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: 04/27/2017 13:54 PM  Latest Inyo Product Specialist

Derian - I'd stay with the ec50. We always recommend buying a larger filter than you need. It avoids filter issues when your system isn't running optimally. Also, the filter last longer and you don't have to clean it as often.

Derien  Posted: 04/27/2017 13:08 PM  Latest

Currently have a 21' 48" pool with a Hayward ec50, there when I bought the house should I buy the same set up or go with a ec40??

Inyopools  Posted: 04/21/2017 12:32 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Lisa - Your 24' pool is on the borderline between 1HP and 1.5HP pumps. I'd recommend buying the 1HP pump and S180T filter set. It will work fine and will save you energy cost operationally.

Lisa  Posted: 04/19/2017 12:20 PM 

Hi, I can't decide which pump to buy Hayward Pump & Filter S180T Filter w/ 1 HP Matrix Pump - S180T92S or Hayward S210T Filter w/ 1.5 HP Matrix Pump - S210T93S for 24' 52" round swimming pool with saltwater. If I go with S210T93S would it be better? explain me, please the difference how it will work on my pool?

Inyopools  Posted: 04/11/2017 16:30 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

anonymous (pump upgrade) - Unless your previous upgrade is barely filtering your current system, I'd stay with the current pump/filter until it stops working. If your system is right on the operating edge, I'd recommend buying a Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System. Your pool size is just under 7,500 gallons. This Hayward pump/filter system is very reliable and good for pools up to 11,000 gallons.

Inyopools  Posted: 04/11/2017 15:39 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Chris - You have about 7600 gallons of water in your 18'x48" above ground pool. For that many gallons, I would recommend a Hayward VL Series Sand Filter Systems. It is a very reliable system good for up to 11,000 gallons.

Anonymous  Posted: 04/10/2017 15:20 PM 

We had a 16 x 42 above ground pool for the last three years. At that time, we upgraded the pump. We just bought a 17 x 52 above the ground pool. Will we need a bigger/stronger pump?

Chris  Posted: 04/10/2017 13:29 PM 

I have an intex 18' x 48" above ground pool. The filter and pump provided with the pool are far from adequate for the region I live in Coastal South Carolina. Which would be the best filter system to go with? I want to relax with my kids more than I want to clean a pool.

Inyopools  Posted: 04/04/2017 14:19 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

lb51 - I'd recommend a 1 1/2 HP above ground pump for your pool. A very good and economical AG pump/filter option is this Waterway Carefree 19" Sand Filter & 1.5 HP 1Spd Pump.

Inyopools  Posted: 04/04/2017 13:04 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

cant wait for Summer! - For your 15' x 48" above ground pool (~5,000 gallons), I'd suggest the Hayward VL Series Sand Filter Systems.

lb51  Posted: 04/03/2017 18:40 PM 

We just purchased a 26' x 54" above ground pool. We had a smaller version but had issues with the keeping the pool clean. The new pool is 15000 gallons water. What pump should we get to utilize the best efficiency of the pool.

cant wait for Summer!  Posted: 04/01/2017 13:08 PM 

Hello we have an above ground pool & want to change out the pump from a filtering system to a sand perhaps the dimensions are 15'x 48" what might you suggest?

Inyopools  Posted: 03/31/2017 13:56 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

donna3828 - Your 22' x 52" pool holds just under 11,000 gallons. You could use the Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System but you would be at the upper edge of its capability. A better choice would be Waterway's Carefree 16" Sand Filter & 1 HP Single Speed Pump. Either system is vastly superior to the Intex pump and filter system which generally only lasts a season or maybe two and does not circulate the water adequately.

Inyopools  Posted: 03/31/2017 12:49 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

rwalsh - Did you mean you have a 27-foot pool rather than a 27-gallon pool? If so, you should have at least a 1 HP above ground pump. Our least expensive pump/filter set is Waterway’s Carefree 16" Sand Filter & 1 HP Single Speed Pump. It is a very good set comparable to the better known Hayward and Pentair systems.

donna3828  Posted: 03/30/2017 23:49 PM 

We have a summer escapes 22 × 52 and the pump and filter went out. What would be a good size and brand that would not cost a fortune? Is there much difference between the intex sand filter and pump systems and the hayward?

rwalsh  Posted: 03/29/2017 19:26 PM 

I have an above ground pool, it is 27 gallons and I am needing advice on the best pump and filter system. We currently are using the filter system but our canister cracked, and I it is a pain to open and rinse the filter as needed.

Inyopools  Posted: 03/28/2017 10:10 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Karen - Your 14 ft x 42" pool actually holds just over 4000 gallons. The Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System would be a great fit for your pool and will last many more years than the Intex provided system.

Karen  Posted: 03/27/2017 8:40 AM 

I bought an Intex Ultra Frame Pool 14 ft x 42 inches. I was told that the pump/filter that comes with the pool is not a good one. We have not set up the pool yet. It is round and will hold about 47000 gallons of water. I would like to have the right pump/filter before we start so I do NOT have to redo it. Thank you so much.

Inyopools  Posted: 03/14/2017 16:19 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Confused - AG pumps are gravity fed. That’s why they are position at the bottom of an AG pool. They are not designed to suck water in like an in-ground pump. If the majority of your pool's water is below the pump, you will need to buy an in-ground pool pump.

Confused  Posted: 03/14/2017 0:18 AM 

I am sinking our 21 x 41 x 52 pool at least halfway in the ground and expanding the depth to 6 feet. Do I use an AG pump/sand filter or an in-ground system?

Inyopools  Posted: 02/27/2017 11:17 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Ann - A 20 ft round AG pool holds about 10,000 gallons of water so you will need a 1 HP pump. If you are upgrading the pump, you will also have to upgrade to a filter that accommodates the increased water flow of the pump. Here is a link to an economical 19" Above Ground Pool Sand Filter System W/ 1 Hp Pump we current have on sale. Here is another economical option, Carefree 16" Sand Filter & 1 HP Single Speed Pump.

Ann  Posted: 02/26/2017 10:13 AM 

We bought our daughter an INTEX last summer. it is a 20 round, holds 50,000 gallons. it came with a cheap 1hp pump. I need to upgrade to a much better pump with easy maintenance. I had another pool one before with a sand filter system and it kept the pool clean. I also need a inexpensive pool shark of some sort. I about killed myself last year trying to keep the pool clean. Please help without breaking my piggy bank. Thank yu. Ann

Inyopools  Posted: 02/14/2017 11:09 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Mpowe - Your pool contains over 15,000 gallons of water. For a pool that size, you should have at least a 1 HP pump. We have a 1 HP pump/filter system on clearance for $190 - 19" Above Ground Pool Sand Filter System W/ 1 HP Pump It is equivalent in quality to a Hayward system. For more information and availability, call our office at 877-372-6038. Another option is the Hayward Pump & Filter S166T Filter w/ 1 HP Matrix Pump & Timer. The timer would let you run automatically for 8 hours a day.

Mpowe  Posted: 02/13/2017 19:58 PM 

We have an Intex 32X16X52 square pool, it came with a 2800 gallon-per-hour Krystal Clear sand filter pump and saltwater system with GFCI, it doesn't seem to be big enough to circulate the water or operate the automatic vacuum I bought to clean it, what would you recommend?

Inyopools  Posted: 02/05/2017 11:19 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Replacement pump/filter - If you have been happy with your DE filter, I'd stay with that. The cartridge filter has to be lifted out every 2-3 week for cleaning and they can get heavy with water in them. You might need help lifting out the DE grid assembly every year for general cleaning but other than that, adding DE every backwash is not difficult. For cost reduction, you might look at replacing. your current motor with an Energy Efficient, 2-speed or VS motor.

Anonymous  Posted: 02/04/2017 18:08 PM 

Hi I have a 15x24 oval above ground pool. I've had a haywood d.e. pump and filter for the last 25 years (they're awesome). Unfortunately it's on it last legs and I need another one and I'm not quite sure which would be the best option for me. I need something cost effective which will clean well and is relatively simple as I am disabled. Please help.

Inyopools  Posted: 12/30/2016 11:08 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Beth - I assume that the motor on the pump is what's rusting and that you only need to replace the motor. The replacement motor for a PE71IIH is a BN25. You will also need to replace the motor seal shaft - E71. See our guide on "How To Replace a Pool Pump With An Energy Efficient Pool Pump" for more information.

beth  Posted: 12/29/2016 19:38 PM 

I have a 15x30 oval pool - it was installed in 2006 - replaced pump only 5 seasons ago - was told that pumps usually only last 5 years
Ours is rusting at the bottom of the pump AGAIN - I think the first one was a Hayward and this one is a Proline Model #PE71IIH serial # 380778
should I replace the entire system - filter and pump??? and with what?

Inyopools  Posted: 10/20/2016 12:37 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Lisashopsit - For your size pool I would recommend a good quality name brand pump and filter set like the Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System with a 1/2 HP pump. A good 1/2 HP pump would be adequate for a 12' pool. Also, a good matching filter is as important as the pump for optimum performance.

Lisashopsit  Posted: 10/19/2016 17:39 PM 

I have a Heritage 12' x 42" Sea View Club Steel Wall Above Ground Swimming Pool. The pump that came with it is useless. We installed a .33 HP pump and sand filter. It doesn't seem to be enough HP either. The installer is suggesting a 1 hp or a 1 & 1/2 hp. I think that may be too much power. What HP do you suggest?

Inyopools  Posted: 10/17/2016 10:02 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Pinkplumppeach - If you want a good pump and filter set that will last more than one or two seasons and will keep your pool clear, you will have to invest in a brand name system. For your size pool, I would recommend the Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System.

Pinkplumppeach  Posted: 10/16/2016 2:44 AM 

We have a 18x48 intex pool and the pump that came with it is worthless. I would like to have a complete clear and crystal clean pool, what do you recommend.

Inyopools  Posted: 10/11/2016 12:09 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

MarieP - For your size pool, I would recommend a Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System. With the larger pump, you will probably need to upgrade your filter system also to match the pump.

MarieP  Posted: 10/05/2016 15:48 PM 

Hi, I have a coleman steel wall pool 15ft x 36inch. I will like to get a bogger pump to filter more water for the one that came os real small and barely filters any water. What do you recommend?

Inyopools  Posted: 10/03/2016 9:39 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

tori1216 - You will need a larger pump/filter for your new pool. If you want a set that will last longer than one or two systems, I would get a better brand like the Hayward Pump & Filter S166T Filter W/ 1 HP Matrix Pump.

tori1216  Posted: 09/29/2016 9:01 AM 

Hi - we just purchased an Intex 52" deep X 22' round above ground pool. We had a 15' round (48 inch deep) Intex before - and had the Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools, 3000 GPH System Flow Rate hooked up to it..... should we get a different Sand/Filter/Pump for this new pool?

Inyopools  Posted: 09/10/2016 17:26 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

midge - An 18'x33' AG oval pool holds between 15,000 and 16,000 gallons of water . For that size pool, we recommend a 1 1/2 HP pump and matching filter like the Hayward S180T Filter w/ 1.5 HP Matrix Pump.

midge  Posted: 09/07/2016 18:43 PM 

I have a 18x33 and my pool keeps on turning green. My sand filter pump size was a 22 is this big enough?

Inyopools  Posted: 08/23/2016 8:37 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Bestway 14X48 - For a cartridge Pump/filter, I'd recommend a Hayward 25 Sq Ft Cartridge Filter System w/ 40 GPM Pump.

Anonymous  Posted: 08/22/2016 19:02 PM 

Hi thanks for the recommendation of the Hayward VL Sand Pump/Filter System. DO you have a recommendation for a Cartridge Pump/Filter?

We have a Bestway 14X48 above ground pool.

Thanks again.