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Upgrading Your Above Ground Pool Pump and Filter System

It's a problem for many small to medium sized above ground pool systems: they have a pump or filter that's too small. This is often because above ground pool kits are packaged so that the entire pool and its accessories can fit in a single box. Consequently, the pump and filter unit is often on the smaller side.

Certain big box retailers also configure their pool-in-a-box kits to have even smaller and weaker pump and filter units to lower their shipping, storage, and costs of goods.

Thus, many first-time pool owners wonder why they have so much trouble keeping the water clear. Despite running the pump for 12 or more hours per day, they have difficulty with cloudy water or preventing algae in their soft-sided pools. Spoiler alert – it's usually because the pump and filter is too small!

What's the Solution?

If the filter and/or pump are somewhat undersized for your swimming pool, there are a few things you can do to maintain healthy pool water.

  1. Run an undersized pump and filter 24/7 to keep the water clear.
  2. Use more chlorine to help break down contaminants, reducing filter demand.
  3. Use an algaecide and a clarifier to further aid the filter.
  4. Keep the pool as clean as possible with vacuuming, brushing and skimming.
  5. OR, you can upgrade your above ground pool filter and pump with something better.

Benefits of Upgrading Your Above Ground Pool Pump and Filter

benefits of upgrading your above ground pool pump and filter

  1. Vacuuming: One-piece pump and filter units are not only small, but typically have no strainer basket. This makes vacuuming the pool impossible, and pool owners must use a separate vacuum device powered by a garden hose. This is not always effective, especially if you have low water pressure.
  2. Reduced Run Time: The pool water in an above ground pool should be turned over twice per day. This means all the water in your above ground pool should go through the filter at least twice in a 24-hour period. Stronger pumps can do this faster, filtering all pool water in just a few hours.
  3. Water Clarity: The small cartridge filters that come with small above ground pools are often no bigger than an oil can, with only 6-9 square feet of filter surface area. That's not much. A larger cartridge (25-50 sq. ft.) or small sand filter will keep your water cleaner and clearer more easily.
  4. Reduced Chemical Use: As mentioned above, to compensate for an undersized filter, you may find it necessary to use more chlorine, algaecides, or clarifiers to assist the filter. With a larger filter, you'll keep the water free of particulates, so less expensive or fewer chemicals will be needed to correct problems and combat contaminants.
  5. Less Worry: An undersized filter needs to be cleaned every week. It also has trouble handling summer storms, and needs almost daily supervision. Larger systems set on a time clock automatically turn on and off, and can run for a month between cleanings.

How to Upgrade an Above Ground Filter and Pump System

The simplest route is to just increase the size of your pump and filter.

  1. Find your current size of pump and filter square footage on the label.
  2. Decide on a budget, somewhere between $100-$500.
  3. Take a look at our above ground pool filter and pump combos.

Soft-Sided Above Ground Pools

soft-sided above ground sand filter

Intex cartridge filter systems are sized by GPH (gallons per hour) of water flow rate. If you currently have a 530 GPH, you can make the easy switch to a 1,000 GPH filter. If you have the 1,500 GPH, there are also 2,500 and 4,000 GPH pump and filter units made specifically for Intex pools.

Intex also makes a nice little sand filter system, with a separate pump and strainer basket. These are sold by the diameter of the sand filter tank: 12", 14", or 16". Sand filters are easy to backwash, and you only have to change the sand every few years. Having a large pump basket makes it quick to vacuum the pool, and the clear lid helps you know when to empty the pump basket. For more suggestions and tips related to upgrading an Intex pool filter pump, head over to our blog post, Intex Pool Filter Pump Upgrades: A Buyer's Guide.

Steel Frame Above Ground Pools

If you don't have a soft-sided or Intex style pool, all you have to do is look at our above ground filter and pump selection. Make note of your current pump and filter specs, and find a pairing that offers more horsepower and greater filter surface area. You'll have a large selection of cartridge or sand pool filters to choose from.

steel frame above ground cartridge filter

If you are looking at sand filter systems, the Hayward Pro Series pump and filter systems is a popular choice. They're easy to find replacement parts for, and customer service is readily available if you need it. The Hayward above ground sand filters are available in 14", 16", 18", and 21" in diameter, and are paired with three different pump sizes.

If you are a fan of cartridge filtration, take a look at the Hayward X-Stream filter system. It has a large capacity element of up to 150 sq. ft. and is available with either a 1 HP or 1.5 HP pump. The pump features a clear lid and oversized pump basket.

The cartridge on the X-Stream filter is much like the one used on smaller pools, but in a larger size. On a pool of 10,000 gallons, you could expect this filter to go at least a month between cleanings.

Installing Your New Above Ground Pool Pump and Filter

above ground pool pump and filter

There's usually not much to worry about with the installation of a new pump and filter. Plug the lines at the pool, and simply remove the hoses from the old system and connect them to the new system. Remove the plugs to fill the pump with water, and plug the cord into a grounded outlet.

Keep in mind that larger, more powerful pumps may be too strong for very small Intex style hoses. If your hoses are crimping or stretching, you may need to buy heavy duty pool filter hoses.

As mentioned earlier, you can use a timer on a larger filter system to run the pump only 8-12 hours daily. For this, you can plug in a simple time clock into any grounded outlet, and then plug the pump cord into the time clock. Set the on and off dogs, and your pump timer will handle the rest.

When it comes to above ground pool filters, size matters! If you're stuck with a small filter, it won't work efficiently. Upgrade your above ground pool with a larger filter and pump system to get the most out of your pool care routine.

In The Swim makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and In The Swim assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. In The Swim assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.