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 238)

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User: Inyopools

Filter/pump set - I would recommend something like a "Hayward Pump & Filter S180T Filter w/ 1 HP Matrix Pump" for your 24' AG pool. If you would also like to automate it's operation, I would suggest the "Hayward Pump & Filter S180T Filter w/ 1 HP Matrix Pump & Timer".


I am looking to replace my cartridge filter with a sand filter.. What should I get? Also 1hp or 1.5 HP pump? 24ft round above ground pool with 54in walls. Thanks!

User: Inyopools

bfluellen - I would recommend something like a "Hayward Xstream Filter 100 Sq Ft, 1 HP TL (Twist Lock)". If you would like to automate the operation of the system with a timer, look at "Xstream 100 Sq Ft Filter/1 HP Pump & Timer".

User: bfluellen

Hi. I am looking to replace my sand filter and 3/4 hp pump with Cartridge filter and stronger pump. I know this is not strong enough. Can you recommend the right size pump and sq ft cartridge needed for an above ground 24 ft round with 52" wall?
Thank you.

User: Missy

Thank you for the advice! Sounds like a great option for me.

User: Inyopools

Missy - I would recommend you going to a sand filter. No lifting - just set the filter valve to "backwash" every 2 weeks or so for 5 minutes to clean the filter. For your size pool I would recommend a 1.5 HP pump/filter set like "Hayward S180T Filter w/ 1.5 HP Matrix Pump" or if you want an built in timer to automatically control on/off times - "Hayward Pump & Filter S180T Filter W/ 1.5 HP Matrix Pump & Timer".

User: Missy

We have an 18x33 oval above ground and I need to replace the pump and filter system; we have a cartridge system that is really hard to work with, and now that my husband is gone I need something I can do myself. What would you suggest for ease of use but still would keep the pool sanitary? One additional comment, I'm probably adding a solar heater so it'll have to pump through that as well.

User: Inyopools

bardster - We generally recommend a Hayward S180T or S210T sand filter for a 1.5 HP pump. They hold 150 lbs and 200 lbs of sand respectively. So a 50 lb filter would be too small for this pump.

User: barbster

i have a 1.5 hayward pump for a 25ft round 53" deep above ground pool. what size sand filter do i need for this. i have a sand filter for my old system that holds a little less than 50 lbs of sand, will this work with my 1.5 HP pump??

User: Inyopools

Kat - The name brand pump/filter sets are generally much quieter than the less expensive sets that generally come with the above ground pool packages. I would recommend buying a set from this list of pump filter sets: "Above Ground Pool Pump and Filter". 1 HP should be sufficient for your size pool.

User: Kat

Hey! I'm sure it's been answered but...we have a 24 ft round above ground...our filter is old and sooooo loud it literally keeps our neighbors up so we shut it off at night...can you recommend a newer system for us? We have a filter system now which I don't mind, just want something newer and quieter!

User: Inyopools

larry - I think you are asking about buying a 1 HP 2 speed or "1.5" HP 2 speed pump. Your size pool is on the border of either a 1 HP of 1.5 HP pump. If this is a standard above ground pool, a 1 HP should be sufficient.

User: larry

Hi Im buying a 24ft by 54 round Is a waterway 1.hp 2 speed ok or 1hp 2 speed ? Thanks.

User: Inyopools

chico - A 1HP size pump will work fine for your size pool. Hayward and Jacuzzi are both good pumps. We do sell more Haywards than Jacuzzis because they are better known. However, the Jacuzzis are on sale now.

User: chico

I have a 15x30 AG in need of new pump and filter. Would the 1hp models be sufficient? Any big differences between the hayward and jacuzzi?

User: Sharon

Thank you very much for the detailed response we are extremely grateful

User: Inyopools

Sharon - For a better than average pump/filter system, I would recommend the "Hayward Pump & Filter S166T Filter w/ 1 HP Matrix Pump & Timer". I would get the one with a timer to control how long to run the pump each day. For the best quality AG pool SCG, I would suggest the "AquaTrol Salt Chlorine Generator". The AquaTrol has much more titanium coating on the blades of the salt cell which makes the salt cell last much longer. The AquaTrol comes in several models. You can get in an HP model which would be installed in the plumbing next to your pool pump or you can get it in an RJ model which would hook up directly to the return jet on your pool. Lastly the AquaTrol is available with a standard 3 prong plug or a Twist Lock depending on the electrical receptacle you have available to you. For a skimmer, the dimensions of a wall skimmer are generally specific to the pool so you should probably buy what's offered with the pool.

User: Sharon

We purchased the mirage 21' round pool by mighty sun. It is a resin pool because we want to have salt water. Could you please recommend a good filter, pump in wall skimmer and salt water generator. Thank you very much. Sharon

User: Inyopools

AG pool Cleaner - Try this one. It's automatic, made for AG pools, and connects into your pool's skimmer. You should remove it when you add chemicals - Above Ground Pool Cleaner - PF Vac.


I have a 24' round pool and would like a cleaning system (pump) that would not require me to vacuum the bottom of the pool (like ever). Is there one out there?

User: Inyopools

Darcy - We have small submersible pump/filter sets for fountains and larger pump/filters set for pools. Not sure what your body of water is for but at 2250 gallons it sounds like it needs a set that falls between what we sell. Our fountain pumps (up to 1/20 HP) are too small and our smallest pool pump (1/2 HP) is too large. I suggest going on line and looking for a set that has about 1/10 to 1/5 HP.

User: Darcy

Could you help me select a filter/pump system for a very small custom built pool that will be only 100 square feet and 3 feet deep?

User: Inyopools

Hi Drew - Thanks for the comment. As to recommendations for an AG pool pump and DE filter set, we have had very good reviews on the Hayward set that includes a "Perflex DE Filter and Matrix Pump". For an AG pool chlorinator, the "Hayward Offline Chlorinator For Above Ground Pools" and the "Rainbow 300 Offline Chlorinator" are our most popular brands. See our linked guides for more information.

User: drew

This is honestly the most helpful pool site that i have seen, and I have been searching for 2 years, so thank you!

15' round pool, replacing pump this year. Any recommendations on DE pumps, and a corresponding chlorinator?

thanks again, keep up the fantastic work!

User: Inyopools

Stephen - See our guide on "How To Upgrade an Intex Pool Pump and Filter System". It shows you how to replace the Intex Pump/Filter system with a better quality Game Sand Pro Pump/Filter system. It also shows how to integrate it with an existing Intex SCG.

User: Stephen delapenha

We have an Intex 12'x24'x52" Inex above ground pool using salt water to create chlorine through an attached chlorine generator. It uses the Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump 14" Salt Water system. The pump has stopped working and we would like to replace it with a more robust and reliable pump. Could you please recommend what pump/filter combination we should use and would your recommendation work with the chlorine generator that came with the Intex system?

User: Inyopools

jlittle239 - I would recommend the Pentair Skid Pak Clean & Clear 75 Sq. Ft. 1 H.P Pump. It is $20 more than the smaller 50 sq ft cartridge filter but will last longer and require less cleaning. You will probably have to buy fittings to adapt your pool's piping to the filter/pump set.

User: jlittle239

hello, i have a 22x52 intex pool. Can you recommend the best pump/filter needed to keep this pool clean? It holds 10,500 gallons of water too.I do not want a sand pump.

User: Inyopools

Lou - For an economical replacement for a Intex pump/filter system, we would recommend the Game SandPro 50 Pool Filter System. Here's a link to our guide on how to replace the system:

User: Lou

I have an 18 round 4 ft Intex pool and am looking to replace the pump. What would be the best replacement?

User: Inyopools

Doug - I you haven't replaced your sand in 5 years or more, you should do that now. Oils and debris may be embedded in your sand and it may be to the point when backwashing is not getting the sand clean.

User: Inyopools

ambowers - This Hayward set is a popular sand filter/pump set for your size pool: Hayward S210T Filter w/ 1.5 HP Matrix Pump.

User: ambowers

Hi, I need help!!!

I have a 30x54 above ground pool. I love everything about it except cleaning it, taking the filter out, cleaning it, putting it back in, repeat, takes forever.

so I want a sand filter, my question is what kind? I will need new everything, please advise, I am tired of my old one.


User: Inyopools

low suction - A 1 HP pump should work fine in a 24' pool for circulation and suction cleaning. Check that you don't have clogs in your cleaner, your pump or the line between them.


I have a 24 ft. Above ground pool and purchased a new 1hp. Pump to replace my old 1 1/2 hp. Pump , I was told the 1 hp. Pump is all I needed but for some reason when cleaning the pool the suction it has isn't enough to clean the bottom of the pool is the 1 hp enough to clean the pool

User: Christy

We have an above ground 17 ft diameter 48" deep summer escapes metal frame pool that we are wanting to add a good filter/pump on to. Possibly making it a salt water pool. Also need a new vacuum for the pool. What would you recommend??? Thanks!

User: Inyopools

Aqua Tools pump - Yes you can go from a 2-speed pump to a single speed pump. If your pool is larger than 24' round, you can change to a 1 1/2 HP pump. If smaller, stay with the smaller pump.


I have an Aqua Tools 1 1/16 hsp two speed pump. Can I switch to a single speed 1 1/2 hsp pump?

User: Inyopools

Johanna - That's a fairly small pool, less than 8,000 gallons. For an economical solution, I would recommend the "Hayward VL Series Sand Filter Systems' for pools under 11,000 gallons and the "Chlorease Ultra By SmartPool,CL02" for an above ground pool SCG.

User: Thommyboy

Thank you for your honest and education on pool pumps. I was going to by a higher rated HP as a replacement for pool because I also thought the same way you indicated the more HP the better. So I will buy a 1HP not a 1 1/2 HP for our 18 foot round pool.
Thank you

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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.