Pool pump reviews around the web, and other articles that talk about the top 10 best swimming pool pumps do little to educate you. I’m offering information and an opinion based on 30 years of service work, my goal is to inform you, and offer insight. In this post I am reviewing above-ground, and in-ground pool pumps, looking at the cost of each, and weighing the pros and cons of the different types.
I compare single speed, two speed, and variable speed pool pump and motor units. When I use the word “pump” in this article, I’m referring to the whole unit, pump and motor (see next image below).
I have been repairing, installing and otherwise working on pools for over a quarter of a century. Also, in my first career I was a master auto mechanic. So to say I understand hydraulics, electronics, motors and the mechanical aspects of all machinery and their controls would be an understatement.
Before I started to write this article, I did a little research, to see if similar articles had been written about pool pumps /motors, or if anyone had reviewed them. While I found a lot of good resources, I found few pool pump reviews worth a read. Many obviously had a marketing/sales agenda, none where written by a professional repair person with years of service experience.
New pool owners must be overwhelmed at the many different options and technologies available to choose from. There are a lot of different brands and models, each have a different horse power (HP), voltage(V), flow rate, and speed /RPM. I will discuss what you need, and narrow it down to a few brands, a few models, and while comparing apples to apples.
Here are a few things that you should know about before we get into reviews and recommendations:
Pool Pump Power Requirements and Suggestions
Above ground pool pumps mainly run on 115V service. For .75 HP to 1.0 HP pumps, you will need a 15 amp service. For 1.5 HP pumps you will require a 20 amp service. Unlike inground pumps, most above ground units come with a plug attached. The plug does however come in two types, standard (regular home type), and twist lock (TL). Be sure to get the right plug type when ordering a replacement pump, or motor.
While most single speed inground pumps will run on either a 220 or 110 volt service, most 2 speed, and variable speed pumps require 220 volt (exceptions listed below). When replacing your inground pump, make sure the “jumper” on the new pump is set to the same voltage as the old pump. Most companies ship new pumps set to the default 220V.
Inground amp/breaker requirements: .75 HP = 15 amp, 1 HP = 20 amp, and 1.5 and 2 HP motors require 30 amp service.
Resealing Old Pumps and Replacing Motors
When your pool pump stops working, it’s usually the motor that dies, and or seizes. The pump rarely needs to be replaced. When the pump is leaking, the motor is usually fine, but the pump needs resealing. I recommend re-sealing the pump, and changing a couple components that wear out when replacing the motor.
Single Speed Pumps:
As the name suggests, a single speed pool pump works to pump your pool’s water at one constant speed. This means that no matter what function you are using the pump for, the pumping power will be the same. Single speed pumps operate at 3,450 revolutions per minute (RPM) and only have the option of being turned on or turned off.
These single speed Hayward Super Pumps come in a variety of horse Power (HP). And they operate on either 115V or 230V.
If you have not replaced your in-ground pump in the last five years, you most likely have a single speed pump. In fact, you probably have a Hayward Superpump, like the one in the image above. They have been the industry standard for over 20 years, and have been virtually bullet-proof, except for leaky pump seals.
One advantage of a single speed pump is that it is very effective in pumping water. Because it only operates at one speed, it will always be on the “high” setting, creating great circulation. Single speed pumps have also been in use for many years, making them very popular, easy to find, and the least expensive up-front. While there are some exceptions, most inground single speed pump and motor units can be purchased for less than $329.00 to $445.00. Above ground single speed units for less than $150.00.
While the cost of purchasing a single speed pump can be less of an investment initially, the major disadvantage of a single speed pump is that it is not as energy efficient to operate. Because it is pumping at a constant “high” speed when in use, this type of pump will consume a large amount of electricity when used. Additionally, single speed pumps usually produce a higher noise level than other types. This noise is due to a large amount of water flowing through the pump whenever it is powered on, and the pressure placed on the pump and bearings from high motor speed and corresponding head pressure.
It is not economical to run a single speed pool pump 24 hours a day.
It should also be noted, that cartridge and DE filters wear out sooner, and do not filter as well as when operating on a high speed. This is do to dirt getting embedded into media, and blow by.
The best way to maintain a clean and clean pool is to always be circulating the water. Have you ever seen algae on top of a stream? No, but you see it on the top of a stagnant pond. The dirtiest water is on the top of your pool, dirt consumes chlorine, so as soon as you shut off your pump, the skimmer stops working, and the surface starts to accumulate dirt, and your nicely balanced pool begins to fall out of balance.
Best Pool Pump Brands:
Hayward, Pentair, Jandy, and Reliant all make a great single speed pumps. It might be of interest for you to know, whatever the brand, most use the same motor. You could buy the same round flange (j-frame), or square flange (y-frame) motor from A.O. Smith (now called Century) to replace the motor that is on your Hayward, Jandy, or Pentair pump. Century supplies most manufacturers with pump motors.
I might as well tell you now, I don’t believe any one single speed pump is much better than another. Without having done an actual case study, I can tell you this, in my 30 years plus of service and repair, I have seldom seen a “pump problem”. The problem is almost always with the motor, no matter what the brand.
The only exception to this, has to do with the pump seal on Hayward pumps. They seam to leak more often than Jandy or Pentair pumps. Pump seals are pretty easy to replace though, and should be replaced anytime the motor is replaced on any brand. If I was forced to pick a one speed pump, I would go with the appropriate HP Hayward Superpump (basically bullet-proof).
Best Place to Buy A 1 HP Inground Single Speed Pump Amazon $325.00 to $360.00
Best Place to Buy A 1 HP Above Ground Single Speed Pump MGK Pools $145.00 to $170.00
Two Speed Pool Pumps:
Two speed pumps will typically operate much like a single speed pump, but with the option of also running on a “low” speed. This differentiation is made using a toggle switch or electronic control method of some sort. This style of pump will operate at 3,450 RPMs when on high, and 1,725 RPMs on low. In most cases, the low setting is used for basic circulation and filtration functions, and the high setting will be reserved for activities that require more power, such as vacuuming a pool or when running your pool heater (heaters may require higher flow rates). Figure a GPM (gallons per minute) of 10 per 100k btu. So a 300k BTU heater will require at least a 30 GPM flow rate.
Having a two speed pump is advantageous because it provides more versatility than a single speed pump. The pump is primarily needed to circulate and filter the water in your pool, so you can use the low speed 70 to 80% of the time, this will save energy and provide a much quieter operation. On the other hand, if you require greater suction or water movement, a two speed pump can be turned to high, providing the same power as a single speed pump.
Although many people are beginning to make the switch to two speed pool pumps, bringing the prices down, the cost to purchase a two speed unit is still higher than that of a single speed pump ($550.00 inground / 350.00 above ground). Another disadvantage is it will not save you as much money as a variable speed pump could. With special incentives from electric companies, and mail in rebate offers from manufacturers, a variable speed pump may actually cost less up front.
The low speed is actually to low to run most heaters. It also offers to little flow for above ground pools. The usually require the operator to manually switch the speed, so it usually gets left on just one speed
One last negative: Two speed pumps actually use to separate copper windings in the motor to operate the two speeds. So these pumps will be as noisy as single speed pumps.
Two speed pumps come in just about as many brand choices as single speed pumps, with some of the most popular ones being Hayward, Reliant, and Pentair.
With the cost of variable speed pumps coming down, and the introduction in 2015 of a 1.5 hp variable speed pump that runs on 110 voltage, 2 speed pumps don’t look as attractive.
Best 2 Speed Inground Pool Pumps
Pentair 340043 SuperFlo 1.5 HP $479.00 to $630 (rated #1) Amazon
Pentair makes an inground 2 speed pump that will run on 115 volt service, BUT it’s only available in .75 (3/4) HP. It is however pretty rare to find one nowadays.
Best 2 Speed Above Ground Pool Pump
There are not a lot of offerings in this product category, and the pump we recommend below far exceeds the competition. Nothing lasts as long, unless you go to an inground pump for your above ground pool. I wrote a review specific to above ground pool pumps (click here)
TOP PICK : Reliant 2 Speed Pump with Twist Lock Cord $159.64
Before we get into the most energy efficient pool pumps on the planet. You need to understand something called Affinity Law.
The following is from the US Department Of energy http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/54242.pdf /Page 14.
Affinity Law Example: If you cut your pump speed in half, from 3450 RPMs to 1725 RPMs, you would expect your energy usage to drop by 50 %, cutting your power usage in half. But, as you can see on the chart to the left @ (1800 RPMs), your pool pump energy consumption is reduced to just 1/8th of the original energy draw, using just 250(W).
Second Example: By lowering the speed by only *450 RPM, we can cut the power usage almost in half. At this RPM we can still run a heater, vacuum the pool, whatever, and SAVE OVER 50% On Our Energy Bills. We still get lots of power and save oodles of cash.
Variable Speed Value Proposition Outlined Below
With the average pool holding 25 thousand gallons of water, it would take a single-speed pool pump running at 3400 rpm, pumping 66 gallons per minute, just over 6 hours to filter all the water. The pump would consume twelve thousand, six hundred watts to filter this pool.
With a variable speed motor, if you run the pump at 1200 RPM or 22 gallons per minute, it would take 19 hours to filter the same pool, but the pump would only consume just over 2 thousand watts saving you 10.4kWh a day.
Here in Massachusetts and New England the average cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) is 17.4 cents according to the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration). With the average pool in Massachusetts opened for 120 days, and a minimum savings of 10.4 kWhs a day, you could expect to save $217.15 a year (minimum).
Of course many of us like to run our pools for more than 6 hours, actually many of us run them for 8-12 hours, to keep our skimmer catching debris and leafs that fall into the pool. With a variable speed pump we can run our pools for 19 hours, and save $200.00 – $400.00 annually.
Variable Speed Pumps:
Variable speed pumps are the newest in pool pump types, and features technology that allows the speed to be adjusted to the exact flow rate that is desired. From off to high, and many speeds in between, variable speed pumps offer the greatest amount of flexibility.
Because these new pumps use a Permanent Magnet Motor (PMM), they run quieter, cooler and last longer than the old style motors. A PMM running at the same speed as a single or dual speed motor will use less energy.
Unlike all other pumps mentioned above, this motor is a sealed unit, making it better for being in the elements.
More importantly, because the speed of the pump can be tuned to only pump exactly what is needed for the pool, variable speed pumps can offer a lot of energy savings over time, especially when compared to a single speed pump. For this reason, they are considered the most energy efficient type of pump. Depending on the setting at any given time, they can also be the quietest to operate as well.
An advantage variable speed pumps have over two speed models is the ability to set multiple speeds that are between low and high. This means that if your pool does not flow as well on the low speed of a two speed pump (this could be due to head pressure), you can increase the power slightly, without having to run it on high. Variable speed pumps will usually last longer than other pump types as well, with some manufacturers claiming an expected life that is nearly three times that of a standard single speed pool pump. The slower speeds of the variable pump help to achieve better filtering and chlorination. One other benefit to slower pump speed is the effect on your pool filter and equipment. High speeds can actually embed debris into a D.E filter making it less effective. The high rate of water actually beats on your filter.
Variable speed pumps can also be used in conjunction with constant-flow software, which are systems that automatically adjust the speed of the pump when a task is changed. For example, if a water feature is turned on, requiring an additional 40 gallons per minute of water flow, the constant-flow software recognizes this change, and makes the necessary adjustment to the pump to deliver the water requirements for the water feature, as well as maintains the flow required for the circulation system that is in operation. When the water feature is turned off, the software again adjusts the pump speed to conserve energy.
A couple of these variable speed motors offer a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS). SVRS is an anti-entrapment safety protocol. SVRS systems have previously only been available the by way of pluming add-on’s that cost between $700.00 and $1000.00 installed, per pump. This smart pump will shut down if it senses a blockage, making these pumps VGB compliant.
Finally, many utility companies and other organizations offer rebates to people who upgrade to efficient appliances. While this rebate availability and amount will vary greatly from state to state, it may be a way to help recover a little of the investment. Massachusetts usually offers tax incentives / rebates, and sometimes utility companies offer rebates too.
Many consumers still shy away from variable speed pumps because of the higher price tag, with an average model costing as much as $585.00 – $1,300.00. This is significantly more expensive than the average single speed pump price point, and slightly higher than a two speed pump.
There are not as many models of variable speed pumps to choose from as there are of single or two speed pumps, but nearly every major pump manufacturer does offer a variable speed pump. Brands that are most popular include the same top brands the industry has come to trust, and have been previously mentioned: Hayward, Jandy, and Pentair.
They have a few models ranging in price from $585.00 to $1300.00.
My favorite pump still in 2017 is the Pentair Model: 342001.
This pump has 1.5 HP motor that will run on either 110V or 220V. This makes it a great fit for both above ground and inground pools. It comes with a timer built into it, eliminating the need for you to go out and turn on and off the pump every day. It automatically senses which voltage is hooked up to it, so there is nothing to adjust. You simply attach the wires and your done.
This is a medium head pump and should only be used for standard inground pools. Meaning if you have a waterfall, solar roof system, or special features you will want to look for a high head pump (More HP). But, this is perfect for a pool with 1 or 2 skimmers and 2 or 3 returns. Also, the only pick for above ground pools
For more information such as installation and programming of the 342001 visit the link in this sentence.
- Available now on Amazon for $699.99 + Tax as amazon collects tax for most states now!
- Available on MGK Pools $648.00 No Tax /Except for Massachusetts (Limited time sale price)
- Just $600.00 for people in Massachusetts and RI after instant rebates, (Call for Service) Available in 2017 FREE INSTALLATION TOO! (most systems) Just $500.00 for above ground pools
Pentair 3 HP Variable Speed Inground Pumps
For more power I recommend the Pentair model # 011018. It will help with larger pools with more features, big filters, situations where equipment is located far from the pool. Although the sticker says 3HP, this is actually a 9HP pump, and converts your power into three phase, it will move 160 GPM. It is easy to hook up to automation, and easy to program as a stand alone pump.
Instead of using a rare earth magnet that is mined over in Asia, this pump uses a heavier magnet mined right here in the USA, and this pump is made here in the USA.
If you live here in Massachusetts or RI, we will crush amazon pricing on the 011018 model (Just $750.00), and provide you with a three year warranty, and free installation. This offer is only good now and the 2017 pool season. Some towns excluded.
If you have to have a Hayward, their are a couple pumps I could recommend. The first is the Hayward SP26115VSP. It runs on 110/115 Volt service. It has a little over 3/4 HP at .85 HP we sell it for 688.32 + S&H on our site. I usually like to show amazon pricing, but no one is selling this one?
Next and for a little more power there is the SP2603VSP (new for 2016). It has a little more horse power at 1.65HP. But it only runs on 220/230 volt service. It has a slightly heftier price tag at $740.00 + S&H on our site. But the only amazon seller I seen sells it for $900.00.
These are medium head pumps, and direct replacements for the older single speed Super Pumps. Should be pretty simple to swap out old units.
Horsepower And Voltages
When it comes to horse power (HP), it is better to have a little more, than to be under powered. A 1HP motor will do the job of a 1.5HP motor, but it will strain and work harder to do it. Most in-ground pool systems are over engineered, so going with the same HP you have now maybe overkill.
Pumps wired for 220v do not use more energy than pumps wired for 110v. Most existing in-ground pools are wired for 220v, and most pumps and replacement motors come with the jumper set at 220v.
It is better to run 220v rather than 110v when installing a new electrical service, although some pump motors allow you to run either, the 220v will help the motor run cooler and will be less taxing on the unit during start up.
If you can afford the up front cost of a variable speed motor, it will clearly pay for it self in a short time by the way of energy savings. It is more than a green solution, it is financial responsible choice.
These motors are designed for In-ground pools, having said that, they will work on above-ground pools and make more sense that the majority of the garbage that is currently being offered for above ground pools. Not only do you get the energy savings, but you wont have to replace your pump in 3 to 5 years.
We are available to install your new pool pump if you live here in the northern section of Massachusetts. Thanks for taking the time to read this pool pump brand and energy audit. Please leave comments below.
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