How to Choose the Right Swimming Pool Filter + Reviews 2018

Nobody wants to swim in grimy pool water, so an effective swimming pool filter is essential in keeping your pool’s water clean and ready for the summer. Filters make sure your pool is void of any bacteria, viruses, and dirt that can enter the water and they also keep the whole family safe while they have fun.

Whether you have an above-ground or in-ground pool, there are plenty of filter options to choose from and you should consider one that works best for your pool’s needs.

Be sure to scroll down to read a detailed guide on the different types of pool filters and their advantages and disadvantages!

When it comes to cleanliness, you may also be interested in: Best Automatic Pool Cleaners and Finding the Best Swimming Pool Vacuum Head + Reviews.

Sand Filters

If you don’t have a lot of time in the day to maintain your pool, sand filters will be your best friend. These filters can handle general cleaning and will pick up any debris down to 20 microns.

Best Budget Option 4500GPH Above Ground Swimming Pool Sand Filter and Pump

4500GPH 19" Sand Filter w/ 1HP Above Ground Swimming Pool Pump

4500GPH 19″ Sand Filter w/ 1HP Above Ground Swimming Pool Pump

This sand filter is great for small to medium above-ground pools and has 6 different speed settings. It’s fairly easy to install and operates even with low pressure for more efficiency and less energy usage. Recommended for pools up to 18,000 gallons, this sand filter has a sand capacity of 175 lbs, and because of this large capacity, the lifecycle of the sand is extended which keeps you from constantly backwashing the filter.

Because this is a top-mounted system, you have to remove the pipes and plumbing to get to the sand storage area. With a maximum suction of 34.5 feet, a 1 HP self-priming pump of 4500 GPH and a 115V 60hz 8.8 amp, this sand filter can last you years due to its weather-proof and heat-resistant materials.

Many love how easy the filter was to set up and have much favor towards its quiet operation. Although, when the time comes to backwash it, there were some users that preferred having a sight glass to see when the water turns clear, and some also had some issues with the hoses leaking.

What Other Buyers Have Said
Out of 125 reviews, the filter has a rating of 3.9 and 75% of users gave the filter a 4 or 5 with praise towards its strong suction power, near effortless setup, and quiet operation. The other 25% who gave it a 3 or less had problems with the hoses leaking and that there isn’t an on/off switch, which is a slight inconvenience. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
PROS:
  • Set = Includes pump
  • Strong suction power
  • Easy to install
  • Works quietly

CONS:
  • No on/off switch or timer, must plug and unplug instead
  • Hoses are prone to leaking

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Editor’s Pick Hayward S244T ProSeries In-Ground Sand Pool Filter

Hayward S244T ProSeries 24" In- Ground Sand Pool Filter

Hayward S244T ProSeries 24″ In- Ground Sand Pool Filter

Made from durable corrosion proof materials for all-weather performance, this in-ground sand filter provides stress-free setup and high-performance filtration. It can be used for any pool size and shape, featuring a patented 7-position multiport valve with a user-friendly lever, sight glass, and pressure gauge. The large pressure sand/water drain allows for fast winterizing and service and the advanced full-flow technology saves energy so you run your filter less.

A lot of users like how low maintenance the Hayward S244T sand filter is and how simple it is to backwash it. It works excellently at refining pool water, although some have experienced some leakage near the plastic base which is also prone to cracking.

What Other Buyers Have Said
Out of 337 customer reviews, this sand filter was rated 4.5/5. 89% who gave it a 4 or 5 liked how easy backwashing the filter is along with its low maintenance and effective cleaning. The other 11% who gave it a 3 or less had problems with the base breaking along with some waste line leakage. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
PROS:
  • Frustration-free backwashing
  • Low maintenance
  • Straightforward and easy installation

CONS:
  • Base is prone to cracking
  • Water can leak out of waste line

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Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools

Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools

Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools

The Intex Krystal Clear sand filter thoroughly captures debris and the 6-function control valve lets the user filter, backwash and rinse, recirculate, drain, and close the filter system. Thanks to the 24-hour timer, the filter will work for you without any hassle as it maintains your pool’s water and keeps it clean. The filter pump has a flow rate of 2,100 gallons per hour which is ideal for above-ground pools as large as 16′ to 24′. There isn’t much maintenance involved except replacing the sand every few years or so.

Plenty of users have noticed how little they had to deal with the filter, how easy the pressure gauge is to read, and how short installation time is. There were some complaints about the noise the filter makes while it’s operating, but it’s moderate and isn’t too big of a deal. The timer also doesn’t let you set the filter to come on at a certain time and if it’s turned off, it will forget the previous time setting.

What Other Buyers Have Said
From over 1,900 reviews, this sand filter received a 4.4 rating. 86% of users gave it a 4 or 5 mostly due to the filter’s incredible cleaning ability and the built-in strainer prevents any leaves or large debris from getting sucked in the pump. 14% gave it a 3 or less because the filter needs backwashing a couple of times a week and the hoses were sensitive to cracking. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
PROS:
  • Set = Includes pump
  • Built-in 24-hour timer
  • Only have to replace sand every 5 years
  • Easy functionality due to 6-control system

CONS:
  • Makes a bit of noise
  • Hoses susceptible to cracking

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Cartridge Filters

These filters have a simple design and save space with their slim shape. Being able to pick up dirt as small as 5 microns, cartridge filters are a popular choice for residential pools.

Best Budget Option Hayward CC15093S Xstream Full-Flo Filter

Hayward CC15093S Xstream Full-Flo 150-Square-Foot 1.5 Horsepower Filtration Filter

Hayward CC15093S Xstream Full-Flo 150-Square-Foot 1.5 Horsepower Filtration Filter

This 150-square foot large-capacity filter is glass reinforced and non-corrosive, giving you years of clean pool water and easygoing operation. It’s specially designed for the hassles of above-ground filtration and the Easy-Lok ring design gives quick access to the filter element with just one turn. The filter is user-friendly and features a unique safety catch that prevents the lid from over-tightening while securing the filter to keep it at its highest performance.

The Hayward Xstream cartridge filter can handle above-ground pools up to 57,00 gallons, and many users like how quiet the filter runs. It’s also easy to clean and store, and the cartridge lasts quite a while before having to backwash it. Although, there isn’t a timer on the filter and some mentioned how they would’ve liked a lower speed setting to save some energy. Because of the large cartridge, it can also use a lot of water when it comes to backwashing it.

What Other Buyers Have Said
Out of 79 reviews, the Hayward Xstream filter has a rating of 4.3/5 stars. Most were positive reviews, for 86% gave it a 4 or 5 due to the cartridge being able to last weeks or even months before requiring cleaning. The setup is effortless and cleaning power is spectacular, but the 8% who gave it a 3 and the 6% who gave it a 1 commonly shared frustration over the filter not having a built-in timer. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
PROS:
  • Set = Includes pump
  • Don’t have to backwash too often
  • Runs quietly
  • Easy to clean and store

CONS:
  • Large cartridge uses a lot of water when backwashing
  • No built-in timer

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Editor’s Pick Pentair 160301 Clean & Clear Cartridge In-Ground Pool Filter

Pentair 160301 Clean & Clear Plus Fiberglass Reinforced Polypropylene Tank Cartridge Pool Filter

Pentair 160301 Clean & Clear Plus Fiberglass Reinforced Polypropylene Tank Cartridge Pool Filter

This residential cartridge pool filter is effective at capturing large amounts of dirt and small particles while maintaining its high performance. It’s made with 420 square-foot filter capacity which helps reduce the amount of times you need to clean the cartridge. Included are the high flow air relief and manual air relief valve for safety and efficiency, injection molded tank and black bulkhead unions, a balanced hydraulic flow, and tension control clamp.

A lot of users found themselves cleaning their cartridge once every few months or so and noticed that the filter is light and easy to install. Some were wary of the bolt that sticks out of the steel band that holds the top and bottom part together since it’s a bit of a snag hazard. Additionally, a few noted that it does take at least a couple of days to clear up the water.

What Other Buyers Have Said
Out of 51 customer reviews, the Pentair 160301 Clean & Clear pool filter has a rating of 4.6/5. 88% have given it positive reviews since they rarely had to clean the large cartridge and like how easy it is to maintain. The other 12% who gave it a 3 or 2 mainly had complaints about the poor shipping which resulted in broken pieces and the slight delay on cleaning for large pools. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
PROS:
  • 100% drain cleanout ports for easy maintenance
  • Large cartridge filter area for less frequent cleaning
  • Easy to install and long-lasting strength

CONS:
  • Unconventional packaging may result in broken pieces
  • Cleaning might be delayed for large pools

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If Money Isn’t an Issue Hayward C5030 SwimClear Cartridge Filter

Hayward C5030 525 Square Foot SwimClear Cartridge Filter

Hayward C5030 525 Square Foot SwimClear Cartridge Filter

This cartridge filter includes a bundle of 4 reusable cartridge elements that provide 425 square feet of durable dirt-trapping capacity with extended filter cycles. To last against rough applications and conditions of in-ground pools, the filter tank is made of heavy-duty glass reinforced co-polymer along with a tamper proof one-piece clamp that secures the tank’s top and bottom together. The full-size 1 ½ inch drain allows for fast cleanout and flushing while the Noryl bulkhead provides strength and heat resistance.

Many users have mentioned how long the cartridges last, for some held up for at least 3 to 4 seasons which also means long periods between backwashing. Installation was reported to be simple and the filter runs quietly, although some had issues with the air relief valve not closing completely and noticed that the top surface can age when left in the sun.

What Other Buyers Have Said
Based on 83 customer reviews, the Hayward C5030 filter has a rating of 4.2/5 stars. 81% gave it a 4 or 5 because of how rare the filter needs backwashing and how great it works during its quiet operation. The other 19% had complaints about the top air valve not sealing correctly and the manifold being prone to damage. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
PROS:
  • 1 ½ inch drain for faster cleanout
  • Design makes for easy servicing
  • Large filter debris area allows for low management

CONS:
  • Manifold susceptible to damage
  • Surface ages in the sun
  • Top air valve has issues not closing all the way

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Diatomaceous Earth (DE) Filters

These are the most advanced and efficient filters that can trap small particles down to 3-5 microns. Those looking for the clearest pool water possible can benefit a lot from DE filters.

Best Budget Option Hayward EC40AC Perflex Extended-Cycle D.E. Pool Filter

Hayward EC40AC Perflex Extended-Cycle D.E. Pool Filter

Hayward EC40AC Perflex Extended-Cycle D.E. Pool Filter

If you want a filter that quickly gets the job done for your above-ground pool, this DE pool filter efficiently removes algae and particles as small as 2 microns. Its Flex-Tube design allows for longer cycles between cleaning since the same DE powder is recycled and used several times. Since the filter system uses less resistance, there’s less water wasted and more energy saved. The filter’s unique bump mechanism lets the flex tubes clean themselves of dirt so there’s no backwashing required.

Plenty like how effortless it is to load and clean the filter with its handy bump cleaning. It’s simple to disassemble for service and is especially great for round pools, but some users didn’t like where the pressure gauge was located since it’s a bit unreachable and awkwardly placed, and they also found the instructions for setting it up a bit confusing.

What Other Buyers Have Said
Based on over 300 reviews, the Hayward EC40AC Perflex DE filter has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. 91% gave it a 4 or 5 and showed much favor towards the filter’s cleaning ability and how it doesn’t need backwashing thanks to its unique bump mechanism. The other 9% who gave it a 3 or less didn’t like the vague instructions and the plastic is thin so it’s prone to leaks and cracks when over tightened. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
PROS:
  • Small, lightweight, and easy to use
  • Self-cleaning flex tubes
  • Blockage valves prevent accidental backflow when system is turn off

CONS:
  • Confusing instructions make setup a bit difficult
  • Plastic is thin and can crack easily if over tightened or pressured

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Editor’s Pick Hayward DE4820 Pro-Grid Vertical DE Pool Filter

Hayward DE4820 Pro-Grid 48 Sq. Ft. Vertical DE Pool Filter

Hayward DE4820 Pro-Grid 48 Sq. Ft. Vertical DE Pool Filter

Ideal for in-ground pools and spas of any type and size, this high-quality DE filter is durable against rough conditions and accepts all types of DE powder. The Hayward ProGrid provides superior filter performance for incredible water quality with an efficient 2-inch full flow and large cleaning capacity for less stressful maintenance. Its plumbing options give the user customized control and the filter gives quick access to its internal parts without affecting the piping or connections.

This is a pretty well praised filter considering its quick cleaning time and easy pressure setting. Many users love the fact that you don’t have to backwash it so often, but some were upset that the filter doesn’t come with a valve, resulting in them having to buy one separately.

What Other Buyers Have Said
Out of 278 reviews, the Hayward DE4820 Pro-Grid DE pool filter has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars, with 85% of users giving it positive feedback. They love how quickly the filter rids their pool of debris and small particles and appreciate how low maintenance it is. 6% who gave it a 3 or less mainly complained about the filter not having a valve included as advertised along with some minor damage that the inside of the tank is prone to getting. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
PROS:
  • Different plumbing options offer more convenience
  • Higher max flow than some related units
  • Only occasional backwashing

CONS:
  • Valve does not come included
  • Manual air release valve can leak air

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If Money Isn’t an Issue Pentair 180009 FNS Plus D.E. Pool Filter

Pentair 180009 FNS Plus Fiberglass Reinforced Polypropylene Material, Vertical Grid, D.E. Pool Filter

Pentair 180009 FNS Plus Fiberglass Reinforced Polypropylene Material, Vertical Grid, D.E. Pool Filter

For better cleaning ability in in-ground pools, this filter has curved vertical grids which provide maximum filter surface area. The tank is made of chemical-resistant fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene for a long lifespan, and its unique internal design allows for high-performance filtration and backwashing efficiency. For easy cleanout, the filter has a conveniently located 1 ½ inch drain and also has a 120-GPM flow rate.

Users have found the installation to be simple and like the increased capacity and flow rate since it means less backwashes. Although, some had to lift the filter up by 1 inch with gravel soil or some sort of base so the connections would fit straight, not to mention the filter is a bit on the heavy side.

What Other Buyers Have Said
Out of 58 customer reviews, the Pentair 180009 FNS DE filter has a rating of 4.5, with 88% of users giving it positive critiques. They mainly mentioned how it worked right out of the box and took less than an hour to set up. The quality of the filter is noticeably durable and rarely requires backwashing. 12% of users who gave it a 3 or less didn’t complain much about anything except the quality of the shipping which resulted in some damaged parts. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
PROS:
  • Installation is simple
  • Rarely requires backwashing
  • Easily removable filter grid to simplify maintenance

CONS:
  • Heavier than similar models
  • Sits an inch lower than the older models

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Buying Guide: Types of Pool Filters

Here you can read more about the 3 main types of pool filters: sand filters, cartridge filters, and DE filters (or diatomaceous earth). Each of these filters use a pool pump to push water through them inside the tank. Dirt, hair, oils, and other microns are trapped by the filter media.

Sand filters

Sand filters are ideal if you’re on a tight budget and don’t want to spend so much time maintaining your pool. These filters are essentially large tanks filled with pool filter sand (like #20 silica sand, zeolite, or filter glass) that can remove particles as low as 20 microns. They’re larger than cartridge and DE filters which is something to keep in mind if you don’t like filters that take up space. They’re also the least effective since both cartridge and DE filters can handle smaller particles as low as 5 microns.

The way a sand filter works is the water from your pool fills the tank 2/3 of the way and passes through while the sand traps debris. This dirt is then left in the tank until the entire filter system is backwashed and the filtered water returns back into the pool. Some signs that tell you the sand filter is performing at its best is if the water pressure is strong, the pump basket housing is constantly full of water, the gauge pressure is normal, and the pool water is clear. You usually have to replace the sand inside the tank every 3 to 5 years.

PROS:
  • Easy to clean
  • Most affordable type of pool filter
  • Cleans more dirt particles due to large surface area

CONS:
  • Regular backwashing and rinsing can waste a lot of water
  • Unable to trap debris less than 20 microns
  • Less energy efficient since it creates the most pressure

Cartridge filters

Cartridge filters are the most common type for residential pools and the most popular because they’re painless to use due to their simple design. Most cartridge filter models are slim and tall which is something to consider if you want to save space. Most can filter out small particles down to 10 microns, although diatomaceous earth filters can handle even smaller particles.

There are only two parts to the tank which are the lid and the bottom, and there are typically three to four filters that the tank houses. These are usually made of paper or bonded polyester which is tightly weaved to trap particles and debris. Cartridge filters have the most filter surface area compared to DE and sand filters, along with having less resistance and efficient performance even at slow speeds.

When it comes to cleaning a cartridge filter, it takes a bit more effort than a DE filter but less than a sand filter, and there’s no backwashing (flushing out the filter by reversing the water flow out the waste port on a multiport valve). Like replacing the sand in sand filters, you should replace the cartridge in cartridge filters every couple of years. Keep in mind that cartridge filters aren’t recommended if you have a large pool since it would take several of them to keep the water clean, which can serve to be a real pain to manage.

PROS:
  • Easiest to maintain
  • Energy-efficient (performs well at slow speeds)
  • Can filter small particles as low as 10 microns
  • Doesn’t require backwashing

CONS:
  • Cleaning takes more effort than sand filters
  • Cartridges need deep cleaning a few times a year
  • Need to replace worn cartridges every 2-3 years

DE filter (diatomaceous earth)

Diatomaceous earth filters are technologically the most advanced type of pool filter in the market. It works similar to a sand filter, but with a different filter media. There are grids in the DE filter that are coated with extremely fine diatomaceous earth powder made of fossilized plankton, and water passes into the bottom of the filter and is pushed up through these grids. DE filters are the most efficient type of pool filter and they can trap the finest particles as small as 3 microns.

While they’re the most efficient, DE filters are also the most expensive and require a lot more maintenance than sand and cartridge filters. Diatomaceous earth is a hazardous material which must be disposed of carefully in a regulated manner, and you need at least 500 gallons of water to backwash the filter and drain the dirty water. Although the filter needs recharging with DE powder, the powder itself isn’t too expensive.

PROS:
  • Can filter particles as small as 3 microns
  • Provides cleaner and safer water than any type of filter
  • Recharging isn’t difficult and powder is inexpensive

CONS:
  • Most expensive type of filter and high maintenance costs
  • DE powder is carcinogenic in powder form (be careful not to inhale it)
  • Grids need deep-cleaning once a year


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Which Filter Should I Use?

Depending on the size of your pool, how much time you’re willing to give into maintaining it, how often you use the pool, and what kind of debris regularly enters the water, you should choose a filter that best fits your pool’s needs.

  • If you want a low maintenance filter, a cartridge filter would be the best choice since they are easy to clean and monitor and they’re commonly used in residential pools. They require less water pressure to work compared to a DE or sand filter and are more energy-efficient, but DE filters can handle even smaller particles.
  • If you have a large pool, sand filters are ideal and can last a long time and they filter out most particles up to 20 microns small. They need more maintenance than cartridge filters though for sand filters need washing at least once a week. Backwashing the sand can result in 500 gallons of water used.
  • If you want your pool’s water to be at its cleanest, DE filters are the ones for the job. While they’re the most expensive type of filter, they’re extremely effective at catching the smallest particles down to 3 microns, keeping the water clear and safe.

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How to Clean Your Pool Filter

Sand Filter → Before backwashing a sand filter, turn off the power to the pump and reverse the valve, then you can power the pump back on. The water will now flow backwards and the dirty water is being pushed out another port on the valve. The port should have a backwash hose attached and the water can be flushed to the lawn or drain. If your pool water is heavily chlorinated, make sure the dirty water stays away from kids, animals, gardens, and flowers.

Be sure to flush out and watch the dirty water until it runs clear, then you can turn off the pump and turn the valve back to filtering mode. You can watch the following video to get a better clue on how to backwash a sand filter:

Cartridge Filter → Cartridges can usually be cleaned with a good hosing, but sometimes they also need a long soak. In a large container or bucket filled with water and cartridge cleaner, soak your cartridge overnight. If your container isn’t big enough, you can flip the cartridge over and repeat the same process. Cartridge cleaner cleans your filter and restores it to its original white color while removing leftover dirt, mineral deposits, and oils. You can check out the following video to learn more on cleaning your pool cartridge:

DE Filter → Just like a sand filter, DE filters also need to be occasionally backwashed. First turn off the pump and turn the multiport to “backwash,” and this should go on for about a minute or until the water runs clear. Afterwards, you can add more DE powder and revert the multiport back to the filtering mode. For a clearer understanding, here’s an ultimate video guide to backwashing your DE filter:


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Which is the Best Pool Filter?

If there had to be one, the best type of filter would probably be a sand filter because:

  • It’s the easiest type to deal with.
  • It contains only a few parts.
  • It doesn’t require too much maintenance.

To operate it, you simply move a valve handle and the sand you buy for the filter is relatively inexpensive to replace, but takes a bit of effort to change it. On the other hand, sand filters are a bit weak in terms of filtering power since they can only trap small particles down to 20 microns whereas DE and cartridge filters can go as low as 3 to 5 microns, but they’re still great for general cleaning.

The second best would probably be a cartridge filter. They can filter water better than sand filters because they’re able to trap finer particles, but they need a bit more maintenance. Unlike DE and sand filters, you don’t need to backwash cartridge filters.

DE filters come out on top when it comes to cleaning water, but they require a lot more maintenance and are more frustrating to manage than sand and cartridge filters. You also have to buy, store, and handle the DE powder, making sure to dispose of old DE powder by strict regulations, not to mention some townships and counties restrict backwashing DE filters.


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Conclusion

Now that you’re aware of what types of pool filters there are and what options you have, it should be easier to choose which filter would work best for your pool’s needs.

  • If you prefer a low maintenance filter, cartridge filters like the Pentair 160301 Clean & Clear Cartridge Pool Filter would be the most ideal.
  • If you’re on a budget and own a large pool, sand filters like the Hayward S244T ProSeries In-Ground Sand Pool Filter are an optimal choice.
  • Lastly, if you’re looking for the most efficient and advanced pool filter, DE filters like the Hayward DE4820 Pro-Grid Vertical DE Pool Filter can handle smaller particles than both sand and cartridge types.

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