Variable-Speed Pool Pumps – Detailed Buyer’s Guide

Variable-Speed Pool Pumps – Detailed Buyer’s Guide

The only reason you may be itching to acquire a variable-speed pool pump for your pool is probably because you might have heard it could save you a lot of money on energy. Right? But maybe you aren’t certain how the potential savings could compensate for the pump’s selling price.

What if I told you that you’re not far from the truth after all? Upgrading from single or dual speed to a variable speed pool pump can help you reduced the running cost of your pool by over 80%. This is because about 70% of the cost of running your pool is on the pool’s pump. In many cities where energy’s concerns are very high, you may even be mandated as a matter of policy or under obligation to make that upgrade. Cumulative effects of harmonics generated by single-speed pumps are also of major concerns to many utility companies.

Is the upgrade worth trying, you may ask? Yes, absolutely!

So, without bordering you with the physics of variable speed pumps, our expert’s detailed buyer’s guide will help you pick the right one for your above-ground and in-ground swimming pools.

Why a Variable Speed Pool Pump?

Owning the right variable speed pump for your swimming pool is like marrying a very beautiful bride and the woman of your choice for that matters. She would not only take away all your worries, she will also make you feel like a KING provided you did the needful as her husband. Similarly, your pool pump will not only make you feel like the KING of the POOLS, but also reduce your energy costs to the minimum, provided you supplied it with the necessary maintenance as at when due.

Also known as multi-speed pumps, variable-speed pool pumps are one of three types of pool pumps you can acquire for your pool needs.

The first being single speed pool pump, which is very affordable but operates at a full horsepower speed whenever you turn it on; and also powered by an Induction motor. It’s a single speed pump but you’ve no single control over it. What an irony?

The next being Dual-speed pumps which allows for limited options – can be set to either low or high-speed operation mode – and also powered by Induction motor. You can set it on LOW to reduce energy cost when you’re simply filtering the water or set to HIGH when you’ve a more demanding job, such as vacuuming or adding chemicals, but at least for a period of time that the job would last.

The third and the beautiful bride, being the Variable-Speed Pool Pump – you’ve absolute control over the speed, from low to high, or anywhere in between. It is powered by a permanent magnet motor, the type you have in electric cars and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). They are highly efficient and uses less energy to operate unlike induction motors. They can be programmed to run at any particular speed and for any particular task for a particular period.

So, tell me, why won’t you want to upgrade your pool and make the investment that can save you over 80% on energy cost for years? We’ve done the hard job for you and need not worry too much if you follow our expert’s detailed buyer’s guide.

How Can a Variable Speed Pump Help me Save Money?

A Variable Speed Pump will help you save money because you have all that you need to running a standard pool a fun. Now let’s look at how it can help you save money.

Consumes less Power:

It’s not how far you’ve gone on your pool business that matters but how well you’ve managed it. Therefore, it’s not how long you run your pump that will keep your water clean and pure but how well.

When you’re filtering your pool water for example, your pump can be set to run at a much lower speed than when it’s vacuuming or adding chemicals to your pool or doing some other more energy tasking jobs. When it runs at a much lower speed, it consumes less energy and saves cost but for a single-speed pool pump, it can only be set to HIGH by default and consumes more energy.

 Though Variable-speed pool pump requires huge up-front capital investment, it’s much more economical over time. You could save over 80% on energy cost and recoup your money back in a year or two of buying one.

Exempts You From Fines:

There’re statutory energy efficiency laws regarding pool pumps in many states because of the ripples or harmonics generated by these machines. They attract heavy fines if violated, but with a Variable Speed Pump, you’re automatically covered by immunity and exempted from these fines, thereby saving you money. This is because, these pumps run smoothly because of its internal designs and do not generate as much ripples as the single-speed and dual-speed pool pumps. Variable speed pumps are powered by permanent magnet motor unlike single speed or dual speed which are powered by induction motor. 

While some states may let you choose between a variable-speed or dual-speed pump, single-speed pump may not be allowed at all unless it’s below 1HP rating. Therefore it’s important to check your state’s energy efficiency laws to make sure your pool pump is in compliance so as to avoid the imposed fines.

Efficient Filtering:

Variable pool pumps enable you to filter your pool at a much slower speed unlike the single-speed pumps that runs at a single high speed. Filtering your pool water isn’t much of a more demanding task like vacuuming and adding chemicals to your pool that would demand running at a higher speed.

Several factors affect how many hours each day your pool pump should run, including the pump’s horsepower ratings, frequency of pool usage, water chemical balance, and of course the region you live in. By choosing a variable-speed pump, you can run it at lower speeds during filtering hours, thereby consuming less energy, filtering more efficiently, and lowering your energy costs.

If you run your pool too fast during filtering, you would only end up filtering very fast but not efficiently as many of the debris will escape the pool filter and find their way back into the pool water.

Qualifies You for Rebates:

Some utility companies offer rebates to encourage you to use energy efficient equipment and appliances so as to reduce power consumption. So, buying a variable-speed pump may also qualify you for such incentives.

Energy is the next most important resources after the air we breathe in. Reducing energy wastage enables the utility companies to meet their legal obligations of providing enough energy.

Setting your timer: The timer can be set to turn your variable-speed pump on at a low setting overnight to circulate the pool water during non-peak power hours. This will not only save you money to clean your pool, but also save you your precious time for other more pressing issues.

Hints:

Operating Noise:

A noise is an unwanted and incoherent sound and nobody likes it. With your variable speed pump, you can be rest assured of a quieter operations of your pump especially when set to run overnight at a low speed. Single-speed pumps run at 3,450 revolutions per minute (RPM) while variable-speed pumps can run as low as 600 RPM. The lower RPMs significantly reduce motor noise, making the variable-speed pump a far quieter option than the single-speed.

Automation Options

Automation of your variable-speed pump is something to desire because it does not only saves energy, it also ensures a seamless running of your pump. Some of these pumps come with built-in programming features that allow you to program them so they use just enough power to perform a particular task just like the data or energy saving options on your smartphones.

With the aid of your pool timer, you can automation your variable-speed pool pump to switch the speeds for you automatically rather than doing it yourself.

List of Some Selected Quality Variable Speed Pumps for You:

  1. PENTAIR 011018 INTELLIFLO
BEST FOR RAW POWER

Pros

  • Very quiet pump
  • Has 8 programmable speeds
  • Has LCD display for pool pump settings
  • Highly efficient

Cons

  • Poor instructions
  • Hayward SP3400VSP Ecostar Variable-Speed Pool Pump

Pros

  • Has 8 speeds options
  • Simple interface
  • Very quiet pump

Cons

  • Known to fail sometimes


3. PENTAIR 342001 SUPERFLO

Pros

  • Easy to program
  • Efficient
  • It has 24-hour memory retention
  • Very quiet

Cons

  • Has only 3-speed settings

4. HAYWARD W3SP3206VSP TRISTAR

Pros

  • Helps prevent suction entrapment
  • Efficient
  • Easy programming
  • Easy installation
  • 3-years warranty if installed by Hayward installer

Cons

  • Not very quiet

5. SPLASH Pool Pump (Variable Speed)

SPLASH PUMPS VAR 1500 Variable Speed Pump

Pros

  • Highly affordable
  • Touchpad controls

Cons

  • Poor durability
  • Effective only with more power
  • Poor instructions

How to Do I Choose the Right Pump Size?

Choosing the right pump size for your pool is a little bit of a puzzle if not properly guided. However, we will help you to make the right decision when considering upgrading to the much desired variable speed pool pumps. It’s not such a difficult calculus to solve.

Variable speed pool pumps come in sizes – 1 HP, 1.5 HP, 2 HP, and 3 HP.

However, note that bigger pumps aren’t always the best for your pool. You would have to match the size of your pool to the size of your pump and not the other way round. In fact, do not buy a pump’s size that is bigger than necessary for your pool. This will only result in lower efficiency and increased running costs, thereby defeating the purpose of using a variable speed pump for your pool.

Now, let’s go there!

You would need to know how to calculate the following 3 important parameters before considering a variable speed pump for your pool:

  1. Your pool’s minimum flow rate
  2. Your pool’s maximum flow rate
  3. Your filter’s max flow rating

#1: How to Find the Minimum Flow Rate (GPM)

First, to find the minimum flow rate, you would need to know how to calculate your desired turnover rate and your pool’s capacity.

You may need a gallons of water calculator if you don’t know how to calculate your pools capacity, which is dependent on shape and size.

Hint – Your ‘minimum flow rate’ is a measure of how hard your pump needs to work in order to keep your pool water circulating at the desired turnover rate, while expending the least possible amount of energy to do so.

Turnover rate: The minimum time it will take in hours for the last water in your pool to have passed through the filter for at least once is your turnover rate. As a ‘Rule of Thumb’, 8 hours is recommend as a baseline to achieve maximum efficiency.

Therefore:

“Pool capacity (gallons) / desired turnover (minutes) = minimum flow rate” (GPM)

To get the minimum flow rate in gallons per minutes (GPM), you would need to divide the pool’s total capacity (gallons) by 480 (number of minutes in 8 hours -the desired flow rate).

#2: How to Find the Maximum Flow Rate

The size of the piping that runs to and from your swimming pool determines your pool’s maximum flow rate, that is, how many gallons that can flow through your system in a given minute (GPM).

This is dependent on your plumbing pipes. Your variable speed pool pump should be compatible with the diameter of your pipes. The size of your plumbing may limit how far you can go on the horsepower of your pump. Smaller plumbing pipes means lower max flow rate for your pool.

Flow rate of the most common plumbing sizes:

1 ½” Pipe – Max Flow Rate – 60 GPM

2” Pipe – Max Flow Rate – 100 GPM

2 ½” Pipe – Max Flow Rate – 140 GPM

3” Pipe – Max Flow Rate – 225 GPM

Using a 1 ½” pipe plumbing with 2HP pump with a Max Flow Rate of 100 GPM will cause it not to circulate enough water through the pump, and making it to run high or eventually burn off your pump.

As a ‘Rule of Thumb’: The maximum flow rate of your pump should be less than the maximum flow rate of your plumbing pipes.

#3: How to Find Your Filter’s ‘Max Flow Rating’

This is the maximum gallons per minute (GPM) your pool filter can handle conveniently without compromising it. You can check your filter’s flow rating to determine the maximum horsepower acceptable for your setup.

This information is always available on the filter’s operating manual and filter itself.

Hints:

  • Note that the size of your pool filter is directly related to the pool pump you selected. Oversizing the filter is recommended so that the filter can handle the flow coming from the pump.
  • Your pump’s maximum flow rate should never exceed your filter’s maximum.

Wrapping up!

Even if your pipes could handle the highest variable-speed pool pump’s horsepower, you may not need it considering the size of your pool. If you choose a pump that’s too high for your pool, you’re not only wasting money, you’re also wasting the energy that others need the most.  

Having considered all the major benefits for a variable speed pool pump – saves you money, efficient filtration, quieter operation, higher durability, and reliability – you’re now better informed to pick one for the much desired upgrade.

Have fun!

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