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Sand Filters Vs Cartridge Filters

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

We all want to enjoy a clean swimming pool, but trying to find the right type of filter for your swimming pool can be a pain.

The first thing you need to know is that there are two popular types of filters: cartridge and sand.

Both are hugely popular filters that a lot of pool owners opt for – but which one is best for you?

If you are torn between getting a sand or cartridge filter, then here’s what you need to know about both options.

Here are the pros and cons of both sand and cartridge filters so you can decide which type of filter is best for you!

Sand Filters

Sand filters are super popular for many reasons. They work by using a tank that is full of sand that is connected to your pool’s water filter system.

As pool water passes through the tank, the sand will catch pieces of debris and prevent them from returning to your pool.

Sand Filters

This means that you can enjoy a pool that has cleaner and safer water through a sand filter network.

They are one of the most compact types of pool filters so they are great to use if you don’t have a lot of space.

They also work great for in ground pools and for above ground pools, making them super versatile too.

This also makes them very easy to use and operate.

They are also great for cleaning your pool’s water including removing dirt and debris as small as 20 to 40 micron sized.

So, you can expect great results from this kind of pool filter.

The best kinds of pools that benefit the most from sand filters are particularly large pools that have a high GPM capacity.

GPM stands for gallons per minute, so if your pool’s filtration network is constantly on the go, cleaning lots and lots of water in such a short period of time, then sand filters work great with this kind of system.

If your pool has a lower GPM capacity, then perhaps this is not the best type of filter for you.

However, sand filters are not perfect. They require a lot of maintenance to empty out the dirt and debris caught by the filter system as if it gets too dirty, it ceases to be as effective.

This means that if you do opt for a sand filter, then be prepared for a lot of maintenance work to keep it functioning.

Sand filters also cause a lot of backwashing with salt water pools due to the high salt concentration, so you may find that a sand filter on a salt water pool is not as effective as you wish it to be.

Cartridge Filters

Cartridges are newer than sand filters, but they offer several advantages over sand.

First, they allow you to choose from a wide variety of filter media. Most cartridge filters contain multiple layers of filtering material.

Cartridge Filters

Each layer has a specific purpose. For instance, the outermost layer might be designed to trap larger particles, while the inner layers will catch smaller ones.

Because of this, cartridge filters are said to be twice as effective as sand filters and are capable of filtering out smaller particles that measure between 10 and 15 microns, resulting in a cleaner and safer pool.

Second, cartridge filters are much easier to maintain than sand filters.

This is because they are less likely to clog up and they do not result in backwashing.

So, they are easier to use and maintain because they require less cleaning and attention – however, it is important to note that even cartridge filters need cleaning from time to time, just less often than sand filters.

This also makes them a much more suitable option for saltwater pools.

And finally, cartridge filters are also more sustainable and efficient.

This is because they require a lower pump pressure to function effectively, which requires less energy.

Because you are scaling back on the energy your pool uses to keep itself clean and safe for use, you also then scale back on the cost of your energy bills.

So, cartridge filters may be more cost-effective in the long run but they usually do cost more upfront.

Their retail price is generally more costly than sand filters but because they require less energy to run and function once purchased, you may end up saving a lot of money in the long run.

They are also not as compact as sand filters and are better suited for smaller pools, because they function better with a lower GPM capacity.

If you try to use a cartridge filter for a larger pool, then you may not achieve the results you would like as the cartridge filter cannot keep up.


So – which type of pool filter is best for you? The sand filter or the cartridge filter?

It all depends on your situation and the type of pool you have.

While we would recommend that those with a larger pool try out the sand filter (see also ‘ How To Connect Hoses To Your Sand Filter ‘), it’s not ideal for everyone due to the high maintenance requirements.

lternatively, those who have a smaller pool that would work great with a cartridge filter may not want to spend that much on a pool filter.

So, it all comes down to you and what you prefer.

Check out the pros and cons of both sand and cartridge filters above and pick out which type of filter sounds ideal to you.

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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