Introduction to priming your pool pump
Priming a pool pump is a process to restore optimum efficiency and performance. All pool pumps will deteriorate in due course of time. Worn out parts will have to be replaced. Minor problems must be resolved. A pool pump needs to be maintained from time to time for it to function properly. Whenever a pool pump starts to falter, it needs to be primed. This usually refers to a specific process of releasing the air trapped inside the system. Trapped air affects the normal functioning of the pump. Water does not get to circulate smoothly inside the system and this leads to the pump losing prime.
This comprehensive guide about how to prime a pool pump sheds light on the prepping, the actual process of priming a pump and then troubleshooting any problem you might encounter. This guide should help you to do the job without any help. In case there is some complication or a problem you cannot ascertain, you can always consult a pro and get one to fix the issue. Make sure to check our article on how to repair your pool pump also.
Turn off the Pump
Every pool pump should be primed just before the pool season. Unless you live in the tropics, you will not be using a pool throughout the year. The pump will remain unused for at least two months every year. In many parts of the country, pool pumps are only in use for four to six months. A pool pump should be primed at the beginning of every pool season. Whenever a pump is not in use and is sitting idle, the water drains out and some of it gets evaporated. This leads to air getting trapped inside the system. You must get rid of this air before you can start using the pump again. If you do not prime the pump, the trapped air will affect the functioning and you will not have the same efficiency or performance that you are familiar with. As a rule of thumb, a pool pump has to be primed if it has been idle for a month or two.
The first step is to turn off the pump. Switch it off and disconnect the cord from the power outlet. You may have a circuit breaker for the power socket. You can turn this off too and then you do not have to remove the cord from the outlet. You must ensure the pump has no access to electricity. You do not want to deal with water in an electrical item when it has access to current. It is always better to turn off the circuit breaker for the pool area, just to be reassured that there is no remote possibility of getting electrocuted.
Remove the lid from the pump. Most pool pumps have a screwed in lid. You need a screwdriver to remove the lid. Do not damage the lid as you remove it. You should exercise caution if your pump is quite old. The lid will have to be replaced after you are done and it should be perfectly fitted to close the entire system. Otherwise you will have another air leak due to the space provided by the ill fitted lid.
Prime the Pump
You have to use water to prime a pool pump. First, look for the multi port valve. Turn it to re-circulate mode. This valve is usually on the pipes connected to the pump. You can also refer to the owner’s manual to know exactly where this valve is. The location does vary from one model to another, also among brands. The re-circulate marking should be easy to spot. This mode basically allows water to flow directly into the pump and not via the filter.
Look for the air valve. Turn it to relieve the pressure in the filter. The air valve is usually at the top of the filter. It is typically a round knob, not very big. You can turn it anticlockwise and the air pressure will be released. The pressure gauge will show a zero psi reading. Keep this air valve open. Since you have already accessed the housing and the system inside, it is better to look for debris and remove it if there is any. Check the basket. Pump box baskets usually have debris buildup. It is under the housing cover. Pull the basket out if there is debris and clean it. You can use a hose to rinse it. Reinstall the basket as it was.
Get a garden hose and pour water. Fill up the pump and its pipes with water. You must fill it right up to the basket. You can use two minutes as an approximate guide. This should be enough time to get water down to the pipes. The water inside the pump should be up to the top of the basket. It is possible some water will drain off. Pour more water if this happens. Get the lid and put it back. Use the screwdriver and ensure the cover is tightly fitted. Do not exert too much pressure but don’t leave the lid poorly sealed. The lid needs to be well fitted so it is not knocked off due to vibration and during suction. Make sure the lid does not have any crack or is not damaged. A damaged lid should be replaced before you can prime a pool pump. Any crack or leak in the lid or cover will let air in. No matter how much of the trapped air you manage to release, there will be more air finding a way into the system and you will not have a primed pump.
If everything is alright, turn on the pump. Turn on all the switches and the circuit breaker that you had turned off at the start. Observe the pump and its air valve. Water should run through smoothly and there should be no obstruction. The flow should be consistent and fast. You may hear a bit of gurgling initially. This is normal. There may still be some air bubbles that will subside as the pump keeps operating. There should not be any such sound after the pump is operational for a few minutes. Check the air valve. It will leak some air and also spray a bit of water. This is a sign that the pump is functioning optimally. If any noise persists or the air valve seems to be malfunctioning, then turn off the pump, disconnect it from the power source and repeat the entire process.
If the pool pump is working fine, you should restore all other functionalities. Shut the air valve. Turn back the multi port valve from re-circulate to filter mode. Turn air valve in a clockwise direction to make sure it is tight enough. As you make these changes, the water should start flowing through the filter again.
Troubleshoot the Pool Pump
There could be some expected and a few unexpected developments as you try to prime a pool pump. You should know a few troubleshooting techniques to deal with such issues. You may find the pump is not running. This is mostly due to insufficient water. A pool pump needs enough water to run properly. Turn off the pump and pour more water before you start again. Always turn off the pump, disconnect the cord and then take off the lid before pouring more water. Safety should always be of paramount significance. Never open a pump or pour water when it is connected to a power source.
You should have an optimally filled pool for a pump to function properly. Check the level of water before you begin priming the pump. All valves should be properly sealed. Tighten any valve you think is loose. Ensure the water and air valves are perfectly sealed. All fittings too should be tightened. A pool pump can have these issues when it has been sitting idle for a while. A pump that is operational every day has fewer problems. Get a wrench to tighten the different fittings and parts of the pool pump.
You might have to wash the lid and lubricate it. The lid should be sealed perfectly for the pump to function properly. You can scrub the debris off the lid. The threads can be cleaned with soap water. You can rinse the entire lid using a garden hose but do not use excessive pressure. The lid should be allowed to dry. You can use some lubricant. The entire lid does not need lubricating. Only the o-ring should be lubed. You do not have to buy any special lube for this purpose. Use a bit of petroleum jelly.
Check for leaks in pipes. Make sure there are no cracks or dents. The system should be airtight. Any inflow of air will disrupt the desired efficiency and performance of the pump, even after priming. Leaking pipes must be replaced. If you have some other problems that you are not certain about, call in an expert for a thorough diagnosis. Do not spend a lot of money on extensive repair.