Above Ground Swimming Pool Filters: DE, Sand, and Cartridge Filters

Choosing above ground swimming pool filters can be an issue, but which one to pick?  Pool sand filter problems and swimming pool DE filter issues can be bad for a pool owner.  The purpose is to avoid problems that could create ineffective filtration or safety hazards.  Inground pool filtration systems are set many feet apart from the pool while your above ground pool filter system sits very close the pool.  Finding the correct size filter and pump motor will greatly affect the way your pool will perform.

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How To Select Above Ground Swimming Pool Filters 


Sand Filter

Just as the name implies. It uses sand to filter the dirt and debris from your pool water.  The water comes through the suction side of the filtration system and passes through the sand filter.

The clean water is then returned back to the pool. Needs to be backwashed when the pressure reaches 8 - 10 psi over your "just backwashed" pressure.  Sand filters have the least filtration capability out of the 3 kinds of filters.

Sand Filter Advantages

  • Easy to use and operate
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy backwashing 
  • Sand can last a very long time and is inexpensive to top off or replace
  • Removes debris down to 20 microns.  For reference, a micron is about the size of a red blood cell.
  • Low maintenance

Sand Filter Disadvantages

  • Sand might need periodic replacing
  • Worse filtration compared to a cartridge or DE pool filter system
  • Backwashing means loosing water which, in turn, means topping off
  • Constant backwashing means higher chemical use, especially in a heavily used pool


Cartridge Filter

Works just like the air filter on your car.  Dirty water goes in and clean water goes out.  The dirt, debris and algae get trapped inside the pleats.  No need to backwash, but they must be rinsed out with a garden hose.  NEVER use a high pressure cleaner.  It will rip the pleats. Rates between a DE and sand filter.

Cartridge filters only last about 2500 - 3500 filter hours.  Places that keep their pools open all year long may need to replace the filters every 1.5 - 2 years, which can get a little expensive.  Those who close their pools for the Winter may be able to get 3 - 4 seasons out of the cartridges.

Cartridge Filter Advantages

  • Can remove particles as small as 10-15 microns
  • Easy maintenance and no backwashing
  • Lower pool pump pressure
  • Large surface area means cleaner water
  • Replacement cartridges are relatively inexpensive

Cartridge Filter Disadvantages

  • Cartridges need to be replaced every 2500 - 3500 filter hours 
  • Must be taken out to be manually cleaned
  • CYA can slowly increase due to no backwashing and topping off with fresh water
  • Not practical for very large pools


D.E. Filter

The best in terms of filtration, but can sometimes be troublesome.  DE filters can filter down to 2 microns and are considered the "water polishers" of pool filters.  They need to be "bumped" every so often.

The grids or fingers can tear which allows DE to go back into the pool.  Backwashing is required when the pressure on the psi gauge read 8 - 10 psi over your "just backwashed" pressure.  

DE Filter Advantages

  • Can filter down to 2 - 3 microns
  • Easy backwashing
  • It filters "faster" due to the DE filter's ability to capture virtually every dirt particle 
  • Water clarity is excellent
  • Grids are durable and long lasting with proper care

DE Filter Disadvantages

  • Higher maintenance
  • Grids or fingers need to be periodically replace which can get expensive
  • DE filter system needs to be taken apart and cleaned at least twice per year if you keep your pool open year round
  • Backwashing can loose up to 200 - 300 gallons of water.  More often for a heavily used pool. 
  • Grids and/or fingers are more expensive than a cartridge filter  or sand
  • Must recharge your filter system with fresh DE after each backwash
  • Some place have banned DE filters
  • DE can be messy and harmful if inhaled

Please don’t worry if these sound a little confusing.  That’s why you’re here.  To get the information you need. 

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Above Ground Swimming Pool Filters Manufacturers

Are you looking for the best swimming pool filter, brand, or pool filter parts?  What manufacturers are there and how about cleaning a swimming pool filter?  Here's a short list to cover your above ground swimming pool filters for cartridge, sand, and DE (diatomaceous earth pool filter).

  • Hayward (sometimes called Haywood)
  • Jacuzzi
  • Intex
  • Pentair
  • Sta-Rite (sometimes Sta Rite or Starite)
  • Proline
  • Waterway
  • Lomart
  • Doughboy
  • Purex
  • Nautilus
  • Astral
  • Jandy
  • Apollo
  • Unicel
  • Dayton Motors
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