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 362)

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User: Inyopools

Tim - I would recommend a Pureline 1 HP Above Ground Pool Pump for your pool. They are equivalent to Hayward motors and are currently on sale. Note, if you're are running your power in on a 100' extension cord, make sure it's wire size is at least 8 gauge. Otherwise, you will get a voltage drop across the extension cord which will degrade your motor.

User: Tim

I have a Coleman 18'x4' deep pool. Want a 1 hp pump. Pump runs on an extension cord approximately 100 foot long from power source. Which would you recommend?

User: Inyopools

Fern - For your size pool, I would suggest the Hayward VL Series Sand Filter Systems for price and quality.

User: Fern

I have a 14x42 round pool and need to replace the pump/filter
What do you recommend??

User: Inyopools

heaven - Unfortunately, we do not sell Intex pools. You would have to talk to the companies that sell Intex to see what packages they can provide.

User: heaven

I want to buy an intex 26 x 52 pool but its cartridge filter. Can i change this to sand filter and which one do I buy for this? Can this even be changed to a sand filter?

User: Inyopool

Connie - If you are going to change your pool pump, you will probably have to change the filter too. The Intex filter is undersized and will be too small for a larger motor. For your size pool, I would recommend either the Hayward VL Series Sand Filter Systems or the Hayward 25 Sq Ft Cartridge Filter System w/ 40 GPM Pump. These sets are our most economical options and are far more durable than the original Intex set. The Aqua Critter is a good choice for cleaning your pool floor.

User: Connie

I have a 18'48 intex pool. I am having trouble with my vac working but the skimmer is working great. Was told I needed to get a pump that has more rpm? Was considering getting a Aqua Critter to run. What is your recommendation on this? Which size pump would you use in this situation if I do need to change. Price does come into play also.

User: Inyopools

18'x48" pool - I would recommend something like the Jacuzzi Laser 16" Sand Filter W/ 1 HP Pump for your size pool. The set is currently on sale.

User: patricia

can I buy a bigger pump than the one that came with the Intex 18x48" above ground pool and just exchange them? If so, what is recommended?


I have the Intex 18'x48" pool. the pump seems to run constantly, but the water isn't circulating like it did when we first set the pool up in May. we've changed filters often, but doesn't seem to help. wondering if we need a new pump, what kind to buy, wanting to go with a bigger one, as the cartridges don't seem big enough to handle it. help!!

User: Inyopools

Tfaulkrn – I’d recommend something with a 1 1/2HP pump like the Hayward S210T Filter w/ 1.5 HP Matrix Pump or the Jacuzzi Laser 19" Sand Filter W/ 1.5 HP Pump (currently on sale).

User: Tfaulkrn

I have a 18x33 oval pool. I need a new filtration / pump system. What do you recommend?

User: Inyopools

LeviJ - For your size pool I would go with the 1 1/2 HP pump with a 21 " sand filter.

User: Inyopools

Knkuppy - For a reliable and durable AG pump and filter set, I would recommend the Jacuzzi Laser 19" Sand Filter W/ 1.5 HP Pump for your size pool. It is currently on sale.

User: Inyopools

DE Filter - For a DE filIer, I would recommend a Hayward Perflex DE Filter 25 Sq. Ft. for your size pool. It does have to match your pool pump. This filter is rated for a max of 50 GPM. If your pump generates more than 50 GPM, you will need the next larger size filter.

User: LeviJ

I have a 24' by 52" round above ground pool. I need to replace the sand filter body. The current size is a 26" filter that needs to be replaced, from an older 30' foot pool. What size filter will work and will the 1 1/2 pump that I have on it still be usable. Or should I change to an 18" filter and a 1hp pump.

User: Knkuppy

We have a 24 ft 52 in AG pool. We are looking for new pump and filter. What do you suggest?!!


I have a 24' round x 52" depth what De filter would work best?

User: Inyopools

33 ft AG pool - Yes, a 1 1/2 HP above ground pump will work on your size pool.

User: Inyopools

Charize - I would recommend a Jacuzzi Laser 16" Sand Filter W/ 1 HP Pump for your size pool. The set is currently on sale.


i have a 33ft above ground pool will a 1-1/2hp pump be ok it has a 2hp on it now but it just went out

User: Charize

I have an above ground pool it's a 9ft by 18ft x 52 rectangular what kind of pump and filter would be beat for it? Thank you

User: Inyopools

Steve S - Unfortunately, we do not sell or service Intex pools so I have no step by step procedures for fixing your pump system. One common problem with pumps, in general, is a clogged impeller. to see how to clean out an impeller see our guide on "How To Clean Out a Pool Pump Impeller".

User: Inyopools

MovieLover - For a 26'x52" above ground pool, I would recommend a Jacuzzi Laser 19" Sand Filter W/ 1.5 HP Pump. They are currently on sale.

User: Inyopools

Tim - For your size pool, I would recommend the Hayward 40 Sq. Ft. Filter W/ 1 HP Pump for economy and quality.


I have an Intex above ground sand filter and saltwater pump; it's only a year old. I absolutely cannot get it to pump, as it quickly goes to the "low flow" warning. I've backwashed, done all the troubleshooting in the manual. Any suggestions for a step-by-step approach to isolate and fix the problem. Also, it's been impossible to find anyone who will service it (purchase online), since all companies and solo folks are busy installing and/or doing full-on servicing....Steve S

User: MovieLover

I have an intex 26×52 aboveground pool. The original pump/filter that came with the pool is inadequate. What do I need?

User: Inyopools

pump/filter selection - Choice of a filter is personal and it sounds like you are sold on DE filters. I would recommend something like a Hayward EC50C Perflex Filter w/ 1 HP Matrix Pump for your size pool.

User: Inyopools

tomas - You may have to invest in a better quality pump/filter set like the Hayward VL Series Sand Filter Systems.

User: Tim

We have a intext 18x52 ultra. About 6981 gallons and our sand filter system doesn't clean very well and tired of back washing cuz it still puts dirt in the pool. I would like to go to a cartridge filter system but not sure what to upgrade to. And hopefully don't want to spend an arm and a leg for it. And will it connect to my plumbing ? I think I does 1600 gph.


I have an above ground 16 by 32 by 48 pool that is old, it has a Hayward cartridge filter that doesn't have the best suction, only high speed and no on off switch so I am thinking of replacing it. I have a de filter at my rental that keeps the water crystal clear, the cartridge must be changed frequently ( I have 3 in rotation) and when I vacuum, the dirt on the bottom seems to go thru the filter and reappear the next day. I have a cistern for my water so my pressure is poor, but I can pressure wash at a friends house down the street. Should I buy a new filter and what kind?

User: tomas

I have 18ft. Intex Summer Escapes above-ground pool I have had it only two summers and have replaced the pump already last summer. the pump was removed and stored inside for winter. the new pump has once again quit. My husband is not too happy about this. What can be done to fix and keep this from reoccurring?

User: Inyopools

Miki - Your 1 1/2 HP pump is the right size for your ~12,000-gallon pool. Your problem is more due to the placement and number of return ports (1). You might consider buying an AG pool suction cleaner, like a Kreepy Krauly Lil Shark A/G Cleaner, to help reach areas not adequately covered.

User: Miki

I have a 15x30x52 oval pool. My pump is 1 1/2 hp. The end furthest from the pump doesn't seem to get circulated properly to keep clean. Should I get a 2hp pump or do you have another suggestion?

User: Inyopools

BusyMom - I'd recommend a 16" or 18" filter. The 16" filter would work fine. The 18" filter would require less frequent backwashes and sand changes.

User: BusyMom

I have an intex 16x48 AG pool. I know I need a 1 HP but which do I need 11,16 or 18 inch filter.

User: Inyopools

DonnaG - For quality and price, I would recommend the new PureLine 1 Hp Above Ground Pool Pump.

User: Inyopools

al – If you currently have a 2 HP ABOVE ground pump, you may have to go to a 2 HP IN ground pump to get the pressure you need to push the water up and through your solar panels. A 3 or 4 HP pump seems like overkill for your system and might lead to over pressure issues.

User: Inyopools

33’ Ugh! – For your size pool and amount of debris, I would stay with a 1 ½ HP AG pump with a large cartridge filter. A 2 HP IG pump would be more costly to run and is too strong for an AG pool. I would recommend something like the Pentair 1.5 HP OptiFlo Pump Twist Lock Cord W/ 150 Sq. Ft. Clean & Clear Cartridge Filter.

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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.