Swimming pool owners are sometimes facing with a dilemma on malfunctioning pool pumps. These simple trouble-shooting on your pump may help you save money for the more expensive electrician’s fee, or worst, replacing your pump when the problem (electrical or mechanical causes) got worse.
1. Why pump is running but does not give enough water?
Pumps need to have its suction side filled with water to “feed” on it. If the suction side does not have enough water prior to starting the pump motor, the pump would only suck air leaving a vacuum. This process is called “priming”.
Here are some causes of the pump not being primed or not primed enough:
a) When the water dropped below the skimmer and the drain levels, leaving the space between the pump’s suction side void with water.
b) The pipeline going to the pump inlet is clogged-up with debris and water does not flow freely.
2. Why the pump keeps on humming then trips breaker?
a) Probably a bad capacitor. Check it by means of an ohmmeter. The right reading would be a drop to zero then a slow rise of resistance (in ohms).
b) The pump’s impeller might be stocked up with leaves or other hard debris. Manually turn the impeller shaft freely to find out if it is stocked. If stocking up, remove the motor from the pump and clean the impeller.
c) Probably worn out bearings. Try to manually turn the impeller shaft and if you feel rough, screeching sound and slightly uneven rotation, it’s time to change bearings.
3. How should you able to know the pump’s specifications (like power, voltage, and flow rate)?
Brand new pumps with accompanying motor have nameplate attached to the housing of the motor which bears all the information and specifications of the motor (such as voltage, amperes, horsepower, rpm, and other information.
The pump itself has nameplate specifying its flow rate, the speed of impeller at certain pump horsepower (hp) and its direction of flow (usually an arrow indicator) counterclockwise or clockwise.
4. How does a pool pump works?
Pool pump works through a loop system which means that the water from the pool is being recycled (and re-chlorinated) after it is strained and filtered.
It starts by drawing water from the pool via the skimmer which acts as a small reservoir where a significant amount of water is stored so that the pump will not be dehydrated. The water then goes through a strainer (the pool pump gives the vacuum pressure to suck this water through the inlet pipe), initially filtering large debris.
The water (going through the pump’s outlet pipe) then goes to the cartridge filters to remove any remaining debris. Then the water passes through the heater (this is optional for the too cold environment) to increase the temperature of the pool water to your desired temperature. After this, the water is treated with chlorine (with a chlorinator) at the allowable amount, and then the water returns to the pool.
5. How should I know if the pump is right for my pool?
Sizing a pump is not elaborate after all! Oversize pool pump may give you a higher operating cost in the long run. The general rule is: The pump should filter all the water in the pool in an 8-hour period. By abiding on this rule you will save a lot and your pump may last longer than normal.
So, you should know your pool’s water capacity (volume), and then pick a pump that has the flow rate (remember the nameplate on the motor) that would match the volume of water of your pool. Say, a 24,000 gallons (volume) pool size will be emptied with 50 gallons per minute (flow rate) in 8 hours.
You may calculate the volume of your pool (if rectangular) by this formula: length x width x height (in cubic feet or gallons).
Some motor has low flow rate but with high power rating (hp), this combination makes the motor more stable, but with higher operating cost. Standard power rating used in standard family size pool range from 1to 2-hp, pick the size that you thought would be appropriate for your pool depending on the frequency of use and the number of users because the many users are, the more frequent the pool should be cleaned.
Pump’s suction and discharge pressure could be controlled with the gate valves on the piping system by throttling these valves if the need arises.
6. How can I winterize my above ground pool pump?
After winterizing your pool, the next step would be winterizing your above ground pool pump. Check and clean the cartridge filter and strainer. Drain water from the pump, filtering and heating systems as the water that remains could freeze during winter.
Plug open-ended pipes as water may seep through them and freeze when uncovered. After making sure that there is no more water remains in the system, cover the pump as well as the filter, heater and the piping system to protect them from the elements.
7. Does the pool pump keeps the pool’s bottom and wall clean?
No, it does not. The pump only cleans the water on the pool. To protect your pool, you may cover it from leaves and other debris. And the best time to clean the pool is before using it while it has no water yet and after winterizing.
8. How long do motor of pool pump last?
According to experts, the motor for pool pump lasts an average of 8 years. This may need either replacing or rebuilding. The motor that screeches, noisy and with squeaking bearings (either front or rear) need to be replaced both at the same time. It is not advisable to change only one bearing when needed.
Burnt motor (probably due to overheating or defective bearings) can be rewound (windings) then install again, but this may not last long and may become a fire hazard if not properly maintained.
9. How can I keep the motor and pump last longer?
You can keep the pump to last much longer than expected by keeping the impeller free from debris. By this, your filter and strainer should be in good condition, so keep them the mesh always in good condition.
As for the drive assembly, always check the motor for defective bearings and replace them immediately if you find any sign of wear. Also, don’t keep the motor running without water in circulation; this will overheat the motor and the pump.
The pool pump is an important piece of equipment needed to keep your pool water clean, warm and hygienic. Once the pool pump malfunctioned or worst, it burns out, there are alternatives that could be done.
A new generation of pool pumps coming out of the market are equipped with automatic controls, safety features and could be self-repaired by owners for simple problems. There are various video instructions proliferating in the Internet of DIY’s regarding pool pump repairs.
But not all motor or pump troubles should be self-repaired. There are sometimes complicated problems and troubles that only experts could be trusted on these matters, especially on the electrical aspects.
Any sign of tear and wear should be given notice so as not to make them worst. Additionally, piping system; electrical wiring and other accessories (such as a heater, chlorinator, skimmer, etc.) should be checked regularly for possible mechanical or electrical troubles.
Most manufacturers estimate the service life of their pool pump motors at 8-10 years. To avoid common mistakes that pool owners do when troubleshooting their pump, here are some of the most frequent pump problems.
Common Causes of Pool Pump Failures
• Stock–up or defective bearings
This is the most common trouble pool pumps always encounter. Bearings are vulnerable to shock, vibration, and corrosion. Once the sound of the motor experience abnormality, like a whirring sound, it’s time to replace the bearings.
It is customary to replace both bearings (rear and front) if you find only one bearing (which is always the case) to be defective. Bearings are the most vulnerable parts of the motor as these are the ones that are subject to more stress than any other part of the pump system.
• Stock-up impeller
Impellers are also vulnerable to clogging, especially if the water it is pumping is full of large debris that may accidentally pass through the strainer or filter. Sand filter seldom experienced this phenomenon.
Sometimes, the impeller washer, nuts and diffuser bolts have loosened or worn out and these clogged the system (in addition to large debris such as pieces of leaves, etc.).
• Dehydrated pump during start-up
Pumps should be run with enough water (called priming) on its suction side. Some pump models are self-priming while some are primed manually. In case the motor is run without water on the system, this may over speed the motor shaft because it has no medium that may slow down the speed. The motor should be shut-off immediately to avoid further damage to the system.
This over speeding may cause the motor to overheat and burnt-out the windings if not corrected immediately.
• Short circuit
A short circuit occurs when there is the presence of fluid (such as water) inside the motor’s windings. This water (possibly from worn out shaft seal, bad O-rings and defective gaskets) that may seep through during a whole night’s strong rain.
• Oversize or undersize piping system
The common denominator in designing motor size in the regular pool is that the whole water in the pool should be re-circulated within 8 hours. The standard size for piping is 1 to 1-1/2 inches of pipe for suction and discharge sides for family-size above ground swimming pools.
The size of plumbing system may be reduced by one size higher or lower when needed. This may not overwork the motor. This is seldom done when considering the frequency of utilization of the pool. But experts have set this standard to compensate for the subsequent increase and decrease of users in the long run.
• Overheated Motor
When a motor is overloaded (such as sudden increase in ampere reading or sudden surge of grid current, over speeding due to dehydration, bad-bearings and short-circuits, etc.), the motor is more likely to burn-out. Bad bearings/s may cause the stator to rotate unbalance which overheats the windings and consequently burning the coils.
• Burnt Motor Due to Negligence
Yes, this frequently happens. A pool pump rated at 120-volt but accidentally plugged into an outlet having a supply voltage of 220 volts. This is one of the common mistakes that pool owners or other users do when installing power supply or testing the pump.
• Dried up Lubrication of Bearings
Bearings also need lubrication so as not to build up rust, especially when the pool and the pump are seldom used. There are new models of pool pumps that are now in the market which are self-oiling and maintain the right lubricant to keep the bearings run smoothly in any weather.
These types never run dry of lubrication even when not used for long periods. But they have also limited the time period and requires a minimum of maintenance. Better check your Owner’s Manual for instructions.
• Unmatched Pump Assembly
This is also one of the mistakes committed by pool owners: matching a 1-hp motor to the 2-hp impeller or a 2-hp motor to a 1-hp impeller. The drive assembly should have the same power as its counterpart to avoid unmatched parts which may cause unbalanced operation that may overheat or overload either part.
The flanges (of the motor and pump) must also match so that gasket fits and no leak should be observed. The bolt holes on the flanges must also be matched each other to avoid pressure drop that may result from the gap. The pressure drop will prolong the continuous operation of the pump giving you higher electricity bill.
• Worn out Mechanical Seal
Some pumps are sealed with this type of seal placed in series with the impeller; this wears out with frequent use.
Repair or Replace the Motor?
Choosing between repair and replacement for your pump motor or the entire assembly is one of the hardest parts to tackle. The decision literally rests upon your shoulders. But this article will help you to decide without hesitation on how to choose between repair and replacement. If you’re not super technical and don’t want to spend hours on fixing your pool pump, we recommend buying a new pool pump since you can get great pumps for an affordable price tag.
When to Repair
• When bearings are only the problem. These are easy to replace when you know the steps. As we have stated before, there are videos online that will teach you the proper way. Furthermore, you could hire experts to do this for you. Bearings cost only a fraction of the price for a whole motor unit.
• If the cost of repair is only minimal. In the case of bearing replacement, shaft seal may also be replaced if damaged or already worn out.
• When the impeller is only stock up and not deformed or broken.
• In the case of total wrecked impeller due to serious clogging, this part is only the one needing replacement.
When to Replace
• If the motor had passed its expected life when it encounters serious trouble.
• When you want an upgrade and current design is not appropriate anymore due to increase number of pool users and increase the frequency of maintenance.
• If same trouble occurs too often after reparations.
• When you are totally unsatisfied with your current pump’s performance and efficiency.
• In case of a burnt motor, rewinding is also an option only if there is no damage to the motor shaft, motor housing and other essential internal parts of the motor. These damages may result from the burn-out and needed the additional cost to repair.
• If the problem is too much and the cost may likely exceed the price of a new one, like a burnt motor with deformed impeller or damage diffuser, etc.
Lack of Knowledge about Motors
Judging the performance of your pool pump is not rocket science or you need not to be an electrical engineer or an expert to make a decision. The signs are there and they only need to be analyzed to make a smart decision.
In fact, more than 60% of pool owners in the United States have decided to upgrade their pump system as their family and their friends who use the pool grow and increase over time. This also entails an upgrade in motor capacity.
Compare Prices and Benefits of Replacing Old Motor
A brand new motor, whether for replacement or initial use is the best for your pool. If you are a new pool owner, definitely everything must be brand new.
But if budget constraints do not allow you to, make sure that your second-hand equipment is in good running condition, lest they will only give you a headache and cost you more in the long run.
In the olden days, if the cost of repair is more than 57% of the cost of a brand new one, it is more economical to buy the latter (brand new). However, now there are shops that offer advanced repair technology that matches the efficiency of the original. But they vary in cost.
The motor pumps of today are more energy efficient (EE) unlike before. Better check out the real cost of repair (spare parts, service, etc.) so you may know if replacement is cost-effective enough.
All manufacturers of pool pumps generally warrant their products in the limited time period. Moreover, the majority of manufacturers have 1-year warranty on the unit, barely some offer much longer.
In order to have the warranty honored by the manufacturers, the unit should be free from tampering or remained un-opened (motor and pump) during the duration of the warranty period. Even reparations are covered by warranties issued by the repair shop.
One of the common mistakes pool owners do during the warranty period is replacing the shaft seal. The warranty offered by the manufacturer is voided when there is seal failure.
That’s why if your unit is brand new and experienced abnormality within the prescribed period, better to report it to your dealer. Never try to fix the problem yourself or open up (or disassemble) any part of the pump or motor, otherwise, the warranty will be forfeited. The same goes for repairs.
Pool owners who upgrade their pool pumps and other accessories will surely have a higher initial cost. But considering the new generation of pool pumps in the market today, which are more energy efficient and made through state-of-the-art technology, they are more likely to save more in the long run.
Reparations are only advisable when the cost of repair is way below the total cost of acquiring a new one. The integrity and reliability of serious reparations for major breakdowns are also more likely to bring additional cost as anticipated.
This is also true for new pool owners; utilizing used equipment may bring more nightmares than good night sleeps.