Pool Filter Above-Ground – Best Above-Ground Filters and Systems

Pool filter Above Ground

Pool Pump With Filter

What is the best pool filter combo?

As of 2019, my favorite combination of pool pump and filter is the Hayward XStream 150 Cartridge Filter, with the Speck E71 Variable Speed Pool Pump.

I have this pool pump with filter combo in my pool store for just $835.00. I have been installing energy efficient variable speed pool pumps with above ground pool filters for years.

As I already mentioned, this is my new favorite combination, providing powerful water filtration, and energy efficient operation and savings.

I am a fan of going with big pool filters, I would personally rather spend a little more money if it helps me to do less work. I have customers that do not need to clean their filter once during the pool season.

Smaller Pool Pump With Filter Combo /Lower Price

Staying with the same dependable energy efficient Speck pool pump and combining it with a lower cost 100 sq ft cartridge pool filter will drop the price to $ 725. click here.

above-ground pool book

Tons More Information and Suggestions For Filter /Pump Combos

This page has all the information you need to help you choose the ideal above ground pool filter or filter system. It has a couple of suggestions that are a little outside the box for those looking for something extra. It describes all the best pool filter packages available for sale by most online above ground pool stores, and a couple of even better options.

If you already know which filter type you prefer, you could just skip to that section for a breakdown of what I would buy if I were you.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) Filter Above-Ground Pools

DE pool filters will trap the smallest particles of dirt, and therefore are the best pool filters you can buy! I will also say this again and again; bigger is better unless you enjoy cleaning your pool filter. DE pool filters can only remove so much debris before the DE fills up and need to get cleaned, (replace DE) so larger pool filters require less cleaning and maintenance.

One drawback to DE Filters is that they do not work well with low flow pool pumps. They require strong flow to keep diatomaceous earth clung to inner filter grids. For that reason, they do not pair well with energy efficient pool pumps.

You know your filter needs cleaning when your pressure gauge has gone up 7-10 pounds, or you see low water pressure from the return line, this is true of all pool-filters. Recommendations for DE Pool filter above ground:

From Left To Right, We Have:

  • Pentair Quad 60 (For Stupid Big Pools like 33 Round)
  • Pentair/Sta-Rite PLD50 (My Favorite)
  • Hayward EC65 (This is a lot of filter for the cost)
  • Hayward EC50 (Traditional Economical)
Pool filter Above Ground

Pentair Quad 60 DE Pool Filter

This pool filter is not made or marketed for above-ground swimming pools, but it is what I would own if I had the following pool sizes:

  • 27 Round
  • 30 Round
  • 33 Round
  • 18 x 33 Oval

There are no prepackaged systems available with this filter that would come with an above-ground pump, base, and hoses. You would have to buy everything separately and plumb it yourself. Chances are you would not have to clean this filter at all during a 5-month pool season, probably just when closing the pool for winter. Here is a short video of my helper cleaning one as I narrate.

The Quad 60 filter was new in 2015 and immediately became my favorite when I saw the material Pentair used to make it. The only place I have seen this filter material before was on the old Sta-Rite PLD series filters. Pentair bought Sta-Rite and rebranded it, but you still see the legacy brand (Sta-Rite) sold in some places.

I would only use this on the big above-ground pools and would use a variable speed pool pump. This combo would run you close to $1100.00 and so, does not make a lot of sense for most above-ground pools, probably just the most massive pools.

Pentair/Stay-Rite PLD50 DE Above-Ground Pool Filter

The PLD50 is my favorite pool filter for above ground swimming pools. This one will clean any size above ground pool with ease. I have a customer with a 24-Round that goes all year without having to clean the filter /replace the DE once.

PLD50 and 342001 combo
Pentair PLD 50 Filter w/342001 Pump

Of course, I don’t like one-speed energy hog pool-pumps so I would pair the PLD50 with a variable speed pump. You can buy filter-only and do some custom plumbing with a quick run to Home Depot or Lowes.

Hayward EC65 Perflex DE Pool Filter

This pool filter is sold to in-ground pool owners, but it’s price and filtering capacity make it sexy to me. You can buy this EC65 filter right now on Amazon for $429.00 + S&H See Here. Score a 1.5 HP above ground pump for like $150.00, and that is one powerful pool filter system for under $600.00. Again, this is outside the box thinking, meaning you will have to do the plumbing, but a great option. There are two variable speed pumps I would pair with the Hayward EC65 Pool filter. Check out my pool pump reviews here.

The Perflex action on this pool filter provides longer filter runs before needed maintenance or cleaning. To regenerate the DE media that’s inside the unit you; shut down the pump, push the handle down and jerk it up fast, do this 3-5 times and then start the system back up. This process knocks the dirty DE powder off the filter material and allows fresh, clean DE to take its place.

This DE filter would be amazing for pool sizes; 24-Round or 15 x 30 Oval and bigger.

Hayward EC50 Perflex DE Pool Filter Above Ground Pools

EC50 filter w/ 342001 pump
Installed on Aquasport 52

The EC50 is a good filter and a great value too for any above ground pool. This pool-filter will clean better than the rest of the ones mentioned further down in this article.

I like to pair this filter with one-speed or variable speed pumps. I avoid using 2-speed pumps as the lower speed does a poor job of stirring the DE powder and keeping it stuck to the grids for proper filtration.

Complete packages that include the filter, 1.5HP pump, hoses, clamps, and base run between $450.00 and $525.00

Pairing the Hayward EC50 with the Pentair 342001 as you see in this picture would run about $1000.00, not including plumbing supplies.

Cartridge Filter Above-Ground Pools

Cartridge Pool Filters
Left to Right: Hayward XStream, Spla-Filter, Pentair PLM

Cartridge filters are the next best at cleaning the dust, algae, and dirt that makes the water cloudy. These are more like traditional filters used for drinking water. They have a fibrous cartridge with pleats that traps particles.

These above ground pool filters work very well with inexpensive 2-speed  pool pumps. You can run 2-speed pumps on low for 24 hours a day and not use half the electricity of a 1-speed running just 8-hours. Cartridge filters catch more dirt on low speed, and the cartridge lasts longer running lower flow rates. One other positive is that they cost less than DE filters.

Pair a big cartridge filter with a 2-speed pump and add an ozone generator like the Oxygen Pools System for the ultimate in easy pool maintenance, plus safe & crystal clear pool water.

Pentair 342001 Pump with Spla 100 Sq. Ft. Cartridge Filter

Spla 100 Square Foot Cartridge Pool Filter – Above Ground Pool

The Spla 100 Sq Ft Filter System with a 2-speed Pump is the best value of any system I have ever seen! The only filter system I know of that comes with shut off valves in the package.

Suitable for above ground pools in size up to but not larger than 24-Round, or 15×30. I have been thinking about making a Spla 200 Sq Ft system by combining two 100 sq ft filters for larger swimming pools. Commercial swimming pool systems run multiple pool-filters parallel to each other all the time.

We sell these Spla systems complete with hoses, clamps, base, pressure gauge, and valves for $475.00 + S&H. Click Here to browse our filter systems. If you buy an above-ground pool from us, we sell the pool filter system for just $285.00 and ship it for free.

Pool filter above ground

The Spla filter system is more of an MGK Pools exclusive as we buy these filter housings and package them with premium Unicel Cartridges.

Of course, I prefer a programmable variable speed pump that allows me to dial in the perfect flow-rate We sell a variable speed pump with this pool filter with pool packages for only $750.00.

Hayward XStream 150 Filter For Above-Ground Swimming Pools

The XStream 150 comes with a 150 square foot cartridge filter as the name suggests. For the best value, I recommend buying it with a 2-speed pump. The problem with this system for me is that it cost $550.00-$600.00 bucks and that is a one-speed pump system.

If you have an above ground pool bigger than 24-Round or 15×30 and you want a cartridge filter, this is a good choice. Or, even for smaller pools, this makes sense to me unless you like doing pool filter maintenance.

Pentair PLM Series Filters

This is also a very good cartridge pool filter. It shares the same filter housing as the DE PLD version and that is the one thing I don’t like about it. This filter housing requires extra steps to reduce the coupler size to accommodate plumbing the system. I overlook it with the PLD DE version because the filter is best in class, but with the Spla and Hayward XStream I don’t see the need for the extra work.

Still a great option if you can pick it up cheap and do not mind the extra plumbing work that comes with it.

Sand Pool Filters

Despite the fact that Diatomaceous Earth (DE) and Cartridge filters clean pool water significantly better than Sand filters, the industry continues to sell more Sand filters than any other type. I will touch quickly on the two main reasons for this before breaking down the best sand filters based on pool size.

The Popularity Of Sand Swimming Pool Filters

Reason 1: Sand filters are idiot proof, that is to say, the care cleaning and regular maintenance of a sand pool filter is so simple a cavemen can do it. You never have to disassemble anything, simply backwash the pool filter as required now and then, and replace the sand every 5-7 years.

Reason #2: They’re inexpensive compared to the other filter types.

Yes, sand filters are inexpensive and when paired with a two-speed pump, operate for peanuts. The trick is going with a big enough filter. As previously mentioned, pool dealers sell more sand filters than any other filter type, what I failed to say was that they are usually undersized. 

They can shave almost $300.00 off a pool package by packaging an undersized sand pool filter. What do they care if you have trouble keeping your pool clean.

The minimum size for pools up to 24-round or 15×30 has to be 19 inches which hold roughly 175lbs of sand. I would even like to see the 24-Round and 15×30 use a 22″ pool filter which holds 200lbs of sand. I have installed a 400lb sand filter with the 342001 on a 24 foot round above ground pool. The customer loves it!

So #1 go big, and #2 get a two-speed above ground, or variable speed pump for circulation. Run it on low 24 hours a day and use the high speed for backwashing and vacuuming. Sand filters filter better when water moves slowly through the unit.

PRO-TIP* – Allways backwash a new sand filter before running it on the filter setting to remove small sand that would find its way into your swimming pool.


All filter types will keep the water clear. DE filters are best catching the smallest particles providing the clearest water. Bigger is better unless you like cleaning pool filters. The Pentair PLD50 system is the best above-ground pool filter system and my favorite. Best value and most economical to operate for pools up to 24-Round or 15×30 sizes is the Spla w/ 2-speed pump system. With sand filters go for the largest you can afford.

You may have noticed I mention a certain pool pump over and over again. I realize it doesn’t make sense for most of you, but for the last two years with the incentives offered from the local power company, plus the kickback I and my Massachusetts customers receive has made it a no-brainer.

Please ask questions in the comments section below!

Related Articles:

  • Top-10 Best Above-Ground Pools with Tips and Advice Click Here
  • Above-Ground Swimming Pool Packages from MGK Pools Click Here
  • Automatic Pool Cleaners For Above Ground Swimming Pools Click Here

By MGK Pool Service

30 year veteran in the pool industry. Having had many career path changes over the years. I began in the pool industry, and looks like I will finish my working life in the pool industry.

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