There are 3 common types of swimming pool filters, each using a different media to remove unwanted dirt and debris from your pool water: the DE Filter, Sand Filter
and Cartridge Filter.
The DE Filter: DE is short for Diatomaceous Earth. DE is an organic powder that is actually mined fossilized exoskeletons of tiny diatoms. It's the most effective filter, getting smaller particles from the water. It filters down to 5 microns. The DE powder is normally put into the skimmer, from which point it is sucked into the DE filter and coats the DE filter grids, which consists of 6-8 grids in the filter housing. The DE substance then catches the dirt and debris.
The amount of DE used is based on the size and specific model of DE filter. When the initial DE is put in the pool, and the pool pump and components are working properly the pressure on the pressure gauge is noted. DE is then replaced when the pressure gauge reads 7-10 psi above the baseline reading. As the DE gets dirty, the water pressure builds up and the pressure gauge rises, indicating the need to backwash. Backwashing is when the flow of water is reversed and the water pushes the dirt and debris out of the filter. Backwashing pumps out not only the dirt but also the DE. So after backwashing, new DE is introduced into the skimmer and the process starts over again.
How often do you need to backwash and replace the DE? This depends on the condition of your equipment, how dirty your pool is, and the size of your DE filter. In the peak of the summer this may be every 2-3 weeks. However, a really dirty pool or a green pool, may need to be backwashed a few times a day until the pool is cleaned. DE Filter Backwashing Tip: Backwash more than once. After you backwash for several minutes, change the value back to filter mode, run for a few minutes, then put in backwash mode again, and more dirty DE will get backwashed out.
If after you backwash, you pressure gauge doesn't return to its normal lower levels, your DE filter may be clogged and needs to be manually cleaned. This manual cleaning should occur about every 6 months. The DE filter needs to be taken apart and manually cleaned because you never get all the old DE out by simply backwashing. This is an extremely tedious process to get all the old DE out of the grids, and this is recommended to just hire a pool professional to do this (unless you like detail oriented tedious projects, then you can attempt to tackle this yourself). This is important because they grids are made of plastic and they can crack and tear when the old DE sticks the grids. Without proper tear down and cleaning, the grids will need to be replaced sooner than their normal life expectancy.
The Sand Filter: The sand filter has a bed of sand containing hundreds of pounds of sand. The sand is the actual media that filters the pool water. The water is forced through the sand and the sand's jagged edges catch the water's impurities. Clean water flows back into the pool. Sand filters are an effective filter because it can be back washed. The process of backwashing is when a value is moved to reverse the flow of water through the filter. The dirt and debris that was caught in the sand is removed and blown out of the system.
A sand filter has less ongoing maintenance than the DE or cartridge filter. The only real big maintenance to do with a sand filter is to replace the sand approximately every 5 years. The sand should be replaced because over time the sand particles become really smooth and lose their effectiveness to filter. The new sand particles have more surface area due to its jagged edges, which captures more dirt and debris.
The Cartridge Filter:Cartridge filters use a pleated paper filter to catch small particles (think of the cartridge filter in your vacuum cleaner except a lot bigger). The water flows through the cartridge filters, and the filters trap the dirt and debris in the filter. Cartridge filters have a lot more surface area to catch debris than the other two filters types. However, unlike the DE or Sand filter, you cannot backwash a cartridge filter. The only way to clean the cartridge filter is to manually remove the filters and hose them down. Because the dirty particles just sit on the filter until it is manually disassembled and cleaned, it is imperative for the cartridge filter to be cleaned every 4-6 months. Without cleaning the filter, the filter will get gunked up and lose its ability to clean the pool water. As the filter becomes dirtier, less water will be able to flow through the filter to be cleaned, compounding the pool. A dirty filter also increases the work your pool pump has to work to push the water through the filter. Your equipment will work harder, causing higher electric bills, and more stress on the motor, less circulation, all resulting in a dirtier pool water and more pool problems like algae.
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