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Best Pool Cartridge Filters – Top Picks and Buying Guide

You’ve spent a day in the scorching heat, and now you are all set to dip in your backyard swimming pool, but wait? There’s dirt and debris inside the pool. Buy the best pool cartridge filter and say goodbye to such experiences. These filters contain a cartridge inside a metallic box. The cartridge has closely spaced longitudinal rows of polyester filter media. The water flows through the cartridges at high speed, and the filter media act as a sieve, capturing tiny dust particles. 

I remember last summer when I installed a top-of-the-line pool cartridge filter for the first time. After my family and I spent an entire day cleaning the pool manually, the water was still not as clear as we wanted. You can understand our frustration. A friend recommended that we try a cartridge filter. Hesitant yet hopeful, I made the switch, and the difference was eye-opening. The water clarity improved dramatically, and our pool maintenance became a breeze.

After discovering the wonder of cartridge filters, I later learned that not all such filters are created equally. In this article,  I’ll walk you through the best pool cartridge filters on the market, provide valuable tips for maintenance and troubleshooting, and equip you with all the knowledge you need to choose the perfect filter for your pool. If you want to learn more, check out the frequently asked questions at the end of this article. 

What to Look for in a Pool Cartridge Filter

The first step to a clearer pool is selecting the best type of pool filter. Numerous options in the market will get you confused. But keep these three simple factors in mind, and you’ll easily find the best pool cartridge filter.

  1. Square Footage Matters 

Finding the right balance is the key – a filter that’s too small won’t be able to handle the cleaning. At the same time, one that’s too large might be an unnecessary expense.

As a general guideline, aim for about 100 sq. ft. of filter capacity per 10,000 gallons of pool water. If your pool has 10,000 gallons of water, find a pool cartridge filter with 100 sq. ft of cartridge surface area. This ratio can vary depending on the debris and contaminants you regularly find in your pool. 

If your pool faces challenges like algae growth, pets, heavy bather loads, or has tress shedding leaves around it, you should opt for a larger filter to ensure optimal performance.

You can consult the following standards to save time.

GallonsMinimum Pool SizeMaximum Pool Size
5,00050 sq. f100 sq. ft
10,000100 sq. ft150 sq. ft
15,000150 sq. ft250 sq. ft.
25,000250 sq. ft450 sq. ft
35,000+350 sq. ft.550 sq. ft

If you want to buy a less costly filter, you can supplement it with a pool vacuum that has fine mesh filters. This can help trap additional debris before it reaches the filter, reducing the load and prolonging the life of your cartridge filter.

Pro Tip: Always ensure your pool pump’s GPM (gallons per minute) is close to the filter’s GPM. A mismatch between these two can lead to inefficient filtration and filter damage. A variable speed pump would make your life easier, as you can easily adjust the RPMs to control the GPM and ensure optimal filtration.

  1. Unions and Plumbing Compatibility 

Ensure your cartridge filter is compatible with your pool’s plumbing system. There are different filters for above-ground and inground pools, and they come with different union fittings to connect them to the plumbing.

Check the unions to see if they match your plumbing type, whether it’s PVC pipes or corrugated plastic hoses. Inground pools typically have PVC pipes, while above-ground pools commonly use corrugated plastic hoses. Right-sized unions ensure a secure and leak-free connection. Also, avoid using the adapters, as they can cause operational issues by restricting the water flow.

Some filters have unions next to each other, while others have them on opposite sides. Some filters even have unions on the top or bottom.

The orientation of the unions also influences the ease of installing the filter, especially if you have limited space on your equipment pad. For example, the Hayward SwimClear series has unions with one on top of the other, which can make plumbing more manageable for small equipment pads. On the other hand, the Pentair Clean & Clear series has unions on opposite sides, which might appeal to those looking for a neater installation.

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  1. GPM Rating: The Efficiency Factor

The GPM rating indicates how much water the equipment can filter per minute. Therefore, GPM determines how quickly the filter can circulate and clean the pool water.

To calculate the hourly filtration rate, multiply the filter’s GPM by 60. For example, a filter with a 100 GPM rating can clean up to 6,000 gallons per hour. The filter’s GPM is closely tied to the pump’s GPM; ideally, they should be well-matched. While they don’t have to be exact, a close match ensures the best filtration performance.

During the summer, running the pool pump enough for one to two full cycles each day is a good idea. For the winter months, you can suffice with only one cycle per day.

The size of the filter does not always determine its GPM rating. Some filters can handle high GPM rates but might struggle with higher pressure (PSI). Always choose a filter that can cycle the pool’s total gallon capacity within five to six hours. Therefore, avoid cartridge filters with a GPM rating below 100, as they might not provide adequate filtration for your pool.

How I Compiled The List of Best Pool Cartridge Filter

I have chosen the cartridge filters based on:

  • Manufacturer reputation: The list has products from well-reputed brands with established positive customer experiences.
  • Customer reviews: All the filters on the list have positive ratings on online stores. 
  • Ease of maintenance: Cartridge filters on my list are easy to maintain, saving you time and money.
  • Efficient flow rates: I have chosen above-ground and inground pool setup options.
  • Durability: I look for filters that are strong and last longer.

Above-Ground Vs. Inground Pools

Let’s take this concept out of the way first, as the specific pool filters you will buy depend upon the pool type you have:

AspectAbove-ground poolInground pool
MaterialsMetal, resin, or durable PVC.Concrete, fiberglass, or vinyl.
SupportMetal framework or sturdy walls.Custom construction with excavation.
InstallationThey are easier to install and more affordable because they are usually smallerMore complex installation and costly due to larger sizes
PopularityA popular choice for budget-conscious homeownersA preferred choice for long-term investment and customization
LongevityIt is a semi-permanent structure that can be disassembled/movedPermanent fixture and adds value to the property
Design flexibilityLimited shapes and sizesCustomizable shapes and sizes
Filtration optionsCartridge filters, occasionally sand filtersSand filters, cartridge filters, and DE filters
CostGenerally more budget-friendlyMore expensive investment
MaintenanceGenerally easier and simplerIt may require more extensive maintenance
Property impactA temporary solution May not add property value.It adds value to the property and enhances the backyard landscape.
best pool cartridge filter

Above ground pool

Top 3 Best Above-Ground Pool Cartridge Filters

Here is my list of the top 3 cartridge filters you should look out for in the market if you have an above-ground pool. 

  1. Intex Krystal Klear Cartridge Filter Pump

If you are looking for the best cartridge filter for above ground pool, the INTEX C1000 Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump is an excellent choice. This filter pump is available at flow rates ranging from 330 to 1,500 gallons per hour. Moreover, the maintenance is relatively easy – just clean your Type A or C filter cartridge every couple of weeks, and you’re good to go.

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Setting up the filter is simple, too; just attach the hoses and plug the filter in using the 25-foot power cord. You’ll notice that the hoses are 1.25 inches, so you will need an adapter if your pool has 1.5-inch hose fittings. The filter also features an air-release valve that removes trapped air in the chamber.

What’s even better about this filter is its Hydro Aeration technology. It mixes air into your pool water, which improves the water quality and increases negative ions, leaving your pool water fresh and inviting. See the YouTube video below from Intex Recreation Corp to get an idea of what this technology is about.  

The only slight limitation is that the manufacturer recommends using the filter for only eight hours daily. Nevertheless, this is still ample time to thoroughly clean a small pool and keep it looking pristine all season long.

Pros:

  • Easy maintenance
  • Simple setup
  • Hydro-aeration technology
  • Variable flow rates
  • Air release valve

           Cons:

  • Limited daily usage
  • No built-in support for 1.5-inch hose fittings
  1. Doheny’s Cartridge Filter

The Doheny’s Cartridge Filter System is the right fit for pools with less than 12,000 gallons of water. 

It has a .75-horsepower high-efficiency pump with a flow rate of 73 gallons per minute. It circulates and filters your pool water like a charm, keeping it sparkling clean and inviting.

Another fantastic element is the durable thermoplastic filter that catches the debris without giving up. Plus, the non-woven cartridge enhances the effectiveness of the filter. Not only does it make your pool water crystal clear, but it also lets you go longer between filter changes. And let’s not forget the optimized water flow it brings to the table, ensuring top-notch filtration.

The design is super user-friendly, and the filter has a ring-lock lid, which makes swapping the cartridge a breeze. The pressure gauge and release valve tackle any built-up air pressure, so you can keep things running smoothly. Oh, and don’t forget that fastening locking system. It prevents any annoying lid from sticking during maintenance.

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Setting it up is no biggie. Just plug the CSA and ETL-certified .75-horsepower pump into a standard three-prong 6-foot cord connection, and you’re good to go. Just note that you’ll have to buy the hoses separately. These features make Doheny’s filter a strong contender for the best cartridge filter for above-ground pools.

Pros:

  • Perfect for smaller pools
  • Efficient pump
  • Durable thermoplastic filter
  • Optimized water flow
  • CSA and ETL certified

           Cons:

  • Hoses are to be bought separately
  1. Hayward XStream 150 Cartridge Filter System

Hayward XStream 150 Cartridge Filter System is perfect for pools up to 33′ round and 21’x43′ oval, making it a great fit for many above-ground pool owners.

This comprehensive system has all the essentials – filter tank, filter cartridge, union connection, air relief valve, pressure gauge, 1.5 HP Power-Flo pump, filter base, 1-1/2″ x 6′ filter hoses, hose adapters, hose clamps. Just name any component, and this filter system already has it. You’ll have to spend some more money, but peace of mind over everything, right?

The Easy Lok ring is quite a handy feature that makes removing the cartridge from the filter tank a breeze. But wait, there’s more! The system can filter up to 120 gallons per minute or 57,600 gallons in 8 hours, thanks to its powerful 1.5HP Power-Flo pump.

Setting the  Hayward XStream up is very easy as well. The system has a 6′ power cord that you can plug into a standard 115V outlet, and the pump’s amperage is 12 Amps. It’s also efficient, displaying a Weighted Energy Factor of 3.9, which means the filter can pump 3,900 gallons per kWh.

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The best part? It’s made in the U.S.A. by Hayward Pool Products, a trusted name in the pool industry. And to top it off, it comes with a 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty so that you can have peace of mind.

The filter system measures 28″ (L) x 26″ (W) x 40″ (H). It’s compact and fits neatly into your pool area, so no need to worry about it taking up too much space.

With its easy maintenance, high flow rate, and reliable performance, it’s the best pool cartridge filter for a crystal clear pool all season long!

            Pros:

  • The setup includes all the necessary components, allowing you to set it up and start using the filter right away.
  • The high flow rate of 57,600 gallons per 8 hours provides efficient and fast filtration.
  • Good energy efficiency as it can pump 3,900 gallons of water per kWh.
  • The compact design fits neatly with most pools.
  • Made in the USA with one year warranty to provide peace of mind.

          Cons:

  • No significant cons          

Top 3 Best Inground Pool Cartridge Filters

The following list includes the top 3 contenders for the best cartridge filter for inground pools. 

  1. Hayward W3C5030 SwimClear Cartridge Pool Filter, 525 Sq. Ft.

The Hayward SwimClear 525 Sq. Ft. Pool Filter provides outstanding filtration and hydraulic performance while keeping operating costs low. It has cleanable cartridge elements, which eliminates the need for frequent backwashing. This will help you save up to 2,500 gallons of water yearly. This way, you’ll enjoy clear and fresh pool water and contribute to water conservation efforts.

Hayward claims the filter can withstand the toughest environmental conditions thanks to its durable build. This is a positive sign if you live in areas with frequent rainfall or harsh climates.

Hayward has prioritized user convenience while designing this filter. Its heavy-duty, tamper-proof, one-piece flange clamp securely fastens the tank top and bottom, providing quick access to all internal components without disrupting plumbing connections. This easy access simplifies maintenance and makes filter cleaning easy.

This pool filter features a high-capacity manual air relief valve, which can release all the trapped air with a quarter turn. This feature ensures optimal filtration efficiency and prevents any potential air-related issues.

The Hayward cartridge filter utilizes a top manifold design, offering longer cleaning cycles by using the entire surface area of the cartridge. This configuration ensures maximum flow through all cartridge elements, delivering unmatched water clarity and significant energy savings.

Due to its reusable polyester cartridge elements and precision-engineered cores, the filter can handle heavy-duty dirt-holding tasks easily. It is compatible with numerous pool sizes, including 225, 325, 425, 525, and 700 sq. ft. pools.

Pros:

  • No need for backwashing
  • Saves 2,500 gallons of water yearly
  • Longer cleaning cycles
  • Durable build
  • Compatible with various pool sizes

           Cons:

  • There’s a reason this makes it to the top of my list. No significant cons
  1. Pentair Clean And Clear Cartridge Inground Pool Filter

If you’re looking for the best cartridge filter for an inground pool, you wouldn’t want to miss out on this one. The Pentair Clean and Clear Plus CCP420 EC Cartridge Filter keeps your inground pool sparkling clean with minimal effort.

First off, it has four cartridges that trap lots of dirt, meaning you won’t have to clean it as often. Simply, more pool time and less maintenance hassle! The filter can remove particles up to 20 microns small, which means clear water for you and your friends to enjoy.

Thanks to the 2-inch plumbing with easy-to-use bulkhead unions, installation is an easy task. On top of that, cleaning the filters is quite simple as well. Just hose off the cartridges, and you’re good to go! No fancy procedures or complicated tools are required. 

The sturdy fiberglass-reinforced tank means this filter is built to last and can handle high flow rates of up to 150 gallons per minute. Remember that Pentair recommends staying within that flow rate for best performance.

The filter has an internal air system that continuously keeps air flowing through it. This system prevents air buildup and filter malfunctioning. Moreover, the 1-1/2 inch drain makes winterization a breeze. The Pentair filter can handle up to 72,000 gallons of water in 8 hours, which is impressive!

So, if you want a low-maintenance, high-performance filter to clean your pool, this one’s a winner. And hey, it’s NSF listed and 100% factory tested – can’t go wrong with that!

Pros:

  • Easy installation
  • Winterization convenience
  • The filter can handle up to 72,000 gallons of water in 8 hours
  • NSF-listed and factory-tested

           Cons:

  • It has a limited flow rate of 150 gallons/minute
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  1. Jacuzzi – JCF425 425 sq. ft. Inground Cartridge Filter

First, the Jacuzzi JCF425 is made in the USA, so you know you’re getting quality equipment. Plus, it has a 2 1/2″ internal plumbing – the biggest in the industry! That means better water flow and fewer restrictions, keeping your pool water crystal clear.

The filter has four top-quality Pleatco Ultra cartridges. These cartridges efficiently trap all the tiny debris particles, leaving you with pristine pool water. More cartridges mean a lesser frequency of maintenance. More pool time, less maintenance time – win-win!

The chemical-resistant fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene tank can handle harsh weather easily while maintaining top-notch performance. Moreover, the filter is extremely versatile. It can work with 2.5″, 2″, or 1.5″ plumbing, making it an excellent fit for different setups.

Maintenance is easy owing to those heavy-duty handles on the top. And the stainless steel oil-filled gauges further enhance the durability of this filter. On top of all this, there is a 2-year warranty to provide you with peace of mind.

So, if you’re looking for a long-lasting, efficient pool filter that’s made to perform, give the Jacuzzi JCF425 a shot. Your pool will thank you for it!

Pros:

  • The 2 1/2″ internal plumbing offers better water flow and fewer restrictions.
  • Has four top-quality Pleatco Ultra cartridges
  • 2-year warranty

           Cons:

  • Maintenance procedures might become difficult for a single person.

Replacement Pool Filter Cartridges

The best pool cartridge filters work efficiently for 2-3 years, and then you’ll start seeing a decline in their filtering efficiency. This is secondary to constant wear and tear due to water percolating through the cartridges at high pressures. Moreover, dirt and debris accumulate inside the cartridge, decreasing the filtering capacity.

You can take the cartridges out and clean them, but again the recommended methods require washing via a high-pressure nozzle or a chemical bath, two more factors that can damage the cartridges. The ultimate solution is replacing the cartridges. 

Best Replacement Pool Filter Cartridges

Here are some of the best replacement pool filter cartridges with great customer reviews:

  1. Poolpure Pool Filter Cartridge: This is by far the longest-lasting and can function for months if you put in proper care while using it. It has a cleanable and reusable design to wash it after the debris accumulates and reuse it in your pool filter. It is ANSI and NSF certified and can remove molecules as small as 40-50 microns. 
  1. Sunset Pool Filter Cartridge: is a great option for compact pools, spas, and jacuzzis. It has plastic and Dacron fiber cartridges you can easily wash and reuse. However, you’d need to do that twice every month. 
  1. Volca Spares Pool Filter Cartridge: has a finely perforated design compatible with various pool filters. They are comparatively longer: 8 inches in length. This equips the filters with more cleaning power per unit of time. Moreover, the Dacron material is easy to clean. Just take the cartridges out, have a splash of water, and you’re good to go.
  1. Optimum Pool Filter Cartridge: stands out for its super long length, measuring over 26 inches, and its large 7-inch outer diameter. It’s perfect for bigger pools that get a lot of use. This filter cartridge is made in the U.S. and has high-quality polyresin filtration media to ensure effective cleaning, top-notch performance, and long-lasting use. The support bands around each cartridge element also contribute to its durability. Large size and excellent build quality translate into an extended use period, especially if your pool has light to moderate use and is covered when not used.  
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Types Of Pool Filters

There are three main types of pool filters, and I will list them from the most efficient to the least efficient. Don’t ignore the last one, because I say it’s the “least efficient” term. These are just comparative terms. 

  1. Diatomaceous Earth Filters

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) filters have grids of whitish powdery substances that capture unwanted stuff but let water flow easily. This powder comes from crushed fossils of diatoms, tiny algae rich in silica. This secret ingredient makes DE filters super efficient. 

DE filters can trap particles as small as 5 microns. They give your pool the cleanest water you can imagine, but they come at a cost because they’re the most expensive and need the most maintenance among all pool filters.

Keep an eye on the pressure gauge, as increased pressure calls for maintenance. Maintenance is easy- Just backwash the DE filter. But there’s an extra step – adding more DE powder to the filter. Be careful with that DE powder because pool-grade DE can be harmful if you breathe it in too much. 

Always wear a mask when dealing with DE powder to stay safe. Also, check your city guidelines and rules about how to dispose of DE properly because some places have rules about not backwashing into streams or sewers.

And lastly, don’t forget to give your filter extra care at least once a year. Take it apart and give those grids a good hose down to keep everything in tip-top shape.

So, DE filters might be a bit more work, but they’re totally worth it for the cleanest and freshest pool water you can get!

Pros:

  • Most effective water filtration
  • Last many years with proper care

Cons:

  • Most expensive
  • DE powder is toxic
  • Difficult to dispose of the filter
  1. Cartridge Filters

These filters have pleated cartridges that act as super sticky nets, catching all the debris and contaminants that try to ruin your pool party. These pleats are so closely spaced that they can even catch tiny particles as small as 10 microns, almost double the efficiency of what we see in sand filters. To help you visualize, the width of human hair is approximately 50-70 microns. But there’s a tiny catch – they can be a bit more expensive than sand filters. Quality comes at a price, right? 

When it’s time for filter cleaning, you’ll know it because the tank’s pressure gauge will increase. Don’t worry; the cartridges tell you they need some cleaning. Taking care of cartridge filters is a breeze. Just take them out of the tank and give them a nice spray with a hose to wash away all the dirt and debris. Appropriate cost, easy maintenance, perfect efficiency, and various available options make cartridge filters the best type of pool filter in the market.  

If the cartridges are extra dirty, gently brush them to remove the sticky debris. But here’s the thing, too much brushing weakens the filter, which means you will need to replace the cartridges more often. So, a little brush now and then is okay, but don’t overdo it!

 Pros:

  • Better efficiency than sand filters
  • No backwashing, so there is no waste of pool water and chemicals

Cons:

  • More upfront cost
  • Cartridges need replacement every 2 to 3 years
  1. Sand Filters

Sand filters have a sand-filled tank that traps the pool contaminants. Sand might look smooth macroscopically, but it has tiny grains with rough edges. These rough edges grab onto dirt and debris as water flows through the sand. The clean water returns to the pool, while the icky stuff stays trapped in the filter.

The contaminants caught in the sand are tiny, like 20 to 40 microns. Just to give you an idea, one micron is the one-millionth part of one meter! Sand filters can catch onto pretty small debris.

Over time, all the captured particles build up, and the filter will become less effective. You’ll know it’s time to do some cleaning when you notice the pressure in the filter tank going up. Luckily, sand filter maintenance is a piece of cake! All you have to do is backwash the filter, which means flushing out the trapped debris by running water through the sand in the opposite direction.

Just a heads up, if you backwash too often, it might mess with your pool’s water level and chemical balance. So, keep an eye on that and refill the pool and the chemicals as needed. Oh, and one more cool thing about sand filters – you only need to replace the sand every five to seven years. That’s not too often, right?

Sand filters are pretty good at catching small contaminants, but they’re not the absolute best compared to cartridge and DE filters. But don’t worry, if you take care of your sand filter and do regular maintenance, it will keep your pool water nice and clean for you to enjoy!

Pros:

  • Easy on the pocket
  • Easy to maintain
  • Suits most pool sizes

Cons:

  • Backwashing will affect the water and chemical balance in the pool.

Watch this concise video to grasp details about all the filter types in under a minute.

Conclusion

Pool filters are must-have equipment for your backyard pools. These are available in DE, cartridge, and sand materials. Cartridge filters stand out for their long life, ease of use, and breezy maintenance procedure. From Intex Krystal Klear cartridge filter for above-ground pools to Hayward SwimClear cartridge filter for inground pools, the list has an option that caters to every individual’s preferences. 

Need a replacement filter, don’t worry. I’ve covered that for you as well. Invest today and enjoy the upcoming season by swimming in crystal clear pool water.

FAQs

Which pool filter is the best?

DE filters are the best on paper, as they can remove particles as small as 5 microns. But practically speaking, cartridge filters are the best type of pool filter due to efficient filtering of up to 10 microns, ease of use, long-lasting nature, and breezy maintenance. 

Are all pool cartridge filters the same?

No, all pool cartridge filters are not the same. They have different specifications and compatibility. Some are more suitable for inground pools, while others work best with above-ground pools. However, all cartridge filters employ the same filtering procedure.

Are cartridge filters good for pools? 

Cartridge filters are a great choice because they are affordable, easy to maintain, effectively remove particles up to 10 microns, and compatible with above-ground and inground pool setups. 

How do I choose a pool filter cartridge?

Follow these simple steps to select the correct replacement cartridge for your pool filter:

  1. Decide whether you want an OEM or a generic cartridge. OEM cartridges are generally more durable but also a bit costly.
  2. Check the filter’s label and note the manufacturer, model, and cartridge numbers.
  3. Calculate the cartridge length between the top and bottom plates and note the internal and external diameters. 
  4. Check the end-cap designs of the top and bottom plates. They can be open, closed, or without a handle. 
  5. You have all the information you need. Now you can visit the nearby store or browse online platforms to find the perfect replacement cartridge. 

Author

  • Marcus Rizzo

    Marcus Rizzo is an esteemed air conditioner specialist and a prominent voice in temperature control and HVAC technology. With a passion for comfort and a commitment to providing practical solutions, Marcus has become an invaluable asset to the team at TemperatureMaster.com.

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