Where to Aim Return Jets (Eyeballs)

All swimming pools have return jets, which are also referred to as nozzles or eyeballs. The jets are what circulate the water through the pool. Plus, your return jets also release clean water after it passes through your filter. Does changing the direction of the jets matter? Where should you aim the return jets?

The best way to position your pool’s return jets is to aim in a way so the water flows in a circular direction. Tilt the nozzles at about 45 degrees. They should not be aiming at the bottom of the pool. The jets should move all the water in the same circular direction to circulate it around the pool.  

This guide to return jets will explain in more detail where to aim the jets, why direction matters, and what it means when your jets begin bubbling. We have a lot of great information to come, so keep reading!

Which Direction Should Jets Face?

If you’re a new pool owner, you might be guilty of making one (or more) mistakes when it comes to positioning your pool jets.

Mistake #1: Jets facing each other

Mistake #2: Jets pointing up

Do you have the jets facing one another?

Maybe they’re opposite of each other? Both those options might look okay, but they’re incorrect.

The pool jets should push the water in the same direction around the pool and should not be facing each other.

What direction should the jets face? The eyeballs should be aimed to push the water around the pool so it circulates.

As we touched on in the intro, each return jet releases clean water that comes from the pool filter. That water then reintegrates with the rest of the water in your pool.

By aiming your return nozzles all in the same direction (when standing behind the jet looking into the center of the pool). This will allow the water to travel around in a circular motion and then back into the skimmer. You want the water to circulate around the entire pool.

Pool with return jet on steps.

That includes the parts of your swimming pool that can be categorized as dead spots, which are areas of little to no circulation.

Proper jet direction has more benefits still. The surface of your pool will be calmer, which helps your skimmer work more efficiently. Your pool will look cleaner for longer.

That calm surface reduces the rate of evaporation and heat loss, which are both perks as well! And it avoids aeration, which should most of the time. We’ll talk more about that later.

Does It Matter Which Way the Jets Face?

It does matter which direction the eyeballs or pool jets are positioned. Improper nozzle direction leads to the creation of dead spots or inefficient water circulation.

Now, we should note that dead spots are inevitable to an extent. The areas below your pool skimmers, near the steps, below the ladders, and in the corners will always suffer from a lack of circulation compared to the rest of your swimming pool.

However, angling the return jets randomly without any thought can create dead spots that are very much avoidable. So if you’ve just drained your pool below the skimmer or drained it below the jets, now might be a good time to reposition the jets.

Should You Point Pool Jets Up or Down?

Some pool owners have the idea of angling the return jets upward to make a bubbling effect. It’s almost like sitting in a spa, except that you’re in your pool.

Should You Point Pool Jets Up?
As much as you can, resist the urge to aim the jets or nozzles up, as that’s how chemical off-gassing can occur. Aiming the jets up also reduces circulation, which is super important to maintain an algae free pool.

Aiming swimming pool jets or nozzles too high creates bubbles and should be avoided.
Aiming swimming pool jets or nozzles too high creates bubbles and should be avoided.

Circulation is also decreased in the deeper parts of the pool. Which is not a good thing. The aim is to move all of the water in the pool around.

Should You Point Pool Jets Down?

What about angling the return jets down? Now, this is something we recommend, but you have to watch the angle.

If the jets are tilted slightly downward, about 45 degrees, that’s ideal. Your jets should not be pointed straight down at the bottom though. The water that exits the return jets isn’t traveling far enough to improve circulation.

What angle should the jets face?

For the most efficient circulation, pool jets or pool eyeballs should point in a downwards direction at about 45 degrees.

If the jets are aimed too high, they will not move the water in the deeper parts of the pool. Aiming the jets too low is also inefficient.

Should You Point Pool Jets Left or Right?

Angling the eyeballs either left or right is OK. What’s more important is that one return jet isn’t facing the opposite direction of the other, with one positioned left and the other right. That will lead to inefficient water circulation.

Equally as crucial is that you don’t angle the jets towards one another. Although it might seem like you’ll encourage better circulation towards the middle of your pool, that’s not exactly what’s happening.

Instead, the water coming from the left jet and the right jet collides, negating any circulation effects that the nozzles could have created.

The rate of dead spots increases as well. The center of your pool certainly won’t be a dead spot, but the areas to either side of the eyeballs will be!

Your aim is to position the jets so they move the water in a circular motion around the pool.

Pool Jet Sizes: Why Are They Different?

Swimming pool eyeballs come in three standard sizes. These are ¾ inch, ½ inch, and 3/8 inch.

If you go out to your pool with a measuring tape and compare the size of each eyeball aka jet, you might be surprised to learn that the jet size is not uniform across the entirety of your pool.

Don’t freak out. It’s not that your pool company installed your pool improperly. If anything, they did an exceptional job.

That’s because, for many pool designs, different-sized eyeballs benefit the pool’s circulation rather than detract from it.

The eyeballs that are furthest away from the skimmer should be smaller. Although you wouldn’t think so, a smaller return jet increases the amount of water flow in the pool.

A larger jet size will decrease the amount of water flow.

The eyeballs that are closer to the front of the pool will increase in size. Just as you don’t want bigger eyeballs in the back of the pool, you shouldn’t have smaller jets in the front of the pool.

Although the sizing of the swimming pool eyeballs is designed for exceptional circulation, we must stress again that it’s how you angle the jets that play a major role in circulation in addition to the size of the eyeballs.

Should Pool Jets Bubble?

swimming pool jet

So now it’s time to talk about pool jet bubbling. One instance in which you’ll notice your return jets bubbling is if you turn the jets to point upward. And if you have pool jets near the steps, you may also get turbulence or rippling.

To reiterate, pool owners find this an enticing prospect to give the pool that spa flavor. Thus, if they’re going to turn the jets up, they’re not doing this for only a couple of minutes. Rather, they might do it for hours, an entire afternoon or it might be permanently left like that.

When the jets cause the water to bubble, what’s happening is that the water has become aerated. This might not sound like such a big deal, but it is. An aerated pool has a much higher risk of chemical off-gassing.

Yes, now it’s finally time to talk about this phenomenon.

Chemical off-gassing or out-gassing causes a chemical change in your water. The pH of your pool will increase as a consequence. In some cases, if you have low pH, you can use this technique to increase the pH. But it should only be done in the short term. Don’t leave the jets like this.

Once the pH of your swimming pool exceeds a rate of 7.8, the water is too alkaline.

The rate of scale, which is mineral buildup, increases. Scale accumulation on the pipes and components of your pool can cause backups that prevent your pool from working optimally.

The water might also be cloudy once the pool water becomes too alkaline. It’s not even safe to swim in, as a highly alkaline pool has been known to cause skin irritation and even rashes.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, alkaline pool water renders chlorine ineffective, or at least less effective, than it should be. Now your pool could be full of pathogens and bacteria.

To summarize then, as tempting as it can be sometimes, do not point your pool’s return jets up! If you want a spa experience, schedule a spa day. Don’t wreck your pool for a cool effect.  

How Many Return Jets Should a Pool Have?

Earlier, we discussed the size of your pool’s return nozzles. Now we want to switch gears and discuss the quantity. How many return jets should the average swimming pool have?

Your pool only needs two return jets, but many swimming pool builders and installers prefer to add more. It depends on the size of the pool.

For pools that are between 250 and 600 square feet, the pool may feature up to four returns. Larger swimming pools that are 600 to 800 square feet could have six return nozzles, says this Pool Spa News post.

The jets should be multi-directional no matter the number present, as that will allow for the circulation your pool needs to stay healthy. 

My Return Jets Are Weak

There are many causes for return jets that are weak or not working. From not having enough water in the pool, blocked filters and baskets to a faulty pump.

To trouble shoot return jets that aren’t working, check out our article: Pool Return Jets Not Working (Low Pressure or No Water)

Conclusion

Whether you call them pool eyeballs or return jets/nozzles, these are among the most crucial components of your swimming pool. The return jets literally “return” the clean water from the pool filter and then circulate it.

For the best circulation across almost the entire pool, aim the jets slightly downward and all in the direction opposite the skimmer. Never position the jets up, as this can cause potentially dangerous chemical off-gassing.

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