So the time has come to replace your chlorinator cell and you find yourself in the conundrum facing every pool owner: do I go for the genuine or generic? You’ve seen the price differences (up to 50% in places!) and it’s impossible not to be seduced.
The question is, does this cost saving come with a drop in quality and reliability? Is this one of those “buy cheap, pay twice” lessons we’ve all been on the harsh end of?
That’s exactly what I’ll aim to clear up for you with this article.
Signs Your Salt Cell Needs Replacing
Although it’s dependent on your use and maintenance, you can expect to get between five and seven years out of your salt cell. Here’s a quick run-through of the warning signs that indicate your saltwater cell needs to be replaced.
- An obvious one: does it look like it’s seen better days? Missing plates or are the electrodes worn?
- Low flow indicator showing
- Low salt indicator showing
- Is your pool turning cloudy despite the fact the cell is running on full power?
- Is the power centre (control panel) showing a Check Salt message despite normal salt levels?
- Is the cell warning light displaying?
- Is the voltage higher than normal?
- Has chlorine production dropped despite normal salinity levels, a clean cell and running the chlorinator at higher power levels?
These reasons don’t necessarily mean your chlorine generator needs to be replaced but if they persist your first course of action should be to have it checked out.
If your salt cell isn’t running well, it might in actual fact just need a clean rather than replacement. Check out this article on how to clean it here:
How to Clean a Pool Saltwater Cell Like a Pro! (and when)
Pros/Cons of Genuine OEM Salt Cell
- Guaranteed to fit and work
- Assured Reliability
- Cost up to twice the price
With the genuine OEM Salt cells you get the piece-of-mind knowing that they fit the manufacturer’s specifications and replacement itself is often easier, without the need for tools. You can more easily vouch for the quality and reliability with brands you’ve used before and the more established names in the field. Basically, you are leaving less to chance.
They CAN also last longer than the generic models, though this is very much determined by which generic model you are comparing to (more on that shortly).
The only real con is the price- does it justify the steep hike compared to the generic models?
What I would say here is that this all hinges on WHICH generic model you go for. Or, more specifically, which supplier.
Pros/Cons of Generic Salt Cell
- 20-50% cheaper
- Can last longer (but varies between manufacturers)
- You risk it not working or fitting
- Can void the manufacturer’s warranty on the chlorinator control unit
- Hit and miss on quality
All things being equal- i.e. both cells costing the same- then you are going to plump for the genuine, for the reasons I stated above: the convenience and the assurances you can have regarding quality and reliability.
However, when it comes to generic salt water cells all things are most certainly not equal, and it’s these very reasons that muddy the waters when it comes to giving a definitive answer to their pros and cons.
The pros are the price. At between 20-50% it has savings that are significant. If it was only 10% then we probably wouldn’t be having this debate! Plus many have solid plates rather than the perforate ones on the genuine, which can prolong their shelf-life. Many also come with a warranty (typically 2 years) although that depends on your supplier.
The question of their relative quality on the other hands boils down to the manufacturer.
I’ve seen generic salt cells deliver every bit as good a performance of their genuine counterparts. The problem is that no two generic manufacturers are the same. I’ve also seen many Chinese-made generic products that lasted half the time that they should, breaking in the first few weeks or just not rated as they claimed.
It’s a bit of a minefield and unfortunately these are the risks you take when you go generic. When you deal with an established manufacturer whose reputation depends on continued reliability, then quite simply they have more to lose if they sell you a badly put-together piece of equipment.
Related Reading: How to Fix a Leaking Saltwater Generator Cell
Generic Replacement Salt Cells
I’ve also done a bit of your homework for you and sifted through Amazon’s offerings for both to give you a few options. Of course, have a bit more of a dig yourself. A little bit of extra research never does any harm, especially with these more substantial purchases.
This one is on offer at almost half the price of the OEM or genuine salt cell. It has a 4.4 average rating with over 250 reviews. Those are the kinds of numbers that give you real piece-of-mind when it comes to putting your hard-earned money down!
It’s also compatible with common chlorinators such as: Hayward Goldline AquaRite, SwimPure, AquaRite XL, NatureSoft, SmartPure.
About 85% of the customers that have purchased this product have had positive results with only a small amount of people that have had issues.
It comes in 3 different power ratings:
T-CELL-3 (for pools up to 15,000 gallons)
T-CELL-9 (for pools up to 25,000 gallons)
T-CELL-15 (for pools up to 40,000 gallons)
Should You Buy a Generic Salt Water Cell?
So you can see now why I said the waters were so muddy when it comes to making your choice here. My opinion is that you can buy generic cells that match- even better- their genuine counterparts for performance and reliability but you need to do your ‘due diligence when it comes to the manufacturer.
Check out how long the manufacturer or store selling the product has been going. Ensure it isn’t some fly-by-night operation where quality control is an after-thought or an irrelevance. If they have established themselves over a few years then they have a degree of accountability and a reputation to uphold. They have too much to throw away to be fobbing you off with shoddy workmanship.
Then check the reviews. Again this is accountability and one of the main benefits of buying over the internet. If you can see dozens, even hundreds, of fellow buyers vouching that their cheaper generic cell came with no discernible drop in quality and reliability then you are de-risking the purchase for yourself.
But it’s worth bearing in mind here that some reviews can be faked. Luckily you can spot these a mile off- generated by software, they often have dodgy spelling and bizarre use of syntax and grammar that give the game away.
Amazon do a good job staying on top of these; places like Alibaba can be rife with fake reviews, but again, just take your precautions and you can minimize the risk.
Hopefully, I’ve cleared this issue up for you a bit there- reassured you that if you do plump for the generic that with a bit of homework (and some common sense!) there’s no reason that you can’t end up with a product of comparable quality with their more expensive Genuine counterparts.
Related Reading: Why Are My Saltwater Chlorine Generator Warning Lights On (solved!)