10 Best Above Ground Pool Filters of 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks
If you’re looking for a new above ground pool filter, you either just bought a new pool or need to upgrade your aging existing one. Either way, you might be surprised at the vast number of options available to you. If you have purchased filters before, you might be surprised to see how much technology has advanced the efficiency of the modern filters and pumps. A few years ago, it was common to get 2 and 3-horsepower pumps, but today it’s much more common for pumps to be under a single horse.
Fortunately, we can help you sort through the high number of choices as well as the new technology. We’ve already tried out dozens of different brands of above ground pool filters and have chosen 10 different models that we feel are worth your time to consider. Each brand has certain things that we like about it and certain things that we don’t. We are going to go over each one with you so you can see what to look for when you make your own choices.
We’ve also included a buyer’s guide where we break down every aspect of the above ground pool filter and explain how it works. We’ll go over the different types of pool filters as well as the different types of media that you can use in your filters to help you get a clear idea of precisely what kind of pool filter you need for your pool.
Keep reading for our detailed reviews of each above ground pool filter, where we compare filter type, filter media, horsepower, and flow rate to help you make an educated purchase.
A Quick Comparison (updated in 2021)
|Best Overall||Sand Master Above Ground Pool Filter & Pump||
|Best Value||Intex Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter||
|Premium Choice||Hayward XStream Above-Ground Pool Filter||
|Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter||
|GAME SandPRO Series Pool Sand Filter||
The 10 Best Above Ground Pool Filters
Let’s look at the ten above ground pool filters that we chose to review for you.
1. Sand Master Above Ground Pool Filter & Pump – Best Overall
The Sand Master Above Ground Pool Filter & Pump System is our choice for best overall, and we believe that after you check out what it has to offer, you will agree it’s the best sand filter for above ground pools. This filter is perfect for smaller pools of less than 10,000 gallons. Soft-sided pools fit into this category, and this filter will work well with that type of pool. The pump design always allows it to remain powered on. The longer running time will enable you to get superior cleaning while using a reduced amount of sand and less horsepower.
The Sand Master filter has soft sides and a four-position multiport valve with all the most important functions like filter and backwash, making it the pump to look for when you want the best pool filter & pump combo. It also comes equipped with two 7-foot connection hoses to get you running immediately.
The downside to this pump is that it’s just too small for anything bigger than soft-sided pools.
2. Intex Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter – Best Value
The Intex 28635EG Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter is our choice for the best value, and we think you will agree that this is the best cartridge pool filter for the money. This budget model features a powerful motor capable of moving 1,500 gallons per hour. This filter is perfect for small to medium-sized pools, and it features and a timer that you can set to run for 2 to 12 hours. The Intex is one of the few only cartridge filters we have on this list, and it comes with a replaceable and easy to clean filter cartridge.
The downside to this filter is that the cartridges wear out quickly, and you’ll need to replace them every year or two. This filter also uses wide 1.5-inch hoses that might need adapters to fit the more common 1.25-inch. We feel Intex should include the adapters with purchase.
3. Hayward XStream Above-Ground Pool Filter – Premium Choice
Hayward XStream is our premium choice. This filter is for someone who wants the best filter money can buy. The Xstrream is a cartridge filter that features a huge 37-inch tall and 21-inch wide removable filter. The 1.5-horsepower pump perfectly complements the tall filter, and the pair work together to clean any medium to large size pool. The pump features a handy on-off button that’s much better than the plug-in method, so many other pumps use.
The only complaints about this model that keep it out of the top 2 spots are, of course, the high cost, but also the included hoses both leaked along the seam.
4. Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter
Intex 28651EG Krystal Clear Sand Filter is a heavy-duty sand filter system capable of moving 3000 gallons of water per hour. This size filter is perfect for pools with 25,000 to 30,000 gallons of water. The pump is a real energy saver and uses only 0.75-hp to move the water because it runs at 75 percent efficiency. It features the 6-way valve for switching between filter, backwash, etc., and a 24-hour timer makes sure you never forget to turn it on or off. The hard-exterior shell is very durable, and we believe it can withstand many years of harsh outdoor environments.
The only problem we had with this system is that the pump seems a little on the weak side for our taste.
5. GAME SandPRO Series Pool Sand Filter
The GAME SandPRO 75D is a sand pool filter with a 0.75-hp pump rated for above ground pools up to 15,000 gallons. We found the pump to have a lot of power and handled filtering and vacuuming nicely with smooth, quiet operation. We liked the ready to read pressure gauge that you can see from far away.
The four-position rotary valve should be enough for most users, but the handle does seem a little lightweight and flimsy. If fact, there is a lot of plastic and in some spots of the filter its very thin. It’s unlikely to last many years in the harsh sun and less likely to survive rough handling or accidental collisions.
6. Blue Wave Sand Filter System
The Blue Wave NE6170 is a slightly larger pool filter designed to turn over a 24,000-gallon pool in just 8 hours. It moves the water with an efficient 1.5-hp pump and a specially designed filter to maximize water flow. The filter is a single piece of durable and corrosion-resistant polyethylene, and it has a six-position multi-port valve for switching between filtering, backwashing, and more.
We felt that the included hoses were pretty flimsy, and while the unit may very well be moving the water at 50 gallons per minute (GPM) it doesn’t do it with a lot of force, and the water doesn’t move as much as we would like it to push contaminates into the skimmer. This lower pressure was also a problem during vacuuming, and you may need to go with the type of vacuum that works independently of the filter system to get a good cleaning on the bottom of your pool with this filter.
7. XtremepowerUS 19″ Sand Filter
The XtremepowerUS is a 19-inch sand filter with a 1.5-hp pump. The pump and filter are engineered to work together to provide maximum flow rate. The heavy-duty pump features airflow ventilation and can push up to 4,500 gallons of water through the filter per hour. The 5-position valve gives you plenty of options for filtering, backwashing, and more.
Assembling this filter system was a challenge, and many of the parts did not fit together easily. We also couldn’t get the valve cover tight enough to stop it from leaking. This pump also contains a start capacitor, which makes it illegal in California due to power regulations.
8. FlowXtreme Sand Filter Pump System
The FlowXtreme NE4486 is a smaller size filter that features a ⅓-hp pump capable of pumping 1,850 gallons per hour and is suitable for 10,000 to 15,000-gallon pools. This type of pump is perfect for smaller soft side pools. We liked the versatile seven-selection valve control switch. The switch is one of the most intuitive and clearly labeled pump switches we’ve used. We’re sure it will help you understand when and how to use the different functions.
The FlowXtreme NE4486 is challenging to assemble, and the outflow connection on the filter is a strange size and may cause difficulty for some users when connecting it to their existing system. The plugs at the bottom of the filter and pump are plastic and will strip easily.
9. SUNCOO 2450GPH Sand Filter
The SUNCOO Pro is a 13-inch sand filter rated for pools less than 10,000 gallons. The filter features a 4-way valve and includes a built-in pressure gauge to help you monitor the condition of your filter and help determine when to backwash. The pump can move 2,450 gallons of water per hour and has overload protection.
We didn’t like the low horsepower didn’t seem to move the water very well, and assembly was a bit of a challenge as well. The SUNCOO is also one of the noisier pumps on our list.
10. Rx Clear Patriot Sand Filter
The Rx Clear Patriot Sand Filter is the final model on our list, and while it’s not going to be as good as one of our first three choices, there might be something that interests you. This filter features a compact 12-inch tall design and rated for filtering pools up to 10,500 gallons. It’s also designed to use a special media created by RX that will allow it to filter contaminates down to 3 microns in size.
The downside is there is no pump included with this filter, and you will need to purchase one separately. It also uses a four-way push-pull backwash valve that felt cheap and didn’t operate smoothly when we used it.
Let’s look at some of the things that will help you when choosing an above ground pool filter.
Determine your desired turnover time.
The time it takes for all the water in your pool to move through your filter is what we call the pool’s turnover time. Pools that get used more often will want a faster turnover time. A seven- or eight-hour turnover time is usually good for a heavily used pool, while ten to twelve hours is enough for light use.
Determine your pool’s minimum flow rate
Flow rate is the amount of water that needs to flow through the filter per minute to reach your desired turnover time.
- 8 hours = 480 minutes
- 10 hours = 600 minutes
- A heavily used 30,000-gallon pool will need a minimum flow rate of 62.5 gallons per minute or 3750 gallons per hour (30,000/480 = 62.5. 30,000/8 = 3,750)
- A heavily used 40,000-gallon pool will require a minimum flow rate of 83.3 gallons per minute (40,000/480 = 83.3)
- A lightly used 30,000-gallon pool will require a flow rate of 50 gallons per minute (30,000/600 = 50)
- A lightly used 40,000-gallon pool will need a flow rate of 66.6 gallons per minute (40,000/600 = 66.6)
The target flow rate is most of the battle when it comes to pool filtration.
The size of your pool is going to be one of the most significant factors you need to consider when choosing an above ground pool filter. The pool size determines your flow rate.
Though you can purchase the pump and the filter separately, you usually buy them as a matching set. The pump forces the water through the filter and is responsible for the flow rate. Larger pumps allow you to move more water, and you need one that reaches helps you reach your target flow rate.
The number of horsepower your pump has is one of the crucial things to look for when choosing a pump, but it’s not the only thing. Some modern pump designs let you move more water with less power.
Pool Hose Diameter
Pool hoses range from 1.25-inch to 2-inch in diameter, with most hoses being 1.5-inch. A larger diameter hose can lower the pressure and allow more water to flow through increasing your flow rate.
Before we can talk about filters, we need to discuss how we measure the filtering that they do. The filter removes particles and contaminants from the water, and we judge the effectiveness of the filter by the smallest particle it can remove. We measure particles in microns, which is short for micrometer.
- One sheet of paper or strand of human hair = 100 microns
- Red blood cells = 8 microns
- coli bacteria = 2 microns
Therefore, a filter that can remove particles down to 10 microns is better than one that can remove particles down to 30 microns.
Chlorine and other pool cleaners can kill bacteria and neutralize algae and mold, but the filter is what removes them, along with any other foreign substances. The larger your filter is, the less you need to clean and backwash. Larger filters also decrease stress on the pump, especially during backwashing.
There are three standard filter types, and they are sand, cartridge, and diatomaceous earth, which is also known as DE.
Sand filters are the least expensive to own, they are the easiest to maintain, and they are the least likely to clog. The sand can last five or six years before you need to replace it.
The downside to sand filters is that they only filter down to 20 microns, and the other filter types can do better. They also waste a lot of water during backwashing and waste power before backwashing as debris build up in the sand and raise the pressure.
Debris building up in the sand does improve its filtering ability, and there are a few things you can use besides sand to bring down the microns.
ZeoSand is a sand-like substance made from the mineral Zeolite. Zeosand will filter better than sand, down to 5 microns, and you only need half as much. It traps ammonia ions that lead to a chlorine smell and eye burn. It also removes bacteria through molecular sieving.
Filterglass is crushed recycled glass. It’s safe to the touch and environmentally friendly. It can filter down to 5-microns and requires the least amount of backwashing. Filterglass also has a negative charge and is excellent for removing metals from your water.
Cartridge filters are the easiest to clean, but they are only for small to medium-sized pools. These tall cylindrical filters can filter down to 10 microns through a pleated polyester filter. To clean the filter, remove it from the tank and hose it down. The downside to cartridge filters is they don’t last very long, and you can expect to replace it every two to three years.
Diatomaceous Earth Filters use crushed diatom shells to do the filtering. These tiny shells can filter down to 5 microns, and you clean them by backwashing like sand filters. You can also add more DE to your filter by adding it to your skimmer, which is convenient.
The downside to DE filters is that there is some question about its cancer-causing qualities. It’s the highest-priced filter and requires a lot of maintenance. Your city might also have restrictions in place that prevent you from backwashing due to a cement-like buildup that can form in drains.
Now that you’ve had a chance to read over this article, we hope you have a better understanding of the different options available to you concerning above ground pool filters. We stand by our choice for best overall. The Sand Master Above Ground Pool Filter & Pump System is perfect for smaller pools and is an excellent replacement for the very popular soft side pools that often come equipped with low-quality pumps. Our best value choice, the Intex 28635EG Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter, will keep all but the largest pools clean without breaking the bank, and it’s easy to clean.
We hope that you have enjoyed our above ground pool filter reviews and top picks, and it has helped you make an informed purchase. If you have learned something new about above ground pool filters, please share this article with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.
Featured Image Credit: Chad Robertson Media, Shutterstock
- 1 A Quick Comparison (updated in 2021)
- 2 The 10 Best Above Ground Pool Filters
- 2.1 1. Sand Master Above Ground Pool Filter & Pump – Best Overall
- 2.2 2. Intex Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter – Best Value
- 2.3 3. Hayward XStream Above-Ground Pool Filter – Premium Choice
- 2.4 4. Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter
- 2.5 5. GAME SandPRO Series Pool Sand Filter
- 2.6 6. Blue Wave Sand Filter System
- 2.7 7. XtremepowerUS 19″ Sand Filter
- 2.8 8. FlowXtreme Sand Filter Pump System
- 2.9 9. SUNCOO 2450GPH Sand Filter
- 2.10 10. Rx Clear Patriot Sand Filter
- 3 Buyer’s Guide
- 4 Conclusion