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. Mathew,
    Need to tell you bout something stupid i did.
    Got cover off and my pool as always was slimy and few leaves in it. I got leaves out,filled up to skimmer,at same time,I brushed up floor to get it to circulate to skimmer..Backwashed a few times and as it started to clear,added shock..The water started to clear and left filter going over night and went to bed..When I was filling up with fresh water,I unhooked from spigot on house but did not remove fill end from pool..I woke up around 2am in morning and water level was below skimmer line. Where the time dictated,I shut off pump and went back to bed figuring I would deal with it when it wasn’t dark..Where I left hose end in pool,water was pumping out from spigot end.
    Very stupid…I hope people don’t do what I did😂

  2. We just put up a coleman steel.frame 18’x48″ and when water is going through filter and pushed back into pool is the filter supposed to be full of water coming out top ? Ours only does if you lock the part that pushes it back into water?

  3. Hi

    I live in Scotland and private pools really aren’t a thing here but we have an indoor inground 25000 liter pool. We recently installed a new filter but now the pump won’t prime… the pool only has a couple of feet of water in it at present as it was being washed out after a period of being empty. 

This pool has NO skimmers, just a single main drain which attaches to the pump. 

Would the low water level prevent the pump priming?

If we fill the pump, the water just disappears away back into the pool before we can get the lid on.

If we fill the filter and fill the pump (while it is switched on- stupid I know😣), pressure builds but as soon as we open the exit valve the filter empties. When we switch off the pump it empties too.

There is no valve on the pool-to-pump pipes but this previously wasn’t a problem.

Should I try to fill the pool higher? So frustrated by priming failure!

  4. Please don’t judge. I was backwashing my filter and put it on the rinse cycle. I was putting chlorine in real quick when my niece yelled from inside the house for help. Needless to say I got distracted and it ran on rinse for 2 hours before I realized what I did. Pool lost at least a foot of water ! Did I break the filter ?! Help

    1. The pump is going to be the bigger worry because if it ran dry for that long, there could be severe damage done to the internal parts. Does the pump motor turn on, and does it still pump water?

  5. Need advice. There has been record rain this winter and the pool water is halfway up skimmer in AG pool. It was winterized and closed (nothing removed though). How do I get water out of the lines and the level down in the pool? Will the water have infiltrated the filter too? Pool guy is no longer around (the one who winterized) and I’m lost.

    1. I live in Florida so I don’t know how you would go about re-winterizing your equipment. I would add though that they make covers that close your skimmer opening with, and plugs to close your return line. You may need those.

  6. Hello Sir am a new pool owner in South africa my son accidentlly switched the selector valve from filter to recirculate for 10 seconds and turned it back to filter. A strange sound started so i turned off the pump then switched it back on back. And today my heater system seems not to heat up the pool. Is my filter damaged kindly asist.

    1. Hello Victor – if the valve was moved from Filter to recirculate, the flow of water should have still been through the heater. The constant flow should have prevented the heater from damaging itself due to overheating. Is your heater flashing any error codes? If so, what is the make and model number of your heater?

      Has the filter stopped continued making noises? Also, has pressure in the system dropped?

  7. Good day sir. My pot with water at the.pump runs empty 30 minutes.or so after the.pool has been switch off. My pump is 30 cm higher than the.pool butthis.never happened.in the.last 2 months..only now. Any advise please sir? Pump is good whilst on.

  8. What happens if we left the filter on waste on all night and the water level was below the skimmer in the morning. No idea how long it was pulling in air?

    1. First, turn off the pump and add water to the correct levels. Next, prime the pool pump and then turn it on to see if the system has been damaged from possibly running dry. The most likely problem that could arise from running the pump dry is parts of the pump could overheat and even melt. if the pump doesn’t start, then you pool pump motor needs troubleshooting. If there are leaks in the in pump then gaskets and hardware may need replacing.

  9. I have just installed a new pump for my inground pool because there was not water pumping from the pool into filter or chlorinater but it has not solved the problem, I still have no water flow at all. Does this mean there is a blockage in the pipes

  10. Hi, I just installed a Waterway 1hp dual speed pump for above ground pool. It came with 3 prong plug and an ‘on-off’ switch at the back of the pump. The company I bought it from stated that this is a dual speed pump but I cannot find a way to switch from hi to low speed. Can you tell me how to do this?

    Serial #: SP 180619 7593
    Model #: SP-10-1N11MB
    Part #: 3410413 – 1502

    1. SP-10-1N11MB is a single speed pump. Search it on InyoPools.com or Google and you will see the results. You can also look on the motor label for the RPM rating. If it was a dual speed the RPMs would say 3450/1725, if it was single speed then it would say 3450.

  11. I was getting ready to vacuum my pool and I turned my pump off to backwash first. When I went to turn it back on, nothing happened. It just makes a noise but will not pump. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi, did you ever figure this out? I just backwashed the pool without turning on the pump, and now the pump isn’t working… any ideas how I can fix this? I’m hoping you found an easy answer!

  12. My pump ran dry for about 90 minutes. I still don’t know why but it seems to be running fine now. I think the cover on the pump basket lid was loose allowing air in. Is there anything I should do? Everything seems to be running OK now

  13. When the pool is running and pressure is at 20psi where it should be there are no bubbles whatsoever in the basket in front of the motor. I can turn the valves from skimmer to pool and back and not lose any pressure or see bubbles, however when I connect my Hayward pool sweep ( with all new hoses) to my skimmer I get a awful lot of air in the basket and seem to lose prime with pressure dropping down to 10psi but pool vacuum still operates and cleans up bottom of pool but very slowly. After I disconnect pool vacuum and manually take air out of system everything is back to normal. Very confused..

    1. A simple cause of the bubbles could be trapped air in the hose. If you plunk the hose into the pool and start hooking it to the skimmer you can introduce a lot of air into the system. When you start to install the hose, always completely submerge it to push out any air pockets. Also, try installing the cleaner head side of the hose first and submerging the cleaner then attach the suction side. So when you attach the other side and start the pump, it is pulling water with no chance of it gasping air while you fiddle with the hose.

  14. What causes pump strainer basket to get stuck real tight so I can`t remove it. This started happening lately, Thanks

  15. Good morning I hope somebody can guide me;I have a 20×40 unground pool which is loosing approx 2 inches of water daily; we called a specialist; did the bucket test; he brought in a diver to test,found nothing; we did the plug all skimmers and eyes for 24 h test; still leaking;im out $800 and still have no answers…I don t know what to check or do…

  16. Hello, getting an 15×30 oval on-ground pool installed soon. how far can I hard pipe the filter and pump ? I am not sure of the pump brand but it is a 2.5hp

  17. I just set up a 12’*30” Intex pool might be stupid question but does the suction screen and out out need the little plugs that came with pump kit?? The directions are very vague and it doesn’t seem like water will be sucked in or spit out with them in my pictures show them in but very vague on if there supposed to stay in during operation!

  18. Question:

    The motor that runs the filter and the infloor cleaning system keeps going out. What would cause this? We have a 20,200 gallon saltwater pool with the In Floor Cleaning system. The Motor that runs the filter system is a 2.0HP this is the one that has gone out and has been replaced 3 times in the last 6 yearsand the Motor that runs the fountains is a 1.5HP this motor has lasted just fine for the last 6 years.

  19. Hi. I have a huge problem. Last night, i added water in the pool and forgot to turn it off, obviously the motor is filled with water since the motor is very closed to the pool. I turned it off, removed the water and let it dry from last night till 1pm the next day since it very hot here. When i turned it on it has a very weird sound and i immedietely turned it off. But still the motor was running. How am i gonna able to stop this? Thank you

    1. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do at this point; other than hope it dries out completely. The bearings may have been compromised, which will only worsen over time even if you keep the motor dry. Bad bearings sound like a loud screeching. The motor will still run but will annoy everyone within earshot Some of the electrical components could have been damaged. Depending on what they are, they can be easily replaced.

  20. Hi Matthew
    My skimmer lines have collapsed in my pool and with it coming into summer here in Spain I do not want to start digging work with family here. As a alternative I thought maybe run a Vac hose from my Vacuum port , which runs fine, into one of my skimmer ports thus the other skimmer will pull in the water. But will this put any extra pressure on my pump?

  21. Hello we have basically a brand new Jandy VS pump system for our inground pool. I have the pump scheduled to auto run at certain times of the day/night and the cleaner to run at other times of the da/night. Lately ive noticed that my cleaner shows “on” on my controller, but my pumps not running, so the cleaner isn’t really on or doing anything. I was under the assumption that telling the controller to run the cleaner would turn the pump on to the preset speed for the cleaner. Any suggestions?

  22. would our pump not prime itself if we have plugged up a leak in our Jacuzzi? we have tried all the priming techniques but nothing seems to get the suction going.

    1. PLugging a leak in the basin of a jacuzzi would not be the sole reason to cause a pump, not to prime. Now if you improperly clogged the leak or maybe just slowed the leak and the water level within the spa was so low enough to where the jacuzzi’s skimmer was not covered by water, then that would be a problem. If your jacuzzi’s skimmer was not filled with water it would draw air, thereby preventing your pump from priming.

  23. Hello, so we recently bought our first home and it had an inground pool that had not been updated since the 70s. we had them come put a new deck, replaster, and new tile. first time pool owners so we are excited. then once we filled up our pool the pump wasn’t really working correct so someone finally came out and said whoever the seller got to install the pump to pass for the appraisal installed the pipes backwards so our pump was basically working backwards. we finally got that fixed and notice our Jacuzzi kept losing water fast but the pool was fine so same pool guy advised us to plug the jets if problem still happens plug the bottom. boom problem solve the bottom of the Jacuzzi was leaking once we plugged it up it retained water. we figured we didn’t need to get that fixed since we live here in Texas we wont be using our Jacuzzi anyway. everything was working great our water cleared up it looked amazing. 2 days later our pump stops working and doesn’t want to suck in water. could that be because we plugged the Jacuzzi? we recently had our warranty company come out and they told us its a leak under the pool because the pump and everything looks like its working fine. I wish I knew more about pools to argue it but I cant figure out why and we keep spending money for ppl to come out and help with nothing ;(

    1. PLugging a leak in the basin of a jacuzzi would not be the sole reason to cause a pump, not to prime. Now if you improperly clogged the leak or maybe just slowed the leak and the water level within the spa was so low enough to where the jacuzzi’s skimmer was not covered by water, then that would be a problem. If your jacuzzi’s skimmer was not filled with water it would draw air, thereby preventing your pump from priming.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recommended Resources

Disassembling a Pool Pump - Tips & Tricks

Disassembling a Pool Pump – Tips & Tricks

We here at INYO pride ourselves in being upfront about pool and spa maintenance and being more than willing to help...
Read Now

What is the correct orientation for my pump shaft seal?

October 25, 2017
What is the correct orientation for my pool pump shaft seal? In this video, we look at the correct orientation for...
Watch Now

Century’s New V-Green Pool and Spa Motors: Part I

It is customary for manufacturers to come out with new, improved products every few years. Sure, there are some hero products...
Read Now

Should I run my pool pump during the day or at night?

May 7, 2018
Should I run my pool pump during the day or at night? In this video, we discuss whether it’s better to...
Watch Now

Looking for pool parts?

Shop Motors Shop Filters Shop Pumps Shop Salt Systems Shop Lights Shop Cleaners
Copyright © 2020 INYOpools All rights reserved