My favorite pool pump used to be the Pentair 342001 Variable Speed SuperFlo and had been for three years running. But, now the Speck E71 for above ground pools and the A91 for inground pools are my NEW TOP PICKS.
The Speck E71 is rated the second most efficient at 100 over the minimum to qualify for the energy star rating. The A91 for inground pools is rated at 95 above the minimum. Visit the Government website. See here Both of these pumps cost almost $200 less than the closest competitor making them my top choice of 2019.
In this post, I am reviewing above-ground, and in-ground swimming pool pumps, looking at the cost of each and weighing the pros and cons of the different types.
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.
I compare single-speed, two-speed, and variable-speed swimming pool pumps. When I use the word “pump” in this article, I’m referring to the whole unit, pump, and motor together like the picture above.
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 First
Quietest Swimming Pool Pumps
The main reason your swimming pool pump is making so much noise is that it is running full speed all the time. You will see as you read on that I am not a fan of energy hog 1-speed pool pumps.
One often overlooked feature I love about variable speed pool pumps is that when you run them at lower speeds you often can’t even hear them.
Obviously, if you have a bearing that has worn out on your pump motor is will be screaming.
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. Most above ground units come with a power cord already installed. 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 pool pump.
Above ground pool pumps also discharge water in two directions to accommodate different pool 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.
Why 2-Speed And Variable-Speed Swimming Pool Pumps Save You So Much Electricity
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 energy consumption is reduced to just a 250(W) draw.
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
The goal is to turn over all your pool water once a day, meaning every gallon of water in your swimming pool has to
It is also better to operate the filter for longer periods because the circulation system is cleaning the surface of the pool the whole time the pool pump is operating. In this case, slow and steady wins the race, saves energy, is less harmful to your pool equipment, and provides a cleaner swimming pool.
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 pool 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 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 swimming 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:
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.
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.
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. Or a two-speed pump for an above ground pool.
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 variable speed pumps come with a timer that above ground pool pumps are sorely lacking.
Two-Speed Pool Pump Reviews & Information
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 it on 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.
Note* Your heater or heat-pump may need higher flow rates than you can get from the low speed of a 2-speed pool pump.
Note* Diatomaceous Earth (DE) pool filters do not operate well at 1725 RPMs. The DE media does not cling to filter-grids well at very low speeds. Two-speed pumps are better suited for sand, and cartridge filters.
Having a two-speed pump provides more options than a single speed pump. The pump is primarily needed to circulate and to filter the water in your pool. You can use the low-speed 80 to 90% of the time, and this will save a lot of energy and provide
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.
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.
The low speed will not operate many pool heaters or heat-pumps.
Huge disadvantage for above-ground pools that have a DE style filter. Low-speed just doesn’t provide enough flow to keep DE pressed to the filter grids. 2-speed pumps are much better suited to Cartridge Style and Sand Filters,
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 In-Ground Pool Pumps
Pentair 340043 SuperFlo 1.5 HP $479.00 to $630.00 Cost more than Speck Variable Speed E91 Inground Pump.
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. There really is nothing better or a better value.
TOP PICK: Spla 2-Speed pool Pump with 20-amp Cord $188.99
The only other model available in this class is the Hayward Matrix, but it cost over $300 bucks, and getting the pump cover off is a nightmare.
Variable Speed Swimming Pool Pump Reviews & Information
Variable Speed Value Proposition
With the average inground swimming 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.
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. I recommend running your swimming pool pump 22-24 hours a day. 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 allow you to program your GPM /flow to the exact amount you want or need. Control the rate of water flow by setting the pool pumps RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) to just what is required, no more, no less. Variable speed pool pumps offer the highest amount of flexibility and the lowest energy consumption. Are you running a heater? No problem, DE Filter? No problem.
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 out in the elements. But please cover the pump.
More importantly, by adjusting your pool 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.
Variable Speed Vs. Two-Speed
One advantage variable speed pool 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 could increase the power slightly if you had a variable speed pump without having to run it on maximum.
Variable speed pool 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 style pool pump can help to achieve better filtering and chlorination. It could help with better saturation using UV or Ozone sanitation water treatment systems.
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 and cartridge filters making it less efficient. The high rate of water beats on your pool filter media.
Variable Speed Optional Safety Features
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 SVRS pool pump will shut down if it senses a blockage in the plumbing, making this pool pump type VGB (Virginia Gramm Baker) compliant. This is great for small commercial swimming pools that would otherwise have to spend the extra cash on this extra safety system required by code.
Many consumers still shy away from variable speed pumps because of the higher price tag, with an average model costing as much as $475.00 – $1,300.00. On the higher range, you see units cost quite a bit more than the average single-speed pool pump.
There are not as many brands of variable speed pool pumps to choose from as there are of single or two-speed pumps, but nearly every major pool pump manufacturer does offer a variable speed model. Brands that are most popular include the same the industry has come to trust: Hayward, Speck, and Pentair.
Above Ground Pool Variable Speed Pumps
Hayward has come out with it’s first variable speed pool pump for above ground pools. The two problems I see with it is that 1. It cost to much, and 2, it is not as good as other options.
My top pick energy efficient pump for above ground pools is the Speck variable speed E71 at only $475.00. It is two hundred dollars cheaper than any other option.
The Speck E71 is easy to program, durable and runs on either 110v or 220v electricity. Also like most above ground pumps, it comes with a building code compliant power cord.
This variable speed above ground pump was designed to work with all pool filter types. It can discharge water vertically or horizontally.
The Speck A91 is a medium-head pump only used 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 3 or 4 return jets.
The Speck A91 has proven durable and easy to program, and like the Pentair 342001 it runs on dual voltage but comes in almost $200 bucks cheaper than the Pentair at just $475.00
Dethroned and removed from Energy Star Program – Honorable Mention
The Pentair 342001 pump was my favorite for the past 3 years. It has a 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.
For more information such as installation and programming of the 342001 variable speed pool pump click here.
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; This pump will move 160 GPM. Ready for easy 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 $800.00, and we provide you with a two-year warranty, plus free installation. This offer is only available now and the 2019 pool season. Some towns excluded.
If you have to have a Hayward, there are a couple Hayward pool pumps I could recommend. Check out this listing on Amazon. There are two different Horse Power units priced between $600-$1000.
These are medium head pumps, and direct replacements for the older single speed Super Pumps. They should make it pretty simple to swap out older 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 pool 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.
Rebates For Energy Efficient Swimming Pool Pumps
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 or much of the investment. Massachusetts usually offers r
For a complete list of States participating In Utility Rebates Programs Click Here
If you can afford the upfront cost of a new variable speed motor, it will 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.
The Speck E71 variable speed above ground pool pump is a welcome addition in 2019, and long overdue to the market. A great Bargain at just $475.00