If you are in the market for a swimming pool or already own one, it is essential to understand the parts of what you’re purchasing and how they work. The anatomy of your swimming pool can be complex, so here’s what you need to know.
Why Knowing Your Pool Parts Is Important
Swimming pools come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. That’s why it’s important to know what parts make up your pool so you can adequately care for it and keep it working the best it can over its lifetime and yours.
Buying and putting in a pool is a considerable investment. Therefore you want to know as much as you can about your pool equipment and setup before you buy it. What kind of filtration system does it have? How do you maintain your pool? What sort of chemical feeder do you have?
What kind of material is your pool? How much time and money will it take to maintain your pool? All of these questions will help you better understand your pool and how to care for it, all vital information when you’re making a big investment.
Major Parts of a Pool
Every pool, whether it be an inground or above ground pool, has the same primary components. The seven major components of a pool include:
- Motorized pump
- Water filter
- Chemical feeder
- PVC plastic plumbing connecting all of these elements
Some parts are on the pool system’s suction side, while the others are on the pressure side. Both sides are crucial in keeping your pool clean, free of algae and bacteria, and safe for you to use. Below, I break each area down for you in detail.
Breakdown of the Suction Side of Your Pool System
The suction side of your pool has the job of drawing water up out of your pool to the pump. It is the part that begins the circulation process.
The skimmer, found on the pool’s side, pulls water from the pool’s surface into the filtration system. It is your pool’s first line of defense when it comes to cleanliness as it helps rid the collection of leaves, insects, and pollen. Automatic pool cleaners are part of that defense system as well.
The debris goes through a flapping door called a weir and goes into the skimmer basket that traps the items. You will need to empty the skimmer basket periodically to keep it from clogging and keep your filtration system working well.
There are two types of outlets in almost every pool. The first is the skimmer, and the second is the main drain. The main drain is located at the bottom of the pool and pulls debris that has fallen to the base.
The pump suctions water through the drain and dirt or small matter, however, if the drain holes are covered, it cannot do its job correctly, and pressure can build up in the pump, causing problems. In the past, when the main drain was covered, one problem was the suction became so strong that some swimmers, including children, got stuck in the suction, causing them to drown.
Thankfully, today’s pools include stricter safety precautions for main drains, but caution should always be taken, and owners should keep the main drain clear of debris for this reason.
The suction lines are either a flexible or rigid set of PVC pipes that run from the skimmer to the pump system. Depending on the type of pool you own, the suction lines can be found above ground or underground. Suction lines can leak, causing problems with the system. If the suction lines are above ground, the leak is easier to find and therefore fix. If they are below ground, the leak can be harder to find and more costly to repair.
Breakdown of the Filtration System
The filtration system is the lifeblood of how the pool operates. It pumps the water through the necessary steps to keep the water clean, usable, and warm.
The suction lines run to the pump, and the pool pump works much like our hearts. The pump flows the water through the pool system and is vital to how it works. It carries the water through the filter, heater, and chlorinator to stay clean, be heated, and get the right mix of chemicals.
There are several types of pumps on the market, and which one you choose is a personal preference; however, you will need to determine the flow rate and head to find the right size pump:
- Flow Rate – refers to the water quantity and is measured by gallon per minute (GPM).
- Head – refers to the resistance to flow, such as how many bends in the pipe your water must go through, the size of the pipes, and the distance the water needs to travel. Moreover, this is measured by feet of resistance or feet of head.
These factors will also play into how often to run your pool pump each day.
Which pump you choose will determine the cost of the pump. A new pump can run over $800. And pumps need to be replaced every eight to 15 years, look for common signs along the way though that you may need to replace it. I cover those signals in my article on how to decide whether to replace your pool pump motor or the whole pump. If you just need to replace the motor, head over to my guide on how to replace your pool pump motor.
Chlorine only does half the job when it comes to cleaning your pool. The pool filter does the rest. The filter traps small particles of dirt and bacteria; once it’s clean, the water filters back to the pool.
There are three different types of filters:
For more, head over to my guide on the best pool filters.
Breakdown of the Pressure Side of Your Pool System
The pressure side does just that: It pushes or pressures the clean water that has gone through the filtration system back into the pool.
There are usually two to three return lines depending on the size of the pool. Return lines carry the water from the circulation system to the return jets.
The water then goes from the return lines to the return jets, where the water goes back into the pool. The return jets are movable to control the circulation of the water. Pointing them down helps with better chemical and temperature distribution as well as overall filtration. If you’re having trouble with your jets, read my return jets troubleshooting guide.
Pool parts diagram:
B. Return lines
C. Main drain
E. Check valve
I. Jandy valves
K. Check valve
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Inground Pool Setups
Inground pools come in various sizes, shapes, and styles, so no one description will fit them all; however, they all work very similarly.
They have a suction side, a filtration system, and a pressure side, including all of the parts listed above.
However, when choosing what type of inground pool is right for you, there are three main types: Fiberglass, concrete, and vinyl liner.
There are quite a few pros that come with getting a fiberglass pool setup:
- Built off-site so faster to install
- Low maintenance
- Durable and therefore suitable for resale
- Works with saltwater
- Lower lifetime cost
- The initial cost is higher
- Not customizable
While usually more expensive, a concrete pool can be worth it for some owners:
- Customizable shape and size
- Durable, much like fiberglass
- Because it is poured on-site, it is a slower installation
- Concrete is a rougher surface
- Not compatible with saltwater
- More chemicals are required
- Concrete is porous; therefore, it requires more maintenance
- The highest cost of ownership
Much like fiberglass, vinyl liners tend to be more affordable and more common for a lot of pool owners:
- Lower cost initially
- Customizable shape and size
- Vinyl liners require replacing and can be costly
- Warranties on vinyl liners can be tricky
- Vinyl liners can harbor algae growth
Above Ground Pool Setups
Above ground pools may not have the lifespan that inground pools have, but they still have their benefits. For one, they do not cost as much, and they are easy and faster to construct. Bonus: Because their filtration systems are above ground, they are easier to repair or replace if needed. Side note – if you’re interested in this pool type, check out my article on the best permanent above ground pool.
However, they work similarly to inground pools with one exception; they typically only have one skimmer and one return jet.
Parts of Above Ground Pools:
- Wall, generally one piece and made of galvanized steel
- Some above ground pools have service panels where the skimmer and return fitting are
- The frame in an above ground pool secures the wall and provides much of the strength of the pool
- Top rails form the top ledge of the swimming pool
- The top rack or stabilizer is above the top of the wall but below the top rail
- Base track helps form the bottom rim of the pool structure
- Uprights or posts
- Top plates are on top of each upright
- Some above ground pools have boots, which are fitted at the bottom of the uprights and are for aesthetic purposes
- The vinyl liner covers the inside surface of the swimming pool and may wear or tear overtime needed to be patched or replaced
- Pump and filter system
Additional Considerations for Saltwater Pools
Although the name may make you think that saltwater pools have a lot of salt, they only have a miniscule amount of salt compared to a natural body of saltwater. Plus, they come with these kinds of pros:
- The addition of salt requires less chlorine, keeping cost and chemicals down
- Requires less maintenance
- Swimmers like the softness saltwater give their skin
- Swimsuits keep their vibrant colors
- More of a financial investment upfront
- The generator continuously runs, making for a higher electrical bill.
- The salt can cause corrosion and damage to surrounding equipment over time.
- If repairs or maintenance are needed, they can be quite costly.
Optional Additional Equipment
Other optional pieces of equipment you can invest in to go along with your pool. Are they necessary? No, but they can improve your enjoyment of your new pool.
It does what the name says; it keeps your pool at a comfortable temperature so you can enjoy it longer. Pool heaters are available for both above ground and inground pools and include solar, electric heat pump, and gas.
Above ground or inground pools need the right balance of chemicals, but that can take time and energy on your part. A chemical feeder is not necessary to run your pool but automatically feeds the right amount of chlorine and chemicals into the pool, creating less work for you.
A few different pool covers include standard winter cover, security cover, automatic pool cover, and solar pool cover.
- Standard Winter Cover – This is the most common and least expensive of the pool covers. It is usually made of a tarp-like material but does the job of keeping debris at bay. The only downside is it usually only lasts two winters.
- Security Cover – Sturdier and more costly than the standard winter cover, the security cover is made to keep debris and children and pets out of the pool when covered.
- Automatic Pool Cover – The most expensive of all of the options is also the most convenient. Unlike with the other covers, this cover rolls out over the pool with the touch of a button.
- Solar Pool Cover – The primary purpose of the solar pool cover is to extend your pool’s season. It can warm up the water earlier in spring and keep it warmer longer later in the fall.
No matter what choice in the type of pool you make or decide to upgrade your new pool with optional equipment, make sure to do your research before buying. A pool is a large investment but will bring you years of joy should you decide to take the plunge.
Questions? Shoot me a message, I’d be happy to help.