Stop Wondering How Your Pool Works – The Quick Guide to Your Pool’s Equipment


Pools are fun, a great way to cool off in hot heat and a great way to get your exercise.  Have you ever wondered, though, how your pool works?

On the surface, it may seem like just filling up a hole with water, but the truth is a bit more complicated than that.  What is nice is that regardless of your pool’s size, shape and design, they basically all work the same way.

It is important that you know how your pool works if you intend to maintain it yourself.  Otherwise, you are bound to make mistakes that can result in replacing expensive equipment or leaving your pool a big mess!

Compare it to maintaining your car – you certainly would not be doing an oil change if you did not know the basics of the different parts involved.

Of course, you do not need to be an expert, but it is a good idea to know how your pool works at a basic level.

There are seven key components to your pool that can be broken up into three main functions.  The seven key components are:

  1. skimmer
  2. main drain
  3. suction line(s)
  4. pump
  5. filter
  6. return lines
  7. return jets

These components either assist with suction (skimmer, main drain and suction lines), filtration (pump and filter) or returning the water to the pool (return lines and return jets).  They are all necessary in making sure that your pool works.

There are other optional items that you can add to further enhance your pool, such as:

  • heater
  • in-line chlorinators
  • salt generators
  • self-cleaning pool system

The circulation of your pools water can generally be compared to our body’s circulatory system.  Water is removed, it is cleaned and it is returned back into your pool.

How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Pool?

Is there a difference in how your above ground or inground pool works?

However, you may be wondering if this article applies to your inground or above ground pool.  What is the difference between the two?

In terms of how they operate, there is really not much of a difference.  Generally speaking, your pool works the same regardless of whether it is an above ground or inground pool.

You will find the setup just a little bit different. Above ground pools will usually only have one skimmer and one return jet, compared to inground pools who will have two or more.

The suction and return lines are shorter in an above ground pool.  Since they do not go underground, they are much easier to repair and replace when that becomes necessary.

Now let’s consider how each of the components in your pool works.

Suction Components

As mentioned, the first step is for water to be removed from your pool to be cleaned.  The skimmer, the main drain and the suction line (or lines) are the components that perform this function.


Your skimmers will be built into the side of your pool.  They are basically plastic buckets that hold skimmer baskets.

Water and debris are pushed towards your skimmer.  The skimmer will catch your large debris, such as leaves, bugs, and the occasional frog.

It will basically make sure that nothing too large goes through your filter.  The water will move through your skimmer into your suction lines.

Main Drain

The main drain is a deceiving name.  Yes, it can be used to drain the pool, but rarely is it ever used in that capacity.

Instead, it functions much the same as your skimmer.  It will pull water from the bottom to be filtered.

New pools will have two main drains; old pools will have only one.

Suction Line (or Lines)

The suction line, or lines if there is more than one, carries the water from the skimmer or main drain to the pump.  They are usually made of PVC.

pool works

Filtration Components

The next step is for water to be cleaned.  The pump and filter make up this part of the process.


If our pool system is like our circulatory system, then the pool pump is like the heart.  It creates the flow of water circulates chemicals evenly throughout the pool.

The pump pushes water towards the skimmer to be filtered.  Once the water reaches your skimmer, it is passes through the pump and into the filter.

You can choose between variable and single speed pool pumps.  Variable speed pumps can be automated and cost up to 90% less in energy costs than a single speed pool pump.

It is the single most important piece of pool equipment you own.  Without it, water cannot be filtered, cleaned or heated.


The filter removes fine debris, tiny particles, and bacteria that makes it past the sanitizer.  As we have discussed before, there are three types of filter: sand, diatomaceous earth (D.E.), and cartridge.

The filter will clean your water and make sure it is safe for you and your family to swim in.  We cannot understate how important that is – every year, families are afflicted with skin or stomach issues because of unsafe water.

Return Components

Now that your water has been filtered, the return lines and return jets get your clean water back into your pool.

Return lines

These lines will return water from the filter to the return jets.  Return lines can also supply water to a waterfall or other water features in your pull.

These are also made of PVC.

Return jets

This is where the filtered water will then be pushed back into the pool.

These jets also perform another essential service. They make sure that the water in the pool is well-circulated.

This means that the chemicals you add to your water will make their way around your pool.

Additional Equipment

Now let’s look at some additional equipment you can add to your pool to make it a more enjoyable or safer experience.  These are not vital – your pool works without them, but they do make a difference.


This one is technically not essential, but since no one likes a cold swim, we would call it fairly necessary. It will make your swim that much more comfortable.

Another perk is that pool heaters can extend your swimming season, since you can still swim in cooler weather. Pool heaters come in so many options: solar, natural gas, propone or electric.

There are other ways to heat your pool, such as using a solar cover or making sure that your pool is protected from the wind.

In-Line Chlorinators

An in-line chlorinator, sometimes called a chemical feeder, will make it easy to keep your pool water clean.  This should be added as the last piece of your filtration process.

Your heater will be installed after your filter.  Your in-line chlorinator will be added after your filter.

Salt Generators

Some pools use a salt generator as an alternative to chlorine.  This is the same as an in-line chlorinator and is placed in the same spot.

It will also be the last part of your filtration process.

Self-Cleaning Pool System

A self-cleaning pool system is also called an in-floor pool cleaning system, as it is installed right into the floor of your pool.  There are pop-ups or cleaning jets that are placed throughout the floor of your swimming pool.

This system is only available for inground pools; you cannot have a self-cleaning above ground pool. In-floor pool cleaning systems circulate filtered, clean water to the main drain.

Jets throughout your pool act to circulate the water to a fixed nozzle, allowing the water to be filtered.  Fresh water is circulated back into your pool and debris is caught into a debris canister.

The jets are synchronized and automated and work silently to keep your pool clean.

Unlike traditional pool circulation systems, many self-cleaning pools circulate your pool from bottom to top. All of your pool water is circulated and cleaned, getting rid of “dead spots” where bacteria and algae may grow.

How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Pool?

Pool Maintenance

As we can see, there are a lot of pieces in making sure that your pool runs correctly.  Of course, it will only run correctly if you maintain it.

This includes cleaning, checking your water’s chemical levels, and making sure your equipment is in top shape.

That is a lot of work and it is a big responsibility – you don’t want to make mistakes on your new pool!  That is why many people use the services of a pool maintenance company to handle those chores.

What does a pool cleaning company do? A pool cleaning service is basically a company that offers the following services:

  1. Vacuuming your pool
  2. Inspecting your pool
  3. Checking and cleaning your filter
  4. Ensuring that the pH, chlorine and water levels are where they should be.
  5. Inspecting your pool equipment and determining whether they are working properly.  They will be able to tell you about any upcoming issues that you may need to address.
  6. Cleaning the pool floors, walls, stairs, extra features, etc.

A professional pool cleaning service is just that – a team of professionals that understand how your pool works.  People who succeed in this area have acquired a certain level of expertise in pool cleaning through ongoing training.

Of course, we are always happy to discuss how your pool works, help you understand your equipment and answer any pool maintenance questions that you have.

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