Best Above Ground Pool Filters 201​8
Comprehensive Guide

We all want to swim in clear blue water. But it’s not always that easy. Maintaining a clean pool can be hassle. It’s always going to be a bit time consuming to maintain the chemical levels and keep the water free of debris.

If your pool’s filter is inefficient, it can greatly increase the amount of time you spend cleaning out your pool. It is also pretty much impossible to keep your pool crystal clear without a properly functioning pool filter. Your filter traps particles too small for your net that don’t settle on the bottom of the pool for your vacuum to suck up. If you have a bad filter, it either won’t filter your water at all, or it will take hours, racking up your energy bill and annoying your neighbors.

Most above ground swimming pools come with a stock filter that is barely enough to maintain the pool. After a year or two of use, the filter wears down, and you will need to replace it. Many people don’t like the stock filter at all, and buy an upgraded filter right away. Whatever your reasons are, you can learn everything you need to know about buying a new pool filter on this page.

Best Above Ground Pool Filters 2018

1. Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump - Best Above Ground Pool Filter 2018

Intex is one of the leading brands of above ground pools today. If you have an above ground pool, it’s highly likely that yours was made by Intex. Intex does not include this Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump with its pools automatically. It is a major upgrade from what they include with the pools they sell.

This filter is very popular because it does its job efficiently, but it also has a lot of super nifty bells and whistles that put it above the competition. It has a control valve with six different functions: filter, backwash, recirculate, rinse, close, and drain. All of these different functions are simple to perform. While all filters can backwash and filter, not all allow you to drain the pool. Many filters cannot help you with draining the pool, and you will have to use the traditional hose method.

This filter also has a timer, which is really nice for your energy bill. You can set it to filter overnight, when energy is cheaper. You also don’t have to worry about turning it on and off every day. I know I always forget to turn off my pool filter once I turn it on, so that is a major bonus!

The Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump has a pump flow rate of 3,000 gallons per hour (gph). This is one of the higher options available. That means you’ll be running it for less time every day. For the smaller pools, you will only need to run it two hours a day to maintain your pool! It claims to be large enough for virtually any above ground pool, and is safe for pools over 16’ long.

This is the cartridge equivalent of the sand filter by Intex. It is also of awesome quality, as it is made by Intex, and should last for many years. It is much smaller than a sand filter, but it is half as powerful as the previous Intex pump.

This filter comes with all the disadvantages of any filter pump. You will have to replace the filters every 2-4 weeks, and you should clean out the cartridge chamber every time you do. Any standard A/C sized cartridge should fit in the system, and you should be able to purchase replacements at any pool supply store near your home. It has a pump flow rate of 1500 gph, so you can expect to run it for twice as long as the previous sand Krystal Clear filter. It is suitable for pools up to 18,000 gallons in quantity. If you are unsure about the amount of water in your pools, you can input the pool dimensions at this website to calculate the number of gallons in your pool.

In spite of the cartridge issues, this filter does a great job and has a built-in timer to take your mind off of things. No more remembering to filter every day, and you won’t have to keep track of how long it is on for. You can set it to filter at non-peak energy hours for maximum energy savings. It also has a valve that can easily release any air trapped in the filter chamber. A sediment flush valve quickly removes all the gunk that piles up between cartridge replacements.

The best part is that the Intex Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump is a fraction of the cost of any sand filter, so it’ll take ages for the cartridges to balance out the cost of a sand filter.

This Best Choice Products filter pump is incredibly powerful! If you have a large pool, or if you live in a dusty area where your pool is constantly getting doused with dust and grime, this is the pump for you! It has an amazing pump flow rate of 4500 gph, so it can tackle the biggest pools quickly and efficiently.

The Best Choice Products Pro Above Ground Swimming Pool Pump System runs a motor at one horsepower, causing rapid circulation and filtration. The 19-inch tank fits 100 lbs. of sand, so it is one hefty filter! It’s also capable of handling hot water, up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can work on your hot tub, too. But with its super high flow rate, it probably is not appropriate for a little spa.

This filter also has a six-function flow valve, with options of backwashing, rinsing and draining. It includes all hoses and valves needed for installation, and is built to be sturdy, even in the toughest weather conditions.

The Best Choice Products Pro Above Ground Swimming Pool Pump System does not have a timer, which is a downside, but you can certainly buy your own timer and hook it up to the filter at the outlet. It comes with a 60-day warranty from the manufacturer to make sure you don’t get a lemon.

This popular pump is manufactured by the relatively obscure XtremepowerUS. It is also very powerful, with a pump flow rate of 4500 gph. It includes everything needed for assembly, except the hoses that run to and from the pool. Those most likely came with your pool, and if not, you can certainly pick some up for a low cost at your nearest pool supply store, or even a normal hardware store. Like all sand filters, the sand is not included, and you will need to purchase some either online or at your local pool supply store.

This pump is also capable of six different functions on one simply-operated valve. It can do all the normal functions, such as backwash, rinse, recirculate, filter, and drain. This filter is incredibly powerful, with 1.5 horsepower, which is the most you’ll really ever find with above ground pool filters. It claims to be able to handle pools up to 18,000 gallons. It has a single speed setting, so it will be too powerful for hot tubs or small pools.

This pump does not have a timer included, so you will have to buy your own, or manually turn it on and off as you want to filter your pool water.

5. Hayward S180T Pro Series 18-Inch Top-Mount Pool Sand Filter

Hayward is definitely one of the most beloved brands for pool filters. It is easy to see why. Their products are built well and last for a long time. The Hayward S180T Pro Series 18-Inch Top-Mount Pool Sand Filter is particularly popular. You can get it in various sizes, from 16 to 24 inches, but the 18-inch model is the medium size and the best-selling.

This filter is different than the rest because it is the only one in this list that does not have a pump included. This is a perfect option if you have a working pump and you want to convert to sand from cartridge, or if your old sand filter is leaking or damaged. It is built of corrosion-proof thermoplastic that is weather resistant. It has an unusual 7-setting valve. This means it can do the standard six settings of other filters, but it also has a low-pressure setting that allows for less energy usage, and is suitable for smaller pools and hot tubs.

This filter is high-performing, but it is a bit on the pricey side. It is comparable in cost to filters that come with the pump included. However, you get what you pay for, as this filter is truly outstanding. Before you purchase it, make sure that it is suitable with the pump you want to pair it with. The pump flow rate and horsepower will vary based on the pump you pair it with.

Above Ground Pool Filters Buying Guide

There are a few things you need to consider in order to choose the best pool filter for you. First, you should know which type of filter you want. Sand filters are the overwhelming favorites, so most of the filters covered in this article are sand filters. But if you plan on transporting your pool often, a sand filter might be too cumbersome. It can also become expensive to change out the sand regularly. In that case, you may want a cartridge filter that can be easily moved because it will be more lightweight and compact.

Another factor to consider would be the size of your pool. If your filter is too small, you will have to run the pump for many hours a day, or even all the time. It will also cause problems with water circulation. If the pump isn’t powerful enough to circulate the water, then the same water will be filtered over and over again, and the pool won’t get clean.

On the other hand, if the pump is too powerful, the water could be circulated too quickly. This could cause problems, and even be dangerous, especially if you regularly have small children in your pool. You should check the size recommendations for the filter before you buy it to make sure that your pool is the right size for the pump. I would recommend buying something that is correctly sized for your pool, but a bit on the powerful side. That way, as the filter gets older and loses its efficiency, it can still perform a great cleaning job on your pool.

Lastly, you should check the hose sizes. There are several different hose sizes that connect to your above ground pool. This isn’t a huge deal because you can buy adapters in case the hoses don’t match up with your pool attachments. But it’s worth knowing what you need so you can buy any adapters you need when you buy your pump, saving you a trip to the store.​

The Different Types Of The Above Ground Pool Filters

There are three different mediums pool filters use to clean your water: sand, diatomaceous earth, and cartridges. There are distinct differences between the three. They all have their advantages and disadvantages.


Sand is by far the most popular filter medium for above ground pools. Sand filters are highly effective and very low maintenance. They don’t come with sand, but a bag is super cheap, and only needs to be replaced about every five years. However, if you like to put your above ground pool away during the winter, you will have to clean out the filter thoroughly before packing it away. You will have to empty the sand and replace it with new sand at the start of the new season. But for those of you who keep your pool set up year-round, you can leave the sand for five years before replacing it.

The sand catches very small particles, those between 20-100 microns. As the sand catches more dirt, it becomes increasingly effective at trapping small particles. You will have to backwash your filter occasionally to clean the trapped dirt and particles out of the sand. You will have to purchase special sand for pool filters.

The downside of sand filters is that they are rather bulky. The water is pushed through a large amount of sand, which requires a big tank. The filter will be very heavy and large.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is very handy naturally-occurring white powder. It is fossilized algae. It has so many uses around the house, from pest control to toothpaste and even pool filters. It is rapidly becoming the most popular filter for in ground pools. They are incredibly efficient and small. The water needs to travel through a very small amount of DE to filter out particles down to 3-5 microns. Our eyes can’t even see particles that small

DE filters require quite a bit more maintenance than sand filters. The DE needs to be topped-off with new DE about once a month (when backwashing), and the filter and pump must be taken apart and completely cleaned, inside and out, 1-2 times a year.

DE filters are not as popular with above ground pool users for several reasons. They require the most amount of maintenance. You also need a place to dispose of the old DE every time the filter is backwashed. They also are the most expensive of all the filters. Many above ground pool owners don’t think the extra effort and cost of a DE filter is worth it.


Cartridge filters are very popular for above ground pools. They are way more commonly used with above ground pools than with in-ground pools. They are pretty self-explanatory. They filter water by means of a cartridge.

Cartridge filters are great for above ground pools because they are much smaller than sand filters, and they are much easier to pack away at the end of the season. They also never require backwashing, which ends up saving water. They are very energy efficient because they don’t create as much resistance as sand filters, so they don’t require as much energy to operate. They are also the cheapest of all the filters.

The downsides to cartridge filters is the obvious cartridge purchases. Most cartridge filters need to be changed every two weeks. The cartridges aren’t that expensive, but it can rack up a tab if they’re being utilized year-round. They also don’t filter as well as sand or DE filters. Most of the filters that come included with above ground pools are cartridge filters. Many people decide to upgrade to a sand filter when they find that the cartridge filter just can’t get the pool as clean as they would like it to be.

​Cartridge filters are generally low maintenance, although many people do recommend cleaning them out occasionally to keep them high-functioning.

Above Ground Pool Filters Wrap Up

Before purchasing a filter for your above ground pool, make sure it is properly sized for your pool. If your filter is undersized, it won’t properly clean your water, and if it is oversized, it will create water flow issues that could be dangerous.

There are three types of filter: sand, diatomaceous earth, and cartridge. Sand requires the least maintenance, and is most popular for above ground pools. Diatomaceous earth filters are expensive, require lots of upkeep, and are more popular for in-ground pools. Cartridge filters are cheap, but the cartridges need to be replaced often.

Most importantly, make sure that your filter is compatible with the valves on your pool and the size of your pool before buying. Filters are large and bulky, and thus hard to return.​

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