Tired of paying the hefty electricity bill that comes with your current pool pump? If you’re looking for a new, more energy-efficient pool pump, then a variable speed pump may be the way to go. These units ensure good circulation, making them one of the best investments for your pool. But how do you know which variable speed pool pump best suits your needs?
The best variable speed pump for you depends on your pool type, water volume, flow rating, pool size, and pipe size. It’s advisable to purchase a model that’s durable, efficient, and designed with fully-programmable settings.
Although variable speed pool pumps are a bit more costly than single-speed units, they last much longer and run much more efficiently. Let’s look at what a variable speed pool pump is and how it differs from a single-speed pump. We’ll aslo discuss how you can find one that best suits your pool.
What Is a Variable Speed Pool Pump?
A pool pump circulates water by pushing it through the filter to remove and clean out any dust or debris that has polluted your pool. Most pumps operate at a single speed, only giving users the option to turn it on or off.
However, the more innovative variable speed pump solves this problem. It’s designed with a pressure sensor that slows down the speed of the pump as soon as it detects low water pressure.
It also allows you to control the speed, and since the unit doesn’t operate at full power 24/7, it consumes less energy and helps save on electricity costs.
Variable vs. Single Speed Pool Pumps
There are two types of pumps available today: variable speed and single speed. Here’s how they differ:
The main difference between the two pumps is that you can adjust the water flow rate with variable speed units, while single-speed pumps are only designed with one speed option. Usually, this single speed is the same as the maximum operating speed of variable speed pool pumps.
Variable speed pumps enable pool owners to circulate water at a lower flow rate for a longer period of time, without any additional energy consumption.
In fact, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, variable speed units are much more energy-efficient than single-speed pool pumps.
While there’s not much difference between the energy costs of both pumps, variable speed units are able to circulate the water more than twice as often. Due to this efficiency, many states offer energy rebates for purchasing variable speed pool pumps.
No matter the type of pool sanitation, a variable speed pump is almost always better than a single speed one in terms of filtering and cleaning the pool water. A variable speed unit prevents stagnant water, keeping your pool safe from bacteria and algae.
It also promotes filtration and helps remove all debris, preventing it from turning into a breeding ground for bacteria and algae. It enables your pool’s sanitation to treat and clean the water more often as well, while its lower salt production helps reduce wear and tear on salt cells.
Variable speed pool pumps are also helpful for tab feeders and bromine/chlorine injectors because you’re able to reduce the amount of sanitizer, allowing for a more stable concentration of sanitizer in your pool.
Although variable speed pool pumps are a bit more expensive than single speed units, their benefits of extended filtration, prolonged sanitation times, and water turnover make pool maintenance much easier.
The energy savings offered by a variable speed unit will also cover the initial price difference between the two types within a couple of years.
What Features/Specs Do You Need in Your Pump?
Each pump and manufacturer is different, so it’s important to do proper research and read a couple of online reviews to get the most bang for your buck. However, there are a few features you should look for in any model you’re seriously considering:
Typically, variable speed pool pumps are much more durable than single-speed units, but there are always exceptions. To ensure you’re purchasing a high-quality product, look for manufacturers with good reputations and long warranty periods.
It’s also advisable to do a bit of online research and go through customer reviews of the variable speed pool pump you intend to purchase.
Variable speed pool pumps are designed with energy efficiency in mind, and again, going through online reviews is the best way to determine if the model you’re looking at is worth the money.
It’s also advisable to monitor your electricity usage and costs for the first couple of days to determine whether the pump is helping you save energy or not. If the model seems to be inefficient, it’s best to return it.
Also, opt for an Energy Star Certified model, like the BLACK+DECKER Variable Speed Pump (on Amazon), if possible. Most local utility companies provide rebates on the purchase of certified variable speed pumps as an incentive to save energy.
Occasionally, you’ll have to run your pool pump at maximum speed. For instance, after adding chemicals, some people run their pumps at the fastest option to ensure quick and proper circulation.
It’s better to choose a model with flexible settings, so you can easily choose the speed that best suits your pool’s needs. The Hayward MaxFlo Pump (on Amazon), for example, comes with a fully programmable, digital interface for easy access and full control.
Which Pump Is Best for Your Pool Type?
If you have an inground pool, then it’s best to opt for a self-priming pump as it usually sits above the water level and lifts water up vertically.
Conversely, non-self-priming pumps are more suitable for above-ground pools. However, in some cases, you may need to place the pump above the water line in above-ground pools. In these kinds of situations, a self-priming or inground pool pump will be a better option.
How to Find the Right Size Pump
It’s very common for pool owners to get a much bigger pool pump than they need. In fact, most people install 2HP pumps in pools where a 1HP pump could provide the same water flow volume, with significantly reduced energy usage.
Along with producing heftier electrical bills, oversized pool pumps also don’t work very well with smaller pool filters, resulting in poor water filtration. Luckily, more and more people are realizing that bigger is not always better, and even the industry is starting to size pumps more accurately.
But how do you find the right size pump? The decision is not that difficult; it just requires a little bit of math. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when determining the ideal pump size for your pool:
It’s pretty simple to calculate the water volume of your pool. If you installed the pool yourself, chances are that you already know the exact number. If you don’t, there are a few online pool volume calculators that make the math much easier.
If you have a rectangular or square pool, you’ll need to follow this formula:
Volume = Average Depth x Length x Width x 7.5
However, if you have an oval or round pool, the calculations get a bit trickier. Luckily, there’s no need to complicate things by trying to do the math yourself. It’s better to just use an online calculator and save yourself the time (and the headache).
Your filter can only handle a certain volume of water passing through it. Make sure you consider the flow rating of your filter and check the maximum horsepower that’s compatible with your setup.
Variable speed pool pumps are usually available in 2, 1 ½, 1, ¾, and ½ horsepower sizes, so make sure you go through the sizing information provided by each manufacturer to determine the model that best suits your needs.
Also, keep in mind that more doesn’t always mean better. Even if your filter and pipes can handle a 3 HP pump, you might not need it. Choosing the model with the highest horsepower when a less powerful model will do the work just fine is simply a waste of money and power.
It’s important to consider the size of your pipes as well. Smaller pipes, such as 1.5” ones used in older systems, are not compatible with more powerful variable speed pumps.
If your pool has small pipes, consult the pump manufacturer or your local pool store to determine the best solution.
How Much Energy Does a Variable Pool Pump Use?
Larger horsepower pool pumps use more amps, and that’s what really affects your electric bill. If you reduce the horsepower on a pool pump, you’ll definitely start to see some savings.
For this reason, variable speed pool pumps use a lot less energy than single-speed models. Since they allow you to control the motor’s RPM, you can reduce the level of horsepower and the number of motor revolutions needed. With a lower speed, the pump will be able to circulate water without consuming too much energy.
Variable speed pumps are also designed to meet the specific needs of your pool, and will therefore offer the highest energy savings. Most models come with preset speeds, or are completely programmable, giving you the option of setting the RPM of the motor yourself.
If you set a lower RPM, you’ll be able to reduce the amps needed to power the pump. Some units offer speeds as low as 400 RPM and go as high as 3,450 RPM, making them ideal for spa jets and other applications.
Which Type of Pump Is the Most Durable?
Variable speed pool pumps are much more durable than single-speed pumps. They’re built a bit differently, and their robust housing keeps moisture out, protecting them from extensive water damage.
These pumps also run more efficiently, so you won’t have to keep the motor running at its maximum speed all the time. As a result, variable speed pumps last around three times longer than single-speed ones.
Most models are designed with self-diagnostics as well, so you can fix the unit as soon as it detects a problem.
How Much Maintenance Does a Pool Pump Require?
The primary function of a pool pump is to pull out the water and pump it through the pool filter to remove dirt and debris and then push the clean water back into the pool.
While a high-quality and well-functioning pool pump makes maintenance and upkeep easier, the mechanical device still needs regular maintenance to ensure an efficient operation. Here are a few things you need to do for an efficient and fully functional pool pump:
It’s advisable to check the components of the pool pump for any leaks, unusual sounds, decayed or broken seals, and any other abnormalities every week. This will help you catch minor issues quickly, preventing expensive repairs and the need for a premature pump replacement.
As part of your weekly maintenance, check the pressure gauge reading of the filter as well. The condition and size of the pool, along with the pump size, can significantly affect the reading numbers. Make sure you consult the user’s manual for the ideal pressure level.
If the gauge reads 10psi above the recommended level, try backwashing the pool or cleaning the filters. If the problem still remains, hire a pool service technician to fix the issue.
Pump Basket Cleaning
Open the pump basket’s lid and perform a thorough cleaning to get rid of all the dirt and debris inside it. A clogged pump basket obstructs the flow of water to the pump, burning it out and damaging the filter equipment.
A clean basket helps increase the life of the pump, so make sure you clean it regularly and lubricate the lid’s O-rings for an efficient operation.
Maintain the Filters
Whether your pool uses sand, a diatomaceous filter, or a cartridge, it’s important to clean them regularly. A clean filter ensures the smooth flow of water and provides a healthy and sanitary swimming environment. It also reduces stress on the pump and other pool equipment and prolongs the life of the filtration system.
Maintain a Proper Water Level
It’s advisable to keep the level of the water halfway up the skimmer box. If you keep the water level too low, the pump will start sucking in air instead of water. Air inside the pump can severely damage the pump, so make sure you check the water level regularly.
Clean the Pool Pump and the Surrounding Area
It’s advisable to use a duster or damp cloth to wipe the dust off the pump at least once a week. Make sure you also clean the area around the pool pump using a broom.
Perform a thorough cleaning of the vents as well, especially if they’re blocked by leaves and other debris. Vents cool down the pump motor, and removing all blockage can prevent major equipment damage.
Replace an Old Pump
If your pump has reached its expected lifespan and requires extensive repair, it’s better to replace it. Purchasing a new pump is also a good idea if your current motor has an unrepairable problem or if its performance is not up to expectations.