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Pool Filter Comparison

Which one is best for me?

The best type of filter depends on the usage of the pool as well as the preferences of the pool owner/operator and the local city codes. The chart below will help you to determine the best filter for your situation.

Filter TypeSandDECartridge
Filter Media Sand Diatomaceous Earth Paper Filters
Filtration Efficiency Good
40 microns
5 microns
10 microns
Cleaning Method Internal Backwash Internal Backwash Disassemble and Clean with Hose
Backwash Line Required Yes Yes No
Frequency Of Cleaning Every Week Every 4-8 Weeks Varies Widely, depending on unit
Recommended Application Home Pools
Apartment Pools
Home Pools
NOT for Apt. Pools
Home Pools
NOT for Apt. Pools
Water Clarifier Needed? Sometimes Never Sometimes
How Often Media Replaced? 6 years (home use)
3 years (apt. use)
Each Backwash 2-4 years
Cost to Replace Filter Media $50 - $100 for sand (excludes labor) $2.00 - $4.00 for DE
$200 - $300 for a new set of grids (excludes labor)
Varies, but can be VERY expensive
Annual Maintenance None Required DE Filter Clean $75.00 Cartridge Cleaning periodically.
Positive Points Easy to backwash
Filter Media (cheap0
Infrequent Repairs
Best filtration Simple to maintain
Easy to repair
Negatives Poorest Filtration
"Wastes" water in weekly backwash
Backwash a bit complicated Repairs not cheap.
Not allowed in every municipality
Cartridges can be a bit costly, check cost before buying filter.
Filter cleaning not as easy as others

The choice of filter for a home pool is largely up to the consumer. Any type of filter will work, but sand filters will not filter as finely and this can create water clarity problems from time to time.

DE and Cartridge filters should NOT be used on semi-public pools (apartments, condos, hotels, etc). The manufacturers may try to sell them for this application, but they are not the best choice. The problem is that with their finer rate of filtration, they fill up with dirt very quickly and become clogged and ineffective. I have seen a lot of DE and Cartridge filters that have been pulled off of semi-public pools after only a few months or years.. In these cases, the owner had to foot the bill to have a new sand filter installed. In some cases, where it is not possible to install a backwash line for the pool, a Cartridge filter may need to be installed, but it should be done with the expectation of higher maintenance labor and parts costs.

Filter Sizing

Once you have chosen the right type of filter for your pool, it is important to get it sized properly. It must be sized to match the pump which in turn must match the circulation needs of the pool. If the filter is undersized, it will fill up quickly and also can be damaged by the force of the pump. If the filter is undersized, it may not backwash well.

Recommended flow rates for different sizes of SAND FILTERS
Tank Diameter 19 " 21 " 24 " 30 " 36 "
Surface Area 1.8 Sq. ft. 2.3 Sq. ft. 3.1 Sq. ft. 4.9 Sq. ft. 6.9 Sq. ft.
Max Flow Rate 40 GPM 50 GPM 60 GPM 100 GPM 140 GPM

Recommended flow rates for different sizes of D.E FILTERS
Surface Area 24 Sq. ft. 36 Sq. ft. 48 Sq. ft. 60 Sq. ft. 72 Sq. ft.
Max Flow Rate 48 GPM 72 GPM 96 GPM 120 GPM 144 GPM
Best Flow Rate 36 GPM 54 GPM 72 GPM 90 GPM 108 GPM

Recommended flow rates for different sizes of CARTRIDGE FILTERS
Surface Area 100 Sq. ft. 200 Sq. ft. 300 Sq. ft. 400 Sq. ft. 500 Sq. ft.
Max Flow Rate 38 GPM 75 GPM 112 GPM 150 GPM 150 GPM
Best Flow Rate 30 GPM 50 GPM 75 GPM 100 GPM 125 GPM

Note that these recommendations are only approximations based on typical conditions.

On-site analysis must be done to insure that the filter matches up properly with the pump and the pool. For instance, if the plumbing runs on the equipment are particularly long, then the resistance to flow in the piping will be greater and intake lines may need to be larger than specified in this chart.

Note also that this may differ from the recommendations listed by the manufacturer.

The literature may indicate that it is OK to match up a 2.5 or 3.0 hp pump to a 60 square foot DE filter, but we never recommend it because we have seen plenty of DE filter grids blown out by these larger sized pumps. It is always better to oversize the filter. With an oversized filter, the water flows through the filter media at a slower velocity and that results in finer filtration and longer filter cycles.

Some builders will install a 3.0 hp filter pump on a pool/spa combination in order to give maximum water flow through the spa jets.

This is nice except for the fact that the pump is so powerful that it has the potential to damage the grids in the filter. The better way is to install a smaller filtration pump for the pool and then run a separate booster pump. This keeps you from having to run a large 3.0 hp pump every day on the normal filter cycles.

Take a look at our Pool Filter selection