There are more than 5 million in-ground pools installed across America and over 150,000 new pools are built annually. A key component of these pools is the pool pump, which re-circulates water through a filter to maintain water clarity and hygiene. All swimming pools have at least one recirculation pump, but many have multiple pumps. Many pool owners don't realize how much energy their pool pump may be wasting. Pool pump speeds vary based on the pool's operation. Filtration, for example, only requires half the flow rate of running a pool cleaner. Conventional pool pumps, with only one speed, are set to run at the higher speeds required of the pool cleaner and waste energy during filtration operation by running faster than necessary. Please see the ENERGY STAR Pool Pump Fact Sheet for pool owners, contractors, manufacturers, retailers or distributors (PDF, 617.98 KB).
An ENERGY STAR certified pool pump can run at different speeds and be programmed to match the pool operation with its appropriate pool pump speed. The energy saved is considerable; reducing pump speed by one-half allows the pump to use just one-eighth as much energy.
ENERGY STAR certified pool pumps will:
- Save you over a thousand dollars over their lifetime.
- Pay for themselves in less than 2 years
- Run quieter and prolong the life of your pool's filtering system.
How much energy is saved? On average, an ENERGY STAR certified pool pump can save you over $300 per year. In warmer climates where pools are used year-round, savings can be significantly higher. Check with your local utility, as many utilities are offering hundreds of dollars in incentives for ENERGY STAR certified pool pumps.
ENERGY STAR certifies the following types of pool pumps:
- "Wet end" and motor pool pumps
- Residential pool pumps
- Multi-speed, variable-speed pool pumps capable of operating on at least two speeds.*
- In ground pool pump
- 0.5 < Total HP ≤ 4
- Single Phase
*At this time, a single-speed pool pump will not meet the ENERGY STAR specification. However, a single-speed pump with an Energy Factor (EF) above or equal to 3.8 could be developed and receive the ENERGY STAR certification.
Current Specification Effective Date: February 15, 2013
Pool pumps originally qualified for the ENERGY STAR label on February 15, 2013.
An ENERGY STAR qualified pool pump will be, on average, 30–72% more energy-efficient than a standard model.
What else should I look for when buying a pool pump?
Contact your local pool professional and ask them about ENERGY STAR certified multi-speed or variable speed pool pumps.
Variable speed and multi-speed pool pumps can help cut energy costs, as well as offer other desired features. For example, variable speed pumps are quieter, require less maintenance and last longer. Both variable speed and multi-speed pumps, through slower water filtration rates, allow for better and more effective filtration of the pool water. The slower circulation rates also put less strain on the filters, plumbing, and other parts of the system, reducing the chance of leaks, repairs, or premature plumbing component replacement.1
Beyond the pool pump you choose, the following are other ways to make your pool more energy-efficient:
- Pool timers2 — Pool timers allow you to reduce filtration times. Running your pool filter only 6 hours a day versus 24 hours, will reduce your energy use by 75%. If debris is a problem, consider using a timer that can activate the pump for many short periods each day. Running the pump continuously for 6 hours leaves the other 18 hours a day for the pool to collect debris, whereas several short cycles can keep the pool clean all day.
- Robotic Pool Cleaners3 — Robotic pool cleaners are powered by low-voltage electricity, rather than your pool pump or a booster pump, and collect dirt and debris in built-in filters. The pool owner simply plugs them in and places them in the pool. Some even have remote controls so you can steer the unit from a lounge chair for spot cleaning. A PG&:E study determined that a robotic cleaner used only 197 kWh per year. According to the study, a cleaner powered by a filter pump used 1,675 kWh per year and a booster-pump-powered cleaner used 2,989 kWh per year.
- Pool Heating4 — For pools that are heated, the efficiency of the heating technology should be examined. The current federal efficiency standard for gas-fired pool heaters is 78%. However, as of April 16, 2013 that standard will change to 82%. Currently, the most efficient gas-fired heaters on the market have an efficiency of 95% — representing 18% savings over the current federal standards. Electric heat pumps and solar thermal systems are available as well. Both heat pumps and solar thermal systems are good at keeping a pool within a set temperature range for a long period of time but are also very sensitive to climate variability. Gas-fired heaters are best suited for pools that require occasional rapid heating. Solar units typically cost between $2,000 and $4,000 dollars and pay for themselves in 2 to 7 years, depending on your climate.5
- Pool Cover6 — Covering a pool when it is not in use can reduce your pool's heating costs, by as much as 50%–70%. Pool covers not only decrease pool heating costs, they also can minimize your chemical use by 35%–60%, conserve water by 30%–50%, and reduce cleaning time by keeping dirt and other debris out of the pool. When choosing a cover, look for durability, ease of taking on and off, price, warranty, material transparency, insulation value, storage need, and safety.
- Perform Regular Preventive Maintenance7 — Follow a regular program of preventive maintenance and backwash or clean the filter as recommended by the manufacturer to maintain maximum efficiency. Be aware that some filters automatically backwash more frequently than they need to, and some designs do not need to be backwashed at all. Check the manual for the right regimen for your system. Remove any foreign materials from the strainer baskets in the pump and skimmer regularly to make sure the flow of water is not hampered.
- Best Practices for Your Spa8 — Portable spas are more energy efficient than in-the-ground spas, because they are better insulated and usually have covers. If you have a typical portable spa, your heater will heat water 10 degrees in about 8 hours. If you use your spa once a week, lowering the temperature three degrees when not in use will save you approximately 5–10% of your spa heating costs. If you use the spa less often, your savings could be even greater. Do not run the jets unless you are using your spa. The mixture of water and air is great for relaxing the muscles, but it cools the water quickly. Spa covers are important. Be sure to leave the cover on until you are ready to use your spa and replace it when you are finished. Remember, you are paying to replace any escaped heat!