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How Long Should I Run My Above Ground Pool Pump?

If you’ve sprung for a new model, you may be wondering, “How long should I run my above ground pool pump?” It takes some math, but the easy answer is: It depends. First, you’ll need to figure out the volume of water your pool holds as well as your pump’s capacity to figure out how long your pump needs to run to ensure a clean pool.

How Do I Figure Out How Long Should I Run My Above Ground Pool Pump?

Pool Pump on the ground

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There are a couple of ways to figure out how long to run your pump. But keep in mind that there are a few factors that influence optimal run-time.

Along with knowing how much water your pump filters, you’ll need to keep an eye on the weather, temperature, and the chemical balance in your pool.

There is a minimum run-time, which makes it easy to establish a baseline for scheduling your pump.

Pool Pump Math

If you purchased the correct size pump for the volume of your pool, then you’re in luck. You can find the answer in your owner’s manual. However, if you purchased them separately, you may not find easy answers.

First, calculate the volume of your pool. Because above ground pools only have one depth, it’s easy:

  • For rectangular pools, the formula is: Multiply length by width by depth by 7.5 to get the volume in gallons
  • With circular pools, the formula is: Multiply diameter by the diameter by depth by 5.9 to get the total gallons.
  • For oval pools: Multiply length by width by depth by 5.9 to get the volume in total gallons.

You can also use an online pool volume calculator.

Calculate GPH

Once you know how much water your pool holds, you’ll need to figure out how fast your pump can run that volume through your filter. Knowing this will allow you to calculate how long it will take for your pump to process the entire pool.

The easiest way to find this information is to check your owner’s manual and look for its gallons per hour (GPH) rating. If you don’t have the manual, you may be able to find it online by searching for the make and model. You may be able to find it at an online library of pool equipment manuals.

Finally, if necessary, you can contact the manufacturer.

Minimum Turnover

When you’re researching "how long should I run my above ground pool pump," you’ll find some conflicting information.

Some experts recommend running your pump long enough to turn over the water at least twice a day. Others recommend just running it through once.

Once again, the correct answer really just depends.

If your pool sees heavy use, it’s going to accumulate more debris. The more people in your pool, obviously, the dirtier your water will become.

However, if you’re not using your pool every day, one turnover will ensure that pool chemicals get distributed, and no algae build-up occurs.

The Secret Formula

Once you know your pool’s volume and your pump’s GPH capacity, the formula to figure run-time for one turnover is simple:

Pool volume divided by GPH = turnover time.

So, if your aboveground pool holds 12,000 gallons of water, and your pump’s GPH is 2,600, then you’d need to run your pump for 4.6 hours to perform a complete filtration of all the water in the pool.

So, still, the answer for "how long should I run my above ground pool pump" really depends on the capacity of your pool and the capacity of your pump.

For example, we’ve had two above ground pools in the last 15 years, with differing sized pumps. While both pools held 10,000 gallons, the GPH on the two different pumps meant running them for different lengths. The 2-horsepower pump was able to turn over the entire pool in about four hours. However, the pump that accompanied our second pool needed six hours of run time.

How Much Does Running My Pool Pump Cost?

Indoor pool

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If you’re wondering "how long should I run my above ground pool pump," you may also be concerned about the cost of running it.

Depending on the size of your pump and the length of your swimming season, electrical costs for maintaining your pool can really add up.

One determining factor for answering the question of “how long should I run my above ground pool pump” might depend on how much it costs you to run it.

Pool maintenance can be time-consuming and expensive. Running your pool through two turnovers a day might be more or less efficient than increasing the use of chemicals or risking a complete algae takeover. You'll need to weigh the costs vs. the time involved, while also taking chemical sensitivity and environmental impact into consideration.

So, let’s figure out the cost in dollars:

Here are the average electricity use of running a pump by horsepower:

  • 3/4-horsepower pump: 1.26 kWh average
  • 1-horsepower pump: 1.72 kWh average
  • 1.5-horsepower pump: 2.14 kWh average
  • 2-horsepower pump: 2.25 kWh average
  • 2.5-horsepower pump: 2.62 kWh average
  • 3-horsepower pump: 3.17 kWh

Find the horsepower of your pump and multiply that by the hours you need to run it for a complete turnover.

Then, compare it to the chart of average electrical costs per state from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to do the math.

For example, if you need to run your 2-horsepower pump for 4.6 hours per day for a complete turnover, and you live in Ohio, you’ll pay about $1.29 each time you filter your pool. To run it twice during the day, it will cost you $2.58.

Assuming your swimming season lasts from June to August, you’ll spend a total of about $238 over the summer to run two turnovers a day. If you only run it once, it will cost you about $119 for the summer.

How to Decrease the Cost of Running a Pool Pump


Once you’ve found the answer to “how long should I run my above ground pool pump,” you may be wondering how to reduce the cost of that runtime.

Right size

The simple solution to lowering the cost of running your pool pump is to ensure that your pump isn’t bigger or more powerful than you need. As seen above, the higher the horsepower, the more energy it consumes.

Increased efficiency

If you find you have an undersized or oversized pool pump, you may want to consider an upgrade. Choosing a more energy-efficient model best suited to the size of your pool is a good option.

You may also want to opt for a two-speed or variable speed pump. According to Florida Power and Light company, a dual-speed pump can result in an average savings of 24 percent, while a variable speed pump can deliver up to 72 percent savings when compared to a single-speed pump.

Adding a larger or more effective filter is another option. Diatomaceous earth, for example, is more efficient than a sand filter. In some cases, a better filter medium means you only have to run your pump through one turnover to keep it sparkling regardless of how much you use it.

A balanced approach

Making sure that you keep on top of your pool's chemical profile with regular testing also means you won’t have to run your pump longer than strictly necessary.

Reduce debris

While debris itself only serves as a minor nuisance, it’s the side effects of that debris that increases your pool pump run time. Falling leaves and sticks carry organic matter that can result in increased algae in your pool.

Use a pool cover when you’re not actively using your pool. Not only will it cut down on debris entering the water, but it will also keep sunlight from depleting the chlorine. Pool chlorine degrades rapidly in sunlight.

It will also help prevent rapid evaporation. Why let perfectly clean and conditioned pool water evaporate into the ether?

Swimmers also carry organic matter into the pool with them, including plant matter, oils, and dead skin. Provide a tub for rinsing feet and encourage swimmers to shower before entering the pool.

The magic of moonlight

While swimming under the moon is both romantic and heavenly, night-time is also the best time of day to run your pool pump. And there are several reasons behind this.

First of all, many power companies offer reduced rates for electricity used at night. If you have a pool, contact your provider to find out more.

Secondly, your pool pump disperses chlorine when it's running. So, to preserve the life span of your pool chemicals, add them at night while running the pool pump. This gives them all night to work without degrading in the morning sun.

Splitting the runtime is also a good option.

Many pool pumps come with timers installed, but if yours did not, you’re in luck. You can find an efficient and inexpensive pool pump timer and connect it directly between your pump and your outdoor outlet.

While you may be tempted to set it for the very small hours, remember that night time is the best time for adding your pool chemicals. And you’ll need to run your pump for several hours afterward. So, you may want to set it to start in the evening before you head off to bed.

Keep It Clean

Pool Cleaning machine

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So, now that you know the answer to the question "How long should I run my above ground pool pump," you can set your pump timer with confidence. Remember, however, that factors like weather and sun exposure means that you'll still need to monitor your pool.

Most importantly, stay on top of your testing and conditioning schedule. While filtering goes a long way in keeping your pool clean, the water's chemical balance still heads the list of priorities for pool owners.

How many hours do you run your pool pump every day? Do you find that you need to adjust it on occasion? Tell us about your pool care routine in the comments.

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