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.


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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Jana  Posted: 07/28/2018 18:41 PM 

I have an 18 round above ground pool, I believe we are below 10,000 gallons . Right now we are running a one horse pump The water starts to Gallup if we don't watch it closely we have to shdut it off and let the water calm down . My question is what size pump should I be running I already have a sand filter . Will a 1/2 hp be enough ?

Liz  Posted: 06/17/2018 14:09 PM 

Great information to help me replace my pump system!

Inyopools  Posted: 06/01/2018 16:14 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Mike - Yes, Jacuzzi Laser Sand Filters are compatible with other pump brands. You may not be able to use the type of hose that has union nuts on the end. You'll probably need a hose that clamps onto the adapter fittings.

Inyopools  Posted: 06/01/2018 16:09 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Gwen - We'd recommend the Hayward EC50AC for a 28' above ground pool.

Gwen  Posted: 05/31/2018 8:58 AM 

We just purchased a home that has 28' round above ground pool. Looking to replace the sand filter. They had their own makeshift pvc tubing for the lines and it we have tried everything to fix it - not working. We are looking at the DE filters - Which Hayward Perflex Extended-Cycle D.E would be our best bet?

Mike  Posted: 05/30/2018 21:55 PM 

Hello. Are Jacuzzi Laser Sand Filters compatible with other pumps (ie; Hayward)? TIA

Inyopools  Posted: 05/30/2018 17:15 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Herbert - A 2HP pump is a little overkill for a 24' round pool. I would go with a 1.5HP 2-speed pump.

Inyopools  Posted: 05/30/2018 15:09 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Craig - We'd recommend a 1HP pump and 18" sand filter for your 15'x26'x52" pool. Something like the Hayward S180T92S would be sufficient.

Craig  Posted: 05/28/2018 12:43 PM 

I have a 16'x26'x 52" oval above ground pool I just bought, what size sand filter and what size pump is recommended?

Herbert  Posted: 05/27/2018 12:58 PM 

We are getting a 24' round x 52" deep pool. Is a 2 speed 2 hp motor a good pump to use for his pool?? Also it's a cartridge filter pump

Inyopools  Posted: 05/25/2018 16:16 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Ruth - We'd recommend Pureline Pure Pro XL 3/4HP pump. The model number is PL1500. You'll probably need adapters for the ports since the Coleman pools use smaller hoses. An adapter that should work is part number 4564.

Inyopools  Posted: 05/25/2018 13:37 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Jess - We'd recommend something like the Hayward EC40AC for a 21' above ground pool.

Ruth  Posted: 05/24/2018 15:26 PM 

I have a 16'x16' round Coleman above ground pool. The pump that came with it doesn't seem to filter the water fast enough & the water seems a little murky most of the time, even after treating it. We want to get a bigger pump this year, can you suggest what I should look for and will it be compatible with the hoses, etc we already have or will we have to buy adaptive parts tll?

Jess  Posted: 05/24/2018 10:50 AM 

We have an above ground 21 foot round and would like to purchase DE filter. I just can't figure out what size?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/17/2018 11:50 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Brad - Most of our 24' pool owners prefer a 1-1/2HP pump. We would recommend a sand filter that is 20" or larger.

Brad  Posted: 05/16/2018 14:10 PM 

I have a 24 foot by 52 inch deep round AG pool. What is the best size choice for replacing the pump/filter unit? I would like to use a sand filter system.

Inyopools  Posted: 05/08/2018 16:25 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Alan - Yes, the 18" sand filter and 1HP Hayward Matrix pump would be an excellent choice for your 15'x24' oval above ground pool.

Inyopools  Posted: 05/08/2018 14:51 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Pam - A 20" sand filter would be sufficient for a 24' pool with a 1HP pump. Something like a Hayward S210T would be a good option.

alan  Posted: 05/07/2018 23:32 PM 

Is the Hayward Sand Filter Pump, S180T 18" Sand Filter and 1 HP PowerFlo Matrix Pump, a good choice for my 15'X24' oval above ground pool?

Pam  Posted: 05/05/2018 7:55 AM 

I have a 24ft above ground pool. My sand filter has started leaking and I need to replace it. I just bought a new 1hp pump motor last year, so all I need is the sand filter. What size should I get?? 20" etc???

Inyopools  Posted: 04/23/2018 14:58 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

We'd recommend a 1.5HP above ground pool pump for a 30' pool.

Anonymous  Posted: 04/19/2018 15:04 PM 


Inyopools  Posted: 02/25/2018 10:10 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (AG Salt pool) - Here are links to Above Ground Pool Pump and Filter and Above Ground Pool Sanitizers that you should consider for converting your above ground pool to a upgraded pump and filter system with a salt chlorine generator.

Anonymous  Posted: 02/19/2018 14:51 PM 

I have an above ground Pool & want to replace everything & concert to saltwater. What exactly do I need?

Inyopools  Posted: 01/07/2018 22:00 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Carrie S Newbold - It depends on the size of your AG pool. If it's a smaller pool. less than 9,000 gallons, I would recommend a Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System. If your pool is between 9,000 and 13,000 gallons, I would recommend a Hayward Pump & Filter S166T Filter W/ 1 HP Matrix Pump.

Carrie S Newbold  Posted: 01/02/2018 20:58 PM 

I have a sand filter and my pool wont even allow me to vacuum the pool. It is not strong enough. What kind should I get?

Inyopools  Posted: 10/13/2017 11:51 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

maggie - I would suggest upgrading to something like the PL1511 PureLine 1 HP Pump with 19" Sand Filter System this would be a huge upgrade from your current Intex filtration system. If you have a soft side pool, you may need one of these Pool Adapters to hook to the new hoses to the pool.

Inyopools  Posted: 10/13/2017 11:35 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Barbara - Try replacing the sand in your filter first. Also, check that your pump's impeller is not clogged. See our guides on "How To Change Sand In a Sand Filter" and "How To Clean Out a Pool Pump Impeller". If that doesn't solve your problem or you just want to go to a larger more efficient system, I'd recommend the PureLine 19" Above Ground Pool Sand Filter System W/ 1 H.P Pump. The suggested Waterway 1 1/2 HP pump would be larger than you need.

maggie  Posted: 10/10/2017 13:50 PM 

I bought an above ground pool 12' x 24' x 52" deep. This is an intex pool. They sold it with a sand filter, it has to over work and still won't keep the pool clean no matter what I have tired. What hp pump would you recommend> Thanks Maggie

Barbara  Posted: 10/07/2017 19:00 PM 

We currently have the Coleman 18x48 above ground pool. We also have the Hayward vl series sand pump which we purchased about 4 years ago. We had to drain the pool because we couldn't keep the algae out. We had perfect water samples at the time. Could it just be the pump getting weak and not circulating right? Should I try a different size pump? A local pool company says to buy the waterway 1.5 hp pump. what would you recommend?

Inyopools  Posted: 09/23/2017 11:32 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (pool book) - Give us a call at 407-834-2200 and one of our service reps will track that down for you.

Anonymous  Posted: 09/22/2017 8:43 AM 

Gave you my Email and never got the pool book!!! How to


Inyopools  Posted: 09/14/2017 13:17 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Dozer - For your size pool, I would recommend the Pureline 19" Above Ground Pool Sand Filter System W/ 1 H.P Pump. This pump generally is too large for the standard soft sided pools as indicated in the Q&As, but it should work with the steel framed Coleman pool. You may have to look around for fittings to adapt your input and output tubes to the ports of the pump/filter.

Dozer  Posted: 09/07/2017 23:47 PM 

We have 22'x 52" Coleman power steel round pool (soft sided)our pump has started leaking, we would like to upgrade to a sand filtration system. Can you make a recommendation for a complete system

Thank you for your time

Inyopools  Posted: 09/07/2017 12:59 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Kayla - Your pool holds a little less than 8,000 gallons of water. For your size pools, I would suggest replacing it with a small name brand filter/pump system like the Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System or for a few more dollars you could go to a 1 HP pump like the Pureline19" Above Ground Pool Sand Filter System W/ 1 H.P Pump.

Kayla  Posted: 09/05/2017 21:55 PM 

We have a above ground Coleman's power steel 18' × 48' pool and the pump that came with it just isn't doing the job what kind of sand pump do u recommend?

Inyopools  Posted: 08/28/2017 11:51 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Nicole - I assume your current pool looks like the one in this link to Coleman pools showing one entry port and two return ports. If so, you could use the existing "T" piping to split the single port on the discharge side of the pump to the two return ports on the pool.

Nicole  Posted: 08/26/2017 9:27 AM 

We purchased a 22' Coleman above ground... the filter with the cartridges is now leaking and not working properly, we're in northern Iowa and have decided to look at a sand filter and pump system. All of the filters and pumps only show 2 entry and exit hoses, we have 1 suction hole and 2 jets on our pool. I'm at a loss and I'm desperately in need of some serious help!!!

Inyopools  Posted: 08/14/2017 16:12 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Glenn - Yes, I would recommend upgrading your pump to a 1 1/2 Hp pump. Our 1 HP cutoff point is 24' and below. Note, you may also have to upgrade the filter to handle the increased water flow.

Inyopools  Posted: 08/14/2017 13:04 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Kal - For you size pool, I'd concentrate on getting a better hand vacuum. See our page on "Vacuum Heads". You will need a vacuum head, the pool pole (if you don't have a pool brush) and a vacuum hose that attaches to the bottom of your skimmer. Or if you would like an automatic cleaner, I would suggest something like an "Above Ground Pool Cleaner - PF Vac".