Should I Replace My Pool Pump With a Variable Speed?

Everyone and everything seems to be going “green” these days.  We want everything to use as little as possible and to save us money in the process, right?  We have LED light bulbs in our home to save energy.  We may have solar panels to produce energy.  We have fake grass or desert landscaping to save on water.  What about when it comes to our swimming pool?  Besides LED pool light fixtures, what can we do to conserve energy and money on our pool equipment?  If you were thinking Variable Speed Pump…you would be correct!

Single and Two-Speed Pumps

The older technology of swimming pool pumps are single speed pumps.  They do just that: run at a single speed.  This is measured as revolutions per minute (RPMs).  A single speed pump runs at a whopping 3,400 RPMs every time it turns on.  This causes the homeowner to want to run it as little as possible.  They may even try tricks like running it at night to try to save money.  In actuality, they end up spending money on pricey chemicals and treatments due to the problems associated with poor circulation.  Algae, cloudy water and water borne illnesses are just a few of the fun things one can accomplish by not circulating, and thus cleaning, the swimming pool water.

Two Speed Pumps offer two speeds:  a high speed and a low speed.  While they are more efficient on the lower setting than a single speed pump, they still cost a fortune to run!  Like single speed swimming pool pumps they utilize an induction motor.  One would typically use the higher speed when vacuuming, using the spa or the heater.  They are traditionally more expensive than single speed pool pumps, but you get that money back in efficiency.  Dual speed pumps, believe it or not, are now considered “old technology”.  Why?  Because there is a better option.

How Do Variable Speed Pumps Differ?

Variable speed pumps are the newest technology when it comes to swimming pool pumps.  Unlike the induction motors we chatted about above, VSPs have a permanent magnet motor. If you are thinking, “Hey!  Electric cars use those!”, you would be correct.  A permanent magnet motor is a type of electric motor that in addition to windings, uses a permanent magnet,

Variable speed pumps allow you to run it on varying speeds, or, different RPMs.  The lower the RPM, the less energy is consumed.  They allow you to draw only the amount of power you actually need at a given time.  If you are using the spa or vacuuming, you would use a higher speed.  If you are just circulating the water to keep the chemicals active and accomplish your desired turnover rate, slower is better.  Not only is filtration more effective, but you actually put less strain on your plumbing and filter, extending their life span.  

Variable speed pumps come with a fan cooled, self contained motor.  They are also digital.  The programming and time clock are all on the pump itself.  So your intermatic timer no longer decides the time.  Some variable speed pumps even come with a relocation kit that allows you to wall mount the keypad.  VSPs are also much quieter than single speed pumps.  Even on a higher speed setting.

Show Me the Money!

Let’s talk about the financial advantages of having a VSP.  You may receive a rebate from your utility company if certain criteria is met such as the pump being Energy Star Certified.  If you live in a state like California, you are required, by law to install a variable speed so you would save money on fines.  The most savings come from the operation of the pump.  Variable speed pumps pull less energy, so even if you were to run your VSP at 3,400 RPMs like your old single speed ran on, it would still use less energy!  As homeowners, you will find few opportunities that will arise where that high of an RPM is needed.

Keep in mind when upgrading to a variable speed pump, our pool size hasn’t changed.  What I mean by that is we still have to get every drop of water through the filter (known as a turnover).  If we are running our pump slower it moves less water so therefore we have to run the pump longer to move the same amount of water.

Most people balk when they see the prices of variable speed pool pumps.  They can be significantly more money than a single or a 2-speed pump.  But that is because of all the features and benefits.  Plus, I can’t think of another thing you can buy that pays you back.  That’s right.  Most people see their money returned in the form of lower electric bills in just a year or two.  On average, you will be saving approximately $70 a month on your power bill.  Maybe more in your neck of the woods.  Variable speed pumps are 90% more efficient than old school single speed.  So there is value in this investment.

You Don’t Have to Break the Bank

Whether you decide to go with a single speed pump or a variable speed pump, you don’t have to go broke.  Many swimming pool supply companies will charge you over $1,200 for a variable speed pump.  This does not include installation.  Even your friendly pool guy will be around that price.  Do not despair.  Like the new technology of a variable speed pool pump, there are newer options out there.  www.poolpartstogo has both single speed and variable speed pumps available at, I am not kidding, HALF the price of other name brand pumps.

Speaking of name brand and new technology, the well-loved, household name of Black & Decker actually makes swimming pool pumps.  You would think it would cost a fortune to get a trusted name like that, but they are ridiculously affordable.  So, you really don’t have any excuse not to switch to a variable speed.  Unless of course you don’t like saving money.  See you poolside!