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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Inyopools  Posted: 04/23/2018 14:58 PM  Latest 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  Latest


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".

Glenn  Posted: 08/11/2017 20:54 PM 

We have an 28ft above ground with a 1 hp motor. The motor quit working and i need to replace. Should I go to the 1.5 hp recommend in article?

Kal  Posted: 08/10/2017 13:29 PM 

I have 10' easy set pool. The type with the inflateable ring. I believe it holds a little over 1000 gallons. I have been able to maintain the levels fairly well. I can't for the life of me keep the bottom clean though. We have monsoons and the fine dust just settles. I was thinking of getting a better pump/filter. And a better vacuum. Suggestions? There are so many.

Inyopools  Posted: 08/07/2017 14:30 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Free - Pentair sells pumps/filter packages with 2-speed motors. See OptiFlo Pump Clean and Clear Cartridges under Pentair Pump and Filter Systems. You could buy a filter and a 2-speed motor separately but you wouldn't have the common platform to mount them in.

Inyopools  Posted: 08/07/2017 11:42 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Solange - For your size pool, I would recommend Waterway's Carefree 16" Sand Filter & 1 HP Single Speed Pump. It is the most economical of the main brand filter/pump systems.

Free  Posted: 08/06/2017 9:46 AM 

i have a 12x24 oval above ground pool.approx 10,000 gallons. Currently have a sand filter w/1.5 dual speed pump. Would like to go to a cartridge filter system but not sure which.They all come with single speed pumps.Is that sufficient for vaccuuming? Should I purchase a seperate dual speed? Very confused.Any help is appreciated.

Solange  Posted: 08/05/2017 20:13 PM 

Looking for s filter pump for a 22000gal pool. Any recommendations?

Inyopools  Posted: 07/27/2017 17:11 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

sweeten - Unfortunately, if you have one of the pools where the pump hangs off the wall attached to the skimmer, we do not sell a pump that would adapt to that setup. You might try an above ground pool cleaner to clear the debris off the floor better.

sweeten  Posted: 07/25/2017 13:29 PM 


Inyopools  Posted: 07/24/2017 10:26 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Dee - Unfortunately, we do not sell motors that attach to the side of the pool. I'd suggest calling the dealer to see if they have replacement motors or maybe a larger replacement motor.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/21/2017 13:16 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Chapin - Your 20' x 48" pool contains about 9,000 gallons of water. Most above ground pool packages come with undersized pumps and filters that are inadequate and generally break down in the first season. For your size pool, we would recommend the Pureline PL1511 System with a 19" Above Ground Pool Sand Filter and 1 H.P Pump.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/21/2017 13:00 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Dozer - Your 22'x 52" AG pool contains about 12,000 gallons of water. If you are unhappy with the filter results, you probably need to upgrade your pump as well as your filter. For you size pool, we would recommend an economical 1 HP pump system like a Pureline 19" Above Ground Pool Sand Filter System W/ 1 H.P Pump.

Dee  Posted: 07/20/2017 18:52 PM 

This article was very helpful in understanding the different types of filters!

I have an above ground 14'x42" round pool. Unfortunately some reason storms have left a layer of dirt/dust over the entire bottom of the pool. I have shocked it and spend HOURS vacuuming with the vacuum that came with the pool. But all it does is kick the dust up into the water making it look like lake water, and now it's starting to turn green.

What I have noticed is that the suction in the vacuum seems to be too weak to do much of anything, and personally I think the vacuum head is poorly designed. I went ahead and bought a better cleaning kit on Amazon, but I fear that unless I get better suction that won't do much good.

So I am considering getting a new pump, but have literally NO idea what to even start looking for. My current pump, the one that came with the pool, is attached to the side of the pool (it doesn't sit on the ground). So I would have to find one with the same set up otherwise I will have a gaping hole in the side of the pool. My current pump also doesn't have any kind of waste line or ability to back wash (or if it does I have no idea how to do it). Basically I just remove the cartridge filter every few days or so, or before and after vacuuming and use the hose to clean it out.

Is there any hope for my pool or am I out of luck?

Chapin  Posted: 07/19/2017 18:34 PM 

We have a 20 X 48 above ground pool, it. Amen with a sand pump/filter is big enough that came with it
Can't get the water cleared up. Wondering if the sand pump/filter is big enough. What would you recommend?

Dozer  Posted: 07/18/2017 23:18 PM 

We bought a Coleman 22'x 52" round pool what sand filter do you recommend, what came with the pool seems inadequate

Inyopools  Posted: 07/18/2017 16:01 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Etruhn - Generally, sand filters are not compatible with Bestway pools. However, you should be able to find adaptable fittings in a local hardware store.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/18/2017 9:49 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Ida - for your approx 14,000 gallon pool, I'd recommend this 19" Above Ground Pool Sand Filter System W/ 1 H.P Pump.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/17/2017 9:41 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

TCUYLER - For your size pool, ~7,000 gallons, I would recommend a Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System.

Etruhn  Posted: 07/16/2017 17:39 PM 

Are the sand filters compatible with Bestway pools? 22ft round x 52 in. Do they have universal attachments?

Ida  Posted: 07/16/2017 8:56 AM 

I have a 15x25 above ground pool recommendations for a pump and filter

TCUYLER  Posted: 07/13/2017 12:53 PM