How to Increase Pool Circulation (9 Pro Tips)

The water circulation in your pool is important for a variety of reasons. Not only does it help to keep your pool clean, but it also aids in heating and filtering the water. But how to increase the pool circulation?

Keep the pump on for at least 8 hours per day, even if you are not using it. The baskets will fill up over time, and you have to clean them. Use a Ping-Pong ball test to see if there is any air trapped in pipes before opening them up. The current pool pump might be too weak for an efficient flow.

Without proper pool circulation, your pool will not be healthy, and you may find yourself dealing with algae growth or cloudy water.

Why is water circulation important?

Pool circulation is important for a few reasons.

If you have undesirable debris or contaminants in your pool, good water circulation will help keep the particles suspended in the water rather than depositing on surfaces throughout your pool.

In other words, water that moves fast enough will prevent anything from settling.

Water circulation also ensures that chemicals and treatments remain mixed and evenly distributed throughout the water.

Without proper circulation, you may end up with cloudy or discolored water, leading to other problems such as algae growth, etc.

It is also important for heat exchange purposes, such as heat pumps or heaters that rely on the pool’s temperature to help provide warmth.

Pool circulation types:

Before we start improving the pool circulation, you should know how the water in the pool is circulated.

  • Natural Circulation: Circulation that occurs due to the water’s pressure, the wind, and gravitational flow.
  • Manual Circulation: A pool pump that is turned on to move water through your system.
  • Automatic Circulation: Uses a device like a Pool Cleaner or sometimes an Auto-Vac.
  • Solar Circulation: Uses solar technology built into some pool accessories like a fountain.

Many factors affect pool circulation, but you should look at the following to help determine what might be causing your pool’s circulation problems.

#1 Backwash the pool sand filter to increase the circulation

A common reason why the pool water is not circulating enough is that the sand filter is clogged.

When the filter is clogged, it does not allow as much water to pass through each cycle.

This causes a lot of pressure and can cause other pool equipment and fittings to burst and break.

If this is the cause, you should backwash the filter until the water flows through it easily.

#2 Clean the pool pump

The pool pump can be another reason why your pool circulation might not be at optimal levels.

If there is little or no suction with your skimmer, something may be clogged within the system to cause the problem.

Even if your pool’s pump seems to be working fine, there could still be a clog in the system somewhere.

It is best to inspect by hand to look for any objects. You just have to be sure that you turn off the pump before doing anything.

Remove the basket from the pool pump and remove any object you find there.

If the pump has a strainer cap covering the impeller, remove it first.

If this does not work, then you have two options:

  • You can hire someone proficient in handling pool circulation issues.
  • Read my Guide about pool pump problems.

#3 Clean or replace cartridge filters

A clogged cartridge filter is one of the leading causes of poor circulation, especially in above-ground pools.

The cartridge inside the filter has pores that will eventually get clogged. It is almost impossible to see when this happens – you can only feel it in operation.

You can try cleaning it with a hose for some time, but sooner or later, the water pressure against the cartridge filter will go down significantly. At this point, you must replace the cartridge filter.

The cartridge is not expensive, and it will save you time and money cleaning your above-ground Intex pool.

#4 Point return of your pool position

The position of the pool return is important for proper circulation in your pool.

Generally, a position opposite of the skimmer is best. If you have two skimmers on each end of the pool, positioning the return nozzle between them works well.

This gives proper circulation and a good water quality balance throughout your pool.

In most cases, you can’t move the return nozzle, but you can place the skimmer in the best possible position.

#5 Improve pool skimmer performance

By improving your pool skimmer performance, you will increase your swimming pool’s circulation.

Install a stronger pump that can work with a better skimmer basket and motor to improve your pool skimmer.

This will help remove debris from the water’s surface to avoid falling to the bottom and causing hazards for swimmers.

For more information, visit my pool skimmer guide. Just click on the link to read the post.

#6 Proper water levels will improve the pool circulation

You think that proper water levels will not affect the circulation – but they will – and more than you think!

If you want to make sure that your pool water circulates properly (or as well as possible), then you should maintain and achieve an appropriate and correct water level.

However, it also applies to pools with a strong pump and filter system – because even in those pools, an appropriate water level provides the best possible circulation!

The proper water level in your pool is about 1 inch below the skimmer opening.

If you have set your water level too high, then the pumping capacity of your pump will be reduced.

In other words: If water flows along a 30-meter long pipe at a certain speed, this flow will be shorter depending on how much water is in the pipe.

If the water level is a lot higher, your pump needs to lift a lot more water, and it will not push as much through the filter system.

The result: Not enough filtration of your pool!

In worst cases, this may even damage your pump or filter system completely.

#7 Remove equipment from the pool

The equipment in your pool, like a ladder, lights, toys, and other pool fixtures, can actually be creating drag for water to move against, and they’re most likely the reason your circulation seems like it is low.

Removing equipment from the pool area will enable your pump to work more efficiently by allowing the water to move around objects more easily.

This also reduces strain on your pump and makes it last longer, saving you money!

But do you always have to remove everything from your pool to circulate the water?

No, just make sure that pool equipment you cannot remove is not placed in the water stream of your pump, like inlet or return lines.

Tip: A wrong installation of the pool pump to the solar heater is one of those pieces of equipment that will affect the pool circulation. Read more about this topic in my solar pool heater guide.

#8 Size the pool pump for an improved water circulation

If your pool pump is too weak for your big swimming pool, it is going to be a huge struggle to filter the water.

Before purchasing a new pool pump, check how much power it supplies compared to the pool size. You can find this information in the pump manual or on the housing of the pump itself.

Tip: Read my blog post about pool pumps to learn more.

But sometimes, your pool pump is not the reason for poor water circulation. Maybe the run times are too short, or the hoses are clogged.

You can improve the water circulation by following these two steps:

  1. First, check how often your pool pump runs every day and for how long it does so. If this interval is too short, you will have to extend it.
  2. Check all hoses and filters for any possible blockage. Clean them if necessary.

How to test pool circulation?

The best way to test pool circulation is by using a garden hose.

  1. Turn off the pool equipment and run the pump for approximately 20-30 minutes to remove any debris from the system.
  2. Attach a garden hose to either a hose bib or skimmer.
  3. Leave the hose connected to both the skimmer and a hose bib or another outlet until you are absolutely certain there is no air in the system.
  4. Once you have established that all air from your equipment has been removed from the system, shut off the main drain and disconnect the garden hose.
  5. Using a pressure gauge (0 to 100 psi), measure the water pressure in the skimmer with your pump running at high speed, approximately 6-10 GPM. The needle should start rising immediately when you turn your pump on.
  6. If possible, connect two more garden hoses to the system at different skimmers.
  7. Run these hoses simultaneously with the first one and check pressure readings in each skimmer. If all three are equal (within 2 psi), you have good circulation throughout your pool system.

If the test reveals that more skimmers are not siphoning, try adjusting the skimmer basket.

Make sure it is not resting on the pump strainer cover, which will restrict water flow during the test.

If you still have problems with pressure readings, consult your pool professional for assistance.

If you have trouble getting all three pressures to be equal, here are some things that may help:

  • Make sure all hoses are the same length.
  • Make sure there is no kink in the hose(s).
  • Ensure that all valves are turned on fully.

If you have successfully completed your tests, your pool pump provides adequate circulation throughout the entire pool system.

Assuming good filtration and sanitation systems will provide efficient chemical application and allow any pool equipment to run more efficiently.

Do you have further questions about pool circulation and water flow?

The best way to contact me is @contactswimfool on Twitter or Pinterest. I am happy to help you.

Have fun swimming!

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Hi. I'm Max Berg. I've been in the pool industry since 2015 and have always felt drawn to water. I'm the author behind swimfool.com, where I share my years of experience in pool maintenance and give helpful tips on keeping a swimming pool or hot tub clean. My tips reduce the costs of water treatment and protect the environment.

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