If you own a pool or are thinking about it, it’s a good idea to understand how your pool plumbing works. Pool plumbing is not as complicated as you may think, and learning more about your plumbing can help you ensure you keep all the moving parts in working order.
It’s fine to be a little confused about what all the parts of your pool do and where they’re located. To give you a clearer picture, I created a list of pool plumbing parts you need to understand, along with a diagram and explanation of the plumbing parts.
Why Pool Plumbing Is Important
When you have a pool, it’s essential to know what the different plumbing parts do and where they are.
Some parts, like the skimmer and filter, need occasional cleaning. And you certainly want to know the name of that piece your child has disconnected so you can look up how to reconnect it.
Many parts are hidden away, others are in plain sight, and some may require swim goggles to find.
As an added plus, If you memorize all the plumbing parts of your pool, you can bring it up to your friends, like I do, in an impressive and stimulating poolside conversation! All jokes aside, this article might be helpful if you need to work on your plumbing, so bookmark this page to refer to when you need it again.
Pool Plumbing Diagram
Pool plumbing diagram:
B. Return lines
C. Main drain
E. Check valve
I. Jandy valves
K. Check valve
Knowing the name of your pool plumbing parts and what they do is useless if you don’t know where they are and how they’re related. So, my pool plumbing diagram should be a great point of reference for you.
You will need to maintain your pool throughout the year, so it’s helpful to see the big picture to understand how everything works together. Let’s dive into each component.
Pool Plumbing Components
Now that you’ve seen where all the parts are located, it’s time to find out what they all do and how much attention you should pay to each of them.
You can think of your pool plumbing parts like the human body’s circulatory system. The pool pump is the heart of your pool that pumps the water around your pool like your heart pumps blood around your body. Your pool also has components to clean the water along the way (like your liver cleans your blood).
The skimmer is the opening on the side of the pool (sometimes called the “intake”) where the water goes in to filter out debris. Your pool might have more than one of these if it’s larger. The skimmer acts as the first line of defense for filtering debris.
The skimmer ultimately leads to your pool’s pump and filter.
Inside the skimmer is a skimmer basket. The skimmer basket keeps the pipes leading to your pump from getting clogged with larger debris, like leaves, sticks, and insects. I’ve even found live frogs in mine on occasion!
The CDC has suggestions for what to do if you find a dead animal or feces in your pool or skimmer. Chlorine kills most germs from dead animals, but certain animals, like raccoons, can carry chlorine-resistant bacteria.
I like to clean out my skimmer basket at least once a week. Plus, by cleaning out the skimmer basket, you help your pump to more effectively clean your pool! If a tree frequently drops leaves into the pool, you’ll want to clean out the skimmer daily.
You can access the skimmer basket by removing the skimmer basket cover directly above the skimmer opening.
The skimmer also has a detachable weir. You can set it up so that water pushes through it, or you can lock it into place.
I don’t keep my weir attached all the time. However, keeping kids’ toys or large sticks from lodging in the skimmer is helpful. It also prevents debris from re-entering the pool.
Because I don’t have any trees near my pool, I usually only attach mine and lock it to prevent water from entering the skimmer while I’m cleaning out the skimmer basket.
While we’re on the subject of blocking water from entering the skimmer with the weir, always turn off the power to your pool and pump before cleaning your skimmer. If the pump runs dry while the power is on, you can damage your pump.
After the water leaves the skimmer area and loses all its large debris in the skimmer basket, it gets sucked into the suction lines.
The suction lines are pipes, usually made from PVC pipes like the plastic pipes you see under your sink.
The suction lines move water from the skimmer to the pump.
The pump is the next stop for the water on its journey around your pool. The pump does all the suction work, pulling water from your pool through the skimmer and into the suction lines.
The pump then pushes the water through the filter, heater (if you have one), and chlorinator or salt cell on its way back to your pool.
Your pump is the heart of your pool’s circulation system. If your pump is not working, your water is going nowhere.
I keep my pool pump sheltered to keep it in the best working condition. Air cannot circulate around the motor if debris accumulates around it. The motor also needs to stay dry.
You should check your pump regularly to ensure there aren’t any leaks around pipe seals or pipe joints.
I always make sure to clean my pool pump at least twice each pool season. I like to use a paintbrush to brush buildup from the vents and a clean cloth to remove any accumulated moisture.
After the water leaves the pump on its way back to the pool, it first goes through the filter. Skimmers don’t always catch everything, so a filter can help remove any extra debris, like smaller pieces of leaf litter, small bugs, and hair.
The filter has a cartridge that you should clean at least every three months. If you don’t clean your pool filter, your pool lines can get clogged, resulting in bacteria growth and poor water quality.
You should also completely replace your pool filter every three to five years.
After your water is clean, it’s ready to return to your pool through your return lines. Like the suction lines, the return lines are usually made from PVC pipes. The pipes take the water from the pool filter back to the pool return.
Your return lines are also where you will find your pool heater (if you have a heated pool) and your chlorinator or salt cell.
If you have a heated pool, the heater is located along the return line. The pool heater pulls water into a heating tank, heats it, and then pumps it back into your pool.
You can choose from an electric, gas, or solar pool heater.
Chlorinator or Salt Cell
Your chlorinator or salt cell is also located in your return line. The chlorinator or salt cell helps keep your pool sanitized.
You’ve probably enjoyed standing in a pool in front of the return jets. The jets or return jets are the small openings where the newly clean water surges back into the pool.
Have you ever noticed that your pool jets are moveable? I used to move them around when I was a kid because I didn’t realize their angles were important.
All pool jets should point in the same direction, right or left. The ideal placement for pool jets is at a 45° angle, pointing toward the bottom of your pool.
You want the newly-filtered and chemically-treated water to circulate through your pool, so it’s counter-productive to point the jets straight toward the intake skimmer.
If you have an inground pool, there’ll be one or more drains at the bottom of the pool where it’s deepest.
Completely draining your pool is never a good idea. The water exerts pressure on the pool walls and draining it can cause damage like cracks and may even cause your pool to pop out of the ground.
Even with proper maintenance, you’ll need to completely drain your pool every three to five years because of a buildup of total dissolved solids (TDS).
When you need to drain your pool completely for cleaning or repair, there are certain parameters that you should meet, such as temperature, groundwater levels, and sewer capacity.
I suggest always using a professional for pool draining, so you don’t end up ruining your pool or flooding your yard.
Get My Free Pool Care Checklist
Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.
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Final Thoughts About Pool Plumbing
As you can see, pool plumbing isn’t overly complicated. Some pool plumbing parts are easy to care for on your own. And unless you have a pool professional over regularly for maintenance, you should know where they are so you can care for your pool yourself.
However, there are other maintenance tasks you’re better off leaving to a professional. I suggest calling a professional at least once a year to ensure everything in your pool is working in tip-top shape. Questions? Let me know.