How To Prime A Swimming Pool Pump?

How To Prime A Swimming Pool Pump?

Pool maintenance is a challenging job and perhaps the biggest part of the challenge is to keep things running in your pool smoothly.

You need to make sure you add the right amount of chlorine to keep the water balance, ensure that you shock the pool once in a while and keep the filters clean – after all, it is all about taking proper care of your pool.

But often time, part of pool maintenance also encompasses being proactive and preventing damage. And this becomes an even more important concern when you have expensive equipment installed at the pool, such as a motor and pump.

In the swimming pool maintenance world, equipment such as pool pump and motor are a big deal and when any of this equipment does not work right, it is an even bigger concern. And there are obvious reasons for that.

Repairing or replacing a damaged pump is an expensive affair

Moreover, if you have a damaged pump, until you fix it, your pool will essentially be non-functional. And since pool pump facilitates water circulation, without a functioning pump, you can only look forward to stagnant water that continues to get dirtier every day.

There are several things that can affect how your pump works. Fortunately, you can avoid a lot of these things simply by knowing how to prime a pool pump.

But before we get into the details of the priming process, it is best to have some information about the pool pump and motor and what function they perform.

What is a Pump?

A pool pump is like the heart of the pool’s filtration system. Consisting of several parts, such as pump housing, impeller, strainer basket and a motor, the pool pump creates water movement.

Using the power from motor, the pump causes water to move by relying on the principle of centrifugal force

Function of Pool Pump

Through the force of the motor, the pool pump is able to draw water from the pool.

Thereafter, it forces it through the filter before returning it to the pool. Essentially, the process helps clean up the pool water so you can enjoy crystal clear sparkling pool water every time you dive in.

It is only common to assume that a pool pump is the same as a pool motor, however, that is not true. While the pump and motor work together, they are two different equipment that facilitate water circulation in the pool. 


Most of the pool pumps available on the market are self-priming, which means that they will automatically circulate water when you turn them on and create a vacuum that will initiate and sustain a suction strong enough to pull the water out of the pool and then push it back to the pool through the water return line.

However, there are some pool pumps that may require manual priming before you turn them on.

But priming is essential in either case because if you run a pump that is dry and has lost its prime, it can overheat the motor and cause damage to the pump.

Why Isn’t My Pool Pump Priming?

As mentioned earlier, pool pumps are there to ensure that you can enjoy a clean and beautiful pool every time you are ready to dive in. However, when a pool pump does not prime correctly, it can result in a disaster that most homeowners seldom expect.

If you look at the priming process, it is the creation of a vacuum effect so that the pool pump can pull water out the pool and allow it to flow through the filters.

However, the process does not end here. It is during the priming process that the filtered water is pushed back into the pool.

And now that you understand what priming is, you would know that if your pool pump does not prime, your pool water can quickly become cloudy, and dirty which may be the home to several water-borne organisms, such as algae.

But how can a pool pump that is specifically designed for priming cannot perform its function?

There are several common issues that can affect the priming process. Some of the common reasons why your pool pump may not be priming include the following.

Air Trap in the Pool Pump

When air is trapped in the pool pump chamber or in the water line that intakes the pool water, it creates a vacuum, which makes it difficult to circulate the pool water through the filters and back to the pool.

Several issues can contribute to this problem. However, you can quickly resolve the problem by calling a pool service specialist for expert recommendation. 

A Dirty Pool Pump Impeller

With a dirty pool pump impeller, the pump fails to create the vacuum that is essential for the water circulation and filtration process.

Usually, the strainer basket installed prior to the impeller collects almost all debris and leaves. Thus, it inhibits the clogging of the impeller.

However, it is possible that some of the small items may escape the strainer basket and end up clogging the impeller. Some of the common culprits that can escape the strainer and end up in the impeller are seeds, grass, needles, small pebbles and stamens of flowering trees.

Perhaps the first and most obvious sign of a dirty pool pump impeller is the change in sound. You will notice loud, gridding noise as you start the pump. And while there would be a lot of noise, your pool pump will not be working.

Another indication of a dirty pool pump impeller is that the pump strainer basket is not filling up with water. You may also notice inadequate filter pressure or lower than normal water flow in the pool.

Again, taking care of a dirty pool pump impeller is an easy job. All it takes it to dislodge the debris in the tube right in front of the impeller using a wire.

And if you are not sure about how to take care of a dirty pool pump impeller, you can always call in a professional to take care of your pool pump. 

Low Pool Pump Pressure

You get an idea about your pool pump pressure simply by looking at the speed with which water is entering back into the pool. Air bubbles coming out of the pool’s jet or water features indicate how quickly the water is getting back into the pool.

But if you notice fewer than usual air bubbles or lesser than usual speed, then you might have low pool pump pressure. And this is an indication that the pool pump may not be priming efficiently.

If left untreated, the problem of low pool pump pressure can intensify over time and can cause a buildup of bacteria and algae in your pool. Again several factors can be contributing towards low pool pump pressure, including

  • Clogged filters,
  • Dirty strainer basket,
  • Low water levels, and
  • Suction leaks.

If you are not sure about why you have low pool pump pressure, it is best to call a professional.

Pool Pump Leaks

And lastly, one of the most common reasons why your pool pump may not be priming is pool pump leaks particularly the leaks in the suction side of the pump.

And perhaps the best way to identify a suction side leak is to observe the air bubbles in your strainer basket or water flow from the jets in the pool. While low pool pump pressure may also affect the speed with which the water enters the pool, leaks are also a potential cause.

Unfortunately, regardless of how clean your pool pump is, leaks are inevitable. Plumbing connections may wither off, pipes and valves break down and the pump may be exposed to extreme weather conditions, all of this can lead to leaks.

With that said, you can significantly reduce the risk of leaks by regular maintenance of your pump. And while most leaks can be fixed by homeowners, we recommend calling a professional for a more sturdy solution to pool pump leaks.

Why Should You Prime a Pool Pump?

When it comes to the pool pump, it is an unusual piece of pool maintenance equipment. While almost every other pool maintenance equipment works best when it is submerged in water, a pool pump is meant to function only when there is water inside the pump.

And while it is designed in a way that it does not get damaged despite being wet, it is essentially not functional without water inside. And may even damage when it is not filled with water.

So technically, a pool pump functions as the heart of your pool while the water around is like blood.

The pump allows water circulation while the blood is inside the heart and when there is no water and the motor keeps running, it can result in heat that can damage the pool pump and the motor.

Therefore priming a pool pump is essential otherwise, the pump can overheat and can cause damage not only to the equipment but can also damage the PVC pipes connected to the pump.

And if you continue to run the pump without priming it, it may seize and the resulting damage may be beyond repair.

And just to make sure you prime your pool pump, here it is worth reminding that a pool pump is an expensive equipment that you may not want to replace quite often. So why damage it when you can so easily prevent it, simply by priming the pump.

Step by Step Guide to Priming a Pool Pump

With a clear understanding of what a pool pump is, how it works and why priming is essential, we can now look at a step-by-step guide on how to prime a pool pump.

The process is fairly simple but that does not mean it is not important.

Always remember that priming a pool pump is one of the essential features of pool maintenance because only with a functioning pool pump, you will be in a position to maintain a sparkling pool. So let’s get started.

Step # 1 Turn off the Power

If your pool pump has been running, the first and most important step is to turn off the power. It is best to turn off the power at the circuit breaker.

Step # 2 Turn off the Diverter (on the Suction Side)

When you turn off the diverter on the suction side, you select whether the pump will pull water from the skimmer or the main drain. This step ensures efficiency of the priming process.

Step # 3 Turn on the Air Relief Valve

Make sure you turn on the air relief valve which allows air to escape through the pool pump. When you turn on the pump, you will notice the sound of air passing through the valve.

Step # 4 Open the Pump’s Strainer Lid

Next, you need to open the strainer pump’s lid. You will notice two knobs on top of the strainer lid (in case there are no knobs, your strainer lid is joined through screws).

As soon as you open the lid, you will see the strainer basket. This naturally brings you to the next step of cleaning the strainer basket.

Step # 5 Clean the Strainer Basket

If there is any debris in your strainer basket, make sure you remove it. It is best to wash your strainer basket so that all the tiny debris that accumulates can be dislodged.

Step # 6 Fill in the Strainer Housing with Water

Using a hose pipe or a bucket filled with water, fill in the strainer house and once it is full of water, now insert the strainer basket.

Step # 7 Close the Strainer Lid

Fix the strainer lid. At this point, you need to recheck that all valves that connect to the main return line are open so the water is discharged in the pool.

Step # 8 Turn on the Power and the Pump

Now turn on the power and the pump. Keep a check on the pump’s strainer lid. In a primed pool pump, you will notice that the water flows freely and fills the strainer basket.

Let the pump turned on for two minutes and if you fail to notice water filling in the strainer basket, you will have to repeat the steps. At this point, make sure that the air relief valve is open so that any air build up is released through the valve.

Step # 9 Turn on the Diverter

Now is the time to turn on the diverter so the pump can pull water from both the skimmer and main drain.

How Do You Prime a Small Pool Pump?

Priming a small pool pump is technically the same as priming any other pool pump, however, it is less complicated and time-consuming because of a smaller strainer housing. But if you look at the steps, they are the same. Here is a quick recap.

  • Turn off the pump and power.
  • Remove the strainer’s lid.
  • Clean the strainer basket and fill strainer housing with water.
  • Turn on the pump.

How Long Should It Take to Prime a Pool Pump?

If you look at the steps involving priming a pool pump, they are not very technical or time-consuming. However, if you do not see water flowing in the strainer after you turn on the pump, you may need to repeat the steps and that can take up a lot of time.

Or if you have a new pool pump that you are priming for the first time, you may need to repeat the same steps several times. 

In case your pump is primed after you have completed the steps for the first time, pool pump priming should not take more than 30 minutes.

But if you have to repeat the steps, it can take up a little longer. Make sure you do the task when you have ample time so in case you have to repeat the steps, you do not rush through the process and your pool pump is primed properly.

Look Forward to The Prime Time!

For a swimmer, it is only natural to expect a clean pool free from bacteria and algae.

And priming your pool pump is a process that allows you to enjoy in tidy, maintained pool. It may appear to be a simple process, it is surely one of the most critical ones in maintaining your pool.

By keeping your pool pump in the right state, priming facilitates enhanced pool pump performance and avoid getting it overheated or damaged. With information about why you prime your pool pump and how to do it, you can enjoy the clean waters of your pool in no time.

Happy Swimming!

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