Pool Pump Installation
Installing a pool pump requires a working knowledge of plumbing systems. The pump will require both plumbing and electrical connections and should only be installed by individuals with experience in these areas. Consult local installation codes to determine if you need to be a licensed plumber or licensed electrician to install your pool pump.
Is It Hard To Install A Pool Pump?
The level of difficulty of installing a new pool pump will depend on the complexity of your system. A basic plumbing installation with direct 110V or 220V power will be much easier to install than an installation that has multiple suction and return lines or multiple / variable speed pumps or control systems such as a timer that turns the pump on or off at specific intervals. For the vast majority of people installing a pool pump will be relatively straight forward especially if you are replacing an existing pump as often you will just install the new pump following the configuration of the old pump installation.
The process of installing the pump includes connecting to the suction and return ports of the pump and providing an electrical supply that is sized specifically for the pump itself. The plumbing port connections on a swimming pool pump are either a standard female thread (very common) or a glued slip connection (less common).
Threaded Pool Pump Connections
The female thread connection on a pool pump is a very common configuration that would require the use of a standard plumbing part called a male adapter. The size of the male adapter will depend on the make, model and size of the pump itself and will most commonly be either a standard 1.5” or a standard 2” thread.
Pictured here is a standard female thread pool pump connection port which are the interior threads.
The exterior, male threaded connection port, is for use when large pipe connection is required to meet flow dynamics of your system. This pool pump would move a high volume of water given the size of the connection ports.
The male adapter gets threaded into the pump with the aid of a thread sealant. The use of thread sealant is required to ensure a water tight seal and to prevent air from getting into the system which will cause the pump to run poorly and potentially be a leak source. The most appropriate thread sealants to use are Teflon tape (white), silicone or non petroleum based thread dopes or sealants.
It is critically important to the health and longevity of the pump to not use petroleum based sealants which have the properties of expanding over time. If the thread sealant expands over time then this can easily cause a total failure of the pump by cracking the casing that the male adapter is threaded into.
The Best Pool Pump Thread Sealant
Teflon tape is the preferred method for making water tight threaded connections. The teflon tape needs to be wrapped around the male adapter threads in such as way that when the fitting is threaded into the pump the teflon tape is not removed from the fitting. The correct orientation is to wrap the teflon tape clockwise around the threads assuming that you are holding the male adapter in your hand with the threaded end facing towards you.
Ideally you will thread the adapter into the pump as far as you can go by hand and then use channel lock pliers to continue another one quarter to one half of a turn. If you continue to tighten past this point then you run the risk of cracking the housing of the pump.
Silicone is not ideal though very commonly used, even by pool professionals, as it is very easy to get a complete seal on a threaded connection. The down side to using silicone as a thread sealant is that if the threaded adapter gets moved even slightly, it will break the bead seal on the silicone and start leaking at the threaded connection. You can not simply tighten more like you can with teflon tape or pipe dopes but instead need to remove the threaded fitting completely and reseal with silicone again which requires many hours to set before you can operate the system again.
Pool Pump Union Fittings
It is recommended that you also install a fitting called a union adapter which allows you to open the plumbing system in the future without the need of actually cutting into the pipes. It is recommended that you install one of these fittings in every location where you are making a threaded connection. This will give you an easy recourse to resolve small drips and leaks from threaded connections quickly and easily without experiencing any further down time of the system. Especially from a professionals point of view having the ability to tighten a threaded fitting another one quarter of a turn without cutting into the system is critical.
Shown here is a union male adapter which incorporates both the threaded male fitting for connecting to the pump, but also a threaded union connection to mizimize the space required for installation and allow you to open the system without cutting and gluing.
If you cut into the system you will need to wait while the glue dries in the area that you have cut open before you can start the system again. In the circumstance of a persistent leak this can save you a great deal of frustration as you can undo the union, tighten the male adapter in the threaded port on the pump and then start the system again immediately to ensure this has solved the problem as opposed to waiting a minimum of 1 hour before you can verify if the leak is fixed.
Using Epoxy To Install A Pool Pump
Occasionally some people make threaded connections when installing a pool pump with an epoxy putty. This is also very commonly used to attempt to stop a slow leak from a threaded pump adapter. It is very short sighted to use epoxy as a thread sealant or to fix a small leak from a threaded fitting as epoxy dries hard and essentially ruins the pump. Should you ever need to remove the threaded fitting you will be unable to do so and will need to cut the pump out of the system. Epoxy should never be used to install a pump and should only be used as a repair attempt as a last resort.
Pool Pump Plumbing
Every pump installation is unique as there are many different pipe materials as well as limitless orientations of the plumbing system. As a general rule you want to avoid putting a fitting (like a 90 degree elbow) directly in front of a pipe connection. The rule of thumb is to allow 5 times the pump diameter in a straight line in front of a pump suction. If you had 2" pipes then you would leave 10 inches of straight pipe going into the pump.
Below Water Level Pump Installation
The height of the pump in relation to the height of the top of the waterline in your pool will impact how you need to install your pool pump. If the pump is installed below water level then you will need to add isolation valves to both the suction lines as well as return lines of the pool.
Shown here is a manually actuated ball style isolation valve.
This allows you to open the plumbing system or the pump lid when the pump is installed below the height of the water level in the pool.
The reason for this is when you open the pump lid to clean the strainer basket, you will need to close these valves to prevent your pool from draining out through the pump once you remove the lid.
Above Water Level Pump Installation
A pool pump installed above the height of the water may have difficulty priming since it will need to draw the water up from the pool all the way to the pool pump. The further the length of the run and the higher the height above water level, the more difficulty the pump will have priming. The addition of a check valve (one way valve) on the suction side of the pump can assist with this as it will prevent, or at least limit, how quickly the water drains back down through the pipes to the pool once you shut off the pump.
The next section looks at Pool Pump Problems that you can encounter when installing a new pool pump.