A pool pump is constantly working to keep the water in your swimming pool clean and circulating. There are many reasons why a pool pump can run without water, but if you’re aware of the causes, you can prevent the situation.
Most pool pumps can run 1 to 4 hours without water before any damage will occur. High-quality larger pool pumps like Pentair Intelliflow and Intel Krystal Clear can run without water for up to 12 hours without damage, while other pumps sustain damage like a blown shaft seal and plate after just 6 hours.
As a pool owner, I’ve experienced the inconvenience of a failed pool pump because of this situation. It usually leads to greater expense than just replacing the pump.
Every pool owner needs to know how long a pool pump can run dry before it becomes damaged, the reasons why the pumps run dry, and how to avoid the situation.
Awareness is the best defense, and I’m here to help pool owners know what to do if a pool pump runs dry, how to know if it caused a problem, what to check for, and how to make minor repairs if damage does occur.
Table of Contents
How Long Can A Pool Pump Run Dry Before Damage
Some of the more modern pumps maintain a good supply of water inside that can protect them for several hours. When a pool pump runs dry for too long, it can overheat.
The amount of damage sustained depends on how hot the pump runs, how long it runs dry, and the amount of heat that the pump generates.
Intense heat can melt the plumbing, shrink the pump baskets, damage seals and impellers, and cause the motor to burn up.
When Does Damage Start To Occur
The temperature of the air and the placement of the pump can affect how quickly it will overheat. When a pool pump runs dry in cooler conditions, it could buy you more time.
Two to four hours of running dry are less likely to cause damage for most good quality pool pumps that are still in good operating and fairly new condition.
Older pumps or those that are directly in hot sunlight may overheat within an hour or two. Awareness that pool pump brands and models vary one from another is a consideration when trying to nail down the precise safe timelines for running dry, but we can offer some general timelines for the average quality pool pump in good running condition.
Here is a general estimate and breakdown of what to expect.
- Little to no damage for newer, high quality larger pumps
- Performance is unlikely to be affected. Only inspect if there are signs of poor performance or strange noises/failure to pump water
What Happens If Pool Pump Runs Without Water For 6 Hours
Damage is more likely to occur in pumps that hold less reserve water. Some may survive without signs of damage while others may overheat and sustain severe damage.
The most common signs of damage after 6 hours are any of the following:
- If your pump makes screeching or other strange new noises, there is likely a problem.
- Other signs of damage include poor water return, a new humming sound, running hotter than normal, or a failure to operate.
What To Watch For And What To Do
If the pump is leaking, the likely problem is a blown-out shaft seal. Check all of the components and look for signs of warping or melting.
The most common issues are melted pump baskets or a deformity in the pump volute, shrinkage of the PVC fitting threads. Check all of these and replace any components that are needed.
Shrunken fittings can be patched with pool putty for a minimal cost of around $5, or you can replace most fittings for even less. You can also use Teflon tape to get a more secure seal for the fittings, if necessary. It’s a quick fix that doesn’t take long.
Shaft Seal Replacement
A Shaft Seal replacement kit costs an average of $15, depending on the pump brand and model. It’s far cheaper than replacing the motor.
Once you disassemble the pump, all of the components are stacked. The repair is straightforward and shouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes to complete.
Here is a useful video to give you a visual tutorial:
Replacing Pump Baskets
Pool Pump replacement baskets cost between $10 to $40, depending on the pump brand and model.
Pool Pump Brand Quality Affects Its Durability
Some brands are built with a sturdier construction than others. Those that are rated to have the strongest resistance to dry running are the Pentair Intelliflow Variable Speed Pump and the Intex Krystal Clear Filter Pump.
- Cam and Ramp lid for easy inspection and cleaning
- On board control system
- Safety Vacuum Release System
- VGB compliant
- Programmable speeds
Last update on 2023-10-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
- ✔ HYDRO AERATION TECHNOLOGY BY INTEX -– Transforming the Above Ground Pool industry, by bringing revolutionary water aeration benefits such as improved circulation and filtration, improved water clarity, increased negative ions at the water surface
- ✔ EASY INSTALLATION -– Just hook up hoses and plug in! This pump is a must have for any INTEX above ground pool up to 15,200 gal (Partial assembly required)
- ✔ EASY-TO-CLEAN CARTRIDGE -– The C2500 Krystal Clear Cartridge uses Type B filter cartridges (Item #29005E) which should be changed every 2 weeks; the Type B filter cartridge is made with easy-to-clean Dacron paper for ultimate filtration
- ✔ 2500 GPH PUMP FLOW RATE -– Water flow rate at pump (pump capacity): 2,500 gph (9,463 lph); in pool (system flow rate): 1,900 gph (7,192 lph); suitable for INTEX pools up to 15,200 gal with 1.25in (32mm) diameter hose fitting.
- ✔ SAFETY, QUALITY and VALUE – Intex designs, builds, and tests all its products to the highest standards with safety the first order of business; our affordable and innovative products are built to last
Last update on 2023-10-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Hayward models tend to have issues with failure after just 2 years with high incidences of pump seal failures. It’s wise to consult product reviews before purchasing a pool pump.
What Happens If Pool Pump Runs Without Water For 12 Hours
The likelihood of more severe damage to the Shaft Seal and Plate is higher if a pool pump runs dry for 12 hours. While the cost of replacing a shaft seal is minimal, the plate can run as high as $100. Signs of leakage, loud or new noises, or decreased suction and water output are reasons for concern that merit inspection.
Disassemble the pool pump and look for signs of warping to the shaft seal and for the shaft seal plate. If necessary, replace both.
Twelve hours of dry running is most likely to damage the seal only, but it’s wise to inspect all components for possible damage. Again, the durability and quality of the pump will determine the amount of damage sustained.
What Happens If Pool Pump Runs Without Water For 24 Hours
Few pool pumps can run dry for 24 hours without sustaining damage from overheating. The damage that is likely to occur is severe.
If your pump is still running and functioning properly, you’re fortunate. It’s possible for a pump to still operate properly under ideal conditions of cool temperatures, a high water reserve, and stellar materials, but unlikely.
Look for any signs of leakage, low suction, and jet output, loud or unusual noises when the pump is on, or failure to operate. The motor can burn up after 24 hours of operation without water.
If this is the case, the pump may need to be replaced.
When a pool pump runs dry for 24 hours, most pumps will continue to get hotter as the friction that occurs without moisture builds up more heat.
Better pumps that hold more reserve water will last longer without damage. If your pool pump is a quality brand and is a large model, there’s a chance that there will be little to no damage, but the odds are against it.
The most common result is melting and warping of the plastic parts with warped or melted seals, a melted pump basket, shrinkage or deformation of the volute and the PVC fittings, and possible seizure of the pump from burning up the electrical wiring.
Can Pool Pump Run Without Water
The answer to this question is yes, a pool pump can run without water, but it’s risky. If you notice that your pool pump is running dry, but it is functioning normally, there is little reason to be alarmed.
The best course of action is to turn the pump off immediately to allow it to cool. Find the reason for it to run dry, e.g., clogs in the lines, or the water level of the pool being too low.
Fix the problem before you start the pump again. You may also need to follow the steps for priming the pump that you used when it was installed.
What To Look For
After a pool pump runs without water but appears to be functioning normally, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on it for a few weeks.
There is a possibility that the heat became intense enough to create small cracks or warps on the inner components. Listen for changes in the sound when it operates. Watch for any leaks in the pump. Check the suction and outflow levels to make sure that there are no signs of damage from the event.
If you have a smaller pump, there is a higher likelihood of damage than with the larger and higher quality models.
Helpful Tips To Check If Your Pool Pump Was Running Without Water
If your pool pump was running without water, the first thing to do is to turn it off and let it cool.
Here are a few tips about the best actions to take after this:
- Identify and fix the problems that caused the pump to run dry, e.g fill the pool, check hoses, etc.
- Listen for changes in the sound and performance of the pump for signs of damage
- Investigate possible problems by disassembling the pump and giving it a visual inspection if necessary
- Replace all damaged parts to prevent further damage to the pump
How long can a pool pump run without water? The better brands that are larger and hold a bigger water reserve can last longer without damage than the smaller less expensive models.
Most good pumps can survive for 4 to 6 hours with little to no damage. Some pumps overheat more quickly and can burn up after a few hours. Some pool pumps can survive for 12 to even 24 hours and still be in repairable condition, but this situation is likely to lower the lifespan of the pump as the heat will weaken the plastic components.
Most pool pump manufacturers recommend never allow a pump to run without water, but sometimes circumstances cause them to go dry. When this happens for a few hours it’s not usually a reason for concern.
Still, it’s wise to be mindful and watch for signs of damage. Make any needed repairs immediately, before continuing to use the pump to extend its life and enhance its continued performance for the best possible results.