5 Biggest Pool Pump Mistakes

5 Biggest Pool Pump Mistakes

The pump is literally the heart of your pool’s circulation system.  But just like our own hearts, we have a tendency to neglect the health and well-being of the pool pump and then freak out when it’s not working properly.  There are probably dozens of pool pump mistakes out there. . . here are our top 5.

Not Cleaning Pump Basket

Blog Image - Pump Basket Leaves (200 x 200)Let’s start with the very basics.  The pump strainer basket exists to catch debris but it can’t clean itself.  You need to reach in there and get the gunk out.  If you don’t, the pool will have decreased water flow which means reduced filtration and ultimately, the dreaded algae bloom.  The pump basket should be cleared out weekly and even more frequently during the fall and spring when there is more debris in the pool.  Learn more here about how to clean your pump strainer basket.

Running Pump Too Little or Too Much

Some pool owners, desperate to save money on their electric bills, actually cost themselves more in the long run by not runningBlog Image -Pump Timer (200 x 200) the pump long enough.  To maintain water quality and safety, all of the water in your pool should be turned over (meaning filtered) once a day.  Depending on the gallons per minute your pump is moving, this usually takes 8 – 12 hours.  If you don’t give all the water a chance to pass through the filter, you can end up with dirty, cloudy water, algae and the need to spend more on chemicals and maintenance than you would’ve given to your utility company to run the pump a little longer.

On the flip side, there is running the pump too long.  Some believe in keeping it going 24/7 which might be necessary under certain conditions but for most pools is just wasteful overkill.  It drains both energy and money while causing unnecessary strain on the pool pump motor.  Your pump will burn out more quickly and require replacement of parts or the entire unit.  Plus, you are driving your neighbors crazy!  Give them a break from that humming motor and save some money in the process.  For standard residential pools with moderate use, you only need to turn over all the water once in a 24 hour time period.  If you are into the math behind pump run times and savings, read our How to Reduce Your Pool Pump Energy Bill guide.

Sizing Pump Incorrectly

There is a very persistent myth in the pool world that the higher the horsepower, the better.  As a result, it is probably safe to say that the majority of pools have oversized pumps.  We regularly hear from customers with a relatively small pool (~ 10,000 gallons) and a pump that is moving 2 – 3 times the gallons per minute required.  This means unnecessarily high electric bills and a lot of wasted energy.  Too large of a pump can cause poor filter performance and even damage it, if the filter is not also oversized accordingly.  Another possible consequence is pump cavitation in which bubbles form in the water inside the pump and then burst with great force, resulting in damage to the impeller and other internal parts.

Conversely, some pool owners try to save a few bucks by buying a lower horsepower pump that is too small for their pool’s demands.  This is especially true when a spa and other water features, such as deck jets or waterfalls, are tied into the pool pump.  Throw an automatic suction cleaner into the mix and that undersized pump is overloaded.

The bottom line?  Do the math to calculate how many gallons are in your pool (and spa if applicable) and how many gallons per minute are required to filter all of that water in 8 – 12 hours.  Then consult the manufacturer’s pump performance charts to determine what pump actually meets your needs.  Or skip all that, contact us and we’ll do the legwork for you!

Not Priming Pump / Running Dry

Most in-ground pool pumps are self-priming but do not mistakenly think this means your pump can initially prime itself.  “Self-priming” refers to the pump being able to reprime, and this depends upon a proper initial prime and maintenance.  Priming a pump means filling the intake with water.  Then upon start, the pump will push any air out through the discharge.  Read our step-by-step priming guide for all the details.

A loss of prime will cause the pump to run dry which you never want to do.  Keeping an eye on the pool water level is a must – don’t let it drop below the skimmer opening.  If the pump has no water to pull from the skimmer, it will draw air instead and lose prime which leads to running dry.  At the least, this will ruin the motor shaft seal which is what prevents water from getting inside the motor.  If it keeps running dry, the pump heats up and so does the water inside.  Commence melting plastic.  The motor might survive due to the high temp sensor kicking in but the wet end of the pump will be a casualty.  If your pump has run dry and appears to have survived, replace the shaft seal!

Not Changing the Shaft Seal During Motor Replacement

Blog Image - Shaft Seal (200 x 200)I literally grind my teeth over this one.  Replacement pool pump motors are an extremely popular product for us – and with good reason.  In the majority of cases, when a pump fails, the wet end is fine and only the motor needs to be replaced.  Since a pump motor is roughly half the price of a new pump, it makes often sense to keep the existing wet end and just buy a new motor.  Especially true for DIYers who don’t have to pay an installer.

But so many people buy just the motor and neglect the small yet extremely important shaft seal.  This seal keeps water out of the motor (water inside motor + time = failed motor).  Yes, your existing motor will already have a seal on the shaft and it might appear to be in good shape and ok to reuse.  However, shaft seals warp over time.  If you install the old seal on a new motor, there is a good chance it will not mate properly, leading to leakage which voids the warranty on the new motor.

So don’t skip the new shaft seal!  Depending on the pump model, you’re looking at about $15 – $30 to protect a new motor that is worth much more than that.  Invest those few extra bucks – you will not regret it.  While you’re at it, motor replacement is a great opportunity to upgrade other internal parts most likely to fail.  Check for our complete tune up kits, available for many of the most common pool pumps.  These include the shaft seal, along with o-rings, gaskets and lubricant.  For help with replacing the seal, check out our how to guide and video.

313 thoughts on “5 Biggest Pool Pump Mistakes

  1. My pump is spinning like a blunder spin, not in the regular hamster style. And my skimmer won’t move. What am I doing wrong after I cleaned my in ground pool/spa ?

  2. When my pump is running, it leaks water through the waste out hose. Is the pump an issue or the valve to change settings on the pool from filter, to waste out?

  3. I changed the impala from the pool pump, but when I connected the pump make a humming sound the it doesn’t before. What can I do?

    1. The humming noise could be a bad capacitor. Are you sure you required the motor correctly? Also, did you confirm the new impeller is the same part number as the original? if you accidentally installed the wrong impeller, the heavier load could cause the motor to overwork, possibly causing that noise.

      1. How I finally got a grade Prime great suction and stupidly while the pump was running I turn to backwash and I heard a big pop I think I cracked my pool pump any recommendations

        1. What do you mean by pop? Did the pump housing crack, or did the motor make a popping noise and stop running?

          I don’t know why turning the valve to backwash would cause the pump to make a noise. Are you sure the pump made the noise and not the backwash valve itself? If you were changing the valve while the pump was running, you might have damaged one of the internal parts of the valve. Also, the filter valve setting shouldn’t be changed while the pump is on.

  4. if i cant put the pump in the same invert level of the swimming pool but above water level what to do please in order to not having air in the suction pipe

    1. If this is an inground pool, that is common and not a problem. if it is an above ground pool, then it will depend on the pump. Some above ground pool pumps can prime themselves by pulling water up to them and some cannot. The most notable a/g pump that can prime itself is the Pentair Dynamo.

  5. I have two dogs who love to swim and my parents have a pool. Whenever I bring my dogs over to swim, I place the hose out of the pool, but leave it attached. My question is, Can I remove it completely and then just reattach when my pups are done swimming? This is so my dogs don’t pop a hole in the hose with their nails.

  6. I turned my pools pump off late summer,I have an in ground 18000 gallon vinyl liner pool with a de sand filter..btw I had to suddenly go out of town and now there are leaves and pecans in the water and it’s green. The glass on the pump has like a rust color ring around the inside of the glass, the water is clear but partials are inside the glass as well as the ring.. water is still inside the pump and the pipes I haven’t drained it as I do for the winter.. now with the algae green water I’m not sure what to do to close it, it’s usually clear blue when I close it for the winter. I don’t want to get and algae or leaves etc in the pump or lines when I backwash it.. so I’m just at a stand still.. I Kno I need to get all the leaves out first but what would be my next step? Should I shock it to get the water clean then drain the water to clear the lines and drain the pump..ughhh… What have I done.. any help will be so appreciated. Oh we’ve gotten a lot of rain so the water level is at the top of the skimmer but water can flow through so no worries there, just rain water don’t help the cleanliness. Thanks for the time to respond..

    1. Like you said the first step will be removing debris like leafs and pecans. As for the water treatment, you have two options, clear your water or close it and clean it in the spring.

      My preference is to clean it now so spring is less of a horror show. A shock and backwash cycle (or two) coupled with the standard winterizing kit that comes with rust and scale removers should set you up nicely.

      Leaving it til spring will be easier in the short term but you are just kicking the can down the road. Stains will have time to set in, and the green stew that is your water has a chance to ripen.

      1. I agree.. just need to bit the bullet and clean it now shock it, drain it, and cover it. Thanks so much for your help..

  7. cratemurtal flowers go right through the skimmer basket. Pump got clogged. After cleaning i added a filter sock to the basket. Basket now catches everything but now it seems that the pump is getting to much air and suction starts for a few seconds then stops. Removed skimmer door to allow more water in and the issue seems to be gone. Adding more water to the pool so that skimmer has more water to supply to the pump.

    Thoughts?

  8. What a crazy collection of questions. So many of these people shouldn’t own a pool. Mathew, I commend you on your patience.

  9. We have a Hayward pump on our inground pool. While we where gone for 7 days our house sitter mistakenly turned the dial to waste instead of filter and it ran that way the entire 7 days. The waste outlet was closed. We turned it off and later tried running it on filter. It runs but the pressure is low and the pump feels hot. What should we do first?

    1. Have you opened the pump to determine if any parts of the pump are damaged? Is your water at its normal levels?

      Motors are usually hot, electrical motors create heat as a byproduct, and they are metal casings sitting in the summer sun.

  10. We replaced our cartridge at the beginning of the summer and have increasingly been having issues since then. We were losing suction and had little to no flow back into the pool via the jet. We replaced our houses, O-rings, gaskets and cleaned the pump and filter immensely. I even cleaned out the impeller, and still nothing helped. There were no leaks. This is an above ground pool. After cleaning one time I suggested taking the new cartridge out and running it without it and it suddenly was working perfectly. We had great water pressure and the pump was suctioning the water again. We put our old cartridge in and it still worked perfectly. We took it back to the pool store we got, because we thought maybe we were sold the wrong cartridge, but they assured us that they gave us the right one. They exchanged it for us with a different brand and now the pool seems to be working. Have you ever heard of the cartridge to a filter system doing this before? So confused.

    1. Even they say they didn’t, it sounds like they gave you the wrong cartridge initially. A new cartridge can match the physical dimensions of your old cartridge but has less square footage. The lower square footage restricts flow and reduces flow.

  11. We installed a brand new motor, same as the last. It burned up in 45 minutes. Can something in the pump be causing this. We had an electrician make sure it was wired properly. We have spent 1,000 between pool people when the electrician and still no pool.

    1. Just like a car, there is a chance you get a lemon that goes kaput almost as soon at you get it. They are pretty rare though. Was the pump running dry, or was it purely a mechanical issue?

      have you contacted the dealer from who you purchased the motor to start a warranty claim?

  12. I had to drain my endless pool below the suction outlet in order to repair a leak in the suction pipe going to the pump. Can I fill just above the suction outlet and run the pump to check to make sure my repair works? Or do I have to fill the pool up to skimmer outlet, which is about 20″ above the suction outlet and feeds into the suction line. The inlet from the return line is about the same level as the skimmer outlet.

    1. If you can close the skimmer line either by a diverter valve or a plug you can fill just above the repair point. But you would need to close the skimmer line to prevent your pump from running dry.

  13. I have a Hayward sand filter and pump. When I vacuum the pump runs out of water within two minutes. I shut it down and start the vacuuming process over. Checked for leaks through out the system and could not find anything.

    1. Have you checked thevacuum hose? Because it sounds like you have a pinhole air leak in one of the hose sections. if the pump only loses prime when the vacuum hose is being used, it would be my number one suspect.

      Check for pinhole leaks by taping or sealing the end of each hose length then submerging the hose. If air bubbles appear then you’ll need to replace the section(s.)

  14. I live in Wisconsin. We usually close up the (above ground)pool in early October. I am sure I am done with the pool already for this season. Is it okay to close up the pool while it’s still in the 70s-80s out? Does that matter?

  15. Our pump isn’t turning on but it is getting power because the ionizer that is attached has power when we turn the power switch on for outlet the pump and ionizer are plugged into.
    Our pump basket had a lot of debris in it and the water in the basket was at about half way. Can you give me a direction to go in to figure out what the problem is?

  16. Some time over night the pool water fell below the skimmer. The filter comes on at 8 PM so it may have been running for up to 12 hours without water. I knew it was low but thought I had turned the filters off until I could monitor adding water but forgot about the timer kicking back on. I’m adding water now but what do I need to check to test for damage to the filter? Do I just turn it back on or should I do something to remove the air or check for heat damage? Recently divorced and clueless about what to do now. It’s an in ground pool with a DE filter.

  17. is it ok to clean the pool filter into the pool floor drains outside the pool? I am afraid of it over time clogging the drain and turning hard like cement. I don’t want any problems.

    1. I think you are describing channel drains that are built into your deck, right? If you are concerned about clogging these drains, cleans the cartridges over a patch of grass or driveway.

  18. Hi

    My pool heater caught on fire and burnt up the plumbing so I disconnected my heater, replumbed the PVC, and main pump is now running fine gain. The booster pump motor turns on and sounds normal but is not pushing water to run the robotic pool cleaner. I made sure all the filters, baskets were clean. My next step was to make sure the impeller was not affected by the heat or debris that may be lodged. Any other suggestions?

    1. I would definitely check the impeller, first, but then I would check the hoses feeding the pump.Just to make sure the inside of the hose has been clogged or melted internally.

      Are you sure the shaft is spinning, or are you going by the sound the pump makes?

      1. Impeller looked to be in good condition and spun without resistance. The incoming water hose had water coming out when main pump is turned on. I blew air into the outgoing hose and bubbles came out into the pool. I cleaned, resealed, and reassembled the booster pump. The shaft is spinning when booster pump is turned on. Still no pressure when booster pump is on. Any other suggestions?

        1. I’m not sure what the issue could be unless there is a problem with the internals of the cleaner. The cleaner may be receiving enough water but the paddle wheel or water management system has failed.

  19. Hi,
    I have to replace my hayward above ground pump. It is attached to a HE filter. Do I need to empty the filter out before replacing the pump?

    1. I’m going to presume you meant DE filter. But either way, no you wouldn’t have to empty the filter to install a new pump. I would use the air relief, to release pressure in the system before removing any piping.

  20. Help! I added chlorine tablets this morning to my hayward chlorinator and now its leaking. Found the o ring to be loose so got replacement. However the leaking appears to be coming from the retainer nut on top of the lid. Guess i need to replace this too? Is it ok to allow pump to run when its leaking so bad?

    1. If the part is a thing you can grab locally, then I would suggest just not running the pump until you can pick it up. Not running the pump for a day will not cause too much havoc with your water chemistry.

  21. Matt, what a treasure you and your Company’s site are! Thanks for being there.
    Had a thunderstorm and hard rain and have learned to have the pool running then as it aids in keeping chemistry and circulation correct. Except this time. I came out the next morning and the pool had not only dropped 2-3 inches (vinyl in-ground) but the pump was starving obviosly for water.

    I filled the pool and all seemed fine until a few days later I turned off the pump and when I turned it on I could no longer get the pump to prime though it sounds like it’s spinning/running. I had a local pool company come out and the tech says he thought it was the pump and it was shot. I ordered a new one which will be here in a week but have no way to keep the pool chemistry correct while I wait. How can I keep the pool from going green, I also suspect that a pipe leak may have happened as I found no water leak at the main pump, filter or heater area and when I had refilled it that first time it lost no water until the filtration system was running. Without the filter running water level holds. Have someone coming out for that also to test pressure in pipes, But all of these things take days to happen and the pool is going green quick, any ideas? Can I dissolve shock and just pour into pool?

    Thanks again for being there!

  22. Hello….I have an intex pool pump and my son lifted it up so I can cut some grass underneath the tubing….forgot to turn it off while doing that….was only for a minute or so…now the pump will not turn….checked all of the connections for electricity and everything is working fine on that end….when I go press the reset button…it doesn’t seem to be getting any “juice”…I let the pump sit overnight to “cool” off….any suggestions

  23. I have a 1,000 gph cartridge filter that I unplugged to clean the cartridge. After I put the cartridge back in and the lid back on I plugged the filter in without clearing the air out first and it did not turn on. As soon as I realized it I unplugged it then cleared the air out and plugged it back in ad it still didn’t turn on. Any thoughts or suggestions? It worked fine until I unplugged it to clean the cartridge.

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