Upgrading your Aboveground Pump and Filter System

aboveground-pool-in-a-boxIt’s a problem of many small to medium sized aboveground pools. So that they can fit the entire pool in one box, the pump and filter unit is notably small.

Big Box retailers also configure their pool-in-a-box kits to have even smaller and weaker pump and filter units, to lower their shipping, storage and costs of goods.

For many first time pool owners, they wonder why they have so much trouble keeping the water clear, or preventing algae on their soft-sided pools.

It’s because your one-piece pump and filter is too small!

What’s the Solution?

  1. Run the undersized pump and filter 24 / 7 to keep the water clear.
  2. Use more chlorine to help break down contaminants, reducing the filter demand.
  3. Use an algaecide and a clarifier to further aid the filter.
  4. Keep the pool as clean as possible with vacuuming, brushing and skimming.

Or, you can upgrade your aboveground pump and filter, with something better.

Benefits to Upgrading

Vacuuming: One-piece pump and filter units are not only small, but typically have no strainer basket. This makes vacuuming the pool impossible, and pool owners have to use a garden hose powered venturi vacuum device. Not so effective, especially if you have low water pressure.

Reduced Run Time: The pool water in an aboveground pool should be turned over twice per day. This means that all the water in the pool should go through the filter and return to the pool, twice in a 24 hour period. Stronger pumps do this faster, filtering all the pool water in just a few hours.

Water Clarity: The small cartridge filters that come with small above ground pools are really no bigger than an oil can, with only 6-9 sq. ft. of filter surface area. That’s not much. A larger cartridge, of 25-50 sq. ft., or a small sand filter, will keep your water cleaner and clearer.

Reduced Chemicals: As mentioned above, to compensate for an undersized filter, we will find it necessary to use more chlorine, algaecides and clarifiers, to assist the filter. With a larger filter, keeping the water particulate free, less expensive chemicals are needed.

Less Worry: An undersized filter needs cleaning every week, has trouble handling summer storms, and needs almost daily supervision. Larger systems, set on a time clock, automatically turn on and off, and can run for a month in between cleanings.

How to Upgrade an Aboveground Pump and Filter

  1. Find your current size of pump and filter sq. ft, on the label.
  2. Decide on a budget, somewhere between $100 – $500.
  3. Take a look at our aboveground pool filter / pump combos.

The simplest route is to just increase the size of your Intex pump and filter. Intex cartridge filter systems are sized by GPH (Gallons per Hour) of water flow rate. If you currently have a 530 gph, you can make the easy switch to a 1000 gph. If you have the 1500 gph, there is also a 2500 and a 4000 gph pump and filter unit made for Intex pools.

intex-sand filter with pumpIntex also makes a nice little sand filter system, with a separate pump that has a strainer basket. These are sold by the diameter of the sand filter tank – 12″, 14″ 16″. Sand filters are easily backwashed, and you can easily change the sand every few years. Having the big pump basket makes vacuuming the pool fast, and the clear lid helps you know when to empty the pump basket.

If you don’t have a softsided, Intex style pool, you can look at our aboveground pump and filter selection, and find something there with more horsepower and filter surface area. You also have a larger selection of cartridge or sand pool filters.

hayward-pro-series-systems-above-ground-poolsIf you are looking at sand filter systems, I’d recommend the Hayward Pro Series pump and filter systems. I like Hayward because you always can get replacement parts and customer service if you need it. The Hayward above ground sand filters are available in 14″, 16″, 18″ and 21″ diameter, and paired with 3 different pump sizes.

If you are a fan of cartridge filtration, I’d steer you towards the Hayward X-Stream filter system.

hayward-x-stream-filter-systemsIt has a large capacity element of 100 sq. ft. and is available with either a 1 hp, or 1.5 hp pump, with a clear lid and oversized pump basket.

The cartridge on the X-Stream filter is much like the one used on smaller pools, but in a larger size. On a pool of 10,000 gallons, you could expect this filter to go at least a month in between cleanings.


There’s not much to worry about with installation. Plug the lines at the pool, and simply remove the hoses from the old system and connect them to the new system. Remove the plugs to fill the pump with water and plug in the cord to a grounded outlet.

Larger, more powerful pumps however, may be too strong for very small Intex style hoses. If your hoses are crimping or stretching, you may need to buy more heavy duty pool filter hoses.

smaller-timeclock for above ground pool pumpsI mentioned earlier that you can use a timeclock on a larger filter system, to run the pump only 10-12 hours daily. For this, you can plug in this simple time clock into any grounded outlet, and then plug the pump cord into the timeclock. Set the on and off dogs, and your pump timer will handle the rest.


With pool filters, size matters ~ so, if you’re stuck with a too small filter, that won’t get the job done easily, upgrade your above ground pool with a larger filter system- to a real pump and filter!

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor


Upgrading your Aboveground Pump and Filter System — 14 Comments

  1. Hi Davy,

    I have a 15ft x 48in (4.57m x 1.22m) bestway steel pro above ground pool. It came with a 800 gph bestway flowclear pump filter. I have to run it 24/7 to barely maintain my pool water visibly clear. I am thinking about upgrading to 2500 gph bestway flowclear pump filter. It looks like it comes with adaptors that would fit into my pool’s inlet and outlet. What do you think?

    • Hi, the Bestway 58392E-BW, I’m not sure what adapters are included, although it mates with 1.25″ hose. For Intex Pools, you can upgrade to 1500 gph systems, but not further than that, with the small pools. Sorry I cannot locate the information you need – maybe a deep dive into the Bestway owner’s manuals would answer the question.

  2. I have a 10×30 intex with the H filter on it so I believe it is only 330gph…what would be the highest pump/filter I can upgrade to? can i switch to a 1500gph or is that too high?

    • Hi Caesare, the 1000 gph model would be the highest to go, and the simplest, because the wall fitting should be the same (I think). 1500+ Intex filters use larger hoses and wall fittings, and may be too powerful for the pool anyway.

  3. Hi! I have an Intex 12×30 pool that holds about 1800 gallons of water. I want to buy a sand & saltwater filter but it says the minimum pool size for the pump is 2,800 gallons. Can I still buy it and just run it for a shorter period of time or is there a reason why they have a minimum size?

    • Hi, the reason for a minimum pool size, may be that the wall fittings or walls themselves may not handle the flow rate and pressure, and perhaps leak or start shaking or something, however, there are adapters that can be used (see owners manual for the intex filter system), to fit most smaller size pool hoses or wall fitting/skimmer sizes, which are usually smaller on the 12′ and 15′ sizes, with 18’+ using larger hose/fittings, with a 12’x30′- the 12″ sand filter system would be the largest you should go – but check the manual for the specifics on wall connection and hose sizes, and adapters needed.

  4. I have a 18′ above ground pool I want to know what my GPH my pump is putting out all I can find is the model# 90342 can you help

    • Hi, I tried to find it, but could not, perhaps you can deduce it from the cartridge number that the system uses? I think you have a bestways/coleman unit, what size cartridge, is it II, III, it should be stamped on the end…

  5. I have a 15×48 regular pool(not an intex) Can we use the intex sand filter on our pool? Our hoses are 2 inch hoses.

  6. my intex 16′ x 48″ had the smaller 1500 GPH pool pump we bought the intex automatic pool cleanear worked great then we upgraded to the intex 2500 gph pool pump and now if we want to use it we have to decrease the flow too it otherwise it shoots out of the pool because of so much pressure and its so much of a hassel we unhooked him I don’t know if the pump is to powerful to run it or if it can only hookup for certain size filter pumps otherwise run the old pump that sounds like its going out and rig up something so we can use it

    • Hi Patrick, often the pressure cleaners have a pressure bleeder on the wall assembly, but I dont think yours has such a thing. If you can get the right size fittings, you could rig up a pressure relief valve, inline, in the first hose section. I think it might look like a Tee fitting, clamped in place, and on the side port, a reducer, down to maybe a 1/2″ hole size? Excess water prssure will shoot out the 1/2″ hole, although you may need to experiment with hole size. You could use a insert plug on the side port, and drill out successively larger hole sizes, until you get the relief needed to calm that cleaner down… Another idea is to install another wall fitting and then split the return pipe with a 3-way valve or 2 2-way valves, to control the amount of flow going to each wall return. That is kind of complicated however, installing a wall return, the other idea is more doable with less risk.

  7. I have a 18 round 52 high above ground pool with half hp pump,I’m replacing it with 1 hp pump,i have a sand filter,will it be ok

    • Hi Greg, well… maybe. But there is a good chance that the new pump will be too powerful for the filter, pushing debris right through it, and clogging up quickly in hours or days. Pumps need to matched to the filter in terms of flow rates. Every pool filter has a “Design Flow Rate”, found on the label or on a chart or otherwise provided by the manufacturer. Pool pumps will produce different flow rates based on their size (hp) and hydraulic design (not all hp’s are equal, two different 1 hp pool pumps can produce vastly different flow rates), and also on system resistance, measured in feet of head. Find your pool pump brochure online, or visit our page where we sell it – to consult the “Flow Chart” for the particular pump – each hp will have it’s own curve. You will see that at different levels of resistance (Ft/Head), there is a different flow rate – lower resistance, higher flow. For your pool, and most aboveground pools, you may assume a fairly low resistance level, 20-30 ft of head perhaps. So, looking across at the chart, you can see what your 1 hp pump is capable of producing, in gallons per minute. Then look at the Filter Design flow rate, and if it is more than what the filter is capable of handling, then it won’t work. It would be better to also install a larger filter, capable of handling the higher flow rates. You could install a bypass between the pump and filter, a ball valve to divert some of the water before it reaches the filter, sending it around the filter, and back into the return line, with a valve and two 90’s, and a tee fitting on the return line, and some pipe…Adjust the valve, so that only the right amount of water enters the filter, the excess traveling around the filter, bypassing the tank, and reentering the return line after the filter. Lock or label the valve so that it stays in a permanent location, once you figure out the setting that works best.

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