Sand Filter vs Cartridge Filter – Everything You Need to Know

Choosing a  best pool filter for your pool sure isn’t easy. The 3 popular types of sand, cartridge, and DE all have their many pros and cons.

In this article we’ll do an in depth comparison of having a sand filter vs cartridge filter. They all have the same function – to keep the pool clean and to get rid of anything that doesn’t belong in the pool, and both are great for in ground pools and the best above ground pools. However, there are important things to know and understand before finally choosing a sand or cartridge pool filter for your swimming pool.

Cartridge Filters

Cartridge filters are composed of a pleated polyester cartridge that serves as a filter. They are extremely effective – they are able to screen out almost everything from the water, leaving nothing to contaminate or dirty your pool.

While you may not notice a difference int he quality of filtering, what you may love about cartridge filters for your in ground Cartridge Filterpool is that they are very easy to maintain.

This is because:
1) They require NO backwashing unlike sand filters

2) To clean you either clean the existing one with a simple hose wash, or just replace it with another cartirdge filter.

Cleaning/replacing takes a fraction of the time and only needs to be done once every few months instead of weeks like with sand filters. Every 6 months they should either be chemically cleaned or replaced.

Cartridge swimming pool filters don’t use a lot of energy because they are so efficient with the best pool pump, thus saving long term costs. In addition, becuase you aren’t flushing out the water at all, you will end up using less chemicals during your pool maintenance.

Unfortunately, they aren’t perfect. One con is that they have a higher up front cost than sand filters. Another is that they do not perform well when there is a lot of algae since  algae can clog up the filter quickly.

Pros:

  • Very fine filtering
  • Easy to Maintain
  • Low energy usage

Cons:

  • Higher up front cost
  • Not great to deal with algae attacks
  • Can get clogged by algae

Sand Filters

Sand filters are exactly what they sound like – they filter by using sand. They can filter out things as small as 100 microns when clean, or about 75 microns when dirty. You read that right – they actually clean better when they are not fully clean. This is because dirt and other debris will get caught in the spaces.

Having a sand filter for your pool is great for a lot of reasons. For one, it is super easy and cheap to maintain.

Sand Filter System SummaryThe reason it’s easy is because all you have to do is because you just need to backwash about once a month and add more sand every few months. You don’t really need to get in there and get your hands dirty by soaking or scrubbing the filter which is a plus to me.

The reason it’s cheap compared to DE and cartridge filters because sand is so cheap. Cartridges are definitely more expensive and over the course of a year the cost difference between a cartridge filter and a sand filter for maintenance would be about $50-$100/year so it’s not wallet breaking.

However, you don’t want to buy just any type of sand. There is special filter sand that you’ll want to use to add to your filter. You’ll want to completely relace your sand as often as 5-8 years, but with proper maintenance it doesn’t need replacing.

Sand Filter BreakdownSand filters usually just need replacing if lots of oils and scum build up in the sand. This can cause the sand to form little mud balls of sand that can ruin the effectiveness of a sand filter. With proper care and pool maintenance though this will not be an issue.

Sand filters are also great for pools with a really great pump, causing high gallons per minute  (GPM) capacity. If your pool has a low GPM then cartridge filters are definitely the way to go.

Another con to sand filters is that they won’t really be able to filter anything. They can only filter down to, on average, about 40 microns whereas cartridge can go down to 10. 40 microns is still small enough to catch most things, but if you’re really worired and want a 100% clean pool then sand filters may not be a good fit for you.

Pros:

  • Cheap to maintain
  • Can last for years (5-7 on average, up to 20 possible with good pool maintenance)
  • Lower initial cost

Cons:

  • Uses lots of water
  • Takes more time to maintain

Comparison

1) Time vs cost difference.

Cartridge filters are more expensive to maintain, but are generally easier to clean and require less time. On the other hand sand filters are very cheap to keep effectively cleaning, but can take a little more time to maintain because they require consistent cleaning, whereas cartridge filters require less cleanings but can take a little more time.

The difference of cost and time aren’t huge so even if you prefer one over the other  (money vs time) you can still get the less favorable type of filter.

2) Filtering Ability

Cartridge filters are able to filter out a lot more than sand filters, making your water that much more clear and free of debris. Sand filters still catch most things in the water and will still make it sanitary, it just won’t get everything. While this is a plus for cartridge filters if you get a lot of algae in your pool this will can actually cause cartridge filters to back up and require a cleaning.

Which should you get?

Here is the breakdown of sand filter or cartridge filter for pool.  If you have an intex pool just use a classic sand filter.

If you want to save more money – Sand filters.

If you want to save on time – Cartridge filters

Want EVERYTHING removed from your pool? – Cartridge filters

Lots of algae?  We prefer Sand filters, but cartridge filters are okay if you don’t mind cleaning them up right away.

Laurie S.

As a multi home owner for 15 years I've tried out a ton of pool products and methods and have found out the best ones that work for me. I love helping out other people with real, honest advice and spending time with my family. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me in the about or through a comment.

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