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Home > School Of Pool > Energy Efficient Pool Pumps
Energy Tips:

How Variable-Speed Pumps Save Energy

When we talk about pool renovations, repairs and retrofits that reduce a pool's energy consumption, the focus typically turns to the pump, because it consumes more energy than any other piece of pool equipment. Plus, a well-designed variable-speed pump can reduce the energy costs of running a swimming pool by up to 90 percent.

Why? Historically, pool pumps with induction motors that run at only one or two speeds have drawn more energy than is required to circulate pool water. That is because a pump that can run at only one speed must use a powerful enough speed to do the pump's most demanding job (e.g., running a waterfall or pool cleaner). However, it takes far less power to simply keep water filtered—a difference single-speed pumps cannot address. 

variable speed pool pump

Most variable-speed pumps can be programmed to operate at set speeds to deliver the correct flow for each task they perform, such as operating a suction-side pool cleaner, waterfalls or spa jets. Some pumps have built-in constant-flow software, which maximizes the advantages of variable-speed technology; constant-flow pumps automatically adjust their speed and deliver the required flow for each programmed task. For example, an arcing laminar water feature may need 40 gallons per minute (gpm) to produce a smooth 6-ft arc of water. A constant-flow pump can sense the resistance being added to the system as the filter collects dirt and will automatically speed up so the water feature continues to get the amount of water it needs. With other types of pumps, including some variable-speed pumps, the water feature will gradually throw a shorter arc of water as the filter gets dirtier; it will only be restored to its original appearance after the filter is cleaned. 

No matter what kind of pump is being used, slower pump speeds save energy. They also dramatically reduce the noise level associated with traditional pool pumps and reduce wear on not only the pump itself but also on filters, heaters, chlorinators and other equipment that water flows through.

Sticker Shock

Even with all of these advantages, the price tag of these technologically advanced pumps may at first seem hard to justify. But compare the cost of a new variable-speed pump with the cost of doing nothing.

If a pool uses a single-speed pump, it may cost $900 per year to run that pump. (Numbers will vary by region.) After five years, the owners will have spent $4500 running that pump. Meanwhile, in a well-designed system with a variable-speed pump, the comparable operational costs may be as little as $200 per year. So at the end of five years, the dollars spent running the pump will be about $1000, less than 1/4 what would have been spent running the old single-speed pump. The cost savings continue to multiply the longer the new pump is used.

Bottom line: the initial cost of a variable-speed pump can be recouped in year two.


* Replace your pool pump with a more energy-efficient model.
• New variable speed pumps with permanent magnet motors and digital controls can save as much as 90% in utility costs compared to one- or two-speed pumps with induction motors.
• If using an energy-efficient one- or two-speed pump, make sure your pump is sized to your pool’s requirements. • Reduce run time or speed to reduce energy use.
• If using a one-speed pump, reduce filtration run time. In general, water needs to be circulated through the filter once every 24 hours.
• If using a two-speed or variable speed pump, use the lowest speed to appropriately circulate the water. Reducing speed saves more energy than reducing run time.
• Run your pool's filtration system during off-peak hours when electricity demand is lower, generally between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. Install a timer or a control system to automate the hours of operation.
• Keep intake grates clear of debris. Clogged drains require the pump to work harder.
• To obtain maximum filtration and energy efficiency, backwash or clean your filter regularly, as required.

Heating & Heat Loss

• Reduce heat loss by using a pool cover. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, savings of 50% - 70% are possible.
• Fencing, hedges, landscaping, and cabanas that shelter your pool from prevailing winds will further reduce heat loss.
• If your pool heater is more than five years old, chances are a new high efficiency gas heater could quickly pay for itself in utility bill savings.
• A pool heat pump can save up to 80% in energy usage compared to a gas heater. Check with your pool professional to see if a heat pump is appropriate for your region.
• If you use your pool only on weekends, reduce your heater or heat pump thermostats settings by eight to ten degrees during the week.
• When leaving for vacation for more than a week, turn off the pool heater or heat pump, including the pilot light. Please use caution in freezing conditions.
• According to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals and the American Red Cross, the most healthful swimming temperature is 78 degrees. Reducing your heater or heat pump thermostat to maintain a 78 degree or lower temperature will also help conserve energy.
• Install a timer or a control system to automate the hours of operation.
• When reopening your pool, make sure your heater or heat pump is working properly.