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3 Different Types of Pool Filters: Which One’s Best?

swimming pool filter room

swimming pool filter room

There are three different types of pool filters that you can choose for your pool. All have various positives and negatives to them. Before deciding which one is best for you, it pays to do some research and make sure you truly understand the differences. We have broken this down for you in a simple and understandable format so you can make the best decision as to what you need.

Is one of these pool filters better than the other? Read on to find out.

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Sand Filter

INTEX SX2100 Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools: 2100 GPH Flow Rate – Improved...
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A sand filter uses sand to filter the water in your pool. A unique pool grade sand helps to trap dirt particles and clean the water.

A sand filter is a perfect solution for pools that get heavy use. You can run the filter 24 hours a day, making it an excellent choice for commercial and public pools. Sand filters will filter down to 10/15 microns. Some more expensive sand filters have the ability to get smaller than that, but 10/15 is about standard on a new Sand filter.

  • Suitable for heavy use can be run often and for extended periods
  • Cleans to 10/15 microns
  • Sand needs replacement every 3-5 years (1-2 years on commercial pools)
  • Weekly backwash required to clean the filter, time-consuming and bad for the environment

Cartridge Filter

Pleatco PCC105-PAK4 Replacement Cartridge for Pentair Clean and Clear Plus 420, Pack of 4 Cartridges
  • Replacement filter for pool and spa cleaning systems
  • Material weight : 4 ounce / yard square. 50% open ABS free flow cores maximize water flow through REEMAY filter media
  • Antimicrobial end caps resist chlorine degradation and provide support to filter material for a longer life span

A cartridge filter uses a paper type cartridge to clean the water in your swimming pool. Cartridge filters clean to about the same level that a sand filter will. Cartridge filters are better for the environment as they don’t require a weekly backwash.

Cartridges need to be cleaned every six months or so, and they should last three to five years.

Cartridge filters tend to perform well at lower speeds. If you happen to own a variable-speed pump, a cartridge filter can be an excellent match for it.

  • Easier maintenance no need for weekly backwash
  • Better for environment
  • Clean to 10/15 microns
  • Cartridges last 3-5 years
  • Not for more extensive commercial pools

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) Filter

Dicalite DE25BOX 25 LBS Diatomaceous Earth Pool Filter D.E
  • All-natural filtering media for de swimming pool filters
  • Designed for use in above ground and in ground de filter systems
  • High-grade de filter powder can filter down to 3-5 microns

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) Filters use DE as the filter media. Since DE is finer than sand and the cartridge used in the cartridge filter, this pool will clean to 5/8 microns. Quite a bit smaller than the capabilities of the sand and cartridge filter.

DE powder needs to be added to the pool every time you vacuum the pool. When you are finished cleaning, you need to backwash the pool as well. This backwash should be done at least monthly.

The replacement costs of DE filters are quite high, so proper maintenance is imperative.

Upkeep on the DE filters is more complicated, and that is one reason that will cause people to choose a different option. If your pool is located under dense foliage, the DE filter is the best choice. The fact that it is cleaned to the 5/8 microns will keep your pool much cleaner than the sand or cartridge filter will be able to.

DE filters also require a direct connection to the sanitary system for the monthly backwash to be done correctly.

  • Water clarity is higher
  • Cleans to 5/8 microns
  • Suitable for pools under trees
  • Expensive upkeep
  • Highest cost filter
  • Maintenance can be time-consuming and costly
  • DE powder is hazardous if inhaled as it is a known carcinogen

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Which Filter Type Is Best for Me?

The good news is that there is no right or wrong answer as far as which type of pool filter is better than the other.

You will need to make a decision based on your particular pool and needs to decide which filter will work. There are, however, three essential things we suggest keeping in mind when choosing your filter.

  • Size Matters: If you get a pump that is not big enough to clean your pool, there will be continuous issues. If you get a pump that is bigger than you need, it is completely fine. When you are on the fence about what size to get, make sure you get the biggest filter that you can afford as it will keep your pool much cleaner.
  • Upkeep: Be realistic about how much time you are going to spend working on your pool. Do you want to backwash it every week? Do you never want to backwash the pool? Keep this in mind as you will be stuck with this decision for several years.
  • Pool Location/Type: If you are working with a commercial or heavy-use pool, a sand filter is going to be the only choice. If your pool is located in the center of your yard with no trees surrounding it, then something that cleans to 20 microns will be plenty. Be realistic about how dirty your pool gets and the level of filter that you need to keep it looking good.

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Although there is no clear winner in this battle, we do have our personal preferences. If you are a residential pool owner, the cartridge filter is a great choice. Without having to do weekly backwashes, you will be doing some good for the environment. Although the cartridge will need to be replaced every few years, this option seems to be most popular among homeowners that we speak with.

Featured Image Credit: Christine Bird, Shutterstock


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