How A Swimming Pool Pump Works

What is a Swimming Pool Pump?

A swimming pool pump is an essential component of any pool filtration system. Its primary function is to circulate and filter the water, ensuring it remains clean and safe for swimmers. Without a properly functioning pump, the pool water can become stagnant, leading to the growth of algae and bacteria.

Definition and Purpose

A swimming pool pump is a mechanical device that uses an electric motor to drive an impeller, which creates suction and circulates the water through the filtration system. The pump draws in water from various intake points, such as skimmers and main drains, pushes it through filters to remove debris and contaminants, then returns it back into the pool via return jets.

Importance of a Functioning Pump

Having a functioning swimming pool pump is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Water Circulation: The circulation provided by the pump ensures that all areas of the pool receive adequate filtration. It helps distribute chemicals evenly throughout the water.
  2. Filtration: A working pump enables efficient filtration by passing water through various filters (such as sand or cartridge) that trap debris like leaves, hair, or dirt particles.
  3. Chemical Balance: Proper circulation aids in maintaining chemical balance by preventing pockets of stagnant water where chemicals may not reach.
  4. Prevention of Algae Growth: Continuous circulation prevents algae growth by inhibiting still-water environments where algae thrive.
  5. Swimmer Comfort: Clean and well-filtered water improves swimmer comfort while reducing potential skin irritation caused by dirty or contaminated water.

Components of a Swimming Pool Pump

Understanding the different components comprising a swimming pool pump will help comprehend its overall functionality better.


The motor powers both impeller rotation for creating flow pressure within pipes as well as driving other components present within pumps systems like heaters etc.

Types of Motors Commonly Used

  • Single-speed motors: These motors run at a constant speed and are the most common type found in older pool pumps. They consume more energy due to their continuous high-speed operation.
  • Variable-speed motors: These motors offer adjustable speeds, allowing for better control over water flow rates and significant energy savings. They can operate at lower speeds during filtration or higher speeds for tasks like vacuuming or spa jets.

Power Requirements

Different pool pump models have varying power requirements, usually measured in horsepower (HP). It’s important to choose a motor with sufficient power based on factors such as the size of your pool, desired flow rate, and any additional equipment that may require power from the pump.


The impeller is responsible for generating water movement within the pump housing by spinning rapidly when driven by the motor. It plays a crucial role in creating suction, drawing water into the pump.

Role in Water Circulation

As water enters through intake pipes into the pump housing, it passes through the impeller blades’ rotation. This action creates pressure and forces water out of discharge pipes towards filters before returning to pools via return jets. The impeller’s design impacts its efficiency in moving large volumes of water effectively.

Different Impeller Designs

  1. Closed-face impellers: These impellers have solid discs with curved blades extending from them radially outward towards their edges. Their design prevents clogging but limits their ability to handle larger debris particles efficiently.
  2. Semi-open face impellers: With partially exposed blades on one side only (the other side sealed), these impellers strike a balance between debris handling capability and efficient flow movement.
  3. Open-face impellers: Featuring fully exposed blades on both sides, open-face impellers excel at handling larger debris without sacrificing performance significantly.


The housing is an integral component surrounding both the motor and the impeller assembly within a swimming pool pump system.

Material and Construction

Pump housings are commonly made from durable materials such as reinforced plastic or stainless steel, which ensures longevity and resistance to corrosion caused by pool chemicals. The housing is designed to withstand high-pressure environments created during water circulation.

Importance of Proper Sealing

A properly sealed pump housing is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and preventing leaks. It ensures that no air can enter the system, avoiding disruptions in water flow and potential damage to the motor. Regular inspection of seals and gaskets is necessary to address any issues promptly.

How Does a Swimming Pool Pump Work?

Understanding how a swimming pool pump works helps in troubleshooting problems and ensuring proper maintenance.

Suction Phase

The suction phase involves drawing water into the pump through intake pipes via skimmers, main drains, or other entry points.

Water Intake Process

  1. Skimmer: Skimmers are located on the sides of pools and act as collection baskets for floating debris like leaves or insects.
  2. Main Drain: Located at the bottom of the pool floor, it draws in water from various depths.
  3. Intake Pipes: These pipes connect all intake points (skimmers, main drain) with the pump’s inlet side.

Impeller Action

During this phase, the impeller spins rapidly due to its connection with an electric motor shaft inside the pump housing assembly.

Water Movement and Pressure Increase

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As impeller blades rotate within their enclosed space (pump housing), they create centrifugal force by pushing against incoming water molecules repeatedly. This action results in increased pressure within pipes leading out of pumps towards filters.

Discharge Phase

In this final phase, pressurized water exits from pumps into filters before being returned back into pools through return jets or other outlets present within swimming areas’ walls/floors/ceilings/etc..

Water Expulsion Process

Pressurized water enters filter units where contaminants get trapped while clean filtered returns via outlets. Return jets, located along pool walls or floors, distribute filtered water evenly to ensure proper circulation.

Pump Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Regular maintenance of your swimming pool pump is essential for its longevity and optimal performance. Here are some key steps to follow:

Regular Cleaning and Inspection

  1. Removing Debris from the Pump Basket: Periodically check the pump basket (located within the pump housing) for debris accumulation and clean it out.
  2. Checking for Leaks and Proper Water Flow: Inspect all connections, seals, gaskets, and pipes regularly to identify any leaks or obstructions that may affect water flow.

Common Pump Issues and Solutions

  1. Motor Overheating: Ensure that the motor has adequate ventilation by keeping surrounding areas clear of obstructions like leaves or other objects.
  2. Low Water Pressure: Check if there are any clogs in intake pipes or filters that could be causing reduced water pressure.
  3. Strange Noises: Unusual noises may indicate problems with bearings or impeller screw misalignment – consult a pool professional if needed.

Energy Efficiency and Cost-Saving Tips

Optimizing energy efficiency not only reduces operating costs but also helps preserve natural resources.

Importance of an Energy-Efficient Pump

Investing in an energy-efficient pool pump offers several benefits:
– Lower electricity bills due to reduced power consumption
– Reduced strain on electrical infrastructure during peak demand periods
– Environmental sustainability through lower carbon emissions associated with electricity generation

Variable Speed Pumps vs Single-Speed Pumps

Consider replacing old single-speed pumps with variable speed pumps offering adjustable speeds tailored to specific tasks like filtration, cleaning routines, spa use etc.. This allows you to match power requirements precisely while reducing overall energy consumption significantly compared to running at constant high speeds continuously.

Other Energy-Saving Measures for Pool Owners

  1. Install solar heating systems: Utilize free solar energy to heat your pool instead of relying solely on electric heaters.
  2. Optimize filtration schedules: Determine the necessary hours per day required for proper filtration without excessive run times that waste energy.
  3. Maintain appropriate chemical levels: Consistent chemical balancing prevents water issues that might require additional pump operation to correct.


A swimming pool pump is an indispensable component of any pool system, ensuring proper circulation and filtration for clean and safe swimming conditions. Understanding its components, functionality, maintenance requirements, and energy-saving possibilities empowers pool owners to enjoy their pools while minimizing costs and environmental impact.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How often should I clean my pump basket?
A: Cleaning the pump basket at least once a week or more frequently during periods of heavy debris accumulation is recommended.

Q: Can I use my old single-speed pump with a variable speed motor attachment?
A: While it may be possible in some cases, it’s generally not recommended due to potential compatibility issues between different manufacturers’ products. It’s best to consult with a professional before making any modifications.

Q: What size pump do I need for my pool?
A: The size of the pump depends on factors such as the volume of water in your pool, desired flow rate, pipe size/layout etc.. Consulting with a professional will help determine the appropriate specifications based on your specific needs.


  • Strainer: A device used in swimming pool pumps to trap and remove large debris from the pool water before it reaches the pump.
  • Pool water: The water contained within a swimming pool.
  • Water clean: The process of removing impurities, contaminants, and particles from the pool water to maintain its cleanliness.
  • Pool pump motors: Motors that provide power to swimming pool pumps for the circulation of pool water.
  • Swimming pool pumps: Devices responsible for circulating and filtering the pool water to keep it clean and safe for use.
  • Type of pool pump: Different options available in terms of design, capacity, and efficiency when selecting a pump for a swimming pool.
  • Inground pool: A type of swimming pools that are built into the ground rather than above-ground structures.
  • Pool clean: The act of keeping a swimming pools free from dirt, debris, bacteria, algae or other harmful elements
    -Pool water clean : Ensuring proper filtration system is in place which effectively removes all impurities present in pool wat
    -Swimming pools : Structures designed specifically for recreational activities such as leisurely bathing or competitive sports.


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Pool Pump – A type of motorized equipment used specifically with inground residential in-ground -swimming-pools/
Closed-face impeller : An impeller design where each vane is completely surrounded by metal casing on both sides.

Semi-open face impellers :
An intermediate design between closed-face and open-face where one side is covered while another remains exposed.

Sand filters:
A common type of filter medium made up primarily fine grains sand that captures debris as it passes through

Flow characteristics:
The behavior exhibited by fluid (in this case) depending on factors such as speed & viscosity during flow operations

Energy costs :
The amount paid over time (daily/monthly/yearly) to cover expenses related power consumption

Strainer basket :
A removable container placed at suction side of pump, designed to capture debris before it enters the impeller

Strainer lid :
A removable cover that secures strainer basket in place while still allowing easy access for cleaning/maintenance

Motor seal plate:
A component used to create a barrier between motor and wet environment preventing water from leaking into electrical components

Pump seal:
Mechanism responsible for creating an airtight barrier between rotating shaft and stationary housing. Helps prevent leaks.

Atmospheric pressure:
The force exerted by air on any given surface due to weight of the column of air above it.

Negative pressure:
Condition where fluid (in this case pool water) experiences lower pressure than surrounding atmospheric conditions. Can result in suction forces.

Gallons per minute (GPM):
Unit of measurement used to quantify flow rate or volume transported by pump over time

Water heater:
Device used specifically with pools, heating swimming-pool-water in order reach desired temperature range

Magnetic field:
Region surrounding magnet where magnetic forces are experienced on other nearby objects/materials with magnetic properties.

Mechanical movement:
Motion produced through mechanical systems such as pumps via rotation, reciprocating motion etc,

Improper alignment :
Situation wherein components like shafts/rotors aren’t precisely positioned relative each other causing inefficiencies & potential damage over time.

Pieces of debris : Small fragments/particles found within pool water including leaves, dirt particles etc., that need removal/filtering

Swim-up bars : Poolside fixtures typically installed at edge or underwater area allowing swimmers access without leaving the pool

Water supply : Source from which fresh/clean/additional waters brought into circulation system keeping level topped up

Water pumps :
Devices responsible for transferring fluids usually liquids through piping systems across various industries / applications.

Centrifugal pumps :
Type commonly employed moving fluids utilizing centrifugal force generated by rotational motion imparted its internal impeller.

Typical Pump : A common or standard type of pump design widely used in swimming pools or other applications.

Variable speed pumps :
Pumps that offer the ability to adjust their rotational speed, allowing for better control and energy efficiency compared to fixed-speed pumps.

Water level : The height at which water is maintained within a swimming pool, typically measured from the top edge of the pool wall.

Clean water: Water free from contaminants such as bacteria, algae, debris, etc., and is safe for use.

Dirty water: Water containing impurities such as dirt particles, bacteria, algae growths etc., not suitable for usage

Water inlets: Openings through which fresh/clean/filtered waters enter into the pool circulation system

Variable speed technology:
Technological advancements enabling variable adjustment/control over rotational speeds of pumps (in this case) contributing higher efficiencies

Electrical current : Flow of electrical charge through conducting medium like wires/devices driven by voltage sources.

Pool tank : A container specifically designed to hold/preserve swimming-pool-water during filtration/heating processes etc,

Pool volume:
The total amount/volume occupied by pool-water present within its boundaries / structures

Pool circulation :
Movement/flow pattern established via properly functioning filtration system ensuring even distribution/treatment/replacement/returning pool water

Self-priming pool pumps:
A type of pump capable creating suction force needed draw fluid up & into pump body without additional external assistance (e.g priming)

Swimming Pool Plant Room:
Designated room/housing where all equipment associated with maintaining functionality/circulation/water quality contained.

Common Pool Pump Repairs:
Frequent maintenance tasks/services undertaken repair issues encountered related failure/functionality/durability/etc with regard to your specific pool-pump model

Impeller Ring :
A component encircling inner perimeter/vanes on an impeller intended minimizing internal wear/friction/maintaining efficient flow characteristics.

Cartridge filters :
Type commonly utilized filter medium consisting paper-like material, stacked pleats that capture impurities as fluid passes through.

Filter housing:
Container designed to house/filter medium holding/preserving it within filtration system while allowing passage of desired fluids

Frequent filter cleaning :
Regular/periodic maintenance task involved in removing captured debris/particulates from filter media usually carried out during backwashing process.

Larger filter:
A higher-capacity or bigger-sized filtration device capable processing larger volumes of water per unit time (typically measured in gallons per hour)

Current flow : Movement/directionality experienced by pool water/fluid inside pump/filtration system due internal working mechanism

Consistent flow control: Ensuring uniformity/steadiness maintained throughout entire filtration/circulation process to maintain effective functionality

Design flow rate :
Flow rate at which a particular pump/filtration equipment/device has been designed/intended for optimized performance.

Direction of flow:
The path taken by the pool water as it moves through the various components and systems within the circulation setup.

Flow speed:
Rate at which fluid (pool-water) travels along specific pathways in circulation system under normal operating conditions

Cost savings : Reductions achieved regarding overall expenditure over designated period either based on energy/utility costs etc.,

Cost of electricity : Amount charged or paid for electrical consumption typically quantified via utility bills and variable based usage

Cost per kilowatt : Unit price assigned against each kilowatt consumed/used determined electric company’s pricing structure/policies

Difference of cost :
Variation observed/computed between two distinct entities/terms with regard associated expenditures/maintenance/running-costs/etc.,

Electric costs: Costs incurred related electrical consumption especially concerning motorized devices/equipment such pumps, heaters etc.,

Extra costs :
Additional expenses/outlays/incurred beyond baseline expenditure estimates planned budgets

Strainer cover :
Protective lid placed over strainer basket housing securing its contents thereby preventing ingress foreign materials/debris into interior

Strainer vessel :
Container/compartment housing entire strainer assembly holding strainer basket, lid & other associated components together

Pre-pump strainer basket:
A small container placed at the suction side of the pump that collects and removes larger debris before it enters the main filtration system.

Strainer pot :
Another term used to refer to a pre-pump strainer basket, serving same purpose collecting/removing large debris/particles

Inlet pipe :
Tubing/pipe through which water is drawn/sucked into pump/filtration system from pool basin/reservoir.

Outlet pipe:
Conduit/tubing via which filtered/cleaned/reconditioned pool water returned back basin (pool) after processing via pumping/filtering

Pipe size:
The diameter or dimensions of pipes utilized for fluid transfer within circulation systems determining flow rates/velocities/efficiencies/etc.

Abrupt 90-degree elbow pipes : Type/bend in piping often encountered abruptly when not properly installed/planned restricting smooth consistent flow

Flexible pipes:
Pipes composed material allowing flexibility/bending along designated length facilitating easy installation/maintenance/accessibility etc.,

Internal components: The various parts, mechanisms, and structures located inside the pool pump that contribute to its overall functionality.

Key components: Critical elements or parts without whose presence/proper working proper operation/durability/functionality of pumps compromised.

Largest component: Part/subassembly occupying maximum physical space/volume within whole setup including body casing/housing/frame /housing

Airtight seal : A tight closure or connection between two surfaces preventing any passage of air/fluid matter creating hermetic environment

Pressure lines : Conduits carrying pressurized fluids ensuring their direction/control based specific requirements/application needs (e.g. Inflow/outflow)

Additional equipment :
Other devices/tools/components employed supplement main functionality/provide enhancements/improvements as per individual application demands

Filtration equipment : Set of tools/machines/devices combined create necessary filtration system ensuring clean water supply based requirements/application

Equipment pad dry :
Designated area/platform dedicated housing multiple equipment/pump/filtration-system etc., placed away pool basin waterline usually elevated/dry.

Solar energy systems : Systems utilizing sunlight as an alternative/renewable source generate electricity/heat for various applications including heating pools

Deck-level system:
A design/configuration where the water level in the pool is at deck height, providing a seamless transition between the deck and the pool surface.

Filtration system plumbing :
The network of pipes, valves, and fittings that connect all components within a filtration system to facilitate fluid flow and circulation.

Turnover time: The duration required by the pump or filtration system to circulate and filter an entire volume of pool water through its setup.

Filtration time: Time taken by complete process encompassing suction/circulation/filtering/water-return operations carried out whole swimming-pool

Gallons per hour (GPH): A unit used to measure how many gallons of water are moved or filtered per hour through a pump or filtration system.

Gallons per day (GPD) : Quantity/volume measured typically in terms gallons/day traversed/moved/handled via pumps/filters over designated period

Bearing clean:
Process/task performed on bearings inside motor assembly cleaning removing any dirt/grime/debris that might have accumulated

Damaged bearings:
Bearings subjected excessive wear/tear/stress due variety factors often leading decreased performance/life span failure over longer run times

Chemical treatments :
Application/use chemical agents/solutions designed treat specific issues/concerns such algae control / pH balancing/ sanitation/etc., when it comes pools

Hours of energy saved : Amount/unit saving realized achieved primarily due reduction total power consumed relative baseline usage estimates/plans

Hours of peak prices :
Periods/time frames during which electric utility companies charge higher rates for electricity consumption typically when demand is highest

Indoor heater :
Heating equipment designed specifically indoor usage intended to raise temperature pool-water indoor structures/enclosures/etc.,

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Mike Hunter

Mike is the owner of the local pool shop. He's been in the business for over 20 years and knows everything there is to know about pools. He's always happy to help his customers with whatever they need, whether it's advice on pool maintenance or choosing the right chemicals. He's also a bit of a pool expert, and is always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who's interested.

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