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 181)

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User: Inyopools

Steven Espinal - We recommend a Hayward EC50C Perflex Filter W/ 1.5 HP Matrix Pump & Timer for your size above ground pool.

User: Steven Espinal

I'm installing an above ground pool in my home country. I plan for it to be 26x49 what tank and filter would you guys recommend?

User: Inyopools

green look - You might try backwashing more frequently or if your sand hasn't been changed in the last 5 years, you might try changing it.


I have a 28' round AG pool (sand filter, 1.5 hp pump) and have always had to use direct connect to vacuum effectively. I've never been able to maintain adequate suction using the connector/plate provided. Additionally, this summer I have had to frequently vacuum to waste in order to keep the bottom clean. The pool always seems to have a "green" look. Does this mean the filter is wearing out?

User: Inyopools

catfan - Most pumps on AG pools are small and designed to operate with short hoses. If your pump is 1/2 or 3/4 HP, you probably have to locate your pump close to the base of the pool. It your pump is 1 HP, it may be able to pump the additional length of water - say an additional 10-15 feet. These are gravity fed pumps. Make sure that wherever you place the pump that it is below the surface of the pool.

User: catfan

I would like to move my filter and pump. I have a 24' round pool. How far away from the pool can I go without compromise?

User: Inyopools

DE filter replacement - We just replace a customer’s DE filter with a cartridge filter for the same issues you have. See our guide on "How to Replace a Pool System DE filter with a Cartridge Filter". You will find a cartridge filter much easier to maintain with generally better flow.


I have a 24' pool wi need a new filter system..our d.e.system that we have now does not work proudly, atleast that's what I think. We clean out our filter atleast once a day...its crazy. .. and I can't stand taking that apart....I want something that is easy to maintain and gets the water moving. We have solar panels attached and theres not enough pressure to get the water warm enough.
Do you have any recommendations for me or help?

User: Inyopools

subee - Your pool size is on the border for using a 1 HP or a 1 1/2 HP pump, so your pump/filter setup might have been slightly undersized. Sand filters take up the more space compared to cartridge filters. I couldn't find any information on your new valterra filter but I assume by its size it has greater filtering capacity than your old sand filter. There is no such thing as too large a filter. It will do a better job of filtering and you will not have to backwash it as often. If you don't like the larger size, you could switch to a cartridge filter.which has the same filtering capacity for a much smaller size.

User: Inyopools

iimg1969 - First check that your pool's bottom drain is not clogged so that you are getting flow off the bottom. Then consider replacing the filter. That's a fairly small filter for your size pool. Consider replacing it with a cartridge with a larger filtration area like a Hayward Star Clear Plus 90 Sq Ft. Filter 1 1/2" Ports. Lastly, most AG pools cannot use saltwater because their frames are made of steel and the saltwater will corrode the steel.

User: Inyopools

pmcd - I would go with the 1 HP two speed Dynamo. I would guess that your current filter is sized for a 1 HP motor and your pool size doesn't need a larger pump even with the solar panels. You should be able to buy the cord at any hardware store.

User: subee

Hi I have a Hayward power flo matrix pump that is 1 horsepower with sf of 1. My pool is 24' X 48". Yesterday the pool store sold us a valterra sand filter (model # B8318 CP) with the following dimensions 49.5 cm. X 49.5 cm. X 90 cm. Is this the correct size? It looks huge next to the one we are replacing, which was a Splash Pac by Jacuzzi that height was 23" tank diameter 16" flowrate 35 GPM.. I am dumb at conversions :( Please tell me if I have the right filter for pump and pool size. Or was my old one too small???? So confused.

User: jimg1969

i have a 16x32 above ground 54In,one side of pool 48ch deepis 60 in deep. It has underground filtration on deep side, but we can not seem to get pool water cleared on deep end. We have a haywood s180t sand filter and 1hp 2speed pump set up. Do you think it is a filtration issue? Sand changed last year. Is the pump large enough? We are considering switching to a saltwater set up because of the clarity of water. Advise?


i have a 16x32 above ground 48Inch deep,one side of pool is 60 in deep. It has underground filtration on deep side, but we can not seem to get pool water cleared on deep end. We have a haywood s180t sand filter and 1hp 2speed pump set up. Do you think it is a filtration issue? Sand changed last year. Is the pump large enough? We are considering switching to a saltwater set up because of the clarity of water. Advise?

User: pmcd

We have a 12.5'x21.5'x52" on-ground pool. The pool is 29" below ground and 23" above and the water depth is 4'. There is a salt water system and a solar panel heater which is on a flat roof roughly 10' above the ground. We currently use a Pentair Dynamo 1 HP (11 amps at full load) pump. It is 7 or 8 years old. It is quite noisy and am looking for a quiet pump that is 115v. Would I be able to use a 2-speed 1 HP pump from Waterway (8.8amps /2.x) or would I require their 1.5 HP version which is 11amps/2.9 or perhaps something else? Most in-ground pumps seem to be 220volts which I prefer to avoid (the VS pumps from Hayward are truly neat and quiet but are 220v only). Pentair has a two speed Dynamo with no power chord. Do you the buy a power chord to plug into our GFI outlets or are these custom items? Thanks... Philip

User: Inyopools

cthom74 - If you are looking for a pump/filter set with a cartridge filter for your AG pool, we would recommend the Hayward 40 Sq. Ft. Filter W/ 1 HP Pump.

User: cthom74

We bought an Intex Ultra Frame 12x24x52 pool last August and everything has been great until about 2 months ago. The pump constantly gives low flow so they sent us a new pump, still does it, it also pushes sand back into the pool no matter how much I backwash. I am done with this thing and would love a recomendation on a new cartridge system that is big enough to keep it clean, it is green now.

User: Inyopools

Jole - Two considerations: You may just need a heavier extension cord. Your pump may be pulling more amps than the cord can handle. Or you may have your pump voltage configured wrong. It your supply voltage is 115V and your pump motor is set up for 230V, you would have to change the motor to 115V. See instruction on the motor label. Make sure your supply voltage is 115V before you change the motor to 115V. If the supply voltage is 230V and you set your motor to 115V, you will fry the motor.

User: Jole

We recently purchased a Splash Pool 16X32 pool about 42"deep off of craigslist. Tried getting it up and running with extension cord until we get permanent electrical in and we can run the pump for about 20 seconds and it shuts off. It is not flipping the breaker it is just shutting off? Any ideas? It is a 1.5 HP pump and we are hoping its just something to do with our electricity set up at the moment and will work fine when we get permanent line in. But I am definitely worried something is wrong with our pump. Thoughts?

User: Inyopools

MW - If you are switching out the complete pump - Hayward Matrix for a Sta-Rite JWPA, it should be a fairly clean swap. You may have to do some minor adjustments on the piping to the pumps ports.

User: MW

Thank you for the info. Currently I have a Sta-rite JWPAS5F-2A4. Does the SP15932S have the same fitting/connector sizes ? I am looking to do a clean swap out, but if there are any differences, I would like to know and what additional items I may need. Thanks

User: Inyopools

MW - We don't have any Above Ground EE pumps other than the 2-speeds. Here's a link to our 1 1/2 HP Hayward 2-speed pump.

User: Inyopools

Pump match to S180T Filter - For an Above Ground Pool, we would recommend a 1 HP Hayward Matrix pump as a good match for your Hayward S180T filter.

User: MW

Forgot to add, 21x41 oval pool 25,000 gallons of water.

User: MW

I am looking for a energy efficient pump to replace the current 1 1/2 pump. I have 21x41 oval pool with a Sta-rite sand filter. Recommendation ?


What's the best pump for a Hayward Pro Series High Rate Sand filter? Model # is S180T.

User: Inyopools

Ldyk71 - We generally recommend a 1.5 HP pump for your size AG pool.

User: Ldyk71

I have an above ground pool 16,000 gallons and 27 sq feet! Should I get a 1.5 hp replacement pool pum or a 2 hp??

User: Inyopools

TrotterT - We usually recommend a 1 HP pump for your size pool with a compatible filter. See our AG pool Pump and Filter Sets.

User: Inyopools

TrotterT - We usually recommend a 1 HP pump for your size pool with a compatible filter. See our AG pool Pump and Filter Sets.

User: TrotterT

I recently purchased a Mean Green Machine Sand Filter System with a 1/2 HP pump, the filter holds 40lbs of sand. My pool is a 12x24 rectangular pool with 4 feet walls. Is the equipment I purchased adequate for my pool ?



User: Inyopools

Chad - We would recommend a Hayward Matrix Pool Pump 1 HP as a good option for replacing your current motor.

User: Chad

I have a 16' Doughboy above ground pool. Can I use a pump other than a Doughboy (Power Pak I)? I just bought a new DE filter last year, but I think the pump might be on its last legs.

User: Inyopools

Noki - An AG pool pump is designed differently that an in-ground pool pump. An AG pool pump is generally placed below the surface of the pool and relies on gravity to fill it. With your pool submerged 36" you may only have 10-12" of water above the pump which may not provide enough pressure to fill your pump fast enough. I would suggest calling Intex and asking them if an AG pool pump will work in your situation. If yes, I'd recommend a Game Sand Pro 50 Filter System. If you need an in-ground pool system, I'd recommend a Hayward Super Pump 1 HP SINGLE Speed W/ C1200 120 Sq. Ft. Cartridge Filter.

User: Noki

My roommate just purchased an 15' X 52" above ground Intex pool. Against the advise of what I have read on line....we are countersinking it about 36" inches and using building supply polystyrene (either 3/4 inch or 2" )foam panels to use around the perimeter before back filling. The pump that came with it appears inadequate since it will be countersunk. What size pump, make and model would you recommend? The pool only cost $250.00 but the labor, supplies, fencing and the relocation of pipe has exceeded 2K. I'm too far in to back out now. HELP!!!!

User: Inyopools

AG pool pump size - We would recommend a 1 HP pool pump for your 16x24 AG oval pool.


What is the recommended pool pump size/hp for a 16x24 kayak ag pool?

User: Inyopools

Anita - The Pro Series AG Pools have their own unique pump and filter system and connections but if you want to be a little creative you can probably figure out how to connect another system. One we have recommended for AG pools is the Game SandPro 50 for your size pool. As to the Salt Chlorine Generation system, if this is a metal frame Pro Series pool, as many are, we would not recommend using a SCG system. It would corrode the metal.

User: Anita

I have a 22'x 52" Pro Series AG Pool. I would like a sand and saltwater w/pump System. Which will you recommend?

User: Inyopools

Leslie - We would recommend a 1 HP pump for a 13' x 22' x 52" oval above ground pool.

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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.