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How a Pool Works

Pool Building :: How Pools Work



Swimming pools of all shapes and sizes, generally work in the same way. To keep your paradise looking clean, you need sanitation, filtration and circulation. The basic idea is to pump water in a continual cycle, from the pool through the filtering and chemical treatment systems and back to the pool again. In this way, the pumping system keeps the water in the pool relatively free of dirt, debris and bacteria. During normal operation, water flows to the filtering system through two or more main drains at the bottom of the pool and multiple skimmer drains around the top of the pool.



Swimming pools are typically made up of these major components:




Removes large debris from the surface of the water.

Pump and Motor

Circulates the water.


Removes small debris from the water.

Chemical Feeder

Sanitizes the water.


Removes the water.


Returns circulated water.


Used to divert the water.


Connects all of the above.



Some pools can include optional components:



Regulates the water temperature.





Pool Building :: Putting the Parts Together


Properly designed pools have one or more skimmers that are usually built right into the edge of the pool. Surface water is drawn into the skimmer along with any floating debris, such as dirt, leaves, suntan oil, etc. Skimmers help keep the water’s surface clean and minimize the amount of debris that gets into the circulation system. Check and clean your skimmer basket every day for best results.

Circulation Pump and Motor
At the heart of your pool’s support system is the pump. Its job is to move the water through the filters, heater and sanitizing system then back into your pool. Before water flows into the pump, it passes through a strainer basket to catch any debris.. Pumps vary in size from ½ to 2 Horsepower and can have 1 , 2, or variable speeds. Your pump run time really depends on many factors including the size of your pool, equipment used, amount of activity, weather and time of year. A pool’s pump should circulate all pool water at least once a day. After leaving the pump, the water flows into the filter.

The filter helps to keep your pool’s water fresh and clean by removing oils, grease and dirt from the water. There are three basic types of pool filters: Sand, D.E. (Diatomaceous Earth), and Cartridge. All filters work by the same general concept – water is passed through a media (sand, D.E. or cartridge), which catches microscopic particles, blocking them from entering back into the pool. Since the filter is the last line of defense in trapping debris, it is important to use the proper type of filter and clean it as necessary. Generally, when the pressure gauge on the filter increases 10psi above its normal operating level, it’s usually a good time to clean your filter. For specific instructions on operating and maintaining your filter, refer to its operating manual or your local pool professional.

The Chemical Feeder
Chemical feeders keep your pool water sanitized by maintaining a consistent feed of chlorine or other sanitizing agent into the pool to kill bacteria and algae. Once the proper settings are determined, a chemical feeder can automatically dispense just the right amount of sanitizer to keep your pool sparkling clean without a lot of work. An inline feeder is plumbed into your circulation system after all the other pool equipment (pump, filter, heater). An off-line feeder is freestanding and is connected to the pool’s circulation system with additional tubing.

During normal operation, in addition to the skimmers, water flows to your pool’s support equipment through one or more main drains at the bottom of the pool. In a large pool there should be multiple main drains and skimmers so if one becomes blocked or plugged, water can still be pulled through the other drains.

The return pipes move the filtered water from your support equipment back into your pool through return ports, or inlet valves around the sides of the pool. Return jets should be properly positioned to establish an overall circulation pattern in the pool to minimize dead spots.

Tying the whole system together, various pipes are used to circulate water in and out of your pool and through your pool’s support equipment. Most in-ground pools use 1½” to 2" PVC pipe. It’s important to maintain adequate flow through your system by using the proper diameter piping, valves and fittings.

A heater on your pool can extend your swimming by months, or even year-round in some areas of the country. Most people prefer a pool water temperature of 78°F for swimming. Although the sun can help the water reach that temperature, unless you live in a very warm climate your pool water will not usually exceed the average air temperature. Therefore, a heater may be needed to maintain a water temperature of 78°F in most climates. Gas, electric and solar heaters are available in various sizes – some being more effective and less costly than others.