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Pool Autofill vs. Pool Returns: Water Maintenance Showdown

Pool Autofill vs. Pool Returns: Water Maintenance Showdown

The Importance of Water Maintenance in Pool Care

When maintaining a swimming pool or spa, two essential components are water level and chemical balance. Without the proper amount of water, the pool can sustain damage and become unsanitary.

On the other hand, unbalanced chemicals can lead to health hazards and damage to the pool's infrastructure. Two popular solutions to these problems are pool autofill and pool returns. This blog will explore the similarities and differences between these two systems.

Water Level Management

Water level management is an essential aspect of pool maintenance. In-ground pools lose water through evaporation, splashing, and leaks. In most cases, the water level should be maintained between the skimmer and the tile line.

If the water level drops below the skimmer, the pump can become damaged. On the other hand, water level above the tile line can lead to tile damage.

Pool Autofill

A pool autofill is a water level management system that maintains the water level in a pool. It automatically adds water when the water level drops below a certain point.

Most auto-fills are connected to the pool's water supply and are triggered by a float valve. When the water level drops below the predetermined level, the valve opens. Once the valve opens, water will enter the pool until it reaches the desired level.

The benefits of an autofill include convenience and consistency. Once installed, a pool autofill can save time and effort by maintaining the water level without requiring manual intervention. Additionally, it ensures the water level remains consistent, which is essential for proper pool operation.

Pool Returns

Pool returns play a crucial role in maintaining the pool's water level and chemical balance.  They are outlets that allow water to circulate back into the pool from the filtration system. This water circulation helps maintain proper chemical levels while preventing stagnant water from collecting in areas, which can lead to the growth of algae and harmful bacteria.


While both pool auto-fills and pool returns address water level management, they serve different functions. Pool auto-fills are primarily designed to maintain the water level in a pool. A pool-returns, on the other hand, helps maintain proper water circulation and chemical balance.

In terms of convenience, an autofill system is generally more convenient than a pool return system. Once installed, a pool autofill requires minimal maintenance and intervention. A pool return system requires regular cleaning and maintenance to ensure proper function.

Regarding water conservation, an autofill system may consume more water than pool returns. Auto-fills can continuously add water to the pool, even if the water level is not significantly low. In contrast, the pool returns recycled water and does not require additional water to be added.

One disadvantage of the auto-fills is that they can potentially lead to overfilling the pool if not monitored regularly. If the float valve becomes stuck in the open position, water can continue to enter the. This can lead to damage and water waste. 

Additionally, if the autofill is not installed correctly, it can lead to excessive water bills and wasted water.

On the other hand, pool returns can become clogged with debris, affecting their function. If the pool return system is not cleaned regularly, water circulation can be negatively impacted. This can lead to stagnant water and potential health hazards.


In conclusion, both pool auto-fills and returns play important roles in pool and spa maintenance. While pool auto-fills primarily address water level management, pool returns help maintain proper water circulation and chemical balance. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference.