Pool pump reviews around the web and other articles that talk about the best swimming pool pumps do little to educate you. I’m offering information and an opinion based on 30 years of service work, and my goal is to inform you and provide 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 swimming pool pump and motors. 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; I wanted to know if any pool pumps/motors articles already existed, or if anyone had written and review swimming pool pumps.
While I found a lot of informative resources, I found few pool pump reviews worth a read. Many had a marketing/sales agendas, but a professional repair person hadn’t written an article based on years of service experience. I wrote this one back in 2015, and keep updating it every year.
New pool owners must be overwhelmed by the many different options and technologies that are available. There are a lot of different brands and models; each has a different horsepower (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 pump reviews and recommendations:
Above-Ground 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 breaker. For 1.5 HP pumps, you will require a 20 amp service. Unlike in-ground pumps, most above ground units come with a plug attached. The power cord does however come in two different types, fitting different outlets. Standard (regular home type), and twist lock (TL). Be sure to get the right plug type when ordering a replacement pump, or motor.
Above-ground pumps also discharge water in two directions to accommodate different filter types. They have verticle (top) water discharge and horizontal (side) discharge.
In-ground Pool Pump Power Requirements and Suggestions
While most single speed inground pumps will run on either a 220 or 110-volt service, most two speed, and variable speed pumps require 220 volts (exceptions listed below). If you buy a dual power unit, make sure you set the jumper to the corresponding voltage type. If replacing your pump with the same model, copy the setting from the old pump. Most companies ship new in-ground pool-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 or Pump Seals
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 pump-motor is typically fine, but the pump needs resealing. I recommend re-sealing the pump, and changing a couple of 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. Meaning 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 pumps come in a variety of horsepower (HP). And they operate on either 115V or 230V.
If you have not replaced your in-ground pump in the last ten 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.
Single Speed Pool-Pump Advantages:
One advantage of a one-speed pump is that it is very good at pumping water. Because it only operates at one speed, it will always be on the “high” setting, creating great circulation, unless your plumbing is undersized, but that is a topic for another article (think cavitation).
Single speed pumps have also been in use for many years, making them very popular, easy to find, and have the lowest up-front cost. While there are some exceptions, most inground single speed pumps 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 downside of a single speed pump is that it is not energy efficient to operate. These one-speed-pumps use a significant amount of electricity because they are always running on max.
Additionally, single speed pumps usually produce a higher noise level than other types. The noise is due to water forced through the plumbing and filter, as well as the backpressure place on the impeller and bearings.
It is not economical to run a single speed pool pump 24 hours a day unless you are getting free power from wind or solar.
Take note also, that cartridge and DE filters wear out sooner, and do not filter as well as when the pump is continuously at high speed. Besides wearing due to pressure, Filters loose efficiency as dirt gets embedded into media.
The best way to maintain a clean and clean pool is to be circulating the water, always. 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 bugs, dust, and debris and your nicely balanced pool will begin to fall out of balance. RUN YOUR PUMP 24 HOURS ADAY
Best Single Speed Pool Pump Brands:
Hayward, Pentair, Jandy, and Reliant all make a great single speed pump. It might be of interest for you to know, whatever the brand, most use the same motor. You could buy a round flange (j-frame), or square flange (y-frame) motor from A.O. Smith (now called Century) to replace the pump-motor that’s 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 anyone 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 seem to leak more often than Jandy or Pentair pumps. Pump seals are pretty easy to change though and should be replaced anytime the motor is, no matter the brand. If I were forced to pick an inground one-speed pump, I would go with the appropriate horse powered Hayward Superpump (basically bullet-proof).
Except for cost, I see no difference in the above ground pool pump offerings. Centrifugal vane pumps have not changed in 150 years. Motors have gotten better over the years but little else.
Best Place to Buy A 1 HP In-ground 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
I could easily argue and show you why you should never buy a single speed pool pump. That goes for above ground pools too. Unless you burn money as a past time, do your self a favor and shell out the extra few bucks for the variable speed mentioned further down in this article.
I know for you above ground pool people this is a big leap, but not only will it last longer than any above ground pump, but it will also pay for itself over the long haul. Most come with a timer you above ground people are sorely lacking.
Two-Speed Pool Pumps:
Two-speed pumps operate like a single speed pump, but with the added option of also running on a “low” speed. Switching speeds is done using a toggle switch in most cases or an electronic control method of some sort. This style operates at 3,450 RPMs when on high, and 1,725 RPMs on low.
The way to use a two-speed pump; run low-speed for primary circulation and filtration functions 24 hours a day, and the high-speed for activities that require more power, such as vacuuming a pool or when running your pool heater (heaters may require higher flow rates).
Heater Pump Speed Requirements Two-Speed Pumps Dilemma
Figure a GPM (gallons per minute) of 10 per 100k BTU. So a 300k BTU heater will need at least a 30 GPM flow rate. If you have a 100k BTU heater on your above ground pool, you can get away with running a two-speed pump on low. Water cools your heaters heat exchanger, and all heaters have a flow switch to keep you from melting down your heater.
Too slow and there is not enough flow to keep your pool warm.
Having a two-speed pump is good because it provides more options than a single speed pump. The pump is primarily needed to circulate and filter the water in your pool. You can use the low speed 80 to 90% of the time, and this will save energy and provide a much quieter operation. On the other hand, if you require more suction or water movement, a two-speed pump can be turned to high, offering the same power as a single speed pump.
You can buy an above ground model for little more than a single speed but a lot less than a variable speed unit.
In most cases, you still have to turn your pump on and off if you do not have a timer, and you have to change pump speeds manually.
For in-ground swimming pools, the price doesn’t make sense. Two-speed pumps cost more than a single-speed pump and just slightly less than a variable speed pump.
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 cost less up front.
The low speed will not operate many heaters.
Inground 2-speed pool pumps do not cost much less than a low horsepower variable speed pump.
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.
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 110/115-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 20-amp 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 % too, reducing 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 only 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 Your Energy Bills. You get lots of power and save oodles of cash.
Affinity Law for dummies – You could walk a mile, or you could run a mile, running burns up a lot more energy and will require a knee replacement, walking does the same job and requires almost no power when you take your time.
The video below is the best description I could find to help explain Affinity Law
Variable Speed Value Proposition Outlined Below
With the average in-ground 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. Many of us run them for 8-12 hours, to keep our skimmer catching debris and leaves 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. (mic drop)
Variable Speed Pumps:
Variable speed pumps all you to program your GPM/flow to the exact amount you want. Control the rate of water flow by setting the pump RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) to just what is required, no more, no less. Variable speed pumps offer the highest amount of flexibility and the lowest energy consumption.
Because these new pumps use a Permanent Magnet Motor (PMM), they run quieter, at a lower temperature 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, by adjusting the pump speed to just what is required to perform the necessary circulation and maintenance tasks, variable speed pumps offer a lot of energy savings over time, especially when compared to a single speed pump. For this reason, they are considered the best swimming pool pump available. 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. 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 embed debris into a D.E filter making it less efficient. The high rate of water beats on your pool filter media.
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 plumbing 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 this pool pump type VGB (Virginia Gramm Baker) 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 significantly 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 provide discounts 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. Quite a bit more expensive than the average single-speed pump price point and slightly higher than two-speed pumps.
There are not as many brands 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 the industry has come to trust: Hayward, Jandy, and Pentair.
They have a few models ranging in price from $700 to $1300.00.
My favorite pump still for 2018 is the Pentair Model: 342001.
This pump has 1.5 HP motor that will run on either 110V or 220V. Making it an excellent 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, no jumper switch to figure out. You just attach the wires, and you’re finished.
The 342001 Pentair pump is a medium-head pump and only use it for standard inground pools. Meaning if you have a waterfall, solar roof system, or unique features that require more horsepower, 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 swimming pools. Yes, I said it – 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 as of the past couple years.
- Available on MGK Pools $648.00 No Tax /Except for Massachusetts (Limited time sale price)
- Just $550.00 for people in Massachusetts after instant and mail-in rebates, (Call for Service) FREE INSTALLATION TOO! (most systems/Massachusetts only) Just $400.00 for above ground pools – Above ground pool owners (most) in Massachusetts get this 700.00 pump for just $400.00 installed!
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, bigger filters, high head situations, or long plumbing runs to the equipment pad. Although the sticker says 3HP, this is 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. It does require 220-volt service.
Instead of using a rare earth magnet that is mined over in Asia, the Pentair pump uses a more massive magnet mined right here in the USA. Pentair also manufactures their pump here in the states.
If you live here in Massachusetts, we will crush Amazon pricing on the 011018 model, Just $700.00 after rebates, and provide you with a two-year warranty, plus free installation. This offer is only available now and the 2018 pool season. Some towns excluded.
If you have to have a Hayward, there are a couple of 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 bit more horsepower 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 have 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 horsepower (HP), it is better to have a little more, than to be underpowered. A 1HP motor will do the job of a 1.5HP, 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. Existing in-ground pools are usually wired for 220v, and most pool 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 pump-motor run at a lower temperature and will be less taxing on the unit during startup.
Retrofit Single Speed Pumps with New Variable Speed Programmable Motor
If you already have a pump, one other option is to retrofit your old pump with a new variable speed energy efficient motor like the ones you see here in the picture.
These are available on Amazon for a little over $400.00
If you are a backyard enthusiast and can handle the operation, this saves you from having to change your plumbing.
Remove the old pump motor from the housing, see youtube video. Match the flange type to order correct pump motor replacement. Reverse procedure to install the new VS-motor.
If you can afford the upfront cost of a new variable speed motor, it will undoubtedly pay for itself in a short time by saving you the money you would otherwise be spending on energy. It is more than a green solution; it is a financially 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 available for above ground pools. Not only do you get the energy savings, but you won’t 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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