How to Install a Pool Filter

How to Install a Pool Filter

In addition to maintaining the right water chemistry, a pool pump and filter help keep your water clean, clear and ready for summertime fun. Learn about different types of filters and see an example of how to install a sand pool filter for an above-ground pool.

Types of Pool Filters

Basic operation is similar for different types of pool filter systems. A pool filter pump draws water from the pool and pushes it through filter media or material to remove debris and other particles. The filtered water is then returned to the pool. Depending on the type of pool filter, the debris can be flushed from the system or rinsed from the filter. There are three types of swimming pool filters: sand filters, cartridge filters and diatomaceous earth (DE) filters.

Sand Filters

A sand filter tank and valve assembly connected to a pool filter pump by a hose and set on a base.

A sand filter uses a traditional means of keeping pool water clear. Water runs through pool filter sand, which traps particles as small as 20 to 40 microns.

Sand filters:

  • Tend to be the most economical option
  • Often require less space than other filter types
  • Work with most home pool systems
  • Require a specific type of filter sand
  • Require backwashing about once a week to remove the debris trapped in the sand
  • Can operate for three to five years before the filter sand needs to be changed

Cartridge Filters

A gray cartridge pool filter and filter pump.

A pool cartridge filter system forces water through a spun-polyester cartridge to keep the water clear. The material is pleated to create more surface area. Cartridge filters can capture particles down to the 10- to 15-micron range.

These filters:

  • Don’t require backwashing
  • Use less water than other filters
  • Require removing and rinsing the cartridge(s) two to three times a year (more if the filter uses only a single cartridge), and also require a more thorough cleaning once or twice each year
  • Can operate three to five years before needing a cartridge replacement

DE Filters

A diatomaceous earth (DE) filter cleans pool water by running it through a grid coated with DE — a very fine powder composed of the fossilized shells of microscopic organisms.

DE filters:

  • Keep pool water clearer than cartridge and sand filters, collecting particles as small as 8 microns in size
  • Are more readily available for in-ground than above-ground pools
  • Have higher-maintenance needs than other types
  • Require regular backwashing to remove debris from the filter as well as replenishment of the DE powder lost in the backwashing process
  • May need a separation tank to remove the DE from the backwash water before discharging the water


DE should not be inhaled. Wear an appropriate respirator/safety mask as well as eye protection and work gloves when working with the material. Your area may have regulations around disposal of DE.

Choosing a Pool Filter Location

Plan the location for your pool filter system carefully — once you have it set up, it’ll be difficult to move. Start by checking for local codes and homeowners association regulations that may apply. Here are some additional factors to keep in mind:

  • The system needs a level, rigid surface.
  • Local codes may specify electrical requirements, but in general you need access to an outdoor grounding-type electrical receptacle with a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). The receptacle should be at least 6 feet from the pool and within reach of the pump cord. Don’t use an extension cord.
  • Follow any codes that govern placement of the pump in relation to the pool.
  • The location should allow you easy access for filter system maintenance.
  • The pump needs good air circulation to help keep the motor cool and needs protection from excess moisture and flooding.
  • A straight hose or pipe running directly from the filter system to the pool works best.
  • For sand and DE filters, think about where you can pump wastewater when backwashing the system. Local regulations may prohibit wastewater from entering storm drains.
  • Your manual may have specifications for the height of the pump location in relation to the pool water to allow for priming the pump.


Before connecting the pump to power, consult your manual for any steps needed to correctly bond and ground the pump motor. All wiring should be done by a licensed electrical professional according to electrical codes. Some pool filter pumps plug into an outdoor receptacle, while some must be wired into the electrical system.

Installing a Pool Filter

Installation steps vary by the type of filter you’re installing. We’ve provided general steps for installing a sand filter for an above-ground pool, but always follow the instructions for your specific filter, pump and pool.


Some above-ground pool kits include a filter pump. For tips on selecting an above-ground pool, see How to Choose an Above-Ground Swimming Pool.


Step 1: Unpack and Check the Parts

Unpack and familiarize yourself with the pump system parts. You may want to lay out all the parts on a tarp to make sure they’re readily available as you need them. Check the manual — there may be some parts that were partially assembled for packing but need to be reassembled for proper installation.

Step 2: Attach the Drain and Pre-Filter Assemblies

Step 3: Secure the System to the Base Plate

Step 4: Set Up the Pump

Step 5: Set Up the Filter Tank

Step 6: Add the Filter Sand and Water

Step 7: Install the Filter Valve

Step 8: Install the Remaining Hoses or Pipe

Pool Filter Operating Tips

Follow your pump system instructions on how to operate the system correctly and safely. Here are some examples:

  • Make sure the pump is primed before starting your filter system. Check your owner’s manual for steps specific to your pump. You’ll need a backwash hose connected to the waste port on the filter valve. If you’re not able to get all the air out of the system when priming, check your connections and make sure they’re secure and not leaking.
  • Always turn the pump off before changing the valve setting. Moving the valve with the pump running will damage the valve.
  • You’ll need to know the initial pump pressure after installing the filter system. Turn the pump off and set the valve to filter. Turn the pump on and record the PSI (pounds per square inch) reading on the filter pressure gauge. Debris accumulation will cause the pressure to increase, and you’ll use this initial reading with a clear system to determine when debris has accumulated to a point that you need to remove it from the system. Check your manual to find the PSI level that indicates you need to backwash the filter.
  • Make sure to keep the pool water at the proper level. Operating the filter with the water level too low will damage the pump.
  • Never block the pool suction. Repair or replace damaged or missing pool suction components or covers before using the pool.

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