Are Variable Speed Pool Pumps Worth the Extra Money?

The biggest concern that I hear about variable speed pool pumps is whether or not they are worth the extra money they cost over mono speed pumps. The short answer is: It Depends. I’ll talk about why that is in a minute and help you decide for yourself if a variable speed pump is going to the the most cost effective solution for you. Before that though, I will talk about the amount of energy they save, why they use so much less energy to do the same work and some other benefits, but we won’t skip over the financial piece, because it is one of the factors that comes in to play when deciding whether to upgrade your pool pump.

Variable-speed-pool-pumps

Dual variable speed pool pumps installed for a large pool system running fountains, waterfalls, and the pool for far less than 1 standard pool pump.

Energy Savings

First things first, variable speed motors are “newish” technology, and as such, the actual electric motors within them are pretty efficient for the work that they do. This means they produce more work and less waste heat and waste sound for the same amount of electricity consumption. This is what is meant by a “high efficiency” motor. The real energy saver for a variable speed pool pump though is that by operating at more than one speed, they won’t be cranked up to their full power potential just to circulate your water. Pools pumps generally have 2 or 3 functions.

  1. Circulate the water in your pool, get it turning over and uniform in temperature as well as concentration of chemicals
  2. Filtration- Forcing water through your pool filter element to strain out dust, dirt dog hair, small debris and other material too small to get caught in the strainer basket
  3. Running fountains and water features for aethetics

Most of the time, those first two functions are handled by one pump. If you live in a community built by a big homebuilder, there is a very good chance that they installed simple monospeed pump on your pool system. They are affordable, they hold up pretty well so there aren’t any issues with home warranties, but they are energy hogs for 70% of the work that they do. The reason is that in order to use just one pump with a single speed, that pump must be able to do the most difficult job it has, which is running the filtration cycle. When it needs to simply cycle the water and keep it moving, it is likely 80-90% more powerful than it needs to be to perform this function and therefore, because it is either “on or off” is is drawing a full amount of power to circulate the water.

Most standard sized pool pumps are in the 2hp to 2.5 hp range; a really good power level for filtration. 1/4 to 1/2 hp (horsepower) is all that is needed to circulate your water and keep it fresh though. Therefore you are using 4-10 times more electricity than is needed when your pool is just circulating, which is most of the time. Very very wasteful. Those monospeed motors run about 1000W to 1200W and a sensible amount of time running the pump daily is 6-7 hours. That would be like leaving every light in your house on 6 hours a day, every day, when you only needed them for :30. Just a lot of waste.

Another energy saving feature of upgrading the pool pump is that you’ll actually get a professional out there to install and program the schedule specifically for energy efficiency. I have been amazed at the number of clients that I have met with and performed energy audits for who had their pump running through the afternoon, and were on a peak premium electricity cost rate at that time. Not only were they using too much electricity, but that electricity was costing them 80% more than if they would have the system programmed to fit their utility plan.

How much money will I save?

annual-savings-for-variable-speed-pool-pump

Average savings in Arizona for pools that operate year ’round.

Ok, so now to the money issue. If you read the literature on many of the variable speed pool pump manufacturers, Their claims:

Pentair Pool Pumps (leading manufacturer of variable speed pool pumps)

“Standard pool pumps can consume as much energy as all other home appliances combined—often costing more than $1,000 per year! IntelliFlo® and IntelliPro® Variable Speed pumps can typically cut energy use up to 90%, generally saving up to $1,500 in utility costs annually—more where rates are higher than average.*”

SRP (Salt River Project- Utility Company in Arizona)

“With hot year-round temperatures in the Valley, it’s no surprise that pools are a major cost concern for our customers. And as your home’s No. 2 energy user, your single-speed pool pump could cost you up to $560 per year to operate. You can reduce this expense by more than half with a variable-speed pool pump.”

Ok, first of all the math just doesn’t make any sense in the Pentair claim. If your pool pump “only” uses $1000 worth of electricity a year, how are you going to save $1500/ year on your electricity bill? That just doesn’t make any sense at all. They want you to buy their pump, and not the competitors, who advertises savings estimates that are very similar. Fail.

Check out this video from SRP on variable speed pumps, but then continue reading below for the analysis of what they say:

The SRP claim, of $560/ year is an extremely conservative claim. This is also very understandable. SRP is a business that needs to make money, to maximize it’s profit. It’s chief aim is to not have to commission a new power plant, which is a major capital expense. Due to this, it wants some of it’s customers to conserve energy but only to a degree that keeps up with the growth of power demand in it’s service territory. It isn’t going to push efficiency hard and offer a ton of rebates, because if it does, it will cut into it’s profits. Also, because SRP is “here to stay” advertising saving claims that potentially exceed what some customers will experience, exposes them to lawsuits charging them with advertising false claims.

So is there a reason to upgrade my Pool Pump, or not?

My personal experience (close to 600 customers who I’ve personally analyzed home energy usage) is that the energy bill associated with having a pool will run you anywhere from $800 up to $3000 (very high end, including heating the pool). Average costs are going to be in the $1000-$1500 dollar range and you will likely save about 50-70% on your energy bill (actual costs, not just energy) This means that you’ll probably save anywhere from $500-800 annually on your energy bill with an upgrade to a variable speed pool pump, $700/ year is the number I’d be comfortable throwing out there.

Now, Variable speed pool pumps do cost more than their mono speed counterparts. They actually cost about $1000 dollars more, ballpark. This means that you will start seeing a positive return on your investment in the second year of having a variable speed pool pump installed on your home pool. If you wanted to look at it as a ROI calculation, your return is going to be around 260% ROI in four years. I don’t know many investments that have that kind of return. If your pool pump lasts longer than 4 years, which it should with regular maintenance, that figure continues to improve in your favor. Worst case scenario, a good brand pump, which I always recommend, will have a 2 year warranty and you’ll already have a few hundred dollars return on your power bill in that time, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a positive return on your investment. More than I can say of other investments in the business world.

If your plans this year include saving any money, investing, or just putting money aside, a variable speed pool pump is a great way to grow that money, while enjoying the knowledge that you have a high tech, quiet pool pump that is saving you money, helping protect your family assets and increasing the value of your home.

EcoBuilt Group does not work for the utility companies, we don’t partner with any specific manufacturers, we chose a different path. We are a group of energy consultants and investment advisors that work for our clients, helping them strategically invest in their home while enjoying the benefits of increased comfort, improved indoor air quality all while growing the value and safety of the home. We can get you any rebates that are available for energy efficiency, but we don’t have to adhere to the guidelines that the utility companies make their contractors adhere to for promotion. That means we can give you an honest look at your options and help guide you to your goals, with our only bias being to help you invest wisely.