Uh, oh. So you’re here because you’re worried your pump might be overheating—or worse, you’re sure of it. Anyone your pool is best enjoyed in the heat, but not when it’s generating heat, especially to an worrisome extent. But wait, there’s more: more heat means more power, which means a much higher energy bill.
If your pool pump is overworking and firing up—literally or otherwise—I’ll walk you through escalating steps of how to fix the problem by checking your water level, any potential clogging, lack of ambient airflow, making sure your pump is of the correct size and placement, and finally, assessing whether or not you have bad wirings, windings, or bearings.
It might sound technical, but don’t worry, you’re capable—and can certainly avoid calling in a professional. It’s all downstream from here.
Hold On. Is Heat Always a Problem?
Here’s the short answer: no. If you’re not exactly a seasoned technician, just think back to your high school science class. It’s simple. Heat is a product of power. Pool pumps use a lot of power, and therefore let off large amounts of heat. That’s normal.
They also operate during the hottest part of the year, and usually in direct sunlight. Sounds like the perfect recipe for overheating, doesn’t it? Well, not so fast. Pool pumps are designed to work hard in heat. As a failsafe, most pool motors have a thermal disconnect designed handle if the pump overheats, or worse—overheats to the point of catching fire. Trust me, it’s a possibility, and one better left unrealized.
Our best solution for when your pump is kaput? Start fresh with Energy Star Variable Speed In Ground Pool Pump. It’s ultra cool, guarantees you’ll save big on your energy bill, and is eligible for rebates. But there’s more: it also comes with a lifetime warranty. Bet you wish you had one of those right now, don’t you?
Okay, Heat is Normal. So What’s the Problem with Overheating?
Additional heat generated over and above what the pump is designed for can, and most likely will, cause a pump failure. The thermal disconnect will shut your pump off—and remember: your pool pump is central and essential to your cleaning system. Without a pump, your pool will turn green and start growing unwanted organisms, including pathogenic bacteria. I can confidently say we’d all prefer a swimming pool over a cesspool.
Don’t think you’re in the clear if your pump is overheating—though not quite catching fire—and your thermal disconnect isn’t working (or oops, you don’t have one). A pump that’s too hot indicates that it’s working too hard, and that means ridiculously high energy bills every month. Just because your pump isn’t on fire doesn’t mean you’re not essentially burning money.
Additionally, if your pump is overheating, it may also be running dry. A pump that runs without the necessary amount of water for too long may be damaged beyond repair—to the point of melting. Not kidding.
How Do I Test Whether My Pump is Overheating?
Anyone can find out whether their pool pump is overheating—just use your hand. Ahem, with caution. The easiest test is to see if your pump is too hot to touch. If you can’t comfortably place your hand on the outside of your unit, we’ve got a problem.
Why Does a Pool Pump Overheat and How Do I Fix It?
Let’s talk about friction. There are multiple moving parts inside of a pool pump, all of which create heat. This comes at no surprise. In fact, pool pumps are designed to regulate the heat generated by friction: pump motors usually draw in ambient air to keep cool, and most metal parts are built to safely absorb heat.
However, there are a series of reasons why a pool pump might fail to self-regulate its heat, including a lack of airflow, suction clogs, pressure clogs, and corroded windings and bearings. Thankfully, most of these can be fixed without replacing your pump. Yes, most.
If you already know it’s time for a replacement, but you’re looking for the most budget-friendly model now (and are less concerned with the long term savings of a variable speed model) try this Blue Thunder Typhoon In Ground Single-Speed Pump.
Check Out Your Water Level.
One of the most common—and worrisome—causes for an overheating pool pump is that it’s running dry. My advice for all pool owners? Get familiar with the skimmer built into the side of the pool, which looks like a little bucket.
Your pump might be sucking in air as well as water if your pool water level has fallen below halfway on the skimmer faceplate. Having to filter air as well as water will cause your pool to work immensely harder—and hotter.
The easy solution? Just add water to your pool until it reaches just above the halfway mark on the skimmer faceplate.
Clear Out All that Debris.
If your water levels are fine (or fine now) and your pump is still sizzling, the next issue to check for is clogging. If debris gets caught inside the pump, the pool pump motor has to work harder to suction water from the pool and push it through the filter. Debris can also build outside the pump—namely, in your pool skimmer or the pipes that lead up to your pump. These kinds of clogs will garner the same overworked result.
To clear out debris from inside the pump, turn off the filter, unplug the pump, and open the pump basket lid. Check the pump basket for leaves, dirt, small rocks, and any other sediment that might’ve found its way in, and rinse out the basket with a hose.
Another part to check is the impeller, or the spinning blade that pushes water through the pump. Again, make sure your unit is unplugged from the power source. Then pull out the pump basket and reach your hands down through the tube between the basket and the impeller. If you can feel that the impeller is clogged, bend a stiff piece of wire into a hook shape with a pair of pliers, and use that to scrape off the debris.
To clear out debris from outside the pump, check your skimmer basket, which sits inside your pool skimmer, as well as the pipes that connect your skimmer to your pump.
If you removed considerable clogging but the pump still isn’t quite right, it might be struggling to self-prime—in other words, purge out excess air. You might need to manually prime your pump.
Even without blockage, is your pool water moving too slowly? Your horsepower might be too low for the job your pool presents. Try a more powerful unit like this Blue Torrent 1.5 HP Typhoon In-Ground Pump.
Ahem. Check Your Wiring.
Oops. Not one for instruction manuals? It’s possible that you’ve connected your pump to the wrong voltage. The correct voltage is displayed on the wiring diagram on the label of the motor—and it’s not just a suggestion.
There’s also a difference between the voltage marked on your power source and the actual supply voltage that will come through to your pump. The trick? Use a multimeter, a measuring device usually available for around ten bucks online or at your local hardware store. The voltage it reports should be within 10% more or less than the voltage claimed.
If your multimeter indicates a number higher by more than 10% of your supposed voltage, call your local power company. If lower, check that your wiring is properly hooked up to your circuit breaker. Wiring that is the wrong size or not properly installed could lead to underperforming power connectivity.
Is your pump not just getting too hot, but also continuously shutting off? A low multimeter reading can also indicate a dysfunctional circuit breaker. Get ready for a little bit of bad news: the only way to know for sure is to replace it.
Give Your Pump Room to Breathe.
So your pump might not exactly contribute to the, err, aesthetic of your backyard. But that doesn’t mean you can put it in a closet and expect it to run without a hitch. In order to self-regulate its heat, a pump needs to be able to pull from the ambient air around itself. This process might also become complicated if it’s operating too close to another motor.
Make Sure Your Pump is the Right Size.
If your motor is too small for its horsepower in relation to the gallons of water in your pool, it will work too hard, ramp up energy costs, and be more likely to overheat.
To determine if your pump is sized correctly, multiply the GPH (gallons per hour) it claims to push by eight and see if the calculation is close to the total gallons of your pool.
Not sure how many gallons of water your pool contains? It’s simple math anyone can do—even if you didn’t quite make it to geometry class. You just have to multiply the length, width, and depth of your pool in feet, and then multiply that figure by 7.5 to convert the number to gallons. If you think better with formulas, follow the one below:
[Pool Length in Feet] x [Pool Width in Feet] x [Pool Depth in Feet] x 7.5 = [Volume of Your Pool in Gallons]
If you’re seriously rethinking your horsepower and have the perfect number in mind try this Blue Thunder In Ground Pool Pump. It’s designed for volume, has a range of horsepower options, and includes a three-year warranty.
Check Your Windings.
If you’ve troubleshooted every issue mentioned up to this point and your pool pump is still overheating, it’s time to get a little more technical. The windings of your pump are the copper wirings that are wrapped in coils inside your motor. It’s through these windings that your motor can turn. If they’re short circuiting, they’ll cause the motor to overwork—and heat up.
This is where the multimeter comes in handy once again. With the pump disconnected from its power source, you’ll want to compare the reading for all your motor wirings. If the power measured for your wirings dramatically differ, there’s been a major problem.
Long gone are the days when it made sense to simply take your pool pump to an expert and get the motor rewired. Now, pool pumps are cheaper, and short circuiting motor windings don’t just happen on their own—it means that the pump as a whole isn’t functioning efficiently, and the same deterioration will repeat later down the line. The modern solution? I hate to say it: get a new pump.
Uh Oh. You Might Have Bad Bearings.
Still no luck? Your pump might be generating too much friction thanks to corroded bearings. Bearings are mounted on the motor to reduce friction as the motor shaft spins. If your bearings are worn out, you’ll need to change them or replace the entire motor—unfortunately, lubrication won’t do.
Although replacement bearings are relatively inexpensive, the labor is intensive. A replacement install requires a special bearing puller, as well as two different bearing sizes. Before calling it a lost cause—or calling a professional—use a hammer to tap the top of the motor casing a few times to dislodge built-up rust inside the motor. While not guaranteed, this trick is so easy it’s worth a try. If this works, consider yourself lucky.
Still Sizzling? Time for a Tough Talk: Your Pump Might Need to be Replaced.
Okay, so maybe your pump is still hot, you have no warranty, and are anticipating some pretty steep energy bills in your mailbox any day now. This is the chance to reset and set yourself up for some long-term, stress-free maintenance. In other words, find the perfect pump for you. We recommend one with a lifetime warranty, and bonus points if you get a variable-speed model, which is the coolest of all—and pays itself off in energy saved.
You’ll be able to love heat again soon enough—when it’s coming into (and not from) your backyard, and can be enjoyed from cool, carefree waters. A little planning now means a whole lot of fun later. Worth it.
Want our quick pick? The Black & Decker 3HP Energy Star Variable-Speed Pump is the way to go. It’s quiet and cool, saves big time on energy costs, and comes with a warranty. It also has a powerful horsepower with options for speed, so you can specialize it to your pool’s specific needs.