Pool users rely on pumps and the motors that power them to keep their water clean. While people of all ages have enjoyed backyard pools for decades, rules regulating pool pumps are relatively new. The U.S. Department of Energy established the first national energy efficiency standards for Dedicated Purpose Pool Pumps (DPPP) in 2017. These standards, which mandate variable speed technology, impact most in-ground pools. Pumps for smaller in-ground pools, above ground pools and pressure cleaner boosters are not affected.
How Variable Speed Pool Pump Motors Make a Difference
For a few hours each day, pool pumps need to operate at a high speed to provide a high flow rate for mixing and cleaning. For the rest of the day, the pump just needs to circulate the water through the filtration system at a low flow rate.
A single-speed motor will operate at one speed for as long as it is powered on. There are benefits to variable speed pool pump motors . A variable speed motor can power a pump at different speeds, depending on timing or application. The DOE estimates variable-speed pumps can cut energy usage by about 70 percent over single speed pumps. Variable speed pump motors can operate at a lower speed for the rest of the day when the pump is circulating water for filtration.
Replacement Pool Pump Motors
A pool pump motor is just one component of a DPPP. As a part of a system, the motor could fail before the variable speed DPPP needs to be replaced. It is possible an unknowing homeowner or contractor might replace it with a single-speed replacement motor. Placing a single-speed motor inside a variable speed pump would negate the benefits of the variable speed pump.
A DPPP motor covers any motor certified to UL 1004-106 and/or designed or marketed for use as a DPPP motor replacement. This applies to motors manufactured in the United States or imported.
The scope exempts six types of pool pump motors:
- Polyphase motors capable of operating without a drive (and distributed in commerce without a drive);
- Waterfall pump motors;
- Rigid electric spa pump motors;
- Storable electric spa pump motors;
- Integral cartridge-filter pool pump motors; and
- Integral sand filter pool pump motors.
These exemptions align with the DPPP standards.
Impacts to Homeowners and Distributors
While DOE issued the requirements in 2017, they took effect in July 2021. Since then, new pool installations and replacement DPPP require a variable speed pump and motor.
There are benefits for pool owners and the environment. While variable speed pumps may have a higher initial cost, the will save money in the long run. The energy-efficient operation of variable speed motors will provide payback. DOE estimates average life-cycle cost savings for owners of in-ground pools of $2,140 with a payback of less than one year.
When the regulation took effect, existing inventory of non-compliant pumps were still permitted to be sold and installed. Replacement variable speed motor rules are still pending and discussed below.
Status of the Pending Rules
Department of Energy
The next step is for the DOE to adopt stakeholder recommendations and issue a Direct Final Rule. Enacting this legislation would effectively close the replacement motor loophole. This would set a prescriptive standard that all pool pump motors on the market must meet. And it would be effective regardless of whether the motor is sold with a new pool pump or as a replacement. The anticipated DOE “Motor Rule” is likely to be adopted in 2022. However, the effective date is uncertain.
California Energy Commission (CEC)
The California Energy Commission has two rules affecting pool pump motors. Both of these rules were effective July 19, 2021.
- CEC Title 20 Section 1605.3(g)(5) requires any motor used for residential filter pump applications and manufactured before July 19, 2021 that is greater than or equal to 1.0 THP be replaced with a two-speed or variable speed motor.
- CEC Title 20 1605.3(g)(6) requires any motor used for replacement dedicated-purpose pool pump motor on all residential and commercial applications and manufactured on or after July 19, 2021 that is greater than or equal to 0.5 THP be replaced with a variable speed motor.