Did you know that many people have the wrong pumps for their pools, often because the pool company offered them as “free upgrades”? Do you know whether you’re spending too much money on your electric bill for a pool pump that’s got impressive-sounding but irrelevant specs? Do you leave your pump off for most of the day to save energy, when an optimized pump could run 24-7 for less money and cut out the risks of stagnant pool water?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, dive in for a quick primer on what you really need–and really don’t–in a pool pump.

How much harm will it really do to have the wrong size pool pump?

Whether you’ve got an in ground pool or an above ground pool, you’ll save electricity (and money) by finding the right pump. An undersized pump will not circulate water quickly enough to keep it fresh and clean. An oversized pump will waste energy and may force you to waste time and attention managing what hours it is on and off. A pump that is just the right size can run around the clock without wasting money, keeping your pool clean, clear and healthy.

What is the best size for a pool pump?

The best pump size depends on your pool size. While pool pumps are often marketed according to horsepower, the relevant spec to watch for is the gallons per minute (GPM), which measures how quickly the pump cycles water. When the pump cycles all of the water in your pool once, it is called a turnover. The goal is to have two turnovers a day, meaning one turnover per 12 hours. This means that, with a few simple calculations, you can figure out the optimal GPM for your pool pump.

Say you have a 20,000 gallon pool. Two turnovers per day means that the pump should be able to cycle 40,000 gallons in 24 hours. Since there are 1440 minutes in 24 hours, divide 40,000 by 1440 to get the ideal rate in gallons per minute. In this case it would be about 27.75 GPM.
Once you simplify all the math, you can find your own target GPM using this simple formula: Target GPM = Pool Volume in gallons / 720.

Won’t it get expensive to run my pool pump for 24 hours a day?

If you do it right, you’ll minimize the costs and avoid potentially harmful (not to mention unsightly) algae colonies, collections of debris or pH fluctuations. If you’ve got a pump that consistently cycles through two full turnovers per day, your pool water should stay clean and fresh. But if your pump is overpowered, it will cycle the water much more frequently, burning lots of energy without any real improvement in the water quality. In most cases, this will start making you feel the need to save on the electric bill.

Most people respond to this urge by only running the pool pump part of the time, say 8 hours a day. That means that the pool is lying stagnant for 16 hours a day, giving debris and algae a chance to build up. This makes the pool more dangerous and less attractive while overstressing the pump system during the times you do turn it on. Finding the right pump will allow you to leave the pump running around the clock without running up an unreasonable bill, but also without forcing your pump to constantly deal with problem buildup in your pool.

This article was provided by Thomas Doane who writes for Pool Wizard and Kayak Pools.

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