How to Prime a Pool Pump

If you have a swimming pool at home, scheduling regular maintenance is a no brainer. But you must also keep an eye out for untimely problems so that the pool remains clean and safe for everyone who uses it. Keeping the pool pump functioning well is one of those things that need extra attention.

If you did not know it already, this pump is the main element of your swimming pool’s circulation system. A pool pump sucks the water out of the pool through the main drain and runs it through a filter and sends it back to the pool. Let’s see why and how to prime the pool pump.

How Does a Pool Pump Work?

It basically contains three parts.

  • Impeller
  • Motor
  • Hair and lint trap

The impeller is connected to the motor and it pulls the water inwards through the hair and lint trap. Now, this part of the pump has small holes that can get clogged if the debris goes unchecked. You can check this by monitoring the readings that indicate that the pressure levels on the gauge are lower than what is recommended. You also know that the impeller might be clogged or damaged if you notice that the amount of water coming back into the pool has decreased.

The motor moves at over 3,000 rpm (revolutions per minute) at 110 or 220 volts. The pump is not entirely sealed from its natural surroundings which means there is a chance for excess water to enter its motor through its cooling vents.

And finally, the hair and lint trap is located at the end of the pump to keep the debris from reaching the impeller. A couple of times a week you must empty the basket which is in the trap. If not, the pump does not receive enough water and it will end up pumping air in place of water. This will make the motor run faster and soon, it will burn out.

This situation is called losing prime and it means that there is too much air in the pipes. This happens any time the pool pump has been unused for one to two months. So, it is time to release that trapped air and get the circulation back to the way it is supposed to be. How exactly does that happen? Let’s see.

What Exactly Is Priming a Pool Pump?

You don’t have to do anything wrong for air to enter your pool pump. This is quite common in areas that experience harsh winters. To avoid it, you must clear the pumping lines before you close the pool before winter arrives.

This way, the water in the pipes does not freeze because there isn’t any stuck inside. When you remove this water, the pipes get filled with air. And when you reopen the pool in the spring, you must get some water into it before you turn on the circulation system to avoid problems related to overheating. That process is called priming the pool pump.

Why It Should Be Done

Pool Pumps

Pool pumps are not cheap. They cost a few hundred dollars and it is not something you want to do every time the seasons change. To avoid this unnecessary expense, you might want to prime your pump and make sure it is not dry when you are operating the circulation system. If you don’t, you will experience mechanical failure and the pump and the surrounding fixtures will be damaged.

They are to be run only when there is water in the pipes. So, how do you prime the pool pump? Let’s take a look.

How to Do It: A Step-by-Step Process

Thankfully, this is a simple process and does not need any special tools or expert hands. Here’s how you go about it.

Before you close the pool, you must turn off the pump switch. This can be done with the flick of a switch. If your pump does not have a switch, you must find a cord that is attached to a wall that has the circuit breaker. Turn off that switch to make sure there is no power supply to the pump. This way, you are safe when you are allowing water into the pump.

And just to be extra careful, you must also flip the pool system’s breaker. For this, you must locate the breaker box for the pool area and flip it so that the power is off. This will keep you from being electrocuted while you prime your pool. Now to the process itself.

Step 1: There will be a multiport valve that needs to be recirculated. Switch it on so that the sand filter, a pressurized vessel can be bypassed. This is done so that the filter does not resist the passing of water through it.

Step 2: Make sure all the inlet valves into the pool are closed.

Step 3: Open the pump lid and fill it right to the brim using a bucket or a hose. But make sure it does not overflow. The idea is to fill the pump and all the pipes leading to the valves.

Step 4: Once the pump is filled with water, place the lid back on it. You will need to screw this in tight because this is a closed system that does not let air enter it when the pump is working. Once the lid is back on, switch on the pump. Simultaneously, open one of the valves to the pool, preferably a skimmer.

Step 5: If you did it right, you will see the water moving into the pump through the pipework. But sometimes, you might have to go through step 4 three to four times before the pump starts working. That’s fine too. If it does not work even after that, you must switch off the valve, turn off the pump and fill it up once again.

Step 6: Once again, open one valve and see if the water is flowing through it. Open the other lines one at a time and check for the same. Don’t open multiple lines at the same time because it is possible that there is air in the lines and opening them all at once might cause the pump to lose the priming.

Step 7: If you notice that the pump is losing power, close the valves and open them up again really slowly. This way, the valves will pull more water in than air.

If Things Go South

As mentioned before, priming does not usually work right away on the first go. If you are dealing with problems right after the installation, here’s what you can do. This is applicable to priming problems at the start of a season too.

Your first problem could be that not enough water is flowing into the pump or at least it is not consistent. In that case, switch off the pump, remove the filter basket’s lid and just add more water. When enough water isn’t flowing in, the pump can’t create the required amount of suction. So, adding water will solve it.

Another reason could be that there are pockets of air down the pipeline. In that case, you must add water to the pump basket through the skimmer.

The third reason could be that there are leaks. After adding water to the basket, if you still can’t get the pump going, it might be because there is a leak that is affecting the suction.

So, check the pump and see if there is any visible damage to the parts. You might have to get a new pump if there are cracks in the housing. This usually happens once in three or five years.

How to Use the Pool Pump Efficiently

It is important to understand when to operate the pump. You determine this based on the cost of energy and the chemical demand. The highest chlorine demand is usually during the day because UV light removes it from the water. And since most of the ways in which you add chlorine to the water require you to switch on the pump, it is naturally a good time to run the pump as compared to a nighttime operation.

But your energy costs are higher during the day. So, find a balance between the two and make a schedule and stick to it. Make sure that whenever you do this, the chlorine levels in the pool are above 3 ppm for most part of the day.

Then comes the question of time. How long should you run the pump? This depends on filtration and chemical demands. During the summer months, you are likely to use the pool a lot more. This means the pool will be up and running and collect debris. So, you will have to filter the water more often.

Remember that for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit temperature of the air outside, you must run the pump for two hours every day. So, if the temperature of the outside air is 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you must run the pump for five hours. But since this is not an exact science, you must be conservative about the hours so that you don’t end up burning the motor. Make it 1.5 hours for every 10 degrees. During the hottest days, you must run the pump for about 12 hours and in the winter, run it for 4 or 5 hours. In spring and fall, it varies inside this window.

Divide the day into multiple cycles with each one no less than four hours and you should be good. This is the least amount of time it takes for the pump to run all the water through the filter just once in a standard-sized pool.

You must also take care of backwashing. Before you start the process, once again, remember to turn off the pump. If your side-mounted filters have a vertical valve, you must rotate the handle and unlock the valve. Then push it down as far as it goes and rotate it again to lock it in position. Check to see if the backwash hose is where it should be and turn on the pump. You will see all the debris flow out. Do this till the water is clear and keep it going for the next 30 seconds to clear the filter. Then switch off the pump and put the valve in filter mode.

Wrapping Up

There are lots of things to take care of when you have your own pool. Priming it is just one of the steps. But if you miss even one of the maintenance steps, you will have a large bill on your hands. That is why it is recommended that you create a maintenance schedule for your pool with all the details worked out right away.

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