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THE HUMBLE SWIMMING POOL PUMP is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your pool maintenance arsenal. Most people are unaware of the role that water circulation plays in pool maintenance – simply put, standing water is a haven for algae and bacteria, and if you don’t run your pool pump enough – or if it’s undersized - you could be in for a shock as you start to watch the water go green. No amount of chemicals, algaecide, or sanitizers will ever take the place of circulating water.


A pool pump is nothing more than an electric motor that runs on AC power, sometimes 110v and sometimes 240v, with a front end that’s sealed in a housing that contains a vane, and when the motor turns, it spools up the vane, creating suction – the vane pushes it across to the pressure side, and presto, you have a flow of water.


Pool pumps must be sized appropriately to the pool they are pumping. Too small a pump, and you won’t get the turnover of water you need to clean the pool, and too large a pump, and you’ll have increased operating costs. Operating costs are something that people seldom consider, but consider this – a couple horsepower motor running four to six hours per day will cost you some money on your power bill. Ideally, you’re looking for a particular flow rate – a pump that will circulate the water in the pool once every eight hours is about right. What this means is that in two days of usage of four hours per day, that you’ll have changed the water once in the pool. This is a nice, steady flow rate that will discourage algae from sticking to the walls as well as disperse the pool chemical properly. You don’t want the flow to be so fast that your pool looks like a giant hot tub as all this will do is cost money for electricity.


Normal swimming pool pumps are single speed workhorses that you essentially turn on and run – at the same speed. There are, however, variable speed pumps that are being used more and more frequently. Variable speed is just like what it sounds like – the pool pump can ramp up or down to adjust for different conditions, in the end saving you money. You can have a low setting for maintenance circulation, or amp it up to circulate the water faster when lots of swimmers are in the pool or for vacuuming.


You can’t really nail down the swimming pool pump decision until you consider the filtration system. While simply selecting too large of a pump can send your electrical bill skyrocketing, pairing a powerful pump with an inadequately sized filter could lead to substandard filtration performance and your pump essentially overwhelming your filter. This effect will manifest itself in a pool pump that wears out prematurely because it’s straining against the bottleneck of the filter.

Lastly, pay attention to your pump. Location is critical for a number of reasons. Most pools with PVC fittings will eventually spring a leak at some point whether due to old age, degradation of the cement, or both, and this leak usually manages to find the pool pump since it is usually located close to the plumbing apparatus. Keep your pump well ventilated and ensure that you have a look at the back of it every so often – the part where the ventilation holes are located. Make sure they are free and clear. A happy, well ventilated and well sized swimming pool pump will give you years of faithful service.

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