Sometimes it’s a downright shame that we live in the real world. Ideally, you’d be able to run your pump all day, every day—as far as cleanliness goes, at least, it’s not possible to run your system too often. Unfortunately, if you never cut the power to your pump, the energy costs would be no short of a nightmare.
The rule of thumb for pool maintenance is to run your pump for eight hours per day. That’s the short answer, but it isn’t always accurate. Other factors might shift this number. That means even if you do run your pump for eight hours a day, you could still be needlessly losing money.
Thankfully, with just a few quick considerations, such as your pool’s volume, your type of pump, and the time of day you operate your pump, you can achieve the optimal balance of pool cleanliness and cost saved—after just a few minutes of reading. Get your facts straight, and you’ll be saving time and money for years to come. Sweet deal, right?
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“But Why Should I Run My Pump at All?”
Your pool pump is the hub of your pool’s cleaning system. It makes sure the water is circulated, so dirty particles can be filtered out. It also widely distributes your cleaning chemicals—sort of like stirring cream into your coffee.
No pump equals no circulation, which means no cleaning. No kidding: if you turned off your pump for a significant amount of time, your pool would become a green pond of stagnating water and unwanted bacteria. No, not exactly what you might picture for a refreshing swim.
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Calculate Your Turnover Rate—And Pump Right
To keep your pool clean, all the water must run through your pump’s filter system at least once a day. This is called turnover rate. It’s simple: in order to run your pump effectively for eight hours, your pump should be able to process all of your pool water during that time.
To determine how long it takes to filter all your pool water, you want to calculate your turnover rate, or the GPH (gallons per hour) your pump claims to push. To check if your turnover rate is on the money, multiply your pump’s GPH by eight. If your pump’s capacity is perfect for your pool, this calculation would match your pool’s volume:
[Your Pump’s GPH] x 8 = [Volume of Your Pool in Gallons]
Not sure how many gallons of water your pool contains? It’s a calculation anyone can do quick—even if you didn’t exactly ace geometry class. Simply multiply the length, width, and depth of your pool in feet, and then multiply that figure by 7.5 to convert the number to gallons. As a formula, that would be:
[Pool Length in Feet] x [Pool Width in Feet] x [Pool Depth in Feet] x 7.5 = [Volume of Your Pool in Gallons]
If you find that your pump is made for a much larger pool, you’ll want to run it for less than 8 hours a day. If you find that your pump is made for a smaller pool, you’ll want to run it for longer. Our suggestion? You may not want to hear it: buy a pump that fits your pool volume. In the long run, it’ll save you in energy costs—big time.
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Run Smart for Your Pump Type
Not all pumps are created equally. It makes sense that you might need to adjust how long you operate your pump depending on which model you have. For this subject, the most important factors have to do with pump speed and power.
Taking it Slow: Single-Speed vs. Variable Speed Pumps
Your pump’s speed affects the size of your energy bill every month, as well as how long your pump needs to run every day. In the years since their invention, pool pumps have evolved big time in terms of speed flexibility—and we couldn’t be happier.
Single-speed pumps were the first on the market, and remain the most basic type available. If a pump is single-speed, the motor spins the impeller at one fixed velocity. Often, this speed is faster than you’ll actually need, and the energy it consumes is needlessly costly. In fact, these pumps are considered so wasteful that some states (including Arizona, California, and Florida) have banned new single-speed pump installations.
Unlike single-speed pumps, variable speed models allow you to control the speed of the motor. Lower speeds allow water to be filtered more thoroughly, and with much quieter performance. The best part? While more expensive than single-speed models, variable speed pumps will save you more than the purchasing difference over time—typically in under two years.
If you have a variable speed pump, you might need to run your pump longer. Don’t worry—you’ll still save significantly.
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Yes, Horsepower Could Cut Run Time—But Be Careful
Not to be confused with speed, horsepower is the amount of work capable by the motor. The higher the horsepower, the greater volume of water pumped. Additionally, the faster it’ll filter through your pool water.
If you’re itching for a race car of a horsepower so you can run your pump for just a few hours every day, it’s probably best to take a deep breath and consider the facts first.
Horsepower is always dependent on the size of your larger pool system. For example, if your plumbing features three-inch pipes, it can probably accommodate a three-horsepower pump, which will work fast. However, if your horsepower is too large for the size of your pool system, it can waste energy and cost you more than you bargained.
Your horsepower should always be powerful enough to turn your pool’s volume at the adequate rate of around eight hours a day, but not so powerful that it works harder than you need—and accumulates unnecessary costs as a result.
You Know How Long to Run Your Pump. But What About When?
You might assume that the best time to run your pool is during the hottest hours of the day. This isn’t wrong, exactly—anyone would want the cleanest pool possible during their actual swim. But it might be ramping up your energy bill. There’s another way.
Avoid Peak Hours and Save
This might be news to you, but nobody actually pays a flat rate for electricity. Thanks to something electric companies have coined “peak hours,” the cost of powering up your pump fluctuates over the span of the day.
Peak hours are set times when residents in your local area tend to use more power—and put more strain on the grid. These hours depend on the trends of your specific region. Often times, if you live in a hot climate, peak hours are at the hottest time of day—when your neighbors are most likely to crank up their air conditioning units. Give your energy provider a call to find out the peak hours of where you live, and schedule your pump operation around those times.
Here’s another secret: you don’t have to run your pump for eight hours straight. You can divide up the time however works best for your schedule, which gives you way more flexibility to run your pump during non-peak hours. You’ll get the same service for much cheaper, which is a major cost difference over time.
Timing is Everything: Maintaining Your Pool’s Chemical Balance
There’s another reason off-hours might be a smarter time to run your pump. Of course, one function of your pump is to circulate your cleaning chemicals so that they spread evenly across your pool. Nobody wants pockets of high-potent cleaning products in the water.
One chemical that needs to be added after dark is pool shock. If you add it during the day, the sun will burn most of it off, and it won’t be nearly as effective. When you add pool shock, you want to make sure you run your pump for eight hours at night to make sure it’s really distributed.
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Now You’re Swimming Downstream
You’ve just ensured your pump is efficient at every step of operation, so now you just have to wait for your energy bills to come. We guarantee they’ll be lighter—and so will you. Wasn’t that easy?