How To Select Above Ground Pool Pumps

Written by:  Danny Rhodehamel

One of the advantages of above ground pools is that the pumps and filters are sold as one unit. These pump/filter systems are usually attached to a single base and are much more economical than an individual pump and filter. Here we'll cover the basics of both pumps and filters for above ground pools. Click for more Above Ground Pools

Tips & Warnings


Things You'll Need

Step by Step

Step 1

The necessary size (or horsepower) of the pump can be determined by the following general rule - for above ground pools up to 24 ft round, use a 1 HP pump and for above ground pools over 24 ft round, use a 1.5 HP pump. That was easy, wasn't it? Many pool owners tend to think, "the more horsepower the better". Actually what’s best is to get the proper horsepower for your pool. Too much power and the water will be pushed through the filter too quickly for proper sanitization. Also, you will use more energy to run at a higher horsepower. Most manufacturers do not go higher than 1.5 HP for above ground pool pumps because it's unnecessary.

Step 2

For above ground pool pump and filter systems, the manufacturer will pair the proper horse power pump with the proper size filter. So all you really need to do is measure your pool and follow the rule above. That will guide you to the correct size pump. Now if you are replacing an existing pump and not the filter, you will need to make sure you get a pump designed for above ground pools. Above ground pool pumps are usually postioned below the water line (i.e. on the ground next to your pool). Because they have to force water upward, pumps for above ground pools are designed differently than those used for in-ground pools (where the pump is typically above the water line of the pool). When replacing a pump for an above ground pool, just make sure you purchase one that is categorized as an "above ground" pump. Most of the time, you will see pumps divided into two categories, above ground and in-ground.

Step 3

Most above ground pools currently in use have single speed pumps which run at one speed at all times. In response to growing energy costs and environmental concerns, manufacturers have begun making dual speed pool pumps which have low and high speed settings. These two settings allow you to run the pump at a lower speed for basic pool circulation and then switch to the higher speed when additional power is needed for water features, backwashing a filter, vacuuming the pool or any other application that requires more power. Dual speed pumps offer significant energy savings and are now required by law in some areas, the entire state of California being one of them. Another advantage is that the low speed setting of a dual speed pump operates more quietly than a single speed pump.

Step 4

If you are purchasing a pump and filter system and you've already determined the correct pump horse power based on pool size, your next decision will be the filter. You'll have a choice of three filter types: sand, cartridge and D.E. We'll outline the benefits and disadvantages of each.

Step 5

The oldest and most common method of above ground pool filtration is sand. Sand filters use special filter sand, normally .45 to .55 mm (also known as pool-grade silica sand), which you can usually find at home improvement stores like Home Depot. This sand has sharp edges that serve to separate particles, allowing filtration to take place. Sand filters are the least expensive of the three filter types which make them very popular however they only filter particles 20 to 40 microns in size. This means that particles smaller than 20 microns are not filtered by sand. Sand filters definitely provide adequate filtration for above ground pools but the other two types offer better sanitization. For maintenance, sand filters must be backwashed periodically.

Step 6

Cartridge filtration has been available for a relatively long time, and recently has begun to enjoy rapid growth and acceptance. This type of filter holds one or multiple cartridges inside the filter tank. These cartridges are pleated, with a paper-like look and feel. The actual material is usually comprised of polyester fibers. The pleats increase the filtration surface area. You will see cartridge filters rated by square footage; this refers to the total area provided by all of the pleats in the cartridge. When water passes through a cartridge filter, debris catches on the surface of the cartridge element. When clean, the cartridge will trap larger particles, with finer particles being filtered out as the pores become clogged by the larger debris. Cartridge filters will trap particles 10 to 20 microns in size. The cartridge element can be removed and cleaned by pressure washing inside and out with a garden hose. This easy maintenance is the most popular feature of cartridge filters. The disadvantage is that the replacement of cartridges is more expensive than sand or D.E. Generic versions of the original manufacturers’ cartridges are available for many models and will save you some money.

Step 7

As the cartridge collects particles from the water passing through, the build-up of debris and dirt will cause the flow of water to decrease. In turn, the gauge pressure will rise. When the pressure rises 7-10 psi above the starting pressure, or when flow decreases below desired rate, it is time to clean or replace the filter cartridges. If cleaned regularly, the cartridges should last one to two pool seasons depending on pool usage.

Step 8

Many pool professionals consider filtration by diatomaceous earth (also known as D.E.) to be the finest because it is capable of removing smaller particles than either sand or cartridge. D.E. is a powder comprised of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. The individual grains of powder have microscopic openings which look like tiny sponges when magnified (see photo). Water can pass through these openings but particles as small as 1 to 3 microns are trapped during the first pass through the media. All D.E. filters have internal elements called grids that are coated with D.E. powder. It is this “filter cake” that strains dirt, dust, algae and some forms of bacteria from the water. Like sand filters, when a D.E. filter becomes dirty, it is cleaned either by backwashing the clogged D.E. to the “waste” line or regenerating and draining. To restore filtration, a fresh “charge” of D.E. is added to the filter. D.E. powder is fairly inexpensive so the main drawback to this type of filter is the maintenance.

Step 9

We recommend thoroughly cleaning the D.E. grid elements (pictured at left) at least once a year. Remove the grids according to the instructions in your owner's manual and hose them off with a forceful stream of water from a garden hose. Fill a large plastic container with warm water and add about a 1/2 cup of automatic dishwasher detergent. Soak the grids in this solution for about 3 - 4 hours. After soaking, rinse off the elements again before replacing them inside the filter.

Step 10

To wrap it up, sand filters are the most economical option but require periodic backwashing. Cartridge and D.E. filters are more expensive than sand but offer better filtration. Of these two, the cartridge will be the easiest to maintain but more costly when it comes to replacing the cartridges. As an above ground pool owner, you will have to decide if you want to spend more time or more money on filtration.

Comments (1 to 40 of 282)

Add Comment

User: Inyopools

Dustin - We usually recommend a 1 HP pump for AG pools that are 24' or below in diameter. If you are considering adding a small solar heater, you could stay with 1 HP. With larger solar heater or arrays of heaters, you should consider a 1 1/2 HP pump. For a cartridge filter/pump set, I would recommend something like a Pentair 1 HP OptiFlo Pump Twist Lock Cord W/ 75 Sq. Ft. Clean & Clear Cartridge Filter. This set has the more common twist lock plug. We also sell a set with a standard plug.

User: Dustin

I am rebuilding a King George 24' above ground pool that collapsed this summer. 52" height. The original pump/filter was 1.5 hp sand filter. I am just starting my search but I think I would like a cartridge filter. Is 1 hp enough? Any advice on make, model and size?
If I added a solar heater do I need to bump up to a 1.5 hp?

Thank you.

User: Inyopools

Liz - For your size pool I would recommend a Jacuzzi Laser 19" Sand Filter W/ 1 HP Pump. It's a very good set and we have them on clearance currently.

User: Liz

I purchased an Intex 22x52 round pool this summer and the pump(Krystal clear Model 633T filter pump) does not seem to be adequate for this size pool, was wonder if you could recommend a pump/filtration system for me.

User: Inyopools

HappyTrainFan - For a 20' round 52" deep AG pool I would recommend a S180T Hayward sand filter.

User: HappyTrainFan

Hello, I have a 24x52 foot above ground pool. I have not had any luck with a cartridge filter system. My question is I have a Hayward 1.5 HP pump but need to buy a sand filter. What Hayward filter size would you recommend to buy?

User: Inyopools

30' AG pool - If your pool is completely above ground, I would recommend staying with an AG pump. They are designed differently than the IG pool pumps. And I would recommend a 1.5 HP pump for your size pool.


Hello, We are getting a 30 ft. round above ground pool. I have had a few pool companies tell me an in ground pool pump would be a good idea for our pool. Could you please give my your opinion on that? We wanted a 2 H.P. but after reading above I see maybe a 1.5 H.P. would be what we need. Could you also please give your opinion on that? Thank you!

User: Inyopools

Dave - For an economical but above average replacement, I'd recommend a filter set like the Hayward Pump & Filter S180T Filter w/ 1 HP Matrix Pump or the Jacuzzi Laser 19" Sand Filter W/ 1 HP Pump (now on sale).

User: Dave

I have a 18x36 Doughboy pool and have been having issues with the pump and filter. What would a good but economical replacement recommendation?

I do not want to keep throwing money at the pool until I get filtration and umping right.

User: Nana

Thank you so much, that's what I was thinking. And, yes, I know about the holes for pump/filter...thought we'd use a hole-saw, silicon if needed to seal. Labs already think the empty tank is a great toy, leaping in, leaping out!!

User: Inyopools

Nana - You shouldn't need more than a 1/2HP pump and filter for a 1000 gallon stock tank. And you are going to have to cut some holes in the tank for supply and return lines to the pump/filter.

User: Nana

I'm putting in a very small AG pool for me and my 2 Labs. A 9' diameter, 1000 gallon polyethylene stock tank, just to hop into and cool off in the south Texas heat. Should I use a 1 HP pump and filter or should I look at those designed for spa/hot tub use instead? Thank you!

User: Inyopools

BARB - Generally the only task an AG pool pump has is to circulate the pool water and it doesn't get hot just circulating water. You might have to run it a little longer but something in the 8 hour range should be adequate. Here is our guide on "How To Troubleshoot a Pool Pump Motor - Motor Overheated". It lists the type of conditions that might lead to a hot motor.

User: BARB


User: Inyopools

Renee - I would recommend something like the Pentair EasyClean DE 1.5 HP OptiFlo Pump Twist Lock Cord W/ 30 Sq. Ft Filter System for your size pool. If you are looking for just the DE filter, make sure it is large enough to handle the GFM water flow generated by your current pump. We generally recommend getting the next largest size filter than what you think you need. Filters can always be larger then needed. And would require less maintenance and cleaning.

User: Renee

I have a 33 foot round that operates on a sand filter. I am thinking about upgrading to a earth filter. What would you recommend?

User: Inyopools

Edward - I wouldn't go over 1 HP for your size pool. And you have to make sure that the filter you currently have can handle the GPM water flow that your new pump generates.

User: Edward

I have a Intex ultra frame 16×48 round above ground pool that uses the cartridge style water pumps. Is it okay to use a sta-rite 1.5 hp 115v water pump that uses a trap basket? Model # JWPAS5F-2A4. Thanks

User: Inyopools

JoAnna - We recommend a 1 HP pump for your size pool ~16,000 gallons so you should be good there. And yes you should change out your sand for sand made for pool filters. Use only high rate No. 20 Silica Sand like Quikrete Pool Filter Sand - available at most HW stores.

User: JoAnna

My pool is 18w x 33l and 54 inches deep, my pump is a 1.0 horse power is this pump to small for my pool, and the sand in my filter came from an asphalt company that washes the sand for road construction jobs, should I change out the sand to pool sand.

User: Inyopools

too many choices - I would recommend a 1.5 HP pump and 150 sq ft filter for your size pool. The Pentair and Hayward sets are comparable in performance. The Pentair A/G Pool 1.5 HP 2 Speed Pump & 150 Sq Ft Filter would end up being cheaper than the Hayward Xstream Filter 150 Sq Ft and 2 speed 1.5 HP Matrix pump combination.

User: too many choices

would a Pentair Clean & Clear 150 Pump & Filter System 1.5HP 2-Speed
Part #: PNCC0150OF2160 be a better choice over the hayward extreme?

User: too many choices

I have a 14000 gallon pool. I'm looking to go from a sand dollar sd40 sand filter with a 1 hp pump to a Hayward extreme 100 or 150 sq.ft filter and corresponding 1 or 1.5 hp Hayward matrix 2speed motor. I'm concerned that the 1 hp motor won't be big enough when working at low speed.
Also would you recommended a different system than what I'm look at?

Thanks for your time!

User: Inyopools

John K - Yes, both of these pumps are AG pool pumps (gravity fed) are would be compatible with your DE filter.

User: John K

I have a 16' x 28' x 5' deep in center, Van Dorn pool with a DE filter. I want to replace the 1hp pump with a 1hp Hayward Power Flow Lx or 1hp Power Flow Matrix. Are these pumps compatible with the filter?

User: Inyopools

Mark Oliver - Generally you can replace a pump motor with a larger one, but I don't see anything over 1HP for your older pump. And if your pump is beat up and corroded, I would probably replace the whole pump. If you are going to a 1 1/2 HP pump [which is recommended for your size pool] you might have to upgrade your filter to match the larger motor. If you want to stay with a DE filter, I would recommend "Hayward EC50C Perflex Filter w/ 1.5 HP Matrix Pump" as an option.

User: Mark Oliver

I bought a home that has a 28 foot/4 ft deep above ground pool with an older Hayward Perflex Extended Cycle D.E. filter. The pump that is presently connected to the filter is a Hayward Power-flo LX SP1510-Z-1-XES, I think it is a 1.0 HP motor. Bottom line, the pump has a tendency to seize up when turning it on. I took the pump apart, cleaned everything that was easy to access and the propeller spins freely clockwise and counter-clockwise. So I am stumped and trying to decide whether to buy a new pump or replace the motor in the unit I have. The housing is pretty beat up and corroded in places, if that makes a difference in your suggestion. Also, will a 1 1/2 HP pump be compatible with my existing pump? Any help you could forward is much appreciated.

User: Inyopools

Rich – I would recommend a Game Sand Pro 50 Filter System. See our guide on “How To Upgrade an Intex Pool Pump and Filter System”.

User: Rich

Hello, any pump and filter suggetions for an above ground intex pool with measurements 18X48? The pump that came with it does not circulate the water and last year the pool turned green.

User: Inyopools

Chad - I would recommend upgrading your Intex pump/filter system to a Game Sand Pro 50 Filter System. See our guide on "How To Upgrade an Intex Pool Pump and Filter System".

User: Inyopools

Mike93 - A 1HP pump is the size pump recommended for your size pool. I would not go any higher than that.

User: Chad

I am looking to upgrade my current pump and filter. I have an Intex 24x12x52" above ground pool. The pump that it came with isn't strong enough to run the vacuum that well. I feel as though I need something a little stronger. Do you have a recommendation?

User: Mike93

I have a 24x12 oval shaped pool that it mostly 4 ft deep but it drops down to 6 ft on one sode. I have a 1hp pump, is that to small?

User: Inyopools

johnR – You are asking how much sand to use. That will depend on the size and manufacturer of the sand filter for you pool. If you have a User’s Manual for your filter, that information should be in there. If not, give us a call at 877-372-6038 and, with the make and model, we can look that up for you.

User: johnR

I have 24 ft above ground pool how much sand do I use

User: Inyopools

tiggert43 - We usually recommend a 1 HP pump or less for a 22' pool but you could try your old pool 1.5 HP pump and filter as long as it came from an above ground pool. If you find it is circulating too much water, you could step it down to a 1 HP pump by replacing its impeller with a smaller one. See our guide on "How To Downsize a Pool Pump Impeller" for more information.

User: tiggert43

I have an Intex 22' round pool. I was wondering if my pump and sand filter from my old pool will work on it. Will a 1.5hp be too big?

User: inyopools

Robin - You should be able to transfer your sand filter and pump from your Intex pool to you new steel sided pool with little or no difficulty. I would assume it's all 1 1/2" tubing between the pump/filter and the pool. You might have to get creative adapting the tubes to the pool ports, but generally these connectors are fairly generic. The Intex pump/filter isn't very durable so you might consider an upgrade to another pump/filter system later on. See our guide on "How To Upgrade an Intex Pool Pump and Filter System" for more information.

User: Inyopools

Dog Pool Owner - Don't think there is a brand of sand filter with larger lateral slots. It would let more sand through. If the dog hair is clogging your laterals and probably your sand, you might consider going to a cartridge filter. They would be much easier to clean out the dog hair and less likely to clog up. With your situation I would get the largest filter you can afford. You can't have too big a filter. Bigger means more capacity for dog hair and less frequently cleaning. Cartridge filter are also more efficient that sand filter. Will trap finer particles.

  1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8    

Back To Top

Tips & Warnings

If you want to get a cartridge filter, make sure generic cartridges are available for it before you buy. This will save you money in the future.

Don't undersize your pump and filter to save a few bucks. For proper sanitization and your family's health, make sure you get the proper horse power for your pool size.

Please Note:

Inyo Pool Products is not responsible for any injury or damaged equipment
while using our guides. Using our guides is doing so at your own risk.
These guides are suggested use of your pool or spa equipment and may vary
depending on which product you are using.