How to Select the Best Swimming Pool Filter Pool Filters at A Glance Sand filters Cartridge filters Diatomaceous earth (DE) filters When should you clean your pool filter? Recommended Brands FAQs: Swimming Pool Filter Systems

How to Select the Best Swimming Pool Filter

There are dozens of choices to make when designing and building a swimming pool: Do you want an inground pool or an above ground pool? Do you want a sleek rectangle, or a more organic freeform shape? Should you go with a plaster finish? Or is a sparkly textured aggregate more your style?

One of the most important decisions you’ll make, though, is about your swimming pool filter. Your filter is a critical piece of equipment: It keeps your pool water clear and free of dirt and debris, which in turn helps ensure that your swimming pool water is balanced and healthy.

But if you’ve spent any time shopping for a pool filter, you’ve probably noticed that there are several options to choose from. Which one is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at the three main types of pool filter systems: sand, DE, and cartridge filters.

Sand filters

A popular choice with pool owners looking for a wallet-friendly option, this type of filter uses a specialized, extra-fine sand to trap dirt and debris. Sand filters do a respectable job of keeping your swimming pool water clean, and maintenance is pretty simple: You’ll need to backwash your filter once a week to keep it from clogging, and once a year you’ll want to do a more thorough deep cleaning.

sand filter

An added bonus: pool filter sand is long-lasting (you can go 5 to 7 years before replacing it). It’s affordable, too, which means that you won’t break the bank when replacement time comes around.

A few things to consider before you commit: Sand filters aren’t quite as efficient as diatomaceous earth (DE) filters, and some pool owners find the weekly backwashing tedious. Weekly backwashing also means higher water consumption, which means that sand filters may not be the most conservation-friendly option out there.

Cartridge filters

Pool owners looking for a good balance of price and performance won’t be disappointed with a cartridge filter. Although they cost more than sand filters, cartridge filters offer improved filtration capabilities and do not require weekly backwashing.

swimming pool filter

As far as maintenance, cartridge filters aren’t super-demanding: Simply take out the pool filter cartridge, give it a good rinse with a garden hose every few weeks (we recommend anywhere between 2 to 6 weeks, depending on how often you use your pool).

It’s worth pointing out that you will need to replace the cartridge every 3 to 5 years -- and cartridges can be pricy. If you’ve got a superpowered pool pump, a cartridge filter might not be the best fit for you: This type of filter is most compatible with low-flow or variable speed pumps.

Diatomaceous earth (DE) filters

We’re not gonna lie: DE filters are expensive. But if you want the best of the best -- and if you’ve got some wiggle room in your pool filter budget -- DE filters offer the best filtration capabilities you can get. Sand and cartridge filters simply can’t compete with the cleaning power of DE.

These high-performance filters work with pools of any size and filters of any speed. And, even though they look kind of like sand filters, they don’t require weekly backwashing. They do, however, require a yearly deep-clean -- and some pool owners find the job to be difficult and labor-intensive, which is worth keeping in mind if you’re considering a DE filter.

de filter

The cleaning power of … fossils?

Although diatomaceous earth looks like sand, it’s actually a fine powder made from crushed, fossilized algae exoskeletons. So if you’ve got a DE filter, you’re basically cleaning your pool with fossils. How cool is that?

When should you clean your pool filter?

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FAQs: Swimming Pool Filter Systems

What is the best type of swimming pool filter?

All three types of swimming pool filters (sand, cartridge, and DE filters) have their own unique pros and cons, and there’s no one-size-fits-all filter. If you’re on a budget, you might want to choose a sand filter, which does a good job of removing dirt and debris at a wallet-friendly price. If you want a solid balance of price and performance (and you have a smaller pool and a variable-speed pump), a cartridge filter might be the right fit for you. And if you want top-of-the-line filtration capabilities and you don’t mind spending a little extra, a DE filter is a great choice.

What size swimming pool filter do I need?

The size of your filter will depend on how many gallons of water your swimming pool holds. It also depends on whether you have an in-ground or an above ground pool (above-ground swimming pools usually need smaller filters than in-ground pools do).

Pro tip: Go big (if you can). A larger filter will typically do a better job of keeping your pool clean and healthy. If you can afford to size up to a larger model, it’s worth it.

How do you clean a swimming pool filter?

Each type of filter has a slightly different cleaning and maintenance regimen. Sand filters, for example, require weekly backwashing and an annual deep-cleaning to keep them in good working order. Cartridge filters require you to remove and rinse the filter every 2 to 6 weeks, plus an annual deep cleaning. DE filters don’t require weekly backwashing or rinsing, but they do require an annual deep cleaning that some pool owners find labor intensive.