Swimming Pool Pumps – The Ultimate Guide for Homeowners

Swimming pools are a source of relaxation and fun, but to keep them in top condition, you need to have the right components in place. One of the most important parts of a swimming pool is the pool pump. This device is responsible for circulating water and allowing the whole pool system to operate correctly and remove impurities, keeping the water clean and hygienic.

In this article, we will explore the world of pool pumps, and provide you with all the information you need to choose the right pump for your pool. We will cover the basics of how pool pumps work, and delve into the different types of pumps available, including single speed, dual speed, and variable speed pumps. We will also highlight the benefits of each type of swimming pool pump, so you can determine which one is best suited to your specific needs.

In addition to discussing the different types of pumps, we will cover the factors you need to consider when choosing a swimming pool pump.

By the end of this article, you will have all the information you need to make an informed decision about the right pump for your pool.

The Three Types of Swimming Pool Pumps

When it comes to maintaining a swimming pool, one of the most important components is the pool pump. A swimming pool pump is responsible for circulating water, which is ultimately what enables your other pool equipment to perform its functions - like filtering, heating, and sanitizing the pool water. Plus, the movement of circulating water is a benefit in and of itself; moving water is an environment that makes it harder for dirt & debris to accumulate, as opposed to stagnant water, the problems from which you can easily imagine. There are a number of different types of pumps available for pools, and with such a wide variety, it may be difficult to know which one is right for you.

In this section, we will examine the different types of pumps for pools, including single speed, dual speed, and variable speed pumps. By understanding the differences between these pumps, you can make an informed decision about which one is best suited to your needs.

Single Speed Pool Pumps

Single speed pool pumps have been the old standard for pool filtration systems for many years. These pumps have a single speed setting, usually running at 3,450 rotations per minute (RPM), and are used for all basic pool filtration needs. The main advantage of a single speed pool pump is that it is the cheapest option in terms of upfront cost. However, this affordability comes with some downsides.

One major disadvantage of single speed pool pumps is their noise level. These pumps tend to be very loud, which can be a nuisance for people who enjoy spending time near their pool or whose inside living space may be nearby. Additionally, single speed pool pumps are not very energy efficient, which is bad for the environment and also means that they can be expensive to run. In some cases, the annual electrical expenses for a single speed pool pump can reach up to $2,000.

Another downside of single speed pool pumps is their inefficiency in filtering water. Because they only operate at one speed, water is forced through the filter at a high pressure level. This makes the filtration process quite inefficient. The time and energy it takes to filter water is greater than with multi-speed pumps, resulting in higher maintenance costs, increased wear and tear on the pump, and a shorter lifespan.

Despite these drawbacks, many pool owners still choose single speed pool pumps because of their low upfront cost. For those who are on a tight budget, this can be an attractive option. However, it's important to consider the long-term costs associated with running a single speed pool pump, including energy expenses, maintenance costs, and the potential for increased wear and tear on the pump.

Single Speed Pool Pumps Available at Discount Salt Pool

Dual Speed Pool Pumps

Dual speed pool pumps, also known as 2-speed pool pumps, have become increasingly popular in the past as an efficient alternative to single speed pool pumps. The motor itself is not any more efficient than a single speed pump, but with the ability to run at a low or high speed, they still use less energy than a single speed pump overall.

Dual speed pool pumps debuted as a better alternative to single speed pumps, offering a solution to the inefficiencies and high energy costs associated with single speed pumps. To operate a 2-speed pool pump, a separate timer with a two-speed relay or an advanced device called an automation system is required, with a controlling mechanism that adjusts the pump between the two speeds at preset times.

One of the biggest advantages of dual speed pool pumps is the significant energy savings they offer. By running at a lower speed for most filtration needs, these pumps can save pool owners up to 70-80% on their energy costs compared to single speed pumps. This not only helps to lower monthly energy bills but also has a positive impact on the environment.

Additionally, 2-speed pool pumps tend to be somewhat quieter and when set to low-speed, are more efficient at filtration than single speed pumps The high-speed setting can be used for tasks such as vacuuming the pool, while the low-speed setting is ideal for regular filtration.

Many homeowners find two speed pool pumps to be a more attractive choice than single speed pumps. Though they are a bit pricier, they also come with savings on one’s energy bills. But since they lack flexibility in many situations, dual speed pumps are just one alternative to single speed pumps. There is an even more efficient option, which does not require a person to switch between two speeds.

Two Speed Pool Pumps Available at Discount Salt Pool

Variable Speed Pool Pumps

Variable speed pool pumps are the latest innovation in pool filtration technology, offering a range of benefits over traditional single speed pumps. These pumps are powered by a permanent magnet motor, which is much more efficient, and with a built-in electronic controller there are further efficiency improvements.

Another key advantage of a pool pump with variable speeds is that it allows the user to achieve the right flow rate for their pool. Going slower is often better for general circulation, as it allows filters to capture finer particles, reduces the chance of suction entrapment, and allows for energy conservation. Reducing the flow rate of water also creates less pressure and friction, making the entire pool system more efficient.

The internal parts of a variable speed pool pump motor also tend to have much less vibration and fewer components that rub against each other compared to other types of pumps, which makes them the quietest option available. In addition, they are built to last longer, prone to less wear-and-tear, and can be controlled digitally, making them a convenient choice for pool owners.

In terms of energy efficiency, many variable speed pool pumps carry an ENERGY STAR designation, and the US Department of Energy has determined variable speed pool pumps to be up to 75% more efficient than a single speed pump*. They typically cost only about $20 to $30 per month to operate, compared to $2,000 per year for a single speed pump. This not only saves pool owners money on their energy bills but also has a positive impact on the environment.

As the longest-lasting and most efficient option available, variable speed pool pumps are undoubtedly the best choice for homeowners today. Though the initial equipment cost is higher than single or dual speed options, variable speed pumps more than make up for it with cost savings, improved filtration, reduced noise and overall better quality.

*Savings based on Energy Star savings calculator with 2.0THP variable-speed pump compared to a 1.5HP single-speed pump running US average run times and energy costs on a 20,000 gallon pool as of 2023. Actual savings may vary based on local utility rates, pool size, pump run time, pump horsepower, pump RPM, plumbing size and length, pump model, service factor and/or other local or hydraulic factors.
Variable Speed Pumps Available at Discount Salt Pool

Pool Pumps – What You Need To Know

Choosing the right swimming pool pump is essential for maintaining a clean and healthy pool. A pool pump plays a crucial role in circulating the water in a pool, a process commonly known as an "exchange" or “turnover.” A pool pump should be able to do at least one exchange every 24 hours, and ideally two. The optimum turnover rate for a single-speed pump is generally 6-8 hours. Variable speed pumps will take longer, but they run at lower speeds and use less energy to complete the process. Variable speed pumps typically complete an exchange in 16-18 and, at most, up to 24 hours a day for maximum efficiency.

Why choose variable pool pump

While it might seem ideal to run a pool pump all the time, it's often not practical for most people because of the high operating costs, especially if they're running a single-speed pump. There are also diminishing returns after a certain point, when the water that is circulating has already been sufficiently filtered.

The rate at which water circulates in the pool system at any time is called the flow rate. When choosing a swimming pool pump, it's important to consider the size of your pool and the required flow rate it would take to achieve at least one turnover, or exchange, of water per day. A pump that is too small will not be able to circulate the water efficiently, leading to poor filtration and potential issues with algae growth. A pump that is too large can cause too much pressure and potentially cause damage, and will waste energy.

Pumps have performance curve graphs listed in their manual, which show a range of flow rates that the pump may achieve, given the pool’s particular setup and the amount of resistance there may be. You can use this curve and a measurement called “total dynamic head” to calculate if your pool pump can move enough water in the course of a day to cover your pool size. Total dynamic head is the measure of resistance against your pool pump as it pulls and pushes water throughout the pumping cycle.

However, figuring out your pool’s total dynamic head can get complicated, requiring measurements of pipe lengths, turns, and dips. The easier alternative is a pool flow meter. These devices display the flow rate in gallons per minute (GPM) or liters per minute (LPM), allowing you to correctly set up the pool pump’s speed settings and schedule. Ideally, when your pool pump runs its different programmed speeds throughout the day, the flow rates during those periods add up to moving 1-2 times the amount of water in your pool throughout the day.

A flow meter is relatively inexpensive and easy to use and install, typically a “bolt-on” item. If you know just how much water you are circulating, you can ensure that you aren’t wasting an excess dollar of energy costs! Keep in mind that flow rates determine how well your other pool equipment operates, so if you are unsure it's important to consult with a professional to determine the best flow rate for your specific pool system.

Flow meter Available at Discount Salt Pool

Another factor to consider when choosing a pool pump is the type of pool filter you have. There are three main types of pool filters: sand filters, cartridge filters, and DE filters. Each type of filter has different requirements for flow rate, so it's important to choose a pool pump that can achieve flow rates that are compatible with your filter.

Additionally, once you have a rough idea of the pump size you need, the energy efficiency rating of a pool pump should be considered. The US Department of Energy assigns Energy Star ratings which have a WEF (or Weighted Energy Factor) that helps you compare how many thousands of gallons (kgal) the pump can move for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) it consumes. In addition to offering savings on your utility bill, energy-efficient pumps also help reduce your carbon footprint, making them an environmentally friendly option.

Choosing the right pool pump for your needs will ensure a clean and safe swimming experience while reducing operating costs and protecting the environment. If you’re deciding on a swimming pool pump, consult with a professional to help you select the best one for your specific needs.

The Right Pump for Your Swimming Pool’s Size

Determining the size of your pool is an important first step in selecting the right pool pump. A pool pump circulates the water in your pool, pushing it through the filter to remove dirt, debris, and bacteria, and keep the water clear and hygienic. The size of your pool will determine the size of the pump you need, so it is essential to use a pool size calculator to accurately determine the volume of your pool.

Once you know the volume of your pool in gallons, you can calculate how many gallons of water the pool must pump per hour to complete at least one exchange in the recommended 24 hour timeframe. To calculate this, simply divide the pool volume (in gallons) by 24 (hours for an exchange). This will help you to determine the ideal amount of run time you would like your pool pump to have, in hours. Pool pumps are usually measured in gallons per minute, so you’ll then have to simply divide the number of gallons per hour by 60 to calculate the number of gallons per minute that the pump must be able to circulate.

Calculate the right pump

When selecting a pump for your pool, it is important to choose one that is capable of circulating the required number of gallons per minute. If you choose a pool pump that is too small, it will not be able to effectively circulate the water in the pool, and you may experience issues such as cloudy water or poor filtration. On the other hand, if you choose a pool pump that is too large, it can be inefficient and waste energy if you don’t set it up correctly, or even create pressure that your other pool equipment is not designed to handle.

To ensure that you choose the right pump for your pool, it is best to consult with a professional who can help you determine the ideal pump based on the size of your pool, your specific needs, and your budget. Whether you have a small above-ground pool or a large in-ground pool, there is a pump that is right for you and with the right pool pump, you can keep your pool sparkling clean and ready for use at any time!

The Swimming Pool Pump and Filter Relationship

The relationship between pool pumps and filters is a crucial aspect in ensuring clean and clear swimming pool water. The maximum pump flow rate for a swimming pool must be the same or less than the maximum filter flow rate to guarantee optimal filtration. It is also important to make sure the pool pump flow rate is higher than the minimum flow requirements to ensure the proper functioning of the pool's filtration system.

Additionally, when the pump flow rate exceeds the maximum specifications, the pool filter won't work effectively. This is because the flow rate of the pool water pump will be greater than the filter media flow rate (FMR), or the volume of water that a pleated filter or sand filter can handle. This will result in debris going back into the pool, leading to poor water filtration and an unpleasant swimming experience. An excessive flow rate also puts stress on the pool filter, shortening its life, regardless of the type of filter used.

On the other hand, if the pump flow rate is too low, it will increase the time it takes to pump the pool water and for certain filters, the filter won't backwash properly. This will result in poor filtration and may cause water quality issues.

The easiest way to determine the flow capacity of your pool filter is to find the model number, which is usually written on the side of the filter. Then search for it online to find the maximum and minimum flow rates before choosing a pump for your pool.

The flow rate of a pool water pump is measured in gallons per minute (GPM) and the flow rate of a pool filter is also measured in GPM, representing the maximum amount of water the filter can process in a given minute, making for an easy comparison. The flow rate of the pump must be equal to or less than the flow rate of the filter for optimal filtration.

Flow rate of the pump

Pipe Diameters and Your Pool Pump’s Flow Rate

Checking the diameter of your swimming pool's pipes is a crucial step in choosing the right size pool pump. The capacity of the pool pump should always be smaller than the maximum flow of the pool pipe. If you use a pump with a capacity that is too large for your pool pipe, it can strain the motor and shorten its life and potentially damage other pool equipment. In order to determine the diameter of your pool pipe, you can use a tape measure or a caliper. However, keep in mind that pipe size names are determined by their inner diameter. So for example, the outer diameter of “1.5-inch” Schedule40 PVC pipe is 1.9 inches wide, and the “2-inch” Schedule40 PVC pipe is actually 2.38 inches wide, so make sure you’re referencing the internal or labeled measurement to determine the right sizing for your pool pump.

To ensure that you are using the right size pool pump, you can use the following chart to see the maximum allowable flow rate based on pool pump size:

Pipe size

Most residential pools have a pipe size between 1.5 and 2 inches, which means an allowable pipe flow would be between 44 and 80 gallons per minute respectively. It is important to keep in mind that if the pipe size only allows 80 gallons per minute, using a larger 100 gallon per minute pool pump will not give you 100 gallons per minute of water circulation.

In addition, using a swimming pool pump that is too large for your pool pipe can cause the pump to cavitate and stop working properly. In order to ensure that your pool pump is working efficiently and effectively, it is important to choose the right size pool pump based on the size of your pool pipe.

Pool Pump Friction Losses and Total Dynamic Head (TDH)

Friction losses are an important consideration when selecting pumps for pools as they directly contribute to the total dynamic head of the system. The total dynamic head (TDH) is the resistance to flow within the pool circulation system and is comprised of several factors, including:

  • the distance of the pump from the pool
  • the number of corners or bends in the pipes
  • the height difference between the pump and the pool
  • the size of the pipes
  • equipment installed (heaters, water features, etc.)

Many of these factors have been determined when your pool was built, and you’ll want to take them into account when selecting the capacity of a new pump.

The distance between the pump and the pool has a significant impact on the TDH. The longer the distance, the more friction losses occur in the pipes, resulting in a higher TDH. Similarly, the number of corners or bends in the pipes can create additional friction losses, increasing the TDH. Therefore, it is important to minimize the number of bends in the pipes and use larger diameter pipes to reduce friction losses.

The height difference between the pump and the pool is another important factor to consider when selecting a pool pump. If the swimming pool pump is located above the water level, it will need to work harder to overcome the gravitational force and push the water through the system. In contrast, if the pump is located below the water level, gravity will assist in moving the water through the system, reducing the TDH. This is why it is recommended to locate the pump at the same level as the water or lower, whenever possible.

The size of the pipes is also a critical consideration in calculating TDH. Smaller pipes increase friction losses and therefore, increase TDH. It is important to use appropriately sized pipes based on the flow rate and head pressure of the system to minimize friction losses and optimize the pool pump’s efficiency.

Finally, other equipment installed in the system, such as heaters and water features, can also increase TDH. Heaters, for example, create additional resistance to flow, requiring the pump to work harder to push water through the system. Similarly, water features, such as fountains and waterfalls, can create additional resistance to flow and increase TDH. It is important to account for these additional sources of resistance when selecting a pool pump.

For standard residential pools, if the pool pump is either within 50 feet, well above, or well below the water level, the average TDH is 50-60 for above-ground pools and 20-30 for inground pools. This is a good starting point to gauge the flow rate performance of a new pump that you may be considering. However, it is important to note that other conditions, such as unique pool designs or the addition of multiple water features, may require a professional to assess what size pump is needed.

Typical TDH for pools

If you have any questions about this or any other aspect of choosing the right pool pump for your needs, contact us at Discount Salt Pool. We’ll be happy to guide you to the right solution.

Other Factors in Choosing a Swimming Pool Pump

When selecting a pool pump, it is crucial to consider several factors to ensure that you get the right pump for your pool. From the type of pump to the voltage and horsepower, it is essential to choose a pool pump that meets the needs of your swimming pool. To make things easier, many sellers including Discount Salt Pool offer packages of pool equipment, which often include swimming pool pumps. In this section, we will further discuss the various factors you need to consider before buying a pump for your pool.

Factors when choosing pool pump

Types of Pool Pumps

After learning in depth about the different types of pool pumps, it’s time to decide which is right for you! As a recap, there are three main types of pool pumps: single-speed, dual-speed, and variable-speed pumps. Single-speed pumps are the most common and operate at a constant speed. They are the least expensive option but are often inefficient. Dual-speed pumps, on the other hand, have two operating speeds - high and low. They are more energy efficient than single-speed pumps and are also more expensive. Variable-speed pumps are the most energy-efficient option and can be adjusted to operate at different speeds. While they are the most expensive type of pool pump, they can save you a significant amount money on your energy bills, with ENERGY STAR rated models often saving homeowners hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the product.


The voltage of a pool pump is another critical factor to consider. The most common voltages for pool pumps are 115V and 230V. Smaller above-ground pool pumps usually operate at 115V, while larger in-ground pool pumps require 230V. Most variable speed pumps require 230V; while some 110V variable speed pumps may be available, check their performance ratings as motors that use higher voltages are typically able to achieve much higher levels of efficiency. It is essential to ensure that the voltage of your pool pump is compatible with your electrical system. If you are unsure about the voltage, consult a licensed electrician to ensure that your pool pump is installed correctly.


The horsepower of your pool water pump is another important consideration. The horsepower required for your pool pump depends on the size of your pool and the amount of water it contains. As a general rule, the larger the pool, the more horsepower your pump will need. A pool water pump with too little horsepower will not be able to circulate the water properly, while a pump with too much horsepower can waste energy and increase your energy bills. Horse power typically correlates the flow rates that the pump is available to achieve, with higher horsepower ratings providing higher flow rates. Since larger pools need more water circulated, they typically use higher horsepower pumps.

Average Pool Pump Capacity (Flow Rates)

The average pool pump capacity is another factor to consider when selecting a pool pump. Pool pump capacity is measured in gallons per minute (GPM) or gallons per hour (GPH). The pump's capacity should match the pool's capacity to ensure that it can circulate the water properly. If the pump's capacity is too low, the water will not circulate properly, and your pool water will be cloudy and unclean. If the pump's capacity is too high, it can waste energy and increase your energy bills. Consult a pool professional or refer to the manufacturer's recommendations to determine the appropriate pump capacity for your pool.

In-ground or Above-Ground Pump

Another consideration when selecting a pool pump is whether it will be installed above or below ground. Above-ground pool pumps are designed for smaller, portable pools, while in-ground pool pumps are designed for larger, permanent pools. Above-ground pool pumps are usually smaller and less powerful than in-ground pool pumps, and often have fittings that allow connection to smaller diameter pipe or even hoses. When selecting a pump for your pool, make sure to choose one that is designed for your specific pool type.

Pool Pump Installation Tips

Proper installation of your pool pump is critical to ensure that it operates efficiently and effectively. When installing your pool water pump, make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. If you are unsure about the installation process, consult a licensed pool professional to ensure that your pool pump is installed correctly. Additionally, make sure to check the pump's seals and connections regularly to ensure that they are tight and secure. Leaks can cause the pump to lose its efficiency and can lead to costly repairs.

Common Questions About Swimming Pool Pumps

This depends on the pump type, pump size, and the pool size. For normally-sized single-speed pumps, the recommended average runtime for a pool pump is 8-12 hours per day. For normally-sized variable speed pumps, the typical run time can range from 16-18 and even up to 24 hours per day if configured for ideal efficiency. Proper run time ensures that the pool water is circulated and filtered properly. However, the actual runtime can vary depending on the size of your pool, the type of swimming pool pump you have, and your pool usage.
The electricity usage of a pool pump varies greatly depending on the type of pump, its horsepower, and the runtime. On average, a pool pump can use between 800 and 2,500 watts of electricity per hour and can be your home’s second largest energy user. This can translate to anywhere from $30 to $90 per month on your energy bill. Variable speed pumps however, can use as little as 20 - 600 watts of electricity per hour.
Yes, undersizing your pump is an important thing to avoid - your pump needs to be able to “turnover” all of the water in your pool through the pool equipment system 1-2 times per day.
Yes, a pool pump can be too big for your pool. If the pump is too powerful, it can force the water to move at too high of pressures, which can lead to poor filtration and can even damage your pool equipment. It's important to choose a pump that is not grossly oversized for your pool.
The setting on your swimming pool pump depends on your pool's needs, and what type of pump you have. Single speed pumps don’t have a setting. They run full strength whenever they are powered. If you have a two-speed pump, you should have it on high speed whenever the pump primes, or starts up, and when using high-flow features like vacuuming, and on low whenever else possible. A variable speed pump has multiple speed and time settings and often comes pre-programmed with scheduling based on general pool owner usage. To optimize your variable speed pump settings, be sure to set its programmed speeds and durations to move all of the water in the pool through the pool filter system 1-2 times per day.
Not all filters utilize multi-port valves. They are actually not part of the pump. If your equipment has multiple settings, such as pool/spa mode, or filter/backwash/waste, be sure to follow the manufacturer instructions on how to run your swimming pool pump for each of the different modes.
The speed at which you should run your pool pump depends on the type of pump you have. Single-speed pumps operate at a constant speed, while dual-speed and variable-speed pumps have different speed options. As a general rule, it's best to run your swimming pool pump at the lowest speed that still allows for proper filtration and circulation.
Yes, it's important to prepare your pool pump for winter to protect it from freezing temperatures. For many climates, this involves draining the pump and disconnecting it from the power source. It's also a good idea to cover the pump to protect it from debris and moisture during the winter months. However, this varies by region, as homeowners in warm southern climates typically keep their pump in operation to ensure that it is circulating water through the plumbing when short periods of freezing temperatures occur.

A Few Last Words About Pool Pumps

Pool pumps are a crucial component for keeping your pool clean, healthy, and safe for swimming. It's important to choose the right pump for your pool size and usage and to understand factors such as pump type, voltage, horsepower, and installation tips.

When selecting a pool pump, there are several options available, including single-speed, dual-speed, and variable-speed pumps. Single-speed pumps are the most affordable option but can be less efficient and more expensive to operate in the long run. Dual-speed and variable-speed pumps offer more flexibility and can help save energy and money on your utility bill.

When it comes to horsepower, it's important to choose the right size pump for your pool. A pump that is too small may not be able to circulate the water properly, while a pump that is too large can force the water to move against too much resistance and can lead to poor filtration and equipment damage.

It's also important to consider whether you need an above-ground or inground pool pump. Above-ground pumps are easier to access and maintain because they are often connected by hoses and not crowded by other pool equipment, while in-ground pumps are often hidden from view and plumbed in a compact manner with many other pieces of pool equipment.

When installing your pool pump, it's important to follow manufacturer instructions and to ensure that the pump is connected to the proper voltage and is properly grounded and connected to a GFCI circuit. Even better, have a professional install the pump if you're unsure about the electrical connection process.

Ultimately, choosing the right pool pump is essential for keeping your pool clean and healthy. Regular maintenance, including cleaning and replacing the filter, can help extend the life of your pump and ensure that your pool stays safe and enjoyable for years to come.

In summary, when looking for a pump for your pool, be sure to consider factors such as pump type, horsepower, and installation tips. Investing in a quality pump that is the right size for your pool can help save you money on energy costs and extend the life of your pool equipment. By taking the time to research and choose the right pump for your needs, you can enjoy a clean and healthy pool all season long.

If you’re interested in purchasing a new pool pump, contact our experts at Discount Salt Pool!

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Date 8/8/2023

One thing you neglect to mention is medium head vs high head pumps. I have a old simple pool w/1.5" pipe, a Nautilus 48" de filter and Polaris 360. 2 years ago had to replace a 1 HP single. I bought a Pentair 1.5 variable superflo, not knowing about med/high head. Big mistake! Bogs down too quickly; no oomph! DE filter gets a little dirty; 2-3 months and have to clean again. Pentair says nothing about medium head. Should have gotten high head, ran at slower speed. Now stuck with it... Must start out at 2600 rpm and diverter valve at 8:00 from 12 to get sweep to move reasonably. Sucks....

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