Pumps and Motors - the HEART of your Pool System!
No part of the pool equipment system is as important as the main
circulating pump (and its motor).
Just as with living creatures, if the pump does not
function correctly (or at all), nothing else works. The moment
the pump stops working, everything begins to go downhill.
The water gets dirty, algae grows, and water chemistry gets
Making repairs and getting the pool back to good condition can
be costly and time-consuming.
Yet, keeping the pump working well and preventing
problems is not so difficult.
Here, we will review the main features of maintaining the pool
or spa pump and motor and see how little effort it really takes
to keep them in good condition. Even
a person who is not handy can spend a little time following a
few simple steps and increase the life of the pump by years.
Install the Pump Your Pool Needs
Whether this is a new pool or an existing one, it is important
that you install the correct pump and motor that it needs.
Proper sizing of the pump to the pool is not a random
act. There is science to it based on the amount of water, size
of piping, additional water features, elevations and lift, head
pressure and others factors. Installing
a pump that is either not powerful enough or too powerful can
create problems throughout the pool and will shorten the life of
the pump and motor. Guessing... can cost you.
Protect the Pump
Protecting the pump from the elements and other sources of
damage can save money
and stress. The pump will function well and last longer.
Install the pump and other equipment on a slab or other
firm support not on the ground.
Make sure that water from rain or sprinklers
cannot get into the motor.
Allow room enough for air to circulate around and inside
Do not install motors where debris can get sucked or
blown in. Do not install them next to an outlet for a
clothes dryer vent.
Keep spiders, insects and other vermin away from the
motor. Spiders and insects love to nest in the warmth of
Provide lightning protection for the motor and other
Wherever freezing may occur in winter, provide a freeze
protection device or, when the power is off, make sure
the pump, filter and plumbing are drained of water.
Do Not Overwork the Pump Motor
The purpose of the pump is to maintain circulation of the water
for distribution of chemicals and oxygen, filtering the dirt
from the water, and preventing the stagnation that allows algae
and other life forms to live and reproduce in the water.
In commercial pools and spas, the bather load requires
that the pump run all the time to maintain sanitary and
healthful conditions. This is not required in most residential
pools, where the water may need only to circulate enough to
provide one complete turnover of the pool water each day. Unless
there is unusually high use of the pool or very high
temperatures, a single turnover is enough.
Using a timer, the pump can be programmed to run only a
few hours each day, just enough to keep the water clean and free
of algae and bacteria. To determine the time you need to run
In addition to run time, you can overwork a pump motor by
negligence. Failure to
clean out skimmer baskets and pump strainer baskets can put
stress on the motor and may even cause it to overheat, leading
to motor failure. During
leaf season, check and empty the baskets regularly to be sure
that they are not full of leaves or other debris.
If It Is Broken, Fix It!
Pumps and motors are machines.
They cannot fix themselves. If
a problem exists with the pump, it will not go away without your
help. Replacing a very simple and inexpensive part right away
can prevent the replacement of a motor or complete pump down the
road. Would you rather
spend $6.00 today or $600.00 tomorrow? Take 5 minutes once a
week to inspect the pump.
What to look for:
Signs of a leak.
Pumps should be dry. If you see any water under, on or around
the pump, something is wrong. The weakest points of any pump are
the shaft seal, o-rings and gaskets. Replacing them can prevent
later damage that could require replacing the motor or complete
Pumps should be quiet,
especially newer models that are 10 years old or newer. When the
pump begins to make noise, take notice. There are many possible
reasons for pumps to start getting noisy but all of those
reasons indicate a problem that needs to be solved. Some of
Air intake through the plumbing or other leaks.
Cavitations in the impeller (like gravel rolling in a
Damaged Motor Bearings (grinding noises).
Foreign object caught inside the pump (high pitched
Again, a number of different factors can contribute to
Motor doesn’t start, or runs only briefly and cuts off.
Excessive heat (see above.)
Electrical supply problems (outside the motor).
Capacitor or start switch not working.
If any of these or other problems occurs, take immediate
Turn off the pump, find out what the problem is and fix it.
Fix It Right
You do not want to make a problem worse.
If you are not using the services of a professional, make sure
you get the right parts and install them correctly. The key to
that is maintaining records on the equipment. You need to know
who the manufacturer is and other facts such as the model
number, horsepower, service factor, voltage and amperage. Over
time, labels on outdoor equipment can become faded or even
disappear; file that information away for future reference when
the equipment is new. A digital photo of equipment labels and
even the equipment itself can be very helpful when repairs are
needed. Always keep instruction and installation manuals, send
in the warranty card and keep your proof and date of purchase.
Now, most manufacturers allow warranty registration online at
their websites. They also have copies of manuals there.
Do Not Guess
If you are not sure what is needed, talk to a technician.
Before you do, get information about the equipment and
the problem so you
can answer the technician’s questions.
Be patient; the
technician wants to be sure you both get it right.
Do not be afraid to ask questions.
Keep in mind, there are no “stupid questions”.
That is why there are technicians.
No one knows everything about everything.
Weigh the alternatives
Sometimes, it may not be best to fix something but rather to
replace it. The
technicians can help you
figure that out, too.
This may be especially true if the manufacturer is no longer in
business, the particular product is obsolete or has too many
things that need to be fixed, or a new pump is available that
will work much better and economically for you.
Replacing a pump motor
Replacing a pump motor is not so difficult if you are careful,
but mistakes are often made that can result in a short life for
the new motor. Be sure
that the motor is the right one. And be sure
to replace the mechanical (shaft) seal every time you
replace the motor or
remove it for any reason. That seal is all that protects the new
motor from water damage. Water damage voids the new motor
warranty. Protect the
motor and your warranty with that small investment of as little
as $6 or $7. If you do
not know how to install the seal properly (no special tools
required), ask the
technicians or check out our
If you take just a few minutes a week to take care of the pump,
it will serve you well for many years.
If not, you can expect to spend some money replacing it
and a lot of time getting the pool back in the shape you want.