The 5 Best Above Ground Pool Filter System – Pump Review 2020

An above ground pool may be smaller than what you would have had. If you had chosen an above ground pool, but the water still needs to be kept clean.

It must be filtered. Let us consider what might be the best above ground pool filter systems for you.


There are three types of above ground filters:

  1. Diatomaceous Earth (DE for short).
  2. Cartridge filters.
  3. Sand filters.​

These latter are the cheapest and most popular in above-ground pools. The DE ones are the most expensive and the best. We’ll review five well-known filter systems that you will readily find on the market.

5 Best Above Ground Pool Filter System 2020 Review

1. Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter for Above Ground Pool, 16-inch, 110-120V with GFCI


  • Keep your above ground pool water clean
  • 2,100 gallons per hour
  • Ideal for above ground pools 16' to 24'
  • Wall Mount Surface Skimmer
Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter for Above Ground Pool, 16-inch, 110-120V with GFCI

Let’s kick off with the Krystal Clear. It has a good flow rate of 3000 gallons per hour. It runs at .75 horsepower.

It is very simple to use. Just remember to empty the basket every so often. Frequency will depend on how much vegetation you have round the pool and therefore how much debris accumulates.

Sand should last for five years before needing replacing. A six-way valve caters for all the normal functions of filtering, backwashing, rinsing, recirculating and draining.

The final position is for closing the system. There is a built-in ground fault circuit interrupter, while the 24-hour timer is useful for maximizing energy economy and running as needed. 

This above ground pool pump and filter is suitable for the larger pools with a capacity of 5,500 gallons or more. The pump carries a two-year warranty.

2. Intex 28633EG Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools


  • Dimensions: 13.75 x 18.5 x 16 inches
  • Weight: 19.5 pounds
  • Manufacturer: Intex
  • Model Number: 28633EG
Intex 28633EG Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools

The Intex 28633EG is another ultra-economical cartridge type filter pump. In its design and functionality, it is almost identical to the Intex 28635EG. It costs a few dollars more and it has a pump flow rate of 2,500 gallons per hour instead of 1,500. 

It caters for pools of up to 15,200 gallons whereas the 28635EG is designed for pools of up to 9,400 gallons, so is ideal for those of you with a larger pool. Again, it has the timer and flush valve that are both convenient and time saving.

Otherwise it looks the same, it feels the same and it behaves in the same way with the same Hydro Aeration technology for that extra clear pool water. The cartridge used is a type B instead of A or C on the previous model reviewed. This might be the best above ground pool filter on the market.

3. Intex 28635EG Krystal Clear Above Ground Pool Cartridge Filter, 1500 GPH


  • Dimensions: 12.5 x 18.12 x 14.12 inches
  • Weight: 12.8 pounds
  • Manufacturer: Intex
  • Model Number: 28635EG
Intex 28635EG Krystal Clear Above Ground Pool Cartridge Filter, 1500 GPH

The Intex 28635EG is an ultra-economical pump to buy. That is because it is a cartridge pump.

The down-side is that you have to replace the cartridges every fortnight, so you spend little at the start but have an on-going running cost.

The pump flow is only 1500 gallons per hour and the Intex 28635EG is suitable for above-ground pools of an oval frame size of up to 20 feet x 12 feet or a pool capacity of 6000 gallons.

Although the pump filter is budget priced it does have a double layer of insulation and there are some extras like a 24-hour timer that can have preset cycles of between two and twelve hours.

There is a “sediment flush” valve and also a valve for releasing any air that gets trapped inside the filter chamber. The filter pump uses Hydro Aeration technology which brings about oxidisation of iron and manganese and results in clearer, more sparkly water.

4. Sand Master Soft Sided Above Ground Pool Sand Filter System


  • Suitable for pools up to 9,600 gallons
  • Powerful 20 GPM pump
  • 4 position multiport valve
  • Filter tank holds 42 lbs.
Sand Master Soft Sided Above Ground Pool Sand Filter System

The Sand Master Soft-sided is a very economical filter pump if your pool is not too large – not more than 9,600 gallons capacity. It has a flow rate of 1,200 gallons per hour. 

Everything is simple and easy to comprehend. There is only a four-port valve, for example, but all the essentials are covered and if your pool is not too large.

You have everything that you need for a very low price. Two 1.25 in. x 7.5 ft. hoses come with the system as does a pump to filter hose.

This above ground pool pump and filter combo holds 42 pounds of sand in a twelve inch anti-corrosion tank. It is advisable to replace the sand in the unit every season, and to store the complete unit to ensure that it stays dry over the winter period. There is a one-year warranty. If you short on budget, this is the best above ground pool filter for the money.

5. Intex Krystal Clear 2150 GPH Sand & Salt Water Filter For Above Ground Pool With E.C.O.


  • Dimensions: 28.25 x 16.63 x 27.13"
  • Weight: 52.1 pounds
  • Manufacturer: Intex
  • Model Number: 28679EG
Intex Krystal Clear 2150 GPH Sand & Salt Water Filter For Above Ground Pool With E.C.O.

The Krystal Clear 2150 is a sand filter with an additional feature – Electrocatalytic Oxidation. You don’t add packaged chlorine; instead you add bags of sea salt to the water. And the pump produces chlorine with a chlorine generator. 

This above ground pool pump and filter system runs at .95 horsepower and has a flow-rate of 2,650 gallons per hour. It is suitable for pools of between 4,500 gallons and 15,000 gallons capacity.

One point to bear in mind when getting your sand is to get proper pool pump sand that is suitable for filtering water and catching those bits of algae and small debris that has landed in the water.

It is a little more expensive than the above mentioned Intex Crystal Clear Sand Filter on its own, but the Electrocatalytic Oxidation system does bring about really clean water. It is comforting to know that there is a two-year warranty.

Tips to Choose The Best Filter Systems for Above Ground Pool

The first two things to consider are the size of your pocket and the size of your pool. 

Costs can vary substantially. Pool size has a lot to do with the ultimate cost of purchasing your filter pump. There might be no point in paying for a filter pump suitable for a 15,000 gallons pool if your pool only takes 8,000 gallons.

The type of filter has a bearing on the cost of the pump. In this review we have not discussed the most expensive filter pumps, the DE pumps, but have focused rather on the Sand Filters and Cartridge Filters.

A cartridge System is cheaper than a sand filter pump to buy initially, but, entails an ongoing cost of replacing cartridges every couple of weeks.

Where the cost difference is very small as between the Intex 28635EG and the Intex 28633EG, you might consider getting the more expensive version anyway for the simple benefit of the faster pump flow rate which should be able filter your water more efficiently.

Should you opt for a sand filter pump?

These are more sophisticated and resemble the filter pumps that are popular in in-ground systems. You will find filter pumps the multi-position valves for backwashing, rinsing etc.

However, you can also find basic sand filter pumps such as the Sand Master Soft sided which don’t cost very much at all and can be a serious contender to the inexpensive cartridge filters.

It does not quite reach the price of the cartridge system we have reviewed, but at least there is not the on-going cost of constantly having to buy new cartridges.

Is it worth having an Electrocatalytic Oxidation system? 

This is a special system where you put salt in the pool water and electricity passes between an anode and a cathode causing the destruction of micro organisms that are too small to catch in the filtering system.

You still need a filter to catch the larger pieces of floating debris. The Intex Krystal Clear 2150 GPH, does seem a very attractive option in that it combines the normal Intex sand filter technology with Electrocatalytic Oxidation technology and even incorporates a chlorine generator.

The salt system produces your chlorine; you don’t need to add chlorine to the pool. It costs a little bit more than the simple Intex sand filter pump but for not a lot more money does give you optimum results.

Unless money is the all-important criteria, this is a filter pump that should be seriously considered.

Above Ground Pool Filter Setup Diagram And Installation Instructions

A hose needs to connect your pool outlet from the skimmer to the pump, then another hose will connect the pump to the filter. It is on this that will sit the multi-port valve that directs the flow to filtering, backwashing or any other function you have installed.

A further cell needs to connect your filter to the salt cell where you load your salt. After that from the salt cell another hose takes water back to the pool via the return. In the main it is quite a simple system.

That’s the water hoses sorted, but of course nothing will happen until we connect up some electricity. Electricity needs to be connected from a 120VAC GFCI outlet to the central control panel. From this a number of cables will run.

First you need a cable to the pump to get water moving. Without out this the system is useless. You need another cable to go to the salt cell and another to the flow switch located on the same unit.

Once you have connected all your pumps and cables you need to, through your central control panel, adjust various settings. You will need to set your pool timer to the times you want the pump to be working.

You need to set your expected average salt levels and you need to set the desired percentage of chlorine you would like to see generated. Too low then the pool will be dirty, but too high and it can cause health problems for anyone using the pool.

The diagram in question is for a Hayward-AquaTroll-Salt-Chlorine generator. Different models of filter pump with salt cell will vary slightly in their method of setup, but this is the basic approach that will be common to all such filter pumps, come chlorine generators. Hopefully now you will feel more confident in the setup.

What Chemicals Are Needed For An Above Ground Pool?

The chemicals used in an above-ground pool are the same as those used in an in-ground pool. You need to keep algae and dangerous micro-organisms at bay and you need to keep the correct ph balance (the balance between alkalinity and acidity) in the water.

For a pool the optimum ph level is between 7.4 and 7.6.  It will tend to be too alkaline rather than too acid and so a suitable acid will need to be added to the pool regularly.

The most common chemical to be used in a pool is chlorine in liquid, tablet or granulated form. The chlorine itself will keep algae at bay, but it may not be strong enough to actually kill off algae that has already developed. In such a case you may need an additionally chemical such as Sodium Bromine which in conjunction with the chlorine will shock the algae out of existence.

Salt is an alternative to chlorine when used with certain pool filter pumps that convert the salt into chlorine by passing electricity and converting the salt into chlorine. The Intex Krystal Clear 2150 GPH is one such filter pump and so is the Hayward-AquaTroll-Salt-Chlorine generator.

Final Note

What are the best above ground pool filter systems? We have looked at some popular models. Of those reviewed the Intex Krystal Clear 2150 GPH, stands out above the rest for its additional feature of Electrocatalytic Oxidation. But it is the most expensive. 

Before making one’s final choice one needs to consider cost and pool size. The two cartridge systems mentioned can get you going for very little money indeed. However, we have also looked at a very competitively priced sand filter system and the Intex Krystal Clear sand filter pump is a nicely designed solid piece of equipment that might also be considered.

  • June 16, 2020
Flora Smith

Home and Garden Enthusiast. I have been a blogger for the last 10 years from different brands and media as well. I have loved pool technology my whole life and decided to start OpenRoom to share my life experiences on pool and it's different aspects.

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