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Swimming Pool Owner's Blog

How to prime a Swimming Pool Pump

There are several reasons why pool pumps tend to lose their prime or are unable to reprime themselves, the most common problem results from air in the pipes or filter. This is usually caused by the pools water level being too low or sometimes is caused by loose fittings or perished o'rings.

Identifying factors can vary when a pool pump is struggling to prime or has completely deprimed. Some salt water chlorinators will prompt a sound or light indicating that there is no flow through the salt cell, some will even turn themselves off as a safety precaution. Most pumps will also have an increased noise level while deprimed and in cases where there is still a slight prime your suction at the skimmer box will make a loud screeching sound. If any of these problems occur it is best to attend to the problem as soon as possible, switching the system off at the wall is a good way to stop any damage to the pump and other equipment until you can address the problem.

If the pump is running dry for extended periods it can burn out or damage the mechanical seal, ceramic, diffuser plate and other parts that the pump requires to function correctly. 

Below is a basic guide to remedy a deprimed pump.

Remove the pool cleaner and vacuum plate from the skimmer box and empty the skimmer basket of any debris, do not put the vacuum plate back in the skimmer at this time. This will provide good water flow through the skimmer basket.

  • Turn off the pool pump, this is best done at the wall so that the chlorinator or other timers do not turn the pump on while you are trying to prime it.
  • If your filtration equipment uses a cartridge filter you should release the pressure using the air release valve normally located on the top of the filter. Do not remove the air release valve completely, a few turns will work fine so that it is still in the thread. You may also need to remove the cartridge from the filter since old cartridges can block up and stop the water flow.
  • If the filtration equipment is lower than the water level you may have have a shutoff valve at the front of the pump, these are used for maintenance purposes such as emptying your basket but can also be used in repriming (if your pool does have a flooded suction it is very rare for the pump to lose its prime and this generally leads to the conclusion that something else may be at fault).
  • Remove the lid from the pool pump wet end, depending on your pump you may need to remove lid knobs or bolts first.
  • Check that the oring on the pump lid is well greased with a waterproof water based silicone grease. Do not use petroleum based lubricants as they will swell the rubber o'rings/ gaskets and cause them to deteriorate over time.
  • Inspect the pump lid and wet end for any cracks or breaks.
  • Empty the pump basket and any other debris that is in the wet end, a visual inspection of the skimmer basket and pipes is usually a good idea as well, if any are broken or cracked this might cause the pool pump to not prime correctly.
  • Fill the pool pump with a bucket of water or use a garden hose until the wet end is full, if the wet end doesn’t remain full you may have to use several buckets of water or try to reattach the lid quickly.
  • Reinsert the pump basket, lid and oring if removed.
  • If your filtration equipment utilizes a sand filter then change the multiport valve orientation to recirculate while the pump is still off. This will circumvent any air that is inside the filter tank.
  • Turn the pool pump on the same way it was turned off, if this was done via a salt water chlorinator you may need to put it on manual override.
  • If using a cartridge filter keep an eye on the air release valve as water may exit the filter, if water does escape this means that the air has been removed and that you can tighten the air release valve.
  • At this point you may notice air coming through the return pipes or “eyeballs” of the pool, watch the pump wet end for 3-5 minutes to see if it successfully removes the air from the system. If it does not you may have to repeat the water application to fill the pump again. Do not run the pump dry for over five minutes as it may cause damage.
  • If the pump has primed and water is flowing through the wet end then let it run for a few minutes before turning it off.
  • Change the sand filter multiport valve orientation back to filter or return the cartridge to the cartridge filter and restore normal operation to the filtration equipment.

Please note this is a general guide for priming your swimming pool or spa pump, the equipment or requirements to prime your specific pump may vary.

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