SP32900VSP / SP32950VSP Comparison
Recently the pool industry saw the introduction of the "Hayward Expert Line" of pool equipment - dealer exclusive products that are advertised to only be available through brick and mortar stores and established pool industry professionals. These products are advertised to contain upgraded parts and features, and have unique model numbers to identify them. Most importantly these expert line products are offered with additional warranty coverage over the open-line version of the product. This enables pool owners to benefit from longer warranty protection by shopping from established dealers and distributors. The dealers and distributors in turn benefit by not having to compete with rock bottom internet pricing by offering a unique product that internet savvy pool owners can not find for sale online...in theory.
There is currently a pricing war being waged which threatens to change the swimming pool industry completely. This is a subject that I have written about previously in this article about buying pool equipment online which attempts to show how the pricing model for swimming pool equipment is changing. In effect, pool owners are buying equipment online, like pumps, for the same price (and sometimes even less) than dealers and distributors can purchase the same product for. For many products, even swimming pool professionals buy them from Amazon.com since the price available to everyone on Amazon is actually lower than dealers can purchase for through protected wholesale distribution channels. This, to say the least, makes a lot of pool industry professionals upset.
There was a time in this industry where pool owners simply could not buy pool parts and equipment directly. The place where I would buy all of my pumps, filters and heaters from would occasionally also sell to customers directly, but my price was usually about half as much as the pool owner would be charged. This was enforced heavily and if the distributor sold to a customer at wholesale price they would receive an earful from contractors and dealers like myself. This way of doing business, to be sure, is gone. We are now so far removed from this way of doing business that pool owners, in fact, have access to better pricing than pool industry professionals get through wholesale.
Many people actively working on pools today are frustrated with this since it severely limits their ability to run a profitable business. Especially the older generations who remember "the good old days" of big, cushy margins on pool equipment struggle to adapt to the new margins for pool equipment sales. The situation is reaching critical mass and this has caused some changes to come in effect. Most recently, the big three equipment manufacturers all offer an exclusive line of products not available online. This is something that Jandy has done for a while but the line is newer for both Hayward and Pentair. It was my interest in these exclusive products that lead me to compare these new SP32900VSP and SP32950VSP TriStar variable speed pumps to see exactly what pool owners are getting out of this deal. The literature provided by Hayward for these pumps indicates the following upgrades:
1) An upgraded Viton seal. (Viton is a brand of synthetic rubber commonly used in O-rings)
2) An extended warranty coverage period (Versus the open-line version of the same product)
So now brick and mortar pool stores and swimming pool dealers have a product that they can offer to you which you can not simply turn around and buy on Amazon for much cheaper. If you want the expert line version of the product, and the upgraded benefits, then you need to buy it from a pool dealer. Since Amazon prices are lower than many wholesale buying prices you can expect that any trade grade or expert line products will be more expensive than similar products that you can buy online. So if you are going to pay more, and help preserve the margins of pool stores and dealers, then what exactly are you getting for your money?
Viton Seal - A viton seal is an upgrade from the standard seal that the other variable speed pumps come with through the open line of products from Hayward. Since seal leaks are one of the most common service points for pool pumps the logic from Hayward is sound...if you are going to offer longer warranty then you might as well offer a higher quality component that is known to require service. The standard seal assembly part number for any of the EcoStar and TriStar pumps is SPX3200SA which sells on Amazon for around five dollars. The SP32900VSP and SP32950VSP both use a different part number, SPX3200SAV which indicates the Viton seal. The cost for this seal is around five times as much money.
Extended Warranty - This is the meat-and-potatoes of this pump comparison. When you buy a dealer exclusive piece of pool equipment, in effect you are paying for additional warranty protection. While the pumps have unique part numbers, as well as a few unique features, they are essentially the same pump that is offered through the open line which is available to the public directly. Depending on where you are located the dealer exclusive equipment can have either three or four years of protection. This is much longer than the standard one year that pool equipment normally comes with assuming that you endeavor to have it professionally installed. Without a receipt proving "professional installation" of the equipment many manufacturers reduce pump and other pool equipment to 90 days, 30 days, or sometimes simply zero warranty protection at all. The question then becomes whether the extra warranty protection is worth the additional cost.
SP32900VSP / SP32950VSP Comparison To SP3202VSP TriStar / SP3400VSP EcoStar
If you want to compare the benefits of the dealer exclusive Hayward variable speed pumps to other open line products from Hayward then this will be very easy to do. The Hayward TriStar SP32950VSP variable speed pump is simply a rebranded EcoStar - their flagship pump - which in turn has now been rebranded again to be the TriStar 2.7 HP (SP3206VSP). The pump is identical except for the upgraded Viton seal, as well as the extra warranty that is offered through the dealer exclusive program. Otherwise this is the exact same pump, at least as far as I am able to tell.
The SP3400VSP EcoStar has been the flagship pump from Hayward for years. It is a great pump and I even previously awarded it the distinction of being the best overall VS pump in my review of variable speed pool pumps. In some areas the EcoStar already has an enhanced warranty period to help promote sales although this is not available in all areas of Canada and the USA.
The EcoStar name has been discontinued and changed to the TriStar 2.7. There are still EcoStar units new for sale but eventually they will all be replaced with this TriStar 2.7 HP name.
Other than the differences in name, part number, shaft seal and warranty protection - the TriStar SP32950VSP is the same pump as the EcoStar (and also the same as the TriStar 2.7). If you are not concerned about warranty protection, or are satisfied with the warranty that you get with a professionally installed EcoStar, then it might be a tough sell to upgrade to the dealer exclusive version. If the price were $50 different, or $100, or even $200 more then possibly the SP32950VSP is worth the additional investment. However if you can buy an EcoStar online for less than $900 then how much value does the extended warranty and upgraded shaft seal actually have? There is no question that the SP32950VSP is better...the question is how much better.
The SP3202VSP TriStar variable speed pump offered through the open line of products from Hayward is similarly identical to the dealer exclusive TriStar SP32900VSP. Much as with the EcoStar and SP32950VSP comparison, these pumps have been rebranded into a version which you can not buy online with only minimal differences between the models. Again the seal is upgraded to the Viton seal and the warranty coverage available is longer. Otherwise the SP3202VSP and the SP32900VSP are identical pumps.
Again, is the additional warranty protection worth the extra cost of buying the dealer exclusive version of any of these pumps? The answer to this will depend on what your priorities are as a consumer. As a pool contractor myself I would have preferred to see more differentiating features to really set the dealer exclusive products apart. I also would have expected to have trouble finding these "dealer exclusive" products for sale online...which I did not. The other two variable speed pumps available in the expert line from Hayward proved to be much harder to find for sale online. While there were some listings for the larger two TriStar pumps, the entry level VS pumps from the expert line, the SP23510VSP and SP23520VSP were not available through any online retailer I was able to find. So which ones are these?
The expert line MaxFlo variable speed pump, SP23520VSP, is based on the SP2303VSP MaxFlo pump. Similar to the larger VS pumps in the expert line, these upgraded pumps come with a Viton shaft seal and an extended warranty, but otherwise are identical to the lower priced open line version of the MaxFlo pump. The SP23520VSP is the 230 volt version of the MaxFlo VS (SP2303VSP) and this is not the right pump if you have only 115 volt power service to your pump location.
The Hayward SP23115VSP MaxFlo is the open line version of the 115 volt SP23510VSP expert line pump. Again, the pumps are almost the same except for the upgraded Viton seal and the extended warranty that these pumps are offered with. If you only have 115 volt power available to run your pump then you will be very limited in terms of options for new VS pumps. This pump (both SP23115VSP and SP23510VSP) will be one of your best options from Hayward and represents the very most entry level brand name VS pool pumps on the market.
There might be more differences between the open line and the expert line versions of these VS pumps...but if there is then I was not able to readily find it. If you are a pool owner considering purchasing an expert line product then be sure to ask your dealer about the benefits. As far as I can tell, the only physical difference between these pump lines is the $5 SPX3200SA shaft seal being upgraded to a $25 SPX3200SAV shaft seal. As a consumer the real value in the expert line products comes with simply having a longer warranty protection period.
Buying Dealer Exclusive Pool Equipment Online
All of the literature produced by Hayward for their dealer exclusive products advertises strongly about these products not being available online. A quote pulled directly from the 2017 Hayward Expert Line sell sheet reads, among other things, :
"Expert Line means advanced, trade-exclusive products homeowners can't buy online".
While I like this idea in theory, and I do feel that pool professionals should have their product margins protected, I looked today to see if this was in fact true. As of August 2017 I was able to locate both the SP32950VSP as well as the SP32900VSP for sale through multiple online retailers. Notably none of these were Amazon.com which had no listings for these part numbers. Amazon.com represents the largest source for consumer direct products at rock bottom prices. While it may be tough for manufacturers to prohibit sales of their products online due to the sheer number of online retailers that exist, they can (and apparently do) make sure the big ones (like Amazon) are not selling these. Still, of the online retailers I did find selling these pumps there was one which stood out.
I found both the SP32900VSP as well as the SP32950VSP for sale on multiple online stores, auctions and classifieds including Kijiji and EBay as well as a number of smaller online retailers that you can find with just a little bit of looking. These are most likely small volume stores and dealers looking to capitalize on the limited market for these pumps online. Who knows if Hayward would honor the extended warranty that should come with these pumps when purchased through an online retailer (assuming the consumer could prove professional installation and otherwise meet warranty requirements). If you purchase from a small enough place then you might be able to sneak through the cracks so to speak...but what about major retailers selling these online?
I was able to find both the SP32900VSP and SP32950VSP for sale here at Sears.com where you can order one and pay for it online and Sears will ship it out to you. I have a hard time believing that Sears is trying to get away with selling something online which they are not supposed to. It seems more likely that they have reached an agreement where they are able to carry these "dealer exclusive" products and they make these available online. Since the marketing behind the expert line from Hayward talks about dealers educating customers as to the advanced features and functions of their equipment, it seems counterintuitive that Sears should be able to sell these.
Important Note On Pricing - It is certainly worth mentioning that the dealer exclusive pumps that I was able to find online were all priced much higher than the open line version of these pumps available. Though the information from Hayward says these pumps are not available online, yet they are, at least the price is nowhere near to the rock bottom prices available through Amazon for the nearly identical open line SP3202VSP TriStar or SP3400VSP EcoStar (SP3206VSP TriStar 2.7). This is really the heart of the matter - pool industry professionals do not care that a customer can buy a product online...they care that the customer can buy the same product for as cheap, or cheaper, than an industry professional can buy for. The expert line of exclusive products are a good idea, but are the small differences between the open line and the expert line products enough to make pool owners pay more and shop dealer exclusive?
For further reading please check out these variable speed pump reviews which compares every major brand and model of variable speed pump side by side. If you are not convinced about variable speed pump technology yet then consider checking out this article that breaks down the cost equation to show you exactly how a variable speed pump saves you money and how much you can realistically expect to save by buying one: How much money can you save with a variable speed pump.
If you are a swimming pool industry professional, dealer, contractor or brick and mortar store I would love to hear some of your comments on this situation at the bottom of this page.
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