Your pool filter is the workhorse of your pool equipment. Regardless of whether your pool is an inground pool or an above ground pool, the filter is one of the most important pieces of equipment you will purchase. Choosing the correct filter type and size will determine if keeping your pool water clean and balanced is routine and easy or an expensive, time-consuming nightmare.
There are three basic types of filters: sand filters, diatomaceous earth filters (DE filters), and cartridge filters. They all have the same purpose—to remove as much of the small particles of dirt in the water as possible and to maximize the effectiveness of the chemicals used to sanitize the water. Each type has benefits and weaknesses that should help you to determine which system is best for you.
Sand Filters. The sand filter is the least expensive filter to purchase when setting up your pool. It is also the easiest to maintain. You will have to buy the sand separate from the filter, so factor that into your cost. The sand filter will need occasional cleaning. You can tell when to clean it through backwashing by watching for a pressure increase due to the build-up of particles in the filter. You should not have to replace the sand for five or more years. Depending on the amount of use your pool receives, as well as your effort to keep the pool well balanced and clean, you may have to backwash more or less frequently. The size of your filter is also a determining factor. The best advice when purchasing your filter is to go big! Your filter should be at least one and a half times bigger than the size recommended for your pool—or more. Your maintenance of the filter and the wear and tear on the system will be significantly decreased by buying the largest system you can afford.
DE Filters. The DE filter is the most efficient filter—but it’s also the most expensive. The DE filter will catch the smallest particles of the three filter systems. The DE system has a grid that is coated with the diatomaceous earth. The filter is also cleaned by backwashing; however, you will then have to replace the DE to recoat the grid. In addition, the filter will need to be taken apart at the end of the season to clean the grid completely and again replace the DE. The advantage of the DE system is, because it removes much smaller particles, the pool should require far fewer chemicals to keep it in balance.
Cartridge Filters. The cartridge filter has been used primarily for spas and small pools, but, with the improvements in technology and larger sized cartridges, they are quickly increasing in popularity for large pools. The filter is made of spun polyester fabric that has been pleated to increase the surface area that filters the water. The cartridge requires less maintenance and repairs than the other types of filters. Again, the size of your filter is of critical importance. When the pressure builds, indicating that the filter needs cleaning, the filter is removed and hosed off with an ordinary garden hose, top to bottom, and returned to the cartridge. This uses much less water than the process of backwashing with the other systems. If you have purchased the correct size system, ideally you will only clean the filter a couple of times per season, and your filter should last about five years. Note that it is better to allow the filter to dry completely after cleaning, so some people buy two sets and replace the dirty one with the replacement set while the original set dries.
Saltwater pools are becoming very popular. Any of the three choices of filters will work with the salt water pool.
Whichever type of filter you decide to purchase, the size is the most important feature. Think about all the things that influence your pool. Will the pool see heavier use as your kids get older? As your landscape matures, will there be a likelihood of more debris entering the pool? Do you plan to remove some shade trees that will result in your pool having full sun most of the day?
You will never regret having a larger filter, but buying an undersized filter will be a regret for the life of your equipment. The initial cost savings will be used up in buying the additional pool chemicals, running the filter longer each day, and cleaning the filters multiple times each season.