We can’t stress enough just how important a good filter system is for your above ground pool. Choosing the right one will make all the difference in how much time you have to spend cleaning it.
Most above ground pools come with their own filter system. And sometimes they are perfectly adequate. You just need to make sure you use the exact same filter type if you ever have to replace it.
But if you’ve been relying on that one for a while and it’s not quite doing as good a job as you had hoped, it might be time for something better.
A good pool pump and filter designed for the size of pool you own will keep your water crystal clear and germ-free.
Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done if you don’t know what you’re looking for. So, here are our top suggestions.
The 10 Best Above Ground Pool Filters
#1. Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump
- Keep your above ground pool water clean, soft, and refreshing with the Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump by Intex. The all-natural sand provides excellent water filtration as the 6-function control valve allows the pool owner to filter, backwash and rinse, recirculate, drain and close the system
Sand filters are popular for keeping pool water clean because they’re economical and work very well. They can filter out even very small algae spores and you only have to replace the sand every few years.
The Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump is one we highly recommend. In fact, it’s our #1 pick.
It has a 6-function control valve for filtering, backwashing, rinsing, recirculating, draining, and closing.
The best feature on this pump is the 24-hour timer that you can set to make it automatically turn itself on and off. Talk about easy maintenance!
This system creates a flow rate of 2,450 GPH (gallons per hour) so it’s the perfect size for most above ground pools.
#2. Intex Cartridge Filter Pump
- ✔ HYDRO AERATION TECHNOLOGY BY INTEX -– Transforming the Above Ground Pool industry, by bringing revolutionary water aeration benefits such as improved circulation and filtration, improved water clarity, increased negative ions at the water surface
Another type of pool pump on the market is the cartridge filter pump. These are extremely convenient and easy to clean by rinsing or replacing the cartridge every couple of weeks.
The Intex Cartridge Filter Pump is our top choice in this class for above ground pools. It has a system flow rate of 1,180 GPH and is ideal for pools up to 18’.
This pump is also easy to install. You simply attach the fittings to the pool and plug it in. It’s that simple!
What we like most about it is that it’s double insulated and equipped with its own timer. You can pre-set it to run for up to 12 hours at a time you choose.
#3. Hayward Extended Cycle
- Clean pools fast, removing particles as small as two microns the first time through.
The third type of filter you can buy is a D.E., or diatomaceous earth, filter. These are probably the most effective filtering system available.
The Hayward Extended Cycle D.E. filter removes particles as small as 2 microns. It has a patented flex-tube design that allows you to wait longer in between cleanings.
It’s also somewhat self-cleaning with its unique bump mechanism. This allows the flex tubes to automatically clean themselves while filtering.
#4. Intex 1000GPH Filter Pump
- ✔ HYDRO AERATION TECHNOLOGY BY INTEX – Transforming the Above Ground Pool industry, by bringing revolutionary water aeration benefits such as improved circulation and filtration, improved water clarity, increased negative ions at the water surface
The Intex 1,000 GPH Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump is another cartridge pump we like for above ground pools. This one is made for pools up to 6,000 gallons and has a 1,000 GPH flow rate.
This pump will easily fit 10 or 12-foot above ground pools.
Cartridge filter pumps like this one make maintenance a snap. You can either rinse the cartridge off or toss it and replace it every couple of weeks. Which you decide to do will depend on how much debris it has had to filter from your pool each cycle.
#5. Sand Master Filter System
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This filtration system is designed for pools up to 9,600 gallons. It’s best features are a powerful 20 GPM pump and a 4-mode multiport valve.
This system is easy to install and easy to maintain. Its filter tank is corrosion-proof and holds 42 pounds of sand. It also comes with a one-year warranty, giving you the peace of mind that nothing can go wrong.
Oh, and did we mention it’s whisper-quiet? Not a small feat for such a powerful pump!
#6. Hayward Perflex Pool Filter
- EC50AC filter with clamp; recommended for round pools 28 to 33 feet and oval pools 18 by 39 feet also for in ground pools with different pump only the pump is recommended for above ground pools
Hayward is a name we trust for pool products. That’s why you’ll often see their name pop up in our product lists.
Founded in New Jersey in 1925, they’re the “largest manufacturer of residential pool equipment in the world.” In other words, they know their stuff!
Their Perflex pool filter is a D.E. filter system that clears out particles as small as 2 microns. It has its patented Flex-Tube design that allows you to go longer between cleanings because you can keep re-using the D.E. powder.
It also never needs to be backwashed, which is often a complaint with other filters in this class.
#7. Game SandPRO
- POWERFUL ABOVE-GROUND POOL FILTRATION: The GAME SandPRO 75D Series is a quality replacement filtration system for any above-ground pool. (It works best with Intex and Bestway pools.)
The Game (short for Great American Merchandise and Events) SandPRO pump is a powerful sand filter made to fit up to 15,000-gallon pools. It also comes in smaller sizes for smaller sized pools.
This particular model features a high 52 GPM flow rate and a ¾ HP pump. This means it is extremely energy-efficient, yet powerful enough to keep your pool crystal clear.
The large debris basket with a see-through lid makes it easy to clean. And the easy-to-read pressure gauge lets you know when it’s time to be backwashed.
#8. Hayward ProSeries Sand Filter
- High-performance top-mount sand filter for above-ground pools, small in-ground pools, and aquariums
Another pick from Hayward that won’t disappoint you. It’s packed with all the high-performing power you’d expect from these guys.
This sand filter pump is unique because it has a 7-position valve instead of 4. It’s about as self-cleaning as a filter can get.
It also uses a top-mount system that distributes the water efficiently over the sand for maximum filtration. And it’s made from double corrosion-proof materials so it will last you for years.
#9. SUNCO Pro Filter Pump
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This sand filter pump can hold up to 45 lbs. of sand and fits pools up to 10,000 gallons. It’s super fast and easy to assemble so you can put it to work in less than an hour.
The tank is made of corrosion-proof material and a copper motor — all part of the design plan that makes this pump durable and long-lasting.
Another special feature is an integrated pressure gauge that allows you to keep an eye on the condition of the tank at all times. This makes it easier to determine when it’s time to backwash.
#10. Hayward XStream Filter Pump
- Glass reinforced, non-corrosive filter tank will provide years of trouble-free operation
Our last Hayward pick is the Hayward XStream. It’s a powerful 1.5 HP pump with a cartridge filtration system.
What stands out about this product is its larger filter body that “ensures an equal distribution of dirt and debris” throughout the element. This also gives it a longer and more efficient filtering life.
This pump does come in a couple of different sizes, but this one is made for large above ground pools. It will give you many years of superior performance.
What is an Above Ground Pool Filter?
Every swimming pool needs a filter to keep the water free of dirt, pollen, and other contaminants that tend to fall in almost constantly.
The way it works is by creating a suction that forces the water to circulate through the pump. Once it gets there, it runs through the filter, whether sand, D.E., or cartridge, sifting all the small junk out of it.
The pump usually has a strainer basket to catch larger debris before it gets to the filter. These you can typically just pop out and clean by hand.
The main difference between above ground and in ground pool filters is that the in ground models usually rely on the pools drains and built-in skimmers to remove larger debris. Above ground pumps also don’t typically have to have as much horsepower and they’re easier to set up.
Types of Above Ground Pool Filters
There are only three basic types of filters for any pool: D.E., Cartridge, and sand.
D.E. filters are the most effective pool filters you can buy. They use a D.E. powder that sifts out particles as small as 2-4 microns.
They use diatomaceous earth (D.E. for short), which is a sedimentary rock composed of a bunch of tiny skeletons of microscopic organisms.
Sounds gross, right? But it’s actually a normal part of the earth’s crust and can be easily found in natural bodies of water.
Anyway, this stuff is made into a powder that is used to coat the filter grids in pool pumps. And when the water passes over it, it very effectively wipes out all the tiny particles of dirt, debris, algae, and bacteria that would otherwise keep circulating around the pool.
Cartridge filters are the next best thing to D.E. filters as far as efficient cleaning. They will clean out contaminants all the way down to 10-15 microns.
This might sound puny compared to the D.E., but it’s still extremely small. After all, the human eye can’t see anything smaller than 40 microns.
These work just like they sound. The filter cartridge is placed in the system and filters the junk out as the water passes through it.
A lot of people prefer cartridge filters because they’re so easy to maintain. Sand and D.E. filters have to be backwashed sometimes, but cartridge filters can either just be hosed off or tossed out and replaced.
Sand filters are probably the most popular option because they are economical and efficient. Although they only catch particles down to 20 microns, keep in mind that’s still smaller than the eye can see.
Sand filter systems have tanks that hold natural sand. The water is passed through the sand on its way through the pump, and that sand catches all those tiny particles.
These can go for many years without much maintenance, but they do have to be backwashed occasionally. This just gets all the gunk off the sand so that it’s roughed up and able to grab debris again.
How To Select the Right Pool Filter for Your Pool
Even though we’ve given you some pretty solid options for pool filters, they are not one-size-fits-all products. Every filter system is made for a specific size of pool and handles a specific amount of water.
You also have to decide for yourself whether a D.E., sand, or cartridge filter will work best for you. So, how do you make these choices?
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that off-brand prumps come and go. This often leaves people without a way to replace parts or filters.
Try to stick with name-brand pumps, even if they cost you a little more upfront.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s figure out what size pool filter you’ll need.
There are only about 4 size categories of pool filters. Most above ground pools use the smallest types that are made for around 15,000 gallons of water. Larger filters can handle up to 25,000 gallons, but you won’t find too many above ground pools that big.
Mainly, you need to check your pump to see how many gallons per hour (GPH) it pumps. This flow rate will determine your filter size. Just make sure the filter is not too small to handle this rate. Otherwise, you can create some pressure problems in your pump.
When in doubt, go bigger!
Most importantly, you’ll need to decide on the type of filter you want to use. Do you prefer the pristine cleaning quality of D.E., the economical advantages of sand, or the convenience of the cartridge?
There really is no right or wrong answer. It’s mostly just a matter of preference.
5 Considerations for Buying an Above Ground Pool Filter
Unless you’re buying a whole new system, you’ll need to be mindful of whether or not the filter is compatible with the pump you already own. Remember that your filter should never have a smaller flow rate capacity than your pump.
How long your filter will last is usually a big consideration in the buying process. And every type is a little different.
D.E. filters will usually last four or five years, but sometimes more if they’re well taken care of.
Cartridge filters will only last one or two years, but they are fairly easy to replace.
Sand filters will last the longest — usually five to seven years.
The longevity of the filter you choose will play a little into the cost. After all, you’ll have to spend money to replace it.
But the initial cost of the filters could also be a big consideration. In this category, sand filters are the cheapest. The filter sand is inexpensive and easy to find.
Cartridge filters are a little more expensive and also have to be replaced more often.
D.E. Filters are almost always the most expensive of the group. And they’re also more expensive to maintain.
For some people, this is the biggest consideration. They want to spend as much time as possible enjoying their pools rather than cleaning them.
In this category, cartridge filters could be your best bet. They do have to be replaced much more often, but it takes only minutes to do.
Both sand and D.E. filters need to be backwashed occasionally, which some consider a nuisance.
- Ease of installation
Some filters take about 15 minutes to install, while others can take up to an hour. This shouldn’t deter you too much as long as you can find thorough instructions or can find Youtube videos explaining it.
Tips for Pool Filter Maintenance and Troubleshooting
- To keep your pool filter running in tip-top shape, or to repair it when it’s not, there are a few things you should know.
- Don’t neglect your filters. Once your pool filter gets dirty, it stops filtering out debris as well. This not only makes your pump work harder, but it also leaves you with a lot more work to do with your weekly routine.
- Keep an eye on the filter pressure. Most pumps have pressure gauges where you can monitor their efficiency. When that pressure gets too low or too high, it’s time to clean, replace, or backwash the filter. If you still have high pressure, you might have a filter that’s too small for your pump. If the pressure is still low, you might have a clogged skimmer basket.
- Look out for sand flowing back into the pool from your pump. When this happens, you probably either have a broken standpipe or cracked lateral. Both of these parts are available to purchase and replace separately.
- Write down the model number from your pump before heading to the pool supply store for replacements or parts. This can often help correct problems, such as buying the wrong size filter.
Choosing a pool filter for your pool shouldn’t be too terribly difficult if you follow our guide. Keep in mind the qualities that are most important to you and try to stick to reputable manufacturers.
Hi, I’m Matt Harper, the founder of poolcareguy.com, a site I started with one simple mission: to help people around the world clean and take care of their pools and hot tubs on their own, without the hassle.
I’m not a professional pool cleaner and don’t have any formal training, I’m just an average guy who loves hanging out by his pool and hot tub and taking care of it. After many years on the job, I’ve become quite good at it.
On this website I will be teaching you absolutely everything I know about pools and hot tubs.