Cartridge Filters / Should I Get A Cartridge Filter For My Pool / How Often Should I Clean My Cartridge Filter / How Often Should I Replace My Cartridge Filter Elements?

Cartridge Filters

First, if you want to disagree with my conclusions, great. Take a look at all of the individual points made here, prove that the point I make is invalid for “Phoenix” and the “surrounding areas”, prove to me that the costs "aren't" substantially more to the home owner, and that you don't line your pockets with the extra cash from the profits cartridge filters generate, and prove that D.E. filters do not offer substantially better filtration and lower average annual costs for the same, or less money, and I will completely rewrite this review. For those of you reading this, it has been 12 years, and no one has ever called what I say here into question … yet. Here’s your chance. Here’s my e-mail:


             “There is no item you can buy, or keep, that will consistently make everyone in the pool industry more money than a cartridge filter system. That said, there is no item in your pool, or that you can buy, that will consistently cost you, the home owner more money per year than installing, or keeping a cartridge filter.”


        There it is in a nutshell. Ask the guy trying to sell you a cartridge filter about the following things:


1.)  You will spend $400-$600 a year just doing EXTRA filter cleans That's a minimum. (Or ... you will, 4-6 times per year spend a minimum of an hour spraying out bug guts, dirt, gunk, ... from the little pleats in your filter elements, and then laundering, and cleaning the same off yourself, out of your shoes and socks, … Someone is going to handle this mess. If it isn't you, you are going to pay someone else to do it.) If you don't do this you will replace your elements early for $$$$ and or have problems with filtration that cost $$$ and problems. You only have to do a clean on a D.E. Filter once a year.


2.)  You will spend about 25% more in chemicals. Why? Cartridge filters filter only down to 14-18 microns. Most algae is in the 12-14 micron range. D.E. filters, filter down to 3-4 microns. All that algae, and all the other dirt and debris between 3 and 12 microns stays in your pool as a breeding source. More material in your pool = more chemicals to treat it. This also means you are swimming in more GUNK. More possibilities of pink eye, skin irritation ... 


3.) You have to replace your cartridge elements (Phoenix area) approximately every 2 years: Cost: Usually about $300 or more. (D.E. if maintained is every 5 years or so.) That's 2 1/2 times the cost.


4.)  But you save water with a cartridge filter... That's a lie. No you don't. Ask how often the pool industry recommends draining pools and at what hardness levels. If you don't take out any water your hardness doubles every single year. Average hardness is about 700 ppm and all pool companies(with integrity) say your pool should be drained when it hits 1000 ppm. If you are back washing with a D.E. or a Sand filter, you can, on occasion, make it to 2 years. You CANNOT do this with a cartridge filter because the hardness closes up the pores in the material. Then you can either acid wash the elements or replace them early ... all costs extra $$$$


7.)  Note: Because your pool acts like the dead sea, or the great salt lake in Utah, no hardness, salts, … are ever removed, yet all the water continues to evaporate. Because of this all of the levels double every year. THERE IS NO WATER SAVINGS WITH A CARTRIDGE FILTER!!!!! YOU HAVE TO DRAIN AND REFILL YOUR POOL EVERY YEAR TO FOLLOW EVERY POOL MANUFACTURERS REQUIRED DRAINING LEVELS. YOU THEN HAVE TO USE AN HOURS WORTH OF FRESH WATER TO HOSE OUT ALL OF The DIRT ONCE EVERY TWO MONTHS (Less in winter, more during monsoons, much more if you don’t drain and refill your pool completely every year.) Extra water beyond sand and D.E. $25 a year.


9.)  Add it all up. That's $875 - $1250.00 a year you give to the people in the pool industry if you buy a cartridge, not counting the extra hassles, the extra muck you end up swimming in, the stronger chemical readings you have to maintain, the greater eye, skin ... irritation and possibility of illness ... I know a guy who changed out 60 of his accounts to cartridge filters. He hired a full time guy to clean them. He says he is pocketing an extra $50,000.00 a year.  And I appreciate it greatly.


    To keep this in perspective,  Right now, you can replace your Cartridge filter with a brand new, top of the line sand, or D.E. filter, with the best of plumbing and add on's, for about $1,250.00 a year.


        Yep, you can get a brand new, top of the line, filter, with installation included, every year, for the same cost as the average upkeep most customers pay for on their cartridge filter.


        If you only wanted to replace the cartridge filter ONCE, and not every year, you can pay the same $1250 once, and then just $100-$250(For the largest filters) per year average to keep your sand or D.E. filter functioning perfectly, this includes Filter Cleans, Grids, ...


        So, like I said, keeping your cartridge filter is like handing me a check for $750 - $1125 every single year for doing absolutely nothing. That's EXTRA money you are giving us. THANK YOU SO MUCH! 


          Here’s an interesting tidbit. 30 years ago, when water was coming out of the tap in the Phoenix area at about 150 ppm hardness level, cartridge filters were considered the lowest quality filter and were less than half of a sand or D.E. filter. The home owner was told that they should replace them within a year or two because of cleaning costs, the need for replacement filters was much more cost prohibitive... and all the other reasons listed above. And the documentation from the manufacturers actually said, "NOT FOR USE IN HIGH HARDNESS AREAS". It also said 300 ppm was considered high hardness. Now it just says, "Filter element lifespan greatly reduced in high hardness areas."


        That said, “please” fight me and say you want to just replace your elements instead of replacing your filter. Our family will take another half a week’s vacation in Disney land, with that extra money you did not want, and choose to donate to us, to celebrate your decision to keep your cartridge filter one more year. If this is you, thanks again.  


        Yes, I know lots of people don't maintain their cartridge filters like this. Others don't drain their pool .... Did you know that you never "HAVE TO" do an oil change in your car or check the oil or check brake fluid ... You don't "HAVE TO". You can just replace your car every 50,000 miles. 


        I am now going to look at the positives for owning a cartridge filter... 

1.) Tops on the List: Yes, the paid vacation in Disney Land that you are providing for me, your pool man, and my family, makes the list.

2.) If you have a cartridge filter on a "separate" spa system, it’s a decent solution.  

3.) You are supporting all the parts houses and the manufacturers of elements, and helping the economy by circulating much more of your money than you would otherwise. 

4.) You are providing jobs, and paying the salaries of many people who would not make the money they would if you purchased another type of filter. 

5.) Even though you are really wasting, water, (Not only do you have to do all those extra hour long filter cleaning sessions that waste water, and you need to completely drain your pool every year.) there are many people who will praise you for saving water. Why? Because they don’t really know the truth.

6.) Your home owners association REQUIRES them: Yes, this does happen, especially around lakes. If so, this is just another cost of living where you are. Sorry.


            If you dislike what I say here because you sell your customers cartridge filters, please explain to me the benefits to the customers. I obviously missed them. I promise to put in your statements unaltered (but with my commentary.) 

            I would love to alter my opinions. I have tracked the costs, and expense, and tried to estimate the problems caused by cartridge filters over both sand and D.E. for years (In the Valley of the Sun.) and, from what I see, what I have written is accurate. Again, correct me if I am wrong. If I am wrong I will alter what I have written here in accordance with the facts opponents to my current beliefs, offer.


Reasons why your Cartridge Filter might be the cause of Green or Cloudy Water:


        1.)  You have High Water Hardness and or High Evaporation Levels (Welcome to the Phoenix area)


        2.) You have High Dirt, Algae, Debris, Bather Loads, ...  (This stuff sticks to cartridge elements plugs up the pores, and causes premature filter failure. Yes, you can use special treatments, acid washes, ... to treat your elements, but time and materials to do these treatments end up costing you more per year than the replacement elements would have cost, and most do not produce a measurable flow difference.)


        3.) Your Cartridge Elements need Cleaning or Replacing. When you get a NEW cartridge element(s), write down the starting pressure in permanent ink on the side of the filter. Every time the pressure rises 5 lbs. (7 lbs. max) the filter should be pulled apart and cleaned. OR every 3 months. Whichever comes first. That's "If" you are completely draining and refilling your pool every year, and have NEVER had an algae problem in the lifetime of the elements, do not have large storms, high bather loads, dogs, ducks, the local boy scout troop, ... in your pool on a regular basis, you have 2 years MAX before the elements need replacing. For most it's a year and a half. If you don’t drain your pool, if your pool has ever become a green swamp, if you have high bather loads, a monsoon dumps 3 inches of dirt into your pool twice a year, ... then a year and a half is pushing it. I have clients replacing $480 worth of elements 3 times a year because they won't drain their pool and have these other problems. Or they just keep going through pool men because no one can maintain their pool with non-functioning filtration.


        4.) If you have a larger sized pump (1 1/2 H.P. or greater) OR just dirty filter elements, most cartridge filters have a safety mechanism that causes the filters to "Lift Up" at around 25-30 lbs. pressure, allowing the dirty water to completely bypass filtration altogether. In other words, if you have a large enough pump, you can get a brand new cartridge filter, fresh out of the box, and have a major percentage of whatever you vacuum go into the filter, and come right back out, completely unfiltered, completely wasting all the energy you used to run the pump (Not to mention the time you spent vacuuming the pool.) the larger the pump the less time you will have before you need to clean the elements, as the higher flow rates will result in the elements lifting up sooner.


My Pool is Pea Soup. Can I clear it up with a Cartridge Filter?


         You can buy yourself a new D.E. filter, to clean up your algae with, pay for all the chemicals to get rid of the algae, and still keep $800 more than you would if you kept the cartridge filter and tried to clean everything up with that. 

            IF YOUR POOL WATER EVER TURNS GREEN, REALLY GREEN, you can forget your cartridge filter ever cleaning it out for any reasonable sum of money, any reasonable amount of effort, and any reasonable amount of hassle and inconvenience. Usually this event happens because:

                    a. The client wasn’t cleaning his filter elements often enough

                    b. The client wasn’t cleaning the cartridge elements well

                    c. The client wasn’t replacing them every year to year and a half (With yearly drains) or every 6-8 Months with bi-yearly drains.


                    d. Cartridge filters, as they get dirty, lift up and allow dirty water that enters the filter to completely bypass the elements, so as you start to remove the algae, you get less and less of the water filtered, and more and more just passes by completely unfiltered.

If your pool is really green, my advise is GET THE BIG D.E. FILTER NOW!


But I want to keep my cartridge filter no matter what... and use it to clean up my green pool.


You can do it, but, ... you are looking at the following scenario:

I.) First scenario:

            a.)  Do what you need to do to kill all of the algae. (See Green or Cloudy Water)


            b.) You will need to replace your current cartridge elements with new ones.

            c.) You will need to run your equipment 24 hours a day.

            d.) You need to pull all the water in the pool from the main drain, and return that water so that there is a ripple three feet from the return lines, as close to the walls as is possible, and so that the water motion is all moving in the same direction.


            e.) Whenever the pressure rises 5-7 lbs. pulling apart and cleaning your cartridge elements. To start out with this may mean running the filter for 15 minutes and spending an hour to clean, running your filter for 20 minutes, and an hour to clean, … by the end of the day, you should be able to go a few hours without a clean. Repeat on day 2, and possibly days 3-4.


f.) Remember, this process will force dead algae into the pores of your cartridge filter elements. You may need to replace these elements again in 4-6 months or less.

II.) Second scenario

            a.) You shut off your equipment Hire someone to put in a portable pump with a portable D.E. filter. After straightening out your water chemistry. (Note: I use the same filter you should be replacing your Cartridge filter with, if you do not plan on renting out the home, and can check things every week or so, that is.)

            b.) With a D.E. Filter, your pool will be clear the next day (He will unplug, clean, ... his equipment, and you can go back to your cartridge system, after, of course,

            c.) Replacing your cartridge elements

 Total cost: Green to Clean Service $600. Cartridge Elements $200-$300 Total $800-$900 Time invested: The time to write the check.

            e.) Why I would do this: The home is SOLD. It’s summer so the pool shouldn’t be drained and chlorine rinsed. You will save $100-$400 over replacing the filter. 


To Summarize: Why do cartridge filters get sold to home owners throughout Phoenix? 

Manufacturers and Suppliers:


           A good D.E. or Sand filter will bring in $40 per year or less to the manufacturers. A cartridge will bring in 3-4 times that in profits to the manufacturers on elements. And a ton more in chemicals. Pool men themselves make the most profits though. The problems with cloudy water, un-cleaned or improperly cleaned elements that result in green or cloudy pools and additional chemicals from the chemical manufactures is about $100 a year. For every 100 cartridge filters installed, the manufactures and suppliers will make $14,000 a year in extra profits over sand or D.E. MINIMUM. Cartridge filters are now the most installed filter on new pool installs putting in over a thousand new cartridge filters EVERY YEAR. That's $140,000 EXTRA every year. in ten years, that's $1,400,000 a year in extra money. Do you know why the manufacturers and suppliers love and push, cartridge filters on new pool buyers?


Pool Technicians:


            First, we get 30-40% more service calls due to problems with water flow, equipment operation, cloudy and or green water, ... with cartridge filters than with sand or D.E. over the same time period. At $100 minimum profit per call, it adds up.


            Regular maintenance costs: Sand and D.E. filters will bring in, on average $150 a year. For the cartridge at least 4-5 times that amount usually about $1000 a year or more in filter cleaning and replacing of elements.


        To put this in perspective, if I put in 20 cartridge filters, on the pool accounts I service, I can make $20,000 more a year in profits than I can with any other filter. Do you think that might motivate pool service technicians to put them in... for everyone “else” but themselves, friends, and family members? 


But So Many People Recommend Them...


            Most pool sales people and people in pool stores, have never worked a single day servicing pools or repairing pool problems. Many do not even own a pool. They tell you what they are being told by the manufacturers and suppliers, i.e. we live in the desert, this filter conserves water, this filter is the most popular filter, and is installed in most of our pools, ... These sales people do not have the repair and service experience that I have, (35 years) They don’t know that what their sales manager is telling them about how great cartridge filters are is bogus bull dookie. Shoot, most of the managers don’t know the truth, and merely believe what they are told by the manufacturers, and other people in the industry, who make all this extra money off you. They really haven't really considered "Real water usage" and "Real costs to the customer", and most people merely believe hat they are told. They wouldn't even know how to check out these numbers for themselves. And they aren't out there in the real world doing the work, so they will never know any better.