what's the difference between inground pool pumps and above ground pool pumps? Can an inground pool pump be used for an above ground pool?

Written by Catherine Zhou on June 14 2024

Recently, one of our distributor said that the sand filters he purchased from us has some problems: valve leaks, tank leaks.

I’m surprised about her feedback, as we’ve never heard about this from our other distributors.

After discussing about this problem with our engineer team, we found that this distributor has changed the pumps in the sand filter combo. The original pump included in the sand filter was an above ground pool pump, however, he prefer the appearance of our inground pool pump(max power pro series), so he asked us to replace the pump by the inground pool pump(max power pro series) of the same horse power. 

He purchased 12″, 16″, 19″ and 24″ sand filter & pump combos from us, the pumps in the 12″ and 16″ combos are not changed which the pumps in the 19″ and 24″ combos were replaced by the inground pool pumps. All the sand filter issue he reported were from the 19″ and 24″ sand filters.

So, one of our engineers put forwarder a bold hypothesis: Will the problem lay on the replacement of the pump?

Based on this hypothesis, we conducted an experiment on a transparent sand filter with an inground pool pump and an above ground pool pump so as to observe and compare the movement of water flow and sand in the tank.

After starting the pump, we saw a lot of sand were slammed into the top valve head when running the inground pool pump while the water flow was very gentle in the tank when running the above ground pool pump.

We also noticed that the pressure in the tank had almost reached 300Kpa which is the limit valve of our sand filter when running the inground pool pump, but the pressure was below 250Kpa when running the above ground pool pump.

After running the inground pool pump for some days, we stopped the pump and took off the top valve, we found that their were a lot of sand  stuck to the rubber/pad/O-ring of the top valve which will wear the rubber/pad/O-ring and other seal parts after some period and cause leakage then.

Consider the high pressure of the tank, operating at 300Kpa which is the max working pressure of the tank in the long run will easy to damage the tank when the sand is full of debris which will cause even higher pressure to the tank.

We told the distributor about our experiment results, he was surprised and suggested to use inground pool pump(max power pro) of smaller horse power. Ha, what a persistent man who loves our max power pro series inground pool pump very much!

Then we conducted another experiment, to degrade the pump horse power for 19″ and 24″ sand filters. For example, he sold 0.75HP inground pool pump with the 19″ sand filter previously, now we test 0.5HP inground pool pump with the sand filter to see how it works. The same as on 24″ sand filters, we degrade the 1HP inground pool pump to 0.75HP one.

The result shows better than before, sand flows more gently and pressure of the tank reduced to around 250Kpa, which is almost the same as it with an above ground pool pump.

So finally he purchased 0.5HP inground pool pump with the 19″ sand filter and 0.75HP inground pool pump with the 24″ sand filter from us. 

After then, not a complaint has been mentioned, he is very satisfied with the new combos!

This year, his pool business goes on well and purchased double qty than last year!

This is an interesting case, we didn’t improve anything, all the issues were fixed only by degrading the horse power of the inground pool pump, so now we have learnt from the case:

  1. Do not easily replace any part of the combo so as to avoid unnecessary troubles.
  2. If you want to change any part of the suit,  rigorous evaluations should be done before doing so.
  3. An above ground pool pump can be replaced by an inground pool pump, but there are many factors to consider, the main factor is the water flow and the pressure.

Let me tell you why based on the difference between an above ground pool pump and an inground pool pump.

The primary differences between inground pool pumps and above ground pool pumps relate to their design, performance, and installation requirements. Here are the key distinctions:

Design and Build

  1. Pressure Handling:

    • Inground Pool Pumps: Designed to handle higher pressures because inground pools have more resistance due to longer plumbing lines and additional features such as waterfalls and spa jets.
    • Above Ground Pool Pumps: Handle lower pressures as above ground pools typically have shorter plumbing lines and fewer additional features.
  2. Durability:

    • Inground Pool Pumps: Usually built with more durable materials to withstand the constant pressure and longer running times.
    • Above Ground Pool Pumps: May use lighter materials suitable for the less demanding operational environment.

Installation and Operation

  1. Installation:

    • Inground Pool Pumps: Often require professional installation due to the complexity of inground pool plumbing systems and electrical requirements.
    • Above Ground Pool Pumps: Generally easier to install and can often be set up by the pool owner without professional assistance.
  2. Priming:

    • Inground Pool Pumps: Typically self-priming, meaning they can automatically remove air from the system to start pumping water effectively, which is necessary for the longer and more complex plumbing systems of inground pools.
    • Above Ground Pool Pumps: Usually not self-priming and must be installed below the water level of the pool to ensure they can start pumping water without manual priming.


  1. Flow Rate and Horsepower:

    • Inground Pool Pumps: Generally have higher horsepower and flow rates to move larger volumes of water through more extensive filtration systems.
    • Above Ground Pool Pumps: Typically have lower horsepower and flow rates appropriate for the smaller volumes of water and simpler filtration systems in above ground pools.
  2. Energy Efficiency:

    • Inground Pool Pumps: Often come with variable speed options to improve energy efficiency and provide more precise control over water circulation.
    • Above Ground Pool Pumps: Usually single-speed or two-speed, reflecting the simpler needs and lower operational demands.


  1. Inground Pool Pumps: Tend to be more expensive due to their robust construction, higher performance, and advanced features.
  2. Above Ground Pool Pumps: Generally less expensive, reflecting their simpler design and lower performance requirements.

In summary, inground pool pumps are built to handle higher pressures, have more complex installation requirements, and offer higher performance and durability. Above ground pool pumps are simpler, easier to install, and suitable for the lower demands of above ground pools.

Performance curve of our above ground pool pump

Performance curve of our in ground pool pump

Let’s return to the previous question: can an inground pool pump be used in an above ground pool?

The answer is

Yes, an inground pool pump can be used in an above ground pool, but several factors need to be considered:


  1. Power and Flow Rate: Inground pool pumps typically have higher power and flow rates. If used in an above ground pool, this may cause the water to flow too quickly, potentially leading to ineffective filtration or damage to the pool’s plumbing and filtration system.

  2. Installation Position: Inground pool pumps are usually self-priming and can be installed above the water level. Most above ground pool pumps need to be installed below the water level to ensure proper operation. You need to ensure that the pump’s installation position and design are compatible with the requirements of an above ground pool.

Energy Efficiency

Inground pool pumps are designed for larger loads and long-term high-efficiency operation. If used in an above ground pool, they may consume more electricity, leading to lower energy efficiency.

Safety and Durability

Above ground pool systems are typically designed to handle lower pressures. Using a high-pressure inground pool pump may increase wear and tear on the system, reducing the lifespan of the above ground pool equipment.


Inground pool pumps are generally more expensive. Using them for an above ground pool may be resource-intensive and not cost-effective, especially for smaller pools.


Some inground pool pumps have adjustable speed features, allowing you to reduce the flow rate and pressure, making them more suitable for above ground pools. If you decide to use an inground pool pump, choosing a model with this feature might be more appropriate.


While it is technically possible, you need to carefully consider the factors mentioned above. If you must use an inground pool pump, it is advisable to consult a professional to ensure system compatibility and safety. Additionally, it might be more suitable to choose a pump specifically designed for above ground pools to avoid potential issues.

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