How Long Can a Pool Go Without a Pump?

  • By: John Parker
  • Last Updated: September 30, 2022

What happens if your pool pump breaks and you can’t fix it, or it breaks over a holiday when no techs can make a house call? Or perhaps you have a power outage that will last a few days.

Just how long can your pool go without a pump and still be ok to swim in?

A pool can only go a short time without a pump, perhaps up to a week, and still be safe to swim in provided you keep the chlorine and other levels up. This time will vary depending on things such as temperature, the weather and how clean the pool was when the pump stopped etc.

How Long Can a Pool Go Without a Pump?
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If it is likely to be more than a week before the pump can be fixed or replaced then you should stop swimming. You should continue to maintain the chemical balance as this will minimize the work needed after the pump is working again.

Generally it is not a big problem if it takes some time to be fixed or replaced, provided you will not be swimming in it after a week, and you certainly shouldn’t need to empty the pool and refill once the pump is restored.

After all, in many cold climates, pools are kept full, or just emptied a little, when being closed for the winter and the pump is switched off for months. When the pool is reopened in the spring, even if the pool has gone green over winter, then it only takes a week or so of chlorine treatment and running the filter to restore the health of the water.

What happens to a pool when the pump is broken?

A pool pump is an important part of the system that helps to keep your pool clean and clear and it is normal to run the pool pump for 6 hours a day or more. But what happens to a pool when the pump stops working?

When the pump stops working then:

  • the water no longer passes through the filter so dirt, dust and other debris is not filtered out
  • the skimmers stop working so any floating debris such as leaves and bugs are not removed from the surface of the water
  • You will be unable to vacuum the pool manually so it will get dirty quickly
  • the pool chemicals are no longer circulated around the pool
  • With little or no movement in the water algae will find it easier to grow
how to circulate pool water without a pump

How to keep a pool clean without a pump

These are some of the things that you can do to keep your pool clean in the short term until you can get your swimming pool pump fixed or replaced:

  • Brush the sides of the pool more frequently than normal, so perhaps every day, to prevent algae build-up.
  • Skim the top of the water daily, or even more frequently, to remove bugs, leaves, bird droppings, and other debris.
  • Shock your pool with pool shock to ensure the chlorine levels are correct. If you add liquid chlorine it will help it mix with the pool water more easily. You will probably need to add mow chlorine than you would normally use. You will have to stir the water to make sure it is being distributed throughout the entire pool. 
  • Test the chemical stability of your pool water daily while the pool pump is not running.
  • If you have a robotic pool cleaner then use it daily while the pool pump is not running. Not only will it clean any debris in the pool but most robotic pool cleaners actually move a considerable amount of water as they work so that will help to distribute chemicals around the pool..

By doing all of these things, you can help to keep your pool fairly clean in the short term without having a pump.

How to circulate pool water without a pump

How to circulate pool water without a pump
Robotic pool cleaner moving water as it cleans

If your pool pump has broken then the water in your pool will just sit there without moving which is certainly not good for the water quality. Then when you add chemicals they are not going to get mixed around the pool as they would normally.

So if it will be more than a few days before your pool pump is fixed or replaced then you can try these methods to help circulate the water, to some extent at least.

Submersible pump

This is probably the most effective method to help circulate the water. Just connect up a hose to the submersible pump, drop it into the deep end of the pool and arrange the other end of the hose so that it will the water will flow just above the surface in the shallow end.

This way water will be pulled from the bottom of the deep end and back into the shallow end causing a water flow. You can move both the pump and the hose around at regular intervals to achieve better water flow.

Robotic pool cleaner

If you have a robotic pool cleaner then I would recommend running it every day as not only will it clean the pool, of course, but it will also go a long way to help circulate the water while the pool pump is broken. This is because most robotic pool cleaner pumps are quite powerful so they move a substantial amount of water as they clean.

People power

If you have neither a submersible pump nor a robotic pool cleaner then do whatever you can to try and move the water around, particularly if you are adding chemicals that need to be dispersed.

This can include swishing the water with a pool brush, a clean garden shovel or spade or, if you have one, a paddle from a canoe, kayak etc. This sounds like hard work so it is not something you would want to do very often.

Is it safe to swim in a pool with a broken pump?

Ideally I would suggest waiting until everything is fixed but if you are experiencing a big heat wave then perhaps that is something you, or your family, may find unacceptable.

It is safe to swim in the short term, perhaps a week, provided you keep the chlorine levels up using chlorine shock in liquid or powder form. Make sure you dissolve the powder in water and then walk around the pool pouring it in, trying to distribute it as evenly as possible.

The other pool water levels should also be monitored using test strips or other methods to ensure the pH, alkalinity etc are correct, with chemicals added where necessary.

Read my full article – Do you run the pool pump while swimming?

Pool Maintenance Course

When I first bought my house with a swimming pool, I knew nothing about cleaning and maintaining it. I was recommended Swim University’s Pool Care Handbook and video course so I bought it and have never regretted it.

It was probably the best money I spent that year as I have saved thousands by doing it myself.

Consider replacing with a variable speed pump

If the diagnosis is that your pool pump needs to be replaced then you should take that opportunity to consider fitting a variable speed pool pump as a replacement.

Although they are more expensive, having a variable speed pool pump will save you money in the long run since when it is running at a slower speed it will consume less electricity. In many instances, savings are in excess of 50% so even with the increased cost of buying the pump initially it is easy to see that this cost will soon be recovered.

The generally accepted best variable speed pump is the Pentair 011028 IntelliFlo Variable Speed Pool Pump which can save up to 90% over standard pumps. It is quite a large investment but will pay for itself over time.

Pentair 011028 IntelliFlo VS Energy Efficient 230V Variable Speed In Ground Swimming Pool and Spa Pump with Digital Control Keypad

Also read: how long should I run my pool pump

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you maintain a pool without a pump?

It is possible to maintain a pool without a pump if the pump is broken but only in the short term.

Can you put chlorine tablets in a pool without filter?

You can still use chlorine tablets but without the water circulating they will dissolve very slowly so you would do better to use chlorine granules (pre-mixed with water in a bucket) or liquid chlorine.

Can I leave my pool pump off for a few days?

You can leave the pump off for a few days but, unless there is a reason why you cannot run it, you would be better advised to leave it running to prevent any problems with water quality.

Should I turn my pool pump off when I go on vacation?

Unless you are prepared to return to a pool that has turned green or that has some other water quality problems it woud be better to let the pump run while you are away, even for a shorter period of time than normal.