Swimming Pool Filter Pumps: Above and In-ground

How to choose the right pool pump. Brands, features, power, installation tips.

Pool pumps are used to circulate water from the pool, through a pool filter. This is important for keeping the water clean. Depending on the setup required, a chlorinator and a heater can also be inserted into the flow. Integrated pump-filter and pump-filter-chlorinator models are available. Pump-filter combinations are especially popular with smaller models.

Heaters are usually separate. The pump and motor are almost always sold as one unit (for convenience, the term “pump” will sometimes be used to refer to the combined motor-pump unit).

Popular brands include Hayward (TriStar), Intex (Krystal Clear), Pentair (Intelliflo, Purex Triton), A.O. Smith (Magnetek), Waterway, Jandy, Doughboy, Proline, PAC-FAB, and Sta-Rite (AquaTools, Dura-Glas). Prices range from under $50 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the size and brand. It isn’t necessary for the pool (especially for above-ground pools) and the pump to be from the same manufacturer.

Some pumps are designed for above-ground pools, others are designed for in-ground pools. A few can be used for both. It’s important to match the pump to the type of pool. This is because the height of the pump relative to the pool, and therefore the water pressure, is different for the two types. If roof-top solar panels are used for heating the pool, the pump should be rated for such use.

All pool pumps should be self-priming. This means that they don’t have to be manually filled (primed) with water before being used.

A stronger water jet will stir up more debris for filtering, and reduce the need to vacuum the pool.
The pool will be cleaned more quickly, allowing the pump to be switched off at night, when its noise is more disturbing.
Some pool owners report that a smaller amount of chemical cleaning agents is needed to keep the pool clean.
Pool owners also report reduced electricity costs when running a more powerful pump for shorter periods, compared with a weaker pump running for more hours, and having clearer water too. A difference of $1 a day will quickly cover the cost of the pump.
For combined pump-filter units, a larger pump can mean a larger cartridge filter. A larger filter needs to be cleaned or replaced less often.

The pump supplied with above-ground swimming pools are often under-powered. If there are problems keeping the pool clean, a pump upgrade should be considered.

There are a few ways to measure a pump’s power:

Horsepower (HP). This is the motor’s input power, so is less useful. It’s still a popular way to classify pumps, and provides a performance estimate. Pump powers range from 1/3 to a few horsepower. A rough guide is, less than one horsepower for a small pool (say, 10 feet), and one to two horsepower for a medium-sized pool.
Gallons of water per hour (GPH) or gallons per minute (GPM). This is the pump’s output flow-rate, which is a better measure of the pump’s performance. Pumps for home pools typically range from a few hundred to a few thousand GPH. A rough guide is 500 GPH for a small pool, and 2000 to 4000 GPH for a medium-sized pool.
Pounds per square inch (PSI). This is the water pressure (not power) and isn’t directly useful.

There’s a rough relationship between horsepower and GPH, but it varies from pump to pump. A figure of 1000 to 2000 GPH for every horsepower, can be used as an estimate.

The Inyo Pools Products website had details on how to choose the right size pump for a pool.
Pool Pump Replacement Parts

Spare parts availability should be checked before buying the pump. This is especially important for integrated pump-filter-chlorinator models, where if one component fails and can’t be replaced, there are more components that will also have to be junked.

The part most vulnerable to failure is the pump impeller (propeller). Some manufacturers do not sell spare impellers, meaning that the entire pump and motor will have to be replaced.
Swimming Pool Pump Features

Larger pumps have more features. Common features are:

Timer for automatic operation. If a timer is not built into the pump, a generic wall plug timer can be used.
On/off switch on the pump. Useful for manually starting/stopping the pump, if a timer isn’t used.
Optional single phase (110 volts) and two phase (220 volts) wiring.

Two or more speeds. Allows the flow-rate (GPH) to be adjusted for different tasks: quick filtering, all-day quiet filtering, manual vacuuming. This is a premium feature, found on more expensive pumps.
Integration with pool control automation systems.

Pool Filter Pump Installation Tips

A few simple tips to reduce installation worries:

The pump’s hoses aren’t always compatible with the pool’s existing hoses. This isn’t a problem as converters are available, but it’s safer to check before buying.
Plunger valves are needed to connect the hose to an above-ground pool. They should be included with the pump.
Teflon tape (plumber’s tape) on the hose connector threads will reduce or eliminate leaks.

The Best Swimming Pool Filter Pump

Choosing a powerful pump is the best way to reduce problems. (It’s also important that the pump be sized properly for the pool filter and chlorinator. It should be powerful enough for the chlorinator, but not too powerful for the filter.)

Next is choosing a pump with a replaceable impeller. Noise level and reliability are harder to determine. One way to find out is to read user reviews of pool filter pumps.