Works reliably, even if run 24/7. Allows for customized speed settings and scheduling. Energy use feature. Runs quietly, with noticeable energy savings over older pumps.
Can build up air bubbles if operated at low speed for a long time. Scheduling run times can be difficult even after reading guide. Strainer basket is a bit small.
Powerful enough to keep average-sized above-ground pools fresh and circulating. Scheduling timer is convenient.
May take some retrofitting to securely fit above-ground pools, as hoses and other attachments aren’t universal. Filter needs to be cleaned more often than sand-type filters.
Fairly straightforward for experienced DIYers to install. Runs super quiet. Offers years of reliable operation, owners report. Keeps pool water circulating and fresh.
Reports of seals leaking after installation. Does not handle back pressure well. Filter can fill up quickly. Pump interior may rust after a few years of use.
Moves water very well into above-ground pool. No effort needed to open and close strainer basket lid to clean filter.
Just adequate for most pools, with pool cleaners running slowly when attached to pump. Minor leakage from seals reported.
Almost painless installation. Runs quiet and cool. Strainer top is easy to open.
Pump’s lifespan is fairly short, lasting less than 2 years for some. Not powerful enough for some pools. Pump seals can fail.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Just as your body has a circulatory system that is vital to your health and well-being, so does your pool. When the water circulates, it passes through a filter that removes undesirable particles, helping to keep your pool safe for you to enter. Circulating water also makes certain that any chemicals you add to sanitize the water get evenly dispersed throughout the entire pool, making them more effective. And if you have a heater, that hot water isn't going to travel around on its own. The one component responsible for all of this is the pump – the heart of your pool's circulatory system.
Whether you're getting a new pool or replacing an old pump, there are many things you need to consider before making your purchase. Choosing a pump isn't as easy as simply buying the biggest, most powerful one you can afford. In fact, besides being a costly waste of energy, running a pump that’s too strong for your pool can cause a great deal of damage. Conversely, if you try to save a few bucks and underestimate your needs, you will find yourself running into a whole new world of problems. So what do you do?
BestReviews is here to help. Knowledge is your greatest asset when shopping for a pool pump, and we have the facts for you. This shopping guide can help you find the pump that's perfect for your pool. To get you started off on the right foot (or fin), we've listed some of our favorite pumps at the top of this page.
Pool pump technology hasn’t changed much in the past 2,000 years: water is sucked in and pushed out, creating a current that circulates the water in your pool. For our purposes now, we only need to consider three key elements of your pump: the motor, the impeller, and the filter basket.
Motor: This is your pool pump’s power source. It's what makes the pump work. The pool pump motor nameplate will provide information such as the horsepower, service factor (multiply horsepower by this number to get the actual horsepower), voltage, and more. Although these numbers all provide valuable information, the most important thing you need to know when buying a pump is the flow rate – how many gallons per minute it can pump. You can obtain that information from the pump manufacturer.
Impeller: This is the fan-like part that the motor spins. As the blades whirl, they pull the water in one side of the pump and force it out the other.
Just what you need
The Super Pump is a tough little workhorse engineered for quiet yet efficient performance. The user-friendly design has a see-through strainer cover with an oversized debris basket that can be accessed without any tools. If you need to get to the pump's internal components, only four bolts stand in your way. For your typical backyard pool, this is just what you need.
The length of time it takes for all the water in your pool system to pass through the filter is called the turnover rate. To maintain healthy swimming conditions, your turnover rate should be approximately eight hours. To find the perfect pump for your pool, you must find the pump that can accomplish this feat. This number is measured in gallons per minute (gpm) and is called the flow rate.
Flow rate: Determine the total amount of gallons your pool holds and divide that by 8, then divide that answer by 60. That number is the gallons per minute that your pump needs to move in order to filter all the water in your pool in eight hours.
Additionally, if you have an in-ground pool, you'll need a pump that is strong enough to overcome the resistance that is created by trying to force water through all the pipes of your pool. That number is measured in feet of head.
Resistance: Measure the distance between each skimmer and drain to your pump. Add those numbers together. Divide that total by the number of skimmers and drains in your system. That number is your feet of head.
Use these two numbers (flow rate and resistance) to reference pool pump flow charts (available from each pump manufacturer) to determine how much horsepower you will need to achieve a proper turnover rate for your particular pool.
Brushing is the manual part of circulation. The water line, behind ladders, or any place else where grime tends to build up needs to be regularly scrubbed. This loosens undesirable particles and sends them on their way to the filter to be removed from your pool water.
Bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to horsepower. If your pool has deck jets, a waterfall, and long runs of pipe, then higher horsepower is necessary. But if you use a pool pump with too much horsepower, you could do real damage.
Damage to your filter
If your pump has a higher flow rate than your filter, you will eventually damage your filter. The filter must be rated higher than the pump, not equal to. There needs to be a considerable amount of headroom to keep your filter safe.
Damage to your impeller
If your pump is too powerful for your pool, it can create an extreme low-pressure zone at the eye of the impeller, which causes vapor cavities to form in the water. As the water travels out of this extreme low-pressure zone, the cavities implode and the shock wave can damage the impeller. If it sounds like marbles are rolling through your pump, it's probably too powerful.
Damage to your electric bill
Using more horsepower than your pool requires will raise your electric bill disproportionately. In other words, you might be paying up to 65% more for only about a 15% increase in efficiency.
Even though you’re immersed in water, you still sweat when you exert yourself in a pool. As a result, you run the risk of dehydration while engaged in prolonged water activities. Be sure to hydrate.
Now that you’ve figured out the hard stuff, there are a three final criteria to consider before you can find the perfect pump: mounting, voltage, and speed.
Mounting: There are two mounting options for pool pumps: top mount and side mount.
If your filter has an intake on the top, you'll need a top mount pump.
If the intake is on the side, you'll need a side mount pump.
Voltage: There are three options when it comes to voltage requirements: 115, 230, and 115/230.
115 only works off a 120-volt line.
230 only works off a 240-volt line.
115/230 will work off either a 120-volt line or a 240-volt line.
Speed: There are three options when it comes to picking your pump's speed: single speed, dual speed, and variable speed.
Single-speed: This type of pump is either on or off. It operates at one speed, which is determined by the horsepower of the motor.
Dual-speed: This type of pump has a high and a low speed. The high speed is the proper speed the pump should run at when you’re cleaning it or taking care of a water issue. The low speed is an energy-saving mode that allows you to turn over the water using less energy.
Variable-speed: This type of pump allows you to adjust the speed to achieve the optimum flow rate for your pool. It’s the most energy-efficient choice, but it’s also the most costly of the three options.
When the pressure in a pool filter has climbed approximately ten pounds higher than normal, it's time to backwash your pool. Backwashing is a cleaning process that reverses the flow of water through the filter to jettison the particles trapped inside.
Consumer pool pumps range in price from roughly $140 to $1,400. Although there are other contributing factors, horsepower is the main justification for the difference in price.
Pumps with 1 or 1.5 horsepower cost about $140 to $600.
Pumps with 2 horsepower cost between $200 and $800.
Pumps with 3 horsepower can start around $600 and go up to about $1,100. Variable speed pumps can range from $400 to $1,400.
The higher the upper end of the horsepower, the higher the price.
All the bells and whistles
Congratulations! You just became the envy of your neighborhood with this pump. It's quiet, has eight programmable speed settings, a built-in timer, built-in diagnostics, and it's compatible with a number of automated systems. And it's incredibly energy efficient. If your pool needs the power this dynamo delivers, step up to the best.
Keep an eye out for debris. Even with the best pool pumps, circulation isn’t perfect. There will be dead spots where the water doesn't flow as it should. Look at steps, corners, behind ladders, and other areas where debris tends to accumulate. An occasional nudge from your net skimmer will help keep things moving along.
Don’t let air get in the pump. One of the most destructive things you can do to your pump is to let it pump air. Keep the water at the right level, one-third to one-half the way up the pool's skimmer openings. If it's too low and air is being sucked into your pump through the skimmers, you'll soon be looking for another new pool pump.
Watch the water level. If the water level in your pool is above the skimmers, it will still circulate, but the skimmers will cease to do their job. Insects and debris floating on the surface will not be drawn into the skimmer baskets and the water will not be cleaned. If the water level is not lowered, this will eventually create an unhealthy swimming environment.
Q. How long should I run my pump?
A. If you've done all your calculations correctly and have the right pump, your water should be turning over (completely filtered) about every eight hours. That’s all you need. Running it less is not recommended. Running it more won’t result in any adverse side effects except a larger energy bill.
Q. Why are there bubbles coming out of my return line?
A. If there is a significant number of bubbles shooting into your pool, that means air is getting into your system. This isn’t healthy for your pump. Hopefully, it is a quick-fix situation, like a low water level. Otherwise, you'll have to play detective to find out how that air is sneaking into your system. Start with a place that’s easy to check, like around the strainer lid, and then move on to other possibilities like leaks in unions and seals.
Q. There's something gross in my pool, but it isn’t green. What is it?
A. It's probably algae. Algae come in a variety of colors. The most common is that familiar murky green haze that you've no doubt seen at some point in your life. Algae also come in yellow and black, with each of those varieties being harder than the last to kill off. Pink bacteria can also take hold in areas of poor circulation. These can all be tough battles to win, but if you're determined and persistent in your treatment, you will emerge victorious.