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How Does a Pool Pump Work to Keep Your Pool Perfect?

Matt Giovanisci, Founder and CEO of Swim University By Matt Giovanisci | June 3, 2024

Your pump is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your pool. Without it, your water wouldn’t circulate through your filter system, and your pool would be disgusting and stagnant.

But how does a pump actually work? And what do you do when your pump’s NOT working? Here’s everything you need to know about pool pumps and how to troubleshoot them. Let’s dive in.

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How Does a Pool Pump Work?

Your pump is the heart of your pool, pumping water through your plumbing and filter system. So when your pump is running, your water is actively getting filtered, and it helps circulate and disperse any chemicals in your water.

Here’s how the water flows:

If you look at the plumbing lines that lead to your pump, you might see one or more valves. These control the water flowing into the pump. You might use these valves to temporarily stop the flow of water if you need to work on your pump or filter system. It might be a simple shut-off valve or a three-way valve that controls the flow of water from the skimmers or the main drain.


The Anatomy of a Pool Pump

Knowing each piece is really helpful for troubleshooting pump problems.

  1. The Pump Lid: The lid needs to be completely sealed tight to keep air out of your pump and the suction in your lines.
  2. The Pump Strainer Housing with the Pump Basket: This is where pool water first enters the pump. The basket collects debris so it doesn’t clog up the pump’s spinning impeller.
  3. The Drain Plug. This is used to drain the pump during winterization. You may have more than one drain plug on your pump.
  4. The Pump Housing with the Impeller: This is the main control center where the impeller, diffuser, and seals live. The impeller spins on the motor shaft, creating a vacuum that pulls water from your pool and pushes it toward your filter. If it gets clogged or jammed, the whole pump can stop working.
  5. The Pump Motor and Shaft: This is where the motor lives, and that’s what spins the impeller.
Pool Pump Anatomy

What’s The Right Pump Size For Your Pool?

Your pump needs to be powerful enough to pull in and filter ALL the water in your pool at least once a day. This is called the turnover rate. It usually means running your pump for at least 8 hours a day to filter all of your water. But if you want an exact number, here’s how to calculate your turnover rate:

For example, if your pool is 15,000 gallons and you have a pump with a flow rate of 40 GPM (or gallons per minute), you’ll have a turnover rate of 375 minutes. That means it takes a little over 6 hours to filter all the water in your pool. Making sure your pump is running enough can help prevent some water issues.

Pump Maintenance and Troubleshooting Tips

Here’s what to check on to make sure your pool pump is working properly. This is especially important if your pump has been turned off for a while.

1. Check Your Pump Basket

Any debris not caught in your skimmer basket can make its way to your pump basket. Check and empty your pump basket, and only remove it when the pump is off.

2. Check Your Pump Lid Seal

If your pump lid isn’t sealed properly, air can get into your system. Check the lid’s O-ring for cracks and damage. Use a lubricant specifically made for O-rings or replace the O-ring if it’s completely worn out.

3. Check Your Pump Connections

Any weak connections can introduce air into the system. So, inspect the unions and connection points between the pump and plumbing lines. You may want to consider adding plumber’s tape to loser connection points to prevent air leaks.

4. Keep Your Water Level At Least Halfway Up the Skimmer

If it dips too low, your pump can start sucking in air. And worse, your pump can start to run dry and overheat.

5. Clean Your Skimmer Basket and Filter Regularly

If water isn’t flowing through the skimmer or the filter properly, your pump will struggle. So empty your skimmer basket once a week and backwash or clean your filter when the pressure starts to creep up.

6. Check Your Skimmer Line

Sometimes, a pair of goggles or a hair scrunchie can get caught in the skimmer line, blocking the flow of water to your pump. If you think your skimmer line is clogged, check out our other video on unclogging your skimmer.

Your Pool Pump Still Isn’t Working? Here Are More Things to Try…

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Matt Giovanisci, Founder and CEO of Swim University
Matt Giovanisci is the founder of Swim University® and has been in the pool and spa industry since 1993. Since then, his mission is to make pool and hot tub care easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with water chemistry, cleaning, and troubleshooting.
Save Time and Money with Our FREE Pool Care Cheat Sheet
Keep your pool clean and balanced every week. You won't have to worry about your pool anymore. This simple cheat sheet is all you need. And it's free!

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