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You can’t deny that a pool pump is an integral part of your pool. Without it, your sanitiser, filter and cleaner can’t do their job properly. This can leave you with stagnant water, algal blooms and a thriving frog habitat!
That’s why looking after your pool pump is so important. You may not always know how your pool pump works, or be able to fix it when something goes wrong. This means your pump could perform poorly, require frequent repairs or stop working altogether. The good news is that you can avoid these problems with some expert know-how and tips. In this guide, we show you how different pool pumps work, why they’re important for your pool and how to keep them running at their best. We also answer frequently asked questions, including how to choose the best pool pump for your backyard swimming pool.
Ready to become a pool pump pro? Then let’s get started!
The pump itself comprises three main parts: a motor, an impeller and housing. The motor provides the force to spin the impellers and circulate water, the impellers create suction, and the housing holds it all together. Other parts include the diffuser, which amplifies suction; the strainer basket, which captures excess debris; and gaskets or O-rings, which keep air and water out of the pump.
There are many pool pumps on the market, but they differ in one important way – the available speeds with which the impeller pulls and pushes water. As a result, pool pumps are divided into four categories:
Single-speed: As its name suggests, this pump only operates at one speed. This makes it the cheapest pool pump on the market. While it’s effective and extremely popular with entry-level pool owners, it can be noisy and consume a lot of energy.
Dual Speed: This pool pump can operate at two speeds – low and high. A low setting can reduce your costs if you’re on a budget. It can also result in a cleaner pool. Why? Because a lower speed moves water more slowly, allowing your filter to clean it more thoroughly.
Multiple Speed: Similar to dual speed, this has multiple fixed settings, generally Low - Medium - High speeds that give you flexibility, particularly if you’ve got a large or frequently used pool.
Variable speed: A variable speed pool pump allows for any speed within the pump's speed range, but without fixed settings (unlike a multiple speed pump). It can adjust automatically, depending on the needs of your pool. It’s also quieter and more energy-efficient than other pool pumps, making it a popular choice with pool owners.
A pool pump is an integral part for keeping your pool water healthy. It does this by drawing water from the pool drain, skimmer or both and directing it to components such as the filter, heat pump and chlorinator (if you have one). The water is then returned to the pool through the floor or the wall and circulated again.
This circulation process does three important things. First, it distributes the sanitiser, which keeps bacteria and algae at bay. Second, it helps circulate heat so the water temperature is even. Last, and perhaps most importantly, it moves water to the filter where impurities can be removed.
When a pump stops working or isn’t effective, it disrupts the water balance of the pool. This is why it’s often called the ‘heart’ or the ‘life blood’ of the pool. Like the heart, it promotes circulation and distributes chemicals while removing toxins or waste along the way. Without it, your pool water would become stagnant and cloudy. Not only could this damage your pool and equipment, but it can also pose a health risk to swimmers.
Now that you know why your pool pump is important, here’s what you need to do to keep it in optimal condition.
Prime the pump
When a pump is used for the first time (or it’s dry after draining or winterising your pool), it needs to be primed. This means that the hydraulic lines need to be filled with water to avoid mechanical failure or damage. Some pumps come with a self-priming feature, which makes your job easy. If they don’t, follow these steps:
Lubricate the gaskets (or O-rings)
The gaskets on your pool pump lid provide a tight seal, but these can deteriorate from abrasion or scuffing, leading to air and/or water seepage. The best way to prevent this from happening is to apply a silicone-based lubricant around the gaskets. This will give you a better fit and prolong the life of your gaskets. If you find that the O-ring has cracked or broken, replace it immediately.
Provide air circulation
Due to the heat generated by the pool pump’s motor, make sure that the pump has adequate ventilation and that there are no obstructions around it. Most pool pump covers should have vents for heat to escape. If you’re using a custom cover you’ve made yourself, make sure you provide a gap for airflow.
Also, be mindful of where you position your pump. An area that gets full sun could cause your pump to overheat. Choose a shaded area, or use a sun sail for added protection. Remember, overheating can shut off, damage or reduce the life of the pump, so take precautions to prevent this from happening.
Clean the pump
Even if your pool pump is covered, you’ll still get dust and debris on internal parts. Use a brush or dust broom to remove any visible build-up. Avoid using a damp cloth or a hose as it can damage the pump.
If the impeller is clogged, remove the pump basket and reach inside to carefully pull out any debris. Common culprits are pine needles, grass clippings or pebbles. These obstructions can affect the performance of your impeller and reduce your pump’s ability to circulate water
Empty your pump and skimmer baskets
Pump and skimmer baskets can fill quickly, which can affect your pump’s capacity to circulate and filter water. Empty these weekly, or sooner if it’s autumn and you’ve got masses of leaves and seeds entering your pool.
Pay particular attention to your pump basket. This can break when it overflows, which can then clog your impeller and reduce water flow. To empty your basket, remove the cap and empty the contents. If there’s hair or debris caught in the gaps, use a brush or high-pressure hose to remove them.
Backwash your filter regularly
Like the pump and skimmer baskets, your filter needs to be cleaned regularly. Rinse or backwash based on the type of filter or media you’re using. This could be every few weeks or months. If the filter remains full or clogged, it’ll affect the rate at which water passes through the filter. The result? Cloudy water!
Avoid using an extension lead on your pump
Depending on your block and the location of your pool, you may be tempted to use an extension lead for your pool pump. But this is best avoided as an extension lead can lower the voltage, overheat your pool pump and even void your warranty. Pool pumps require their own dedicated circuit as they use a lot of power. Use an outlet close to your pool or ask an electrician to instal one. While this may cost extra, it’ll save you hundreds in repairs or replacements.
Get an annual check-up
A regular check can pick up problems before they arise and help you avoid costly repairs further down the track. Try to schedule the check-up around spring, before the swimming season begins. This will ensure that your pump is primed and ready to go as soon as the weather warms up.
Also, don’t ignore any pump issues that arise during operation, like leaks or humming. If there’s an electrical issue, play it safe and call a licensed electrician or pool technician.
Which is the best pool pump for my pool?
Choosing the best pump depends on a few different factors. First, you need to calculate the volume of your pool. Next, you need to find a pool pump with a flow rate that allows you to circulate water in approximately eight hours. To calculate this, see What Size Pump Do I Need For My Pool? or speak to a pool professional.
If energy efficiency and long-term savings are a priority, choose a pump with a high energy rating. In other words, a variable speed pump like the Viron XT. Instead of using one speed for a short period of time, this pump uses lower speeds for longer, which can reduce energy consumption by up to 90 per cent and increase the unit’s longevity. The lower speeds also make it whisper-quiet, so it won’t annoy your family or neighbours. In addition, the pump has a self-priming function, which means you don’t have to worry about filling the pump with water when it’s dry.
Lastly, if you’re busy or forgetful, consider a pool pump with a timer. This means it’ll operate for the right number of hours – no more, no less. This will save you time and money, not to mention the hassle of rebalancing or cleaning your pool when you forget to run your pump for a few days!
How long should I run my pool pump each day?
On average, most pool pumps should be run for at least 8–10 hours a day, particularly if the pool is heavily used. This can drop to 4–6 hours in winter. It all depends on the size and volume of your pool. Run it for too little and you don’t get enough circulation. Run it for too long and you waste energy. So how do you calculate the right amount of circulation time for your pool?
First, you need the volume of your pool and the flow rate of your pump. Divide your pool volume by the rate of the pump to get the number of hours. So, if you have a pool with a capacity of 60,000 litres and a pump with a flow rate of 200 litres per minute, you would need to run your pump for 300 minutes or 5 hours.
Of course, if you experience heavy usage, algae or persistent rain, you need to increase the running time to remove the debris. This means running your pump for 24 hours or more until the water runs clear again.
When should I run my pump?
You can choose to run your pump during the day or night, depending on what works for you. Both have their advantages. For example, sunlight can deplete chlorine and reduce its ability to sanitise your pool, so if you run your pump at this time, you’ll circulate water and eliminate nasty bacteria before it makes itself at home.
Running it at night, on the other hand, can save you energy and money. In general, pool pumps make up about 18 per cent of your energy bills. This is because they run for about eight hours a day – or longer when you’re shocking your pool or experiencing heavy use. But if you operate them at night, you can take advantage of off-peak rates, which can save you hundreds of dollars every year.
If you want the best of both worlds, you could automate the pump to run for a few hours in the day and a few hours at night. This means you’ll have optimal sanitation during the day and off-peak savings at night!
What if my pool pump stops working?
Pumps can stop working for a number of reasons. Before you call your pool shop, check the circuit breaker. This can trigger at any time of the day or night. Turn it on and see if the pump starts working again. If it doesn’t, review the timer and settings. A brief power surge or outage (see Note below) can override these. Next, look for damaged wiring. If you find any problems, contact an electrician.
The next thing to check for is mechanical issues, like a clogged impeller. Turn off the pump, open the lid and remove the basket. Empty any debris and reach in to remove any leaves or hair from the impeller. If the pump basket is broken, replace it so the impeller doesn’t get clogged again.
Another reason why your pump may stop is because it’s overheated (this can happen in hot weather or when it’s been running for a long time). You’ll know it’s overheated when you touch the unit and find that it's searing hot. Let it cool down before you turn it on again and make sure the air vents are clear.
If your pump is still operating but you’re having other problems, like humming or leaking, check out How to Repair Pool Pumps and Pool Filters for quick DIY solutions. If these fail, contact a pool professional for expert advice or service.
Note: Power outages can last for hours and stop your water from circulating. Once the power is restored, make sure the pump, filter and chlorinator are working. It also helps to check the water balance in case it was affected. Even a few hours without circulation can affect the clarity and quality of your pool water.
How often should I replace my pool pump?
Most pumps have a lifespan of about 8–10 years, but you may have to replace them earlier if they’re cheap, cracked or not performing at their best. So what signs should you look for?
First, you’ll see murky water even after backwashing and running your pool cleaner several times. Next, you even notice that your pump is working slower than usual, making strange noises, leaking water or tripping the circuit breaker.
If some or all of these things happen, get your pool pump inspected by a technician to see if it can be repaired. This will minimise costs and keep your pump going for a few more years. If it’s past its prime, it may be time for an upgrade.
Top Tip: To avoid replacing your pump every few years, choose a variable speed pump. The low speeds put less pressure on the unit, allowing it to last longer. What’s more, if you pair it with a robotic cleaner, which doesn’t rely on the pump and filtration system to clean your pool (unlike a suction pool pump), you could get even more years out of it.
It’s easy to overlook your pool pump, particularly when you’re busy with other things, like checking your water balance, skimming leaves or running your pool cleaner. But keeping your pool pump in optimal condition should be part of your weekly pool maintenance routine. Here’s what you need to remember:
By following these simple maintenance tips, you’ll extend the life of your pump, improve its performance and keep your pool water healthy and crystal clear. To find out more about AstralPools pool pumps, contact one of our approved dealers. For more pool care tips, check out our helpful Pool Guides.