The 10 Best Sand Filters
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in April of 2015. Using silica sand, glass media, or even polyester and polypropylene fibers to sift through your water and remove algae and other contaminants, these sand filters dominate the North American swimming pool market. They are more affordable than cartridge filters, require less frequent cleaning and, if you're handy, it's quite easy to maintain them and keep them working for years. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
July 15, 2020:
During this round of updates, due to a combination of availability issues and an aim to inject a bit more brand diversity into this set of rankings, we eliminated five of our previous selections: the Hayward VL40T32, Hayward BL210T1285S, Hayward SandMaster, Sand Master-Soft-Sided and Pentair Sand Dollar. Some of our new selections this time around include the Jacuzzi Laser — a blow-molded model with a 250-pound capacity and a two-year warranty, the Hayward ProSeries W3S166T — which comes with a one-horsepower pump and a seven-position control valve, and the Bestway Flowclear 58516E — a compact unit with a built-in pump that circulates 530 gallons per hour.
A few things to think about for this category:
Pumps: Whether you use a sand filter or a cartridge filter, neither will do you any good without an appropriately sized pool pump to move water through them. For users looking to equip small above-ground pools, there’s plenty of slick combination units on the market – like the Blue Wave NE6145, Bestway Flowclear 58516E and Game SandPro 50D – that put a pump and filter together on a single base. As mentioned in a previous editor’s note, this is a nice way to go for rookie pool owners, since you can safely assume that your new equipment pairs perfectly, saving you the stress and headache of selecting matching gear.
However, for users outfitting big pools, a larger filter – like the Hayward ProSeries S310T2, Rx Clear Radiant and Pentair 145333 – will be required, and they don’t typically come with a pump, so you’ll need to figure out what an appropriate machine to match your filter is, which brings us to our next point...
Compatibility: It can initially seem overwhelming to the uninitiated, but picking a properly sized filter isn’t really all that complicated, especially if you have some basic plumbing knowledge on your side. To oversimplify: you pick your filter based on your pump, and you pick your pump based on your pool.
Don’t get too hung up on your pump's horsepower rating. The efficiencies of pumps vary, so if you want to do a solid apples-to-apples comparison, the best way is to look at each unit’s flow rate. You typically want to turnover (fully circulate) all the water in your pool every eight to 10 hours, so if you have a 40,000 liter pool, you’ll need to move 5,000 liters an hour, so you’ll need a pool pump with a flow rate of at least 84 liters a minute, which roughly boils down to 22 gallons per minute.
Remember though, that number is your minimum flow rate, and you’re picking your filter according to your pump, not according to your minimum flow rate. So, in this example, your pump has to have a rated flow rate of no less than 22 gallons per minute, and your filter has to have design flow rate that exceeds your pumps output.
Note: Although, except in the case of brand new pools, this calculation should’ve already been done for you, it’s also important to double check that the piping between the pump, filter and pool is properly sized for the equipment being connected.
Control Valve: It isn’t always the case in this category, but most of the models we ranked come with control valves. While high-end models like the Hayward ProSeries S310T2 and Hayward ProSeries W3S166T tend to feature six- or seven-position control valves, basic models like the Game SandPro 50D and Blue Wave NE6145 feature simple four-position selectors.
What’s the difference? Well, it’ll vary slightly between models, but you tend to lose out on a couple useful features with four-position models. For example, the valve on the Game SandPro 50D allows you to pick between filter, backwash, rinse, and winterize modes. Appropriately, filter is the mode your filter stays in 99% of the time, circulating water in and out of the pool and through itself. Backwash and rinse modes are both used as part of the regular cleaning process for the filter, and the winterize mode just takes pressure off the valve spring during inactive winter months, to help improve the unit’s longevity.
This is enough to get by with, but you lose out on two helpful functions that come with a typical six-position valve: circulate — which lets you bypass the filter and pump straight back into the pool, a function that comes in handy when adding some pool chemicals like algaecides; and waste — which lets you bypass the filter and pump water straight out your backwash line, a function that comes in handy if you have an unusual amount of debris in the pool that you’d like to skip the filter with. They tend to cost a bit more, but if you can afford one, we recommend investing in a six- or seven-position selector. As years go by and you become better versed at pool maintenance, you won’t regret having those extra features on your side.
May 13, 2019:
Many homeowners may not be familiar with sand filters, but they actually offer a number of benefits over traditional cartridge models. Without listing them all here, suffice it to say that they generally result in cleaner water with less need for manual intervention. If you have an in-ground pool, the Hayward S310T2 ProSeries, Rx Clear Radiant, Hayward SandMaster, and Pentair 145333 are your best options. It is assumed that you will already have an installed pump system in your in-ground pool, so these don't come with them. On the other hand, all of the above-ground pool models on our list do come with the pump included, which is nice because this means the performance of the pump and the filter should be perfectly matched. Of the above-ground pool models we have ranked, the Pentair Sand Dollar and Hayward VL210T1285S are the most powerful options. Both features a 1.5-horsepower motor, making them the best options for larger above-ground pools. If your lagoon is small, say in the 5,000- to 15,000-gallon range, you can save a little money and go with a smaller unit, like the Intex Krystal Clear, Hayward VL40T32, Game SandPro 50D, or Sand Master Soft-Sided.
Swimming Pool Maintenance
Also ensure that your chosen water treatment regimen works in tandem with the pool's filter.
A swimming pool is an ideal way for you to maintain physical fitness, keep cool in the summer, and to provide hours of fun for your family and friends. However a private pool also requires a large investment of cash and plenty of time spent on maintenance; if a pool is not properly cleaned and maintained it becomes not only unpleasant and uninviting, but can in fact be unsanitary and unsafe.
Fortunately, with the right setup, a pool requires only minimal care. Spending the time and money to establish a proper filtration system can greatly reduce the effort you'll need to expend in routine pool maintenance. The right filter can even save you money in the long run, reducing the need for chemicals, cleaners, and the associated tools and labor.
The type and balance of chemicals you use to maintain water sanitation should be dictated by the number of gallons of water in the pool; follow the guidelines associated with your sanitation program carefully, as many of the chemicals used in pool cleaning and maintenance are highly caustic. Also ensure that your chosen water treatment regimen works in tandem with the pool's filter.
Before selecting the type of filter you will install for your pool, first consider the size and type of pool. Most above ground pools are smaller than in-ground pools in terms of both surface area and depth, which of course means their actual volume of water is less; in-ground pools often have a deceptively large amount of water in them because of their varied depths.
You must also consider the location of your pool relative to the local flora. If your property is surrounded by trees that drop copious amounts of leaves, flowers, pollen, or other types of debris, your pool's filter is going to have to work harder and may require more frequent maintenance and cleaning than a system set up in a more open lot. If your pool will be covered when not in use, a smaller capacity filter may be suitable. For the pool that is seldom or never covered, the filter and the skimming net will be the only lines of defense against dirty water. Consider all these factors before investing in a pool filter, and consider a sand filter when it comes time to decide. Sand filters vary in cost, and some can be quite expensive, but they are well worth their price, being reliable and relatively easy to maintain.
Choosing The Right Sand Filter
Not surprisingly, the volume of water in your pool is the single largest factor informing your the choice of the right sand filter. Many smaller, lower cost sand filters are suitable for pools with 10,000 gallons of water or less, while larger units may be more than adequate for filtering pools with 30,000 gallons or more. (Note that the average sized in-ground residential pool is about twenty feet long by forty feet wide and will hold approximately 25,000 to 30,000 gallons of water.)
Last, consider features that might not be critical for proper pool filtration, but that are nonetheless perks.
Once you know how much water your pool holds, you can narrow down your selection of sand filters. Next decide how large a filter suits your property; there are many high-capacity sand filters that are relatively compact units, making them a good choice when space is at a premium. There are also filters that offer powerful suction and can move water long distances, allowing the filter to be placed dozens of feet away from a pool, even tucked into a shed or garage for unobtrusive placement.
The frequency of use and the debris likely to fall into a pool also informs which filter is the best choice for you. For heavily used pools, a high gallon-per-hour (sometimes calculated by gallon-per-minute as well) flow rate is important. Also consider the actual volume of sand a filter can hold, as more sand means more filtration. Some sand filters hold only a few dozen pounds of sand, while others hold up to five hundred pounds.
Last, consider features that might not be critical for proper pool filtration, but that are nonetheless perks. Some sand filters have timers that can be used to establish a pool cleaning schedule that can reduce power consumption, while others have sand drains that makes replacing their sand much easier, for example.
Basic Sand Filter Maintenance
Many sand filters require almost no maintenance from year to year to year. Smaller units, such as those holding less than one hundred pounds of sand, should have their sand replaced at least annually, though.
After making sure the chemical treatment regimen for your pool is in balance, one of the simplest ways to keep your pool clean is to keep your filter clean and working well. This can be easily accomplished by frequently backwashing the filter. The process is simple: just shut off the unit's motor, change its setting from filter to backwash (it may also read clean or another similar word or phrasing), extend a backwash or drain hose if such is present, and then turn the unit back on. Make sure all valves are open during this process, which should require no more than two or three minutes for an effective clean out.
If you see sand in the pool (not brought in by feet or the breeze), you are either using a sand that's too fine for your system, or else your unit's filter sand bed needs to be replaced. And note that sand filter tanks rarely leak, though the hoses and attachment points might have leaking issues. Leaking water likely does not necessitate a replacement, but rather some simple maintenance.