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. Click for more 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: 08/14/2017 16:12 PM  Latest 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  Latest 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  Latest

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 


Inyopools  Posted: 07/07/2017 10:36 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Etruhn - Generally, the pumps/filters that come with these pools are too small to handle the volume of water in your pool. They don't circulate or filter the water adequately. For your size pool, we recommend a 1 HP pump/filter set like Waterway's Carefree 16" Sand Filter & 1 HP Single Speed Pump.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/07/2017 10:17 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Tracey - Yes, you need a pump/filter to circulate the water and to filter out the contaminates.

Etruhn  Posted: 07/05/2017 13:22 PM 

Bought a Bestway 22ft round x 52in deep pool. It came with
a pump but having problems with cloudy green water. I was told
told maybe I need a better pump than what came with pool? I

Tracey  Posted: 07/04/2017 6:45 AM 

Hiya. Habe bought an 8ft Bestway Fastset pool. Have bought a little floating plastic thingy that holds a chlorine tablet — do I even need a pump?

Inyopools  Posted: 07/01/2017 13:22 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Adam - Your pools contains about 17,000 gallons of water. For that size pool, I would recommend a Waterway Carefree 19" Sand Filter & 1.5 HP 1Spd Pump.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/01/2017 11:49 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Larry - Yes, as long as the sand filter is large enough to handle the pump's 2500 GPH (42 GPM) water flow. Without the cartridge inserted, the cartridge filter will act as a flow through pipe. I’m assuming that you cannot easily redirect the pump output hose to the sand filter and take the cartridge filter out.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/01/2017 11:20 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Kazzy - Your pool contains about 6,000 to 7,000 gallons of water depending on pool depth. For you size pool, I would recommend a Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System. To reduce the metal in your pool, you should use something like Natural Chemistry METAL FREE 1L. Be sure to read the comments at the end of the page for tips on use.

Adam  Posted: 06/30/2017 16:13 PM 

I have a 27' round pool 52 or 54" deep how big of a sand pump would I need

Inyopools  Posted: 06/30/2017 13:37 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (16'x32'pool) - Your pools contains 16,000 to 17,000 gallons of water depending on its depth. For that size pool, I would recommend a Carefree 19" Sand Filter & 1.5 HP 1Spd Pump. With a larger upgraded pump, you would have to buy a larger filter to match the capacity of the pump.

Larry  Posted: 06/30/2017 0:22 AM 

I just bought 26x52 round intex comes with 2500 gph cartridge filter pump I have a sand filter but pump burnt out end of last season can I use this 2500 gph pump without cartridfge in it with my sand filter

Kazzy  Posted: 06/29/2017 16:44 PM 

Hi INYO. We recently purchased a used Bestway AG 16ft round pool. We are having a lot of water issues due to metals in our well water. I'm starting to think the pump that came with the pool is too to properly filter and clean the entire pool (also have no backwashing feature) Is there a filter/pump system that you recommend for use with our size pool and would maybe work better than others with out hard metal filled well water?

Anonymous  Posted: 06/29/2017 12:49 PM 

We have a 16x32 ft above ground pool, pump seems to small that came with it what size do we need

Inyopools  Posted: 06/27/2017 16:21 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Tracey - Your 26x52 pool holds about 16,000 gallons of water. For this size pool, I would recommend a Waterway Carefree 19" Sand Filter & 1.5 HP 1Spd Pump. It is both economical and reliable and is built by one of the leading pump/filter manufacturers.

Tracey  Posted: 06/27/2017 12:26 PM 

I have a Colman 26x52 pool. We currentlyuse the pump that came with pool. We really want to switch to sand pump. What do you recommend for a pump?

Inyopools  Posted: 06/27/2017 11:35 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (AG Pump) - If you are looking for a reliable pump, for your size pool, I'd recommend the Hayward VL Series Sand Filter System. You would have to buy it as a filter/pump set so the filter is large enough to handle the pump GPM.

Inyopools  Posted: 06/26/2017 14:45 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Mvee - Your pool contains about 13,000 gallons of water. We would recommend buying a 1 HP pump for that size pool and the filter should be able to handle about 25% more GPM water flow than the pump generates. A 1 HP pump typically generates between 50 - 70 GPM so you would want a filter that is designed for up to 90 GPM.

Anonymous  Posted: 06/26/2017 10:29 AM 

I have a above ground pool and I need a pump. The filter hangs on the side of pool. It is a 16x48.

Mvee  Posted: 06/24/2017 14:52 PM 

My pump died and I have to buy a new pump. I have a sand filter. I have a 24 ft round above ground pool. What kind of pump do I buy? Does it have to cordinate with my sand filter? Can I use my old hose? I have a sunbrite sand filter.