Choosing the right pool filter

Before we go into choosing the right pool filter for you, we must first familiarize ourselves with the available choices. Much like choosing food, you know you’re hungry but you’ll need to see a menu first before ordering.

And if you don’t like to read, SKIP FORWARD to our pro’s and con’s chart for a one-glance look at how to choose the right filter. Don't skip forward though, we promise you that there's going to be a ton of useful information.

Three Types of Pool Filters

Let’s look at the different types of pool filters available out there. How much they cost (relatively), how they function, and how much work is needed in order to keep them in perfect running condition.

Before we go any further, we’d like to stress that pool filters are for filtering out particles that are invisible (or almost invisible) to the naked eye. For larger debris like leaves and bugs, you’ll have to scoop them out manually (or bribe someone to do it for you).  

Don't like to read? Here's Mr Pool Man himself explaining the different filter types!

Sand Filters

Of the three types of pool filters, sand filters are the most popular ones as they are easy to maintain, and not to mention extremely affordable when compared to the other options. This affordability and ease of maintenance are also the reasons why sand filters are perfect for those with medium to large sized pools.

Sand filters work by “scrubbing” the water that is being pushed by the pool pump of any contaminants. If you take a look at sand filter media under a microscope, they’re going to have jagged edges that snag any dirt and debris that pass by them, leaving you with crystal clear water.

Depending on your sand filter media type, you can filter out particles down to 20 microns in size. If you can’t visualize how small that is, a human hair on the average is 70 microns thick, so yeah, sand filters can really filter out extremely tiny particles. Anything below 40 microns, you would need a microscope to see.

Maintaining a sand filter is pretty straightforward, taking only a few minutes to complete a whole backwash cycle. Not only that, but it’s very “hands-off” to maintain. You only need to set some switches to backwash mode and that’s that. No need to get wet or involved with the process.  

Over time, these jagged edges on your sand filter media are going to get worn smooth by the water, and when that happens, you’ll need to replace the filter media. Don’t worry though, it usually takes about five years or so before this happens so if you have a fairly new pool (or are just planning to get one) it’s going to be a long time before you’ll need to replace the sand in your pool filter.

Cartridge Filters

As long as you have a small pool, cartridge filters are the way to go. They’re a little bit more expensive than sand filters but they can filter out particles down to 10 microns in size. The way it works is that it takes the water that is pushed by the pump and forces it through a series of very fine mesh filters made out of spun polyester that trap the particles as the water is pushed through them.

Now depending on the size of your pool and usage, filter cartridges have to be cleaned out more often. How often is often? About a week or two. A good rule of thumb is, the bigger your pool, the more you have to clean your cartridge filter. To clean it, simply open up the filter housing, pull the filter out and give it a good hose-down to remove any and all debris that it has collected. It is also advisable to give your cartridge filters a good soak in some Zodiac Filter Cleaner every three to four months to remove any gunk or algae growth that might have accumulated on the filter itself. Now while the cleaning process is much more involved than sand filters, it uses much less water during the cleaning process.

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The filters themselves are a lot less durable than the sand (or glass) filter media that is used in sand filters so they need more frequent replacing. Cartridge filters can last anywhere from one to three years depending on your maintenance regimen and the size of your pool. If you have a large pool or an oversized pump, this can lead you to replacing your cartridge filter every year or two.

Cartridge filters are best for smaller pools with ECO pumps with variable speeds as they perform well and last longer at lower flow rates.

Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) Filters

If money and effort are not issues then this is the pool filter system of choice. D.E. Filters are basically like sand filters, but they use a special filter media called Diatomaceous Earth. D.E. filters can filter out particles down to 5 microns, this means that it can filter out almost anything that might be in your pool (even dead bacteria bits killed by the pool chemicals) and with a D.E. filter, you’re going to get the clearest water possible.

Now for the bad parts. D.E. or Diatomaceous Earth isn’t cheap and you have to top up your system every time you do a backwash (which is about every week or two). D.E. filters also need to be disassembled annually to clean out all of the fittings in the filter tank for it to function optimally. Handling Diatomaceous Earth also requires special protective equipment as the particles are very fine and may cause respiratory issues in some people.

Quick Comparison Between the Three Filter Types

Sand Filters Cartridge Filters D.E. Filters

Cost

Low

Medium

High

Water Usage

High

Low

High

Maintenance

Low

Low/Medium

High

Media Change

5-7 years

1-3 years

Top up every backwash / annual change

Recommended Pool Size

All

Small to Medium

All

Contaminant Filtered

>20 microns

>10 microns

>5 microns

Water Clarity

Crystal Clear

Crystal Clear

OMG THERES WATER? (Sorry, couldn’t figure out how to describe clearer than crystal clear)*

*Yes it is THAT clear

Conclusion

Now if you’re really hardcore about your pool clarity and don’t mind the added expenses and the extra effort required to maintain D.E. filters, then this is the choice for you. But for folks who just want to enjoy a clean pool, then sand filters and cartridge filter systems are more than enough.  

Our Recommendation?

For the casual pool owner (or future pool owner) we highly recommend the Water TechniX Sand Filter Aspire. It's suitable for all pool sizes, the maintenance is a breeze, and it's made from thermoplastic that's UV resistant and virtually indestructable. It's suitable for both fresh and saltwater pool systems and it has been reviewed as the best valued sand filter for its size on our online store!

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Do you have any questions about this topic or the featured products? No worries, we're here to help! Drop us a question down below and we'll get back to you ASAP.

Happy swimming :)

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Post author:

Tom Hintze

Head of eCommerce & Operations at Mr Pool Man,
Co-Founder at Water TechniX

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