Hayward EcoStar VS Pentair IntelliFlo
The Hayward EcoStar VS Pentair IntelliFlo is the holy grail of pool pump comparisons. Hayward and Pentair are the two biggest pool equipment manufacturers and the EcoStar and IntelliFlo are the flagship pumps from each brand respectively. This essentially makes the comparison between the IntelliFlo VS EcoStar like the heavy weight title championship of the swimming pool world. If you can identify which is better, the EcoStar VS the IntelliFlo, then you can essentially designate the winner as the best pool pump on the market. This is, of course, an oversimplification as there are many high quality, lesser known brands such as Speck Pumps. While there are many other legitimate variable speed pumps available, some of which are highlighted in this article on pool pump reviews, the two most popular variable speed pool pumps, bar none, are the IntelliFlo and the EcoStar.
What makes the EcoStar and IntelliFlo so popular?
The main reason why the EcoStar and IntelliFlo pumps dominate the current residential pool market is simply that they were the first variable speed pumps available. For a period of a few years when variable speed pumps were first introduced to the market there was only one option from each company - The IntelliFlo from Pentair (which came first) followed by the EcoStar from Hayward shortly thereafter. Now, in 2017 and 2018 (when this article was written), each equipment manufacturer has a dozen or more variable speed pool pumps available. What started as a single pump designed to replace the modern day filtration pump has transformed into a booming industry with dozens of application specific variable speed pump models available. The logic of a one-pump-fits-all scenario makes sense with these large 2 and 3 HP pumps. They are big enough for even the largest swimming pools or high flow water features, while smaller pools can still use them simply by turning down the motor RPM. This is true to a certain degree. In reality many pools, especially small swimming pools and old swimming pools, lack adequate plumbing to handle the monsterous flow that both the EcoStar and IntellFlo can produce.
Hayward EcoStar SP3400VSP 2.7HP variable speed pump
US shoppers buy this pump from Amazon.com
Canadian shoppers buy this pump from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca
Pentair IntelliFlo, 011018 / 011028 3HP variable speed pump
US shoppers buy this pump from Amazon.com
Canadian shoppers buy this pump from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca
I suspect, that looking forward five or ten years into the future, we will see the EcoStar and IntelliFlo become less popular as other pumps from these same manufacturers grow in popularity. This is due to the fact that pools, in general, do not need a pump as powerful as the EcoStar or IntelliFlo for filtration. Property value is expensive, and so are swimming pools (both construction as well as maintenance costs), so swimming pools are getting smaller on average. The IntelliFlo and EcoStar are super powerful pumps as far as the average backyard swimming pool goes. Unfortunately swimming pool owners tend to think that "bigger is better" when it comes to pool pumps, which can actually get you further from your goal of efficiency. There is some truth to this idea that a bigger pump is a better pump, especially when we are talking about a variable speed pump where you have rheostatic control over the motor RPM, however there is concern for these pumps being too large.
Filtration and circulation pumps are the best pumps to replace with variable speed models for maximum return on investment. This allows you to run your filtration system on a low RPM which results in an exponential reduction in the energy used to operate the pump. The concern is that, as far as most swimming pools go, something around a 1 HP pump would be plenty large enough to easily handle the filtration and circulation requirements for many sizes of pools. Usually if you are looking at a 1.5 HP pump then this is large enough to circulate almost all sizes of residential swimming pool.
By the time you have a 2 HP pump you need to be concerned about starving the pump for water if you do not have at minimum 2" suction lines. So what happens in many cases is that pool owners have had their filtration pump fail, and they replace it with either the EcoStar or the IntelliFlo. The concern is that these pumps are 2.7 HP and 3 HP in size and they are very powerful as far as pool pumps go. Many pool owners have learned this the hard way, installing an EcoStar or IntelliFlo on a system not adequately sized to handle pumps this large, and this results in early equipment failure of the pump and filter. This is not a problem with these pumps - this is a problem with how people are using them. If you are looking at the EcoStar or the IntelliFlo then you need to make sure you meet the following criteria:
Minimum Pipe Sizing For IntelliFlo & EcoStar - Two inch suction, equipment pad and return pipes should be the minimum size of plumbing lines that you should have if you want an EcoStar or an IntelliFlo. Many pool owners do not appreciate just how limiting pool plumbing line size is for these pumps. Either the EcoStar or IntelliFlo could easily handle triple 4" suction lines. In fact, having much larger flow potential like this is how you go about getting the most efficiency out of the plumbing design. Having a single 2" suction and return pipe really reduces how much performance you can get out of either of these pumps. This is why using these pumps on 1.5" plumbing systems is just not recommended. Even having two 1.5" suction lines is not enough to use either of these pumps. If you have 1.5" plumbing then you would need, at minimum, three 1.5" plumbing lines that connect into a 2" suction manifold.
* You should also double check the maximum designed flow rate for your filter as the EcoStar and IntelliFlo are powerful enough to damage some filters. Sand filters are specifically a concern since they have a much lower maximum designed flow rate than cartridge or D.E. filters of a similar size.
Is The EcoStar Or IntelliFlo More Efficient?
When you compare the efficiency of the IntelliFlo VS EcoStar you will need to understand a little about how this efficiency is actually measured. The information here was generated from the California Energy Commission online tool where they have tested, and made public, consumer appliance energy efficiency performance data. In the situation of pool pumps, each pump was tested under three specific conditions. These are known as curve A, curve B and curve C. Each of these represents a plumbing configuration similar to what you might find on a real world residential pool plumbing system.
Curve A - This configuration simulates a 2" suction line and a 1.5" return pipes where equipment is adjacent to the pool
Curve B - This configuration represents 1.5" suction and return lines plus location of equipment is twice as far away as Curve A
Curve C - This configuration represents both 2" suction and return pipes, a more efficient version of Curve A
In a real world setting Curve A might represent a modern era swimming pool that is smaller, but still has two inch suction lines. Curve B is similar to what you might see in an 40 year old swimming pool. Often these pools have only a single 1.5" suction and return pipe which results in much higher head pressure (resistance to flow) than what Curve A or Curve C have. Curve C was added at the request of equipment manufacturers as Curve A was still very limiting on variable speed pump efficiency and the manufacturers wanted to be able to showcase the energy efficiency advantages of their pumps when installed on more adequately sized plumbing systems. In addition to testing each pump for specific flow rates, each pump is assigned an efficiency factor based on power consumption versus flow potential. A higher efficiency factor number indicates a more energy efficient pump.
Hayward EcoStar Energy Factor
Curve A = 2.12
Curve B = 1.53
Curve C = 2.53
Pentair IntelliFlo Energy Factor
Curve A = 1.81
Curve B = 1.33
Curve C = 2.12
This comparison was made from the full speed pump test, and you can also compare mid range RPM tests as well as low speed RPM tests however the RPM range for the IntelliFlo VS the EcoStar is different and this can make comparing the direct energy factors of these tests less insightful. By comparing both pumps on the maximum RPM setting you can get a good feeling for how these pumps compare. In this case, the EcoStar appears to be slightly more energy efficient that the IntelliFlo under each of the tested conditions.
Which Pump Moves More Water - IntelliFlo VS EcoStar
In the above example we used the California Energy Commission appliance efficiency information to determine that when tested under the same system conditions, the Hayward EcoStar is slightly more efficient than the Pentair IntelliFlo. The same Energy Commission tool also provides information about the flow rates of each of these pumps under different motor RPM speeds. This is another great tool for directly comparing the performance of the EcoStar versus the IntelliFlo. For this comparison each of these pumps were tested at maximum RPM (3450) as well as a lower RPM setting, 1000 RPM for the EcoStar and 775 RPM for the IntelliFlo. This difference in RPM settings is due to the fact that the IntelliFlo has a lower minimum RPM setting (450) as compared to the EcoStar (600).
Hayward EcoStar Flow Volume (3450 RPM)
Curve A = 71 GPM
Curve B = 42 GPM
Curve C = 98 GPM
Pentair IntelliFlo Flow Volume (3450 RPM)
Curve A = 74 GPM
Curve B = 44 GPM
Curve C = 100 GPM
Hayward EcoStar Flow Volume (1000 RPM)
Curve A = 20 GPM
Curve B = 12 GPM
Curve C = 28 GPM
Pentair IntelliFlo Flow Volume (775 RPM)
Curve A = 17 GPM
Curve B = 10 GPM
Curve C = 22 GPM
*Hayward EcoStar Maximum Flow Rate (Theoretical) - 160 GPM
*Pentair IntelliFlo Maximum Flow Rate (Theoretical) - 145 GPM
What this comparison shows more than anything else is just how comparable these two pumps really are. While there are some slight differences in the motor RPM for the lower RPM test, and some marginal flow differences in the full RPM tests, it can be said that these two pumps are very comparable. The EcoStar can, at least in theory, provide more flow than the IntelliFlo under optimal conditions. Under real world testing the larger IntelliFlo motor is able to deliver more flow, with a small cost of slightly less efficiency. What is lost on most pool owners is the fact that both of these pumps are so energy efficient that they obliterate any single speed pump by comparison. Even if you do not factor in that VS pumps can reduce RPM which has an exponential reduction on the energy they consume, a new variable speed pump running on full RPM will still be much more efficient that a similarly sized single speed pump.
Difference Between The EcoStar & IntelliFlo
If nothing else, the energy efficiency and flow rate comparison for the IntelliFlo VS EcoStar above simply highlights how similar these two pumps are. So other than in name and appearance, how are these pumps different? Again, the California Energy Commission appliance testing information can provide some clarity in this regard. The first and most noticeable difference is that the EcoStar is a 2.7 HP pump where the IntelliFlo is a 3 HP pump. Even this, however, can be confusing. The IntelliFlo is not actually a 3 HP pump, though it does perform like one. The IntelliFlo is a larger pump that has been regulated down to 3 HP performance but in theory is actually capable of more than what it is designed to do on your pool. In a way you could say that the IntelliFlo is overbuilt, which may sacrifice a tiny amount of efficiency as a result, but this incremental loss in efficiency also arguably provides a big jump in longevity.
Pump Service Factor - The service factor of an electric motor is one of the ways in which pool pump manufacturers have "played with the numbers" to make their product sound better than it actually is. For example, a 1 HP pump with a service factor of 1.65 is the exact same as a 1.5 HP pump with a service factor of 1.10. Both of these pumps have the exact same brake horsepower of 1.65 HP. Service factor is defined as the percentage of overloading that a motor can tolerate for short periods of time. When you look at the service factor for the EcoStar VS IntelliFlo you can start to see the ways in which these pumps are different.
Hayward EcoStar Brake HP
Rated HP = 2.70
Service Factor = 1.0
Brake HP = 2.7
Pentair IntelliFlo Brake HP
Rated HP = 3.0
Service Factor = 1.32
Brake HP = 3.96
When compared in this way it is easy to see that the EcoStar and the IntelliFlo are not the same after all. The IntelliFlo is a larger pump, capable of periods of operation of almost 4 HP. This is quite a bit higher than the EcoStar with a rating of 2.7 HP. Indirectly, what this indicates to me is that the IntelliFlo is a more rugged motor, capable of handling higher periods of energy use, and ultimately heat. Heat is the big killer of electric motors. Having a larger motor capable of higher levels of heat dissipation as part of normal operation strikes me as being a definitive advantage in a pool pump and I would expect that this would pay dividends in terms of pump longevity...and for the most part this is what happened.
Which Lasts Longer - IntelliFlo VS EcoStar
Longevity is the great equalizer when it comes to comparing pool pumps looking for the best deal. The amount of return you will get for your investment in a variable speed pump will be directly tied to how long your new pump lasts for. Manufacturer projections place the average pool pump service life at between 5 - 10 years with seven years being the most common lifespan. With proper installation, regular care and maintenance, as well as if you balance your water chemistry properly, then you can hope to get much longer than this out of your new pool pump. It is when these larger variable speed pumps are installed on inadequate systems, or pools with active deficiencies, that you see them fail early.
The question of longevity is the great unknown quantity when trying to compare the IntelliFlo VS EcoStar. There is no hard data to support, one way or another, that either of these pumps will outlast the other. Instead, the best that you can do is look at anecdotal evidence as well as comparing technical features such as the service factor which might help to indicate that one pump is more rugged than the other. Based on my experience in the pool and spa industry I feel that Pentair might have a slight advantage when it comes to longevity with the IntelliFlo VS the EcoStar. Even though I lean slightly towards Pentair in this regard, it should be noted that both the EcoStar and the IntelliFlo are both high quality - these two pumps represent the "top of the pile" in terms of high quality pool pumps and I do not want you to mistake my slight leaning towards Pentair pump longevity as a mark against Hayward...not at all in fact. Typically speaking, in my real world experience working on pools as well as through this website, I tend to promote Hayward more than any other brand - Pentair included. It is only for this particular question of comparing the EcoStar to the IntelliFlo that I tend to think that Pentair will last longer. The fact that the IntelliFlo is overbuilt for the application results in a pump that can handle a little more real-world adversity. If for no other reason, residential swimming pool plumbing systems are often poorly designed, and the IntelliFlo motor, with a higher service factor, may be better equipped to handle these adversities without sustaining damage over time.
Other Variable Speed Pump Options Other Than EcoStar & IntelliFlo - Regardless of whether you choose the EcoStar or the IntelliFlo for your pool, you have my strong endorsement that these pumps are the very best overall value in large filtration VS pumps. If you are looking for more reviews you can read these pump reviews to see what other options you should be considering other than the EcoStar or IntelliFlo. While these are the two most popular variable speed pumps on the market today, they will probably not be one day. Slightly smaller VS pumps (closer to 1.5 HP) are much more suitably sized to the average residential swimming pool filtration system as opposed to the gigantic 2 and 3 horsepower EcoStar and IntelliFlo VS pumps. If you have a deep 18x36' pool or any 20x40' or larger pool then the EcoStar and IntelliFlo are more suitable options, but if you have a 12x24', 15x30' or 16x32' pool then you might like to consider one of the smaller, entry level variable speed pumps such as the Hayward Super Pump VS, Hayward MaxFlo VS, and Pentair SuperFlo VS. My personal favorite pump, and the one that i recommend to the most swimming pool owners, is the Hayward TriStar variable speed pump which is "right sized" at 1.85 HP for almost any residential pool filtration system.
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