Understanding Your Pool Systems: Sanitation, Filter, and More!

Kenneth Wilson

Whether you’re a first-time pool owner or have been maintaining one for years, it’s important to know the different parts and aspects of your pool. 

If you’re just planning on getting a pool, you might not know that there are different types of sanitation systems and filter systems. By knowing the advantages and disadvantages of these types, you can choose which one to get based on the maintenance level, cost, water quality, features, and health benefits. In short, you can find out which one offers more value to you.

Aside from these systems, there are also other parts of your pool such as the pump, heater, and skimmer. That’s why, even if you’re just upgrading your pool features, you should know these terms. 

Continue reading to find out more about these different systems and parts.

Pool Sanitation Systems

The pool is made up of different parts, but before you learn about them, it’s important to understand the sanitation or circulatory system. This system is what keeps the water healthy, clear, clean, and safe. 

There are different types of sanitation systems, and here are the five most common ones:

Chlorine Pool Sanitation System

Even if you’re not a pool owner, you might already be familiar with the term ‘chlorine’. This chemical is one of the most common types of disinfectants used in pools. 

A chlorine pool system is a swimming pool that uses chlorine to treat its water. It’s effective and less expensive than other types, making it a preferred choice of most pool owners. But to ensure that your swimming pool stays clean, clear, and safe year-round, you need to always balance the chemical levels. Aside from its effectiveness, this sanitation system is also popular because it offers several benefits


  • Chlorine comes in different types such as liquid or solid chlorine
  • Effective at getting rid of bacteria and algae
  • Less expensive to maintain
  • Cheaper to install than other types
  • Pool treatment chemicals are readily available
  • Easier to find maintenance help or pool care company
  • Not as damaging to pool furniture and decks


  • Emits a distinctive and strong odor
  • Not gentle on the skin, hair, and eyes
  • High-maintenance since it doesn’t self-regulate
  • Regularly needs pool treatment chemicals and water testing

Saltwater Pool Sanitation System

After reading the cons of owning a chlorine pool system and not liking it, you may want to use a different type. The popular alternative to chlorine sanitation system is the saltwater pool system. Despite the name, saltwater pool sanitation systems don’t contain salty water similar to seawater. The water usually contains 1/10 salinity - so no, it’s not like swimming in the sea.

Saltwater pools are also not chlorine-free. Most pool sanitation systems that I will mention here will still require some chlorine. For a saltwater pool system, it even has a chlorine generator to turn salt into chlorine, which is a process called electrolysis. The difference with chlorine pool systems is that you don’t have to directly add chlorine. 

There are several benefits you can gain from using saltwater over chlorine pool systems, but similar to most things, there are disadvantages as well.


  • Gentle on the skin, hair, and eyes
  • Low-maintenance
  • Less expensive to maintain
  • Safer than liquid or solid chlorine
  • Doesn’t emit the same strong odor as chlorine pools


  • Expensive to install
  • Problems may only be fixed by a professional
  • May damage pool furniture, decks, liners, heaters, underwater lighting, masonry, and fixtures

Mineral Pool Sanitation System

Another way to sanitize your pool is using minerals such as copper and silver. A mineral pool system uses these metals which has certain properties to keep your pool water clean and clear.

Copper is a mineral commonly found in algaecides while silver contains antibacterial properties to disinfect the water. These pool minerals will be able to prevent algae and bacteria from thriving in your pool. 

Some mineral pool sanitation systems also contain zinc, which has antibacterial and antibiotic properties. You may also use limestones, a mineral that can absorb chlorine acid. This will help stabilize the pH level of the pool water.


  • Water will be soft and gentle on the skin, hair, and eyes
  • Less damaging on pool equipment and components
  • Doesn’t emit a strong odor
  • Uses less chlorine


  • Expensive to maintain
  • Still need to regularly use chlorine
  • Some metals oxidize and leave stains

UV Filter Pool Sanitation System

If you’re familiar with the process of cleaning using ultraviolet light to inactivate or kill bacteria, then that’s essentially how UV filter pool sanitation systems work. The pool water flows over a UV lamp or is exposed to a UV bulb which will disrupt the bacteria’s DNA and destroy their nucleic acids. 

This disinfects the pool but won’t be able to oxidize it. It’s important that pool water will be oxidized so that non-living substances such as metals can be destroyed. That’s why this is commonly used as a secondary sanitation system.


  • Gentler on the skin, hair, and eyes
  • Produces less chlorine
  • Destroys chlorine-resistant bacteria
  • Reduces pool chemical and energy consumption
  • Low-maintenance
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Doesn’t emit a strong odor


  • Cannot oxidize pool water
  • Not effective on cloudy water
  • Leaves bacteria cells in pool water, allowing it to come back
  • May not be able to improve water clarity and quality
  • Expensive to maintain

Ozone Pool Sanitation System

This pool system contains ozone, which is oxygen or O2 with an extra oxygen atom or O3. This O3 destroys and oxidizes microbes found in your pool such as bacteria, molds, and viruses. It also breaks down contaminants such as perspiration, urine, body oil, and cosmetics.

An ozone pool system may produce byproducts that are harmful to our health. To ensure that your pool water is clean and safe, you will need to regularly maintain the pH levels.


  • Produces less chlorine
  • Less chemical usage
  • Doesn’t emit a strong odor
  • Easy to install
  • Environmentally-friendly


  • Requires a residual sanitizer
  • Creates various byproducts after reacting with organic contaminants
  • May produce brominated compounds that are carcinogenic
  • High-maintenance
  • More expensive to install
  • May be difficult to find a professional to install or repair

Filter System

If you don’t already know, there are different types of filters you can use to clean your pool. Choosing the best one depends on your preferred benefits. To find out which one is best for your pool, here are the three kinds of filters found in most pools.

Cartridge Filter

The cartridge filter is the most popular type since it is easy to maintain and clean. This filter uses fabric cartridges to block impurities as the water passes through it, allowing clean water to return to the pool.

Even if it is the most commonly used filter, it’s not as effective as the other two types. Its paper-like material has a large surface area, which can filter to as small as 10 microns but will work best under low speed. 


  • Low-maintenance
  • Easy to clean with a hose
  • Less expensive
  • Energy-efficient
  • Readily available
  • Takes up less space


  • Not as effective as other types
  • Need to regularly replace the cartridges
  • Costs more to install
  • Not efficient on large pools

Diatomaceous Earth or D.E. Filter

A diatomaceous earth filter, or D.E. filter for short, utilizes fossilized plankton skeletons or mined exoskeletons of tiny diatoms to clean the water. Its tank has grids coated with D.E. powder which catches particles as small as 2 microns.

This filter will produce cleaner and clearer water than the other types, but it will cost more. You will also need to replace the D.E. powder every time you backwash the filter.


  • Best at clearing the water
  • Can filter out the smallest particles


  • Requires backwashing the pool system to clean
  • Most expensive
  • May produce hazardous waste
  • High-maintenance

Sand Filter

By hearing its name, you might have a clue that this filter uses fine sand to filter the water - which it does! Getting this type of filter system means owning large tanks filled with sand. The water flows through the sand, which will get rid of contaminants and debris, returning clean and clear water to the pool.

The grains of sand can filter particles as small as 20 microns. Eventually, the particles will build up within the sand, causing more water to be blocked. This will increase the pressure in the filter and causing it to perform slower.


  • Least expensive to install and replace
  • Easy to maintain
  • Durable and lasts for 7 years


  • Requires regular backwashing to get rid of impurities
  • Decreases pool water level
  • Consumes water and costly to maintain
  • Not energy-efficient

Heating System

To enjoy your pool, even at night, it’s best to have an efficient heating system. There are different ways you can heat your pool depending on the type and size of your pool as well as your usage and preferred temperature.

If you prefer cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly methods, here are two types of heating system you can install:

Solar Water Heater

One cost-efficient way to heat your pool is by installing solar water heaters. Not only does it save you on your electricity bill, but it is also more eco-friendly than using fuel or gas heating.

The main drawback of getting this heating system is that it won’t be as efficient when it is overcast. The worst part is these are the days that you will need a water heater to keep your pool warm.

Heat Pump

Another option for heating your pool is a heat pump. This one doesn’t require sunlight, which is why it is a popular alternative for those who prefer to have heated pools.

A heat pump uses electricity to extract heat from the air and then redirects it into the water. This means this heating system does not generate the heat on their own. Similar to solar water heaters, they will still depend on outside factors such as temperature. But as long as the temperature is more than 50°F, then it can still work. 

Even if it is not as environmentally-friendly and cost-efficient as solar water heaters, this heating system is economical, efficient, and durable. You would pay more for electricity, but at least it is safer for the environment than gas or fuel pool heating systems. 

Pump System

Another important system you should know about your pool is the water pump. This part is responsible for circulating the water through the filter and heater and then back into the pool. That’s why it is sometimes considered the heart of the pool system.

Most pump systems will have an electric motor with a spinning impeller found inside a housing. This impeller will pull the water from the pool and drains. Before the water enters the pump, it first passes through a strainer basket (usually made out of metal) to prevent leaves and other debris from clogging up the pump. After this process, the water will be directed to the filter or filters for cleaning.


When I first heard about skimmers, I thought it was just the long-handled net-like equipment used to collect leaves and other debris found on the surface of the pool. Eventually, I found out that the thing with the flap on the side of your pool is also a skimmer.

Similar to the handled skimmer, this skimmer on the wall also collects debris - but without the need for human intervention. Instead, it brings water from the pool’s surface into the system to collect leaves and dirt before they sink to the pool floor. To ensure that leaves and dirt won’t come back to the pool, the weir (or commonly referred to as the flap) prevents debris from returning to the pool. When you have pools that are more than 700 square feet, it is recommended to get two skimmers to properly clean the pool surface.

Aside from removing debris, this can be used to vacuum the pool using a suction-side automatic pool cleaner or manual vacuum. When using the skimmer with the pump, make sure to prevent small objects from entering the skimmer opening when the basket is removed. It can clog the pipes and damage the skimmer, so always make sure this part is clear. You should also keep your hands away from the suction hole found at the bottom of the skimmer.

Kenneth Wilson
January 20, 2020
Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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