How To Select Above Ground Pool Pumps

WRITTEN BY:  Inyo Pools

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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


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.


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Inyopools  Posted: 06/23/2017 14:06 PM  Latest Inyo Product Specialist

Sady - I would suggest buying a Hayward Above Ground VL Series Pump and Filter. If you are going to upgrade your pump, you will have to buy a filter that will match the GPM water flow of the pump.

Inyopools  Posted: 06/23/2017 13:56 PM  Latest Inyo Product Specialist

Meat - Like you say, it would be much more than your need, but it would probably work. You'd just be turning your pool water over many more times a day than required. You could probably get away with just running the big pump 2-3 hours a day.

Inyopools  Posted: 06/23/2017 13:47 PM  Latest Inyo Product Specialist

Rich - Unfortunately, we do not sell the bases with just the filter. You would have to buy the whole pump/filter set. Alternately, a separate base comes with the filter and the motor can be bolted down to the slab or left loose.

Inyopools  Posted: 06/22/2017 13:04 PM  Latest Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (pump/filter set) - Your pool size is just under 9000 gallons. I would recommend a Hayward VL Series Sand Filter Systems for your size pool. It is a very reliable system good for up to 11,000 gallons.

kellyjgraham  Posted: 06/22/2017 9:01 AM  Latest

I have a round 15 foot above ground pool (3/4ft of water) that came with my house 3 yrs ago, the last 2 motors have burnt out, one was new but it was made for an intex pool which mine is not, we have tried earth and sand filters, at different times, what is my best option that is not going to burn out after a couple months?! do i need to replace only the pump or the pump and filter?

Sady  Posted: 06/21/2017 22:51 PM  Latest

We have a summer escapes above ground round pool, the kind with the metal frame, which measures 15 ft x 48 inches. We filled it and found out that the pump is no longer working. What do I need that I can possibly hook onto the old unit or something similar as the pool is older, so don't want to spend alot of money and have something else go out.

Meat  Posted: 06/21/2017 21:28 PM  Latest

I have a small 10' round x 24" deep pool for my kids but the cheapplication cartridge filter semi very underpowered. I gave access to a 1 hp haywood pump and DE filter. I know it would be excessive for my size pool but other than energy consumption would there be any drawbacks to using this setup?

Rich  Posted: 06/21/2017 19:25 PM  Latest

Got a 24' round pool x 48" deep. Have a Hayward 1hp pump, works great. Need new filter. All the filters I see now have a round bottom, I have one with a triangular bottom that fits into a base that accepts it. Do these new filters come with a base that I can reattach my old (2 years old) pump to? Suggeations please.

Anonymous  Posted: 06/20/2017 22:42 PM  Latest

i just moved into a home and i have a 18 ft round, 54 inch deep above ground pool .. I want to change the pump and filter as they are very old. Recommendations ??

Inyopools  Posted: 06/19/2017 11:08 AM  Latest Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (Coleman pool) - Your pool contains about 13,000 gallons of water. I would recommend the Pureline 1 HP Above Ground Pool Pump - NE6170B as an economical option for a replacement pump for your size pool. Pureline is relatively new on the market but is equivalent those sold by Hayward and Pentair. You may also have to buy a new filter to match the GPM of your new pump.

Inyopools  Posted: 06/19/2017 10:54 AM  Latest Inyo Product Specialist

Aperry94 - Your current pump/filter system has very low water flow -less than 9 GPH. These systems tend to be poorly designed and generally fail within the first year. I would recommend a Waterway TWM-30 System 16" Sand 1/2" HP, with Trap for your pool. It is a reliable system and will provide you with the water flow you need.

Inyopool  Posted: 06/19/2017 10:43 AM  Latest

Jcalva - I would recommend a Waterway TWM-30 System 16" Sand 1/2" HP, with Trap for your size pool. Pools like your current system have pumps with 1/8 HP or less. They are very inefficient and tend to fail within the year.

Anonymous  Posted: 06/18/2017 9:23 AM  Latest

We have a Coleman above ground pool that is 18x24 and our pump quit after a year. We are looking to replace and want the cheapest option but the best flow. Can you recommend anything?

Aperry94  Posted: 06/17/2017 1:32 AM  Latest

I just bought a 15'x33in pool and we have the standard pump that came with it (110-120 volt Filter Pump with 530 gallon (2,006 L) per hour flow rate) but it isn't doing anything any recommendation on what pump to get I don't know if we just need a more powerful one or what to do.

Jcalva  Posted: 06/17/2017 1:01 AM  Latest

I hoping you can help me out. I have an above ground pool 18X9X4ft deep the sand filter that it came with never worked not sure of the horsepower of the pump that it came with,from the beginning it let sand trough and did not filter any particals. Every time I run the pump I end up with sand at the bottom of the pool. it holds 4800 gallons what would be the best filter pump combo you would recommend I replace it with

Inyopools  Posted: 06/14/2017 10:04 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (filter/pump match) - Yes, Your existing 1 HP pump will work with your new 16" sand filter as long as it has an upgraded motor - SF = 1.0 or 1.1.

Anonymous  Posted: 06/13/2017 20:12 PM 

We are converting from a cartridge filter to sand. 16" hayward. Can we still stick with our 1 horse power pump?

Inyopools  Posted: 06/13/2017 12:12 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Roger - I'd recommend a Hayward Sand Filter with Top Mount Valve 18" Tank for your size pool and pump.

Roger  Posted: 06/11/2017 22:16 PM 

I have a 22x52 above ground pool with 1.5 hp pump, what size sand filter do I need

Inyopools  Posted: 06/11/2017 20:11 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Iwannadecentpool - I'd recommend the Chlorease Ultra - Salt Chlorine Generator for A/G Pools for a reliable AG pool salt water system.

Iwannadecentpool  Posted: 06/08/2017 18:10 PM 

We want to upgrade from a 14ft 36in pool to a 16ft by 48in pool with a good (reliable) salt water system, what do you recommend?

Inyopools  Posted: 06/05/2017 9:42 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

BrittaS - A DE filter would be the best filtration system of the three choices: sand, cartridge, and DE. And we generally recommend a 1 1/2 HP above ground pump for your size pool. Here is a link to a good option for your requirements - Hayward EC50C Perflex Filter w/ 1 HP Matrix Pump.

BrittaS  Posted: 06/04/2017 10:45 AM 

We have an above ground 27' pool which is about 5ft deep.
We need to upgrade the cartridge filter and pump and are not sure with what to go. I'm not happy with the cartridge filter's cleaning results (after vacuuming you have the feeling that all is just washed back into the pool) and my husband hates the fiber glass housing.
What can you recommend for a pool that size? Would DE be a good option for us to get a cleaner pool?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/30/2017 14:56 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

DiamondDa - I would recommend the 1 1/2 HP pump and your existing 19" sand filter should be large enough to accommodate the larger pump. If you just replace the motor, you may have to upgrade the pump's impeller and diffuser. You should also buy the appropriate GOKIT to replace the motor's shaft seal and gaskets.

Inyopools  Posted: 05/29/2017 19:24 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Judybug - I have heard of some people putting a little DE powder in the cartridge filters. You could try it in your sand filter but the sand might not be able to hold the DE powder and it might wash into your pool.

DiamondDa  Posted: 05/28/2017 21:57 PM 

I have an 18x33 pool with a 19" sandfilter and 1hp pump. We have had it for roughly 5 years. The pump has finally died. I feel that the 1hp was just not enough and am considering the 1.5hp. Would that me too much?

Judybug  Posted: 05/27/2017 7:18 AM 

Can you add D.E. to sand for a sand filter? Mixing D.E. in with sand?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/20/2017 11:16 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Meme - You cannot combine a salt chlorine generation (SCG) system and a filtration system into one system. They provide two separate functions. The SCG system breaks down the salt to produce chlorine. The filtration system uses a filter to clear impurities the pool water. You need both systems if you want a salt pool.

Meme  Posted: 05/19/2017 11:29 AM 

Where does a salt filtration system fall into play? I have been trying to figure out is a salt better than sand (less cleaning etc

Inyopools  Posted: 05/18/2017 11:17 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Darrell - I would drop down to a 1 HP pump. Make sure it is an above ground pump. You don't have to replace the filter. Most dealers recommend having a larger than needed filter. Lasts longer and requires less frequent cleaning.

Darrell  Posted: 05/17/2017 16:28 PM 

I have a 18ft round above ground pool. Currently has a 1.5hp pump and cartridge filter. My pump is leaking and plan 2 replace. Should I stick with a 1.5 or can I go down to a 1h pump? Do I have to downsize the filter also?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/15/2017 10:33 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Sjk2017 - Yes, you will need a pump to circulate and filter the water to keep algae from building up. Here is our link to above pool pumps.

Sjk2017  Posted: 05/12/2017 22:09 PM 

I am buying a pool the is 118×69×27 do i meed to have a pump. I can not find where they sale the pools with the pump and all the description says it has the place to fill and drain easy.

Inyopools  Posted: 05/08/2017 11:21 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Ray - I went through our AG pump/filter sets and did not see a 1HP 2-speed with filter option. What you would have to do is find the AG 1HP 2-speed pump than look for the filter in the single speed pump/filter set that would support the upper limit of the 2-speed pump. They would have to be purchased separately.

Ray  Posted: 05/06/2017 18:49 PM 

I want to purchase a 1hp 2 speed pump and cartridge filter for my 10,000 gallon above ground pool. Do you sell them together or do I have to purchase each item individually? Hayward or Pentair? I also use a salt system.

Inyopools  Posted: 05/06/2017 11:57 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Ginny - Assuming a 4' depth, your 30' x 16' pool hold about 14,000 gallons which is on the border for a 1 HP or 1 1/2 HP pump/filter system. For reduced original and operational costs, I would go with the 1 HP system. It will be significantly better that what Bestway provides. Make sure it is an above ground pump. Here is our link to our above ground pump/filter sets.

Inyopools  Posted: 05/05/2017 10:13 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Lisa Confused pool owner - Your pool size is just over 9000 gallons. I would recommend a Hayward VL Series Sand Filter Systems for your size pool. It is a very reliable system good for up to 11,000 gallons. You will need to buy the pump/filter set since the filter Intex provides is not large enough for this pump.

Ginny  Posted: 05/04/2017 15:24 PM 

Last year we purchased a Bestway 30 x 16 hard sided pool with a Flowclear sand filter/pump that moves 1000 gph. Although the pump can keep the water pretty clean, it proved that vacuuming was a nightmare, often taking hours with unsatisfactory results! We want to buy a new pump and filter, but we are concerned that "too much pump" will pull at or damage the liner. After much research (days!!!) I think we should get a 1.5hp system. What do you recommend?

Lisa Confused pool owner  Posted: 05/02/2017 21:53 PM 

I have an Intex SF15150 sand filter and the pump doesn't seem to be strong enough to clean the pool. I need to upgrade to a stronger pump. My question is what's the largest pump I can put on to this filter and my pool is a 22 by 14 by 48 intex rectangular pool I believe and the upgraded cartridge pump we got with it burned up last summer, so were using the one that came in the box with the pool..My saltwater filter keeps telling me there's not enough flow coming from sand pump and we have back washed and change the sand

Inyopools  Posted: 05/02/2017 16:25 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Carolina - I would recommend a Hayward VL Series Sand Filter Systems. It is a very reliable system good for up to 11,000 gallons. You will need to buy the pump/filter set since the filter Intex provides is not large enough for this pump.