Pool filters are something we know we need, but most of us do not really understand what they do. They clean your water and remove things like dust, small bits of trash and even algae and large pollen. They are critical for above ground pools as the liners are more fragile than inground surfaces.
There are two basic kinds: sand and cartridge.
Sand is cheaper overall with a higher up-front investment, The sand lasts 5-10 years, but requires more maintenance.
Cartridges cost more over their life span, but only have to be rinsed now and then, and last from 1-3 years. Some models use disposable cartridges. Cartridges trap smaller particles than sand by half the size.
So, to help you sort through all the filters available, we researched and will tell you about the top 7 best above ground pool filter. Also check our description of what to look for before you decide. All our selections can work with both salt and fresh water and are easy to set up and operate.
Top 7 Best Above Ground Pool Filters Reviews
1. Intex 26645EG Krystal Clear Sand Filter
The Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter is our best choice for above ground pool. There are four different sized models, with from 10-16 inch filters and has a pressure gauge. Each has 6 functions: filter, backwash, rinse, recirculate, drain and close. They will keep your pool pristine for years. You would drain and close for harsh winters, so water doesn’t freeze inside.
It also includes two connecter hoses, the 110-120v pump with GFCI unit safety shutoff, and a strainer basket to catch the bigger stuff before filtering.
The automatic digital timer controls running up to 12 hours daily. These models can clean from 2800-19,600 gallon above ground pools. As size goes up, the pumps range from .25 to .75 horsepower to filter from 1050 to 2450 gallons per hour through 26 to 120 lbs. of #20 silica sand.
Be sure to match the size of your pool to the proper model on the company’s chart to get the best results. In filters it is better to have more capacity than you need rather than less.
The housing is durable plastic and will not rust. A nice addition is their Hydro Aeriation Technology puts extra air into the water and improves the remixing and cleaning of the pool.
Complaints by reviewers were about the range of prices for different outlets, but not about the quality. This filter is reputed to keep your water cleaner than any other. Intex considers this an upgrade to the cartridge filters.
2. Intex Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter: Best Pool Filter Cartridge
This intex pool filter is a simple to install and use filter with two companions for different pool sizes. There is only a need to switch out the disposable filter every 2 to 3 weeks. They are small and light, and they do an excellent job, but you must keep buying cartridges.
The 120-130 v pump with GFCI unit safety shutoff, and air escape valve for the filter provides 1000 gallon per hour filtering.
Intex does not recommend using it longer than 6 hours per day. This cartridge filter pump is a maintenance free option that is excellent for these smaller pools up to 6000 gallons.
This model also comes with the Hydro Aeriation Technology bubbles the water to increase the negative ions on the surface and improve circulation. It is recommended that you run this a lot the first 3 weeks, as the warranty is 30 days. The sturdy plastic housing will never rust. Be sure to order extra cartridges so you always have one.
3. Intex 28635EG Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter
This filter is ideal for cleaning and maintaining a smaller intex pool. There is no listed minimum pool size for the smallest of four filters. The other two say 700 to 5000 gallons. They filter up to 1500 gallons per hour with timed cycles from 2-12 hours.
It includes the in and out flow hoses, in a sturdy plastic housing, but not any Plunger valves or smaller 1 ½” (38mm) Inlet/outlet fittings. The plunger valves will reduce water loss when changing filters and make it easier to do. This is a specialty item for smaller above ground pools.
However, the two larger models include the same Hydro Aeriation Technology that bubbles the return water mixes it in fast and makes the whole pool clear up at the same time.
This is really a great help for smaller above ground pools which often do not come with filters. However, this extra filter reduces daily cleaning to once or twice per week. Order extra cartridges to be sure to have one on hand.
4. XtremepowerUS 2640GPH Sand Filter: Best Above Ground Pool Pump And Filter Combo
This XtremepowerUS sand filter pump offers 4 sizes from 10 to 16 inches and will filter 4,500 gallons per hour with 175 pounds per hour sand pumping capacity. The strainer basket is the largest for this size available and is visible without opening through the transparent top of the sturdy plastic tank.
The selector on the valve shows six options: filter, rinse, backwash, recirculate, waste, winter and close. The last two functions just turn everything off or drain (necessary for cold winters). It also features a pressure gauge which helps to determine the proper functioning of your pool equipements.
The company offers a broad range of different sized models, with two sizes of this model, 13 inch and 16 inch, which hold from 26 lbs. of sand for a 10,000 gallon pool and 110 lbs. of sand for a 15000 gallon pool respectively.
These low noise models level the sand for maximum surface exposure to boost efficiency. It includes all the hoses and uses “filter media”, which means you can use sand or fiber balls.
In looking at reviews of fiber balls we do not recommend them. They can be efficient and are certainly lighter, but customers complain of shorter efficiency time compared so sand.
It is tempting to buy these fiber filter balls, because they are machine washable, but their efficiency wanes after a year at an accelerating rate. This machine also may not last as long as some others, so run it a lot the first few weeks. You wouldn’t want to wait for a replacement in the middle of the season. We recommend this for casual use of the pool.
5. Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter 28645EG
This model offers 4 sizes and includes a 24-hour timer, making it easy for you to set the cleaning times when the pool will not be needed. As size goes up the pumps range from .25 to .75 horsepower to filter 1200-3000 gallons per hour filter speed through 26 to 120 lbs. of #20 silica sand and can clean from 2,800 gallons-19,600 gallons capacity pools.
The 20-130v pump with GFCI powers the 6 function filter offering; filter, backwash, rinse, recirculate, close and drain system. You would close and drain for harsh winters.
The housing is durable plastic so will not rust or rupture in winter is empty. All necessary hoses are included, and the Hydro Aeriation Technology will also bubble the return water to increase negative ions on the surface and aeriate the pool, making it stay cleaner longer.
Intex recommends changing the sand every five years, depending upon use. Users who reviewed this filter were delighted with the difference between it and cartridge filters. In colder areas with a hard winter freeze you may want to check all seals for a tight fit.
This intex pool filter is relatively quiet and fast, keeping the water clean and redistributing the filtered water thoroughly with the bubbler return.
6. Hayward W3S166T ProSeries Sand Filter
The Hayward ProSeries 14.5 inch t0 20.5 inch sizes of this model are great. Using 50-200 lbs. of sand they can service up to a 20,000 gallon or larger pool, and even a smaller inground with 2100 gallons per hour filtering speed. The Above-Ground Pool Filter made of durable, rust and corrosion-proof materials work in any weather.
However, you might want to reinforce the top of the neck where the valve goes on. Users have complained of splitting on the seams on both sides, but some say they fixed this with reinforcement. Talk to somebody who is handy because this hayward pool filter is as good as its higher price.
This self-cleaning system provides long lasting efficiency, even water distribution with excellent flow, balanced backwashing and durability of equipment.
The 7-position VariFlo valve gives maximum, flow at lower pressure. Quick closing and winterizing might be a key feature where winters are freezing after a shorter summer and fall. It is fast to close when the weather turns, so you can enjoy your pool late into the year.
The integrated top diffuser distributes water over the entire sand bed giving you optimal filtration. This one is my personal number one even though I would indeed reinforce the neck. Everything else works great.
7. Hayward EC40AC D.E. Pool Filter
This is a diatomaceous earth filter which replaces the sand with crushed seashells. This would keep any bug like critters out of your pool, as these filtering materials will slice exoskeletons to ribbons.
In addition, they are excellent in salt or hard water. This material comes from fossils of diatoms, algae from five micrometers to one hundred micrometers. It has no taste or smell and does not react with chemicals. When you decide to dispose of your not cleanable DE, just spread it where unwanted bugs may pass, and it will continue to serve you.
Their various sizes of this model will filter from 20ft. to 40 ft. pools using from 4-7 lbs. of D.E. filter matter. This doesn’t require backwashing and few people have had any trouble with it. If you have problems with algae blooms, this is the one for you.
What should I look for in an Above Ground Pool Filter?
When selecting the best above ground pool filter, you need to consider few factors. Below, we've discuss about theme:
1. Your pool size and the capacity of the filter:
The size of your pool and the capacity of the filter must match. You can use a higher capacity stronger filter with a smaller pool but not the opposite. Also, be careful that the pressure cannot damage your liner. Don’t let an elephant use your skates.
To better understand the capacity of your pool filter, you need to know about the 2 very key things.
Your desired turn over time, and the pool filters flow rate.
For example, if you've an above ground pool of 12000 gallon and you want to filter all the water within 8 hours in a day (your desired turn over time), then you should get a filter that has a flow rate of (12000/8 = 1500 gph). So, 1500 GPH is your filters flow rate or capacity.
2. Type of pool filter (Sand vs Cartridge Vs D.E)
Look at the three distinct types and how much you use your pool, plus the climate where you live, and the amount of debris around your pool. This will partly dictate what you need. Sand is cheaper in the long term, but it does require some maintenance.
Cartridge systems are practically maintenance free, as you just need to rinse the filter and change it every few weeks. However, in the long run you pay for that convenience.
Diatomaceous Earth is new on the scene, but this stuff has been used in many different applications and is natural, no chemicals and it can even condition your water and the waste is usable around the base of your house. What this comes down to is, how much you want to work versus how much you want to pay.
3. The compatibility of pool pump and filter
Normally you buy these as a unit. However, if you are replacing one, then do check the compatibility of the two components. This is crucial, because maximum pool filter has a maximum design flow rate. If your above ground pool pump exceed the maximum flow rate of your filter then, it will cause internal damage or failure to the filter.
If you're going to buy a sand filter then you should be very aware about this thing. Because, sand filters have lower design flow rate than its counterparts.
4. Features and functionalities
You must decide what features you want. Do you need a 24-hour cycle, automatic flushing, or fast winter closure? The extras, such as small particle capture for allergens and aeriation of your water might be nice. Perhaps your water is a bit hard, and you could benefit for using diatomaceous earth. All of these are simply extras, so choose.
5. Installation and maintenance
This is really a no brainer. All but one of these models are practically instant installation and simple maintenance. You might need a little advice or help from a professional to install the D.E. filtering system, or not.
So, after reading this you should be able to pick the best above ground pool filter system exactly right for you. The sand filters are more costly up front but cheapest overall. The cartridge systems are easy and convenient, but they cost significantly more overall.
Some users felt that the sand systems also did a better job. Finally, the new Diatomaceous Earth systems are looking good, but the long term might change.
Q1: What size filter do I need for my above ground pool?
Every filer we reviewed had this on their site or the information is available on the pool manufacturer’s site. Basically, you need a filter that can process 8-10% of your pool’s capacity in one hour. Almost all retailers can tell you the answer if you do not find it.
Q2: How often should I run my pool filter?
Most pool owners run theirs daily for a programmed time when they are not using it.
Q3: How many years does a pool filter last?
The various brands and models have different life spans that generally match well with their cost. A sand filtering system well maintained could easily last 20 years. Cartridge systems my last 3-5 years at best, but they cost less to buy. The diatomaceous earth system may last longer than the sand systems due to the smaller strain on the system and the elimination of back washing. Time will tell.
Q4: What is the best pool filter brand? (Intex, Hayward, Pentair)
All of these have their good points and bad. Check the reviews for more help. I personally prefer Hayward and would love to try the D.E. system with my next pool.