4 Types of Pool Filters (Comparing the Best Ones)

ypes Of Pool Filters

Pool filters are one of those things that are a must if you want to own a pool. Without them, your water will become filthy and you probably should never enter the water. What many newbie pool owners don’t realize is that there are several different types of pool filters that you can choose from. The question remains, which type is right for you?

Though they may vary greatly in appearance, the truth is that there are only four different types of pool filters. They are sand, diatomaceous earth, cartridge filters, and pocket filters. Each filter type can be used in almost any type of pool. However, knowing the perks and pitfalls of each is a must if you want to choose the right type for your needs.

You don’t have to be a “pool guy” to understand how filters can impact your water quality. So, if you’re brand new to owning a pool, this guide will be your lifesaver.

Why Does Pool Filter Type Matter?

Pool filters are usable with almost any type, but the truth is, what results you get will be entirely up to the type you have. Knowing your pool filter type will help you determine what results you should expect as well as your maintenance schedule. Choosing a good filter type for your pool can mean that you only have to give it a deep cleaning once a season.

Besides, it’s just plain good to know. There’s something very satisfactory about knowing every element of your pool, don’t you think?

The Four Types Of Pool Filters

Pool filters are, for the most part, good to use on virtually any type of pool. The thing is, some are just a teensy tiny bit better than others. Each pool filter type is characterized by the type of material that is used to filter all the grit and grime in your pool. So, let’s take a look at each of the three types by the filtration material they use…


The most common type of pool filter that you will find is sand. Sand is affordable, ubiquitous, and does a pretty good job at filtering out particles as small as 20 to 40 microns in size. Traditionally, these filters used silica sand. However, that’s starting to change. If you don’t want regular silica sand, then you can try ZeoSand or filterglass.

Sand filters work by having the water pass through layers of sand. As the water passes through, the sand grabs loose particles. With that said, this type of filter can have a problem with backwashing. They also tend to be the least effective. The maintenance is easy. To remove debris from the filter, switch the pressure gauge and place the filter in a bucket. All the debris will be flushed into the bucket.

  • The traditional models can filter anywhere from 40 to 20 microns with regular silica sand. ZeoSand can filter stuff as small as 4 or 5 microns, making it a highly effective option. ZeoSand aside, these are seen as the most ineffective filters on the market.
  • Typical models last five to seven years. With filterglass, you can have them last as long as 15 years.
  • Sand needs to be replaced every three to five years. This is just part of maintaining the filter. The good news is that you can still choose what media you want.
  • These are the most affordable, low-maintenance types of pool filters. A single seasonal cleaning is all you need, provided that you choose a filter of the right type.
  • Some people might find the maintenance to be annoying. As sand pool filters age, they tend to build up pressure faster. This leads to people needing to maintain them fairly frequently.

Cartridge Pool Filters

Cartridge pool filters gained a ton of popularity, particularly when it comes to homeowners who want to be able to just replace the filter and let it be. As the name suggests, these pool filters all come with cartridges that are designed to do all the filtering for you. When a cartridge gets too dirty, you can either wash it or replace it, depending on the filter’s unique build.

People like these pool filters for a wide range of reasons. They tend to be easy to maintain, but are also more of a nuisance. Unlike sand, these tend to require fairly regular replenishments. If you need to change out the filter, this can lead to a higher price point than what you want to tolerate.

  • Traditional cartridge pool filters can filter particles that are between 10 to 20 microns or larger. Newer models have started to be able to improve their particle-catching prowess. This makes them more effective than basic sand items.
  • People like them because they tend to be more compact. If space is an issue, you will like having a cartridge pool filter. They’re just easier like that.
  • Price is a problem for some. The best way to describe cartridge pool filters is that they can be squarely “middle of the road,” but often offer similar results to what you would get from a sand filter.
  • Frequent changes can be an issue and a nuisance. It used to be a near-weekly thing. Thankfully, newer models might only need a once-per-year change. It’s a work in progress. Having a bigger filter can help reduce cleanings and improve maintenance schedules.
  • Cartridge models are fairly short-lived. You will need to replace a cartridge filter every two to three years. This is true, even if you maintain it fairly well. This leads to a pretty high price point over the course of 10 to 20 years, especially when compared to sand filters.

Diatomaceous Earth

If you have ever read an article on how to get rid of ants or how to get rid of bed bugs, then you already know what diatomaceous earth is. Diatomaceous earth, also known as DE for short, is one of the finest natural sand-like powders out there. Made from the crushed up shells of a bunch of microscopic sealife, this is known for being capable of drying out bugs in a pinch while being fairly safe around people.

Of course, that’s not what DE is known for with pool filters. DE’s natural ability to “snag” onto things makes it an excellent material for a pool filter. As water passes through the DE, the filter will catch any impurities in the water. If you get this type, realize that the DE is heat-treated before it’s being added to the pool filter.

The insides of this type of filter have long “fingers” containing the DE that cleans the water. Much like sand water filters, these are cleaned by pressure gauges and pushing out the debris through reversing the pressure. At times, you can also add pool-grade DE to an older filter for a refresher.

  • Diatomaceous earth filters are considered to be the most efficient at removing particles. You can expect a DE filter to filter stuff as tiny as 5 microns in size.
  • There is some minor concern about health. DE is known for being carcinogenic if inhaled, and many areas also have regulations when it comes to dumping out DE filters. Before you figure out how to handle your filter, look up local DE disposal regulations, as this substance can harm fish eggs.
  • Cleaning a DE filter is extremely intense, and is often required biannually. While flushing out the DE is important, it’s not the only step to take. A deep clean session can take hours. This makes it a tough clean, not to mention a hassle.
  • The price for a DE filter is high. Yep, there’s no mincing words here. This is the most expensive type of pool filter, primarily due to its efficiency. If you are open to investing extra on a filter, this is it.
  • DE pool filters last for about two to three years. So, on top of being pricey, your DE filter will need to be replaced fairly frequently.

Pocket Filters

Pocket filters are not meant to be the main filter of the pool. Rather, they are an auxiliary filter that’s just there to further improve your pool’s cleanliness. You might have seen these “filter bags” on the side of above-ground pools. These can be made from a variety of different materials, including sand. In most cases, they’re used as an addition to help further cleanse oversized pools.

You do not need to have a pocket filter in a pool, especially if you have a small pool. However, they never hurt and they can help take pressure off of an overtaxed system.

How Much Does A Pool Filter Cost?

This all depends on the size of the pool filter, the tank, as well as the type of filter that you’re discussing. To install a brand new pool filter system (tank and all), you will typically need between $500 to $2,900. The average price across the board is closer to $1300. 

When it comes to replacing the actual filter portion of the system, things can differ. Replacing the sand in a pool filter will cost around $100. If you need to replace the actual cartridge, things can skyrocket to between $200 to $1500 a pop. Thankfully, most pool filters can be washed clean for reuse. It takes serious issues to cause this to happen.

Want to add an extra filter? Pocket filters are quite inexpensive, at $100 to $400 a pop. It’s highly unlikely that you will have to spend too much on a pocket filter.

When Should You Replace A Pool Filter?

If your pool filter is on its last legs, it’s time to call up a professional to get a new filter system. You should always call a professional if you notice any of the following:

  • Your pool filter needs to be flushed and cleaned repeatedly. Does it seem like the timeframe for cleanings is getting shorter and shorter? It might be time to replace it.
  • The filter no longer picks up debris. If your pool looks murky regardless of what you do, the sign is grim for your current system.
  • Your pool filter is visibly broken. While many parts of a pool can be repaired, your filtration system is almost never one of those parts. If you see that it’s broken, it’s time to replace that filter.
  • A pool maintenance tech advised you to do so. Assuming they aren’t selling pool filters, chances are they are looking out for you. If you hear that it’s time to get a new filter, listen to them.
  • Something gelatinous clogged the filter. Once jello enters the pool filter, it’s done. Kaput. (Don’t ask us how we know.)

Related Questions

What are the best pool filters for above-ground pools?

If you have an above-ground pool, then you have two major options that you can consider. Above-ground pools fare best with sand or cartridge filters. Believe it or not, DE filters might be too much for them. On the other hand, DE filters are excellent picks for in-ground pools.

Can you get cancer from a DE pool filter?

DE is considered to be an excellent option for pools, though there have been some concerns about the material in the past. There have been studies that showed that mice who inhaled it long-term were more likely to catch cancer. However, no link between humans and cancer exists with DE—especially not when it comes to using it as a water filter.

Even when you’re using diatomaceous earth as a pesticide, there’s not much to suggest that you will get sick. It’s far safer than most chemical offerings, including names like Raid and Off!

How long should I run my pool filter each day?

It depends on the pool as well as the quality of water. Most pools will need to have a minimum of eight hours of run time. Pools that are especially large or that have been exposed to dust may need to have a run time as long as 18 hours. Of course, it’s also possible to run your pool filter continuously if you so choose.

If you want to conserve water, stick to 8 to 10 hours.

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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