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8 Best Pool Filters (Sand, Cartridge, D.E.) in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks 

Last Updated: June 18, 2021

sand pool filter

The time has come to replace your pool filter. Choosing between a sand, cartridge, or diatomaceous earth (D.E.) filter can be a difficult choice. Even after you decide what type of filter you want, there are hundreds of options as to the particular model you want.

This process can take even the most dedicated pool owner way too many hours of missed swimming time. The good news is that we have done the work for you, and our reviews are unbiased and relatable.

Keep reading for our top 8 choices for the best pool filters out there.


A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Cartridge Pool Filter
Winner
Intex 28633EG Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Intex 28633EG Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter
  • Easy install
  • Hydro Aeration technology
  • Excellent flow rates for small to medium pools
  • Best Sand Pool Filter
    Second place
    Intex 28643EG Krystal Clear Sand Filter Intex 28643EG Krystal Clear Sand Filter
  • Better flow rate than cartridge filter
  • Less overall maintenance than cartridge filter
  • Works well against algae and dirt
  • Best D.E. Pool Filter
    Third place
    Hayward W3EC40AC Perflex D.E. Pool Filter Hayward W3EC40AC Perflex D.E. Pool Filter
  • Very high water clarity
  • It can clean up to 20 sq. ft
  • Available in several sizes
  • Best Above-Ground Pool Filter
    Hayward W3S180T ProSeries Sand Filter Hayward W3S180T ProSeries Sand Filter
  • Average price
  • Self-cleaning system
  • Corrosion proof outer shell
  • SUNCOO Pro 2450GPH Sand Filter SUNCOO Pro 2450GPH Sand Filter
  • Easy to use four-way valve
  • Corrosion proof cover
  • Quiet construction for less filter noise
  • The 8 Best Pool Filter (Sand, Cartridge, D.E.) – Reviews 2021

    1. Intex 28633EG Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter – Best Cartridge Pool Filter

    Intex Krystal Clear Sand

     

    Our top cartridge pool filter is the Intex 28633EG Krystal Clear Cartridge Filer for the above ground pool owner. There are many reasons why this pool filter steals the number one spot, price being one of them. If you are looking for an affordable option to get your pool up and running, you have found it.

    That particular filter is designed for pool sizes greater than 4,000 gallons and less than 15,000 gallons. The pump flow rate on this filter is 2,500 gallons per hour, with a system flow rate of 1,900 gallons per hour. With a cartridge filter, you are in for a treat when it comes to maintenance. This cartridge needs to be rinsed with your weekly pool maintenance and replaced every few weeks. It’s rather simple.

    This Intex filter has a built-in timer so you can set this to run as often as you need to keep your pool looking clean and bright. This filter uses Hydro Aeration technology to add air to the pool, which will break up large clumps of particles and send them to the bottom. Once on the bottom, the filter and vacuum system can do their job to keep the pool looking great. The installation of this pump is speedy, and you will be up and swimming in no time. With the 110-120V electrical hookup, this is not a filter that would need a professional to install.

    Pros
    • Very affordable
    • Easy install
    • Hydro Aeration technology
    • Excellent flow rates for small to medium pools
    Cons
    • Cartridge needs to be replaced every few weeks
    • Factor in cost of cartridge replacement

    2. Intex 28643EG Krystal Clear Sand Filter – Best Sand Pool Filter

    Intex 28633EG

     

    The Intex 28643EG Krystal Clear Sand Filter is the best sand filter we can find for an above ground pool. This filter will work for pool sizes starting at 5,000 gallons and going all the way to 19,600 gallons. Indeed, this would fit the need for most above ground pool owners.

    If you are not a fan of a cartridge filter and can’t be trusted to change it every few weeks, the sand filter could be a much better option. Sand filters should last about 5-6 years before having to be replaced. Sand filters are the most common type of pool filter available because of their fair cost and ease of use.

    In addition to being affordable and easy to use, sand filters are quite effective as well. They are outstanding, picking up algae and dirt. Just as our favorite option for a cartridge filter, the best sand pool filter also has a built-in timer and a safety shut off.

    The pump flow rate on the Krystal Clear Sand Filter is 3,000 gallons per hour, and the system flow rate is 2,450 gallons per hour. Priced quite a bit higher than the cartridge filter, keep in mind that you pay upfront for a sand filter, but you will own an option that will keep your pool looking crystal clear for several years.

    Pros
    • Better flow rate than cartridge filter
    • Less overall maintenance than cartridge filter
    • Works well against algae and dirt
    • Will work for a broad size range of pools
    Cons
    • Initial unit cost is higher
    • If converting from a smaller filter, you will need hoses that do not come with this unit

    3. Hayward W3EC40AC Perflex D.E. Pool Filter – Best D.E. Pool Filter

    Hayward W3EC40AC

     

    If you are partial to a D.E. Pool filter, we have a perfect option for you. This Hayward model is designed to clean a 20 square-foot area. If your pool is larger than this, there are other models of this particular filter that may suit you better.

    Some consider D.E. to be the most effective filter media. One of the best things about D.E. is not having to backwash the pool like you do with the sand and cartridge filter. The Hayward model as an exclusive flex tube design to help reduce the D.E. powder.

    This filter requires 4 pounds of D.E., which you will need to replace at times. Installing this filter is not difficult with the easy access clamp that comes included. A D.E. filter costs more than a cartridge, but the difference in water clarity can be seen almost immediately.

    Pros
    • Very high water clarity
    • It can clean up to 20 sq. ft
    • Available in several sizes
    • Flex tube design to reduce D.E. powder in the pool
    • No backwashing
    Cons
    • Higher initial costs
    • Requires D.E. powder

    4. Hayward W3S180T ProSeries Sand Filter – Best Above-Ground Pool Filter

    Hayward W3S180T

     

    Although a few of our other top choices work for above-ground pools, this is the one that we consider the overall best. The good news with this filter is that if you like it, it also works well in small in-ground pools and pond/aquariums as well.

    This Hayward ProSeries is a sand filter. The majority of homeowners are still using sand filters. They are relatively simple to operate and not tricky to install. The weekly backwashing is easy with this Pro Series Sand Filter because of a self-cleaning system featured in this unit. This system provides fast flow and a balanced backwash. The valve is also quite a bit bigger making backwashing and closing the pool for the winter quick and easy.

    The Hayward ProSeries requires 150 pounds of sand that will not be included with your purchase. Keep that in mind, when calculating the total cost of this unit. The exterior of this unit was built with double corrosion-proof material to ensure that it will hold up in all weather conditions. If you want a solid traditional filter for a fair value, this is the one.

    Pros
    • Average price
    • Self-cleaning system
    • Corrosion proof outer shell
    Cons
    • Still need to purchase sand
    • Not the correct model for a huge pool

    5. SUNCOO Pro 2450GPH Sand Filter

    SUNCOO Pro 2450GPH

     

    Fifth on our list of best pool filters is another sand option. This SUNCOO sand filter is slightly smaller than the Hayward ProSeries that we discussed in our previous review. Where the Hayward holds 150 pounds of sand, this SUNCOO holds up to 45 pounds.

    This pool filter works best for pools of less than 10,000 gallons, and the pricing reflects that. This is another corrosion-proof model that is capable of being left outside in various weather conditions.

    SUNCOO paid particular attention to the sound on this unit, making it one of the quieter sand filter options available. The four-way valve makes this filter easy to backwash. Just like the other models we chose for our list, the SUNCOO is easy to install and quite effective at cleaning your smaller pool.

    Pros
    • Easy to use four-way valve
    • Corrosion proof cover
    • Quiet construction for less filter noise
    • Lower priced model
    Cons
    • Requires frequent backwashing
    • Smaller unit should not be used on large pools
    • Not for in-ground pools

    6. XtremepowerUS 75141 Pool Sand Filter

    XtremepowerUS 24

     

    Another sand filter for you. Have you caught on that sand filters have quite a few benefits to them?

    This XtremepowerUS 75141 Pool Sand Filter is a perfect option if you have a more substantial above ground or inground pool. This is a sturdy unit that is accustomed to dealing with flow rates and cleaning responsibilities of a large pool. Unlike the smaller SUNCOO model we just discussed, this XtremepowerUS has a 7-way multi-port valve.

    An easy to use and durable valve is essential on a sand filter because of the frequent backwashing required. If it is difficult to use and causes you leaks and other headaches, you are much better off going with a high-quality machine that has better parts. This XtremepowerUS Pool Sand Filter has a seven-way valve.

    The seven different settings include filter, backwash, winter, re-circulate, closed, rinse, and waste. If you are the one handling your pool maintenance, this filter makes it rather simple.

    The tank is a bit of a beast. It holds three hundred pounds of sand and is over thirty-five inches high. Make sure you have ample space before purchasing this filter. This filter works well with and accepts most pumps, making for a quick and easy installation process.

    Pros
    • Cleans pool well
    • Seven-way valve makes it easy to do closings and weekly maintenance
    • Works for larger pools and small pools
    Cons
    • Very large unit, need space
    • Holds three hundred pounds of sand not included

    7. Rx Clear Radiant Complete Sand Filter System

    Rx Clear Radiant Complete

     

    The R.X. Clear Radiant Complete Sand Filter System is an option for above ground pool owners. This package includes a pool pump, tank, hose, and fittings. Although this is a sand filter system, it has everything you need to keep your pool looking perfect.

    Priced slightly higher because of all that it includes; this package deal does not come with a variable speed pump; it is just a single-speed pump. This filter is easy to install, and many homeowners can do it without the help of a professional. The filter unit has a six-position valve to help with maintenance and winterization procedures. Like any sand filter backwashing is necessary, any time that is made easy by the features on the filter unit that is a plus.

    The see-through screen on this filter is a nice benefit. When you do your daily pool checks, it takes a glance to look in and make sure there is not large debris or clogs that are stopping the filter from working correctly. It’s an excellent benefit for a homeowner that is doing their pool maintenance.

    Pros
    • Complete unit with pump and filter
    • Easy to install
    • 6 position valve for easy maintenance
    • See-through screen
    Cons
    • May not be shopping for an entire unit
    • High price because it is a package deal
    • Only works for above ground pools

    8. Pentair 145201 Tagelus Sand Pool Filter

    Pentair 145201

     

    If you have been waiting for the inground pool filter that will hurt your wallet but clean your pool, you have found it. The Pentair 145201 Tagelus Sand Pool Filter is built for an inground pool but would work on larger above ground pools. This is a sand filter option that does not come with the sand needed to get you up and running.

    Similar to the R.X. Clear model for above ground pools this filter comes with a see-through glass to make filter inspection easy. That, combined with the 6-position valve, will make this filter easy to care for. If you plan on installing this filter yourself, keep in mind that it will require 600 pounds of sand. It’s a project that you may want to recruit the help of a friend!

    Part of being an in-ground pool owner is acknowledging and accepting that it is going to be more expensive. Although this filter costs more than some other options, it is big enough and strong enough to get the job done. One of the things to watch out for on this filter, and any filter you purchase is to do a thorough inspection of the product when it is received. Look for small cracks and imperfections and make sure to contact the manufacturer immediately; you do not want to get to the last step of installation and find these issues.

    Pros
    • Powerful filter capable of cleaning larger pool
    • Clear window to make filter inspection easy
    • 6-position valve
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Requires 600lbs of sand
    • Sand filters require weekly maintenance and periodic backwashing

    Buyer’s Guide

    Now that we have given you some top options for a new filter, you need to narrow down what works best for you. Here are a few things that we think you should consider before pulling that trigger.

    Difference Between Sand, D.E. and Cartridge Filters

    When it comes time to purchase a pool filter, you will be left to choose between three different options.

    The three options are sand, D.E., and cartridge. Some people swear by the cartridge, while others would never change from a sand filter. There is a little bit of personal preference involved, but you should at least know the difference between each type before making your decision.

    • Sand Filters: Sand Filters use sand to clean your pool. This is not typical beach sand; it is a pool grade sand specifically made to get tiny particles out of your water. A sand filter can clean to about 30 microns. Sand filters are less money than D.E. but usually a bit more than a cartridge filter. Sand will need to be replaced at some point, and the filter does need to be back washed.
    • D.E. Filters: D.E. stands for diatomaceous earth, and they use a combination of a very fine powder and screens to help get your water very clean. The D.E. filters can clean to the smallest micron level, and because of that, they are known to cost quite a bit more. D.E. Filters need to be cleaned from time to time, but they should last for many years.
    • Cartridge Filters: Cartridge filters use polyester fabric-like material to help clean out particles in your pool. Although they can be very good at cleaning to a small micron level, they require some maintenance. Cartridges need to be cleaned and replaced often. Look for a model that will indicate to you when the time comes to clean the cartridge. Although the cartridge filters are usually about the same price as the sand, they will cost more to keep up with because of cartridge replacements. Still, some people would rather not backwash the pool and waste that water so that the cartridge option will make the most sense. Cartridge filters were generally used for smaller to medium size pools, but there are some versions now available for larger pools.

    Pool Size

    When you are choosing a filter, you want to be very sure of the size of your pool. If you select a filter that is not big enough for your pool, you will never have a clean pool. If you can afford a larger filter, you should go for it. You will come across less issues, and the pool filter itself will be under less pressure to perform. If you have a 10,000-gallon pool and you go for a machine that will clean up to 10,000 gallons, know that the strength of this filter will be borderline for your needs. If you can afford it, choose something that will clean from 10,000-20,000 gallons, and you will see a big difference in your water clarity.

    Timer/Emergency Shut Off

    Most filters come with a timer and an emergency shut off valve. These are both excellent features to look for should you run into a problem at some point. Keeping your filter on a schedule using the timer is the only effective way to know that your pool is getting the filtration that it needs to stay clean and clear. Don’t try and remember to put your filter on, or use it when you think the pool needs it. Set a schedule and stick to it; you will encounter very few problems doing it this way.

    swimming pool filter room

    Image credit: Christine Bird, Shutterstock

    Cost

    Like anything else, pool filter buying is a “you get what you pay for” type situation. The best possible thing you can do for yourself is to make sure you are buying the right filter size for your pool. If you can save a little money and get something for a smaller pool, don’t do it!

    When it comes to cost, try to keep in mind that there will be additional costs associated with each filter type. With a cartridge filter, you will need to replace cartridges. With a sand filter, the sand will need to be replaced every three to five years, depending on how often you are using your pool. The D.E. filter will need D.E. powder, and if a screen on the filter has an issue, it can be expensive to replace.

    If you need a low-cost filter to get you through a season, there are plenty of options on our list that will do the trick.

    Maintenance

    Depending on which of the three filter types you choose, there will be varying levels of maintenance involved. When purchasing the filter that you think is the best fit for you, do a quick read-through of the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations. If they are suggesting a bi-weekly cleaning/backwash, make sure this is something you will be willing and capable of doing. Regardless of what filter you go with, there will be weekly, monthly, and annual maintenance that needs to take place.

    Installation/Hookups

    When you choose the model that you know is the perfect fit for your pool, be sure to read what is included with the purchase. Some filters come with hoses and fittings that you will need, and others will come with nothing, and you will be responsible for figuring this out when you get your unit. If you are not good at playing with plumbing and valves, make sure you are getting something that will easily fit into or replace what you currently have.


    Conclusion

    When it comes to choices, you have to make in life; this pool filter one can be kind of a pain.

    Whatever decision you make, you will be living with for the next five to ten years. Choose something that will work with your schedule, the individual needs of your pool, and your budget. Get the most powerful machine you can within your price range, to keep algae and other issues away. We gave you reliable options for cartridge, sand, and D.E. filter replacements. Now it is up to you to decide which one to go with!


    Featured image credit: Ralf Geithe, Shutterstock