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Differences Between Above Ground Pool Filter Systems

Learn about the 3 main types of Filter Systems for your Above Ground Swimming Pool!
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There are 3 main types of above ground pool filter systems that one should be aware of when shopping for swimming pool equipment: (1) Cartridge, (2) Sand, and (3) Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.). You should know that an above ground pool could be properly maintained with any one of these systems.

Cartridge Filter Systems

Cartridge filters consist of a simple 2-piece tank (lid & bottom) with a cartridge inside of that tank. The cartridge is very similar to the air filters you can find in your car. Water is pushed into the tank from your pump and flows through the cartridge membrane. Particles and debris are trapped in the fabric and clean water returns back into the pool. You can expect the cartridge to filter down to about 10 microns.

Cartridge filter systems require very little maintenance, which is a huge pro for this type of above ground pool filter system. When the pressure gauge reaches 10 Psi above it’s normal reading, it’s time to clean the cartridge. You should remove it from the tank and hose it down thoroughly with your garden hose. Backwashing is not necessary with cartridge filters, eliminating water and chemical loss. The cartridge inside the filter will usually last about 1-3 years before needing to be replaced.

Cartridge Filter Systems

The Pool Factory™ stocks a huge variety of name brand Cartridge pool filter systems for all pool sizes.

Sand Filter Systems

A sand filter consists of a hollow tank on a stand that is filled with pool filter sand. The water is pushed through the bed of sand and removed through a set of lateral tubes at the bottom. While the water is traveling through the sand, fine debris and particles become trapped within the grains of sand clarifying your pool water. Sand filters remove particles as small as 20 microns. The filter sand can last 3-5 years between changes giving you a very economical filtration system.

Backwashing a sand filter system is part of the regular maintenance of the system. As particles become trapped in the sand it restricts the water from flowing back to the pool. As the filter sand clogs up with dirt and debris, your pressure gauge will start to increase. This is your signal to perform a backwash. Backwashing will send out the dirty water through another port on the valve usually labeled “waste”. Normal operating pressure varies depending on your pump size, but most tanks will start between 10-15 Psi. When this level increases by 10 pounds, its time to backwash this above ground pool filter system. For detailed instructions on how to backwash sand filters, check out our blog post on the subject.

Sand Filter Systems
The Pool Factory™ stocks a huge variety of name brand Sand pool filter systems for all pool sizes.

D.E. Filter Systems

D.E. filter systems use diatomaceous earth powder to filter your pool water. The powder that you add to the skimmer coats the grids or tubes that are inside the tank and particles and debris become trapped in the powder. D.E. filters offer superior water clarity filtering down to 5 microns, because they pick up such small particles they will lose pressure faster than other types of filters and require more maintenance than sand or cartridge above ground pool filter systems.

D.E. Filter Systems

The Pool Factory™ stocks a huge variety of name brand D.E. pool filter systems for all pool sizes.

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  • May 21, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    Can an power ionizer be used with a sand filter or should I switch to a cartridge filter? Also, how often should the sand be changed?

    • May 22, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      Hi Butch,

      The Power Ionizer system can be used with any filter type, including a sand filter. Filter sand can last 5-10 years between changes

  • June 17, 2015 at 4:18 AM

    Nice explanation for the different types of sand filters. It will help us to choose right filter for our need.

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