The 6 Best Swimming Pool Filters of Every Type

If you want the quick answer, I think Hayward has the best pool filters for most people who need a sand, DE, or cartridge filter for an inground pool. Check out Intex if you have an above ground pool. I have more details on specific filters from those brands and my other top picks below.

Keeping your pool sparkling throughout the entire swimming season takes some effort. Investing in the right equipment will save you lots of time and money in the long run. A good pool filter can be the difference between an algae infestation and clear water.

In this article, I will walk you through all of the specs of the top-performing pool filters in a few different categories. Let’s dive in!

My Top Picks For The Best Pool Filter Options

Here are the top six best pool filter options, no matter what type of pool or pump you have.


Hayward W3S220T ProSeries Sand Filter

⭐ Best High-End Sand Filter

Research Score: 4.0 out of 5

  • Effectiveness: 4
  • Capacity: 4
  • Compatibility: 4
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 5

What’s Great:

  • Easy to maintain/service
  • Takes up less space than side mount pool filters
  • Mess-free backwash feature

Limitations & What Needs Improvement:

  • When changing the sand, you will have to disconnect the piping.
  • Instructions are not very clear, so for pool owners without experience, it may be difficult to install the filter without professional assistance.
  • The pump and filter media will have to be purchased separately.
  • Sand filtration system
  • Top mount filter connection
  • Corrosion-proof, rugged polymeric tank
  • Includes a 1.5” multiport valve

Research Notes

If you are looking for a decent, affordable filter that gets the job done, the Hayward Pro Series sand filter should be on your list. The pool filter has a strong flow rate, meaning it is able to effectively clean larger pools. The top mount also allows the filter to be more compact, which is very handy for those with limited space. This model comes in 5 different sizes to fit all above ground pools. Besides the worrying reviews from some testers criticizing the quality of the body, it seems like a smart purchase for most pool owners wanting a sand filter.

Effectiveness

The Hayward Pro Series sand filter is a great option for pool owners looking for a durable and reliable sand filtration system. As long as you keep up a good maintenance routine, backwash often, and change the sand every 3-5 years, this filter will continue cleaning your pool water without giving you much trouble at all.

Capacity & Sizes Available

Here is a size breakdown of Pro Series models, including how much sand it holds:

  • The smallest size Hayward pro series is 22 inches in diameter and it holds 250 lbs of sand
  • The next size up is 24 inches in diameter and it holds 300 lbs of sand
  • Next, there is the 27 inch in diameter filter which holds 350 lbs of sand
  • The second to largest size is 31 inches in diameter and holds 500 lbs of sand
  • Finally, the largest Hayward pro series sand filter is 36 inches in diameter and holds a whopping 700 lbs of sand

Compatibility

The Hayward Pro Series is compatible with pool pumps that match its flow rate. It is very imperative to match the filter max flow rate with the horsepower of the pump, or you risk damaging and destroying your filter. You can purchase a pump from Hayward or another pool equipment company. Just make sure that you match the flow rate of the filter with the horsepower of the pump.

For the Hayward Pro Series filters, these are the flow rates by size order:

  • 52 GPM
  • 84 GPM
  • 95 GPM
  • 116 GPM
  • 140 GPM

Because this is a top mount pool filter, you may have to replace some of the plumbing in your filter/pump system when installing the filter. This will only be necessary if you had a side mount filter prior to purchasing the Pro Series.

Hayward Pro Series filters can also only be used with pool-grade filter sand.

Installation

Installing the Hayward Pro Series sand filter is fairly straightforward, but as with most pool equipment, it will require some time and effort to put together. I found the instructions to be quite vague for novice pool owners, but there are plenty of helpful video tutorials if you need some more assistance.

Price

This pool filter is a very good price when you consider the quality of the equipment. For a decent pool filter, you can’t expect to spend less than you would on Pro Series. Top mount filters are generally cheaper because the mechanics are less complicated, but keep in mind that top mounts also require more work when cleaning out or changing the sand.

The filter is relatively low maintenance, and the product is known to last up to 15 years before any major repairs are needed.

Notes From Other Testers

Over 90 percent of testers gave this product 4 or 5 stars. Testers were very happy with the power of the pump and its ability to clean the water. A few testers even stated that after more than 5 years, the pump is still running in pristine condition.

Some customers had less positive things to say about the filter, specifically regarding the quality of the body. Although many testers stated the filter was durable and long-lasting, some claimed the filter's main components broke after only one pool season. This could either be an unfortunate one-off incident, or an indicator that Hayward's quality is not consistent with all of their products.

Hayward W3DE3620 ProGrid D.E. Pool Filter

⭐ Best DE Filter for Smaller Pools

Research Score: 4.1 out of 5

  • Effectiveness: 5
  • Capacity: 3
  • Compatibility: 4
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 4

What’s Great:

  • Easy access for servicing
  • The fitler provides visual indicators to show when it’s time to backwash and clean

Limitations & What Needs Improvement:

  • You must purchase the multiport valve and pump separately
  • Diatomaceous earth filtration system
  • Glass-reinforced copolymer construction
  • Side mount filter connection
  • Multiport valve is sold separately

Research Notes

The Hayward Pro Grid DE filter is a powerful piece of equipment. It can clear the murkiest pools in only a few days, making your pool a safer and more pleasant place. I like the visual indicators that tell you when it’s time to run the backwash process, too. When you place the filters, you reset the pressure indicators, and they’ll indicate when the pressure drops due to clogs.

These indicators come in handy because the filter requires quite a lot of maintenance compared to other models. This is mostly due to the fact that DE filters must be taken apart, backwashed, and hosed down once a month when cleaning.

Unfortunately, this filter is not fit for larger pools. I would recommend this DE filter for small to medium pool owners only.

Effectiveness

THe Hayward Pro Grid DE filter is one of the best DE filters money can buy. The high-impact grid elements help to provide maximum efficiency through up-flow filtration and top-down backwashing. It is an incredibly durable product that is sure to last years as long as it is looked after properly.

Capacity & Sizes Available

Here is a size breakdown of Pro Grid models, including how many scoops of DE is needed:

  • The smallest size Pro Grid filter is 36 square feet and requires 4.5 lbs of DE filter to fully cover the filter grids
  • The next size up is 48 square feet and requires 6 lbs of DE to cover the filter grids
  • The largest size of the Pro Grid filters is 60 square feet and will need about 7.5 lbs of DE powder

The filter sizes are all great for small to medium inground pools, but unfortunately, even the largest filter size will struggle to clean pools over 30,000 gallons.

Compatibility

Unfortunately, the Pro Grid filter does not come with a pool pump, so you will have to purchase one separately. The filter is compatible with most pump designs as long as the pump matches the max flow rate of the filter. To calculate the max flow rate of your filter, use my calculator.

I recommend purchasing a pump from Hayward to match the filter as it tends to be easier to connect a filter and pump of the same brand.

The pool filter is side-mounted, so it is worth noting that if you are replacing a top-mounted filter with this one, you will need to change the plumbing to fit the new filter. For more complicated plumbing issues, I recommend contacting a professional.

You will also need to purchase the multiport valve separately for this filter, but almost any standard multiport valve will be suitable.

Installation

Many pool owners were able to install this DE filter without professional help, meaning the installation process is easy enough for DIY. Having said that, if you do not possess much DIY knowledge, you might want to invite a friend over to help you put it together. The manual that comes with the filter is not very clear, so it can be a bit complicated if you have any doubts.

Price

It is always a good idea to look at your filter system as a long-term investment. In the end, a good quality pool filter will continue to keep your pool water fresh for 10-20 years, so spending more money on a solid pool filter is worth it.

The Hayward Pro Grid is by no means a budget option. In fact, it is one of the more expensive filter options out there, but you get what you pay for. As long as you maintain, backwash, and clean your filter regularly, you will reap the benefits of exceptionally clean pool water.

Notes From Other Testers

Other testers and customers were very happy with this product. Over 90 percent of verified customers gave this pool filter 4 or 5 stars. Customers were pleased with how efficiently the filter was able to clean their pool water. Many pool owners who upgraded to this DE filter from sand or cartridge filters were particularly impressed with the improvement in their pools.

A small percentage of customers seemed to be unhappy with the maintenance requirements for the filter. DE filters do require more maintenance than other filter types, but I see it as a fair tradeoff since DE filters are so effective at filtering pool water.

Hayward W3C17502 SwimClear Plus Cartridge Pool Filter

⭐ Best Cartridge Filter for Large Pools

Research Score: 4.2 out of 5

  • Effectiveness: 4
  • Capacity: 4
  • Compatibility: 5
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 4

What’s Great:

  • Connections for multiple plumbing setups
  • Does not require backwashing
  • Durable construction
  • Compact size with high capacity

Limitations & What Needs Improvement:

  • Plastic filter body that can break down in sunny conditions
  • No drainage valve
  • Cartridge filtration system
  • Side mount filter connection
  • Injection-molded base and body
  • Comes with a cartridge filter

Research Notes

The Hayward SwimClear is a large single element cartridge filter that is capable of cleaning large pools. For the quality of the product, the price is unmatched, and finding another filter of this caliber would be tough to find. One major con to this product is the quality of the plastic that may degrade over time under the sun. The lack of the backwashing feature can be a bit perplexing as well, but the manufacturer states there is no need for it due to the size of the filter. I would highly recommend this model for homeowners with large pools looking for an effective and affordable cartridge filter.

Effectiveness

The Hayward SwimClear is one of the best cartridge filters out there and is actually the largest cartridge filter on the market. This makes it one of the only cartridge filters that can be used for larger pools. It has an extra-large cartridge with a precision-engineered core to reach the greatest possible flow and efficiency. The sheer size of the model allows for the ability to hold extra dirt.

Capacity & Sizes Available

Here is a size breakdown of SwimClear models:

  • The smallest size is 90 square feet
  • The most popular mid-sized option is 125 square feet
  • And the largest one is at 175 square feet

Compatibility

The SwimClear cartridge filter rates high in compatibility because it can easily be matched up with a pool pump, as long as the pump does not exceed the max GPM rating of the filter size you choose. Its relatively small size and versatile plumbing connections also make setting up the plumbing very easy for this filter.

Installation

Installing a filter system for an inground pool is never an easy task, but installation for this SwimClear cartridge filter is quite straightforward and easy. In some cases, you may simply need to replumb the return line to fit this filter, but otherwise, I have found it to be a quick installation process. Consider bringing around your DIY-savvy family member to help if you are unsure of where to start. Keep in mind that you may need to use some kind of sealant to avoid any kind of leakage on the connectors.

Price

For the quality of the product, the price is reasonable. It is a large product capable of holding more dirt than most other cartridge filters on the market. If you are looking for a quality product that does the job of cleaning the water for a large pool, this is a great, fairly-priced option.

Notes From Other Testers

Out of the almost 800 reviews on Amazon for this product, it rates an amazing 4.7 out of 5. 90%+ of the reviews rave about the high quality of the filter and how it has transformed their pools into sparkling ones. Many reviews also mention how breezy it is to maintain this filter compared to previous filters they have worked with.

Intex Krystal Clear Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools

⭐ Best for Above Ground Pools

Research Score: 4.0 out of 5

  • Effectiveness: 3
  • Capacity: 4
  • Compatibility: 4
  • Installation: 5
  • Price: 5

What’s Great:

  • Pump and filter system combined
  • Easy setup - plug in and go
  • Compatible with many above-ground pools
  • Affordable

Limitations & What Needs Improvement:

  • Filter requires replacing every two weeks
  • Manufacturer recommends a max run time of eight hours only
  • Need to purchase hose adaptors separately
  • Cartridge filter pump
  • Side mount filter connection
  • Hydro Aeration® Technology by Intex®
  • Hoses, clamps, and pump included

Research Notes

I have found that the Intex Krystal Clear cartridge filter is a great, affordable option that does the job it needs to. There are five different size options to choose from, so you can pick one depending on the size of your pool. A great advantage to this filter is that it comes with a pump and it is compatible with most above ground pools. It may not be as effective as other filter pumps on the market, but it’s certainly a great option for budget-conscious small pool owners.

Effectiveness

The main con of this product is that this filter should not be run for more than eight hours a day. Considering it’s a smaller pump than most, to get the most out of it, ideally, you would be running it for longer. This makes this filter pump less effective than some of its peers. I would say that the Intex Krystal Clear cartridge filter is moderately effective, so it would work best with smaller above ground pools.

Capacity & Sizes Available

Here is a breakdown of Intex Krystal Clear filter models by flow rate:

  • The smallest size Krystal Clear cartridge filter has a flow rate of 330 GPH or 5.5 GPM
  • The cartridge filter the next size up has a flow rate of 530 GPH or 9 GPM
  • The middle-sized filter has a flow rate of 1000 GPH or 17 GPM
  • The second-largest Krystal Clear cartridge filter has a flow rate of 1500 GPH or 25 GPM
  • The largest filter has a flow rate of 2500 GPH or 42 GPM

Compatibility

This Intex Krystal Clear cartridge filter is compatible with many different types of Intex above ground pools. It is specifically created with Intex pools in mind, so this works best if you have a pool of the same brand. However, this is not to say that this filter pump will not fit an above ground pool from a different company. One thing to keep in mind is that it is likely that you may need to purchase an adaptor to fit the pump to your pool. On the plus side, you don’t need to worry about finding a pump to fit this filter as it comes with the filter already.

Installation

The installation process for this filter pump could not be any easier. Simply connect the hoses, plug it in, and you’re done. The hoses for this filter are 1-¼, so you’ll need to purchase an adaptor if you need a different size. But once you have the adaptor, the rest of the installation is intuitive.

Price

The Krystal Clear cartridge filters by Intex are probably one of the most affordable options on the market. Depending on the size of the filter, the price ranges from less than $100 to just over $200. Furthermore, this price includes the pump, so you won’t need to purchase any more accessories.

Notes From Other Testers

This filter pump is one of the most popular models on the market. On Amazon, it boasts an average rating of 4.4/5 out of almost 30,000 reviews from all over the world. More than 80% of the reviews are either 4 or 5 stars, which is a testament to this product. Most of the positive reviews talk about the product’s ease of use and effectiveness. Some of the negative reviews talk about the pump failing to work after just a couple of months of use. Although the reviews are generally positive, it seems Intex’s product quality isn’t consistent throughout the market.

XtremepowerUS 75141 Inground Pool Sand Filter

⭐ Best Value Sand Filter Pump

Research Score: 4.6 out of 5

  • Effectiveness: 5
  • Capacity: 4
  • Compatibility: 5
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 5

What’s Great:

  • All-around strong filtration for a range of pool sizes (both above and in-ground)
  • Multiple settings for filtration, backwashing, etc.
  • Easy to install
  • Drain cap with strainer for trouble-free maintenance and winterizing

Limitations & What Needs Improvement:

  • Small opening can make changing out the sand complicated
  • You may need additional O-rings or thread tape to install
  • No filter media included
  • Sand filtration system
  • Top mount filter connection
  • One-piece tank made of corrosion and UV-resistant material
  • Comes with a 6-way multi-port filter and stand

Research Notes

This is an all-around great sand filter that comes with an effective operating system in the form of a multi-port valve. This filter comes with a 7-way port, ranging from filtering to backwashing, winterizing, and more. This makes maintenance on this filter a breeze. Whether you have an in- or above-ground pool, this filter is a great value for money. Just keep in mind that the filter does not include the pump or the sand - these need to be purchased separately.

Effectiveness

Within hours of installation, this filter magically clears up the water to make it sparkly clean again. The filter keeps the sand at height level for prime filtration and performance. It is an efficient system with an easy-to-use 7-way multi-port valve that assists with filtering, backwashing, winterizing, re-circulating, closing, rinsing, and wasting. An operating system for a filter has never been easier.

Capacity & Sizes Available

Here is a size breakdown of XtremepowerUS models, including how much sand it holds:

  • The smallest size is 16 inches in diameter, and it holds 110 lbs of sand
  • The middle size is 19 inches in diameter, holding 175 lbs of sand
  • The biggest size is 24 inches in diameter, and it holds up to 300 lbs of sand

Compatibility

This model is a one-piece tank that is compatible with most pumps. Due to its simple design, you don’t need to worry about which piece goes where, and you can easily assemble this filter tank with the pump of your choice. The only thing to keep in mind is that this model comes in three different sizes, so choose a pump to fit the max flow rate of the filter.

Installation

As long as you have some basic DIY knowledge, this filter should be easy to install. The filter comes with a manual, but you can also easily search for YouTube videos to assist with the installation process. The only complaint about the installation process is that it can be difficult to fit the sand into the filter due to the small opening.

Price

At only 300-odd dollars, this XtremepowerUS pool sand filter is hard to beat price-wise. It is one of the most affordable options on the market without sacrificing quality. It is a big tank that thoroughly cleans your pool

Notes From Other Testers

Getting an average of 4.3 stars out of 5 is no small feat - especially if you boast over 150 reviews. Other testers rate this product overwhelmingly positively with 69% of the Amazon ratings at 5 stars. They regard the filtration ability of the sand filter highly with many claiming that the filter has cleaned their pool within 10 hours of installation. Other testers report a more negative experience with the product, encountering cracks and flaws in the filter appearing after just a few months of use.

Blue Wave 120-Square Feet Cartridge Filter System with 1.5 HP Pump

⭐ Best Pump/Filter Combination

Research Score: 3.8 out of 5

  • Effectiveness: 4
  • Capacity: 3
  • Compatibility: 4
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 4

What’s Great:

  • Spin lock for easy access to replace cartridges
  • One-year warranty
  • Energy efficient
  • 1.5 HP high output pump

Limitations & What Needs Improvement:

  • Not available for purchase in every state
  • No on/off switch; must unplug to power down
  • Inability to use an extension cord
  • Cartridge filtration system
  • Side mount filter connection
  • Corrosion-resistant polymer construction
  • Includes a base, pump, filter tank, cartridge, and (2) 6-ft hoses

Research Notes

This filter system is a bargain for those searching for a high-powered cartridge filter system. It is a hassle-free model that is not only easy to set up but also easy to clean and store. The tank is made of a corrosion-resistant polymer material and is weather-resistant. When it comes to the filtering quality of this filter, it works well to clean pool water and make it crystal clear. Cleaning and replacing cartridges is also made easy with this model. Simply turn the spin lock, and you’re in.

One thing to keep in mind is that the manufacturer’s warranty specifically states not to use the filter with an extension cord. However, the lack of an on/off switch also complicates things, so you may want to invest in a timer setup to simplify pool maintenance.

Effectiveness

This is a high-powered filter system with a superior flow rate, leading to great water quality. The cartridge filter itself comes highly rated by many testers, but I have found that the pump that it comes with is not as effective, and some testers have even reported it breaking down after just a bit of use. However, aside from the lackluster pump, this filter works as advertised to clean pools of up to 2000 gallons.

Capacity & Sizes Available

Here is a size breakdown of Blue Wave models:

  • The smaller size is a 90 feet cartridge system with a 1 HP pump
  • The bigger size is a 120 feet cartridge system with a 1.5 HP pump

Compatibility

As the Blue Wave cartridge filter system comes as a package with a base, pump, and hoses, the compatibility rating is quite high. You won’t need to worry about purchasing the extra equipment needed for the filter. However, it is worth mentioning that the size of the cartridge may pose a problem for some to replace as it is not as common to have an extra-large cartridge filter.

Installation

The installation process for the Blue Wave cartridge filter system is quite easy to follow. It comes with a handy manual with a detailed step-by-step guide with pictures. As long as you know some plumbing basics, everything else in the installation process should be fairly straightforward. However, due to the size of the filter system, it is worth mentioning that it requires quite a bit of upper body strength to install this. You may need to ask a friend or neighbor for help.

Price

At a relatively low price compared to other filters of a similar caliber, this price cannot easily be beaten. As it is a cartridge filter, this filter system is an affordable option for those with above ground pools that desperately need a decent filter on their hands. On top of that, the pump and other necessary accessories are included in this price.

Notes From Other Testers

Most reviews for this product are overwhelmingly positive with an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. The customers rave about the easy setup and the quality of the filter system that has helped to clean out their dirty pools. It is worth mentioning that some of the bad reviews of the product come from customers that used an extension cord, which is advised against by the manufacturer. Some other negative reviews complained about the quality of the pump that comes with the filter.

Recap: The Best Pool Filters

How They Compare

Effectiveness and Price Comparison

Here is a scatterplot looking at my scores for the effectiveness and price of each pool filter. XtremepowerUS really stands out as a great value pick. Hayward and Intex scored well too.

Installation Comparison

  1. Intex Krystal Clear Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools: 5
  2. Hayward W3S220T ProSeries Sand Filter: 4
  3. Hayward W3DE3620 ProGrid D.E. Pool Filter: 4
  4. Hayward W3C17502 SwimClear Plus Cartridge Pool Filter: 4
  5. XtremepowerUS 75141 Inground Pool Sand Filter: 4
  6. Blue Wave 120-Square Feet Cartridge Filter System with 1.5 HP Pump: 4

Intex stood out from the pack, mostly because it's so simple. Most other brands have pretty routine setup processes, although the instructions can be vague sometimes.

Other Notable Pool Filters Researched

  • Pentair Clean and Clear Pool Filter Cartridge - The SwimClear filter from Hayward is a better cartridge filter option in my opinion and is (roughly) half the price.
  • Carvin Laser Above Ground Pool Sand Filter - I think this is a decent option for above ground pools if you want a sand filter, but still think Intex can work for most pool owners.
  • Hayward XStream Above-Ground Filter Pump - I didn't love this model's effectiveness and power; it was pretty weak when I tested it.

My Research Criteria

Not sure where to start when it comes to buying a pool filter? No worries. Here are the research criteria I use to determine which filters are the best for each category. Let’s start off with the different types of filters you can choose from, then we’ll head into the other rating criteria that made up my research scores for each of my top picks.

Filter Materials

Cleaning the water in your pool is the primary function of a filter. But how does it work? When your pump comes on, it circulates water through the pool filter, cleaning it with a range of media.

Most pool pumps use one of three filtration methods: sand, diatomaceous earth (DE), or cartridge. Each method has a wide range of effectiveness depending on the filter model, so I judged effectiveness as compared to other filters in the same category. Effectiveness accounted for 30% of the overall score. If you’re not sure which type of filter to get, head over to my sand vs. cartridge vs. DE filter comparison.

Sand Filters

Sand filters circulate water through a canister with pounds of sand inside. Like it does underground, sand filters particles out of the water, preventing debris and soil from clouding up your pool water. The finer the sand, the smaller the particles (microns) it can clear from the water. The standard sand used in most filters is #20 silica sand which grabs size 20 microns and larger.

However, a lot of pool owners are opting for some sand alternatives to help improve filtration efficiency. You can add DE powder after backwashing or replacing your sand, or replace your silica sand entirely with ZeoSand or filter glass. ZeoSand is made from zeolite, a mineral that is really good at capturing small contaminants – and you only need about half as much as you do silica sand. Filter glass is fine recycled glass with a negative electrical charge that attracts positively charged particles like iron and magnesium that you want to filter out.

If you look at the sand particles up close, you’ll notice lots of tiny rough edges on each one, which helps grab microns and prevent them from running into your pool water. Over time, those rough edges erode and your sand needs to be replaced.

Unfortunately, because the sand is so heavy, it’s often tough to purchase online. However, if you can snag free shipping for your sand filtration system, that will obviously go a long way to cut down on costs.

Diatomaceous Earth Filters

DE pool filter contains a special type of sedimentary rock that has silica deposits in it. Diatomaceous Earth filter tanks contain rods or “fingers” that are covered in DE powder, which is made from tiny fossilized pieces of diatoms, a single-celled alga.

With DE, you can filter out microscopic-sized particles of stuff from your pool water. Plus, these filters tend to take up less space than alternative types.

You can buy DE at most hardware, pool supply, and livestock feed stores. Household uses for DE also make it a handy substance to have around—you can use it to control insect infestations and deworm animals.

Keep in mind that you need to handle DE carefully, as it can be harmful if you breathe it in or swim in a high concentration of it.

Cartridge Filters

Cartridge filters use similar technology to air filters, incorporating materials like polyester fiber into cartridge units. The material filters out debris and particles as small as 10 microns, which is more effective than your standard #20 silica sand.

Cartridges are available online and in most retail stores, making them accessible no matter how many you go through. You will need to deep clean them at least once every few months (possibly more depending on the size and condition of your pool) and replace them every 2 to 3 years.

Generally, a cartridge filter needs to be cleaned when your pool filter pressure gauge reaches 8-10 psi above its normal level, after major rainstorms, and when opening and closing the pool. I have a full article on when to replace your filter cartridge, so be sure to give that a read for more details.

Filter Capacity

While some filter setups are ideal for pools of all sizes, others can only filter a set number of gallons of water. If you have a 25,000-gallon inground pool, for example, you’ll want a filter with a higher capacity – a filter that accommodates 6,000-gallon pools won’t work out. Filters are measured in gallons per minute per square foot.

Make sure to match your filter with the right size pool pump and how many gallons per minute (GPM) it can process. Your filter should be rated at the same level or higher as your pool pump. You can use my pool pump size calculator to figure out the right model for you. You can also read my research on the best swimming pool pump for specific model recommendations.

And regardless of capacity, you will need to replace your filtering medium occasionally, which affects the overall ‘capacity,’ too. For example, you may need to change out cartridge filters more frequently than sand filters (depending on performance).

Ranges in capacity accounted for 20% of my overall ratings score.

Pump Compatibility and Pressurization

Filters are typically compatible with a range of pumps and water pressure levels. But in some cases, you might find that a filter isn’t effective at cleaning your pool water. It’s common for a filter to reduce water pressure slightly, but a huge dip after installation could mean your filter is not the right size for your pool or pump.

Compatibility accounted for 20% of my overall score for each filter.

Standalone or Pump and Filter Unit

While some filter units are also pumps, many are standalone units that tie into the pool’s plumbing system. I recognize that not every pool owner has the same type of system or needs—which is why I included a range of options on my list of recommendations.

In general, if you already have a pump, you won’t want a pump/filter combination. But if you are replacing an existing system or are just starting out, consider whether a combo unit is the most efficient for your pool size, type, and setup.

Installation

I also looked at how easy each filter was to install and replace after months and years of use. Some systems are more complicated than others, so I looked for standardized markings on the filter, easy instructions to follow, and total time to replace. Installation accounted for 15% of my scores.

Price

Of course, price was also a consideration for me and should definitely be factored into your decision based on your budget. Generally, DE filters are the most expensive, cartridge filters are the least expensive, and sand filters are somewhere in the middle. Price and value accounted for 15% of my scores for each filter.

What Else to Consider

My research criteria outlined above are not all you should keep in mind when buying a swimming pool filter. Here are some other criteria that you should consider.

Ongoing Costs

The upfront cost of purchasing a pool filter will definitely play a part in your decision-making, but you should also consider the ongoing costs which can add up. In particular, expect your energy bill to rise as you will be running your filter for at least 8 hours a day every day in order to maintain those crystal clear waters.

Another ongoing cost to think about is the filter media. Sand should last you three to five years before you need to empty the filter out and put new sand in. Sand filters are probably the most affordable option when you factor in ongoing costs.

On the other hand, DE filters need constant replenishing. The consistent backwashing needed with this type of filter washes away a lot of the DE, which needs replacing. On top of that, consider that you will need to purchase a new filter grid every 2-3 years or when your grids look worse for wear.

Finally, cartridge filters are in a similar league to sand filters. The cartridge itself will need replacing only every 2-4 years.

Maintenance Needs

You should consider the cost of your time when deciding on your pool filter. Most notably, DE filters require a lot of maintenance. So although they are considered the most effective type of filter, make sure the efficiency is properly offset by the amount of time you are spending maintaining the filter. If you don’t mind the backwashing required every 2-4 weeks, this may be a good fit for you. Alternatively, if you require a low-maintenance filter model, choose a sand or cartridge filter.

Energy Efficiency

If you want to think more about the impact on the environment with the equipment you use or you simply want to cut down on costs, take a look at how energy efficient your pool filter options are. While pool filters do not take a lot of energy to run, every bit makes a difference.

If energy efficiency matters to you, go for a swimming pool filter with maximum efficiency for a faster filtration time, which will thereby save electricity. One way of achieving this is to install a larger pool filter to reduce the strain on the pool pump. Try to pair your filter with a variable speed pump to further reduce energy use.

And that’s about it. Questions? Let me know.

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