Best Above Ground Pool Pumps [March 2017]

It’s no secret that more and more consumers are looking to beat the heat by installing above ground pools every year, but you shouldn’t forget about important accessories such as above ground pool pumps or ladders as they’re essential for a pool to function properly.

As annual heat temperatures record are broken every summer and the economy picks up, more families than ever before are looking for economical ways to spend time together and get some refreshment from rising summer heat.

If you have decided to purchase an above ground pool, one of the first accessories you will need in an above ground pool pump.

Shopping for above ground pool pumps can be overwhelming. With so many terms, unfamiliar to the new pool owner, and parts to consider, it’s no wonder many pool owners are ready to throw in the towel before their pool is even set up!

With hundreds of options available from a wide variety of sellers, first you must understand the basics of pool pump technology, and then you can pick the best above ground pool pump for your setup and needs.

To better understand why above ground pool pumps are necessary; let’s look at their role in a basic pool setup.

Pool pumps are considered the heart of the swimming pool’s circulation system—it pumps water through the skimmer system and main drain, pushing water then through the filter and returning it to the pool.

Without a pool pump, your pool cleaning system is completely useless. Above ground pool pumps are usually located below the water level, unlike in-ground pool pumps, where gravity forces water into the pump.

Components of an Above Ground Pool Pump

Above ground pool pumps consist of three main components:

  1. The motor – The motor is electric and air cooled, open to the environment, so take heed to any excess water entering the motor through the cooling vents on the underside of the motor housing.
  2. The impeller – The impeller is connected to the end of the shaft of the motor and as it turns, pulls water in through the hair and lint trap at the end of the pump – pushing this water out of the top of the pump through a pipe, pushing it down to the filter. Check the impeller regularly to ensure it is not clogged with debris. If the pressure gauge is reading low, then the amount of water flowing back to the pool has decreased, typically because of a clog in the impeller.
  3. The hair and lint trap – A special trap for hair and lint is located at the end of the pump to prevent debris from entering the impeller assembly. The basket of the trap should be checked and emptied regularly – at least twice per week. Clogged hair and lint tramps lead to restriction of water flow and will cause the pump to pump air instead of water. This problem is known as “loss of prime” and can burn the motor of a pool pump, therefore, it is absolutely mandatory to check the basket and impeller every other day for clogs or debris.

Proper cleaning and maintenance schedules are an absolute must to keep your above ground pool pump running well for the life of your pool.

If you have algae in your pool, one problem could be that you do not have the correct pool pump for your above ground pool.

Pump failure usually results in a very green pool, very quickly!

Because the primary function of above ground pool pumps is to remove debris from the water, from large leaves to sand and dust, you must choose the correct pool pump for your system or your water will quickly become dirty and unmanageable.

The right above ground pool pump can keep your pool water clean and save you both money and time on manual cleaning costs.

When to Run an Above Ground Pool Pump

Two factors should help you determine what time of day to run your above ground pool pump: energy cost and chemical demand.

Due to the higher cost of electricity in many parts of the world during the day, it may be advisable to run your pool pump at night, from sunset to sunrise.

Chlorine levels should remain at or above 3.0 ppm during daylight hours.

During summer months, chemical demand is at its peak due to UV light and higher usage, as well as more debris typically with pollen, flower petals, and tree leaves floating into the pool.

At monthly averages of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, the pump should operate for a minimum of five hours per day.

It’s typically recommended to keep your above ground pool pump running at least 12 hours per day during summer and 5 hours per day during cooler months.

This could be divided into multiple cycles, though that may be more trouble to the operator, constantly running in and out to turn the pump on and off.

Consider your flow rate as well – the pump should always be run a minimum of one turnover cycle, typically 4 – 5 hours at any one time.

What determines the price of an above ground pool pump?

Pool pumps vary in price for above ground pool pump systems, with two key elements determining what pool pump is best for your system:

Flow rate, measured in gallons per minute (GPM) and head, measured by feet of resistance or “feet of head.”

To properly determine the best above ground pool pump for your system, you must first understand these two terms, and how to calculate them.

Many consumers believe that higher horsepower always equals better filtration, but this is not always the case.

Having the right pool pump will help you avoid unnecessary wear on your other equipment and prevent wasting electricity.

Flow Rate of Above Ground Pool Pump Systems

Flow rate refers to how much water can be moved within a certain amount of time. To calculate flow rate, you must first determine how often your above ground pool pump filters the total amount of water in your pool.

One to two turnovers per day with a turnover time of 5 – 10 hours is recommended for longevity and clean water.

To determine your flow rate:

  1. Determine the capacity in your pool (usually shown by manufacturers in gallons. For this example we will use 10,000 gallons.)
  2. Divide the total gallon capacity of your pool by the number of hours you want per turnover (for this example, we will use the recommended 10 hour turnover time.)
  3. Divide this number by 60 to determine the flow rate per minute (GPM).

So if we have a 10,000 gallon above ground pool and we want one turnover to take ten hours, the minimum desired flow rate would be 16.66 GPM (17 GPM rounded).

This is a relatively low GPM rating – much lower than many consumers would assume, wasting precious electricity, money, and wear on other parts of the system by unnecessary horsepower.

The number of intakes on your pool also affects maximum flow rate. As pool water rushes through the line to the pump, it is passed through the filter, further restricting maximum flow.

This is why it is important to pay attention to the maximum flow rate on your pool filter as well. Sand filters, cartridge filters, and D.E. filters all have different maximum flow rates.

“Feet of Head” for Above Ground Pool Pump Systems

“Head” refers to the amount of resistance to water flow that exists in your current plumbing system.

The other parts of your pool system, such as the heater, chemical feeding system, and more, as well as the amount of bends, size, and distance of piping, all play a role in determining the “head” calculation.

Therefore, these calculations can become very complex. Here are a few tips for estimating your total head.

  1. Determine the amount of pipe between the pump and pool return.
  2. If you use a filter, cut this number in half.
  3. 90 degree turns in your plumbing system add 1-2 feet of head per turn.
  4. For each foot below the water surface your return line is, add 1 foot of head to your final number.

Above Ground Pool Pumps Maintenance

Cleaning and maintaining your above ground pool will ensure continued proper pool pump functionality.

  • Keep your pool pump running for the minimum recommended time – 24 hours a day certainly won’t hurt your pool, though it will age the components of the pool pump system quickly. Maintain at least 10-12 hours per day to keep your pool clean and the pool pump components from unnecessary wear. If the pool continues to look dirty, then increase the amount of time your pool pump runs daily as needed.
  • Backwash the filter weekly and treat the pool with chemicals once a season. Check your owner’s manual for cleaning and recharging instructions.
  • Wipe down the walls and floor of your pool at least once a week to disrupt any algae growth, especially in pools with corners and angles.
  • Vacuum your pool at least once a week, more as needed.
  • Use a 4 way test strip weekly to monitor chlorine, Ph, Alkalinity, and bromine in your pool and adjust accordingly. The more you run the pool pump, typically, the less chemicals you will need to use in your pool.
  • Once a week, empty the skimmer basket and pump motor basket (turn the pump motor off first) and backwash the pool filter

Backwashing the pool filter reverses the flow of water through the system, allowing any debris, sand, or lint to be discharged through the backwash line. Following manufacturer’s directions to backwash your system weekly.

With the basics of pool pump knowledge covered, let’s review some of the best above ground pool pumps.

Best Above Ground Pool Pumps

As you calculate your flow rate and feet of head, keep in mind some of these options may be too powerful, or not powerful enough, for your system.

Each of these products is the perfect product for specific circumstances and they are not ranked in any order. What is the perfect pool pump for one above ground pool may not be the best fit for your needs.

hayward above ground pool pumps

Hayward LX Series 1.5HP Above-Ground Pool Pump

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The Hayward SP1580X15 Power-Flo LX Series pump includes a strainer and is rated 100% drip proof, heat resistant, and corrosion proof.

The 1.5HP Pump and 1HP Pump sells for a very reasonable price, both with free shipping.

The clear cover lets you see when the extra-large basket needs cleaning, while the thermoplastic housing shields the unit from weather and debris.

This above ground pool pump claims to also be one of the quietest on the market, which may be important to those not wanting their relaxing pool session to be interrupted by loud motors.

The extra-large basket keeps cleanings to a minimum and the PermaGlass cover lets the owner simply peer into the basket to check for any debris instead of having to open the entire unit and remove the basket before visualizing any necessary maintenance.

The thermal overload with shut the motor off under abnormal conditions such as overheating if clogged before damage to the motor occurs, a wonderful safety addition.

Pros:-

  • Plenty of power for 13,000 gallon above ground pools
  • Easy to see and clean extra-large debris basket
  • Quiet, less noisy option for pool owners
  • Can be easily rotated to horizontal position by loosening 4 bolts and turning

Cons:-

  • No off switch, user must unplug to complete cleaning cycle
  • One speed of use

black above ground pool pump

Hayward SP15932S Above-Ground Pool Pump

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As one of the only complaints about the previous mentioned above ground pool pump was the inability to switch speeds, we found the Hayward Power-Flo 2-Speed Above Ground Pool Pump has reasonable price and comes with free shipping for the 1.5HP option.

This pool pump boasts an industrial-sized strainer basket for large debris collection (and therefore less cleaning or emptying), easy conversion from vertical to horizontal use, an energy efficient, protected switch, and an automatic thermal overload protector.

As previously mentioned, the unit may be switched from high to low speeds, affecting the water flow and disruption as well as sound output.

It also features a clear basket so that the owner may peer in for cleaning purposes, as opposed to removing the entire basket unnecessarily.

Pros:-

  • Could be run 24 hours per day at low speed for maximum energy savings
  • Clear basket for maintenance
  • Quiet unit

Cons:-

  • No off switch
  • 1 year limited warranty

Small Above Ground Pool Pump

Intex Krystal Clear Pump for Above Ground Pools

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For a very reasonable price, with almost 800 5 star reviews, this unit appears to be one of the best above ground pool pumps on the market.

It boasts 41.66 GPM, 110-120V, and replaceable cartridges. There is a sediment flush valve at the bottom of the filter chamber and it is specifically recommended for Intex’s line of 18 foot Easy Set and Metal Frame pools, though in the fine print it states it will work with any pool up to 24 feet in diameter.

The built in timer allows you to operate the pool pump effortlessly, without having to turn it on and off or unplug it twice per day.

Pros:-

  • Inexpensive
  • Great GPM rate
  • Built in timer for operating automatically
  • Included in box: bulkheads, plungers, and 2 hoses

Cons:-

  • Type B cartridges must be replaced weekly or bi-weekly
  • Limited to smaller pools up to 24 feet in diameter

intex sand filter pool pump

Intex Sand Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools

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The Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools comes in a variety of GPH options, with the most powerful 3000 GPH (50GPM) option selling for over 150 dollars, by far the most economical above ground pool pump on the market for the power.

The all natural sand provides water filtration as the 6-function control valve allows the owner to filter, backwash, recirculate, or drain and close the system at the end of the swimming season.

Intex also includes a 24 hour timer, adding to the hassle-free maintenance for any pool owner not wishing to constantly manually time and turn their pool pump on and off or plug and unplug the system.

This particular above ground pool pump has a flow rate of 3,000 gallons per hour, ideal for above ground pools 16 foot in diameter and above.

As far as maintenance is concerned, pool owners must simply replace the sand in the filter once every five years. At .95HP, the motor is not as powerful as some, though as we mentioned above, more horsepower does not always equal the best set up for your above ground pool pump needs.

The strainer basket is also clear for easy viewing and requires lower frequency of cleaning than other, smaller strainer baskets.

Pros:-

  • Maintenance friendly: sand must be replaced once every 5 years
  • Great for larger above ground pools
  • Quiet operation and 6 function switch

Cons:-

  • Lower horsepower than other units, be sure to figure your calculations before purchasing
  • Restricted to pools under 8,400 gallons

As you can see, there is a lot of science to purchasing the right pool pump for your needs.

By understanding the components of a pool pump, the calculations needed to measure exact output needs, and reviewing the best above ground pool pumps, you can easily pull the trigger on the perfect pool pump purchase today.

With regularly monitoring, weekly maintenance, and careful ownership, your above ground pool pump will last for many years to come.

 

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