How Do Variable Speed Pool Pumps Work?

If you're looking to invest in a variable speed pool pump, it's probably because you've heard of its energy-saving benefits and low running costs.

Yet, it can be challenging to weigh up whether buying one of these pool pumps will actually save you money. But wait a minute, there are incentives, depending on your location, that can make buying variable speed pool pumps well worth your time, money, and efforts.

In some places, it's a legal requirement to upgrade to a variable speed pool pump.

Now let's look into what they're all about in this comprehensive guide.

What Are Variable Speed Pool Pumps?

Variable speed pool pumps, also known as multi-speed pool pumps, are one of three pool pump types available to you. 

Single-speed pumps are one of the options, and the name is pretty self-explanatory. You can't change the speed of the pump, and they constantly operate at their full potential. These are typically the cheapest pool pump option on the table, but running them can be expensive in the long run.

Dual-speed pool pumps offer you two-speed options of high and low. The low setting on these pumps allows you to lower energy usage and therefore costs. The high setting is helpful for specific cleaning tasks, while the low setting is suitable for just pool filtration.

Variable speed pumps enable you to control the pump's speed precisely between the low and high-speed settings. Think of this type of control like the one you use to dim lighting in a room. 

Unlike the other two pump options we just mentioned, variable speed pool pumps tend to have a different type of motor (magnetic motor), which is conducive to being precisely controlled. 

Another great thing about magnetic motors is that they have high energy-saving properties. This is why they are also used in electric cars, for example.

Furthermore, many new versions of variable speed pool pumps have the availability to be upgraded. Many simply use a drop-in placement system where the old motor can be switched out for a new one. 

Lastly, they can be programmed to carry out specific tasks at ideal speeds - like filtering a particular size pool.

Do They Offer Value for Money?

Yes, they certainly do! Apart from the fact that you can switch down the pump's power to save energy and cash, there are other benefits to consider when thinking about buying a variable-speed pool pump.

If you just want to filter your water, you can switch the pump right down to the point where it's using a minimum amount of energy.

Are They Expensive?

Sure, the upfront cost of one of these pumps is more than the other two we talked about, but in the long run, you'll get your money back through energy saving. A typical timeframe by which you'll recover your costs spent on its purchase is around two years.

By simply upgrading your pool pump, you can save considerable percentages in your yearly energy costs - estimated at just over 80 percent!

Filter Tactics

Since you'll have full control over your variable speed pool pump, you can find the perfect speed where it optimally filters your pool over a given period while keeping energy costs to a minimum.

If you have a single-speed, you'll just be blasting your pool with a filtration level that might not suit your pool. Plus, you will be paying a lot of money out for energy bills.

Avoid Fines

Nowadays, many states have legal requirements in place to ensure that citizens are more energy-efficient. The laws in place can be derived from building codes or more all-encompassing regulations that affect a broader region.

Whatever the case, it's worth avoiding potential fines by investing in a variable speed pool pump.

Sure, there might be the option to upgrade to a dual-speed or even a single-speed if its horsepower is low enough. But really, these choices aren't much of an upgrade, and you could be putting yourself at risk if you don't know the laws about this matter.

The Plus Side

You might get penalized for getting the wrong pump in your particular state, but you could be rewarded for getting the right one too.

Some states offer financial incentives if you opt for a variable speed pool pump, such as a utility rebate, for example. The U.S. Department of Energy can help you find the info you need to see if you qualify for any financial incentives when upgrading your pool pump properly.

Pool Pump Speeds

It has to be said that single-speed pool pumps are relatively primitive devices these days. They can suddenly kickstart at unexpected times and give you a bit of a shock with the instant screeching and whirring that occurs. 

Single-speed pool pumps typically run at 3,450 rpm, which means they will produce a loud and annoying motor sound. These loud grinding motor noises can be avoided if you go with a variable speed pool pump, as these can be run on a low and more pleasant-sounding 600 rpm when you just want to filter.

In the hours when your pool isn't being used or needs cleaning, especially overnight, you just set the timer and make sure your pump's in the lowest setting.

This way, you save money, and you don't get any bolt upright shocks when you're awoken by what sounds like a Harley Davidson being started in your backyard.

Plus, there's always the option of considering booster pumps for your pool.

How to Program Variable Speed Pool Pumps

With modern technology miracles, you can now get variable speed pool pumps with built-in programming that support energy-efficient usage.

What we mean by this is that there are many of these pumps will automate to work for everyday needs in the pool. Such demands can include filtration, powering deck jets, or robotic cleaning.

The benefit of having automation on your pool pump is that you don't have to think about switching speeds all the time for specific tasks. The pump will automatically change speeds once its completed a task.

Say, for example, you want the pump to run on high to give the pool a proper cleaning. After it runs the program to high powered clean, it will go back to a low power setting or turn off for a period.

And the best part is if you can set a timer on a standard pool pump, then using the built-in programming features shouldn't be any cause for concern. The controls are typically straightforward to comprehend.

Choosing the Right Size Pool Pump

The key to choosing the right pump size is to know which ones will be able to filter all your pool water within an 8 hour or less timeframe. If the pump can do this, it should be big enough. 

If we consider some pool standards, a smaller pool will generally have a pump filtering 40 gallons per minute, while a larger pool will be double that.

Yet, to be more precise, you can use a calculation to find out the exact needs for your pool:

Step 1

Find out how many gallons of water are in your pool.

You may know this already, but if you don't, work out your pool's volume using some simple maths: length x width x depth x 7.5 = your pool's volume in gallons.

Step 2 

Now you need to find out how many gallons per hour your pool pump needs to filter in 8 hours. To do this, simply divide your pool's volume in gallons by eight.

Now you'll know how many gallons an hour your new pool pump should be able to pump. 

Step 3  

Now bear in mind; many pool pumps will provide you with how many gallons per minute they can pump. The last step is to divide your gallons per hour number by 60 - as there are 60 minutes in the hour.

By carrying out these steps, you won't need to take any notice of a pump's horsepower. Some pumps might seem to have low horsepower, but you shouldn't have any issues if the maths work out. 

It's also a good idea to give yourself some tolerance in the timeframe required to pump all of your pool's water. You could say 7-10 hours is acceptable.

So to give yourself this tolerance, you would have to carry out the three steps above, but instead of using 8 hours, you substitute in the 7 hours, for example, and then also work out the 10 hours for your tolerance range to be apparent.

Make the Upgrade

We're in an era now where single-speed pool pumps are becoming redundant, and it's time for many to make the shift into more energy-efficient variable speed pool pumps.

It may seem a little pricey at first making the change, but in the long run, you're going to save loads of money. Plus, remember to check out if there are any financial incentives in your region for getting a variable speed pump.

Check out our blog for more pool tips.

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