Investing in the Right Pool Filtration System

Swimming in a pool that’s cloudy or dirty doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? That’s why it’s essential that you invest in a quality pool filtration system to keep your pool clean and looking great. However, unless you’re experienced with pool cleaning technologies, choosing a filter that’s right for you can be frustrating and overwhelming. You’ll get a lot of technical jargon thrown at you that’s designed to make you feel like you’re making a good purchase.

The reality is that every pool and every owner are a little bit different. The filter that’s right for you is going to depend on your current set-up, where you’re located geographically, your budget, and how much work you’re going to put in. Don’t worry: I’m here to help you make a decision that’s best for you, and I’ll do it without any complicated words. Here’s how to invest in the right pool filtration system:

Why You Need a Filter

According to the CDC, there has been a major uptick in Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) over the past couple of decades. You can get an RWI from lakes, rivers, swimming in the ocean, and even your swimming pool. The most common RWI is Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium) which causes skin irritation and indigestion.

You may be thinking to yourself: “I put chlorine in my pool every now and then so I’ll be fine, right?” Wrong. Contrary to popular belief, chlorine doesn’t necessarily kill all the bacteria in your pool, and it certainly doesn’t happen immediately. For the chlorine to properly work, it needs time to make its way all throughout your pool to eliminate the pathogens that create the RWIs. To do this effectively, you need something to move the water around and prepare it for the chlorine. This is where a filter comes in.

Types of Filters

Now that you know a little bit more about why you need a pool filter, let’s look into what the different types of filters are and how exactly they work. After reading, you should have a much better idea about what’s right for you. The three main types of pool filters are sand filters, cartridge filters, and Diatomaceous Earth (or DE) filters. They all feature a number of essential swimming pool filter accessories and come with varied pros and cons, so it’s important to take some time and learn about each option. I’m going to start with sand filters.

Sand Filters

While the idea of sand filters might conjure up images of tropical sandy beaches, the actual equipment is a little less glamorous but very effective. Have you ever tried to dig your hand deep into a pit of sand? The top layer shifts easily but you’ll find out very quickly that it’s tough to go much deeper. That’s because while sand is theoretically easy to move, it also compacts down and becomes difficult for solid objects to penetrate.

Sand filters are fairly straightforward. A pump pulls water from the pool and brings it into the filter. The water trickles through the sand, which helps trap bacteria as well as other dirt and grime. After going through the sand, the clean water is then cycled back into the pool, perfect for you to swim in. After a while, the pressure inside the sand tank builds up and needs to be released, or backwashed. This basically sends water into the tank, collects all the organic material that’s been filtered through the sand, and sends it out the backwash pump, either to the street or wherever it’s been routed.

Pros and Cons of Sand Filters

Sand filters tend to be more compact but a little wider, and size definitely becomes a factor for people with smaller backyards. They’re low maintenance, relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and easy to backwash. They do come with some downsides, though. First and foremost, while sand filters are effective at filtering out small particles, they can’t uniformly target objects the way cartridge filters can. Backwashing will affect your water levels and thus can throw off the balance of chemicals in your pool, which is something that will need to be monitored. You’ll also need to replace your sand every 5-8 years, which isn’t a very big deal in the long term.

Overall, sand filters are ideal for people with larger pools. One thing to note is that sand filters need to be sized according to your pump size. Visit a local pool store to get more information on this and ensure that you get the right equipment.

Cartridge Filters

This type of filter looks and actually operates similarly to standard automotive air filters. The cartridges themselves are typically made of bonded polyester. They’re tall and very thin, which means they take up less space but will need a little bit of vertical room to fit. When they’re operating, water is pulled into the filter and sent through the fabric cartridge, the portion of the filter that traps fine particles and debris. They’re highly effective and one of the most popular options for swimming pool filters, with the ability to trap particles as small as 10-15 microns (compared to 20-40 microns with sand).

Pros and Cons of Cartridge Filters

Cartridge filters work better than sand filters do for small pools and require no backwashing at all. There’s less stress placed on the pool pump which means less money spent on maintenance, and they’re also more energy efficient. However, just like sand filters, they also come with cons. Cartridge filters require a bit more upkeep on their own, requiring you to remove and wash off the filters at least a couple times a year. You’ll need to replace these filters every three years or so.

Cartridge filters sometimes require more pool filter accessories than sand filters, but if you have a smaller pool and don’t mind a little bit of work, they’re hard to beat. You can get many of these accessories online or at local pool stores at very low prices, and they’re generally easy to replace, letting you keep your pool clean and sanitary all summer long.

Diatomaceous Earth Filter

The final type of filter uses Diatomaceous Earth powder to filter out particles. Diatomaceous Earth powder comes from the exoskeletons of diatoms, a type of plankton. Commonly referred to as DE filters, they work similarly to sand filters but are much more effective. For reference, DE filters trap particles as small as 3 microns, the size of small dust particles! The filter consists of a tank with grids that are lined with the DE powder. When water comes in, it goes through the grids and gets filtered, and then goes back into the pool.

Pros and Cons of DE Filters

You may have asked yourself: “3 microns? That’s too good to be true, right?” Well, you’re partially correct. DE Filters are quite adept at filtering out small particles, but they’re also the most expensive of the three common filter types. They have to be backwashed like sand. However, unlike sand filters, DE filters can last 2-3 years, but the earth must be replaced with every backwash. The frequency at which you should backwash your DE filter can vary between 2-4 weeks or longer depending on your filter capacity. Types of debris you commonly find in your pool, your pump’s water pressure, and and any persistent algae problems may determine whether you need to backwash every four to six weeks or just once per season. This isn’t very difficult to do, but it does require more time. You’ll also need to be sure that you have enough DE powder on hand. Be sure to check your local laws because some areas forbid backwashing with DE.

However, if you’re looking for the cleanest, clearest pool, then Diatomaceous Earth is your best bet.

Making Your Decision

So, which filter is for your pool? As previously mentioned, there are several factors that must be considered, the two biggest being budget and size/type of pool. After that, it will really come down to personal preference. Ask yourself how much time you’re willing to commit to maintenance. Remember, most of it is pretty simple work, it just requires time and effort.

There are plenty of reviews for various models and types of filters online that are worth checking out. Or, if your neighbors or friends have a pool, ask around and see what type of filter they use. It’s important to remember that the weather of your location may also have an effect on your filter, so it’s not always enough to rely on online reviews. I hope this guide was helpful to you picking your filter, and that you’re out relaxing in the pool in no time!

Keith Salvador has spent years working with pools and pool equipment. If he’s not working on a pool, you can usually find him in the pool!

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