As clichés go, “going green” is a good one. But, let’s face it, within consumer markets, the environmentally-friendly frenzy is often overstated. Many so-called green products are often overpriced and/or ineffective. It’s no wonder we’ve become jaded by the green movement. But, escalating energy costs and social awareness are forcing us all to be more responsible.
There are an estimated 1.2 million home swimming pools in Canada and more than 5 million in-ground residential pools in the U.S. (Beyond that, more than 60,000 new pools are built annually in the U.S. alone.) According to a 2008 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), pools in the US generate as much as $1.6 billion in energy costs per year.
Pools, as a rule, can be expensive to operate. Luckily, pool owners can look to pool equipment manufacturers to help them reduce their costs and lower their carbon footprint. Pool pumps represent one of the most significant users of energy in pool owners’ homes. In fact, they are the often the second biggest contributor to energy costs, lagging only behind their heating and cooling costs — for the entire home.
Single speed pumps, which tend to waste more energy because they are always (and unnecessarily) running at top speed, have traditionally been the big energy users. With the advent of variable speed pumps (VSPs), however, the movement is shifting.
Pool equipment manufacturers are striving to design and manufacture hard-working, efficient products that will allow pools owners to run their pools efficiently. That means: environmentally-compliant equipment, with proven performance, built to last, that also dramatically lower operating costs. It is generally agreed that the greatest potential for pool owners to save on operating costs is to switch their single-speed pumps to a two-speed or — better yet — a variable-speed pump.
The Multiple Movement
Multiple speed pumps are by far the fastest growing segment within the pool product market. The Multiple Movement is definitely catching on. There are a number of drivers including, but not limited to: Education/Communication; Legislation; Monetary Motivation; Technology Trends.
Media has played a big part in the increasing popularity of VSPs. When they first were introduced, five or six years ago, the media helped educate the market on the the potential energy and cost saving benefits of VSPs. Word of mouth was another strong factor in driving the VSP trend. Pool owners touted the energy and cost savings, which continued the momentum. Of course, the only thing that fuels a trend faster than word of mouth is social media. The popularity of variable speed pumps was given a huge boost by online media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.
One of the biggest advocates for the energy saving features of VSPs is ENERGY STAR. This is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program designed to help businesses and individuals throughout North America save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency.Recognizing that a key component of swimming pools’ energy consumption is the pool pump — and noting that many pool owners don’t realize how much energy their pool pump may be wasting – ENERGY STAR instituted a certified pool pump program. They note that the energy saved by pumps that run at variable speeds is considerable; reducing pump speed by one-half allows the pump to use just one-eighth as much energy. On average, qualifying pumps are a third to two thirds more energy-efficient than standard models, depending on local climate, pump size and number of speeds. With the energy savings, these pumps can pay for themselves in just a few years. The EPA states that these pumps also run quieter and prolong the life of a pool’s filtering system. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of ENERGY STAR qualified pumps are variable- or multi-speed.
Sometimes we don’t have a choice. When governing bodies legislate certain energy restrictions, manufacturers and consumers have to follow the law. These laws are ultimately less effective but the industry would probably still be using single speeds if the “Multiple Movement” hadn’t started in California with Title 20.
In the U.S., the energy efficiency legislation that has driven compliance includes California’s Titles 20 and 24. Among other pool-related upgrades, they mandated that all pool pumps must operate at two or more speeds. Similar laws have been enacted in Arizona and Florida, where swimming pool usage is particularly high. Beyond the government, industry associations and watchdogs help police compliance. The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP), for example, issued the APSP-15 Energy Efficiency Standard and posts a database of compliant pumps at apsp.org.
It’s always preferable to want to do something vs. having to do it. Money can be a great motivator. It’s an accepted fact that VSPs can save up to 90 percent on energy costs compared to a single speed pump. They match a pool’s needs versus a single speed pump running at full power 100 percent of the time.
As further validation, the EPA asserts that ENERGY STAR certified pool pumps will usually:
• Save the pool owner more than $1,000 over the pump’s lifetime.
• Pay for themselves in less than two years.
• Run quieter and prolong the life of your pool’s filtering system.
The EPA notes that in warmer climates, where pools are used year-round, savings can be significantly higher.
Beyond the energy cost savings, there are other revenue resources available to pool owners. For example, a number of utility companies are offering rebate incentives to pool owners to encourage the purchase of energy-efficient swimming pool pumps.
When you consider that up to 40 utilities across 15 states in the US, alone, offer some sort of rebate, this can be a significant external influence.
In addition to tremendous energy savings, running pumps at lower intervals have multiple benefits, including:
• Better filtration
• Incredibly quiet operation
• Less stress lengthens equipment life
• Longer filter cycles keep chemicals in circulation longer
Technological advances in calculating energy savings is another factor in the increasing popularity of VSPs. There are many online apps and energy calculators that can make energy saving calculations that are customized to the individual. We have updated our Energy Solutions Calculator to include all of our VSPs, featuring a “virtual” user interface based on each VSP model.
To use the Energy Solutions Calculator, pool pros and owners start by simply choosing their state of residence. The app then estimates parameters that the user can adjust to their specific situation. These options include: horsepower of current pump; average daily run time of pool; rate currently paid for electricity (in dollars per kilowatt-hours); size of pool in gallon; and approximate length of pool season.
Using this information, the app will demonstrate how much can be saved in energy costs by switching to a variable-speed pump and other energy solutions. Users can even test a simulation of the pumps actual control panel, allowing them to adjust the pump to different speeds by simply sliding the app buttons to view actual savings when operating the pump at different speeds. This further helps users appreciate the tremendous energy savings potential when running pumps at lower speeds.
Ultimately, we will raise pool owner’s and operator’s awareness of what is possible in terms of both energy and cost savings. How much do you know about the variable-speed pump trend?