The Right Above Ground Pool Filters For Your Pool

Written By: Chris Tebbutt
Date Published: August 6, 2022

Depending on the size of your above ground pool, there are many factors to consider before choosing a pool filter. From Gallon Per Hour volume rate to the appropriate type of filter, it can be quite confusing to figure out all the details.

And no, you can't do without pool filters! A pool filter is an essential piece for every swimming pool.

From cleaning out contaminants, gunk, and other debris, filters keep your swimming pool clean and safe to swim. Otherwise, you don't know the host of bacteria, dirt, dead skin, hair, pee, and poop that will be floating around your pool.

But fear not! Swimming pool filters are relatively affordable compared to the cost of installing an above ground swimming pool. No matter the size of your pool, you'll find the best recommendation that is suited for your swimming pool specifically.

Cartridge Filters vs Sand & D.E Filters

The Right Above Ground Pool Filters For Your Pool 1
The Right Above Ground Pool Filters For Your Pool 2

There are 3 types of swimming pool filters. Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, but depending on the size of an individual's pool size and goals, the selection may vary.

Cartridge filter: Cartridge filters are one of the most affordable filters on the market. For small to medium-sized above ground pools, it may be the best option due to the price and the filtration quality. It's easy to clean, set up, and it's pretty compact, making it fairly straightforward to use.

pool filter getting cleaned to save money

However, cartridge filters can not handle high volume and last about 3-5 years whereas sand and D.E filters can last twice as long. In addition, you will have to take out the cartridge inside the filter tank and clean it every month or so.

Sand filter: A sand filter is suited for medium-sized swimming pools. If you maintain your sand filter well, it can last more than a decade and as the name suggests, you use sand to filter pool water. You only have to replace the sand every 3-5 years, so it's an ideal option for people who want something to last longer without hurting their wallet too much with the initial investment.

On the downside, sand filters do not clean as well as cartridge or D.E filters, so you are forgoing quality.

D.E filters: D.E or diatomaceous earth filters is the best type of swimming pool filter hands down, at least when it comes to quality. Not only do D.E filters last a long time, but you will get crystal clear pool water.

Sadly though, it is quite expensive to buy and maintain. For above ground swimming pool owners, it may be hard to justify the costs if you simply want a decent filter for cleaning pool water.

Our Top Above Ground Pool Filter Recommendations

Now that you know the different types of filter systems, here are our best recommendations.

In general, for small to medium-sized pool owners, buy a cartridge filter without a doubt. It's easy to clean and set up. You won't have as much clutter, plumbing, and wires around the backyard if you choose a cartridge filter. For the price, you are getting a very good deal.

For medium to large-sized swimming pool owners, you can either go with a sand filter or a D.E filter. If you have a smaller budget and don't want to go through the hassle of cleaning as much, then a sand filter is your best choice, especially for an above ground swimming pool.

For reference please take a look at the sizing guide:

The Right Above Ground Pool Filters For Your Pool 3
The Right Above Ground Pool Filters For Your Pool 4

Less than 3,000 gallons

Up to 4000 Gallons
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This is the perfect above ground pool filter for smaller-sized pools. If you have a simple kiddie pool, the 28603EG will be perfectly suited to handle the job.

It's very budget-friendly with a quick and easy installation. You can have this set up within a few minutes in your backyard straight out of the box.

You don't necessarily need a sand filter for anything below 3000 gallons because at this size, it's just not worth the hassle and the cost to justify getting one.

Between 3,000 - 10,000 gallons

Up to 12,000 Gallons
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When it comes to a swimming pool between 3,000 - 10,000 gallons, you are scratching the surface of medium-sized pools, which is why I recommend a 1500 GPH filter even if your pool is on the relatively smaller side.

This filtration system is still compatible with smaller pool sizes with plenty of energy to spare. But if you prefer, you can always go with the 1000 GPH version if your pool is not much more than 3000 gallons.

10,000 - 15,000 gallons

Up to 16,000 Gallon Pool
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Now that we are actually getting into medium-sized pools, you need a little more firepower. The Intex 28633EG 2500 GPH filter will work perfectly for sizes up to 16,000 gallons. At this point, you can still get away with a cartridge filter and keep your pool crystal clear.

However, for anything more than ~15,000 gallons, it's time to actually consider sand or D.E filters. The workload that is required for bigger pools will be too much for cartridge filters to handle as they are mainly suited for small to medium-sized pools.

More than 15,000 gallons

Up to 22,000 Gallon Pool
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Now here is a pool filter that can work like a tireless donkey. Compared to traditional cartridge filters, you can have it running for longer hours without causing a fuss with the pump and the motor.

The 26651EG model comes in a clean and crisp white color, which is aesthetically more pleasing and easier to hide or blend in with an above ground pool.

Being a sand filter, it is more cost-efficient and has a long lifespan, making it an ideal choice for larger swimming pools. The Intex 26651EG in addition, when it comes to pool maintenance and filter cleaning, you don't have to clean it as frequently.

Advantages of Choosing a Pool Filter From Intex

The Right Above Ground Pool Filters For Your Pool 5

Intex is a very reputable brand and their products work really well considering the size and the price. Especially with a cartridge filter type, Intex is unmatched when it comes to quality.

Here are a few reasons why I highly recommend buying a filter from Intex.

The size: When it comes to aesthetics, size definitely plays a role. It's hard to hide a pool filter out in the open, especially with above ground pools. You don't have the luxury of hiding the pool filter system like with an in-ground pool.

However, you won't believe how compact Intex is, and the best part is you will still get a very good performance out of this thing.

The seamless set-up: You can have the whole system set up in just a few minutes. Compared to sand and D.E filters, there aren't many components to cause confusion and headache.

Efficient & reliable: Most people besides myself have had a great experience with using Intex. It doesn't make much noise and the pump work quite efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions

I am sure you have a lot of other related questions that might help you make a well-informed choice when it comes to a pool filter for above ground pools. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Do you need a pool filter for an above ground pool?

A pool filter is a vital piece of equipment for any swimming pool. It helps to keep the water clean and clear by trapping debris and impurities.

If you value your own, family, and other people's health, then you need a pool filter. You never what kind of junk is floating around in the water besides just leaves and dirt.

What type of filter is best for an above ground pool?

different types of pool filters

Without a doubt, a cartridge filter system is best suited for above ground pools that are small to medium-sized.

Compared to sand and D.E filters, cartridge filters are relatively cheaper and easier to set up. In addition, while a sand filter can only filter down to 20 microns, cartridge filters can filter down to 10 microns, so you are getting cleaner pool water without breaking the bank.

While D.E filters do clean water really well, it costs quite a lot, and maintaining/cleaning it requires more effort. For an above ground pool, such filters are not the most suitable.

For larger above ground pools of more than 15,000 gallons, the best choice is a sand filter.

While it doesn't clean as well as a cartridge filter, it is the most efficient and optimum choice given the circumstance. A sand filter can take a bigger workload while requiring less maintenance and upkeep.

If you have the money and the budget to get the best set up however, you can opt for a D.E filter. You will get the cleanest water as it can filter up to 1-6 microns, but it is quite expensive and cleaning D.E filters are usually a bit more complicated to clean.

What kind of pool filter do I need for my above ground pool?

As mentioned, this will mostly come down to the size of your pool and your preference.

While I highly recommend a cartridge pool filter, if you prefer something low maintenance and something that will last longer, or if you have a larger swimming pool, then a sand filter system will be better suited for you your needs, or in the case you prefer the best possible filtration, then a D.E filter could be a better choice for you.

What size filter does my above ground pool need?

How To Clean A Pool Filter

Up to 5000 gallons:

You really can't go wrong with a 1000 GPH cartridge filter for above ground pools that are up to 5000 gallons. If you want to save money, you can even get a 500 GPH filter for kiddie pools that are up to 3000 gallons.

5000 - 10000 gallons:

For a medium-sized above ground pool, 2000 GPH is preferable, but you can also make do with 1500 GPH. Whether you want to choose between a sand filter or a cartridge filter is up to you as long as you know what to expect from a particular type of pool filter.

10000 - 15000 gallons:

Now we are talking! For a medium-large above ground pool, you definitely want a filter that can clean 2500 GPH. The Intex 28633EG is the perfect choice for such pools.

More than 15000 gallons:

At this point, you should seriously consider 2000+ sand or D.E filters. They are able to run longer than a cartridge filter and the size of the filter tank allows for more workload without having to constantly clean your filter.

You could get away with Intex 2500 GPH filter as a budget-friendly option up until 18,000 gallons, but you would be really pushing its limit, so my best recommendation is to fork up some cash and get 3000 GPH sand or D.E filter if you prefer a smooth and efficient operation.

How often do you change the filter in an above ground pool?

pool filter cleaner homemade

We've answered this question in great detail in our "How to clean a pool filter" article, but here is a short summary.

Cartridge filter:

Depending on how dirty your pool filter is, it might depend, but generally cleaning it with a garden hose every 1-2 weeks is recommended, and a deep thorough clean every 1-2 months. If you take good care of a pool cartridge filter, it can last up to 3 years or even more.

Sand filter:

In general, it is best to backwash your sand filter every 3-4 weeks. However, if your pool is small and not used very often, you may be able to go longer between cleanings as long as the pressure gauge is not much above 10 PSI.

You can go about three to five years before you need to replace the filter sand. If the pressure gauge is constantly above 12 PSI, then probably it's time to change the sand.

D.E filter:

Depending on the size of the pool or hot tub, the filter should be backwashed every two to four weeks. Make sure to add some D.E powder whenever you clean the filter.

The D.E grid or fingers should be cleaned two to four times per year.

Do I leave my above ground pool pump on all the time?

It's not really necessary as long as your pool filter is strong enough to handle the workload within six to eight hours.

Most people don't recommend running ground pool pumps for more than eight hours a day. You are not only saving electricity but increasing the lifespan of your filter system and pump.

How many hours a day should an above ground pool pump run?

An above ground pool should have the pump running for at least six to eight hours a day to ensure that the pool water is circulated and filtered properly. This will help to keep the water clean and clear, and it will also help to extend the life of the pump.

If you have a lot of people using the pool, you may also want to increase the pump's run time to ensure that the water is properly circulated.

You don't necessarily have to run the swimming pool pump for 6-8 hours straight; only when it makes sense to. So you can run the pool pump in the morning or the afternoon for a few hours, turn it off, then turn it back on during the evening for a few hours.

When should you run the filter pump for an above ground pool?

It comes down to a few factors. Some countries/areas have peak electricity usage hours, which is mainly during the day and evening.

If you are looking to save on your electricity bills, you could run it during the night or early morning.

However, practically it makes more sense to run the pool pump when the sun is the strongest and when the swimming pool is in use.

What is the difference between a pool filter and a pool pump?

A pool filter is a piece of equipment that filters and cleans the pool water, but a pool pump sucks in the water from the pool and circulates the clean and filtered water around.

What type of pump is best for above ground pool?

You want a pump that is strong enough to circulate enough water in your above ground pool. It's better to get a bigger and stronger pump rather than the other way around.

Most pool filters that you buy come with their own pumps, but if you want better performance or want to save money on electrcity bills, you can get a pool pump with variable speed.

Variable speed pump allows you to control the speed of your pump, so you can adjust between high or low volume.

When you are not using the pool, you could set it to low speed because there won't be much to clean anyways, but when the pool is in use, then you can have it on high for the most optimal performance.

While a variable speed pool pump is more expensive, if you use it efficiently, over the long run, you do save more money compared to a single speed pool pump.

What size pump should I get for my above ground pool?

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Depending on the size of your above ground pool, the pool pump size will vary.

Less than 10000 gallons:

Depending on the size, somewhere between 0.5 to 1 HP is enough to get the job done for smaller pools.

10000 - 15000 gallons:

When it comes to somewhat medium-sized pools, you definitely want a swimming pool pump that is more than 1 HP.

More than 15,000 gallons:

At this point, you need to consider the appropriate size of tubes and bigger pool pumps. Usually bigger tubes and plumbing are recommended along with 1.5 HP.

However, it does not warrant huge pool pumps above 2 HP, which are more suited for in-ground and significantly larger pools. Getting a variable speed pool pump would be a good idea. You can run it at higher speeds when the pool is in use, and lower speeds during early mornings or evening when you don't need to run the pump as much.

Usually, 1 Horse Power (HP) is enough for most above-ground swimming pools, so if you have a smaller budget, then a single-speed pump closer to 1 HP is a good choice.

Can I put a bigger pump on my above ground pool?

Yes, usually bigger pumps are better and yield better results than the other way around, however, if you don't have a variable speed pool pump, it can be an overkill for your system.

You will not only rack up energy bill costs, but your filter might not be able to handle the workload for extended periods of time, which is why a variable-speed pool pump is recommended.

Tubes and plumbing are also important. If you have smaller tubes, getting a bigger pool pump with a single speed won't necessarily make things run more smoothly.

But if you have the choice between a bigger pool pump and a smaller one, go with the bigger pool pump as long as the filter, plumbing, and tubes can handle the higher volume. OR if the bigger pool pump comes with a variable speed functionality, in which case you can lower the speed during non-peak swimming hours.

Are above ground pool pumps interchangeable?


Usually above ground and in ground pool pumps can be interchangeable, but you want to make sure that there isn't a significant difference in horsepower and Rounds Per Minute (RPM) with the motors. As long as the other specifications with plumbing, tubes, and filter compatibility, it should be good.

However, it's always best to stick with the recommended specifications for your swimming pool if you wish to get the best results.

What if my pool pump is leaking?

In the case there is a pump leaking, there can be a few factors. From, a worn-out O-ring, broken seal, broken drain plugs, unfitted clamps or screws, to sealants, etc. You can read a more detailed guide here.

It would be best to open up the pump and inspect the parts to determine where the leak may be coming from.

You can consult a professional, but you can easily find replacement parts and fix everything yourself for much cheaper.

Pump does not suck in water or is very weak

There can be a variety of reasons why your pump is not sucking any water or it's not working as well as it used to. We'll try to go over some of the most common reasons your pool pump is not getting enough suction.

Skimmer or pump basket: You may have leaves or some large objects clogging up the skimmer or pump basket which results in less water being sucked in.

Pump impeller: Maybe your pump impeller is not working or is damaged. You will need to open your pump to inspect whether it is or not.

O-ring: The O-ring may be damaged or is not sealed properly. Check for any cracks or loose fitting with the clamp.

Leaky pipes: Maybe your pipes have small cracks that are not visible to the eye. Try wrapping it with plastic wraps to see if it collects water somewhere.

Clogged pipes, tubes: Somewhere along the plumbing, you may have clogged pipes. Inspect the valves and tubes if anything is stuck.

Not primed correctly: You may not have primed it correctly and not getting enough pressure.

Dirty filter: In a lot of cases, it may just be time for you to clean your filter. You will need to either backwash your sand/D.E filter or get the cartridges cleaned.

How long should an above ground pool pump last?

With proper maintenance and care, you can expect at least 5 or 6 years of life expectancy for a pool pump. Higher quality brands can even last more than 10 years.

In the case your pool pump does stop working, instead of throwing it out and getting a new pump, it's a good idea to have it inspected. Sometimes you may just need to replace the motor or some parts for it to work perfectly normally like it used to.

Closing Thoughts & Things to Keep in Mind

To recap everything, it is highly recommended that you get a cartridge filter for above ground pools that are not larger than 15,000 gallons.

You not only are saving money, but the pool water that does get filtered will be much cleaner than a typical sand filter which costs a lot of money compartively.

Also cleaning a cartridge filter is relatively easy. You simply need to take it out, wash the dirt off the pleats, and put it back in inside the tank.

Up to 12,000 Gallons
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Depending on the size of your pool, you can choose between 330 GPH to 2500 GPH, so please use the guide above to determine how much GPH volume rate you need. In most cases, you can't go wrong with the 1500 GPH choice, but if your pool is slightly on the larger side, then choose the 2500 GPH.

However, once you get to larger above ground pool sizes, then you definitely need Intex's sand filter.

Up to 22,000 Gallon Pool
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While it does not filter as well as a cartridge filter, it is better suited for larger and bigger pools because you will need a filter that can handle the large volume and workload.

Compared to some other filter and pump brands, Intex is relatively very budget-friendly and does a great job.

Article written by Chris Tebbutt
In 2016 I got my first house that had a pool and I had no idea where to begin. Over time I have learnt how to do most things myself (I am really into DIY) and wanted to share my information with other. I was one of the people who thought if water smelt like chlorine, that meant there was too much chlorine in the water!

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