Why Is There No Suction in My Pool Skimmer?

Meet jack, jack just bought a brand new automatic pool cleaner. Jack goes home excitedly to plug it into the skimmer. Jack plugs it in, only to find there is no suction, rendering his brand spanking new cleaner useless. Let’s help Jack find out why there is no suction in hist skimmer?

  • Your filter may be clogged up with dirt and needs to be back-washed. Backwash your pool filter.
  • The sand in your filter may be old and calcified. Replace your sand.
  • There could be a blockage in your skimmer basket
  • There could be a blockage between your skimmer basket and the pool pump.
  • There could be an obstruction in your pool pump impeller.

Let’s go through these problems step by step and find out how to fix them.

Clogged Up Filter Causing Lack of Suction? Back-Wash Your Pool Filter

If you’re lucky, the lack of suction is simply because you have neglected your backwashing routine and your filter is simply clogged up with dirt. (Naughty Jack)

This is an easy fix though. Let’s help Jack do a backwash step by step.

Before starting the backwash process, make sure the skimmer basket, pool cleaner and hose are all clear of leaves and debris.

  1. Switch off the pump. Always make sure the pump is switched off before changing the setting on the pool valve. Now open the transparent cover and check the pump basket is clean too. Replace the lid tightly making sure the O-Ring is seated correctly so that it creates a good seal.
  2. Now you can rotate the valve lever in a clockwise direction to the backwash setting.
  3. Turn the pump on, and leave it to run on backwash for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the backwash water is crystal clear.
  4. Turn the pump off, and then again, rotating the valve lever in a clockwise direction, turn it to the rinse setting.
  5. Turn the pump back on and let it rinse for 30 for 45 seconds. This will rinse any dirty water out of the system. This is done so that the dirty water doesn’t get pumped back into the pool.

If you have backwashed your pool filter, and the problem still persists, let’s look at the next possibility.

Old and Calcified Sand in your Pool Filter.

Sand inside your filter can start to calcify, especially in water with high calcium hardness. Essentially, this means that the sand in your filter is not solid and it is more of a blockage than a filter. You will need to replace his filter sand. This sand usually needs to be replaced every 3 to 5 years.

Turn off the pump and open the filter housing to inspect the sand. If the sand is clumpy and hard, that may very well be the cause for the lack of suction. You should also replace the sand if it is low, or if it is “mud-balling”.

How to Replace the Sand in my Pool Filter?

  1. Identify how much sand your pool filter uses. The quantity of the sand required is usually indicated on the filter housing.
  2. Purchase the correct amount of filter sand. Also, buy a new O-Ring for your filter lid as well as a pool filter sand extractor. You should be able to get all of this from your nearest pool supply store.
  3. Now, back-wash the pool filter. This will help release the sand, making it easier to remove.
  4. Remove the screws holding the lid of the filter in place. Be sure to replace the screws in the holes, this will prevent sand from blocking up these holes. If you don’t do this, you will not be able to get the screws back into the blocked up holes.
  5. Place a plastic bag over the vertical outlet pipe in the center of the housing. Use an elastic band to hold the plastic in place. This will stop any sand from entering into this pipe.
  6. Now it is time to remove the sand. Be careful not to damage the thin perforated pipes at the bottom of the filter. Filling the housing with water will make extracting the sand a lot easier. If you have bought a sand extractor, (which is a large syringe-like contraption) you can use it to suck up the sand and water out of the filter housing. If you do not have a sand extractor, you can also use your hands to carefully scoop out the sand and water. Keep adding water to the housing to make it easier. DO NOT USE A SPADE or any other garden tool.
  7. Give the inside of the pool filter housing a good scrub, using a sponge and water,
  8. Time to fill the filter with sand. Do not simply dump the sand into the housing. The uneven load of the sand can damage this perforated piped at the bottom of the housing. First, fill the filter about half way with water, then gently add sand in small increments making sure the sand settles evenly around those thin pipes. Once the sand level is above these small pipes, you can go ahead and dump the rest of the sand in. When you are done, the housing should be about 75% filled with sand.
  9. Remove the plastic bag and elastic band from the outlet and replace the O-ring on the lid with the one you bought. Then attached the lid back on the filter. Use a hand screwdriver to tighten the screws on the lid so that you don’t overtighten them and damage the threads.
  10. Backwash the filter for a full cycle and then rinsing it before setting your system on the filtration cycle. The new sand in your filter will have a lot of dust and this will help to remove the bulk of it before it can get into your pool.

How to Inspect and Clean The Skimmer Basket

Something that is easily overlooked by a lot of pool owners is the skimmer basket. The skimmer in the water intake to the pool pump and filter. Let’s make sure there is no blockage or obstruction in the skimmer basket.

How often should you clean your swimming pool skimmer? The skimmer basket needs to be cleaned often, in cases where there is a lot of leaves around, you want to clean this daily. Is it not uncommon to find dead animals in the skimmer basket too, so removing those is important to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses in the pool water.

Pro-tip, wear gloves, I have found a lot of creepy crawlies in my skimmer basket.

To inspect and clean your skimmer basket, first, switch off the pump. You can now remove the cover on the skimmer and looking inside you will see a second submerged lid. This lid is locked into place by pressing down and rotating it. To remove this lid, simple rotate it until it unlocks and then pull it out.

The skimmer basket is underneath this lid and held in place by it. Once you have removed this lid, you can pull out the basket easily. Clean out the basket, using a garden hose if you need to. Also, make sure that the basket is not damaged, then replace it by following the above process in reverse.

Some great tips on checking and cleaning your skimmer basket.

Identifying and Fixing a Blockage Between the Skimmer and the Pool Pump

How to test if you have a blockage between your skimmer and pool pump. To test if there is a blockage between the skimmer and the pump, take a small piece of the plastic bag about 2 inches by 2 inches, and feed it into your skimmer inlet. Let the pump run for a few minutes. Now turn off the pump and open the transparent lid on the pool pump. If the line between your skimmer and pool pump is clear, you will find the piece of plastic in the basket. If not, the piece of plastic is stuck somewhere in the line, meaning you have a blockage.

How to fix a blockage between the skimmer and the pool pump. If you have a garden hose, you can insert it into the pool pump opening and using a shirt or towel, stuffed around the hose to create a seal, you can force water through the line in reverse back towards the pool. Have someone feel with their fingers in the skimmer intake to make sure there is enough pressure being generated to try and flush out any debris or toys that are stuck.

Is there Something Blocking the Pool Pumps Impeller?

If there is a leaf, branch, or debris stuck in the pump impeller, the pump will sound like it is running, but it won’t be pumping water at all. Let’s check if this is the case.

Turn off the pump. Take off the transparent pump lid by unscrewing it. You might have to use a rod as a lever because these lids can be tight. Once the lid is unscrewed, remove the plastic basket inside, you might as well clean the basket and check for damage while you’re at it.

Reach inside the opening, and using your finger, prod around and feel for any debris inside the little impeller. The impeller should turn freely If the impeller is not turning, try to find and remove anything blocking its movement.

How to Prevent Blockages from Occuring again.

If you found that it was a blockage that was causing the lack of suction, you should make sure that it won’t happen again. Here is one piece of advice that will save you hours of headaches caused by blockages, and it involves your skimmer basket.

You want to make sure that there is a basket in your skimmer. You also want to make sure that the basket is not damaged. This basket is designed to to be the first line of defense from any debris from getting sucked into the intake line and end up blocking the line or the pool pump impeller. Any blockage could even damage the impeller, which could lead to expensive repairs.

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