Maintaining a clean and well-balanced swimming pool during rainy season can be a challenging task for your Salt Chlorine Generator because rainwater brings along contaminants that can disrupt the chemical balance and overall cleanliness of your pool water.
What Should I Check Before Calling AutoPilot® Technical Support or Service Center?
Once you have purchased an AutoPilot® salt chlorine generator, you have the technical knowledge and support of a company that has been on the leading edge of electrolytic chlorine generation. In business since 1976, AutoPilot® has sold over a half a million chlorinators all over the world and combines quality, dependability, customer satisfaction, and warranty. However, we do realize that technical issues could occur and in this article we will go over some steps you can take before contacting technical support or our AutoPilot® service line.
Below you will find some of the most common errors you will see when running your AutoPilot ® unit. In most cases, you may not see a warning light or error message on the display, but you’re not able to test for chlorine. Before scheduling a service call, we recommend you go over these steps and save yourself time and money due to a non-warranty related service call.
When the error code comes up showing “Purifier Off, Check Flow”, it means there is not enough flow going through the manifold’s tri-sensor to activate the flow switch. Your chlorine production will be halted until this is corrected. Here are some areas that are not related to the tri-sensor:
1) Manifold Screen, Pump and Skimmer Baskets, and Pool Filter – Inspect and clean these items.
2) Improperly Positioned Valves – Ensure there are no valves blocking or diverting flow away from the manifold.
3) Calcium Scale Buildup on Cell – Remove, inspect, and clean the cell as needed. If scaled, refer to the owner’s manual to determine cause of scaling and how to acid wash it.
4) Return Side Obstructions – Pressure side cleaners, In-Floor Cleaning systems, and Fountain Jets can also create back pressure to hinder flow. Try diverting flow away from these devices, or check for debris/obstructions, until flow is corrected.
Error Code “CHECK/CLEAN CELL” or “LOW AMPS/CELL?”
These messages occur when there are problems with regards to the power going to the cell. Chlorine production will be reduced during this error display. Here are some areas that are not related to the cell, cell cord, or power supply:
1) Low Salt – Test the salt level or take a water sample to your Pool Professional and compare to what the display is showing. Calibrate the AutoPilot to match the test result as needed.
2) Cell Condition – If there is scale formation in the cell or if the cell is near the end of life, these displays will occur.
3) Cell Cord Condition – Remove and inspect both ends of the cell cord. If there is a loose wire or loose connection, re-tighten and reconnect. If there are signs of damage (corrosion or discoloration), replace the cord.
4) Cold Water Temperature – Cold temperatures increase voltage to the cell. In most cases, increasing the salt level to 3500 – 4000 ppm to compensate for the cold temperatures will resolve this error display.
5) Power to AutoPilot – Usually with New Installations, if there’s 115 volts going to a unit that is still factory wired for 230 volts, you will get this display when the cell is energized (Press BOOST button to test). With older systems, it’s possible for one of the two breakers powering up the AutoPilot® to go bad, therefore, only 115 volts will be going to the unit. Turn both breakers on a 230 volt system OFF, and then back ON. If there is a bad breaker, it should trip.
Error Code “BAD TEMP SENSOR”
This message can occur if the tri-sensor or tri-sensor cord is damaged or if the cord is not plugged in properly. This will not affect the chlorine production, just the Automatic Temperature Compensation feature.
1) Check the tri-sensor connector where it plugs into the power supply. On older models, also check the connector that plugs onto the tri-sensor for debris, corrosion, or damage to the 6-pin connector.
2) Check the tri-sensor cord for signs of damage from pets/animals chewing on the cord, lawn equipment cutting the cord, or other signs of damage to the cord.
Changing Purifier Output Setting
If the purifier output setting (%) changes without someone changing it, this is the Automatic Temperature Compensation feature adjusting the %, based on water temperature changes. As the water temperatures increases, % will increase. As the water temperature decreases, % will decrease. At certain points when it gets colder, the maximum % allowed will be limited. When temperatures get to 55F or colder, the maximum % will be limited to 1%, and cannot be increased.
No Error Codes But No Chlorine
There are several situations in which you may not be able to read a chlorine level in the pool, yet there are no error displays on the AutoPilot. Some are Operational and some are from Chemical Reactions. A quick test is to place the units in BOOST mode, wait 30 seconds, loosen the lower cell union, and then take a water sample after the cell. Test for chlorine, which should yield a higher level than what’s in the pool.
* Operational – These are situations in which adjustments or upgrades may be needed.
1) Cell Too Small – If the cell is undersized for your pool, you will not be able to make enough chlorine to properly maintain your pool. It is always better to up size the cell to your pool. Borderline sizing, that is, if you have a 20,000 gallon pool, do not install and 20,000 gallon rated cell, will probably not provide enough chlorine.
2) Pump Run Time Insufficient – Similar to undersized cells, you must run the pump long enough to be able to generate sufficient levels of chlorine daily. Up sizing the cell will allow you to lower your pump run time.
3) Chlorine Demand Too High – Outdoor (UV) exposure, water features, slides, pool parties, inclement weather conditions are all high chlorine demand conditions. Adding sufficient amounts of Chlorine Stabilizer will help with the UV exposure. The other conditions will require manual addition of supplemental chlorine, or higher amounts of chlorine production, which is achieved by up sizing the cell. The Digital and Soft Models allow you to up size to any of our AutoPilot cells. The Nano and Nano + models cannot be up sized.
* Chemical Reactions – These are situations in which chlorine may be reacting with ancillary chemicals added to the pool, or lack thereof.
1) Chlorine Stabilizer – As mentioned for Chlorine Demand above, Chlorine Stabilizer is needed for pools exposed to sunlight. It is recommended to maintain 60 – 80 ppm for your typical pool. When used with an ORP/pH controller, such as the Total Control System, you should maintain 30 -50 ppm. Too high in stabilizer will create a slower reaction of chlorine and in some cases, can hinder the effectiveness of chlorine. If too low, add stabilizer. If too high, dilute some water to bring it down.
2) Sodium Bromide Based Algae Treatments – These usually have YELLOW or MUSTARD in the name in a powder form. If an algae treatment has been recently done, check your bottle and see if it contains Sodium Bromide. Sodium Bromide added to a Salt Chlorine Generator pool will create problems. Turn the AutoPilot off and add Sodium Hypochlorite manually, daily, to maintain 5 ppm or higher until you’re able to maintain a chlorine residual overnight. Determine this by testing your chlorine at night and again in the morning. Expect the chlorine level to be lower in the morning, due to the reaction of the sodium bromide. Add your chlorine after your morning test. Once you’re able to maintain the chlorine residual, you can turn the AutoPilot back on.
3) High Phosphates – Phosphates is a food source for algae, usually introduced by lawn fertilizer, laundry detergents, city water, tile and vinyl cleaners, and can also be airborne (local golf course?). There are different thoughts on high phosphates. High phosphates alone being a problem, or high phosphates in conjunction with visible algae. In either case, it is best to maintain a low level of phosphates. There are chemical treatments to eliminate phosphates. These will cloud the water, as it’s reacting with the phosphates and allowing it to be filtered. Take care to keep your filter clean as you go through a treatment process. If there is algae present, it is best to treat your pool for the algae first – shock the pool, brush the algae off the walls, and vacuum to waste – then treat the phosphates. This will eliminate an extra step as the algae, when brushed off the walls, will release more phosphates into the pool.
4) Chlorine Neutralizer/Eliminator – Normally used with commercial pools, these pellets are very potent. This is also used in residential pools after a shock treatment to lower the chlorine back down, quickly. When overdosed, this creates a chlorine demand that will consume the chlorine being produced by the cell, resulting in low to no chlorine in the pool. The quick solution is to manually add chlorine to overcome this chlorine demand.
5) Water Chemistry Imbalance – Always keep your water chemistry adjusted to maintain proper balance, according to the Langelier’s Saturation Index, found here. Improper chemical levels can allow scale formation in the cell, which will reduce chlorine production and cell life. Improper chemical levels can also cause more chemicals to be needed to maintain your pool.
As you can see, there are other conditions that may cause problems with the AutoPilot salt chlorinator, which are not related to a defective or damaged component. It is best to follow these steps to check your system before requesting a service call, which may end up being not related to the AutoPilot. Use the error codes shown on the unit, and compare against the charts in your owner’s manual. If you have tried the solutions suggested above, went through the possible solutions as shown in the owner’s manual troubleshooting section, and still have problems, please feel free to contact us to set up an appointment for service here.
As always, please feel free to contact us should you have any additional questions or leave any comments you may have below.