Swimming pool filter types

Pool Filter Types: Why You Should Know the Differences

All pools need a filtration system to keep the water clean. Without a good filtration system, water can become dirty, unsanitary and even hazardous. There are three different types of pool filters available to homeowners: sand, diatomaceous earth, and cartridge. Each type has pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. The type of filter you choose for your backyard pool will affect factors like how it’s maintained, how often the pool needs to be cleaned and how effective your pool filter is.

Pool Filter Types

We get a lot of questions from homeowners who need information about pool products, like pool filter types. We’re always happy to help homeowners choose the right products and materials for their pool and deck area. In this article, we’ll provide some useful information about the different filter types available on the market. In the coming months, we’ll go more in-depth about each filter type.

Sand Filter

Sand pool filter

Sand filters are the most compact and affordable filters available for in-ground pools. They’re also the oldest type of filter available. Because they’ve been around the longest, homeowners tend to be familiar with the technology. Though sand filters have their downsides, they have a simple design and are commonly available to homeowners. For these reasons and others, they’re naturally easy to maintain.

How It Works:

Water is pumped into a canister containing sand of a certain size (between 45 and 55 millimeters). The water flows through the sand and comes out the other side. As the water flows, the sand itself traps debris found in the water.

The more the filter is used, the denser the sand becomes and the more effective and efficient the filter is. The sand in the filter must be replaced periodically (about every 5 to 8 years), as it becomes too dirty to do its job properly.


  • Easy to use
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy to backwash
  • Relatively low purchase price and maintenance price
  • Sand is easy to change


  • Some types of filtration systems remove smaller particles
  • Regular backwashing is required
  • Least effective of all types of pool filters


Cartridge pool filterCartridge filters can screen out more dirt and smaller particles of dirt than a sand filter, but a higher purchase price makes cartridge filters less popular than sand varieties.

How It Works:

Cartridge filter systems work by pushing water into a tank. The skimmer collects the larger debris and the secondary basket collects the smaller particles. Finally, the water flows through polyester filters, which catches any remaining dirt.


  • Easy to maintain
  • Requires less energy to run than some other filtration systems
  • Removes more dirt and smaller particles than sand filtration systems


  • Cost to purchase filters can be high
  • Frequent cleaning is required

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

DE pool filterDiatomaceous earth is made up of the fossilized remains of aquatic organisms. DE naturally absorbs impurities in water, and can also filter tiny (microscopic) particles from water.

How It Works: 

Diatomaceous earth is dissolved in water and passes through a pipe to a polyester fabric-covered grid, which traps the diatomaceous earth. When water passes through the fabric and diatomaceous earth, the DE becomes the filter.


  • Removes dirt particles as small as 2-3 microns
  • With proper care, DE grids are long-lasting


  • Diatomaceous earth must be added to filter after each backwash, increasing costs
  • Cost to purchase can be the highest of all pool filter types
  • DE inhaled can be a carcinogen
  • Installing a diatomaceous earth filter may require additional plumbing to be installed
  • Grids must be disassembled and cleaned once annually
  • DE filters require the most maintenance
  • Cleaning can be challenging, as grids that are torn during cleaning must be replaced

Which Types of Pool Filters Are Right For You?

So, we’ve provided you with information, but what does it all mean? Which one of these pool filters should you buy? Let’s look at the factors to consider:


DE filters tend to require the most maintenance, but all pool filters require maintenance, including backwashing, periodic filter cleaning, and replacement of the elements in the filter. If you’re hoping to cut back on your pool maintenance obligation, we can help! GPS Pools performs pool maintenance services like cleaning, maintenance and repair of pool filtration systems.


Installation of a basic pool filter costs the average homeowner about $1,000, but the costs can range between $500 and $2,000, depending. Know your budget and talk to us to get a quote for a product that you can afford.


All well-constructed, quality pool filters are effective; however, some filters remove particles that are smaller than others. Of all products available, DE filters remove the most and smallest particles. If it’s important to you to install a filter that removes the smallest particles, ask your contractor from GPS Pools for a quote to install a DE filter.

Characteristics Unique to Your Pool

It’s important to find a pool filter that is right for your particular pool. Pump type, plumbing configuration and other factors all affect what type of filter is most sensible for your pool. We can help. We can tell you which products are most sensible for your pool setup and budget.

Need Help Understanding Pool Filter Types? Contact GPS Pools

Most homeowners don’t know the difference between the various pool filter types, or which filter would be best for their home. Luckily, you’ve got a contractor on your side who can help. GPS Pools has been serving homeowners in the Tampa area for years, and we’ve got the experience and expertise to help you choose the right product. Call today to set up an appointment and discuss pool filtration systems that can help.