The Importance of Swimming Pool Circulation

Written by Michael Dean
April 10, 2023

water circulating in a swimming pool

When you’re looking to go for a swim, the only thing floating should be you, not grime and debris. The circulation of water around your swimming pool is a critical part of keeping your pool clean. Pool circulation refers to water movement around the pool to promote water flow and move the debris to the pool filter for a cleaner, healthier pool.

Below, I dive into the importance of pool circulation, how a pool circulation system works, and how to improve water circulation.

Main Takeaways

  • Pool circulation keeps your pool clean. Improper circulation could lead to algae growth.
  • Water goes through the pump’s skimmer through the pump and to the filter. Once the filter cleans the water, the water moves back into the pool through the pool jets.
  • You should run your pool pump 8 to 10 hours a day.
  • To improve pool circulation, you could point your pool jets in a specific direction, clean your pool once a week, check the filter’s pressure gauge, and backwash the filter.

Why Pool Circulation is Important

Pool circulation is one of the most critical parts of getting a clean pool, but many pool owners don’t realize how big a role simple water movement plays in keeping your pool clean.

Unlike natural water sources like lakes and streams, pools don’t have any external water source that promotes flow and circulation, so they must rely on manual circulation from pool pumps. This note about the pool structure is why circulation is so essential. If the pool pump is not circulating the pool, the water will become stagnant and dirty, allowing debris to build up or even other microorganisms to cloud the water.

Poor pool circulation and filtration, particularly in more humid climates, can lead to a case of pool algae. While manageable, algae will require much more care to remove than merely circulating your pool. This process would require buying additional cleaning products and performing a stricter pool cleaning regimen to remove the algae, cutting into swimming time.

How Pool Circulation Works

Pool water circulates through mechanical means. The pool pump and filter play the two primary roles in pool circulation for home pools.

Water is moved out of the pool via the pump’s skimmer, the small covered rectangular opening in the wall of a pool that traps debris or other objects that land in your pool. After it moves through the skimmer, the pool’s water continues through the pump to the filter, where the filter clears it of debris. Once the filter cleans the water, it continues back into the pool by way of the pool jets located in the pool’s walls.

The positioning of pool jets helps to promote proper circulation. Depending on the number of jets in your pool, you can point the jets to create a small whirlpool pattern. With this setup, the water circles around your pool, pushing water up from the pool’s bottom to the top and toward the skimmer. This process ensures that all water makes its way through the pump system to be cleaned by the system.


  • A and B are your skimmers
  • C and D are your stop jets
  • E and F are your return jets
  • I (the lighter lines around the pool) is the clean water returning to the pool
  • J (the darker line above the pool in the diagram) is the dirty water traveling to the filter

The pool circulation process leads directly to the next topic to consider: your pool’s turnover rate.

The Importance of Turnover Rate

Turnover rate is how long it takes for the pump and filter system to circulate all of the water in your pool. A home pool’s turnover rate is not something you need to calculate yourself and is generally something to consider for larger industrial and recreational pools. Still, it helps to know what turnover rate calculates to understand your pool better.

You can calculate the turnover rate by dividing the gallons in your pool by the gallons per minute rate determined by your flow meter. This device measures the water flow through your pool’s recirculation system. This formula’s turnover rate is how long the pump and filtration system takes to circulate all the pool’s water.

For example, if the pool circulates water three times a day, the turnover rate is eight hours because 24 hours per day, divided by three full circulations per day, equals eight hours. The turnover rate depends on several factors, including the pump’s horsepower and the pipes’ size in your filtration system. How long should you run your pool pump? Between eight and ten hours per day.

If you need help choosing the right pump, use my pool pump size calculator.

How to Make Sure You Have Proper Jet Settings

Pool jets play an important role in pool circulation by pushing clean water back into the pool. The most effective jets are multidirectional, which means their direction can be changed with a pool remote or manually.

Pool jets are most effective for spinning the water in a big circle around the pool, creating a water route from jet to skimmer around the pool, ensuring that all water makes its way into the filter where the system cleans it.

While jets do a lot to help your pool circulate, there are still a few problem areas to watch out for and solutions to help places the jets don’t quite reach. If your jets are potentially malfunctioning, read my guide on what to do when your pool jets are not working.

How to Improve Pool Circulation and Common Watch Outs

You can point your pool jets in a specific pattern to promote better pool circulation. If you only have a limited number of pool jets, they should be directed toward the skimmer and downward to push the water toward the skimmer and bring water from the bottom of the pool to the top. However, pool jets can’t always reach all areas of your pool, depending on the pool shape or other components.

There are other areas of the pool to watch out for when setting up a circulation routine. Pool ladders and stairs, called “dead areas,” are typical places for debris and dirty water to get caught and not make it into the skimmer to be filtered and circulated. If a pool jet can’t clear these areas, you should clean them regularly with a brush.

Cleaning your pool at least once a week with a pool brush is generally a good practice to further promote pool circulation by clearing out areas the jets don’t reach, breaking up other debris, and scrubbing away any algae that may form.

After the steps of cleaning out the filter and pool skimmer basket, you should check the filter’s pressure gauge and see what the pressure reads. If it’s between eight and ten PSI higher than the gauge’s clean or starting pressure, then extra steps need to be taken to clean the pool filter and reduce pressure.

You should start with backwashing the filter, which means thoroughly cleaning out the filter with a backwash hose. If this process doesn’t take care of the circulation issues, you can replace the media inside the pool filter. A pool filter’s media is the filtering material used to capture debris, typically silica sand, a grid, or cellulose fiber.

Following these steps to take care of any problem areas with your circulation routine should ensure your pool is well-circulated and free from cloudiness or debris buildup.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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Final Thoughts

Pool circulation is the most crucial part of keeping a clean pool and is generally an easy task for pool owners. Two important things to consider are running the pump daily and maintaining proper jet settings.

You should also be prepared to tackle any issues that might come up with tricky areas in the pool, like dead zones that need to be cleared by the jet or pool brush, or the pool filter itself, which you should backwash or replace the media if you continue to see issues.

Overall, creating pool circulation is an easy and routine process for pool owners to accomplish through a few simple steps. Circulating your pool every day will give you a clean, beautiful pool in no time.

Have questions? Drop me a line, and I’ll help out as best I can.

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