Owning a pool can be a blessing on a hot day, but it can also involve complicated maintenance. The water must be clean to provide a safe, healthy environment for you, your family, and your guests.
A proper filtration system is necessary to maintain clean and safe water. And the main component of any filtration system is the pump. But due to a wide range of available pumps on the market, choosing the right one may be a real challenge.
This guide reviews the five best pool pumps for different needs. Below, you’ll find options for in-ground and above-ground pools of various sizes, with single, dual, or variable speed settings. Additionally, we’ll explain what to look for in a perfect pool pump and answer the most popular questions related to the topic.
OUR TOP PICK
A 3-horsepower pool pump is pretty rare. Frankly, pools large enough to need such a powerful pump aren’t common either. However, this Pentair IntelliFlo pool pump is a reliable and advanced workhorse for the most heavily used, massive in-ground pools.
The pump offers eight variable speed settings that can be tailored to your needs. The Pentair IntelliFlo pump raises energy savings to 90% compared to other pumps with similar characteristics. A built-in timer helps to control the pump’s operation even when you aren’t home. Quiet operation and heat protection are achieved by a totally enclosed fan-cooled design. The pump is Energy Star certified.
Built-in diagnostic tools ensure you are informed about issues on time and help to prolong the pump’s lifetime. An LCD screen shows actual wattage consumption and allows to easily manage settings. In addition, this pump integrates with pool automation.
- Easy to install
- Built-in timer and diagnostics
- Eight-speed settings
- 3-horsepower motor
- High initial cost
Most pool pumps on the market offer up to 2 horsepower. Pentair WhisperFlo pump offers a 3-horsepower motor suitable for the largest pools exceeding a 60,000-gallon capacity. Smaller versions are also available. Two speed settings provide excellent versatility. High flow pace is achieved by patented Funnel-Flo diffusers. As the name suggests, the Pentair WhisperFlo won’t disturb your pool time with a noisy motor.
The Pentair WhisperFlo is made from thermoplastic that withstands extreme heat and resists corrosion. The motor frame and shaft are rustproof and don’t require lubrication. A see-through lid design allows you to see how full the wastebasket is.
Pentair WhisperFlo Pump installation is simple and doesn’t require professional help. In theory, it’s suitable for all types of pools – in-ground or above-ground. However, the latter rarely reach dimensions that require a 3-horsepower pump. Therefore, for above-ground pools, we recommend a less powerful version of the same pump.
- 3-horsepower motor
- Heat-resistant body
- Easy installation
- Two speed settings
- The speed settings can’t be adjusted
The Hayward Super Pump is produced by an industry-leading brand. Thus, you can rely on it without hesitation. It’s suitable for in-ground pools and spas of all types and sizes.
This pump operates at 1.5-horsepower, sufficient even for the largest pools. Unfortunately, only one speed setting is available. It’s the perfect fit for pools used rarely or those in constant use requiring regular filtration. Plus, simple speed settings help to achieve lower initial costs.
The pump is constructed from high-quality plastic and corrosion-proof PermaGlass XL material for extra durability. Its innovative design provides quick access to all internal components for easier maintenance. In addition, self-priming construction provides a suction lift of up to 10 feet above water level.
A perfectly balanced, efficient impeller can produce high flow rates while using less horsepower than most competitors. This ensures significant energy savings even when the pump runs at maximum speed.
The Hayward Super Pump features a super-sized, 110-cubic-inch basket for improved waste-holding capacity. It ensures your pool is always clean from debris while saving time on waste collection. In addition, the see-through strainer is very easy to remove, thanks to swing-aside hand knobs.
- Powerful motor
- Large wastebasket
- Easy access to all internal components
- Self-priming construction
- The single-speed motor isn’t versatile
- Wired, so professional installation is recommended
The XtremepowerUS Pool Pump is created for in-ground pools. It doesn’t require professional installation, featuring a corded electric power source. The pump holds ETL and UL certificates compliant with the National Standards of Safety.
This pool pump is powered by a heavy-duty, high-performance motor with air-flow ventilation for improved temperature control. Although the pump is powerful, it remains quiet due to its innovative design. The maximum flow pace is 88 gallons per minute, suitable for pools exceeding 5,500-gallon capacity. A 1.5-horsepower motor easily handles even the highest head resistance. Two speed settings are available to ensure you can always choose the most suitable one for a specific situation filtration pace.
The XtremepowerUS Pool Pump offers one of the largest strainer baskets in its class; an easy-open, quick lock, transparent pump lid grants simple access and disposal of collected waste. Last but not least, the pump is constructed from corrosion-proof polymeric material for excellent durability.
- Corrosion-proof polymeric body
- Two-speed settings
- Quiet motor
- 1.5-horsepower motor
- ETL and UL certified
- Not suitable for above-ground pools
Hayward is an industry-leading pool equipment manufacturer. The brand produces environmentally responsible, cutting-edge products for residential and commercial use.
The Hayward PowerFlo Matrix is a universal pump suitable both for in-ground and above-ground pools. It features a high-performance impeller with wide openings for clog prevention, often caused by leaves and debris. An industrial-size strainer basket ensures excellent waste collection and requires minimal maintenance.
This pool pump is versatile in terms of installation and maintenance. It easily converts from vertical to horizontal discharge orientation. The Hayward PowerFlo Matrix features a plug-in pipe connection, so no professional electrician help is required. The rear switch is energy-efficient and protected from moisture and short-circuiting.
The Hayward PowerFlo Matrix is suitable for medium and large pools, thanks to a powerful heavy-duty 1.5-horsepower motor. An integrated automatic thermal overload protector ensures durability and helps avoid hazards.
A double-speed setting allows you to adjust the pumping power and time. The higher speed is beneficial for frequently used pools where extensive filtration is necessary; the lower speed is better for daily use as it saves energy and extends the equipment's lifetime.
- Two speed settings
- No professional installation required
- High-performance motor
- Industrial sized basket
- Speed can’t be adjusted
To help you choose the best suitable pool pump, we created a brief buyer’s guide. Read on to find out what to look for in the perfect filtration equipment.
Accurate pool pump size calculation is crucial for maintaining clean water and maximizing energy savings. The general rule is that a pool pump should filter all the water in under eight hours. However, an overly powerful pump may consume unnecessary amounts of energy.
Pool pump size is closely related to its flow rate and is measured in gallons per minute (GPM). To determine how large a pump you need, calculate your pool’s volume.
Next, multiply the width, length, and depth of the pool. Then, multiply that result by 7.5 (the number of gallons in a cubic foot). The result is your pool size in gallons.
If you have a round pool, treat it as square or use this formula:
- First, take its radius and multiply it by two and then by 3.14.
- Then multiply the result by your pool’s depth to get the volume.
Finally, you should convert the result into the minimum required GPM. Here’s how to do that:
- One turnover may not be enough for saltwater pools, so it’s recommended to multiply the pool’s volume by two to get the total water volume a pump must filter in a day.
- Divide the total amount of water in gallons by 24. The result will be how many gallons the pump needs to filter in an hour. Then, divide this number by 60 to get the minimum required GPM rating.
For example, you have a 20-ft. wide, 40-ft. long, and 6-ft. deep pool. The pump running time is eight hours. Thus, 20 x 40 x 6 x 7.5 = 36,000 gallons. Assuming it’s a saltwater pool, two turnovers are needed, so we multiply this number by two: 36,000 x 2 = 72,000 gallons. Then, we calculate the GPM:
72,000: 24 = 3,000 gallons per hour
3,000: 60 = 50 gallons per minute
So, the minimum pump flow rate for a 20 x 40 x 6-feet pool is 50 GPM.
The maximum flow rate is determined by the plumbing. The plumbing flow rates are fixed:
- 1.5-inch plumbing handles up to 43 gallons per minute
- 2-inch plumbing handles up to 73 gallons per minute
- 2.5-inch plumbing handles up to 120 gallons per minute
If you have several pipelines, multiply the flow rate by their number. For instance, the maximum pump flow rate for a pool with two 2-inch lines would be 73 x 2 = 146 GPM. If your pool’s plumbing system differs from the industry standard, we advise contacting a professional for a consultation.
Installation Requirements: Wired vs. Plug-In
Although professional help is never wasteful when it comes to electrical wiring or plumbing, some pool pumps can be installed without an expert hand. This mainly relates to plug-in options. If you choose a plug-in pump, make sure the receptacle is GFCI-protected to prevent electrocution. Power outlets located within 10 feet of the pool must also have a twist-lock style plug to avoid exposure to splashes.
Wired pool pumps are connected to your house’s electrical system. The electrical supply must be compatible with the pump’s voltage, phase, and cycle. Wiring installation is a hazardous and complicated process. We highly advise hiring an experienced contractor to perform any electrical work.
Pool Compatibility: Inground vs. Above-Ground
Most modern pool pumps are designed for compatibility with in-ground pools. Technically, pumps for in-ground and above-ground pools don’t differ much.
Many of them are suitable for both pool types. However, if you have an above-ground pool, we advise checking the characteristics in advance to avoid installation issues. Furthermore, above-ground pools are generally smaller than in-ground options and require an appropriately sized pump.
Speeds and Settings
The more speed settings your pool pump has, the higher your energy savings will be because energy consumption can be tailored to your needs.
Higher speeds are perfect for extensive water filtration and are required when many people use the pool simultaneously. However, for daily use, a slower pace is preferable. It has numerous benefits, such as:
- Significant energy savings. Due to the pump affinity law, savings grow disproportionately to the decrease in pumping speed. In other words, it’s cheaper to run the pump slower and longer than faster for a short period
- Slower speed helps to maintain your pool equipment in good condition. Fast water flow may increase the wear and tear of your filtration system and pipes
- Improved sanitization. Chlorine necessary for pool sanitization is usually unstabilized. Sunlight causes it to dissolve faster. When chlorinated water runs through the pump, it’s preserved from the sun. In other words, the longer the pump runs, the more chlorine remains in the water, and the cleaner your pool is.
Overall, variable-speed pumps are the best option. However, they also have a higher initial cost than double-speed and single-speed pumps. If you don’t use your pool frequently or it isn’t large, purchasing a single-speed pump may be a better idea. They’re much more affordable and don’t have any complicated settings.
Double-speed pumps are an optimal choice for pools with attached spas. You can use higher speeds for the pool and lower ones for the spa, which usually is smaller.
Be aware, though - as the flow rates can’t be adjusted, the lower speed may be insufficient for your pool. So before getting a double-speed pump, conduct all the necessary calculations to ensure that both settings are suitable for your pool.
Although previously we sized pool pumps in gallons per minute, most manufacturers don’t advertise their product power in such measurements. Instead, the pump power is measure in horsepower. The flow depends on a scope of factors beyond the product itself, including plumbing, filter, the elevation of the pump, and others. These factors may create head resistance.
The average head resistance of most pools is 40 feet. Thus, a typical 1-horsepower motor can move 100 gallons of water per minute. But, considering a 40-feet resistance, the actual amount of water may be lower by half.
With that in mind, 0.5-horsepower pumps are the best fit for small pools with up to an 11,000-gallon capacity. A 1-horsepower pump is suitable for medium-sized pools with up to a 26,000-gallon capacity. Larger pools require at least 1.5-horsepower pumps.
Although the general recommendations are pretty straightforward, your pool’s heat resistance may differ from the average in practice. For example, if the pump is located further than 40 feet from the pool or is on a lower level, the resistance will be greater.
Consequently, you may need a stronger pump. Hiring a professional to calculate your pool’s heat resistance may be highly useful for correct pump sizing.
If you still have some uncertainty regarding choosing and operating a pool pump, we’re here to help. In this section, we’ll provide answers to the most common questions related to the topic.
What Does a Pool Pump Do?
As the name suggests, a pool pump moves water. Technically, pool pumps are called centrifugal pumps as they use centrifugal force, circulating water from inlet to outlet. This single action serves an essential purpose, though.
A pool pump is the heart of a pool’s filtration system. Its main components are a strainer basket, motor, and impeller. The latter is the only moving part of a pump, propelling water at high velocity with fan-like blades. Closed face impellers are the most energy-efficient type of impeller and, therefore, the most common in modern pool pumps.
The pump basket collects debris to prevent clogs and damage to the impeller. It also helps to keep your pool clean from any floating material. This basket can later be removed and emptied.
As with many other mechanisms, a motor is the pump’s power source. Modern pool pumps typically have one of the following motor types:
Variable Speed Motor
It’s designed to operate at different speeds to reduce energy usage and perform specific tasks. As a result, it’s the most cost-effective in the long term and is ideal for frequently used pools.
This type of motor keeps the pump working either low or fast. Thus, it often offers a perfect balance between versatility and cost. However, the motor speed can’t be adjusted, and you must make sure both settings are suitable for your pool size in advance.
It’s the simplest and initially most inexpensive motor type. However, such motors consume more energy than variable speed options. As a result, they’re a perfect fit for a pool that is used rarely.
Is It Better to Run a Pool Pump at Night or Day?
In many areas of the U.S., running electrical appliances at night is more cost-effective due to lower energy rates. Plus, it’s nice to have a pool clean and ready for swimming from early morning. So, it would seem that running the pool pump at night makes more sense, though, in practice, it isn’t that straightforward.
Generally, it’s best to run your pool pump during the hottest times of the day. That’s due to the chlorine contained in water, which is necessary for fighting bacteria and algae.
If the chlorine is unstabilized (a common occurrence), sunlight can cause depletion, rendering sanitization useless. Water moving around prevents chlorine from getting burnt out as fast, consequently saving your pool from contamination. Chlorine doesn’t deplete during the night, and running a pump will only decrease sanitization effectiveness.
Running your pump during the day will also ensure that pool users don’t wreak havoc on the water’s quality. People inevitably contaminate the pool with dirt, sweat, sunblock, and other matter, changing the water’s chemical balance.
Overall, running your pump for eight hours during the day is the best practice to maintain a clean and safe environment.
For pool owners for whom energy savings are a significant concern, it may be wise to split the pump running times. It’s a widespread practice in Southern states, where the cost of electricity is relatively high, but the sun's heat is plentiful. For instance, it could run for four hours during the day and the same time during the night. This way, a significant part of chlorine is preserved, but the energy bill doesn’t skyrocket.
Should I Run Pool Pump on High or Low?
The question any owner of a double-speed or variable speed pool pump asks when first starting it up is, ‘Which speed do I choose?’ Naturally, every speed has its pros and cons, otherwise providing different options wouldn’t make sense.
However, your pool pump should be able to filter all the water in eight hours or less. Generally, any speed is suitable so long as it meets this requirement.
High speeds are great for pools that are used extensively. If many people are using the pool at the same time, running the pump on maximum settings will ensure that water remains clean. It may seem that energy consumption evens out if you run the pump at twice the speed for half the time.
However, in practice, high speeds consume significantly more energy, resulting in increased energy bills. It happens due to a pump affinity law, which states that energy consumption grows disproportionately larger the more you increase the pump speed. Thus, high speeds are better for specific occasions rather than for daily use.
Electricity savings aren’t the only reason for choosing low speeds for daily use. The slower the pump runs, the less noise it makes. This may seem like a minor advantage, but pools are made for relaxing, and some high-speed pumps can be extremely noisy.
Lower speed also reduces the wear and tear of your pool equipment, including filters, heaters, and chlorinators, extending their lifespan.
Finally, when the pump runs at a slower pace, it filters water for longer periods. Consequently, it distributes chemicals more evenly and captures more contaminants. This helps to achieve cleaner water and fight algae buildup.
Should You Run Pool Pump in Rain?
Yes. Rain contains different elements than your pool water, so it causes numerous chemical changes. Usually, rain is more acidic than pool water. Consequently, the overall pH level may drop. This may cause skin irritation or damage your pool’s heating and filtration system.
Rainfall also provides perfect conditions for breeding algae, as it’s enriched with nitrogen. Thus, an algaecide is of great help here, though it may be insufficient during heavy rainfalls.
Plus, rain often comes side by side with the wind that brings twigs and leaves to the pool. Additional debris may clog the filtration system and lead to serious issues if untreated.
Optionally, you can run it right after the rain stops, but it’s necessary to do so before your next pool use. Running your pool pump during rain helps to deal with chemical changes right away. It’s also easier to filter contaminants gradually rather than in one go, and you can start swimming earlier after the rain ends.
How Much Does a Pool Pump Increase Your Electric Bill?
There’s no universal answer to this question. It depends on the pump type and running speed, size of your pool, frequency of use, and energy cost in your area. However, we can estimate based on the national average energy cost of 11.8 cents per kilowatt-hour (KWh) of power. Therefore, a typical pool pump used daily may add about $50-150 to your monthly energy bill.
Of course, you can decrease energy consumption by implementing a wise pump running approach. For instance, if your state offers cheaper energy at night, you may run the pump partially at night. However, we don’t advise shifting to night-time filtration entirely as it may affect the pool’s cleanliness.
Pump efficiency also plays a significant role in energy savings. Invest in smaller, more efficient equipment. If you only use the pool occasionally, don’t run the pump every day. A regular pool cover will ensure that no debris, leaves, or other matter gets into the pool when it’s not in use. When needed, you can shock the pool and use the high pumping speed to get it ready for swimming faster.
As for the running time, six hours is the recommended minimum. An automatic timer will ensure that your pump always starts on time and never works longer than required. Some modern pumps even have a built-in timer. Finally, choose a slower pumping pace for daily use. The pump affinity law states that energy savings grow disproportionally as pump speed decreases.
Invest in Efficiency
Hopefully, our guide has helped you understand which pump your pool requires. Investing in efficient, modern pool equipment pays off in the long term. Combined with a wise use strategy, a new pump may significantly decrease your energy bill. Most importantly, the best pool pump will ensure your pool is safe and clean at all times.