Your pool pump runs for several hours each day of the year. It is often the second biggest energy hog in a Southwest Florida pool home (after air conditioning). Your pool pump is important because circulating water in your pool both filters it and disburses sanitation chemicals evenly throughout it. You might wonder about the possibility of using a solar pool pump to circulate your pool water. It is an excellent idea, but may not be the most practical solution.
There are solar pool pumps on the market, and we did sell them at one point. Most solar pool pumps work on a solar-direct principal. That means they connect directly to solar electric panels that turn an efficient DC pump at a speed relative to the amount of sunlight hitting the solar panels. Some employ batteries or utility electric backup. They provided a decent long-term return on investment, and required no electricity to operate.
There are some downsides to solar pool pumps that caused us to start recommending another alternative:
- Because the output of a solar-direct pool pump is variable based on the amount of sunlight, the amount of circulation varies, causing features like waterfalls and spillovers to not work well.
- Variable output makes vacuuming pools difficult, and some automatic suction cleaners do not work well when solar conditions are poor.
- Maintaining the same pool water turnover requires quite a number of solar panels.
- The initial cost of solar pool pumping systems is very high, especially if adding options like battery backup or utility backup transformers.
Most importantly, an alternative emerged. Variable speed pool pumps are AC powered pumps that can be set to virtually any speed to obtain a desired flow rate. Variable speed pump are paired with an integrated Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) that allows the pump speed to change on demand. Because of the way a centrifugal pump works and the physics involved, running the pump at lower speeds reduces flow, but the energy use reduction is exponential. On top of that, variable speed pumps come with motors that are inherently more efficient and longer lasting DC brushless permanent magnet motors.Variable speed pool pumps have recently become very popular in Florida because they meet new energy efficiency requirements in the Florida Building Code. While they cost more than single or two-speed pumps, they pay for themselves in energy savings very quickly.
Variable speed pump manufacturers claim that their pumps can save up to 90%. That’s not really practical or realistic, especially for people who heat their pool and need higher flow rates for heating and features. Regardless, the savings from a variable speed pool pump are unquestionably great, and the cost of a variable speed pool pump is far less then that of a solar pool pump. For less than 1/4 the cost of a solar pool pumping system, you can get a variable speed pump. While you won’t save 100% of your pumping costs, it will be a far more practical investment. With less money out of pocket, better performance, and more flexibility, a variable speed pool pump is our current alternative recommendation if you are considering a solar pool pump.