Top 5 Best Pool Multiport Valves in 2019

Sand and diatomaceous earth pool filters offer many benefits, including durable and inexpensive filtration media, user-friendly operation and an easy backwashing process. These pool filters are equipped with a multiport valve that diverts the water in different directions with the press and turn of a handle.

multiport pool valves

While other types of valves exist, they do not offer the level of pool-maintenance flexibility as opposed to multiport valves. Unfortunately, multiport valves don’t always last throughout the filter’s life. Leaks can occur at many connection points within the valve or between the valve and the filter tank.

Using a filter when its valve isn’t functioning properly will make the pool water unhygienic, and it can spell expensive disaster down the road. Sometimes, malfunctions can be easily repaired. Other times, a replacement makes more sense. That is why we added a troubleshooting section in our buyer’s guide.

We also included information for first-time DE/sand filter users in our multiport valve buyer’s guide. If you’ve never owned a sand or a diatomaceous earth filter, you need to know what each setting means and when that setting should be engaged. There are usually six positions, but some valves have an extra winterizing setting.

Best Pool Multiport Valves

Compared to push-pull and diverter-style valves, multiport valves offer the greatest number of settings. When choosing a multiport valve for your diatomaceous earth or sand filter, you have to make sure it’s sized to fit the tank. Also important are the valve’s mount location and the warranty. Take a look at these multiport valves on our review list.

Pool Multiport Valve Buying Guide

If you have a filter that uses DE or sand, it will have a multiport valve on its side or top. Like all other mechanical parts, the multiport valve will eventually fail. Sometimes, breakdowns can be fixed. Other times, it makes more sense to replace the valve instead of repair it.

Best Pool Multiport Valves

Our buyer’s guide focuses on making sense of each setting – Yours may come with up to seven positions, some of which you’ll use more often than others. We also discuss common multiport valve issues and how to troubleshoot them. Should you decide that a replacement is in order, read our step-by-step instructions on how to install a new one.

Commonly Used Multiport Valve Settings

As the normal setting, filter is the one you’ll need to use the most. When in this position, the water runs through the pump port and travel down the sand and diatomaceous earth to capture pool debris. Then, the now-clean water exits through the return port. We also recommend using the filter setting while vacuuming.

The backwash position should be used when the filter is overloaded with debris. A 7 to 10 psi rise will indicate the need for backwashing. On this setting, the water moves backward, exiting from the waste port and taking debris buildup along with it. Backwashing takes 5 minutes tops.

Anytime you backwash a filter, you must rinse it, which you can do via the filter’s dedicated rinse setting. When set to rinse, the water flows from top to bottom just as it does in filter mode. However, the water is directed to the waste port instead of the return port that leads to the swimming pool.

Infrequently Used Multiport Valve Settings

There are several reasons to position the multiport valve to the waste setting – when lowering the water level, dealing with an overfilled pool, treating the water for algae and vacuuming extra-fine sediment. After you set the valve to waste, the water from the pool enters the pump port, and it’s released through the waste port, bypassing the filter.

swimming pool multiport valves

Recirculate is another valve position that bypasses the sand or DE filter. On recirculate, sometimes simply called bypass, water is sent through the pump port and leaves through the return port without undergoing the filtration process. Reasons to use the recirculate setting include adding certain pool chemicals and circulating the water in the event the filter becomes damaged.

Closed is a rarely used setting. The only times you’ll need to set the filter to closed are when you’re servicing the swimming pool’s pump or winterizing the suction lines. The closed position halts the water flow at the filter’s pump port. Before you turn the valve handle to closed, make sure the pool pump is not running.

Some multiport valves do not have a winter setting because it accomplishes a similar goal as the closed position does. However, the winter position also takes tension off the valve’s internal spring and holds the valve above the ports, preventing breakdowns from prolonged non-use and cracks from frozen water.

Troubleshooting: Stuck Handle

Moving mechanical parts wear out from time to time. It’s not uncommon for a multiport valve’s handle to become difficult or impossible to turn. When this happens, you’ll need to take apart the valve, clean the parts and lubricate them.

Troubleshooting: Handle and Cover Leaks

If you see water pushing up to the top of the valve and flowing over the lid, the likely culprit is a handle leak. The cause of a handle leak is often due to an out-of-whack or failing O-ring gasket, which happens with repeated exposure to cold weather and water. Sometimes, stuck particles are the cause.

hayward multiport valves

Elevated pressure can cause leaks elsewhere, particularly at the valve cover. First, examine the cover’s screws and tighten any loose ones. If that doesn’t stop the leak and the pressure is still high, make sure the filter isn’t dirty. If all else fails, you’ll need to unscrew the valve cover and replace its gasket.

Troubleshooting: Gauge and Port Leaks

Gauge leaks are usually a problem that occurs in top-mounted multiport valves and characterized by trickling water coming from below the gauge. A cracked valve body, stripped plastic threads or multiple layers of Teflon tape are the cause. Once you’ve determined the source, you need to glue the crack, thread in an insert or remove and replace the tape.

All multiport valves have a waste, return and pump port. Often, leaks happen due to a too-tight adapter. On some occasions, a shrunken PVC connector or sagging pipes can lead to a leakage. You can fix this type of leak by replacing the PVC pipe and fittings. If the valve body becomes cracked, a valve replacement is in order.

Troubleshooting: Tank Connection and Waste Line Leaks

Depending on the multiport valve’s mount location, the leak may be originating from the flange area or the bulkhead area. Bulkhead leaks happen on side-mounted valves while flange-centric leaks occur on top-mounted multiport valves. Most leaks can be repaired, but those that come from between the tank and flange necessitate a full valve replacement.

The waste port can be particularly problematic. If you see water coming from this port when the filter isn’t set to backwash, there’s a leak. Any number of reasons could cause a waste-port leak, such as the spider gasket or the key assembly spring. To pinpoint either cause, you must disassemble the multiport valve. However, replacing it is easier.

FAQs

Can I Change the Handle Position While the Filter is Running?

You should always turn off the filter before you adjust the multiport valve’s position. When the filter is on, water is moving through it, and the pressure generated by that water is quite high. If you turn the handle while the filter is running, that pressure could cause the gasket to break and water to leak or even gush.

hayward pool multiport valves

How Do I Remove an Old Multiport Valve?

Multiport valves don’t last forever – Most provide 5 to 7 years of working life. When an aging or irreparable valve needs to be replaced, you must first turn off the pump and set the valve to closed. Then, you need to drain the water by pulling the filter’s drain plug.

After the water is drained, grab a pair of PVC cutters and cut the inlet and outlet, leaving about a 6-inch gap between the pipes and the valve ports. Then, you can unscrew the bulkhead unions (side-mounted valve) or remove the clamp (top-mounted valve). Finally, you can take off the old valve and install the new one.

Do Cartridge Filters Come With a Multiport Valve?

Pool filters come in sand, diatomaceous earth and cartridge varieties. A multiport valve’s main function is to clean the sand or DE inside the filter. Cartridges in a cartridge filter are removable, and you clean those by simply rinsing them with a water hose. Therefore, cartridge filters do not need nor require a multiport valve.

Pool Multiport Valve

Pool Multiport Valves: Recap

The multiport valve plays a crucial role in the operation of a sand or a diatomaceous earth filter by keeping the water flowing in the proper circulation sequence or stopping the flow altogether. It manages to do so by changing the flow direction when you turn the handle to one of its six or seven settings.

Although the valve’s handle can get stuck in place from time to time, the most common malfunction is a leak. On a multiport valve, the leak can occur in a multitude of areas. For instance, the valve can spring a leak at one of its three ports or gauge. Leaks may also originate from the filter cover connection.

Without a working multiport valve, the filter can’t clean your pool’s water and the filter itself may become damaged beyond repair. There are some breakdowns you can repair yourself, but not all leak sources are fixable. For those that aren’t repairable, a full replacement is in order. Luckily, valve removal and installation are DIY kinds of project.

Before buying a multiport valve, make sure it’s designed for use on your filter. It must also be made to mount to the appropriate location whether that be the top or the side. Like most items you buy for long-term use, make sure to the valve comes with a comprehensive warranty.

Top 5 Best Pool Sand Filters in 2019

Diatomaceous earth filters are expensive. Many municipalities strictly enforce DE disposal, and they aren’t the best fit for above-ground swimming pools. Cartridge filters only last a couple of years, and they can be tedious to clean. Is there an alternative to DE and cartridge filters?

pool sand filters

If minimal maintenance and low cost are your top priorities, a sand filter fits both of your requirements. Sand filters work well with in-ground and above-ground swimming pools, particularly large ones. Although the sand remains effective longer than diatomaceous earth, you have the option of replacing the sand with materials that have a smaller volume and filtration rate.

These filters consist of a tank with high-quality sand at two-thirds capacity. On the top or the side of the tank, there is a multiport valve next to the pressure gauge, which gives you access to the filter’s multiple settings. As water flows into the tank, the rough edges of the sand catch the debris in the water.

No matter the ground level or size of your pool, you’ll find a great sand filter in our review list. We’ve compiled a list of the most solidly constructed sand filters available. In addition, we added a buyer’s guide, which explains how to size the filter, what each multiport setting means and how to backwash your sand filter.

Best Pool Sand Filters

Pool Sand Filter Buying Guide

If you want to know more about how sand filters compare to diatomaceous earth and cartridge filters, check out our buyer’s guide, which also gives you the lowdown on the capabilities of silica sand and its alternatives. You’ll also find out how to size a sand filter according to your pool’s pump and volume.

Best Pool Sand Filters

Once you’ve found the right sand filter, our guide will tell you how to take care of it. In this guide, you’ll find instructions on how to replace the sand and backwash the filter. If you’re curious about your filter’s other settings, we’ve provided simple explanations that remove the mystery behind the multiport valve.

Filter Types: DE vs. Cartridge vs. Sand

Diatomaceous earth filters boast a 5-micron filtration rate, and you don’t need to break out chemicals to clean them. However, DE is pricey, and the filter’s grids only last 3 years. Most DE filters are incompatible with above-ground pools, and your city or county may have strict disposal rules for diatomaceous earth.

Cartridge filters can filter particles as small as 10 microns. You’ll use less water to clean them, and they work well with variable-speed pumps. Compared to sand filters, cartridge filters require more maintenance, and their lifespan is just as short as that of DE filters.

In terms of price and maintenance, sand filters are the winner. They also last much longer than DE and cartridge filters – often up to 7 years. However, there is one big downside to sand filters. They can only filter particles 20 microns and larger.

Characteristics of Sand and Its Alternatives

The type of sand used in sand filters is grade-20 silica sand. Many people prefer silica sand because it’s the cheapest medium, and it’s the easiest to maintain. Those who want a performance boost from their sand filter often opt for ZeoSand. Only half the amount of ZeoSand is needed, and it’s efficient at preventing chloramine buildup.

swimming pool filters sand

Made of recycled glass, crushed filter glass can trap particles as tiny as 2 microns. Filter glass also lasts much longer than silica sand, and you only need 20 percent the amount compared to silica. Pollyballs (polyester balls) have a 5-micron filtration rate. They’re resistant to chemical corrosion, and they can increase the pool’s flow rate by almost half.

Sizing a Sand Filter

There are two factors to take into account when choosing an appropriately sized sand filter – the pool’s pump and the pool’s capacity. When the size of the filter doesn’t match that of the pump, the system’s water flow will be hindered, and you could damage the filter.

For a 0.75 HP pump, you’ll need 2.7 square feet of sand. For a 2 HP pump, 5.8 square feet is appropriate. If the pool pump’s horsepower is rated at 1 or 1.5, you’ll need a filter that can hold 3.4 to 4.3 square feet’ worth of silica sand.

Sand filters are also sized by their flow rate of gallons-per-minute. The gallons per minute should meet or exceed that of the pool’s pump. At the very least, you’ll need 1 square foot of silica sand per 10,000 gallons of water. It’s perfectly fine to size the filter slightly bigger than the pump.

Cleaning a Sand Filter: Backwashing

The particles caught in between the sand granules gradually decrease the flow rate. Every 1 to 3 months, you’ll need to backwash your sand filter. You’ll know it’s time to take care of this routine maintenance task when the pressure gauge on the tank reads about 10 psi higher than normal.

swim pool sand filters

First, turn off the pump and the heater. Then, open the drain outlet, set the sand filter’s valve to backwash and turn on the pump. Let the filter run for a few minutes. Once the water appears clear, turn off the pump and set the valve back to filter. Now, you can turn on the pump and heater.

Multiport Valve Settings

Slide valves only have two settings – filter and backwash. The filter setting is the one that keeps the water clean and circulating, so you’ll use this setting the most. Backwash reverses the water flow, allowing you to clean the filter itself. Multiport valves have more settings, including rinse, waste, closed, recirculate and winterize.

Rinse flushes the tank after you replace the sand. Waste bypasses the filter when you vacuum. Closed halts the water flow, making it easier to repair a malfunctioning pump. Recirculate also bypasses the pump, and you’d use this if your filter is leaking or cracked. Winterize is suitable for closing down the pool at the end of swim season.

Replacing the Sand in Your Filter

To get as many working years as possible from the sand in your filter, we recommend decalcifying the sand by using a cleaner once a year. Once you notice that pressure increases are happening faster than usual, a cleaner won’t cut it – You’ll need to replace the sand.

swimming pool sand filters

Pull the tank’s drain plug and remove the filter’s dome. Then, disconnect the pipe and detach the filter valve. Taking care not to break the filter’s laterals and standpipe, scoop or vacuum out the sand. Once you remove the sand, flip over the tank and rinse the laterals with a hose.

Now, you can add new sand. Make sure to pour in enough water to prevent the laterals from cracking, and never add more sand than the filter’s manufacturer recommends. Before reassembling the tank and valve, brush and lubricate the O-ring. If the O-ring is dry or warped, this is the perfect time to replace it.

Don’t forget to prep the filter for use. You’ll need to set the valve to rinse, then backwash, then back to rinse. If the tank has a slide valve, simply run a backwash cycle. Always turn off the pump when you change valve settings. When you’re done prepping the filter, you can set the valve to filter.

FAQs

What Are Microns?

Microns, also called micrometers, are a form of measurement. One micron equals one-millionth of 1 meter. Pool filter manufacturers use the micron measurement to describe the width of particles that their filters can trap. To help you visualize the size of 1 micron, a single hair strand measures approximately 50 microns in width.

sand filters pool

How Do I Know When It’s Time to Replace My Sand Filter Tank?

While you do have to replace the sand once the edges become smooth and the granules can no longer trap particles, you’ll eventually need to get a new tan. There are several signs that indicate a tank has surpassed its useful life. The first sign you’ll probably notice is an odd pump noise coupled with a leaking port.

Sometimes, you’ll need to replace the tank for other reasons besides wear and tear. For instance, if the sand inside is relatively new but you still find yourself backwashing the filter more than once a month, the filter may be undersized for your swimming pool.

what kind of sand for pool filters

Why Do I Have to Sanitize My Pool If I Have a Sand Filter?

As you’ve read, silica sand has a filtration rate of 20 microns. However, many particles are much smaller. Bacteria ranges from 0.3 to 2 microns wide, and algae can be as small as 8 microns. Therefore, the filter is limited as to the contaminants it can catch. This means you must sanitize the water to ensure it stays hygienic.

Pool Sand Filters: Recap

Every swimming pool needs a filter. As far as filter media choices, you have three – diatomaceous earth, cartridges and sand. While each type of filter has its own set of pros and cons, sand is the media of choice for those who want to save money and spend less time on filter maintenance.

If you decide to go the sand filter route, you don’t necessarily have to use grade-20 silica sand. There are fill materials with smaller filtration rates and larger surface areas, such as ZeoSand, filter glass and Pollyballs. While sand alternatives offer many benefits, none of them are as inexpensive as traditional silica sand.

where to buy sand for pool filters

When browsing for a sand filter, your choice should be steered by the volume of water in your swimming pool and the horsepower of your pool’s pump. The gallons per minute of the filter can be a little bit more than the pump’s; however, you should never undersize the filter.

Once your sand filter is in place, familiarize yourself with the valve’s settings – multiport valves have more settings than slide valves. Make sure you replace the sand once per 5 to 7 years or longer for some sand alternatives, and backwash the filter every 1 to 3 months.

Top 5 Best In Ground Pool Filters of 2019

In the circulation system of a swimming pool, the filter is positioned after the pump. If there is one, the heater is then the next component the water travels through before the water reenters the pool. Every in-ground swimming pool needs a filter to remove unhealthy impurities like algae and bacteria and keep the water safe and hygienic.

in ground pool pumps and filters

Filters use one of three media – a cartridge, diatomaceous earth (DE) or sand. Of course, the type of filter installed in your pool is entirely up to you. Each filter media has unique benefits. Some are more efficient; others require less maintenance.

Regardless of the filter you choose, the most important part of your decision should be getting the right sized filter, which is determined by the volume of your pool and the flow rate of the pump. Undersize the filter, and your risk restricting the water flow and damaging the pump.

To give you a list of dependable filters for your in-ground swimming pool, we considered factors such as durability, efficiency and usability. If you can’t decide on the type of media or want to know how to size a filter, our buyer’s guide provides all the information you need.

Best In-Ground Pool Filters

Best In-Ground Pool Filter Buying Guide

Every pool needs a filter to remove the germs that lead to recreational water illnesses like diarrhea, E. coli infections, Legionnaires’ disease and swimmer’s ear. Cartridge, diatomaceous earth and sand filters are all capable of capturing dangerous germs and particles, but some media are more efficient than others.

in ground pool sand filters

When choosing an in-ground pool filter, you can’t just make a decision based on efficiency. You must also consider the amount of time you can spare to maintain the filter. A dirty, unmaintained filter isn’t doing your pool, or your health, any favors.

This guide will tell you how pool filters compare in terms of efficiency and maintenance. You’ll also find out how to do a few simple math equations, so you can get a filter that’s appropriately sized for your swimming pool.

Types of Filter Media

Outwardly, all types of in-ground pool filters look similar. Inside the filters’ housing, the media differs. The filter will either contain a cartridge, diatomaceous earth or sand/sand alternative. A cartridge filter contains one or four pleated, cylindrical media. As water flows through the cartridges, the pleats trap the particles.

Diatomaceous earth (DE) media is made from the fossilized exoskeletons of algae called diatoms. The DE used for pool filtration is heat-treated and formed into a powder-like substance. The DE powder is spread over fabric-covered grids that are secured by two manifolds. When water travels through the filter, the DE captures any impurities in the water.

Sand filters contain 20-grain silica sand, which are quartz granules approximately 840 microns in size. Water goes into the tank via a diffuser, traveling to the sand bed at the bottom. Particles in the water become trapped in between the granules while the now-clean water is returned to the swimming pool through laterals connected to a central standpipe.

Filtration Efficiency

People often gravitate toward sand because it’s the cheapest filtration media to buy upfront. However, it’s the least efficient of all three media, capturing particles from 20 to 40 microns. Sand lasts for about 3 to 5 years, which is longer than a paper cartridge’s lifespan of 1 to 3 years.

in ground pool filters

Synthetic and fiberglass cartridges have a slightly longer working life than paper ones, and many can trap particles as small as 10 microns. Cartridge filters come in single and quad configurations. A single-media cartridge filter is ideal for small or medium-sized swimming pools. Quad-filter setups are better suited for large pools that get a lot of use.

The initial price of a DE filter costs the most. Still, its lengthy lifespan of 10 years makes it a money-saver in the long run. DE filters are also able to trap the smallest particles, often down to the size of 1 micron.

Alternatives to Sand

Other granules are available for use in place of sand. In comparison to sand, filter glass, pollyballs and zeolite are able to capture smaller particles. All but zeolite have a longer lifespan. Filter glass, pollyballs and zeolite aren’t as dense as sand; therefore, less of these media are needed to achieve the same performance as sand.

Filter glass is made of recycled glass that’s crushed into fine pieces. This media holds a negative charge that attracts minerals and water. It can trap particles down to about 5 microns and boasts a lifespan of approximately 10 years or longer.

Pollyballs are simply small balls of polyester that you can use in the place of sand. It only takes 1 pound of pollyballs to equal the efficiency of 100 pounds of sand. While they achieve a filtration rate of 10 microns, pollyballs aren’t compatible with some clarifiers.

Zeolite can be natural or synthetic, but natural zeolite is derived from volcanic rock, and the natural type is often used for pool filtration. Depending on the specific zeolite media, the filter can capture particles anywhere from 2 to 6 microns. It’s also lighter in weight compared to sand.

Maintenance Considerations

Maintenance comes with the territory of pool ownership. DE filters are the most tedious to maintain. You have to backwash it yearly, but some are also equipped with a bump handle that shakes off the powder from the filter’s grids. You must mix the DE powder with water and add the solution to the filter after each cleaning.

best in ground pool filters

Sand filters require less maintenance than DE versions. Cleaning a sand filter involves replacing the sand once it begins to lose its efficiency. To replace the sand, you must first drain the water, take off the valve and suction or scoop the old sand. Since there aren’t many internal components in a sand filter, breakdowns don’t happen often.

Cartridge filters are the easiest type to clean; however, they must be cleaned often. These filters aren’t backwashed, but routine cleanings do consist of rinsing the pleats and blowing off dust after the cartridge dries. About once per year, a filter cartridge must be deep cleaned by soaking in a solution of muriatic acid.

Sizing an In-Ground Pool Filter

The right sized filter maximizes the pool’s ability to trap debris. While you never want to undersize the filter, we do recommend getting one a little larger than your calculations indicate. You’ll need to know the pool’s total volume in cubic feet – Multiply its length, width and depth (3.14 times depth for circle-shaped pools).

Then, multiply the cubic feet times 7.48. Take the volume and divide it by 8 (the average number of hours for a pool to effectively recirculate all the water it holds) to calculate the gallons per hour. Finally, divide the final figure by 60 to calculate the flow rate in gallons per minute.

You also have to consider the filter’s surface area. As far the surface area goes, there is no firm rule. However, a good guide is 3 square feet for a sand filter, 100 square feet for a cartridge filter and 36 square feet for a DE filter – These numbers are based on 10,000 gallons of pool water.

FAQs

How Do I Know When It’s Time to Clean or Replace My Filter?

Over time, the particulate matter in between sand granules causes pressure to build inside the filter. Similarly, particles accumulate on the grids of a DE filter, eventually increasing the pressure. Sand and DE filters are equipped with a pressure gauge. When the gauge reads at 10 psi above its starting pressure, it’s time for a cleaning or a replacement.

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Cartridge filters also have a pressure gauge, but particles are captured within pleats, so pressure building is an unlikely occurrence. If the cartridge is stained or worn even after cleaning, you need to replace the media. When cleanings become more frequent or you start having problems with algae blooms, the cartridge should be cleaned.

What Type of Valve Is Better?

The valve lets you control the filter’s flow of water. Valves come in two types – side and multiport. Side valves are specifically designed for side-mounted filters where space is limited. These valves only have a filter and a backwash setting. The filter setting is the standard cleaning cycle, and the backwash setting reverses the water flow.

Multiport valves can have up to eight settings, including filter and backwash. Rinse is the setting you should choose after backwashing to loosen any debris remaining in the pool’s pipes. Recirculate allows you to safely operate the pump while bypassing the filter, and the closed setting stops water from entering the filter when you service it.

Does the Pump’s Size Matter?

Absolutely. Without the pump, the filter can’t function. If the filter is too small, the pump will eventually overheat, and you’ll be looking at a costly replacement. Therefore, it’s crucial to match the filter’s gallon-per-minute flow rate with the pump’s flow rate.

The tricky part of sizing a filter to a pump is factoring in the pump’s horsepower. Usually, the manufacturer lists the pump’s flow rate in the specs and the operating label, so you don’t have to figure it out on your own. However, if you need a rough guide, a 1 HP pump has a flow rate of about 50 GPM.

In-Ground Pool Filters: Recap

Diatomaceous earth is the most efficient. It lasts the longest compared to the other two filters, but DE is the hardest to clean. Cartridges have the shortest lifespan, yet they’re the easiest to clean. Sand requires infrequent cleaning; however, the downside is a less efficient filtration rate unless you opt for a sand alternative.

what is the difference between in ground pool filters and above ground

Valves are found on all three types of pool filters. Some are mounted to the side, but most are positioned on the top of the filter. Side valves are usually found on cartridge-style filters. They are necessary for side mounting a filter, and they take up less space on small equipment platforms.

Multiports are the most common type of pool filter valve. Unlike the two flow settings found on side valves, multiport valves give you a lot of control over the flow of water. They offer as many as eight settings, so you can clean, rinse and service your filter with less hassle.

Finding the correct size filter for your in-ground pool only requires a few math calculations, none of which are complicated. It’s perfectly okay to oversize the filter, but don’t get one that’s too small. Make sure the filter meets the pump’s flow rate, and you should be good to go.

Top 5 Best UV Pool Sanitizers in 2019

All swimming pools require a sanitizer, even saltwater pools. Chlorine is the most popular choice. However, chlorine produces strong smells and chemical off-gassing that irritates the eyes, lungs, skin, and throat. The effects of chlorine have many pool owners searching for a water-sanitation alternative.

Best UV Pool Sanitizers

Ultraviolet light is a highly efficient, eco-friendly supplement for the filtration system of any swimming pool, and it greatly reduces the amount of chlorine needed to sanitize the water. UV sanitizers are even able to destroy some organisms that chlorine can’t, such as the cryptosporidium parasite that causes crippling diarrhea and nausea.

To neutralize algae spores, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, the UV-light assembly is installed directly after the pool’s filter. When water flows over the quartz tube, the UV lamp inside the glass directs light onto the microorganisms, stopping 99.9 percent of these pathogens from multiplying.

On our list of UV sanitizers, you’ll notice that they come in different sizes to meet various pumps’ flow rates. Therefore, you’re sure to find at least one that will work for your swimming pool. If you’re just learning about UV pool sanitation, check out our buyer’s guide to learn how to install, maintain, and size one.

Best Pool Sanitizers: UV

Best Pool Sanitizer: UV Buying Guide

When an ultraviolet pool sanitizer is activated, it only takes a day or two for swimmers to notice a positive difference in the pool water’s hygiene and clarity. However, the sanitizer only works to its full capacity if the flow rate can keep pace with the pump’s water flow.

uv pool sanitizers

As you’ll learn in this guide, installation and maintenance are straightforward processes, and the use of a UV light can even lower your energy and chemical costs. If these benefits pique your interest, this guide will tell you how to size a UV lamp for your swimming pool and whether you need a low or a medium-pressure light.

Installing a UV Pool Sanitizer

UV sanitizers are safe to use in above-ground and in-ground pools. They won’t damage concrete, fiberglass or vinyl surfaces, and they’re compatible with saltwater setups. During and after installation, there are no strict safety measures you have to take against exposure because the UV light can’t penetrate through the sterilization chamber.

A UV sanitizer is installed in-line between the filter and the heater. Smaller ultraviolet lamps typically come with an outlet plug, but some larger ones are hardwired. If you decide to upgrade a UV sanitizer by adding more bulbs, doing so only takes a few minutes, and all the components necessary for installation should come with the UV assembly.

Maintaining a UV Light

Every ultraviolet bulb that’s designed for a swimming pool is different in terms of wattage, pressure and flow rate. Some last for a year while others have a lifespan of 6 years, but most fall somewhere in between this range. Since UV lamps can still glow after they’ve expired, we advise changing them on a set schedule.

Like all other components in your swimming pool, the UV sanitizer will require routine inspections and maintenance. About every four months, set aside 10 minutes to look over the UV sanitizer. You’ll need a screwdriver and a wrench to access the quartz tube unless you have a quick-release model.

uv light pool sanitizers

While you have the sanitizer open for inspection, utilize that opportunity to clean the quartz tube. A mixture of lemon juice and water or a mild descaler is all that’s needed to get the job done. White vinegar can be used in the place of lemon juice if you prefer.

Once you’re ready to close the pool for winter, there are only a few steps to take to prepare the UV sanitizer. If it’s a plug-in sanitizer, you can unplug, drain and remove the entire assembly, storing it inside until next pool season. If it’s a hardwired sanitizer, you’ll need to take out the bulb instead.

Energy Usage

Low energy usage and the resulting low electricity costs are two of the many benefits of ultraviolet technology. The number of bulbs in the UV sanitizer, the wattage of each bulb and the number of hours per day you run it determines how much money a sanitizer will add to your electricity bill.

To calculate the added cost to your electricity bills, you’ll need to do a simple four-step math equation. If the UV sanitizer has one 50-watt bulb, you’ll multiply 50 by 12 (the minimum number of recommended hours to run a UV sanitizer each day), which gives you 600 watt-hours per day.

Then, divide 600 by 1,000 (the number of watts in 1 kilowatt) – This equals 0.6 kilowatt-hours per day. Next, multiply 0.6 by 30 (the rounded average number of days in a month), which comes out to 18 kilowatt-hours per month.

Finally, multiply 18 by the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour. The cost of electricity differs by month and location. We chose the current national average of 13.52 cents (don’t forget to move the decimal back two places). Therefore, running a 50-watt UV sanitizer for 12 hours per day only adds $2.43 to your electricity bill.

Low Pressure vs. Medium Pressure

When you’re checking out reviews and specs, you’ll inevitably come across the terms “low pressure” and “medium pressure.” During the manufacturing process, the UV lamp is evacuated to create a vacuum inside of it. Then, it’s filled with a gas such as Argon or a mixture of Argon and Neon.

ratings of pool uv sanitizers

A low-pressure UV sanitizer is filled with gas up to 10 millibars of pressure. You’ll recognize a low-pressure lamp instantly by its elongated appearance. A medium-pressure UV sanitizer is filled with gas up to 5 bars of pressure; this type of lamp is contained in a squat housing.

Low-pressure UV lamps generate a single wavelength of 254 nanometers, which works great for most residential swimming pools. Medium-pressure UV sanitizers create a band of light that runs across 200 to 600 nanometers. Due to its broader germicidal spectrum, medium-pressure UV sanitizers are ideal for indoor, commercial, and heavily used pools.

Sizing a UV Sanitizer

If the sanitizer is undersized, the water won’t move through the sanitizer fast enough, resulting in the buildup of inactive pathogens and the need for more chlorine. If the sanitizer is oversized, the water will move through the unit before the UV lamp has a chance to neutralize the germs. This means there is little wiggle room for sizing.

Every pool pump has a flow rate. The same goes for UV sanitizers. Look at the pump’s label (or use a flow meter) and choose a sanitizer that meets the pump’s gallon-per-minute flow rate, which should be listed in the specs. If the pump is a dual-speed or variable-speed model, match the sanitizer to the pump’s lowest speed.

FAQs

Can a UV Pool Sanitizer Get Rid of That Chlorine Smell?

A hint of chlorine in the water signifies to most people that a swimming pool is clean, but that smell can be too strong sometimes. Plus, it can wreak havoc on the body. However, it’s not the chlorine itself that’s responsible for that distinct odor.

are uv pool sanitizers effective?

When people swim in a pool, sunscreen, sweat, natural body oils and urine build up over time. These substances react with the chlorine in the water, creating an off-gas known as chloramine. It’s the chloramine, not the chlorine, that makes the knock-you-over chemical smell.

Indoor swimming pools tend to have a bigger problem with chloramines due to the lack of circulation in the surrounding atmosphere. Shocking the pool by adding more chlorine is the traditional way to get rid of chloramines. However, a UV sanitizer can greatly reduce the chloramine level in a swimming pool and eliminate that accompanying smell.

Do I Still Need to Use Pool Chemicals?

When safely harnessed as it is in a quartz tube, ultraviolet light is an amazing sanitation tool, reducing the need for chemicals by 50 to 90 percent. Unlike chlorine, ultraviolet light can destroy cryptosporidium in minutes. With chlorine, it can take all day to kill this parasite, and you’ll need at least 10 parts per million to do it.
A UV sanitizer can neutralize approximately 60 varieties of algae, bacteria, parasites and viruses. However, the sanitizer can’t capture the ineffective germs, and its reach doesn’t extend to the water inside the pool. This means you must still monitor and chemically control the pool’s alkaline and pH levels as well as employ skimmers and a filter.

How Often Should I Run the Pump?

The pump must run for the UV sanitizer to work. To be effective, the sanitizer should run 12 to 24 hours per day. This is where a dual-speed or a variable-speed pool pump can save you money by running the pump at its lowest speed. Certain states require pool owners to use a variable-speed pump.

Best UV Pool Sanitizers

You don’t have to keep an eagle eye on the pump and the sanitizer to ensure both are running. Some UV pool sanitizers are equipped with a pressure-sensing switch. The switch can detect when the pump is running, turning on the sanitizer automatically. The switch also shuts off the sanitizer when the pump stops.

UV Pool Sanitizer: Recap

From installation to maintenance, UV pool sanitizers are rather hassle-free. Installation is straightforward enough for a DIYer of any level to handle. Maintenance takes less than 10 minutes, and you only need to clean the quartz tube three times a year. Plus, the bulbs have a long lifespan.

UV sanitizers are compatible with any type of pool setup, and you can add more bulbs if you decide your pool needs a boost in sanitation power. No matter the number of lamps and the total wattage, running one won’t break the bank.

While sizing a UV pool sanitizer is fairly easy since it’s primarily based on matching its flow rate to that of the pool’s pump. However, you must be somewhat precise with your sizing, and you should opt for a medium-pressure UV lamp if your pool is located indoors or hosts a heavy swimmer load.

As long as you size it right and run it long enough each day, you’ll cut down on chemical use and chlorine off-gassing while making your water cleaner and life easier.

Top 5 Best Pool Flow Meters in 2019

Out of all the components that make up a pool’s circulation system, the pump consumes the most energy. You can calculate a filter cycle to reduce the time it runs and conserve energy. However, you risk under-calculating the cycle and not giving the system a chance to filter all the debris and disperse all the cleaning chemicals.

Best Pool Flow Meters

To get an accurate flow rate, you need a flow meter. Simple yet effective, a flow meter tells you the rate of the water’s movement through the pool’s circulation system. You can use this measurement to set a timer and detect leaks/failures in the system. Flow meters also help you maintain a sand filter.

Flow meters are sized to the diameter of the system’s pipes. They come in a variety of styles from traditional analog types with a pilot tube to advanced models that utilize ultrasonic technology. There are even flow meters that act as a check valve, preventing the backflow of water that otherwise occurs when you turn off the pump.

Since there are so many options from which to choose, we reviewed the most reliable flow meters we could find. We also added a buyer’s guide, so you can make sure the flow meter you get is compatible with your swimming pool. This guide also has other helpful information, including how to install, maintain and repair a flow meter.

Best Pool Flow Meters

Pool Flow Meter Buying Guide

Before you buy, there are several questions you must ask yourself. Do I want a basic flow meter with a floating bobbin or one with a digital readout? What kind of pipes are used for my pool’s plumbing system? What is the diameter of those pipes?

pool flow meters

We will tell you how to determine whether the flow meter you’re interested in buying is built to last. After you pick a flow meter, you have to learn how to install it and maintain it – installation and care instructions are also included in our buyer’s guide.

Types of Pool Flow Meters

The most common type of pool flow meter is one that has a floating bobbin contained inside a pilot tube. These analog flow meters can be positioned horizontally or vertically, and they’re installed by drilling a small hole into the swimming pool’s existing plumbing. Usually, two clamps are applied to provide more stability.

Like analog flow meters, digital ones can be installed on a saddle mount without cutting the pool’s pipes; however, digital meters display the flow rate on an LCD screen. While digital flow meters are highly accurate, they do require electricity or a battery for their power source. Battery-powered digital meters are often portable.

Magnetic and ultrasonic flow meters are two other options. Typically used for commercial pools, both varieties are also great for residential swimming pools as they are compatible with most pipe materials. Magnetic flow meters use a magnetic field to send a voltage signal proportional to the water’s flow rate while ultrasonic models rely on sound waves.

Finally, there are models that are part flow meter, part check valve. You can install these combo flow meters horizontally, vertically, upside-down and next to pipe elbows. With a dual-purpose flow meter, you can not only check the water’s flow rate but also prevent water backflows, which would otherwise occur when you shut off the pump.

High-Quality Flow Meter Characteristics

You don’t want to be stuck with a flow meter that you’ll have to replace a few years down the road or one that gives inaccurate readings. Those with a CNC-machined body are among the most durable and accurate. Whether a dual-purpose or traditional analog flow meter, Lexan is always preferable compared to acrylic.

swimming pool water flow meters

Combo flow meters should have an anti-corrosive flapper seal, pivot pin and spring. For analog flow meters, a stainless-steel bobbin that doesn’t stick or bounce provides accuracy year after year. The meter’s markings should be dark and easily readable and stainless-steel clamps are recommended over aluminum.
Sizing a Flow Meter

There are three must-consider aspects for sizing and selecting a flow meter. All aspects are determined by the pool’s plumbing system, specifically the pipe’s diameter, material and thickness. The pipe’s diameter needs to match the meter’s rating. For example, only a 2-inch flow meter fits a 2-inch-wide pipe.

You’ll also need to base your decision on the pipe’s material. Some flow meters work with PVC while others are only made to use with copper. Then, there is the pipe’s thickness. PVC pipes are either scheduled as 40 or 80. Eighty is thicker and can handle high-pressure applications.

Installing a Flow Meter

All flow meters come with different installation instructions, which will vary depending on the pool’s pipes. In general, the meter should be placed on the return line after all system components except a chemical feeder, and you need to leave five times the pipe’s diameter before the meter and two times the diameter after it.

To install an analog flow meter, you must first turn off the pump’s power and open the filter’s relief valve. After you mark the meter’s location on the pipe, drill a hole in the center of your two markings. We recommend making a pilot hole first, so the drill bit won’t slip when you drill the actual hole.

Once the hole is drilled into the pipe, remove the burrs (rough spots) around the hole with a deburring tool. Then, you can cover it with the gasket and insert the meter’s pilot into the hole. Make sure you position the meter to face the water’s flow direction. Most flow meters have a guide arrow to help you.

Finally, you can place the clamps. Put one clamp on each side of the flow meter. Tighten the clamps slowly while keeping the meter from shifting out of place. Next, restore power to the pump and close the relief valve as soon as you see water coming out of it.

Maintaining Your Flow Meter

Periodically, you’ll need to flush out sediment to keep the bobbin floating freely. Out of all meter types, traditional analogs require maintenance most frequently. Start by unscrewing the nuts at the top and bottom of the pilot tube, so you can remove the tube. Then, flip the meter upside-down and shake it until the float moves to the top.

swimming pool flow meters

Inside the pilot tube, there’s a guide support and a wire. You’ll need to pull out both along with the bobbin to rinse the interior with soapy water or diluted muriatic acid. Once you clean the inside of the tube, you can then reassemble the flow meter, ensuring the float’s pointed end faces downward and the O-ring is debris-free.

Repairing Your Flow Meter

Despite proper installation and maintenance, you may eventually be faced with a small leak. Thankfully, leaks are easy to fix with silicone lubricant, which creates a water-tight seal while providing pliability for future maintenance.

First, turn off the pump and open the filter’s pressure-relief valve. Then, loosen the clamps, so you can gently pull off the gasket and flow meter. If the gasket is worn, replace it. If not, add silicone lubricant to the gasket and around the hole in the pipe. After applying the lube, place the gasket back over the hole.

To cover every possible origination point of the leak, apply some lubricant on the pilot’s insert. At this point, you can put the flow meter back into the hole and secure the clamps. Close the air relief valve and turn on the pool’s pump. Make sure there is no water dripping from the flow meter before you call it a day.

FAQs

How Can a Flow Meter Help Me Maintain My Sand Filter?

Sand filters are affordable and easy to use. Every 1 to 3 months, you will need to clean your sand filter. The exact frequency depends on the filter’s size and debris load. If you have a flow meter installed on your pool’s plumbing system, you can use both to make sure you stay on track with filter maintenance.

Look at the pressure gauge and note its readout. Then, do the same with the flow meter. If you notice a flow increase of 10 psi or greater between the gauge and meter, it’s time to clean out your sand filter.

How Do I Use My Flow Meter to Set a Pump Timer?

By using your flow meter to set a timer for your pump, you can shave off hundreds of dollars from your electricity bill. Although some people rely on the gallons per minute supplied in the pump’s specs, this measurement doesn’t account for the total dynamic head (TDH), which consists of the multitude of variables that skew that number.

review pool flow meters

To set the timer for a length of time that maximizes your energy savings while efficiently filtering your pool, you’ll need to calculate the volume of the pool. For square and rectangular pools, multiply the length, width, average depth and 7.5. For circular pools, multiply 3.14 by the squared radius, average depth and 7.5.

If you’re unsure of your swimming pool’s average depth, here’s an easy way to find it. Take a telescopic pole and dip it into the shallow end until the pole reaches the bottom. Mark the pole at the waterline and do the same in the deep end. Add the two lengths together and divide the number by two.

Once you have measured the pool’s volume, you need to divide the volume by the turnover rate you want. We recommend 6 or 8 hours. Finally, divide that number by 60 to find the gallons per minute. One cycle is okay for days when nobody uses the pool, but two times may be necessary for heavy-use days.

How Do I Read an Analog Flow Meter?

Depending on your viewpoint, the bobbin can appear to lie on a different marking than it actually does. To get an accurate reading, crouch until you’re eye-level with the bobbin. Look at the top edge of the bobbin – The marking that corresponds to the bobbin’s edge is the true flow rate.

Pool Flow Meters: Recap

There are a lot of tasks involved in keeping a swimming pool up and running. Pools heavily rely on their pump and filter to stay clean. If you don’t run the pump often enough, the water will become unhygienic. Conversely, if you run it too often, you’re wasting electricity. Plus, sand filters can fail if not cleaned promptly.

Flow meters solve several problems. They measure an accurate flow rate, so you can set the pump to run for a filtration-efficient, energy-smart amount of time. They also help you keep track of when to clean your sand filter (should you have one).

You have plenty of flow meters from which to choose. There are simple analog meters and ones with a digital display. You can go the public-pool route and get a magnetic or ultrasonic flow meter. If you want to replace your check valve with one that also provides the water’s flow rate, there are meters that do both.

When buying a pool flow meter, durable construction and accurate readouts should be your main concerns. However, you also need to make sure the flow meter will work with your pool’s plumbing. Check the pipe’s diameter, material and thickness to ensure the flow meter’s compatibility.

Top 5 Best Pool Drains in 2019

The main drain is an important component of a swimming pool’s circulation system. In-ground swimming pools typically contain one or more drains. Above-ground pools rarely come equipped with a main drain, but some pool owners choose to add them.

Best Pool Drains

Using a strong force of suction via the pool’s pump, the main drain draws water, collecting large and heavy debris in the process. After the water flows through the drain, it makes its way to the pool’s filter. Due to the main drain’s strong force of suction, it must be topped with a grated cover.

However, not all drain configurations and covers are equal in terms of safety. Dual-drain setups are safer than a single main drain, and curved covers are more likely to prevent injuries to swimmers than flat ones. There are also secondary protective mechanisms you can use in conjunction with the main drain.

We have not only reviewed some durable and legally compliant drain covers but also worked up a guide for buying pool drains. In our guide, you’ll learn about applicable drain cover laws, what marking should be on a cover, how to safeguard swimmers around drain covers, and much more.

Best Pool Drains

Best Pool Drain Buying Guide

If your swimming pool has one or more drains, proper covers are a safety-must. While main drains in residential pools aren’t subject to the same federal laws that pertain to public swimming pools, following those guidelines will help keep swimmers safe in your pool.

Pool Drain

Safe drain covers are shaped in a way that prevents them from becoming completely blocked. They will also have markings that detail their expiration date, mounting location, and flow rate. When it isn’t possible to have two main drains, there are other mechanisms you can add to your swimming pool.

This buyer’s guide tells you how to determine whether a drain cover is safe and what to do with the main drains when you winterize your pool. It also explains the benefits of a dual-drain system. If you use an automatic pool cleaner, there’s some information about drain clips in the guide that will interest you.

The Virginia-Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act

In 2002, a child named Virginia became trapped underwater in a spa due to the amount of force behind the drain’s suction. To protect swimmers of all ages, the United States passed the VGB Act in 2007, which extends to public pools and spas.

In the scope of pool drains, the VCB Act requires public pools to use drain covers and systems that reduce the likelihood of entrapment. While residential swimming pool owners aren’t legally obligated to follow the rules in the VGB Act, some states, counties and cities have adopted the language of this law into their legal codes for residential pools.

Unsafe Drain Covers

Drain covers made before the VGB Act are much different than those made in 2008 and later. Pre-VGB drain covers were grated just like the safer ones on the market today, but these old-style covers were flat. This design increases the drain’s suction power and makes it difficult for a swimmer to release themselves from the pull of the drain.

pool deck drain

Entrapment Dangers

A main drain suctions water with incredible strength. The force of one drain in a single-drain system produces the pulling force of 500 pounds or more, which can easily overtake a child or an adult. As a result, injuries, and in some cases, even death can occur.

The drain won’t draw a person to it from across the swimming pool. The danger comes when people play or swim too close to the main drain. Loose clothing, hair or jewelry can get sucked into the drain. There have also been instances when body parts and even organs were pulled into the main drain.

Safe Drain Covers

Drain covers made after the government passed the VGB Act are curved as opposed to flat, so they can never be completely blocked by a swimmer. The drain outlet covers on the market are approved by several organizations and must meet the ASME/ANSI A12.19.8M or the ANSI/APSP-16 standard.

You’ll know whether a drain cover meets this standard because it will be marked as such. The outlet cover must also indicate whether it’s designed for single or multiple-drain configurations and wall or floor installation, the flow rate and the expiration date. It should also include the model number and the manufacturer’s name.

Durability Features

Quality is something you don’t want to skimp on when it comes to an outlet cover. The most durable drain covers are listed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and meet their quality requirements when tested in one of the organization’s laboratories. They also come with stainless-steel hardware and are made of ultraviolet-resistant polymers.

Single vs. Multiple Main Drains

Before the VGB Act, single-drain setups were common. Now, new-construction in-ground swimming pools have two or more main drains. Existing single-drain pools in public and commercial settings must be retrofitted with an additional drain if possible, and it’s advisable for residential pool owners to do the same.

how to drain an above ground pool

With multiple drains in place, the total system flow becomes divided between each drain, reducing the velocity and accompanying danger of the individual drains. The drains are connected underground with a tee pipe, and they must be installed at least 3 feet from one another to prevent both from becoming blocked at once.

To be safe for swimmers, drain covers must be rated at or above the flow rate of the swimming pool’s circulation system. In some states, pool owners are limited to which kinds of covers they can use in terms of the covers’ rated velocity.

Drain Cover Clips

Automatic cleaners that drive along the walls and the floor of a swimming pool take the back-breaking work out of pool maintenance. Sometimes, these cleaners get hung on VGB-compliant drain covers because they’re raised, not flat. Cover clips keep cleaners away from the drains, effectively eliminating this problem.

The clip should be UV-resistant. Depending on the size of the cover, you may need two clips. Usually, drain cover clips come with an installation tool that reaches to the bottom of the pool, so you don’t have to get wet. They are also designed to float to the surface in case they come loose during installation.

Swimming Safety Measures

Collectively, using VGB-compliant drain covers and having a multi-drain system can greatly reduce the risk of entrapment. However, there are other safety measures you and those who swim in your pool should take. Regularly check the covers for missing and rusted screws, and never swim in a pool that has a broken or a missing drain cover.

Instruct all people who use your pool to refrain from swimming next to or sitting on a drain cover. Those who have long hair should keep it in a bun and should not wear loose clothing like a t-shirt or dangling jewelry such as a necklace.

Of course, children should always be supervised when they are near or in the swimming pool. Also, everyone in your house, as well as any caregiver you hire to watch your children, should be taught about safe swimming around pool drains and how to turn off the pool pump in the event of entrapment.

Winterizing a Pool Drain

When shutting down your swimming pool in the late fall, don’t forget about the main drains. After you lower the water level to prevent the skimmers from freezing over, you should blow out the skimmer and return lines, which protects the underground pipes from become frozen and cracked.

Best Pool Drains

To blow out the lines, you’ll need to open the valves and use a shop vac until you stop seeing air bubbles. Since main drains are covered by many feet of water, you shouldn’t need to add antifreeze. However, those who live in cold northern climates may wish to add that extra layer of protection.

FAQs

Are Main Drains Used to Remove Water From Pools?

The name “main drain” is a misnomer. A main drain is not used to completely drain the water from a swimming pool. Think of a main drain as an outlet that’s used to help filter and circulate the water. Using suction force, the main drain draws water through itself to an underground pipe that stretches to the pool’s pump.

When Is a Secondary Safety Mechanism Advisable?

Covers are primary safety mechanisms for main drains. When it’s impossible to add a second drain to the swimming pool, the addition of a secondary device can help stop or reduce the pull of the drain’s suction. For residential pools, a safety vacuum release. an automatic pump shutoff and a suction-limiting vent are the most popular options.

A safety vacuum release system is one such mechanism. An SVRS stops the pump when the mechanism senses an increase in suction. Some SVRS devices also reverse the flow of water. An automatic pump shutoff works similarly, but it turns off the pool’s pump if it detects a blockage. There are also pumps with a built-in shutoff mechanism.

Two other choices are a suction-limiting vent and a gravity drainage system. This system is aimed at the circulation pipes, teeing one end to the suction side and the other end to the open atmosphere. With this type of system, air enters the line, stopping the pump from priming.

Can You Put a Main Drain in an Above-Ground Pool?

Although people debate the merits of installing a main drain into an above-ground pool, it is possible to do. The biggest argument against above-ground main drains is that they could cause the liner to leak. Other above-ground pool owners choose not to install a main drain because they don’t want an extra winterizing task.

Pool Drains

However, there are plenty of reasons to add a main drain. When properly installed, there is no risk of the liner leaking. The main drain can also keep the swimming pool cleaner by increasing the water’s circulation. Plus, owners won’t have to use as many chemicals or vacuum as often to maintain the water’s hygiene.

Pool Drains: Recap

Main drains serve an important purpose in an in-ground swimming pool’s filtration system, and they can even be installed in above-ground pools. Although the federal law that regulates main drains is limited to pools in commercial settings, some residential pool owners may be required to follow similar laws depending on their city, county or state.

Even if there are no drain regulations in your area, following these rules can help keep swimmers safe. Dual drains, as opposed to a single drain, will lower the velocity for each drain, reducing the suction pull. Rounded drain covers with the appropriate VGB markings are much safer than flat covers.

Any cover you use should come with stainless-steel screws and be made of UV-deflecting material. In addition to a dual-drain system and a rounded cover, there are also secondary devices you can employ, such as a vacuum release or an automatic pump shutoff mechanism.

Covers and secondary devices can go a long way toward protecting people from drain entrapment. However, they aren’t a substitute for simple safety measures like taking off your jewelry before getting in the pool and never sitting on top of a drain cover. With a holistic setup in place, everyone can stay safe while they enjoy summertime pool fun.

Top 5 Best Pool Color LEDs in 2019

Magnificent pool lighting isn’t limited to the uber-wealthy. Anyone who has a swimming pool can afford lights to turn their pool into a backyard showpiece. Lighted pools allow you to enjoy a little night swimming and boost a party’s fun factor. They also make it safer for people to walk alongside the edge of the pool at night.

Best Pool Color LEDs

Fiber optic, halogen and incandescent pool lights are falling out of favor. Now, more and more homeowners are choosing LED lights to illuminate their swimming pools. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) last longer, shine brighter and boast a greater energy efficiency. Plus, LED lights offer plenty of color choices.

You can choose underwater lights, floating lights, spotlight versions or a combination of all three. Control options range from simple switches and boxes to remotes and apps. Some LED lights can be programmed for operation via a multi-function controller so that you can manage lights, fountains, pumps and filters in a central location.

Since there are numerous LED light styles, we took the time to sift through the most popular ones. The LEDs we put on this list were chosen for their durability, energy efficiency and ease of installation. If LED terminology and light designs leave you feeling lost, our buyer’s guide will tell you everything you need to know.

Best Pool Color LEDs

Pool Color LED Buying Guide

The sheer number of color LED lights for swimming pools is dizzying, but the upside is you have so much freedom to customize the look of your pool. Before you start picking out LEDs, you need to know which colors are the brightest and how to make sense of lumens, watts and the Kelvin scale.

Pool Color LEDs

In our buying guide, we also offer some placement ideas that will maximize the illumination of your LED lights. Additionally, there are control options and installation guidelines to consider. Most importantly, we will tell you about some of the features that lend to an LED pool light’s durability.

Bulb Colors

You can get LEDs that come in one color or change between multiple colors. The colors can remain steady or run through an assortment of light shows such as fade-outs and flickers. Interestingly, LEDs only emit amber, blue, green and red colors. To create other colors, the aforementioned colors must be combined.

Although there are plenty of LED lights that shine in a white color, white is not a hue that LEDs can achieve singularly. Instead, manufacturers use a blue bulb coated in yellow phosphorous or combine the blue with green and red.

When placed underwater, the water’s wavelength absorption causes colors to behave differently. Blue light wavelengths travel faster than green and yellow, and red light wavelengths are the slowest. Therefore, red and yellow LEDs won’t shine as brightly as blue LED lights even if they put out the same number of lumens (more on lumens below).

Energy Efficiency

Like anyone else, you want the most energy-efficient setup. To save as much money as possible on your electricity bill, you must take into account the number of LED lights you’ll be using as well as the number of watts and lumens for each bulb.

solar outdoor led swimming pool lights

Watts are a measurement of an LED bulb’s energy usage, and lumens quantify the bulb’s light output. The best LED light will have a high number of lumens per watt, which is known as luminous efficacy. In other words, the bulb should shine brightly while consuming little energy.

Light Appearance

Every type of light bulb falls on the Kelvin rating scale, which measures the light’s color temperature. For LED lights, the Kelvin degrees range from 2,700 to 6,500. LEDs lower on the scale produce warm, yellowish light. Those higher on the scale generate bright white or blue-tinted light.

The surface of your swimming pool will affect your LED lights. For instance, dark surfaces will absorb more light, which means you’ll need 1.5 bulbs for every one bulb you’d use in a pool with a light-colored surface.

Coverage and Placement

Pool LEDs have varying beam angles. Wide-angled beams between 150 to 180 degrees are suitable for whole-pool illumination. Narrower beams work well for shining a spotlight on pool features such as rocks, fountains and waterfalls. Some LEDs have a rotatable lens, allowing you to adjust the beam width.

When deciding on how you’ll configure the lights near stairs, steps and swimout benches, safety is paramount. You don’t want to blind swimmers who are trying to navigate swimouts, so place those lights on the opposite side. For steps, put small lights on top of the stairs.

Small, open pools are easy to illuminate. Usually, you can get away with a single large light. Longer swimming pools require lights on opposite ends of the pool. A sound guideline is to install each light at a 4-foot distance from each end.

Freeform pools necessitate a different approach. Choose a compact LED to install on curves, pointing the light toward the center of the swimming pool. For irregularly shaped swimming pools, divide the pool into sections and design the light scheme as if you are working with multiple yet separate pools.

Control Options

The best control style for you depends on your personal preference. Wall switches are the simplest way to control LEDs as you just toggle until you find the color and pattern you want. Mounted controllers are also easy to use, especially if you program them to control all your pools’ features.

Pool LEDs

Remotes offer distance control. With a remote, you can change the LEDs’ color, dim the light and control any other of the lights’ features while relaxing in a poolside lounger. Some LEDs are even compatible with smartphone apps. Giving you control even when you’re away from home.

Durability Features

On average, LED bulbs last anywhere from 7 to 15 years. While durability isn’t an issue for the bulb itself, you do have to consider the other components in an LED light fixture. A thick rubber gasket and a tempered glass lens are two signs of durability.

The casing matters too. Rust-resistant stainless steel is hardier than plastic and more likely to prevent water seepage. Be sure to check out the Ingress Protection rating. An IPX7 is acceptable for floating LEDs. For underwater lights, an IPX8 rating is ideal as this rating indicates the LED will survive immersion indefinitely.

Installation Information

No two installation jobs will go the same as there are just too many variables involved. However, the easiest LEDs to set up are floating ones. Floating LEDs run on solar power or rechargeable batteries. If you want to keep the lights stationary, you’ll need to tie an anchor to them.

Fixed LED lights rest in permanent niches (although nicheless designs are available). Others attach to the side of the pool with a magnet, which aids in the transfer of electricity to the power source. However, magnet designs cannot be used on metal surfaces like those trending stock tank pools because the metal interferes with the transfer of electricity.

FAQs

Can I Replace My Halogen Lights With LEDs?

Yes, and you don’t need to be a pro to make the switch from halogen to LED. You’ll need a screwdriver and a knife to remove the old bracket and replace it with a new one. Universal brackets will make this task easier. You must also modify the cable. Aim for LEDs that come with a splice kit.

Best Pool LEDs

Replacing halogen lights gets a little trickier when you’re using 12-volt LEDs. To make the conversion from 120 volts to 12 volts, a transformer is necessary. Additionally, the cord should not exceed 100 feet; otherwise, voltage drops are likely to occur.

What’s the Difference Between Niche and Nicheless LED Lights?

A niche is a housing that’s permanently installed in the swimming pool, and it’s where you insert the LED light. For a nicheless LED, the conduit and fitting are essentially the housing. While niche LEDs are reliable, nicheless versions are easier to install. Since nicheless lights work in more shallow depths, they shine brighter.

How Do LEDs Compare to Fiber Optic, Halogen and Incandescent Lights?

LEDs are the pool light of choice. In comparison to incandescent and halogen lights that have a filament, which emits more heat than light, LEDs contain a semiconductor. Therefore, LEDs don’t generate as much heat. Plus, they are equipped with a heat sink. In the end, halogen and incandescent lights simply burn out while LEDs gradually fade.

Incandescent bulbs are the least expensive out the door, but they’ll cost the most to run. Fiber optic lights are a pricey purchase due to their color wheel, fan and electric motor. To achieve 1,600 lumens, an LED bulb may use about 22 watts while a halogen and an incandescent bulb consume 72 and 100 watts, respectively.

What is the best LED color pool light?

Pool Color LEDs: Recap

Your swimming pool will be around for a long time. Therefore, you need a light source that can keep up without putting your electricity bills into exorbitant status. LEDs are long-lasting and energy-efficient. With LED lights, the color, angle and pattern possibilities are practically endless.

The choices are even varied as far as controls are concerned. Switches are simple, while smartphone apps are the most convenient. If you want to further enhance your pool lights, you can mix niche or nicheless underwater LEDs with floating ones.

Top 5 Best Pool Heat Pumps in 2019

Swim season is woefully short. With a pool heater, you can enjoy several more months of swimming every year. When it comes to heaters, you have four choices – an electric resistance heater, a gas heater, a heat pump and a solar heater.

Best Pool Heat Pumps

If energy efficiency, safety and durability are your main must-haves, a heat pump will fit all your requirements. You can even use a heat pump in conjunction with an existing gas heater to reduce the overall operating cost and further extend the pool season.

Pool heat pumps work similarly as HVAC heat pumps. As water flows into the heat pump, the pump’s fan uses heat from the ambient air and sends it to the evaporator coil. The refrigerant in this coil absorbs the heat and transforms into gas, which gets heated more by the compressor.

The condenser uses the gas’ heat to warm the water before the water flows back into the pool. At that point, the condenser cools the gas until it returns to its liquid refrigerant form, sending it back to the heat pump’s evaporator. The entire process is extremely energy-efficient.

Each heat pump on our list was chosen with efficiency and longevity in mind. However, not every heat pump on the list will be appropriately sized for your swimming pool. To figure out what size heat pump you need, check out the information in our buyer’s guide.

Best Pool Heat Pumps

Pool Heat Pump Buying Guide

There are multiple factors at play when sizing a heat pump for your swimming pool. In this guide, we offer the general parameters you should follow to determine the number of BTUs that are appropriate for your pool. The heat pump’s flow rate is important too, and it must correspond with the pipes’ maximum flow rate.

pool heat pumps

For residential in-ground and above-ground swimming pools, there are no hard-and-fast efficiency rules. Of course, we assume that you want to save money. Therefore, this guide explains how a heat pump’s energy efficiency is calculated. We also cover features that you should look for in terms of durability.

BTUs

Heat pumps may be cost-efficient to run, but they don’t heat the water instantly. If you undersize the heat pump’s BTUs, the water may take days to heat to your desired temperature. In some cases, it may not be able to reach that temperature at all. Therefore, correctly sizing a heat pump is crucial to achieving optimal efficiency.

A few simple math equations can help you determine the number of BTUs you need a heat pump to push out. Multiply the pool’s surface area by the temperature rise (the difference between the lowest average ambient temperature to the desired pool water temperature). Then, multiply that answer by 12.

For a swimming pool with a surface area of 450 square feet and a temperature rise of 15 degrees, the minimum BTUs needed is 81,000. Pools in windy areas or regions with low humidity may require a 10-percent bump in BTUs while pools without a cover may need up to 50,000 extra BTUs.

Flow Rate

The flow rate measures the proficiency of a heat pump’s ability to circulate water. Like the BTUs, the flow rate is another spec that must be properly matched. Otherwise, you risk overheating the heat pump. Instead of sizing the flow rate to the swimming pool’s surface area, you must size it according to the pool’s pipes.

swimming pool heat pumps

Every heat pump has a minimum and a maximum flow rate, which is described in gallons per minute (GPM). The water flowing through the pipes should fall within that range. A simple meter can measure the pipes’ exact flow rate, which is determined by the pipes’ diameter and length. The wider the diameter, the higher the rate.

Clogs and obstructions will impede the water flow, but there are several steps you can take to prevent this problem. Regularly clean the filter and pump basket, and always maintain the water’s chemistry. Also, make sure the heat pump’s water pressure switch is inspected annually. Finally, keep all the valves completely open.

Energy Efficiency

While you’re looking at the details of the heat pumps we’ve reviewed, you’ll see the acronym COP, (coefficient of performance). The COP ratio measures the energy generated by the heat pump compared to the energy it uses. For instance, a 4.4 COP means the heat pump produces 4.4 kW for every 1 kW it consumes.

The COP of a pool heat pump ranges from about 2.0 to 7.0. Heat pumps with high COP and BTU ratings cost the least to run. When comparing the COP of different models, keep in mind that the testing temperatures vary among manufacturers. Most stick with an 80 degree Fahrenheit ambient and water temperature.

Heat Exchanger

One major internal component found in a pool heat pump is the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger’s purpose is to take the heat out of the refrigerant and infuse it into the pool water. When it comes to the heat exchanger, durability is key.

above ground pool heat pumps

In the past, copper and cupronickel (a copper and nickel alloy) were manufacturers’ materials of choice due to their cheap production costs. Now, titanium has come into favor as this material stands up better to rust and corrosion. A heat exchanger made of titanium is the best choice for saltwater swimming pools.

Compressor

A heat pump comes equipped with one of two varieties of compressors – a reciprocating compressor or a scroll compressor. The reciprocating type contains pistons that pull the refrigerant in its gas state into a chamber during the downstroke. On the upstroke, the pistons compress the gas, causing it to get hot.

Scroll compressors make the most of the energy they produce because compression occurs nonstop. This type of compressor has one stationary scroll and one orbital scroll. As the orbital scroll revolves around the stationary scroll, the gaseous refrigerant is compressed and heated.

Normally, reciprocating compressors are used in low BTU models. In comparison to scroll compressors, reciprocating compressors are less efficient as a lot of energy is lost due to the lack of compression during the downward strokes. Since scroll compressors have fewer moving parts, they last longer and operate quieter.

Installation Requirements

Pool heat pump installation is usually handled by a professional technician unless you have installation know-how. If you do hire a technician, make sure he installs the heat pump on a sturdy concrete slab to reduce the pump’s vibrations.

heat pumps pool heater

The heat pump should be put outdoors at least 2 feet away from any wall to ensure proper airflow. Also, it will need its circuit breaker to handle the startup current. Depending on the BTUs of the pool heat pump, the amperage must range from 30 to 70.

When setting up the heat pump’s location, ensure that it’s the last component in the circulation line. However, if the pool has a chlorinator, the heat pump should be plumbed in before the chlorinator to prevent heat exchanger corrosion.

FAQs

Can I Use A Heat Pump With My Existing Gas Heater?

Absolutely. In fact, a dual gas-heat pump configuration will give you more time each year to enjoy your swimming pool. Additionally, you’ll slash the operating cost by half, and drastically reduce your swimming pool’s carbon footprint.

To make the heat pump the main heater and the gas heater the supplemental heater by routing the pipes to send water to the heat pump first. Then, adjust the thermostat on the gas heater to a lower temperature than the heat pump, so it the gas unit will act as an auxiliary heater.

Do I Need to Winterize My Heat Pump?

Pool heat pumps can last as many as 20 years, especially those with an automatic defrost function. However, it’s still wise to winterize your heat pump. To do so, drain the water and protect the unit with a moisture-resistant cover. If you install a bypass between the return and flow lines, it will be easier to drain the water.

how do pool heat pumps work

How Do Heat Pumps Compare to Other Kinds of Pool Heaters?

Heat pumps have the advantage over gas heaters as they consume approximately 75 percent less energy. Heat pumps are also safer because they don’t have a pilot light or release harmful carbon dioxide into the air. On the other hand, gas heaters warm the water faster, and they operate at a lower ambient temperature.

In comparison to electric resistance heaters, heat pumps are more cost-efficient. Since they require less electricity to run, heat pumps cost up to five times less to operate. However, as with gas heaters, electric resistance units still work at a lower temperature than heat pumps.

Out of all four types of pool heaters, solar heaters cost the least to run daily. Regardless, heat pumps offer several benefits that solar heaters don’t. Heat pumps function on overcast days, and they take up less space than solar panels. Plus, heat pumps can maintain a set temperature without purchasing a separate controller.

Pool Heat Pumps: Recap

Models with a titanium heat exchanger and scroll compressor are the most durable. With proper care and winterizing, you can get at least 10, if not 20, years of reliable performance out of a pool heat pump, making them an excellent investment in your swimming pool.

how pool heat pumps work

Although heat pumps are slower to warm the water, they are the most energy-efficient and reliable type of pool heater. They’re also easy to size. All you need to know are the surface area of your swimming pool, the temperature rise and the pipe diameter to get solid ballpark BTU and flow rate figures.

Top 5 Best Pool Water Chemistry Automation Systems in 2019

Chemical balancing is the bane of pool owners everywhere. It’s time-consuming, and there’s always some guesswork involved. Some people hire a professional to maintain their pool, but the limitations of manual chemical balancing still remain, and at an exorbitant cost nonetheless.

pool chemistry monitoring system

Ideally, you should test your swimming pool’s pH and chlorine levels two times a day and adjust them accordingly. If you want to spend more time swimming in your pool, getting your pool swim-ready, a water chemistry automation system is the way to go.

Residential pools are sensitive to changes in organic matter volume and swimmer load. The more debris, sunscreen and sweat particles that float around in the pool, the more chlorine must be used. Often, people resort to frequent shocking or struggle to keep pace with their pool’s chemical demands. Automated chemical monitoring and dispensing will prevent algae growth, physical irritation and cloudy water.

Once only found in commercial pool setups, chemical automation is finally gaining traction in the world of residential swimming pools. Our guide takes a look at some of the best and most streamlined pool water chemistry automation systems available. To help you gain a better understanding of how you can automate this essential pool maintenance task, we also included a buying guide.

Best Pool Water Chemistry Automation Systems

Pool Water Chemistry Automation System Buying Guide

In general, you have two choices when it comes to pool water chemistry automation systems. You can purchase an entire system complete with sensors, a controller, chemical feeders, injectors and dedicated pumps. Alternatively, you can create one piece by piece and knit together a customized setup. There are even smart home options such as apps and voice commands.

Best Pool Water Chemistry Automation Systems

While you’re choosing a chemical automation system, you also have to consider other aspects you want from your system. This buying guide will introduce you to the major facets of an automated pool water chemistry system and steer you toward the right choice for your swimming pool.

Sensors

For an automated pool chemical system to gauge the hygiene of the water and subsequently add a sanitizer or a stabilizer, sensors are used. Depending on the system you choose, there may be a sensor for the pH level, the PPM (parts per million) and/or the ORP (oxidation-reduction potential).

At the very least, you should opt for a chemical system that can detect the pH level as this measurement indicates the acidity of the water. The system should also be able to sense the PPM, so you know the quantity of sanitizer in the water whether that sanitizer is chlorine or bromine.

Some people prefer an automated system that detects the ORP instead of the PPM. ORP is measured in millivolts (mV), and it indicates the sanitizer’s oxidation activity. There are unique merits to measuring the PPM as well as the ORP. Plenty of systems can measure both, so you don’t have to choose.

Look for high-quality sensors with a low failure rate. For chlorine swimming pools, sensors with a platinum tip are a great choice. Gold-tipped sensors work well in saltwater pools. Some even come with a flow cell that resists skewed readings that pool chemicals inadvertently cause on occasion.

Controllers

As the sensors gather data, that information is delivered in real-time to the controller. The controller is usually mounted to the wall, and it lets you view all the data that the sensors collect. Depending on the water chemistry system, the sensors may be programmed to take readings at 1-minute or 5-minute intervals.

The controller may allow you to choose a setpoint for the pH level and feed cycle within a specified range. Some systems link to the manufacturer’s website, so you can customize the settings remotely and sign up to receive text and email notifications.

Many pool owners prefer having accessibility to all functions on one controller. In addition to chemical automation, you can also connect the controller to the swimming pool’s filter, heater, pump, lights, and other features. The number of relays on a multi-function controller determines the number of functions you can add to it.

Smart Home Integration

If you want to maximize the convenience of your pool water chemistry automation system, you can get a system that works with a monitoring app on your smartphone or via a smartwatch. There are also systems that you can pair with an Alexa or Assistant device for voice-command control.

Pool Water Chemistry Automation Systems

However, to make smart pool chemistry automation run smoothly, you need high-speed internet access. Most of these systems connect to a Wi-Fi network, but there are some that can be wired with an Ethernet cable. Make sure the system comes with a localized wall-mounted controller as a backup if your internet goes down.

Liquid and Erosion Feeders

The data gathered by the sensors is used to calculate the exact amount of sanitizer and stabilizer the feeders need to add to the swimming pool. Feeders come in two varieties – liquid and erosion. Liquid feeders are connected to their own peristaltic pump, which releases the chemicals. This pump requires annual cleanings, and it must be kept in an enclosed room.

Erosion feeders are usually plumbed into the pool’s pipes after the filter and the heater. As the water flow dissolves the tablets, the sanitized water is injected into the pool’s return line. You can install an erosion feeder offline if you don’t have room to plumb in the feeder, but offline setups have a greater tendency to clog.

Brand Integration

If you’re like most people, you want the ability to control every component of your pool from a centralized location. Of course, the more functions that you automate, the greater the complexity of the system.

When there are only a few basic functions that you want to connect to one controller, you can get all the components from one brand or mix and match brands. While manufacturers are starting to collaborate in terms of cross-brand automation integration, it’s best to stick with a single brand for complicated setups.

Grounding and Safety

Whether you have an indoor or an outdoor swimming pool, grounding is a must-do to prevent electric shock during a lightning storm. As you probably know, water is an excellent conductor for lightning to discharge electricity. Sensors can also attract electric currents. When your pool is grounded, that energy is transferred to the earth, and the automated system’s sensors will remain accurate and last longer.

Chlorine gas is another important safety concern. If the circulation pump stops running, but the feeder keeps adding sanitizer into the return line, chlorine gas can form, causing pulmonary edema, shortness of breath and vomiting. Pool chemistry automation systems with a safety pressure switch will not inject chemicals into the line if the water isn’t flowing.

FAQs

What Features Should I Look for in a Saltwater Chlorine Generator?

Contrary to popular belief, saltwater pools are not chlorine-free. The salt used by the swimming pool passes over a cell in the chlorine generator, which converts the salt to chlorine. Some chlorine generators can operate on their own or with a controller.

Pool Chemistry Automation Systems

To get the stable performance from a salt generator, look for one that has a sensor to confirm there is water flowing over the cell. Also, make sure it is designed to automatically shut off when the water gets too cold as salt cells aren’t able to work when the temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

What pH, PPM and mV Levels Are Hygienic?

The pH, PPM and mV levels in your pool must stay within a certain range to keep the water clean and safeguard the integrity of the swimming pool’s components. The ideal pH level ranges from 7.2 to 7.8. When the pH level falls below 7, swimmers may experience eye and skin irritation and metal parts will begin to rust. A pH above 8 promotes cloudy water and scaling.

You also want to hit a sweet spot with the level of disinfectant. If you opt for chlorine, a healthy level ranges from 2 to 4 PPM. For bromine, the pool will require a greater quantity – 4 to 6 PPM. To prevent the growth of bacteria, the ORP should be at least 650 mV.

Will I Still Have to Maintain My Pool?

Unfortunately, technology has not reached a level of advancement that eliminates the need for pool maintenance. However, a chemical automation system can extend the time between maintenance tasks for as long as 4 weeks.

Even an automated system requires maintenance from time to time. Sensors need periodic cleanings, and systems must be calibrated for accuracy.

Pool Water Chemistry Automation System: Recap

No two swimming pool environments or pool owners are exactly alike. Although every chemical automation system on our list is of high quality, some may lack certain functions that you want. Others may be overkill for your swimming pool.

Chemistry Automation Systems

You have to decide on the feeder style and the types of reading sensors. You also have to choose between a wall-mounted or a portable controller. If you go portable, there’s the matter of whether you’d like the system to be integrated into your home’s Internet of Things. Once you imagine how your system will behave, you can use our list to narrow down your options.

Top 5 Best Spa Pumps of 2019

If a hot tub is like the human body, then its pump is like the heart. The spa pump’s job is to keep the water in the hot tub moving, so the heater can raise the water’s temperature before the water shoots out of the jets. Without the pump, the hot tub’s water stays cold and stagnant.

Best Spa Pumps

Some problems, such as air locks, are easy to fix. Screeching noises caused by bad bearings and weakened jet strength due to a broken propeller are more serious. These problems spell the end of a pump’s useful life.

No matter your diligence to its maintenance or the quality of the pump, spa pumps eventually wear out. You can hire someone to fix the pump, but you’ll pay triple the cost on the repair than the price of a new pump. In other words, replacing the hot tub’s pump makes more sense than repairing it.

The models we reviewed give you the most value for your money. Although spa pumps are not universal, most can fit a variety of hot tub setups. To make sure you choose one that will work with your hot tub, we also put together a buyer’s guide full of specification and sizing information.

Best Spa Pumps

Spa Pump Buying Guide

Choosing a spa pump can be tricky. However, the pump you already have can give you a baseline of information that will help you pick your new one. Usually, all the specs are located on the pump’s label, including voltage and horsepower among other values.

Best Spa Pump

For some specs, you do have a little leeway. With other factors, you must make an exact match. Our spa pump buying guide explains all the options you have, and it will show you how to size your new pump properly.

Speed

Some spa pumps operate on one speed while others can change between two speeds, which are expressed in RPM. To make sure the pump can keep up with the number of jets in your hot tub, it’s best to stick with the same speed as your old pump.

Push the jet button on the hot tub’s control panel twice to find out if it’s a one-speed or two-speed model. If the speed increases the second time, you’ve got a dual-speed spa pump.

Horsepower

Spa pumps produce anywhere from a fraction of a horsepower to 5 HP. If you feel that the jets’ water pressure is just right, stick with the same HP as your old pump has. If you want more pressure, you can safely bump the HP up to 1.0 with the new spa pump. Going above this slight increase may be too much for the hot tub’s piping system, causing leaks to occur.

Service Factor (SF)

If a service factor (SF) is listed on the spa pump’s label, you won’t be able to judge the pump’s horsepower at face value. Instead, you’ll have to multiply the written HP by the SF to find out the total brake power. The total break power is the pump’s true HP, and that’s the figure you need to compare.

Energy Usage

There are a few factors to consider if you want to keep your electricity bill as low as possible. The higher the pump’s horsepower, the higher your bill. For that matter, the same rule applies to the voltage. A 240-volt pump requires more electricity than a 120-volt spa pump.

Amperage

Another way to determine if a spa pump is a one-speed or two-speed model is to look at its amperage rating. If you see two amperage measurements on the specs sticker, you definitely have a dual-speed spa pump.

spa pumps

Keep in mind that although the electrical system can handle a higher amp load, a hot tub pump is engineered to perform at a specific amperage. You can get a higher-amp pump than the one you have, but don’t go overboard. Remember, the higher the pump’s horsepower, the more amps it will draw – This is yet another reason to slightly increase the HP, if you do so at all.

Voltage

The spa pump’s voltage must be compatible with the hot tub’s wiring. Most hot tubs are wired for 240 volts, but there are some that use 120 volts. A 115-volt spa pump’s power supply will have two wires while a 230-volt model will have four wires. If you install a 115-volt pump in a 240-volt hot tub, the pump will not work.

Jets

When sizing a pump, you must consider the number of jets in your hot tub. The more jets the tub has, the higher the pump’s speed needs to be.

Spa Pump

The spa pump’s flow rate is measured in gallons per minute, and the GPM must be high enough to meet the flow rate for the number of jets. The diameter of a jet’s opening determines its flow rate, and every spa jet requires a certain GPM level to function correctly.

As with the true HP, a simple multiplication formula will tell you the maximum GPM you need from your new spa pump. Add the number of jets in your hot tub and multiply that number by the flow rating for one jet. The answer is the GPM the pump must produce.

Wet End Discharge

The wet end of a spa pump is where the water exits the pump. Spa pumps with an adjustable discharge on their wet end are the easiest to install because you can situate the discharge port the way you want. If the wet end’s fittings aren’t one-size-fits-all, you may need to replace the unions when you switch out your old pump for a new model.

The Frame

On a spa pump, the place where the pump’s motor connects to the wet end is called the frame, which comes in a size 48 or a size 56. These numbers correspond to the distance between the bolts that secure the wet end to the motor, and you must get the same frame size as you had before.

Usually, the label will have a 48 or 56 next to the letter F. If it doesn’t, you can measure from the far edge of one bolt to the far edge of the bolt below (or above) it. If the distance is fewer than 4 inches, the pump has a 48 frame size. If it’s 4 inches or greater, the frame size is 56.

Filter Size

Every hot tub has a filter, which is rated at a specific flow threshold. If the spa pump puts out too much water pressure for the size of the filter, the filter will cease to function efficiently and most likely fail prematurely. However, if your hot tub’s filter has a bypass valve, it can withstand the higher water flow that’s produced when a dual-speed pump’s impeller spins at its top RPM.

FAQ

How Do I Measure the Spa Pump’s Discharge?

You want to make sure the spa pump will fit the hot tub’s existing plumbing network. To do so, all you need is a simple tape measure. Start from the outside diameter and measure across to the opposite end on the outside. The measurement will either be 2.5 inches or 3 inches. Take the measurement and subtract it by 1 – The answer should correspond to the pipe size of 1.5 inches or 2 inches.

hot tub spa pumps

How Do I Prime the Pump?

Air locks are an inevitable nuisance that prevents the spa pump from circulating the water. To remove trapped air and restore the pump’s functionality, you’ll need to prime the pump in one of two ways. Some spa pumps prime themselves. Usually, self-priming pumps don’t require human intervention, but sometimes they do.

One priming method involves the hot tub’s control panel. You can only try this method if the panel has a priming button. Activate the spa’s priming mode and turn on the jets for 20 seconds at the lowest possible speed. Then, crank up the water flow to the highest speed for an additional 20 seconds. Alternate between both speeds until the air bubbles and/or gurgling noises are gone.

The other way to prime the pump is to do it manually via the bleeder valve. Before you begin, turn off the circuit breaker. Next, close the discharge’s gate valve. Once you start turning the bleeder valve, you’ll hear hissing air. Your cue to stop turning it and tighten the valve is when that sound stops. After that, flip on the breaker and test out the jets.

How Long Should My Spa Pump Last?

Spa pumps are designed to last anywhere from 5 to 10 years. Debris is a pump’s worst enemy. To get as many years of useful life as possible from your spa pump, routine maintenance is a must-do.

Luckily, it isn’t hard to maintain your spa pump. Inspect and clean the filter regularly to prevent debris from damaging the pump’s impeller. Also, keep the water’s pH level balanced. If the pH is too high, the pump’s components will begin to corrode. If it’s too low, scale buildup will clog the filter and pump.

Finally, make it a point to check the pump for leaks every once in a while. If you spot a leak, replace the seal. As long as you stick to a regular maintenance schedule, you can maximize (and maybe even exceed) the spa pump’s lifespan.

Spa Pump Buying: Recap

Since it’s the center of a hot tub’s water circulation and jet pressure, the spa pump will make or break your hot tub experience. While all of the pump models on our list are excellent performers, only some may be suitable for your hot tub.

You must take into account the amperage, horsepower, frame, flow rate and voltage in order to correctly size your new spa pump. Once you figure out the specs you need, selecting one of the spa pump’s we’ve reviewed will be easy.