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A Complete Guide to Variable-Speed Pool Pumps

How do you choose between two nearly identical variable speed pumps ?

Pentair 011018 IntelliFlo

Energy savings up to 90-percent

Energy savings up to 90-percent vs. conventional pumps

Hayward SP3400VSP

Hayward Energy-efficient pool

Industry’s most energy-efficient swimming pool pumps at any rate.

The variable-speed swimming pool pump has a reputation for being energy efficient and saving people money on their power costs. The only problem is the price of the variable-speed pump is more expensive than other pumps. So, are the energy savings really worth paying more money for the pump?

There are additional financial incentives for switching to a variable-speed pool pump that many people don’t realize exist. However, there are some locations which legally require pool owners to upgrade to a variable-speed pump. If this is what you need to do, don’t worry because it is not that hard to perform this upgrade.

About Variable-Speed Swimming Pool Pumps

Variable-speed swimming pool pumps are basically multiple-speed pumps. The other two types of swimming pool pumps are single-speed pumps and dual-speed pumps. The single-speed pump is the cheapest one of the three, and it’s considered an entry level pump. As soon as you turn on the pump, it runs at 100% horsepower.

This is slightly different than the dual-speed pumps, which give you the option of choosing low speed or high speed. If you want to save money and energy when the water is only being filtered, you would select the “low speed” option. However, if you’re putting chemicals into the water or vacuuming the pool, then you’ll want the pump to be on “high speed.”

Variable-speed pumps give you even more speed choices besides just high speed or low speed. You can choose other speed levels in between those two as well. A special type of motor called a “permanent magnet motor” is used to power a variable-speed pump. The single-speed and dual-speed pumps use a different type of motor. But for the variable-speed pump, the permanent magnet motor is necessary. In fact, this is the same type of motor seen in electric cars and magnetic resonance imaging machines.

The latest variable-speed pump models have simplified the upgrade process because they allow you to just drop it in to replace the old one. And if you have specific tasks which require a faster speed, you can program certain pump models to go at the speed you need. This is useful when operating deck jets or filtering the water. Lastly, the variable-speed pump is the most reliable pump available.

Save Money with a Variable-Speed Pump

You can save money with a variable speed pump in several ways. Aside from merely using a lower speed, there are additional cost-effective benefits to using this pump. They are as follows:

Less Power Consumption

Your pump can clean the water in your pool without being on full power nonstop. If your water is only being filtered, then you can keep the pump at a low speed. Only turn the speed up higher when you have more strenuous tasks taking place in the pool.

Of course, the initial cost of purchasing a variable-speed pool pump will be higher than purchasing other pumps. However, you should end up saving money after about 2 years because of the lower energy costs you’ll have.

The average pool owner who upgrades to a variable-speed pool pump saves as much as 83% on their power bills per year. There are several variables which factor into this percentage, but it is a fair estimate.

Faster Filtering

You may think that if your pump is running regularly, then it will keep your pool clean. The truth is that it doesn’t make a difference if you keep the pump on for too long. All it will do is cost you more on your energy bill.

The number of hours each day in which you keep your pump running depends on various factors, such as the horsepower of the pump, region of your location, and the water balance.

You can run the variable-speed pump at lower speeds but be prepared to keep it on longer if you do this. It must also be done while you filter the pool. If you do this, the filtering will end up being more effective, and you will consume less power. As a result, you’ll spend less on your energy bill and still keep a clean pool.

Obey the Law

There are many states which heavily regulate pool pumps in their jurisdiction. These regulations pertain to energy efficiency laws and building codes which are meant to require consumers to only use energy efficient pool pumps. If they fail to do this, they will be punished with severe fines.

All states are different. You may be allowed to use either a dual-speed pump or variable-speed pump for your pool. The only way a single-speed pump would be acceptable is if it has under 1 horsepower when it runs. Plus, if your single-speed pump were to stop working, you could repair it instead of having to replace it. Although, it’ll still be beneficial to upgrade your pump to a variable-speed pump. If not that, then at least consider getting the dual-speed pump.

Find out the energy efficiency laws of your state. This will tell you whether your pool pump complies with those laws. If it doesn’t, then you’ll need to upgrade to a pump that does. But if you’re like most people, you’ll probably just want to ask a pool professional instead of reviewing legislation content.

Money Back Incentives

There are certain incentives that you may qualify for if you purchase a variable-speed pump, including utility rebates. Basically, power companies want to encourage their customers to consume less power by installing appliances and lights, which are energy efficient. In return, the power companies may issue rebates to these customers. It’s not that the power companies actually care about saving the environment. They just want to satisfy their own legal obligations to lower power consumption.

Note: Rebate information should be available on the website of your local power company. Make sure you review this information prior to purchasing a pool pump. Also, your U.S. Department of Energy may list additional incentive information on their website. Just choose your state when you’re on there and see which incentives are available.

Less Speed = Less Noise

When single-speed pumps turn on suddenly, they’ll make a lot of noise. It may even wake you up in the middle of the night. Fortunately, this won’t happen with a variable-speed pump because they run at a mere 600 revolutions per minute. Compare this to the 3,450 RPM of single-speed pumps, and you’ll understand the difference. The higher the RPM speed, the more noise the motor makes. The lower the RPM speed, the less noise the motor makes. That is why choosing the variable-speed pump at 600 RPM is going to be much quieter for you and your neighbors.

The variable-speed pump has a timer which lets it automatically activate overnight at a low-speed setting. This is great for turning over the water in your pool during the hours when it’s not being used. As a result, your pool will be cleaner, your neighbors will be happier, you’ll get better sleep, and you’ll save plenty of money.

Programming Choices

There are programming features built into certain variable-speed pumps which allow them to be very energy efficient. For instance, you can program the pump to utilize only the minimum amount of power needed to do a certain task. Because of the automation features, you won’t need to manually switch to different speeds. The speed management of the pump is done automatically. All you need to do is set the timer. The pump takes care of the rest.

Selecting a Pump of the Proper Size

At this point, you should understand why purchasing a variable-speed pump is a worthy investment that will save you money in the long run. However, you still need to know which size pump is right to purchase. This is not that challenging to figure out. You just need to do some math. Look at a tutorial video or ask a pool professional for further advice on this.

1. Pentair 011018 IntelliFlow Pool Pump

Pentair 011018 IntelliFlo

High Performance Pool Pump

Pentair

Cost savings each year ($900 to $1500 approximately)*.

Energy savings up to 90-percent vs. conventional pumps

Pros

  • Eight programmable speed setting plus built-in timer
  • Modest noise operation, as low as 45 decibels
  • Built-in safety diagnostics protect the pump
  • Fully compatible with other brands of digital pool controls

Cons

  • Two (2) Year Warranty

2. Hayward SP3400VSP Pool Pump

Hayward SP3400VSP

Ecostar Variable-Speed Pool Pump

Hayward

Variable-Speed Pool Pump

Industry’s most energy-efficient swimming pool pumps at any rate.

Pros

  • Energy-efficient pump
  • Digital controller interface
  • Integrated Safety Vacuum Release
  • Completely programmable, with up to eight custom speeds and timer functions
  • Extra leaf-holding capacity

Cons

  • Complicated to programmed

Final Thoughts

Here are some other considerations you need to make when selecting your swimming pool pump.

Flow Rating

Every filter can withstand a particular level of water flow. To figure out how much horsepower is acceptable for your pump, you need to find out the flow rating of your filter.

Size of the Pipe

If the PVC pipe of your pool has a small circumference, then it won’t be able to handle the horsepower of your pump. A lot of the older swimming pools have PVC pipes with a 1.5” diameter. This would not be big enough to accommodate the fast water flow of a pump with high horsepower. Pipes that are 3 inches or 2.5 inches in diameter are needed for faster pumps, which are pumps with over 1 horsepower.

Horsepower

A faster pool pump isn’t always needed. Even if you have big PVC pipes to accommodate a fast pump, your pool may not need it. You’ll just end up wasting money and energy if you purchase it.

Voltage

Pool pump models come in 230 volts or 115 volts. The voltage of your pump can be tested with a multimeter. The pump timer has output terminals where the multimeter can be used. Of course, if handling electrical devices like these are not your cup of tea, then just have a pool professional do it for you.

Mount on Top or Side

Your setup will determine where you mount the pump. Since you need to pump water through the filter, then the location of your pump will depend on the location of your filter. If you’re circulating water all around your pool, then the best choice is usually a side mounted pump.

Remember that a variable-speed pump provides more filtration, energy savings, more reliability, and less noise. That is why it is a great investment to make.

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