyway. But you are right, in our climate, your salt is not too low.

Reading the manual seems to imply the cell is bad. This an after market cell, right?
 
Nov 10, 2019
7
Palm Springs, CA
MKNAUSS: It's indeed an aftermarket cell, but only a few months old. Usually cells go bad over time, and not just fine one day and totally dead the next. I could believe a sudden problem with the cell from a wiring issue from some sort of physical trauma or movement (bad plug to board connection, break somewhere in a bad cord, or bad cord to cell connection), but degradation of the surface of the vanes (the classic end of a cell) is a gradual thing. I've saved an old cell that was on death's door (with salt readings of about 1400) so I'll try swapping that one in temporarily. If the display shows anything but zero with the old cell, then the cell that's currently in place is to blame. If I still get a zero reading, then it's the board.

AJW22: That link (Hayward Aquarite SWG - Further Reading) was full of good info! Under the section entitled "LOW SALT Message & 0 Salinity, 0 Amps" (which is exactly what I'm seeing), it lists the following possibilities:
• Bad In-Rush Current Limiter (RZ3)
• K1 or K2 Bad solder (most likely suspect)
• Logic Controller failure (worse case scenario)
Critically, it also suggests that "A replacement board should fix this issue.". What's interesting is a footnoted link to a thread titled "Aquarite SWCG, New T-CELL15, 0 Salt Reading" (Aquarite SWCG, New T-CELL15, 0 Salt Reading), with the OP describing exactly what I'm experiencing. The consensus from the replies was that it was likely to be a board issue. Based on the advice, the OP "pulled the PCB this morning and found a large burnt trace on the back of the board from the bottom relay to the cell connection and obvious damage to several tiny traces above it." The lead reply said to clean "the brown marks with Acetone and cotton swabs" and use "fine grits sandpaper to clean around the solder joint if necessary" before applying a hot soldering iron to repair the cold solders. I might give it a shot, though while I consider myself a good mechanic, I usually try to avoid soldering for the same reason I usually try to avoid doing my own brake work: both require a certain deftness of touch and steadfastness in cleanliness and for both a botched job due to sloppy or hurried work can have disastrous consequences. I'll take a look to see if there is something I can fix, but odds are I'll just buy a new board and call it a day. Whatever I do, I'll follow up with a report so that others coming across this same issue in the future will have a few extra data points to work with.

This forum is great. Thanks so much for the very quick and helpful responses!

Nick in Palm Springs
 

chlorinatorpro

In The Industry
Feb 16, 2016
42
CA
Two other things you can do....

1) Contact Calimar and see what they say. They should have you go thru the reset procedure and you will give them all the diagnostic numbers so they can make a determination.
2) Try taking your cell to Leslie's (or any other pool store)and see if they will put it on their cell tester. Note that some stores will not test generic cells because the tester is provided by Hayward but if you buy a lot of chemicals from that store they have an incentive to keep your business. The test will only give a PASS or FAIL reading.