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Pool pumps - switching to a variable speed pool pump can dramatically reduce energy costs

When looking for the fastest and cheapest way to reduce energy consumption, (remember that low-hanging fruit?) homeowners could do worse than starting outside. Swimming pool pumps are often overlooked during a home energy audit, but replacing older single-speed pumps with modern variable speed models can result in impressive savings. The typical single speed pool pump consumes 3000 to 5000 kWh per year.

According to a 2008 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), there are more than 4.5 million in ground residential pools in the United States, and they consume between $1.1 and $1.6 billion in energy costs per year. Energy use will differ because of variations in swimming season length, energy rates, whether or not (and how) pools are heated, and other environmental factors. However, the NRDC has estimated that, nationwide, residential in ground swimming pools consume between 9 and 14 billion kilowatt hours (kWh).

Almost all of the electricity consumed by the pool is used by the pump and filtration system. As recommended by the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the pool pump and filtration system has to be robust enough to cycle the entire volume of pool water through the cleaning system every 6 hours. To enable this "turnover" rate almost all pools were equipped with a 1.5 horse-power single-speed pump with an induction motor and typical efficiencies of 35 to 70 percent. By comparison, a variable-speed pump can achieve efficiencies in the 90s using 1 hp motors and a wide range of energy saving features like programmable run times.

The accompanying chart shows basically that swapping out a traditional pool pump with a variable speed programmable pump can net savings for the home owner comparable to retrofitting a home to ENERGY STAR standards.

Considering a new pool pump can easily be installed for less than $2,000, maybe the most effective choice for a home energy upgrade might have nothing to do with the house.

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