Parts of a pool


Feb 8, 2018

I am shopping for an in-ground vinyl pool. I’m looking at anywhere from 14-16 ft by 27-33 ft. I know I want a SWG, sand filter, and a heat pump, but as for the technical part of the pool anatomy, I know little. I realize there are many parts to a pool (a labeled diagram would be awesome), skimmer, return, drains, plumbing, etc. I’m not sure what size HP pump for the filter or what size filter I need, or how many BTUs for the heat pump. Basically I’m ignorant about all of the technical stuff, like what all of those things I mentioned mean and what their functions are. I like to know what I’m talking about when I meet with people who will be trying to sell me stuff.

Thanks for for your help!


Well-known member
Aug 19, 2013
You're on Long Island? You want a heater not a heat pump. The sizes of your filter and pump are dictated by the volume of the pool. First figure out how many gallons of water your pool will hold then size the equipment based on that number.

x Wild Bill x

Well-known member
May 5, 2016
Rochester, MA
Yes, Long Island. Why a heater? Everything I've read indicates that I should go with a heat pump. I will only have the pool open during warm months, May - September.
Not sure why Geebot is saying you want a heater and not a heat pump. I live in MA and we have a heat pump and it works great, we aim for the same swimming season you have listed. I even pushed to October last year because of the warm weather. My wife was the pushing factor behind the purchase but now that we have it, I love it.


TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jan 4, 2016
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Welcome to TFP! Good to have you here :)

Here's a good place to start, and lots of people can keep filling in the gaps. Do you want it ready for this summer? If so, read fast, ask fast, act fast. If it's for next year (better) then take your time and end up with exactly what you want.

New Home with Inground Pool -

You've decided your chlorination method, which is the first thing that should be decided, and you've made a good decision. An SWG (salt water chlorinator, aka SWC, aka SWCG, aka salt water chlorine generator) is an electric device that turns the chloride ions dissolved in the water into chlorine. It can be adjusted to provide a varying amount of chlorine, so you can adapt it for the seasons and for 'bather load' (aka number of swimmers, length of time). It can only make chlorine when the water is flowing through it.

As the chlorine does it's job (e.g. neutralizing ammonia from sweat and other sources, killing bacteria, killing incoming contamination and preventing algae) and gets destroyed by sunshine, it becomes chloride again, ready to be turned into chlorine by the SWG. So chlorine gets consumed daily, then re-made by the SWG, but salt does not get consumed daily (other than by splashout, draining, and backwashing)

The "skimmer" is your first line of defense for keeping the pool clean. It sucks water from the surface of the pool, catching bugs, leaves, dust and the like. I strongly recommend two skimmers with each plumbed separately back to the equipment pad, so the flow from each can be controlled with a valve. One needs to be on the most likely downwind side or end of the pool, and if you go with one skimmer, which is adequate, make sure that's where it is. The stuff that floats gets moved around a lot by wind, and secondly by the flow of water. You'll see a flap in the skimmer in the diagram. That's called a weir (aka skimmer flap, weir flap, etc.) and it makes sure that the stuff that goes into the skimmer can't get back out.

Pool valves are specialized valves that can be turned from open to closed, or partially closed, and offer minimum restriction to flow, which saves you money over time. They can be locked into position so no one messes with them, and they can be maintained without cutting any plumbing. You'll hear about Jandy Never-Lube valves a lot, and personally I think they're the nicest. Hayward valves are very close to being the same, and Pentair valves are also good. Avoid simple ball valves, especially if they will be exposed to any sun.

A main drain is optional. It's a pair of drains at the bottom of the pool, usually around 5 feet apart. It can help when the pool needs to be drained, but that should be almost never, and you can drain down for winter using your manual pool vacuum. A manual pool vacuum is a hose connected to the skimmer or to a suction port built into the wall of the pool, with a fitting suited for vacuuming the bottom of your pool on the end. You attach the vacuum head to a telescoping pole (aka pool pole) so you can steer it around. If you do get a main drain, make sure it's plumbed back to the equipment pad on a dedicated line so it can be controlled with a valve. Main drains can be helpful for heating in deep pools, but you can also point a return jet down to tumble the water a bit more in the deep end.

Return jets (aka eyeballs, aka returns) are where the water comes back to the pool. They have a restricted smooth round orifice to create a a stronger pushing effect on the water. That force is needed to keep the water moving, so that chemicals are well mixed and freshly chlorinated water gets to all the surfaces of the pool. This is generally known as 'good circulation' in the pool and helps keep it clean and free of algae. The word eyeball is because you can rotate the orifice to change the direction of the jet of water. That allows you to create the water movement pattern that works best for your pool, and helps keep debris moving toward the skimmers.

A suction port is a line also plumbed back to the equipment pad, with a spring loaded flap on it that keeps it closed when not in use. This can be used for vacuuming or for connecting a suction cleaner. It should be just an inch or so lower than the bottom of the skimmer throat (the opening where water can get into the skimmer), but off to the side a few feet away from any skimmer.

Maybe someone else can take over at 'pump'

Have fun with all the decisions :) and congratulations on 'jumping in' to your new pool journey!


TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jan 4, 2016
Sydney, NSW, Australia
So the skimmer catches larger debris, and you just take the skimmer basket out (probably weekly during swim season, maybe daily when leaves are falling), and go dump it in a garden bed or your compost, or wherever you like. You might hose it out after. The finer stuff (dust, pollen, ants, sunscreen, hair, etc.) goes into the pipe the heads over to the equipment pad.

Your pipes (plumbing) is pretty much all PVC (white plastic) so it lasts forever. There is tons of opportunity for optimizing plumbing, but for average ordinary circumstances, just say you want all 2" pipe and you'll be in good shape.

So all these pipes will come up out of the ground at the equipment pad. They add valves and tie your skimmer(s) line(s), main drain, and suction port all into one pipe heading into the pool pump.

The pool pump is the heart of the system, and sucks water from the pool and then pushes it through the filter, and back to the pool. After the filter you could have a heater or branches to a solar heating system. After those is where you add your SWCG, as the last thing before the water heads back to the pool. From there the pipes might go to a single run that reaches all the return jets, or could be branched to groups of return jets.

So back to the pump. Lots of options, but you wouldn't go far wrong with a 1.5 HP variable speed (VS) pool pump. You can do it with single speed and it will all work just fine, but the difference in price between VS and single-speed can very likely be saved back in the first year on electricity costs. There are also two-speed pumps which achieve very similar savings, for a wee bit less than VS pumps. If you intend to have automation (armchair phone apps, remote monitoring, and the like) then you have to choose a pump that suits the automation.

A pool pump has a strainer basket at the front to prevent larger debris from getting in the pump and fouling it. You might clean this out about monthly. Pool pumps are pretty much all self-priming (except the very first time it's started after being fully drained). They are designed to generate no more pressure than all the other components can handle.