Filtration and circulation for recreational water is a pillar of the triangle of pool maintenance along with water chemistry, cleaning, and frequent testing. It is literally as important to a pool (or spa) as our kidneys are to our bodies and as such should be maintained appropriately for clean and clear water.
There are three common filter solutions found in the most pool setups today – sand, D.E., and cartridge filters. Although they all do the same thing, they each have their own specific maintenance routines and requirements. Sometimes a backwash isn’t enough and you need to open the filter and give it a good cleaning. Note that not all filters are capable of backwashing and the only option is to open for cleaning. Depending on conditions, filters may need cleaning every 3 months, but typically every 6 months may be sufficient. If your pressure is over 10 lbs from startup pressure and backwashing isn’t getting the pressure back to normal, it is time to clean. The exception is if there has been a significant event like an algae outbreak, wildfire damage, heavy storm, or other abnormal event.
Here Are a Few Tips That Will be Helpful For New DIY Owners.
- It’s important to understand what type of filter you have so that you can plan how to clean it. Read the manual (we know what you are thinking but just do it, there’s some good info in there even if you have to search for it.)
- Set aside enough time to do the job, if it’s your first time then double it. You probably want to set aside a morning for the first time you attempt cleaning yourself, that way if you run into issues you have the afternoon to work through them.
- YouTube is a wonderful resource that has several DIY channels and videos that can be helpful to visualize what needs to be done. Here are two nice videos that explain the types of filters and how to maintain them (the second video has several “how to”links in the video description section that will be helpful.)
Plan your work
- Clean the work area and remember to look for any critters that may be around before you start working. We have seen snakes, spiders, scorpions and other creepy crawlies that you don’t want around while you are working.
- Understand local laws and regulations about DE, some states do not allow DE runoff to enter drains.
- Take pictures along the way so you can remember how things go back together.
- Last but not least, don’t freak out. Be forewarned that you are going to be surprised at the kind of nasty you are going to encounter. It will give you a new respect for your pool’s filtration system.
Gather your supplies
- O-Ring Silicone Lubricant (this is the same stuff that you use on your pump lid gasket.)
- Filter media if you need to replace it (always for DE filters, sometimes for sand.)
- You may need replacement cartridges or grids or laterals depending on your filter type and whether or not you are experiencing problems with your media coming out of your return jets and/or poor filtration after cleaning. Inspect them closely as you clean and look for wear and tear so you can be prepared if they may need replacing next time.
- Typically a strong blast from the water hose is sufficient for cleaning, but you can also use various cleaning solutions depending on whether or not you are cleaning after a major algae recovery, big pool party with a lot of oily sunscreen or some other event that warrants chemical cleaning.
- Get your tools together
- A ratchet and socket for removing the filter bracket.
- A cordless drill will save you time and hassle for this. You can also mark your socket with a Sharpie and store it in your pool corner in your garage or wherever you keep your pool parts and gadgets so that next time you know what size it is and where it is. Most DIYers have extra sockets anyway right? 🙂
- A rubber mallet to help seat the bracket when putting back in place.
- A wrench for removing the drain plug from your filter.
- A good water hose nozzle with strong pressure to rinse the filter.
- A bucket or container to put all of your parts in like the nuts from the bracket, the wingnuts from DE filter manifold, the screen tip in DE filters, filter plugs et cetera. These things tend to somehow magically disappear, kind of like socks.
- Respirator mask and eye protection for recharging DE system.
Advice and tips
- Turn off power to the pool system and let someone know you are working on it.
- If you close your filter valve for cleaning, be sure to open it again or you risk damage to your plumbing.
- Do not be rough with your filter.
- You can break the pressure valve if you drop the filter cover on the ground or stumble over it.
- If you drop the DE grids on the ground or trip over them you can crack or break the plastic frame and pierce the grids which will cause DE media to leak into the pool.
- Be careful with the manifold and do not crack it from over-tightening wing nuts.
- Use the right tools for the job, be careful not to strip bolts or cross-thread when reassembling.
- If there is a pierced grid in a DE filter, you do not have to replace all of the grids, just the bad ones.
- Here is the tricky part… curved grids like those used in several major brands have one grid that’s smaller than the others so you have to pay attention to which one you need. The smaller one is located behind the pipe in the filter shell.
- Be sure to use silicone lube on the rubber gaskets, it will increase their life a lot, so don’t skip this step.
- Consider wearing old long sleeves, pants, and a hat to keep all of the mud and nasty stuff off of you. Not necessary but there is some funky stuff in there.
- Be patient if you are struggling to get the DE grids back in the right way, they will only go one way, start with the smaller grid and work your way around. It may be good to have a helper for this step so they can hold the grids in place as they are loaded. There is a guide template that goes between the manifold and grids and that also helps line things up.
- Consider tagging each grid by temporarily attaching a string, colored clothespins, or using some other method so you can identify their corresponding location in the filter when it’s time to reassemble.
- Using the rubber mallet, tap the bracket all the way around the shell gently to help it seat. Tighten and tap again one more time around, then tighten once more.
- Make sure the drain plug is installed and start the system with the filter bleed valve open until the filter is full and water starts to flow out of the valve. It’s normal for some air to come through the return jets for a few minutes until everything gets purged and the system seals again. If it lasts longer then check that you have everything closed and seated, in particular, the pump PID if you took it off while cleaning.
- Lastly, later that day or the next day check the bracket to make sure that it’s still tight and there are no water leaks. If there are leaks, turn the system off and tap all the way around the bracket again and tighten.