Favorite 64 Fun Things To Do With A Pool Noodle

6Pool Noodles, image by istockphoto
Pool Noodles are a ton of fun to use! Even though they are intended as pool toys, there is so much you can do with them.?With a little creativity, you can make just about anything with pool noodles!

Updated again, we’ll keep adding to it as long as you keep coming up with creative ways to use our regular Pool Noodles, or our Jumbo Pool Noodles! ?

Pool Noodle Rainbow, by Amy Greathead RainbowArtTeacher

pool-noodle-rainbow by Amy Greathead

Pool Noodle Flip Flop Costumes, by Pepper & Buttons

Pool Noodle Hobby Horses, by Buzzcuts & Ponytails


Pool Noodle Toss Game, Kiwico


Noodle Hoops, taped to closet doors – thanks, Pinterest

noodle-hoops game

Noodle Kneeling Pad, for gardening or weeding, or meditation; by Space Classroom


Social Distancing Pool Noodle Hat by shutupandtakemymoney.com


Halloween Spider Costume from Jill Fitzgibbons, posted onto blog.sfgate.com

Halloween Spider Costume from Jill Fitzgibbons, posted onto blog.sfgate.com

Pool Noodle Campfire from Crafty-Crafty, via?Pinterest

Pool Noodle Campfire from Crafty-Crafty, via?Pinterest

Pool Noodle Car Rack Protectors from The Family Handyman

Pool Noodle Car Rack Protectors from The Family Handyman

Pool Noodle Paint Brush Holder, by The Family Handyman

Pool Noodle Paint Brush Holder, by The Family Handyman?

Pool Noodle Tentacle Props from Propnomicon

Pool Noodle Tentacle Props from Propnomicon

Pool Noodle Baby Crib Rail Bumpers, covered in cloth, by babyneedlist.com

Pool Noodle Baby Crib Rail Bumpers, covered in cloth, by babyneedlist.com

Pool Noodle Toddler Counter Bumpers, by Joellyn Benjamin Clark via Pinterest

Pool Noodle Toddler Counter Bumpers, by Joellyn Benjamin Clark via Pinterest

Pool Noodle Child Seat Belt Pad, by csnbaby.com via pinterest

Pool Noodle Child Seat Belt Pad, by csnbaby.com via pinterest

Pool Noodle Car Door Bumper, by Joe Truini with Todayshomeowner.com

Pool Noodle Car Door Bumper, by Joe Truini with Todayshomeowner.com

Pool Noodle UnderSea Coral Reef Prop from kidzoro.com, via pinterest

Pool Noodle UnderSea Coral Reef Prop from kidzoro.com, via pinterest

Pool Noodle Candles with LED lights,??from shinyflowersmodel.com

Pool Noodle Candles with LED lights,??from shinyflowersmodel.com

Pool Noodle Sprinkler connected to garden hose, by Make It and Love It

Pool Noodle Sprinkler connected to garden hose, by Make It and Love It

Pool Noodle Bed Edge Bumpers for Kids, from Baby Needs, via pinterest

Pool Noodle Bed Edge Bumpers for Kids, from Baby Needs, via pinterest?

Pool Noodle Garden Stakes to support young plants, from Faithtap.com

Pool Noodle Garden Stakes to support young plants, from Faithtap.com

Pool Noodle Clothes Hangers, by How Does She pool noodle article

Pool Noodle Clothes Hangers, by How Does She pool noodle article?

Pool Noodle Holiday Wreath, article from Goodhousekeeping.com via pinterest

Pool Noodle Holiday Wreath, article from Goodhousekeeping.com via pinterest

Pool Noodle Rosary from?Catholic Icing

?Pool Noodle Rosary from?Catholic Icing

Pool Noodle Boot Stands, from Lesley Braate, via?pinterest

Pool Noodle Boot Stands, from Lesley Braate, via?pinterest

Pool Noodle Lollipops by Leslie Welch, article by Trollox.com

This post is soooo looong! Click the link below to continue, there’s 39 more things to do with a noodle below!

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How to Use a Chlorine Floater or Feeder

chlorine feeders and floaters

This post will be a short one, because we are in the middle of the Pool Rush of 2020, a madcap year of manufacturing shortages and shipping delays. ?

I have a few pool chlorinator techniques that I want to share today. Some tips on how to precisely control the rate of feed of your chlorine, and some chlorinator maintenance and repair stuff, and a few thoughts on safety.


Chlorine Floaters: Place up to 3 lbs of 3-inch tablets into the container, close the lid, adjust the baffle vent at the bottom, or drill holes in the side, and float it in the pool. Chlorine Floaters? are the simplest and most inexpensive chlorinators. Their disadvantage is they are not as precise, nor as large, as Chlorine Feeders. Floaters are found in the $10-$20 range.

Chlorine Feeders: Place 3-inch tablets, up to 9 lbs, into the chamber and close the lid. Installed last on the line, after the filter and any other equipment,?Chlorine Feeders are either plumbed In-line, glued into?the PVC return line, or installed?Off-line with thin hoses and injectors drilled into the pipe. Either way, adjust the chlorine flow with a dial that ranges from 1-10.? Feeders range from $80-$110.


Chlorine Floaters: For each 5000 gallons of pool water, add one 3″ chlorine tablet. Open the baffle or vent at the bottom, fully open. The wider open, the greater the dissolution rate.

pool-floaterThe two variables you have to control with a floater are 1) the amount of tablets you put in, and 2) how far open (or closed), the baffles or vents are at the bottom. You

Your test kit will tell you for sure if you are using enough chlorine tablets. If your chlorine test is over 2.0 ppm, you may be able to use less tablets, or close the baffles more, and if your chlorine test is under 1.0 ppm, you should use another tablet, or open the vents more.

  • Remove Chlorine Floaters when using the pool, if there will be any rough waters. You don’t want it tipping over and spilling it’s contents.
  • Tie off the floater to a ladder or rope hook anchor. You don’t want it floating around and getting stuck on a ladder, skimmer or step.
  • Be careful when the baffles are wide open, that the small slivers of tablets don’t fall out, which can stain both vinyl and plaster pools. Place slivers in the skimmer basket.
  • You can use half tablets too, score them with a screwdriver, and break it in half with your hands, underwater in the skimmer basket.

Chlorine Feeders:

For each 5000 gallons of pool water, add one 3″ chlorine tablet, more or less. Choose a mid-point setting on the 1-10 dial. The higher the setting, the greater the dissolution rate.


A setting of 5 may be too high, and it depends on the number of tablets in the feeder. You could fill it full, with 15 tablets, and put it on a setting of 1-2, or add only 2 tablets and put it on a setting of 8-9.

Your test kit will help you determine the proper dial setting for your chlorinator. If you are in the habit of adding tablets once per week, experiment with dial settings and your test kit, to find the sweet spot of tablet concentration, and dial setting, to produce a consistent 1-2 ppm chlorine level.

  • Chlorine Feeders are best installed In-Line, plumbed into the return line, when space on the return pipe is available. If not, an Off-Line model can be used just as effectively with slightly higher total cost of ownership, for new hoses/fittings every 5 years.
  • Keep a Viton rubber chlorine feeder lid o-ring well lubricated, and replace if it becomes stretched or pinched.
  • At season end, remove all chlorine pieces from the chlorinator, and store with a loose lid, to allow any residual chlorine gas to escape.
  • Once per year, use a scraper tool to remove residue near the inside-top of the chemical feeder chamber, and clean any screens or inlet/outlet orifices.

If you have any questions about how to operate your chlorinator; feeder or floater, Leave a Reply below!


Rob Cox
InTheSwim Blog Editor


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Favorite Water Workout: 8 Great Pool Noodle Exercises

pool-noodle-exercises-istk imageOne of the best pool workouts you can get without swimming laps are resistance exercises with the support of a basic foam pool noodle.

This post is new and improved, now with eight great pool noodle?workout moves, and some new pictures.

Winter or summer, in your own pool or at your local gym or community pool. Keep in shape with a 30-60 minute pool noodle workout, done 2-3 times per week.

Noodle Pull / Push

Image by Self Magazine - click to visit article on Self.comThis exercise focuses on your upper body but can be modified to an entire body workout as well. Standing in chest-deep water, hold the pool noodle near your chest with your palms down just beneath the surface of the water. Push the noodle down keeping it submerged until your arms are fully extended. Then slowly allow it to come up for one rep. To engage the whole body, do this exercise while walking through the water at the same time.

Noodle Tucks

Image by Self Magazine - click to visit article on self.comDo this in deeper water with the pool noodle wrapped behind your back and under your arms for stability. Starting with your legs straight below you, toes pointed toward the bottom, engage your abs and bring your knees up toward your chest as far as you can. Hold for two seconds, then move your legs back down to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps.

Noodle Twist

In this version of the Noodle Tuck shown above, a twisting motion is added. The abdomen muscles are fully engaged, with more work on the obliques, the flanking muscle group from the rib cage down to where your love handles used to be. With different angles or even completely prone, (like a plank), you can modify the effect to focus on different body areas.

Noodle Push Downs

Image by Self Magazine - click to visit article on self.comStanding in waist-deep water, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold the pool noodle in front of you on the water’s surface with your hands slightly farther than shoulder-width apart. Push down on the noodle while simultaneously raising one leg straight behind you until your body is parallel to the bottom. Repeat with the other leg.

Pool Noodle Lunges

Image by Self Magazine - click to visit article on self.comStart in chest-deep water with one end of the pool noodle in each hand, arms extended in front of you underneath the water. Your hands should be close to each other, so the noddle forms a U in front of you. Step forward, lifting your leg high enough to step through the U while pushing the noodle toward the bottom of the pool. Make sure your forward foot goes all the way down before stepping back to the starting position.

Pool Noodle Running

Self-Magazine-pool-running-with-noodleIn waist-deep water, put the pool noodle around your back like a belt, with the U shape hugging your body. Place your hands on the front of the noodle. Start on one side of the pool and make your way to the other side, moving your legs in a running motion. The resistance of the water will make it difficult to run, which will build muscle in your legs and get your heart pumping. Turn the noodle around to the back, and you can also engage your arms.

More Pool Noodle Jogging

alt text for a pool noodle workout

As an alternative to the Pool Noodle Running example shown above where you make contact with the pool floor, for water jogging, head out to deeper water. You can tie the pool noodle around your waist, or hold it in front and shown in the left side image. Using the pool noodle as a seat while kicking engages many muscle groups at the same time.

Half Plank

The Half-Plank pose, as I call it, is performed as though you were seated on the ground. Point the toes, and lean your head and shoulders forward, extending your arms out in front of you. Hold the pose for as long as you comfortably can, returning to a vertical position when needed. Remember to breathe deeply and often while working out, to increase oxygen uptake.

Thanks to Self Magazine for their inspirational pool noodle workouts article! Want more ideas? See our Pinterest board called Swimming Pool Workout Ideas for more pool noodle exercises you can try.

We have two types of pool noodles, Standard Swim Noodles and our larger diameter Super Swim Noodles. Both have a center hole and are sold in case quantity.

See also our other water workout gear like AquaJogger, goggles and kick boards. Sometimes some cool exercise equipment is all you need to get motivated!

Dana Katz
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Pool Pump Surging


pump-surgingToday we tackle an issue that has plagued pool owners for millennia – what to do when the pool pump is surging, or pulsing.

That is, when the water flows into the pump intermittently; it starts to catch prime, and then loses it, and then catches again.

Surging pool pumps also make a tell-tale noise as the water level in the pump rises and falls. What is it that cause pump surge? Read on…


Yes, the number one cause of water surging in the pump is a classic air leak. As the pump builds in water flow, the vacuum created increases, which makes it easier for small air leaks to become big air leaks.

leaking pump MTA fittingWhat do I mean by air leaks? This is a void, in front of the pump impeller (Before the impeller), that is drawing air into the system when the pump is running. Your pump will prefer to pump air, rather than water – it is the path of least resistance.

The most common sources of air leaks? A loose and heat-shrunken MTA fitting coming into the pump is number one. A loose pump lid is second, followed by a damaged or dry pump lid o-ring without lube. Third on the list is a leaky suction-side valve; skimmer or main drain valve, or check valve.

You can test for air leaks by smearing shaving cream (yes!) over everything and looking for where it gets sucked in, or by using a Drain King to pressurize the suction-side manifold. The air leak will always be before the pump impeller, because after the pump, any void will leak water not air, as it is under pressure not vacuum.


Another cause of pool pump surging is when a suction pipe (skimmer, main drain or vacuum) is clogged, or partially clogged, I should say.


In some cases, it will be a clog of leaves or gum tree spiky balls, or acorns – and you may know this if you were just vacuuming heavy debris, and lost suction suddenly.

In other cases, it will be a too-small winterization plug that slipped down the pipe, or a piece of plastic. In both cases, the foreign object usually gets stuck at the first 90 fitting, directly below the skimmer, and the suction causes it to alternately completely block and partially block, the water flow, creating the pulsing pump.

A Drain King, available at your local hardware store and attached to a garden hose, can be inserted into the front of the pump (facing the pool), and used to push clogs backwards, toward the skimmer, where the material or object can be removed.



Is the water level in the pool up to mid-tile? Even so, do you notice a swirling vortex in the skimmer, which is drawing air into the pump? This will cause intermittent flow problems, with the pump running fine until the vortex draws in a good stream of water, and then bogs down.

This is an easy problem to solve, just add water!


The skimmer weir is that “Flapper door thingy” inside the skimmer throat. In some cases, when a skimmer’s side walls have bowed inward, this can cause the weir to become stuck in a vertical position, blocking water flow.

Discovering this one can be tricky, because sometime you go to inspect the skimmer and it has fallen back down to a normal, more horizontal position, mocking your attempts at solving the pool pump pulse problem.

You can manually test for the problem however, by removing the skimmer lid and reaching in toward the pool (easier with the pump off), and pushing the weir to a vertical position, and seeing if it will stay stuck.


A related problem, often accompanied by a clicking sound, is when one of the switches in the rear of the motor is chattering, or switching on/off, on/off…

In AO Smith style motors, there is a centrifugal switch on the end of the motor shaft, that can be loose, and not fully engage, or lay flat. Tighten the center screw and check that it is aligned with the tab on the triangular shaped stationary switch.

The stationary switch can also cause this problem of cycling on/off, on/off. This switch is located at 6 o’clock, and the screw at the bottom can come loose, or the tab can become misaligned with the centrifugal switch.

Century motors have a ‘switchless’ motor, which does have a switch on the end of the shaft, which can become damaged, or obstructed, so that it does not fully open.

Video Clip by Brian Marshall


Thank you for Reading!


Mark Garcia
In The Swim Staff Blogger


Above Ground Pool Installation Guide


Installing an above ground pool is an easy weekend project for 2-3 people. Why pay some company more than the cost of the pool to install your aboveground pool? If you work out their hourly rate, you’re being charged over $300 per hour for above ground pool installers. Do it Yourself and install your own pool!

With just 1-2 helpers, and some simple hand tools and a drill, you can have an above ground pool installed and filling with water from the hose in 1 day. If you have a sloping hillside or drainage issues or are sinking a pool into the ground, it’ll take 2 days of work. One day to cut and grade the earth, and the following day for pool assembly.


Choosing the best location for your pool is an important decision, they are very difficult to move later! A spot that is flat and close to level, will be easiest to prepare, but for many homes, the best location is a sloping hillside. In this case, they cut into the hillside, and build a retaining wall of block or timber, giving at least 10 feet from the pool walls to the start of the slope.

  • Close to water, a garden hose that you can use to fill the pool.
  • Close to power, a grounded GFI outlet, to plug in the pump.
  • Close to house, or at least visible from the house.
  • Close to Setbacks or Easements, but not encroaching.
  • Sunny location, without overhanging or nearby trees.
  • Good drainage, around and away from the pool.

Installing an aboveground swimming pool is easier than you think. A weekend project for you, but a great savings for your wallet. Let’s go with a?24 ft round pool?for example.

One Week Before:?Call811?before doing any digging on your property. A phone call to #811 will schedule a technician to come to your home and mark the property for underground utilities. It’s the law, even if your yard is very flat and you do not plan to dig deeply.

To start your aboveground pool installation, place a stake in the center of the ground where you want the pool to be installed. Slip the end of the tape measure over the stake and measure to 13 ft. Measuring 13 ft from the center gives a diameter of 26 ft – so you will have 1 ft all around to work with. Walking slowly around the perimeter, use spray paint or lime to mark the outer perimeter of the circle. Remove all the grass and uneven top soil with flat shovels or spades, within the circle. You can rent a Sod-Cutter if you want to re-use the sod in another place; but what a beast to operate!

Once the rough stuff is removed, it’s time to level out the area. A most important step! This can either be done with a site level, transit or line level. Set bricks flatly into the dirt on each side of the pool area, to an equally placed brick on the other side. Do this at several spots around the pool perimeter, to ensure that the surface is level. If you don’t have access to these fancy tools, you can lay 8ft 2×4’s across the area you just cleaned and leveled to “check level” with a carpenter’s lever.

Important: Any slope to the ground, even a centimeter of difference from side to side, will cause your water level in the pool to be uneven. If it’s more than a slight difference, an aboveground pool with uneven water level can have uneven pressure on the walls located on the high side of the pool.

Ground Leveling:?Now comes the real work. If you have a sloping location or hillside to contend with, you may need to use a skid steer loader or otherwise get some mechanical help. If the ground is fairly flat, the work can be done with picks and shovels. A flat and square nosed shovel is a good tool, to shave off high spots. You may not need to actually remove any dirt, but get rid of weeds and rocks by raking the area with a garden rake.

When leveling ground, remember: Lower high spots to meet low spots, do not fill low spots to meet high spots! Do not set your pool on loose fill dirt, it is VERY heavy when full of water. Remove high spots, to meet the level of low spots, for even solid ground all around.

To check for level, use an 8′ long 2×4, with a carpenter’s level taped to the wood. Move the 2×4 around the circumference of the pool, keeping one end in the center, and moving it on the outside. Work each “slice of the pie”, leveling the ground and then moving forward, until you’ve gone all the way around. It’s also helpful to set up your center stake again, with the string attached to another stake outside of the pool perimeter. The check for equal measurement from the string to the ground. Work the area until the ground under the string is level all the way to the edge, then move the string a few feet and repeat.

After the pool floor area has been leveled, bring into the middle of the pool area your floor material – whether it will be sand, stone dust or vermiculite. Start to assemble the Bottom Track connectors to make your 24′ round circle. Go back around and check to make sure it is the same diameter all around and not 23’6″ one way and 24’6″ the other way. Some 24 ft round pools do not necessarily measure exactly 24 ft. Some may be slightly smaller or larger, just make sure that it’s not slightly oblong, but has been laid out in a perfect circle.

place-patio-blocks-under-uprightsSet Blocks in Place:?First, place a few stakes behind the assembled rail into the ground to prevent it from moving, while you continue to work. After the circle is round, dig down an inch, and place a 8″ x 16″ patio block under each rail connector. Patio blocks look like flat cinder blocks, only 1.5″ thick; you can get them at any Home Store. The blocks should be set into the ground, even with the surrounding ground, so you don’t raise the bottom rail up and off the ground. The bottom rail must sit on solid ground all the way around, and on the patio blocks at each connection. Proceed to level the rail going from 1 block to the next. Make sure that all blocks are equally and exactly level to each other, and the rail is firmly supported all the way around.

Tamping & Wetting:?If the soil is loose, hand tamping it, or using a motorized tamper is a good idea. The pool will weigh from 50-110,000 lbs. when full of water, so be sure that your soil is packed, or the pool will do it for you, but possibly unevenly. Use water from a lawn sprinkler to saturate the area and help loose dirt settle into place.

how to choose the best location for an aboveground pool

To Keep You Motivated. Eventually THIS can be Yours!

Pool Floor / Pool Base:?To protect the pool liner, it is recommended to top your bare soil with sand or other smooth, compactable material. Two inches of sand makes a nice base for an above ground pool; it’s cheap, readily available and soft to the touch. Problem is, it’s too soft, and over time, heel marks and other floor irregularities will begin to show up. Stone dust is better than sand, as it lays flatter and resists shifting. A base of vermiculite or a sand/concrete mix can also be used, for the most durable and hard floor material. To spread the material level, use the stakes and strings again, as well as a carpenter’s level taped to an 8′ 2×4.

Smooth out your base material with large trowels or wooden floats and then tamp the floor with a heavy tamper tool. Next, use a push broom and gently sweep the pool floor, this is to remove the tamping marks and to ensure a smooth and level bottom. After tamping and smoothing, spray a light mist all over the pool bottom to solidify and firm up the floor. If you are installing a floor pad, to protect the liner, and provide a smooth pool bottom which is resistant to heel divots and markings, now is the time to install either?floor padding or liner guard.

Connect Bottom Rail:?The bottom rail is a track that holds the pool wall and the uprights in a locked position. The bottom rail pieces connect end to end where they meet up at each connector plate, which also serves as the base plate for the upright posts between each wall. Once you have all of the rails locked into place, take several cross measurements, to be sure that the pool is perfectly round, or oval. You may wish to also check level again, by running strings across the pool, from base plate to base plate. Pull the string tightly, and hold a carpenter’s level at the level of the string. You can also use a transit, or shoot a laser beam from a patio paver, across the pool to the opposite paver. Check for level on each patio block before shooting the laser across the pool. The pool base or floor should come up to the top of each patio block that you place to support each upright.

Roll out Pool Wall:?The pool wall material is a solid sheet of galvanized and laminated steel, rolled up tightly. Installing the pool wall involves unrolling it while simultaneously pushing the bottom of the wall into the bottom rail or track. You will need 2 helpers for this stage, to help stabilize the wall and hold it into the track, while you unroll the wall. Use a piece of cardboard underneath the roll, to prevent divots in the floor, and to keep from damaging the base of the wall while you move it around.

The skimmer cut-out is normally close to the beginning of the roll, so start at the place where you want the skimmer to be, which is also where your pump and filter will be located. After just 3-5 minutes, you’ll have the wall standing up in the track, use the bolts to connect both ends together, being sure that the smooth carriage bolt ends are on the inside, with the nuts on the outside of the pool wall.

Install Uprights, Stabilizers and Top Rail:?Secure the upright by snapping it over the base plate on the outside of the wall. Position the stabilizer plate on the top of the upright, and screw into the upright. Now position the top rail on the top edge of the wall, and screw into place at the uprights.

Install Foam if Desired:?Foam on the walls gives a nice soft touch and helps protect the liner. Same goes for floor padding that you can place underneath the liner. We have foam?Pool Cove?that is used to make a smooth and even transition between pool wall and floor, and helps protect the liner from overstretching in this area.

Install Vinyl Pool Liner:?with 2-3 helpers, drape the pool liner over the pool walls and clamp it in place with the coping strips. For beaded liners, attach the bead receiver to the top of the pool wall and snap the liner edge into the track.


Place the pool liner box inside the pool and unfold it. If the weather is cold, keep the liner stored indoors until ready to use, to make the vinyl more pliable. Put the seam around the bottom perimeter half way up the cove. Hang the liner over the wall (assuming that it’s an overlap liner) and secure the liner to the top of the wall with the included coping clips. Have someone on the outside of the pool wall start putting on your uprights (side supports) and install the under rail over top of the coping strips to keep the pool rigid.

wetdryvac-smSetting the Liner: After you get?the liner installed, you can use a Shop-Vac to “set” the liner, using the suction to pull it tight against the pool wall and floor before filling with water. Run the Shop-Vac hose through the skimmer hole between the wall and the liner, and down about 3″ from the pool cove. Using Duct-Tape, tape up around the skimmer hole and return hole and the turn on the Shop-Vac. This will pull the liner into place all around, and if any wrinkles exist you can move the liner around to loosen them, and push them towards the wall.

Once the wrinkles are removed, keep the Shop-Vac running and start filling the pool, by placing a garden hose (or two) into the middle of the floor. When you have about 6″ of water in the pool, shut off the vac and gently pull the hose from behind the liner. Keep the pool filling while you put on remaining top rails and top connectors. When the water gets right below the skimmer and return holes shut it off.

skimmer-returnInstalling the Face Plates: Where the skimmer hole is located, use a razor knife and make a small X in the liner, through the skimmer opening in the wall. Place one gasket behind the liner if not already taped in place. Place a second gasket on top of the liner and line up the holes with the face plate. Use a large, #3 Phillips head, and make sure the screws are very tight, until the plastic creaks. Use a razor knife to then trim out the inside of the skimmer, saving it as vinyl patching material.

Where your return hole is located, use a razor knife and make a?small?X in the liner, through the return fitting hole in the wall. Install the return wall fitting with the back (large nut) already off and push it through the wall from inside of the pool to the outside – with the gasket already mounted. Trim away the excess vinyl wrapping the threads outside the pool, and place the gasket and nut on the outside and tighten by hand. After it’s snug, give one more turn with a pair of channel locks or large pliers.

you built your own aboveground pool!

Before you know it, the day is getting long, and you’re done! Now to me, building your own above ground pool is worth doing to save at least $1,000.00 dollars or more, not to mention bragging rights and the smiles on your family’s faces. Only thing left to do is blow up your pool raft, install your volleyball net, add some chlorine, and enjoy your new aboveground pool – that you installed!

Take a look at our new line-up of high quality above ground pools at In The Swim – with unbeatable prices and unlimited, free technical support, from me and the other SPP Pool Experts!

Here’s a video from another great pool resource, POOLCENTER.com, now part of the In The Swim family!


I sincerely hope that you enjoy your pool, as I have enjoyed my pools, for so many years!

Larry Weinberg
SPP Pool Expert


Swimming Pool Pump Motors Deconstructed

Pool Pump Motors Deconstructed

Pictured below is the capacitor start electric motor, made by AO?Smith and others, and used to power centrifugal impellers on pool pumps. Capacitor-Start motors use stored powered to give the motor windings additional power, to start the rotor turning.

When this power is applied to the coils of wound copper (N) that surrounds the rotor (B), it begins to rotate within the stator. The rotor is alternately repelled and attracted, and this quickly ramps up rotor revolutions to over 3400 RPM.

A. Motor Frame F. Capacitor K. Ground Terminal
B. Rotor and Shaft G. Terminal Board L. End Cap
C. Motor Bearings H. Thermal Overload M. Stator
D. Motor Fan I. Centrifugal Start Switch N. Stator
E. Support Frame J. Governor

All of the items at the rear of the motor are replaceable, with the capacitor being the most often replaced motor part. Inside the motor, the motor bearings can be replaced if they begin to squeal, although if the motor is over 5 years old, it may be better to replace the motor, in my opinion. Electrical motors are recyclable, and there is some scrap value to the copper windings, if you want to strip them out.

Reading a Pool Motor Label

A.?This line gives you the model number of the motor, in this case the UST1102. The backwards RU is a UL mark.

B.?This line shows that the motor is thermally protected, and then lists the Thermal Overload part number CET51ABM. The CSA logo is the Canadian Standards

C.?MOTOR?MODel number is used when replacing a motor, to get one with the same electrical construction. Serial Number??Not that useful; it just tells when it was made.

D.?Line D shows the Volts 115/230, meaning this motor has reversible power, or can accept either. HP stands for Horsepower, in this case 1.0 hp.

E.?AMPS is listed further down. Also on line E is PH for Phase, single phase in this case. CODE refers to the NEMA classification for motors.

F.?RPM – revolutions per minute, 3450 for pool motor types. FR – Frame type, in this case a 56J. HZ stands for Hertz, 60 hz in the US and 50 Hz in other parts of the world. VS motors have adjustable, or Variable Speeds, from 600 to 3450 RPM.

G.?Max Load Amps lists two numbers 15.0 / 7.5. The first number is max amps used when wired 115V, and the second number is amp draw for a 230V hookup. SF stands for Service Factor, and this tells if the motor is uprated, or max-rated. The SF number is multiplied by the HP number to compute total horsepower.

H.?Insulation Class?B is used for most spa and pool motors, AMB lists the maximum ambient temperature this motor should operate in, 50° Celsius, or 122°?Fahrenheit. Time Rating of CONT means that this motor is made for Continuous Duty, or built to run all the time, if needed.

I:?Motor TYPE is used to tell the type of motor used – CS?for Capacitor Start, or UAK for Capacitor Start/Capacitor Run. The manufacturer Regal Beloit is listed and the country of construction, in this case China, is listed.

How to Select a New Pump Motor

The first thing you need to know is what Frame type you have. 48Y is often called square flange, 56J is often called C-flange and 48 frame are used on spas and above ground pool pumps. After that you want to match Horsepower, and Service Factor in particular. You can also use the model number to locate a replacement pool pump motor.

You cannot Increase the horsepower of your motor, unless you also buy a new impeller. Each horsepower has its own impeller, and Full-rated and Up-rated also have different impellers. It is always best to install an exact replacement motor.

If you really must have a bigger pump, it can be simpler to buy a new pump, rather than installing a larger motor, seal and impeller. And, please be sure your system can handle more power. Installing a pump that is too large for the system (pipes, filter, valves), can cause problems.

For help selecting a new motor, please feel free to contact our call center at 800-288-7946, or Leave a Reply below, with all the information on your motor name plate, and the make and model (and horsepower) of your current pump.

What is the difference between Full-Rate and UP-Rate Motors?

An Up-rated motor (aka Max-rated), is when a motor is modified to have a higher Service Factor (SF), which increases the total horsepower (THP) of the pump. So, an uprated 1.5 hp pump for example, is a ‘juiced-up’ 1-hp motor, with a higher Service Factor, and internal modifications, for a total horsepower of 1.5 hp.

A full-rated 1.5 hp pump will produce higher flow rates and higher pressures than an up-rated 1.5 hp pump, which will have actual flow characteristics closer to the 1.0 hp model. Up-rated pumps produce less flow as the same horsepower full-rated models, but they also consume less energy and cost less to buy.

What’s in the Rear of the Motor?

12 o-clock: Thermal Overload Switch, a hi-limit that shuts off the pump if it gets too hot, turns pump back on once cool.

3 o-clock: Terminal Board, connect your two incoming power leads here, does not matter which wire goes to which screw. Ground to green screw.

6 o-clock: Stationary Switch, the switch opens when the motor reaches 3450 RPM, to disengage the capacitor power.

9 o-clock: Capacitor is the starting battery for the motor, kind of like your car battery, to provide an assist when starting the motor.

Center: Governor, aka Centrifugal Switch, screwed onto the end of the shaft, is a spring loaded device that lays flat when 3450 RPM is reached, which opens the Stationary Switch, and cut off power from the Capacitor.


Image from Pool & Spa News, article on Bearing Replacement

Can Pool Pump Motors be Rebuilt?

pump shaft sealWhen we talk about a ‘motor rebuild’ for a pool pump, we’re talking about new bearings (front and rear), and a new shaft seal (which is technically a pump part).

Nobody would bother with larger motor repairs on residential pool motors, so if there is a short across the windings, or if the shaft is unbalanced, or the fan vanes broken, that motor is DOA, when brought to a motor shop.

Yes, you can “pull the motor” and drive it over to a local electric motor repair shop, and they will rebuild it, with new bearings and seal, and also inspect, clean and tighten, and maybe even a fresh coat of paint. $100-$150. You can usually pick up your rebuilt motor the following day.

You can also rebuild your own motor, with a pair of bearing pullers and the correct set of front and rear motor bearings, and the right shaft seal.?You can also find all of your seals and o-rings for the most popular pool pumps, available in our ready to go pump rebuild kits.

If you have questions or need help with our?pool motors and motor parts, take a picture of the motor nameplate and give us a call at 800-288-7946. You can also Leave a Reply with all of your name plate info, and I’m happy to help.


Rob Cox
InTheSwim Blog Editor

Pool Cleaner Parts Explained

Today we continue our series of ‘explainer posts’, to remove some of the mystery surrounding pool equipment parts.

Following-up on our first post explaining Pool Pump Parts Explained, we now look at a more extensive category, pool cleaner parts.

There must be thousand of parts in the pool cleaner sub-category, not just because there’s 100+ pool cleaners, but because there are three different types of pool cleaners: suction, pressure and robotic. Today we look at suction and pressure cleaner parts.

Suction Cleaners

Seal and Footpad


Hayward DV5000 / KingRay Schematic Diagram – KingRay Parts

The Seal and Footpad, are in contact with the floor of the pool, and as such are subject to wear and tear, especially in rough bottomed pools. The Footpad, (#8) takes most of the wear, and serves a secondary purpose of locking the Seal (#7) in place.

Common problems besides wear and tear include sun damage or warping. When storing your cleaner, be sure the Seal remains very flat, or it can become misshapen.


Cleaner Parts Baracuda G2

Baracuda G2 Cleaner Schematic – Baracuda G2 Parts

The Diaphragm (#1) is what creates the suction and release in Baracuda type cleaners, and is responsible for both the vacuuming suction and the movement of the cleaner, which makes a very small, almost imperceptible hop during the release. Kreepy Krauly cleaners use a Flapper for the same purpose, also called a knocker, for the loud noise it makes.

Common problems with the Diaphragm include tears or rips in the rubber material, from sharp sticks or from suction being too powerful, over a long period of time. In some cases, chemical damage can occur, although newer versions are more resistant.

Ladder Guard

Dirt Devil Schematic Diagram - Dirt Devil Parts

Dirt Devil Schematic Diagram – Dirt Devil Parts

The ladder guard is a large disk (#15) or ring that fits around the top of the disk style suction cleaners, to prevent the cleaner or hose from getting stuck behind pool ladders, and also functions to keep the cleaner off of steps or rubbing up against the pool walls. See also: Polaris Ladder Guard G-21, and Kreepy Ladder Guards, K12330.

Common problems with the Ladder Guard is breakage, especially when the cleaner is out of the pool, and it falls over on one side. Automatic cleaners can be fragile, one of the reasons that we sell so many pool cleaner parts!

Wings & Pods

Hayward Pool Vac Ultra Schematic Diagram - Pool Vac Parts

Hayward Pool Vac Ultra Schematic Diagram – Pool Vac Parts

Moving onto the gear box and turbine type of pool cleaners, invented by Arneson and popularized by Hayward, these cleaners operate with a complicated set of gears driving a large turbine to sweep leaves and debris. The Wings (#27) and Pods (#31) give the cleaner balance and stability while on the surface and if it becomes ‘airborne’.

Common problems are mostly wear and tear, or by being dropped while out of the pool. Wings can become detached, and the pods can vibrate loose the screws holding them on, resulting in dragging and damage to delicate parts. Or if not replacing pod shoes…

Pod Shoes

Hayward Navigator Schematic Diagram - Navigator Vac Parts

Hayward Navigator Schematic Diagram – Navigator Vac Parts

There are several different types of Pod Shoes (#28) for Hayward Pool Vac and Navigator style pool cleaners. Pod shoes are square pads that are designed to work with different types of pool surfaces; concrete, vinyl, fiberglass. Made of Cork, Rubber, Ceramic or Santoprene, they provide traction and protect the Pods from wear and tear.

Common problems include – wear and tear, but that is what they are supposed to do, wear down slowly to protect the more expensive parts above, and to also prevent scraping and scratching of your pool surfaces. Replace them as needed, to prevent further damage!


On to yet another type of suction cleaner, invented by Poolvergnuegen and popularized by The Pool Cleaner, then copied by Hayward AquaNaut and Phoenix, and Jacuzzi Cyclone, Pentair Warrior, and others. An improved version of the gear box and turbine cleaner, the Turbine (#11) is supercharged for more power with less suction.

Common issues are few, it can be come clogged with large or long debris, but the turbine itself is durable and rarely fails.

Roller Skirts

Another feature of the Poolvergnuegen style of pool cleaner, emulated by so many, is the roller skirt on front and back, which help the cleaner to maintain suction while traversing uneven surfaces, by lifting just one or two rollers at a time, and conforming to the shape of any obstacles on the floor.

Common issues are few with the rollers, the most common probably being damage from being dropped, while out of the pool, or wear and tear from very rough surfaces or from being overpowered, and literally ‘flying’ around the pool, and crash landing.

Pressure Cleaners

Sweep Hose and Tail Scrubber

Polaris 380 Schematic Diagram - Polaris 380 Parts

Polaris 380 Schematic Diagram – Polaris 380 Parts

Pressure cleaners typically have a Sweep Hose (#35) that functions to stir-up dust and dirt that was missed as the cleaner travels over dirt and debris. On the tip of the tail is a rough Tail Scrubber (#30), intended to brush the surface. The action of the Sweep Hose is regulated by a knob at the attachment point. A lazy back and forth speed is best.

Common problems include holes in the Sweep Hose, or the loss of the Orifice Tip (#34) on the end of the tail. Replacing the Tail Wear Rings (#36) in a timely fashion will prevent both issues. No flow out of tail at all? Go inside, the WMS hose has likely become detached. Polaris 3900 models have the?Tailsweep Pro?that prevents water from spraying when the tail is out of water.

Drive Belts

Polaris 380 Schematic Diagram - Polaris 380 Parts

Polaris 380 Schematic Diagram – Polaris 380 Parts

When the Polaris 380 was introduced, the belt-driven design was a radical departure from the earlier gear driven models 180/280. Polaris Drive Belts (#8) were originally a tan color, and tended to fray and break too easily. Quickly redesigned, today’s belts are blue, and sold as the Heavy Duty Belt Kit, 9-100-1017. Polaris 480 and 3900 models use a Drive Chain, because they’re cool like that.

Still, common problems can occur, they can break or tear, or lose some of their teeth, which causes the wheels to slip. Proper belt tension is when you can press down with your finger on the belt about 1/2″. Less deflection is too tight, and more is too loose. Adjust the wheel axle, pushing wheels (and pully) apart slightly, to tighten up loose Polaris belts.

Water Management System

Polaris 280 Schematic Diagram - Polaris 280 Parts

Polaris 280 Schematic Diagram – Polaris 280 Parts

The Water Management System (#30), or WMS, is the manifold that splits the water into 4 directions, up into the venturi jets, to the Turbine (#36) to drive the wheels, and out the rear of the cleaner, through the Thrust Jet (#23), and the Sweep Tail (#7). the Polaris 280 WMS shown, is more condensed with less hoses than other models, but functions the same.

The most common problem with the WMS is clogging from small bits of sand, or plaster grit getting caught in the small orifices. Once discovered, the grit can be reamed out, or blasted back out with water pressure in the opposite direction. For those WMS with hoses attached, the zi- ties can break, and the hoses can become disconnected internally.

Wheels, Tires and Bearings

Letro Legend Schematic Diagram - Letro Legend Parts

Letro Legend Schematic Diagram – Letro Legend Parts

Just like for your car, the wheels and tires on a pressure pool cleaner are important parts to maintain, for good tracking and traction. And like a car, Tires (#32) and Wheels (#28) can be rotated for even wear and longer life. Bearings (#29) are very important as well, to provide stability and power and the best traction for wall climbing and speed.

Common problems include loose bearings (2 per wheel), which should allow only about 1/4″ of wobble in either direction. Rounded tires will affect cleaner performance. 180/280 and Letro wheels with teeth can become stripped, and can be rotated to the rear.

Back-Up Valve

Letro Legend Hose Schematic Diagram - Hose Float Parts

Letro Legend Hose Schematic Diagram – Letro Hose Parts

The Back-up Valve (#45) is a hydro-timer, a series of gears that are hydraulically powered, that is, the water pressure turns the gears. Ever 3 minutes, the spinning gears open up a bypass vent in the backup valve case (#30), which stops the flow of water to the cleaner and sprays the water out in the opposite direction. This has the intended purpose of pulling the cleaner off of the floor, in case it is stuck and if not, to change direction.

Common problems include damage from scraping along rough plaster/pebble floors, which can be alleviated with buoyant hose floats on either side of the cleaner reverse valve, to keep it off the floor. The valve can also become non-functional from a tiny grain of sand stuck in the gears, which can be flushed out, or located and picked out.

Hose Floats

Letro Legend Hose Schematic Diagram - Hose Float Parts

Letro Legend Hose Schematic Diagram – Letro Hose Parts

Hose Floats (#36) are important to keep the feed hose floating on the surface. If you notice your hose dipping far into the water, or running along the floor of the pool, this can be corrected with new hose floats, or additional hose floats. Older style hose floats can become saturated with water, and then they no longer float; replace these.

Common problems are when hose floats no longer float! This leads to the feed hose coiling and wrapping around itself. This may damage the backup valve or to the hose swivels. Leakage around hose swivels is normal, but if water is pouring out – reducing the cleaner speed, replace these.

Thanks for Reading!

Mark Garcia
In The Swim Staff Blogger


How to Maintain an Inflatable Kiddie Pool


With more people planning staycations this summer – sales of Intex pools and inflatable pools have exploded this year.

And along with the big sales, come the big questions, specifically “what chemicals do I need for an inflatable pool”, and “how can I keep this kiddie pool clean”?

After answering the question a dozen times on the “What Chemicals are Needed for an Intex Pool” blog post, I thought that the topic deserved it’s own post. So, without further ado, here is How to Maintain a Blow-Up Pool (aka kiddie pool, baby pool, inflatable pool).

Keeping an Inflatable Pool Clean

Keeping dirt and debris and other organic contaminants out of your kiddie pool is important to keep the water healthy for swimmers. Pets should not be allowed in an inflatable pool, for several reasons, and keeping wild animals and water fowl out is also important.

Use a Pool Leaf Rake:?Pool Leaf Rakes are skim nets that are sewn into a deep bag with a beveled front edge for scooping debris from the bottom. You can find advanced (pool) leaf raking techniques on this post, but for a small kiddie pool, just connect the net to a pool pole and drag it around the surface and push it along the floor. You can also use a Leaf Rake without a pole, skimming by hand. Leaf Rakes are much easier to use than the flat ‘dip-n-flip’ type of skimmer nets.

Intex Inflatable Pool Cover

Use a Pool Cover: Some Intex inflatable pools have covers available that cover the pool like a fitted sheet, nice and tight. You could also use a basic tarp, and a few bungees or bricks to hold it in place, or use a small solar cover, and warm the water by letting in the sun, while blocking out leaves, dirt and animals.

Use a Pool Vacuum:?Connect a garden hose and a pool pole to the Leaf Gulper and you can venturi vacuum any inflatable pool. There is also a smaller version available, contained in the Intex Pool Maintenance Kit. Another route is to use a rechargeable, battery-operated vacuum like the Intex Handheld Vacuum, or the PoolBlaster SpaVac.

Intex Cartridge Filter Pumps Use a Pool Filter: Inflatable pools are not sold with filters, but that does not mean that you cannot use one. Small Intex Cartridge Filters include 6′ hoses that can be draped over the edge of the pool and held down below water level with ankle weights or a small sand bag. Do not use the pool while running the filter, to prevent suction entrapment on the intake hose.

Keeping an Inflatable Pool Sanitary

Without a pool filter to remove small particulate matter, the water can get funky fast! Filters do not sanitize or disinfect pool water, but by removing contaminants, they make it easier for your sanitizer to control algae and bacteria.

blog-test-kitKeep pH Level in Range:?You will need a small test kit, or test strips so that you can test the pH level in the water, which can naturally rise from pool use. When pH gets too high, chlorine becomes only half-effective, and algae and bacteria blooms more easily. When pH levels rise above 7.6, add 0.2 oz of dry acid, for each 100 gallons of pool water, and recheck the pH level in a few hours. 7.2 – 7.4 is the best range.

Using Chlorine Tablets: The best way to obtain a consistent and constant chlorine level in the pool is to use 1″ tabs or 3″ tablets, in a floating chlorinator, aka chlorine floater. Most inflatable pools need just half of one 3″ tablet per week, or several 1″ tabs at a time, replaced promptly when they dissolve, but your test kit will tell you for sure. Use enough tablets to give a consistent 2.0 – 3.0 ppm level of chlorine.

cheap-pool-shockShocking an Inflatable Pool: Once per week, or if chlorine level accidentally drops to near zero, or if the water was contaminated with animals or party-animals, boost the chlorine level high with 0.2 oz of Pool Shock per 100 gallons of water. You can also use unscented bleach, using 2.0 oz per 100 gallons of water. Be careful to seal-up opened bags of Pool Shock, clipping them tightly and storing in a plastic Tupperware type bowl.

It should also be mentioned that pool users should bathe before using the small pool, and younger children not yet potty trained should have a fresh diaper change and wear a swim diaper. Even very small amounts of fecal matter in such a small pool can overwhelm sanitation methods.

Draining & Refilling an Inflatable Pool

Some of the nicer, full-featured inflatable pools include a drain plug to make regular draining and refilling easier. Just remove the plug and drain, or connect a garden hose if you want to avoid erosion or over-saturation.

small submersible pumpsIf you don’t have a drain plug in your kiddie pool, but you have a nearby hillside, you could use a garden hose to siphon most of the water out, to a point where you can flip it over to empty fully. An easier method would be one of our small submersible pumps.

Even though you may do all of these things above; testing and adjusting pH level, keeping a constant chlorine level, and maybe even filtering the water, there comes a time when you should drain the pool and start over.

For most inflatable pools or plastic kiddie pools following my guidelines above, the water should still be changed every two weeks. If you are not adding chlorine to kill bacteria, the pool should be drained every other day. Stagnant water without chlorine, can become unhealthy water in just 24-48 hours.


Thanks for Reading!

Mark Garcia
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Favorite National Pool Opening Day!

National Pool Opening Day! YAY!National Pool Opening Day is near! An annual holiday on the last Saturday in April, and this year it’s April 25! Pool covers come off all across America on this day, as swimming pools emerge from hibernation. Let the 2019 pool season begin!

Not everyone opens their pool on the last Saturday in April, of course. Many northern pools stay buttoned up for a few more weeks, but this weekend is the perfect time to start the ball rolling by ordering your start-up pool chemicals, supplies or equipment now for the summer season!

To help you start the season early, we’ve got National Pool Opening Day specials and free shipping, all week up to April 25, on the pool opening supplies you need the most!

Until then, see our Pre-Season Sale and our National Pool Opening Day sale pages. Just don’t wait until May, and miss out on these great early bird savings!

Now, because this blog is all about pool information, here’s some tips to help you open the pool on April 25 – or at least to help you get prepared for your pool opening day!

Take a Pool Chemical Inventory

Test kits - from In The Swim image from istkYou may not need all of these or may need other pool chemicals that aren’t listed below – every pool is different in what is needed for a pool opening. Check your stock of pool opening chemicals and season chemicals needed. See our Start-Up Kit specials and Chemical Value Packs or buy just what you need to get started. Take an inventory of your:

  • Chlorine tablets and chlorine shock >>>
  • pH increaser and decreaser >>>
  • Alkalinity and calcium increaser >>>
  • Cyanuric Acid or stabilizer >>>
  • DE Powder or Dica Perl >>>
  • Algaecides, Clarifiers, Enzymes >>>
  • Test kit reagents or test strips >>>
  • Metal control or Stain removers >>>

Inspect your Pool Equipment

pool filter clipart image from istockphotoAh, the big reveal – what will the pool look like underneath the winter cover? On National Pool Opening Day, take the time to closely inspect the pool, deck, equipment, tools and supplies – to be sure you have everything you need to open the pool successfully. And if you run into any trouble, let us know how we can help you!

  • Inspect pool cover for holes or winter damage >>>
  • Install filter system drain plugs and pressure gauge >>>
  • Test pump motor briefly for a few seconds >>>
  • Check pool lights briefly for a few seconds >>>
  • Lube pump lid and filter o-rings with Teflon lubricant >>>
  • Inspect pool cleaning tools; pole, brush, nets, vac >>>
  • Inspect filter, pump, heater, chlorinator for damage >>>
  • Inspect pool cleaner for worn and torn parts >>>
  • Inspect skimmer baskets, lids and weirs >>>

Pool Safety Audit

pool ring buoy clip art image from istockphotoIt’s easy to become complacent about pool safety in your quiet little backyard pool, but staying vigilant could prevent tragedy. Spring pool opening time is the perfect time to reassess your Layers of Protection around the pool, and take steps to protect family and friends.

  • Inspect fence slats for gaps greater than 4″, or gaps below fence.
  • Remove anything near the fence that could be used to climb fence.
  • Check that pool fence gates are self-closing and self-latching >>>
  • Keep pool chemicals closed, clean, dry, and out of reach of children.
  • Inspect pool pump wiring and other equipment pad electrical.
  • Push the TEST button on your GFCI outlet and circuit breakers.
  • Check that main drain and suction covers are securely attached.
  • Plan a Pool Safety meeting for all, and lay down the law!

Happy National Pool Opening Day!


We wish you an uneventful pool opening this Saturday, with blue water and nothing leaking, creaking or squeaking!

One of the best benefits of opening the pool at the end of April – is that you have more time to get things right, just in case things go wrong.

Pool opening questions? Please know that you can email me Dr. Pool, especially with your vexing chemical and water balance questions! You can also call our helpline any time at 800-288-7946 and speak to someone about your pool.

Or leave a reply below and David Merino, my esteemed colleague will answer your blog comments on any pool opening problems you may have.

Finally, don’t forget to save! Celebrate National Pool Opening Day this year with some of our lowest pricing of the season, plus Free Shipping and Handling! But you’ve got to time it right ~

summer is coming

Tell your friends ~ Share below!? #PoolOpeningDay


Dr. Pool

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Install a Solar Pool Heater this Weekend!

solar-pool-heatersIf you are looking to add a solar heating system to your swimming pool and have questions about how to install solar panels, read on.

From simple, single on-ground panels for Intex pools to multi-panel roof mounted systems for in ground pools, I’ll explain the differences and how to get them up and heating your pool in a weekend!

To quickly qualify myself, I have four 2’ x 20’ panels on my garage roof and have installed dozens of solar pool systems on local residential pools. Plus, I work at InTheSwim – enough said.

What are Solar Heaters and How do they Work?

Pool solar panels are constructed of rows of small, hollow tubes made of black polypropylene (super strong plastic) or rubber that are seamed together to create a large surface area called a panel. pool-solar-panels

The sunshine heats the black mat and as water passes through, the heat is transferred to the water and returned to the pool.

Solar panels are an eco-friendly way to heat your pool 10-20 degrees warmer, with do-it-yourself installation, zero emissions – and with zero operational costs. With no gas or electrical lines to run, they are favored by pool owners everywhere!

Solar heaters come in a variety of shapes and sizes but the mechanics are basically the same. You can use your existing pump to circulate water through black tubing which naturally absorbs heat from the sun and sends that heated water back to your pool.

The more surface area the solar heater has, the more BTU’s of heat are generated. And the more BTU’s you generate, the greater the volume of water you can heat. Since a pool is open to the air, heat can be lost quickly. To combat the heat loss, it is recommended to over-size a solar pool heater.

One or more panels can be joined to create more surface area. Panels can be installed for above ground and in ground pools, positioned in a variety of ways, and controlled manually by turning a valve or automatically, with a solar controller.

Above Ground Pool Solar Heaters

Small Pools: If you own one of the ever-popular soft-sided pools like the pop-up or metal frame pools from makers like Intex, there are some quality do-it-yourself solar heaters from Game and Smartpool that are simple to install and take up very little yard space.

By coiling black tubing and covering it with a convex dome, the SunCoil solar heaters can be plumbed into your filter system by simply adding one more hose section after your existing pool pump & filter.


To install, all you need to do is turn off your pump and isolate your system by blocking off your skimmer and return or closing your shut-off valves. Next, disconnect the hose to the return and plumb it to the solar heater intake, then add another hose, fitting, and clamp from the solar heater output to the return fitting on the pool wall. Unblock your skimmer and return and turn the system back on and you are ready to enjoy the free heat!

The SunCoil solar heater shown right sits on the ground and can be tipped on 2 legs to maximize the best angle to the sun. A by-pass valve kit is included to shut-off the solar system during night or rainy days. The bypass kit also slows the water flow to allow the solar panel to maintain optimum heating temperature.

Large Pools: For larger, steel-sided above ground pools, there are a variety of manufacturers of much larger solar panels. These are long and flat, rigid yet bendable, and typically 2’W x 20’L or 4’W x 20’L – so you will need a long space to put them.aboveground-pool-solar-heater

Oval above ground pools lend themselves well to these systems as you can place them along the length of the pool, on a small rack attached to the braces or kickers. For round pools you need to be a bit more creative.

The panels can be laid flat on the ground, mounted to a fence, or you can build your own solar panel rack from angle iron, 2 x 4’s, PVC, or other frame materials. Over top of this triangular frame, attach plywood and mount your solar panels.

Inground pool solar heaters are packaged in rolls inside the box. After unboxing them you cut the securing strap carefully and unroll and lay them in the sun so they flatten out. It helps to have two people for this and putting a thick towel with a weight like a cinder block on each end will help hold it down otherwise they can spring-back into a roll. Depending on how sunny it is, they will flatten out quickly and stay flat. Once they are flat and warm they will be soft, so handle them carefully to avoid damaging the panels.

aboveground-solar-pool-heaterFor above ground solar heaters you can connect these panels the same way as the compact ones by adding just one hose, fitting, & hose clamp. The panels connect after your pump & filter and feed into your return line. If you want to locate them farther away from the filter, you simply need longer hose or pipe. You can use a pool vacuum hose, but without a swivel cuff, which will leak water.

If you are linking multiple panels, beware that some brands of above ground panels are split in the middle so water goes down and back in every panel so look for the stickers to identify the inlet and outlet. As you add more panels you will want to line these up so the water flows in, back and forth, and then out.

For other brands, water passes from one end to the other so there is no direction to worry about, making it even easier to plumb. Water goes in one end and out the other. Ends that are not connected to the water supply or an adjoining panel get capped. All pool solar panel systems come with easy-to-follow instructions.

aboveground-solar-pool-panelsPanels are most effective if they are angled 35-45 degrees to the sun for maximum heat collection. A southern facing exposure is best. A few straps or clips is all that is needed to secure them to a solar panel rack. Again, a by-pass system is recommended for these panels so you can dial in the flow rate or send the water around the solar panels at night or on a cloudy or rainy day.

To winterize a solar system, just disconnect the solar panels, blow out any remaining water with a wet/dry vac, roll them up and store in a freeze-free space like a basement or garage. If you leave them out all winter, cover them fully with a tarpaulin to block UV rays, which (ironically) weakens the material and can cause condensation inside of the panels.

Above Ground Pool Solar Panel Installation:

There are two types of solar systems for above ground pools, shown below – the SunCoil Solar Dome, and the EcoSaver solar panels. Both are extremely simple to install; you can set up your own above ground solar panels in under an hour.

aboveground-solar-pool-heater-installationsShut off pump and plug the skimmer and return line in your pool to stop water flow.

  1. Choose the location for the panel(s), where they will receive at least 6 hrs of sun per day. A southern-facing direction, unobscured by trees is best. SunCoil heaters should not be roof mounted, but the EcoSaver panels can be installed on a roof top (see below).
  2. The Universal Solar pool panels can be installed flat on the ground, but if you can build a small rack from wood, to mount them at an angle, your solar panel(s) will absorb more sunlight.
  3. four pool solar panels linkedConnect the return hose from your pump into the solar panel inlet, to bring the cold water into the solar heater.
  4. Connect the return hose from the solar panel outlet to the pool wall return, to bring the warm water into your pool.

Both solar systems are modular, that is – you can connect additional panels to each other. Out of one solar panel and into another. They can even be installed in different locations, or you can pipe your water to a remote location, it needn’t be up against the pool as shown in the pictures.

Solar Heaters for Inground Pools

There are solar panel kits available for in ground pools in many sizes;? 4’W X 10’L or 4’W X 20’L. A good rule of thumb is to have roughly half of your pool’s surface area equal in panel square feet.

Example: A 20×40 pool has 800 sq ft of surface area, so 400 sq ft of solar panel would be a good target. This would equate to 5 of the 4’x20′ panels, or 10 of the 4’x10′ panels.. See our solar pool heater sizing charts for your pool size.

inground-solar-pool-heatersFor so many solar panels you need a good deal of space. However, you can always start with one or two and add more on later; just be sure to plan for space. Even one panel will add some heat.

In ground pools typically have much stronger pumps, so the panels can be mounted on a nearby roof, even 2 stories high. A garage or pool house roof or side of a hill is a good place or you might consider building an A-frame from treated lumber and plywood near the pump and filter area.

inground-solar-pool-heatingInstallation kits include roof mounting straps and hardware to secure them. All you need is a drill, caulk, and a helper to hold them in place while you work. Mark where your straps will go. You will want one on each end and then space out the rest equally. Drill into the roof or plywood on each side of the panels through the strap, caulk, and screw in the lag bolt or securing hardware (manufacturers have different hardware kits, but drilling is the same – although you may not always have to drill through the strap). You want the straps to overlap each panel and hold it down. Keep the holes a few inches away from the panel edges. Insert connecting fittings and caps between the panels and connect panels one by one.

Once the panels are secure, you are ready to plumb. Plumbing them to and from your pool can be accomplished with PVC, flex pipe, corrugated hose, or even garden hose. All the plumbing fittings you will need are available at most hardware stores.

inground-solar-pool-heater-plumbingIn ground base panel kits include fittings and check valves to keep the panels primed so when the pump turns on and off the water easily flows without air traps and without having to re-prime the panels each time. For snowbelt installations, it is recommended to install an array of solar panels with a slight pitch or angle, to facilitate drain down, for winterization purposes.

In Ground Pool Solar Panel Installation:

Installing an inground solar pool heater will take more time than the above ground units, because you need to do a little plumbing, and you will have more panels to connect together. Consult our solar panel chart to order the suggested amount of solar panels, which should be at least 50% of your pool’s surface area.

As illustrated in the pictures on top of the page, you don’t have to mount these solar panels on the roof of your house, if you don’t have a suitable roof location that receives at least 6 hours per day of direct sun. You can build a rack somewhere in the yard, or even on the back of your fence. It need not be next to the pool pump, although the further away from the pump, the more you will spend on plumbing pipes running to and from the panels. Perhaps a patio gazebo, providing a shady spot for relaxation and an out of the way location to mount your solar panels. solar pool collector infographic

  1. Unbox your panels and connect them together. Panels have separations to allow you to wrap around roof vents.
  2. Secure the panels to the roof with the included hardware. Attach the cross straps to hold down panels in high winds.
  3. Cut the return pipe after the filter, and glue on a one-way check valve and the 3-way diverter valve, included in the Solar Controller package.
  4. Connect another pipe on the opposite corner of your solar panel array. Run this exit pipe parallel to the top of the panels.
  5. Run the exit pipe off of the roof or rack towards the return line that was cut in step 3.
  6. Before connecting the exit back into the return line, glue on a one-way check valve, to prevent water from entering the panels in the opposite direction.
  7. After the check valve, connect the exit pipe back into the return line.

Pool Solar Panel Connections

Depending on the brand, the connections can vary, but when you buy a kit of 2 or more panels they will include the plumbing and hardware to connect the panels to each other.

Smart Pool solar panels have 1.5” threaded female openings on either end which you can attach a 1.5” male thread, while Fafco panels have barbed ends that protrude out at each “corner” or end that are sized for radiator hose and standard stainless hose clamps.

pipe-strapsIf you are installing on a rooftop, be sure to pick up enough fittings to make the transition over the eave of the roof, and down to the ground and some pipe straps to secure the plumbing run to the roof and wall. For masonry walls, use tap-con screws to secure the pipe clamps

From there you can find the appropriate connector pieces for your PVC, flex, or above ground pump & filter hose at your local hardware store.

Connect the line gong to the panels to a bypass valve after your filter for the water supply and tie the bypass line and returning solar heated water line into your return line with a tee fitting. Now you can turn on the pump, open up the by-pass valve and send the water to the solar panels.

If you haven’t worked until past dark, place your hand over the pool return, and you’ll start to feel the heat right away!

Solar Controller Installation:

A Solar Controller allows you to set a temperature dial, and includes temperature sensors, a 3-way Valve and Valve Actuator (automatic valve turner), to send water up to the solar panels only when conditions are optimum for gaining solar heat. When heavy clouds pass, rain begins to fall or at dusk each night, the actuator will turn again, bypassing the solar panels. For best results with an inground solar pool heating system, I highly recommend installing the optional Solar Controller.

  1. Mount the Solar Controller box on the wall or a sturdy post.
  2. Connect the power by plugging the cord into a grounded outlet.
  3. Drill a hole into the pipe before the 3-way valve, insert the water temperature sensor and clamp it to the pipe.
  4. Clamp or silicone the second sensor next to the solar panels, to monitor the panel temperature.
  5. Connect the wires from both sensors into the solar controller box.
  6. Remove the handle from the 3-way valve, to mount the actuator onto the valve.
  7. Connect the wire from the valve actuator into the solar controller box.
  8. Set the temperature dial and test the system.

Pool Solar Automation – Set it, and Forget it!

Goldline solar controllersYou can automate your solar pool heater by installing a wall mounted controller, valve actuator, and a water and air temperature sensor. Some popular models are Hayward’s Goldline Solar Controller and Pentair’s Sun Touch.

Solar controllers allow you to set your desired temperature. The sensors measure the air and water temperature. If the air temperature is greater than the water temperature, it tells the valve actuator to open the valve and send water to the panels to raise the water temperature. Likewise, if a hot sun is not available, the controller closes the valve so you don’t cool the pool down.

Controllers may also feature freeze protection and circulate water in the event that it is cold enough to freeze in the panels and potentially damage them.

Some controllers are also designed to control other features of your pool or spa like their pumps, heaters, lighting, etc. so you can automate when they turn on or off. Controllers can control valves to switch from solar panels to a gas heater or electric heat pump so you only use those when you have to – which maximizes your energy consumption and saves you money!

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Pool Heating:

Q: Will I need to up-size my pool pump to push water up to the roof?
A: I have installed dozens of solar systems and never had to upgrade the pump. As long as you have a 1 hp pump or greater, you should have no problem, even pushing the water up 2 stories. You will notice that the filter pressure will rise 2-4 lbs on the pressure gauge, but most pumps can handle the extra resistance without a problem.

Q: I have a pressure-side pool cleaner, will this conflict with it’s operation?
A: If you have a booster pump type pool cleaner, it is recommended that you not operate it at the same time as the solar pool heater. The Solar Controller has a booster pump override to shut off the booster pump when the valve actuator opens to send water to the solar panels.

Q: Can I mount the solar panels on 2 different sides of the roof?
A: Yes, after exiting the first panel set, run a pipe to the second panel set, and so on, then back down to connect to the return line.

Q: Do I need to install the Solar Controller?
A: It is recommended for best results. If it starts to rain, or heavy clouds form, sending water to the solar panels will cool the water, and reverse the heat gains made earlier.

Q: What If I need to remove the solar panels to replace my roof?
A: The panels can be removed in a few hours, no problem.

Q: What about winterizing my solar panels?
A: Solar panels are installed with a slight pitch toward the exit pipe, with a air-lock valve on the opposite corner, to allow complete drain down during fall closing. If pitched correctly, there should be no need to “blow-out” the panels with air, although you can easily do this if you wish.

To summarize a solar pool heater installation process, plan your space and do some measuring, then select the size and shape of your solar heating system. Keep in mind that you may want to add more later on. Next, pick up the extra hoses or pipes and fittings needed so you have everything on hand when you are ready to set it up.

Once you have your solar pool heater set up, you start producing free heat from the sun without any impact on the environment and you will be swimming before your neighbors and long after they have closed their unheated pool!


Mike Cummings
InTheSwim Staff Blogger

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