How Long Can a Pool Go Without a Pump

You’ve got a good maintenance schedule with the pump keeping things crystal clear. But then you get your electricity bill. You’ve got that family reunion coming up, but you don’t want to come home to a pool full of green sludge. It sounds like you need to ask the question, “How long can a pool go without a pump?”

The simple answer is really not that long. Most pool experts recommend running the pump from 4-12 hours a day. The actual number that is optimal is going to depend on the strength of your pump, the size of the pool, your location, and the amount of use the pool sees. But even with the variations these factors bring, you should still be running the filter every day.

how long can a pool go without pump

Keeping a pool clean and the chemicals balanced is not just a matter of adding them in and stirring them around. Circulation and filtration are the other half of the maintenance equation. The pool’s pump keeps things moving so that you get the most out of your chemicals.

There are some hacks out there for circulating water without a pump, but they are going to cost you a lot more in terms of chemicals, time, and effort than just getting a pump would. Keep reading to find out what a pump does and when you need to use one.

How Does a Pool Pump Work

Intex Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools, 1000 GPH Pump Flow Rate, 110-120V with GFCI

It seems a bit obvious, but the big thing a pump does is move the water around your pool. Have you ever walked by a pond or lake where the water’s not moving? It’s often green and slimy – not a very good swimming environment! The same thing will happen if you don’t move the water in your swimming pool. 

The pump’s other key job is to push the water through the filter. The filter removes debris, dirt, and bacteria from the water. This makes it easier for the chemicals to do their job, so you will not need big doses as often, just regular maintenance levels. The movement also makes it a less friendly environment for algae and mold to grow.

Ideally, you want all the water to go through your filter at least once a day. In order to get this turnover, it’s important to get a filter that is the right size for your pool. If it’s the right size it will move the water through more efficiently.

Another important thing a pump does is evenly distribute the pool chemicals so you don’t end up with super concentrated zones and undersaturated zones. If some of the chemicals like chlorine and muriatic acid are not evenly distributed, they can damage or even destroy the surface of the pool liner. That will make for an expensive replacement!

Moving the water around makes a big difference to both your safety and enjoyment when it comes to using your pool.

Best Time to Run Your Pool Pump

Circulating the water is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to use your pump for the necessary time all at once, or while you’re using it. Being careful about the time you use the pump can help you get the most out of the time you do use it.

A good tip I’ve seen is to run your pump during off-peak hours. This is the time of day where fewer people are using electricity, and it’s often power companies often charge less to run during that time. So if you live in a warm place where people are running their air conditioners all afternoon, running your pool pump at night will probably cost you less money.

Another thing to consider in the timing is when you add the chemicals to maintain your pool chemistry. Many of them are added at night, because of the wait before you can use the pool, or in the case of pool shock to avoid UV light. It’s necessary that you circulate the water when you’re adding chemicals, so you will need to be running the pump when you’re doing this maintenance.

Taking these considerations into account, running the pump at night seems like a good choice.

Getting the Most From Your Pool Pump

Since it’s not a good idea for a pool to go a long time without a pump, it’s important to maximize the time that you do have it running. One of the best ways to get the most from your pump is to invest in a programmable timer for your pump. Then you can program the pump to come on at the best times and only run as long as necessary.

With a timer you can run your pump for a few hours here and there, and still have it going for the amount of time that you need it to get all the water in your pool through the filter at least once. You can take maintenance and peak time into account when you set the time

When we’re talking about pump efficiency, it’s also important to consider the strength of your pump. A stronger pump will move the water more quickly, so you don’t have to run it for as long to get all the water through. A pump that’s too strong is wasteful for a small pool, though, so choose one that is the right size for the amount of water you have to get moving.

The filtration system is also important for getting the most out of your pump. Make sure your filter’s size can stand up to the horsepower.

Can You Leave Your Pool Pump Running While on Vacation

When it comes time to head out of town on vacation, keeping your pool clean and clear is trickier since you won’t be there to maintain it. There are several options for keeping the pump going when it needs to. A timer to turn your pump on and off can take the stress out of this issue, and if you want a more personal touch you can get a service company or close neighbor to check on the pool and turn the pump on and off.

It’s also a good idea to double up on shocking your pool right before you leave, if no one is going to be using the pool. The extra chlorine which would normally not be good for swimmers, will keep things clear longer. You can also dial up the automatic chlorination options a little if you have them.

Another way to prep your pool for time without circulation is to add an algaecide as preventative. There are several options that should be good over several months.

Before you go, test your chemicals and make sure your water is balanced, and clean the pool as well as you can. Once you’ve got it cleaned and balanced, use your winter pool cover to keep out not just the things that could fall in, but also the sunlight that dissipates chlorine faster.


Hopefully we’ve answered how long a pool can go without a pump for you. Regular pump use maintains the water, which makes everything about your pool last longer and stay safer. Cleaning out the algae and other yucky stuff that comes to visit when you’re not using a pump will cost more in both chemicals and time than the electricity will, especially if you are optimizing your timing.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top