The best pool pump

Bob Beacham

Watch for low-flow areas in your pool — usually the corners — where debris collects. A quick swirl with a net skimmer will either collect it or push it to where the pump can do its job.

A good pool pump is vital to keep your pool water clean and safe. Unfortunately, they do wear out, and although experts tell us that the life of a pool pump can be 10 years or more, it might only be half that -- and there's rarely any indication it's about to fail. When yours does, you need a replacement quickly, but deciding which one can be difficult -- there are numerous options in terms of both performance and price.

Our concise guide provides the information you need to make an informed decision. If you're looking for optimum quality and energy efficiency, our top pick, the Pentair IntelliFlo, is probably the best on the market right now.

Considerations when choosing pool pumps

A pool pump is essentially a simple device consisting of a motor, an impeller to create water flow, and a filter or trap to collect debris, leaves, etc. The main things you need to think about are flow rate, power, speed and efficiency.

Flow rate is arguably the most important. You need a pump that will refresh the contents of your pool once a day, but taking all day to do it means constant noise (even the quietest pumps give a background hum) and high electric bills. Pool pumps are rated in gallons per minute (GPM) or per hour (GPH). The math is pretty simple: Your pool volume in gallons divided by eight equals the GPH of the pump required. You can go bigger, but don't go smaller.

Higher GPM will likely mean a more powerful motor. They vary from around 1 to 3 horsepower. While smaller motors require 115 volts (and some can run 115 or 230 volts), larger models may demand 230 volts -- and that could mean you need an electrician for installation.

Pool pumps come in one of three speed types: single, dual and variable. Single speed is the cheapest, but the least energy efficient. They're not allowed as replacements in Arizona or California. Dual-speed models operate on "high" -- the same as the normal performance of a single-speed version -- and "low," which saves electricity if you need to run it at peak times, or you aren't using the pool every day. Variable speed is the most energy efficient, and some manufacturers claim these machines will pay for themselves in a couple of years, when you compare energy savings to the single-speed models. However, the initial investment is much greater.

Other considerations

Filter type can make a difference in operating costs. Some use sand, others have a replaceable cartridge. Cartridge size varies, so if you've got spares, you might want to check whether they suit the new pump you are considering. Also, note how you access filters and filter baskets. It's not a major negative, but some are much easier than others.

A timer is a big bonus, meaning you can set your pool pump to run when you like (possibly taking advantage of off-peak electricity). The amount of programmability varies. On high-end pool pumps, you often have digital control and monitoring. If you have existing automation -- lights, heating, etc. -- you'll want to make sure your new pool pump is compatible.

Cheap single- and dual-speed pumps can be quite noisy, so look for decibel (dB) rating.

Pool pump prices

There's a big difference between aboveground and in-ground pools, with the former starting at as little as $70 to around $300. Low-cost, single-speed in-ground pumps can be found for around $400, with two-speed models from $600. Variable-speed pumps are likely to run from $1,000 to $1,500. There are always cheap pool pumps around, but if they're outside our suggested ranges we'd recommend checking owner feedback very carefully.


Q. How long do I need to I run my pool pump?

A. Provided you have the correct capacity pump, it should filter all the water in about eight hours. Running it longer just increases your electricity bill. If you can, run your pump at off-peak times (you can buy a timer if your pump doesn't have one built in).

Q. Does my pool pump need much maintenance?

A. No. Usually just a weekly clean of the strainer basket, or a change of filter cartridge with some above ground pumps (every 14 days). It only takes a few minutes. Check the manufacturer's instructions -- doing what they recommend should guarantee long and fault-free operation.

Pool pumps we recommend

Best of the best: Pentair IntelliFlo Variable Speed Pool Pump

Our take: High-performing yet energy-efficient model with advanced monitoring.

What we like: Powerful, reliable and very quiet. Set timer and speed via keypad and LCD to your exact pool requirements. Energy Star certified for low power consumption.

What we dislike: Expensive. Some problems with screen. Warranty void if owner installed.

Best bang for your buck: Hayward 1.5 HP Single-Speed Super Pump

Our take: Basic but well-designed pump for those who don't need all the bells and whistles.

What we like: Efficient easy-to-fit pump with simple strainer access and large basket to minimize cleaning. Remarkable value. Dual-speed option available.

What we dislike: Inconsistent build quality and operating life.

Choice 3: Intex Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump for Aboveground Pools

Our take: Low-cost pump with drop-in cartridges for easy maintenance.

What we like: Simple, practical solution. 1,500 GPH flow rate. Filter changes only every two weeks. Includes auto timer. Very reasonable cost.

What we dislike: Often requires additional adapters. Flow rate will be insufficient for some.

Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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