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Budget-Friendly Filtration Systems

How to save on pool-operating costs by properly maintaining your pump and filter

By John Antretter

Pleatco, LLCEvery year, many pool owners waste hundreds of dollars—sometimes thousands—because of poorly designed filtration systems. Making some smart decisions will result in substantial savings. 

Addressing the way to save money on your filtration system is easier than you think. You need to ask yourself a few basic questions: 

• How old are my pool’s pump and filter? 
• How many hours of the day is the pump running at the same speed? 
• When was the last time I asked a pool professional about what I can do to decrease the costs of operating my pool?  

Fortunately, the latest pool equipment has improved significantly, and a small investment will often pay for itself in one season. In fact, you’ll probably be able to reduce your energy costs and keep your pool cleaner than ever.

Pumps: Variable-Speed Is a Must

For many years, the cure-all for an inefficient filtration system—which resulted in cloudy water, algae, or the build-up of dirt on the floor of a pool—was to install a larger single-speed, high horsepower pump. These large pumps got the job done, but wasted thousands of dollars in increased energy costs. Now, however, the most advanced variable-speed pumps offer immense flexibility enabling you to pick an ideal speed, which will not only optimize the cleanliness of your pool water, but will also minimize the energy costs needed to operate your pool. In addition, your pool’s filter will clean more efficiently when water moves slower through the filter (not faster).  

Unfortunately, many people still use single-speed pumps to operate their pools. To save money, these customers often put their pumps on a timer or turn them off for 6 to 12 hours a day; however, stagnant water can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Rather than turning the pump off, a healthier decision would be to purchase a variable-speed pump and run it at a slower speed, which will keep your water moving and your filter working. A variable-speed pump will give you the extra flow needed when you run your waterslide or vacuum. High speeds (increased water flow) are often necessary, but not all the time.

How about that Filter?

A properly maintained filter will reduce the pressure in your entire filtration system, keep water flowing smoothly, and reduce the wear and tear on all your equipment. There are three different types of pool filters: sand, diatomaceous earth (DE), and cartridge. All three methods of filtration are used across the country.

 A sand filter is the oldest method of pool filtration, and the most common. Tried and true, sand filters do a fine job, but require backwashing in order to clean the filter. Backwashing is accomplished by reversing the flow of your pool’s water through the filter to remove old dirt and debris. This water is then pumped down the drain (along with the money you’ve spent to keep that same water chemically balanced and warm).  

DE filters require the same back­washing as sand filtration. In addition, some local governments will no longer allow the discharge of water containing DE into their municipal sewage systems. Even after backwashing, DE grids often need to be unbolted from the filter housing and scrubbed clean (an unpleasant process). 

Cleaning a filter cartridge, however, is simple: you just remove the cartridge and wash it with a hose. Every year or two, you’ll need to replace older filter cartridges. Because of high maintenance and the waste associated with backwashing, cartridge filtration has become the most common type of filter installed in new pools and as a replacement for older sand and DE filters. 

By combining a dirt-free filter with a variable-speed pump, you’ll maximize your energy savings and have clean water.

Photo courtesy of Pleatco, LLC

Correction: The byline for "Budget-Friendly Filtration Systems" was omitted in the printed version of this article.


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