Getting the right filter for your above ground or in-ground pool is essential if you want to swim in clean water and avoid gross water all season long. Choosing the best pool filter means you need to know what your options are and what all of the pool filter terms mean for you.
I’ve written this guide to help you understand the different types of pool filters and how to find what you need for your specific pool. If you don’t get the information you need from here, just leave me a comment at the bottom of the page and I will help you figure out what your best choices are!
Which Type of Pool Filter System Do You Need?
There are three common types of filter systems for pools, each with their own pros and cons:
A lot of people with in-ground pools use sand filters because they are cheap and the maintenance is easy. With a pool filter sand, all of the particles coming through your pump go through a large bed of sand that filters them out to as small as 20 microns. Larger debris won’t get through, but small particles pass through sand filters fairly easily.
Cleaning a sand filter involves backwashing the sand to push all of the debris and dirt out of it and out of the pool area. Sand gets replaced every 7 years or so, depending on the area you’re located in.
- Cheap to purchase and maintain
- Effective for cleaning out medium to large debris
- Reliable for years
- Sand only needs to be replaced about every 7 years
- Needs maintenance often
- More pressure is needed when sand becomes full of debris
Today’s pool experts usually talk about cartridge filters as a great choice because they offer a lower maintenance option that filters down to 5-10 microns. Cartridge filters use a thin cloth-like material to filter out particles and debris from your pool water.
The filter area is actually larger than in sand filters, making it more efficient so it will use less water pressure to run. Cleaning the filters is easy, as you simply need to remove the cartridge and hose it down to wash off the filtered out materials.
- Simple maintenance
- No backwashing required for the filter
- Larger filter area
- Saves water and energy when used
- More expensive to install than sand filters
- Cartridge filters have to be replaced around every 3 years
D.E. Filter (Diatomaceous Earth)
This final type of filter is a newer method that mixes the cartridge style with a natural filtering material called Diatomaceous Earth (DE). DE is a natural, organic material that is ground into a fine powder and used as a filter to remove as small as size 3 microns from your pool water.
To maintain the filter, you simply have to backwash the system and replenish the DE materials. About twice a year you need to take the filter out and hose it off.
- DE provides the clearest pool water
- You can refill your DE powder through a pool skimmer
- Reliable systems that last for years
- More maintenance is needed
- DE systems are the most costly filters
Top Mounted or Side Mounted Valve?
If you’re looking into a sand filter system, you can choose between getting a top-mounted or a side-mounted system. The systems run the same way, but the major difference is going to be the installation cost and the ease of maintenance.
Top-mounted systems are the cheapest type of installation for sand filters. The piping is easier to install, making it lighter on parts and labor. However, it’s impossible to reach the sand inside without removing the top pipes, so it makes maintenance difficult. Side-mounted systems are more expensive, but they are easier to maintain.
Which is Really the Best Pool Filter Type?
Depending on what you need for your pool, any type of filter system can be the best. Most professionals will recommend cartridge filters to pool owners, as they are great filters for small particles and large debris, and they don’t require backwashing of your system like the sand filters do.
However, if you simply want a cheap system and you’re not concerned with filtering out the smallest particles, a sand filter is probably a fine option for you. If you want the clearest water of all, a DE system is your best choice.
Additionally, you have to consider what the right pool filter is for above ground pools versus in-ground pools because it makes a big difference what kind of system you get for your pool then.
Best Pool Filter Reviews
So you can find the right pool filter, I’ve gotten the details of a few of the best pool filter models on the market right now. These are filters that I consider to be a good value for the money and potentially a great choice for your pool. I’ve separated the categories into above ground pools and in-ground pools so you can quickly find the relevant filters to meet your needs.
These are some of my favorite choices for the best pool filter system available:
1. Hayward S310T2 Pro-Series 30-Inch Top-Mount Pool Sand Filter
This Hayward sand filter is available in 5 different sizes: 22, 24, 27, 30, and 36 inches. It’s a top-mounted sand filter that’s easy to set up and start running immediately. The design is based on getting the best flow speed possible at all levels of pressure, making it an efficient way to clean up your pool.
Hayward made this filter to be hassle-free and simple to maintain. All of the sand inside the filter is used because of a better spread of water. It provides excellent filtration and clear water for the average pool owner.
This is an energy-efficient design that’s meant to save you money by running properly and utilizing all of the sand and water flow techniques it can. Backwashing is simple and can be completed easily in just a few minutes.
- Vari-Flo valve for maximum flow at all pressure levels
- Quick and easy assembly
- Energy efficient operation
- Long-lasting materials and design
2. Pentair 145322 Sand Dollar Top-Mount Pool Filter
A high-performance product for in-ground pools, the Pentair Sand Dollar handles up to 28,8000 gallons of water effortlessly. A rugged construction, highly efficient design and hydraulically matched components ensure clean, crystal clear water.
- The special filter design keeps the sand bed level, which is critical for ensuring consistent performance.
- Corrosion resistance and longevity are ensured by a one-piece thermoplastic filter tank
- Filter comes with the filter tank, multi-port valve, sight glass, and pressure gauge
3. Pentair Triton II Side Mount Filter TR100 Fiberglass Sand Filter
The Pentair is created from a single piece of reinforced fiberglass that is US resistant. The product has a flow rate of 98 GPM, a turn overcapacity in gallons of 8 hours (47,040), 10 hours (58,800), and 12 hours (70,560)The internal design keeps the sand bed level, thus ensuring an even water flow with the water receiving maximum filtration.
- Product sports an internal air bleed
- All internal parts of the filter are threaded
- Has a maximum operating pressure of 50 psi
- A swing-away diffuser allows for easy access to sand and all internal parts
4. Hayward Pool Filter S244S Pro-Series
This is one of Hayward’s latest offerings in pool filter technology. The filter is molded of durable, corrosive-proof thermoplastic and features an advanced, self-cleaning lateral drain systems that allow for a smooth, efficient flow and balanced backwash.
- The rugged plastic filter base mold is designed for long-lasting, all-weather performance
- The system is quickly assembled
- The 6-position vari-flo valve provides you with maximum flow at pressure drop
5. Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump
This sand pool filter is only meant for small above ground pools. It comes in 4 different sizes according to the size you need for your pool: 1050, 1600, 2150, and 3000 GPH (gallons per hour). Intex lists their pump by the gallons per hour speed of the pump to help you choose the right model to easily work on your pool water.
Maintenance on this filter system is very easy, with a backwash option in the control settings. You won’t have to replace the sand except once every 5 years.
No matter which size you get, this filter system works well with Intex pools of various sizes. It is also easily compatible with Intex pump systems and other Intex brand pool attachment.
- Built-in 24-hour timer
- 6-control system allows for easy functionality
- Pieces included: 6-way valve, pressure gauge, tank, straining basket, timer and motor
- Compatible with Intex above ground pool pumps and some other pump brands
- Sand replacement every 5 years
6. Sand Filter w/ 1HP Above Ground Swimming Pool Pump
For small to medium above ground pools, this sand filter is easy to connect and effective for up to 18,000 gallons of water. It is only good for above ground pools and isn’t meant for in-ground pools; even if they are spas or smaller pools.
6 different speed settings can be activated to make the filter work for you. It works with as low of pressure as possible to be more efficient and use less electricity. This is also a top-mounted system that requires you to remove pipes and plumbing to reach the sand storage area of the filter system. You can expect years of great service from this filter, as it’s made of strong materials that are weather-proof and heat resistant.
The high capacity sand bed is larger than many of the other in-ground pool filters. Because of this, it can extend the lifecycle of the sand and keep you from having to backwash the filter every day. You will also catch more debris at a time, which is great for pools that get very dirty from the environment.
- Sand capacity of up to 175 pounds
- Self-priming 1hp pump included
- Maximum suction of 34.5ft
7. Hayward C5030 525 Square Foot SwimClear Cartridge Filter
Hayward has released this cartridge filter in 5 sizes: 225, 325, 425, 525, and 725 square-feet. It’s a strong and heavy-duty filter that will resist heat, cold, and the elements to keep working well for you whenever you need it. Its outer shell is made from Noryl, a sturdy co-polymer reinforced with glass.
The filter debris area is large enough to keep you from having to service your filter system as often, because it can hold a fairly high volume of dirt and debris before it needs to be emptied. Once it comes time to wash off the filters, opening the system and removing the filter for hosing is very easy.
You can do any regular maintenance on this filter system without having to disconnect or mess with any pipes at all. The self-aligning top and bottom halves also make maintenance and setup easier for you.
- 1&1/2 inch drain makes clean-out faster
- Low-profile tank base is easy to work with
- Bulkhead is made of sturdy Noryl
- Easy design for servicing
8. Pentair 160301 Clean & Clear Pool Filter
This Pentair residential cartridge pool filter system is made with 420 square-foot filter capacity. It’s great for collecting a large amount of dirt and smaller particles in between cleanings without impacting the overall performance of the filter.
The larger pool cartridge capacity helps to reduce the frequency of cartridge cleanings necessary to maintain a clean pool. If you have an overhanging tree or any other source of a lot of debris, you may still need to empty it out more often.
However, the average pool owner will probably only need to clean the cartridge once or twice a month at most. This is a great convenience for low-maintenance pool management.
- 420 square-foot filter area
- Continuous high flow air relief and manual air relief for safety and efficiency
- Injection-molded design for long-lasting strength
- 100% drain clean-out ports for easy maintenance
- Uses Clean & Clear Plus cartridge filters
9. Hayward Cartridge Pool Filter C900 Star-Clear Plus
The reusable polyester pool filter cartridge in this product provides for heavy duty, extra-long filtration cycles for a maximum pool size of 43,200 gallons of water. The filter cartridge is easy to clean – just remove and rinse under a hose. The filter tank is extremely durable and constructed of Perma-Glass XL that is reinforced for ultimate strength.
- The filter tanks are made from durable glass reinforced co-polymer material
- Ensures a corrosion-free performance
- Sports locking knob security fastened to the filter tank that eliminates the need for bolts or clamps
- Filter head can be rotated to a position the pressure gauge and manual air relief for your convenience
- The extra-large cartridge element provides maximum flow
10. Jandy CS250 Single Element Cartridge Filter
A compact and easy-to-use system, the Jandy Pro CS 250 provides great water filtration by means of a single element cartridge. Its compactness makes it ideal for smaller areas. It also features an ergonomic, easy-grip handle that allows for easy lid removal. Easy to clean, this filter covers pools that are up to 250 square feet and has a maximum flow rate of 125 gpm. Additionally, a pressure gauge with a clean and dirty indicator is included, as well as a 2-inch drain port and high-impact thermoplastic tank body.
- Sports an ergonomic, easy-grip handle
- The compact design makes it perfect for small areas
- The extra-large drain port allows for easy cleaning
- The tank body is made to withstand corrosion and is UV resistant
11. Hayward CC15093S Xstream Filter
This cartridge filtering system from Hayward is great for a lot of larger above ground pools. It’s well designed to stand up to the different elements that are to effect an outdoor, above ground pool filter.
The Xstream filter is reinforced with glass, so it’s non-corrosive and sturdy enough to last for a long time before you will have to replace it.
The 1.5 HP motor is strong enough to keep the pump running well for its entire lifetime. Hookups in and out of the filter allow for a large variety of pumps and other plumbing to be attached to it, making it easily compatible with other brands as well as devices from the same brand.
According to the manufacturer, this pool filter work for above ground pools as large as 57,000 gallons because of its large filtering capacity. This larger size is a great feature if you want a faster water turnover time or if you own a large or extra-large above ground pool.
- Safety features for better closure and efficiency
- Equal filtering for longer filter cartridge life
- Weather-proof and heat resistant materials
- Flexible or rigid plumbing options available
- 1.5 HP motor
12. Hayward DE4820 Pro-Grid 48 Sq. Ft. Vertical DE Pool Filter
If you’re looking for a high quality DE filter for your pool, this Hayward model comes in 5 different sizes to suit your needs: 24, 36, 48, 60, and 72 square-foot models are offered. You can use this vertical grid filter for any time of in-ground pool or spa, especially because of the wide range of sizes available. It’s a durable and well-made system that accepts all types of DE pool filter powder.
This particular DE filter system is good for either residential homes or commercial pools and spas as needed. It’s corrosion-free and made from Perma Glass XL materials that will resistant heat and water damage for years.
Replenishing the DE supplies and cleaning the filter can all be easily accomplished without removing or disturbing any of the plumbing pipes. This makes it a good choice for a lot of home owners who don’t want to take apart the whole system just to clean off the cartridge.
- Even distribution of in-flowing water for greater efficiency
- Many different plumbing options offered for your convenience with the installation
- Higher maximum flow than some similar units
13. Pentair 180009 FNS Plus
The FNS Plus is made of fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene, an advanced chemical resistant material that ensures both strength and durability. To top manifold has a service-ease grid pack that makes servicing very convenient. Optimal filtration and backwash efficiency is ensured by the unique internal design of the filter, while curved vertical grids provide you the maximum filter service to make cleaning a breeze.
- Longer life is ensured by means of the chemical-resistant fiberglass reinforced polypropylene tank
- The filter grid pack is easy to remove
- The internal design is quite unique and allows for optimal filtration and backwashing efficiency
- The curved vertical grills in the unit provide you with a maximum filter surface area that ensures better cleaning
14. Pentair Sta-Rite PLDE36 Pool Filter System
The Pentair Sta-Rite filtration system is suitable for both inground pools and hot tubs. It sports a single replaceable grid that supplies great quality water. This one-piece design is fully back washable. For deep cleaning, you can remove the filter lid and hose off without having to disassemble anything.
- Can be used on inground pools and inground hot tubs
- Tank housing consists of two pieces and is constructed of rugged ABS thermoplastic
- A Post-Ring closure ensures easy access to the internal parts of the filter
15. Hayward EC50AC Perflex D.E. Filter
Unlike the previously mentioned Hayward DE pool filter, this filter can be used for both above round and in-ground pools of different sizes. There are 3 different models of this filter system available: the EC40AC, EC50AC, and the EC75A. Each model is a different size to be used in smaller or larger pools, according to your pool filter measurements.
This filter works very well to remove tiny particles from your pool water and give you the most beautifully clear water possible. In addition to small particles and debris, this filter system also works to catch algae. It generally manages to catch particles on the first pass through the filter without allowing many to pass by and go back into the pool itself.
The Perflex filter systems uses less resistance so that the use of your water and electricity is more efficient. It’s efficient and dependable with reliable cleaning power that will make your pool much cleaner than many other types of filter systems. This is a comparable system to other DE filters available from other brands.
- Great for round pools – clamp included
- Self-cleaning flex tubes
- Blockage valves prevent accidental backflow when you turn the system off
- 1 year limited manufacturer warranty
How to Choose the Right Size Pool Filter
Pool filters have to be measured correctly to your pool size or else they will not work effectively. Ideally, the filter you choose should turn over the entire amount of water in your pool a minimum of twice per 24 hours. Commercial pools should turn over at least 4 times per 24 hours.
Calculating your pool turnover rate requires you to know the size and volume of your pool. Once you have this information, you can choose a filter that will appropriately work for your specific pool.
Maintenance and Cleaning of Pool Filters
A properly maintained pool filter ensures clean pool water. It is thus of the utmost importance that your pool filter is cleaned regularly.
The thing is a filter that works properly filters your pool water and collects any debris. After a while, however, this debris gets caught up in the filter and clogs it up. It also tends to increase your water pressure. This results in a reduced water flow, cloudy water, bad water circulation, and excessive wear and tear on your pool equipment.
The frequency at which cleaning is needed depends on the pool size, filter, and situation of the pool. For example, a pool that gets leaves blown into it regularly may need more frequent cleaning of the filter. So while some people may need to clean their filters once a season, others may need to do so on a weekly basis.
Cleaning a Cartridge Filter
You need to follow a few steps to clean this type of filter:
- Ensure the pump is turned to the off position
- If the filter is below your pool’s water level, ensure the valves are closed otherwise the pool water will drain out
- Open the air bleed valve(usually located on the top of the filter) and the drain port (at the bottom of the filter) in order to drain water.
- Open the filter and remove the cart or carts
- Rinse the filter tank
- Wash the carts with a hosepipe (at a 45-degree angle starting from the top and working your way to the bottom)
- Reassemble the filter
- Close the drain port
- Open the valves if you closed them
- Turn on the pump
- When water starts running out of the air bleed valve, close it
Cleaning a Sand Filter
Sand filters have a push/pull or multiple position valve for cleaning debris. When you change the position of this valve, for whatever reason, your pump must be off or you will damage your pump. Once the pump is off:
- Make sure valves on the discharge line are open and the discharge hose is attached and positioned for where you want your water to run
- Move the pump lever to the backwash position and turn on the pump
- Once the water runs clear, turn off the pump
- Reposition the valve back to its normal position
- Top up your pool’s water if necessary
Cleaning a DE Filter
There are two types of DE filters. The first has a push/pull or multiport cleaning valve. The cleaning procedure for this type of filter is exactly the same as that of a sand filter with one difference- a lot of the DE is removed with the dirt so you need to add more.
The second kind has a handle situated on the top of the filter that, when moved up or down, knocks DE as well as debris off your filter. Once this is done, you need to:
- Turn off the pump
- Open the air valve situated at the top for 5 seconds before closing it again
- Restart the pump and check whether the psi has dropped more than 2 psi
- If it has, you are set for the next step. If not, repeat the process and check the psi again (you may need to do this a few times)
- Remove the plug from the bottom of the filter and run the pump about 30 seconds
- Replace the plug, open the air valve on top, and run the pump until water runs out the air valve
- You are set to go!
Do remember, however, that you should not rely on a pool pump as your only pool cleaner. Depending on your type of pool, you will need to add pool chemicals as well. In order to spare your pool filter, the use of a pool cover is recommended as it traps most of the debris that would normally enter your pool and land up in your pool filter.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea about how to choose the best pool filter for your needs. Out of the three different types of filters, you have to choose the one which works the best for your specific pool setup and preferences.