7 Things to Consider When Upgrading to a Variable Speed Pump

Maintaining your pool can seem like a daunting task, especially when it comes to selecting the right pump. A pool pump is the heart of the pool's circulation system and plays an important role in keeping the water clean, clear, and free of contaminants. Upgrading to a variable speed pump for your saltwater pool system can not only help you save money on your energy bills but also provide better control over your pool's water flow, resulting in a cleaner and healthier pool.

In this article, we'll explore 7 factors to consider when upgrading to a variable speed pool pump, including determining the right size of pump for your pool, choosing the correct horsepower, understanding your pool's turnover rate, selecting the right voltage and wire size, and more. Whether you have an inground or above-ground pool, read on to learn how to choose the best variable speed pump for your pool.

1. Is Your Current Pool Pump Working?

IF NO, upgrading to a variable speed pump (VSP) is a no-brainer. While the upfront cost may be higher (compared to buying another traditional single speed pump), the energy savings and improved performance of a VSP will pay for itself in the long run. Plus, with a VSP, you'll enjoy a quieter, more efficient pool system and potentially extend the life of your pool equipment.

IF YES, it's still worth considering an upgrade to a VSP. The energy savings can add up quickly, making it a worthwhile investment. With a VSP, you’ll benefit from a more efficient pool, extend the life of your pool equipment, and reduce noise levels. Plus, with the ability to adjust pump speed and flow rate, you can better tailor your pool system to your needs and preferences.

2. Getting Maximum Energy Efficiency

When it comes to energy efficiency, variable speed pool pumps are the way to go. These pumps use a different type of motor, known as a permanent magnet TEFC motor, which is more efficient than the motors used in single or dual speed pumps. Additionally, VSPs can be adjusted to provide just the right amount of water circulation that your pool needs without any waste, and are controlled more easily, which adds up to significant energy savings over time.

For example, let’s say you have a 25,000 pool and the suggested turnover rate for this size pool is 24 hours. A single speed pump running at 3,450 RPMs, with a flow rate of 66 GPM, would take about 6 hours to turn over the pool and use approximately 12.6 kWh (kilowatts per hour). In comparison, a variable speed pump set to 22 GPM would take about 19 hours to turn over the pool but only use 2.2 kWh, resulting in a total energy savings of up to 82.5%*. Over the course of a year, this could translate to hundreds of dollars in savings on your energy bill - not to mention improved pool system performance since the water is able to remain circulating for longer.

*Savings based on Energy Star savings calculator with 2.0THP variable-speed pump compared to a 1.5HP single-speed pump running US average run times and energy costs on a 20,000 gallon pool as of 2023. Actual savings may vary based on local utility rates, pool size, pump run time, pump horsepower, pump RPM, plumbing size and length, pump model, service factor and/or other local or hydraulic factors.

Energy Efficiency

When shopping for a pump for your pool, be sure to look for Energy Star certification or a high-efficiency rating to ensure maximum energy savings. Additionally, consider using a pool pump size calculator to determine the right pump for your specific pool and usage needs.

3. Choosing the Right Size

Choosing a variable speed pool pump requires more consideration than just selecting based on horsepower, as was the case with older, single-speed pumps. While a "ballpark" approach to selection might work for some, careful forethought can help maximize the energy-saving benefits and operational improvements that variable speed pumps offer.

Did you know that selecting a variable speed pool pump entails more than horsepower-based choices?

The pump is the core of the swimming pool system, thus sizing it accurately is crucial as all other components depend on its operation. An adequately sized pump ensures effective chlorination, filtration, and overall safety of the pool. Insufficient pump flow or turnover can compromise sanitation, filtration, and other pool equipment operation.

With variable speed pumps, the goal is to choose a model that can accommodate the pool's minimum and maximum flow requirements. This guide aims to illustrate how to determine these needs, compare pump efficiency, value, and features, and select the right pump without resorting to complex calculations.

What you need to know about speed pool pumps?

We wrote a guide on what you need to know about VS pumps that simplifies the process while taking an in-depth look at what you need to consider before buying a pump.

4. Compatibility and Replacement

It’s also important to consider compatibility and replacement options when choosing the right pool pump. The good news is that VSPs can often be a drop-in replacement for existing pool pumps, which means you may not need to replace any other equipment when making the switch. This can save you both time and money.

It's helpful to know the model of your current pump when looking for a replacement VSP. Some VSP models are specifically designed to replace certain older models of single-speed pumps, such as the Speck Badu Pro-V, which can replace the popular Hayward Superpump.

Speck Badu Pro Series variable speed pump can replace:
  • Hayward Super Pump
  • Pentair SuperFlo
  • Sta-Rite Super Max
CircuPool SmartFlo Series variable speed pump can replace:
  • Pentair Intelliflo
  • Pentair Whisperflo
Waterco Infinium Series variable speed pump can replace:
  • Hayward Super Pump
  • Pentair SuperFlo
  • Sta-Rite Super Max

Finally, you don't have to stick with the same brand or model that you currently have for your current pump, filter, salt chlorinator, or other pool system components. There are many high-quality VSP options available on the market that will work with your pool and existing equipment. Be sure to do your research and consult with a pool professional to find the best VSP for your specific needs and setup.

5. Electrical Requirements

When it comes to upgrading to a variable speed pump for your pool, it's important to consider the electrical requirements of the pump you’re interested in purchasing. One of the key factors to consider is the voltage requirements for your new pump. Most VSPs require a 220-volt power supply, as this is the most efficient voltage for the motor. However, if your current system is set up for 110 volts, you’ll often still be able to find a VSP that works with your existing setup.

If you're currently using an automation system or third-party control system for your pool pump equipment, it's important to ensure that it is compatible with your new VSP if you want your automation system to be able to activate the pump’s setting beyond just turning it on or off. Some control systems may require wiring adaptor kits to allow them to communicate with the onboard controls of your new pump using low-voltage wiring such as RS-485.

Finally, check if you’re using a timer or control system as your power source. A variable speed pump should be connected to power 24/7 and a timer would no longer be necessary since it could shut it off, overlapping with the pump’s programming.

Overall, it's important to ensure that your pool's electrical system has what it needs to work with your new VSP before making a purchase. Once you’re ready to buy, consult with a pool professional or electrician to ensure that you have the appropriate voltage, wire size, and other electrical requirements for your new pump.

6. TEFC Motors and Horsepower

One of the reasons variable speed pool pumps are more energy-efficient than traditional single or dual speed pumps is because they use a different type of motor, called a permanent magnet TEFC (Totally Enclosed Fan-Cooled) motor. Unlike traditional induction motors, which use brushes to create magnetic fields, TEFC motors use a magnet and a copper coil to create a magnetic field that turns the rotor.

The use of TEFC motors in variable speed pool pumps leads to significant energy savings. They can be turned down and controlled more effectively, allowing them to operate at lower speeds and use less energy. Additionally, because TEFC motors do not have brushes, they are more durable and require less maintenance than traditional motors, resulting in a longer lifespan.

Since this type of motor allows variable speed pumps to be turned down and operate across a wide range of RPM’s, it's important to consider this difference when selecting the horsepower of your new variable speed pump. The goal is to be able to run it at low speeds for most or all of the day in order to provide plenty of pool circulation while using minimal energy, so typically you are going to choose a variable speed pump with a higher horsepower motor than you might currently have with an old single speed pump. Higher horsepower motors are also necessary if you have added or plan to add other pool system components with higher flow rate requirements, such as solar heaters, in-floor cleaning systems, pool water features, and the like.

To determine the appropriate horsepower for your pool pump, you can consult a pool pump sizing chart or use a pool pump sizing calculator. These tools take into account factors such as the size of your pool, the desired flow rate, and other hydraulic factors that impact water flow (such as the length and diameter of your pool's plumbing system). By selecting the right size variable speed pump, its TEFC motor will allow you to maximize energy efficiency and minimize operating costs while still maintaining optimal pool circulation and filtration. Fortunately, variable speed pumps allow such flexible operation and customization to how they are able to run, that variable speed pump models are able to be used in a wide range of circumstances as long as they are able to meet the minimum overall flow rate requirements.

7. Increasing the Longevity of Other Pool Equipment

When you use a variable speed pump for your pool, the entire system is often under less pressure, leading to less wear and tear on the pool equipment. This can have a significant impact on the lifespan of your pool filter and other equipment, ultimately saving you money in the long run.

In fact, according to industry experts, using a variable speed pump for your pool can extend the lifespan of your pool equipment by up to three times compared to traditional single-speed pumps. This is because VSPs operate at a lower RPM for the majority of the day, reducing the overall strain on the equipment and allowing for more efficient and gentle circulation of water.

In addition, using a variable speed pump for your pool can help prevent costly repairs and replacements. For example, if your pool pump motor burns out, it can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace. With a VSP, however, the lower RPMs reduce the risk of the motor burning out, leading to fewer repairs and replacements. In fact, the TEFC motor that variable speed pumps use are typically designed so that no regularly scheduled motor maintenance is required, unlike traditional pump motors.

Overall, using a VSP can greatly improve the longevity of your pool equipment and save you money in the long run. So even though a VSP may require a higher upfront investment, the potential savings over time make it a smart choice for any pool owner.

Common Questions About Choosing the Right Pool Pump

Selecting an appropriate pool pump is crucial in maintaining the cleanliness and proper balance of your pool. You’ll need to know the following to choose a pool pump:
  • Pool Capacity: Volume of water in your pool. Use our tool to help calculate your pool’s size.
  • Flow Rate: the amount of water that passes through the pump each minute.
  • Turnover Requirements: The number of times all of the pool’s water passes through the filter each day.
  • Total Dynamic Head (TDR): the amount of resistance the water encounters as it moves through the circulation system.
The nature of these calculations can be tricky, so we’ve made it easy by providing a detailed guide on choosing the right pump for your pool along with a pool pump size chart that can help you choose your pool pump.
Sizing a pool pump requires you to think strategically about the unique aspects of your pool. Ideally, you want your pool’s water to pass through the filter 1-2 times a day to help keep your water clean and properly balanced, more if your pool is used more heavily.

Consider these 3 things when sizing a pool pump to achieve the desired turnover rate:
  • Pool Capacity: Volume of water in your pool. Use our tool to help calculate your pool’s size.
  • Minimum Flow Rate: The amount of water that passes through the pump each minute.
  • Total Dynamic Head (TDH): the amount of resistance the water encounters as it moves through the circulation system.
Visit the pool pump size chart and our complete guide on choosing the right pump for your pool for a comprehensive look at sizing your pool’s pump. Don’t forget, we’re here to help if you need expert advice on pump sizing.
The amount of horsepower needed for your pool pump depends on factors such as pool size, desired flow rate, and total dynamic head (TDH). When upgrading to a variable speed pool pump, it won’t be the same as your old pump. Use a pool pump sizing chart or pool pump sizing calculator to determine the appropriate horsepower for your specific pool and requirements.

Remember that a higher horsepower motor may be necessary for larger pools with higher flow rate requirements. However, by starting with high horsepower and running it at a lower setting, you’ll ultimately save on energy costs.
The average lifespan of a variable speed pool pump varies depending on the type of pump and how well it is maintained. A high-quality variable speed pool pump should last a minimum of 3 years but can last as long as 10 with proper maintenance, which includes regular cleaning, inspection, and lubrication.

A VSP pool system is under less pressure, so there’s less wear and tear, which not only improves lifespan, but it also improves energy efficiency. It is also essential to follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule to ensure a long-lasting and efficient pump.
Variable speed pool pumps offer several benefits over traditional single-speed pumps. They are significantly more energy-efficient, quieter during operation, and have a longer lifespan. With a variable speed pump, you can adjust the pump's speed to match your pool's needs, which can save you money on energy costs. Additionally, variable speed pumps reduce wear and tear on the pump motor, extending its lifespan.

A variable speed pump also improves your filters performance, since pressure is reduced and sediment is not being forced as hard through the filter media. It is also more difficult generally for sediment and debris to accumulate on the pool floor and walls since a variable speed pump allows the water to be circulating for longer times during the day.
The recommended voltage for a variable speed pool pump is typically 220-240 VAC. Pump motors generally are more efficient at higher voltages, and the most advanced variable speed pump motors require 220V. Some 110V model variable speed pump models are available, and if 220V is not an option for your pool system they are still usually worth it compared to continuing to use an inefficient variable speed pump. But if a 220V power supply is available or is an option for the pool system, that would usually be preferable for a variable speed pump.
Calculating the turnover rate for your pool with a variable speed pump requires two components - the volume of water in your pool divided by the flow rate of your pump, measured in gallons per minute (GPM). For example, a pump that provided 40 GPM would need to run 6.67 hours on a 16,000 gallon pool to provide 1 pool turnover (16000 gallons / 40 GPM / 60 Minutes per hour = 6.67 hours). So to achieve an ideal of 2 turnovers per day, the pump would run at that setting for 13.33 hours.

However, the flow rate that any pump model will provide is going to based on your pool’s unique hydraulic factors, its Total Dynamic Head (TDH), which is roughly speaking the pool system’s overall resistance to flow. If you know your pool’s TDH, you can look at the pump model’s Performance Graph to see what GPM it will provide. You can calculate your pool’s TDH by measuring some aspects of your pool system and using a standard TDH worksheet. If you are just starting your initial research, you can also roughly consider that a typical TDH range of in ground pools is often 50-60, and 25-30 for above ground pools. You can also consult with a pool professional to measure and calculate your pool’s TDH.

Alternatively, you can directly measure your pool’s flow rate, which is one of the most simple and accurate ways to approach the issue. You can do this using a relatively inexpensive device called a flow meter, which will also help you optimize your new variable speed pump’s programming.

Still Need Help Determining the Right Pump for Your Pool?

When determining the right pump for your pool, as you’ve learned, there are many important things to consider. If you need help ensuring that you’ve selected the right pump, at Discount Salt Pool we're here to help. Our team of experts has years of experience in the pool industry and can help guide you through the process from start to finish.

We can help you understand everything from determining the appropriate pool pump and filter sizing to choosing the right horsepower. With our assistance, you can be sure that you're making an informed decision and that your pool will be running smoothly and efficiently.

Contact Discount Salt Pool today and let us help you make your pool the envy of the neighborhood!

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