What Is The Cheapest Pool Pump?
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You need a new swimming pool pump but, without mixing words, you want the cheapest pump you can find. It's not that you want a piece of garbage, but more that you just don't have the money for a more expensive pump right now. As a pool and spa specialist this is a situation that I am all too familiar with. In the quarter century plus I have been selling pool pumps, no pool owner has ever said to me that they need a pump and are looking to spend a lot of money.
If I have done my job well, then I would be able to convince you that a variable speed pump actually does end up costing you less money overall than a lower priced single speed pump. A variable speed pump does cost more upfront, and this deters a lot of shoppers, but since they cost substantially less to operate you end up spending less once you factor in both upfront cost as well as electricity bills over a period of time. The only real question is how long that period of time is before you end up ahead financially versus if you buy a less expensive single speed pump. To see a detailed breakdown of this cost equation you can read this article about how much can you save with a variable speed pump.
But this article is not about variable speed pumps. Let's assume that you do not want a variable speed pump for some reason. It could be that you do not agree with the mathematical breakdown and examples that I provided in the variable speed pump article. Or perhaps you agree, but you simply can not afford the upfront cost for a variable speed pump no matter how much it saves you. Maybe you agree completely that a variable speed pump would probably be better. Maybe you would love to get one even...but you simply can not afford one. In that case the information on this page will help you make the next best selection for your pool pump.
Which Pool Pumps Cost The Least?
When it comes to picking the best pool pump for your specific needs there are some basic concepts that you need to be aware of. Choosing the right pump can be a little counterintuitive and many pool owners will end up making a bad decision that will almost certainly come back to haunt them in the future. There are a lot of pitfalls with pool pump shopping, and honestly, this is why professionals exist.
You are really not supposed to be able to make a truly informed decision on the size, make and model of pump that would be best for you. That is why professionals exist, who have put time into learning how to size a pump for a pool, how to size the pump to the rest of the equipment, and then how to adequately compare one pump to the next. Here are some examples of things that pool technicians would do that the average pool owner might not know when shopping for a new pump.
Two Speed Motors - The entire concept behind variable speed pumps being so great can be boiled down to the simple concept that when a motor RPM reduces by half, the electrical demand drops to 1/8th the full RPM value. As the RPM's reduce there is a logarithmic reduction in energy use. While a dual speed pump is not as versatile as a variable speed motor with full rheostatic control, having the ability to reduce the RPM by half gives you a very important advantage over a one speed pump. In short, single speed pumps really move more water than pool filtration systems need. Running a dual speed pump 90% of the time on low speed will be enough filtration time for most pools, and will cost substantially less than a single speed pump in a similar installation. The answer to whether a two speed pump is your best option will depend on your budget and your expectations of long term efficiency. A dual speed pump usually costs a fair bit more than a single speed pump, but still a little less than an entry level variable speed pump. You should price out the single speed pump, dual speed pump, and variable speed pump so that you can make an informed decision about cost versus performance for the three options available to you.
Choose The Lowest Horsepower - The biggest trap in buying a new pool pump, and guys I am looking at you here, is buying a pump with too much horsepower. This is not an episode of Home Improvement, and you do not need to buy a pump large enough to turn your pool into a wave pool. More horsepower is literally the opposite of what you want in a swimming pool filtration pump. Horsepower does not move more water. Horsepower eats electricity. If you buy the biggest horsepower pump then you literally are choosing the most money-eating pump available to you. It may even end up breaking your other pool equipment also because it is so "awesome" that it is blowing the crap out of everything on the pressure side of the pump...doesn't that sound great? Pool pipes are actually super undersized for optimal flow. 1.5" and 2" pipe, which is what 95% of pools have, is drastically undersized when compared to how powerful a pool pump is. In theory, for a pump to be able to realize its full flow capability the pipe size would need to be 4" or even larger in size. With 1.5" or 2" plumbing on your pool you would scarcely be able to get the most out of a 0.75 horsepower pump let alone that "monster flow" 2 horsepower pump you are looking at...so buy the smallest horsepower pump that will still meet your flow requirements. In short, your flow requirements should be three times the volume of your pool should be able to be pumped every 24 hours. For more information about flow rate calculations you can read this article on how to size pool pumps and filters.
Turning Your Pump Off Part Of The Day - The oldest "tried and true" method for saving money on running your pool pump is to simply turn the pump off for part of the day every day. Pool owners who are concerned with saving on electricity costs often run their pump for only 12 hours every day. So is this good enough? In most cases, yes, absolutely. Pool pumps typically can exceed the filtration requirements for a pool very easily such that turning it off for 12 hours every day will still see enough filtering time that the water will remain clear. The best way to set up your system to run like this is to buy a pump with a built in timer, or you can also install this external timer to automate the process of turning your pump on and off.
Where pool owners go wrong is just not doing enough research into what makes a good pool pump good, and how to make an informed decision for your pool. If you start shopping with nothing in mind other than the price tag you are almost certainly going to get hosed. It defies all logic to make a purchase decision that will cost you that maximum possible amount of money and deliver you the least possible potential benefits...and yet that is what most pool owners do when they shop for the "cheapest pool pump".
Good Pool Pumps That Are Affordable
A cheap pool pump is not hard to come by...but you don't want a cheap pump - you want an affordable pump. There is a HUGE difference between these two statements. I understand completely if you just can not justify the upfront cost of a new variable speed pump. What I can not understand is if you bought an off-brand pump that is a clone of a very popular name brand pump. The knock-off version of the name brand pump better be 90% less money because it is going to be at least 90% not as good as the real thing. If you buy an off brand name pump and you save $30, $50 or $100 then you got absolutely screwed.
It is really hard to build a pool pump. There is a lot going on inside of there, and a lot of moving parts that operate within minimal specifications while combating friction, heat, chemical damage, environmental factors...companies like Hayward, Zodiac and Pentair have been making pool pumps forever and they still occasionally run into product failures, recalls, or products with shorter than expected longevity. The chances that a knock-off pump will give you any kind of reasonable longevity is essentially none. As a pool and spa professional I do not give the off-brand equipment the time of day. I would not sell it, install it, service it or repair it. But that is just me and I am sure other industry professionals would have other opinions, though I do feel my opinion would fall into the majority. If you want to save money on a pump then save it by choosing the next model down the product line, or by buying a less feature rich pump, but you should avoid saving money by purchasing inferior off brand pool pumps.
So what constitutes a name brand? Hayward, Jandy, Zodiac, Pentair and Sta-Rite all represent the "Big Three" pool equipment manufacturers. Zodiac owns Jandy now, and Sta-Rite has been under the Pentair banner for decades. So does that mean there are no other good pump options other than these? No, absolutely not. There are totally legitimate options that are outside of these main pool equipment manufacturers, however there are also a lot of complete garbage pumps on the market as well. Here are some examples of pool pump manufacturers that make reliably good products, maybe even better than the big three manufacturers, that you might not have heard of.
Speck Pumps - Speck pumps have been in Jacksonville Florida for over 35 years, but the company origins begin in 1909 - that is a lot of experience building pumps! Speck pumps represent the highest quality of pool pumps that money can buy and based on my experience I would not hesitate to recommend a pool owner to buy one of their products. My only concern as a pool technician would be that the parts are not nearly as common as with Hayward, Pentair or Zodiac replacement parts. I can find no other fault in their products other than the inconvenience of needing to wait for parts delivery any time you need something. If you are not happy with the "throw away" approach to consumer products that most manufacturers seem to have these days, then I suggest you look into Speck Pumps as an alternative.
WaterWay Pumps - WaterWay pumps are one of the lesser common names that you will encounter working in the field, but still a name that you do see occasionally. WaterWay Plastics offers a diverse product line of white goods, as well as consumer equipment like automation systems as well as pool pumps. While I did not use these pumps in my day to day business as a pool contractor, I would occasionally see them on clients pools, and the WaterWay name is well known and established in the pool and spa industry with their products being designed, engineered and manufactured in the USA. If you are looking for an affordable pool pump that is not one of the big three names, then avoid random one-off companies and go with a product from a established manufacturer like WaterWay.
Where I really start to object as a pool professional is when you suggest a pump brand that I have never heard of before. I have spent my entire adult life, and more of my childhood than legally allowed, working on pools. If I have never heard of a particular brand of pool pump then you should probably view this as a pretty big red flag. While I certainly do not know everything, and perhaps there are lots of good pumps I have never heard of, but my logic is that if it really were such a good deal, then I would have probably heard about something like that by now. More likely that you are staring down the barrel of a very poor decision and you should strongly consider upgrading to a more recognizable brand or pump...unless you want to be back here one year from now researching buying pumps again since yours died...again.
Best Cheap Pump For Above Ground Pools
Still working with the assumption that I have given up on trying to get you to upgrade to a variable speed pump, because you need to spend less money right now to get your pool up and running again, even if it does end up costing you more in electricity use down the road. You want to pick a pump that is capable of turning over the entire volume of your pool up to three times daily.
Even if you don't plan to filter your water this much, it is prudent to pick a pump that can do this. In the event that you end up with a persistent algae problem then you might need the ability to filter the water this much, and three turnovers represents the accepted industry standard for how much you might need to filter your water in a residential setting. Any time that you encounter a problem with water quality in your pool you should begin running your pump 24 hours per day until the water quality issue is resolved. You do not want a pump that lacks the ability to filter your water enough as this would leave you chronically having difficulty keeping your pool clean.
Pool volume in gallons multiplied times three (10,000 gallons x 3 = 30,000)
Divide by 24 (30,000 / 24 = 1250)
Divide by 60 (1250 / 60 = 20.8)
A 10,000 gallon pool would require 20.8 gallons per minute to filter the pool volume three times in a 24 hour period
In the above example 24 was used and this would assume that you run your pool pump for 24 hours every day. If you plan to only run your pool pump 12 hours per day, for example, then the same equation would look like this:
Pool volume in gallons multiplied times three (10,000 gallons x 3 = 30,000)
Divide by 12 (30,000 / 12 = 2500)
Divide by 60 (2500 / 60 = 41.66)
This is the process by which you would calculate how much flow you need your new pool pump to have in order to meet your specific flow requirements within whichever filtration window of time you choose. In reality very few pool professionals, let alone pool owners, take the time to make these calculations, however that does not make the number any less valid. The best way to save money is to buy a variable speed pool pump, but the next best way is to buy a small and efficient pump that is sized well for your system and run it on a reduced filtration schedule. If an efficient 1/2 horsepower or 3/4 horsepower motor can meet your minimum flow requirements then why would you buy a more expensive two horsepower pump that provides far too much flow and consumes way too much electricity?
This Intex 2500 GPH Pump represents the standard arrangement for temporary, and entry level, above ground pool systems. Unlike more permanent swimming pool installations, the pump and filter for entry level above ground pools often come paired together and you simply choose based on the total gallons per hour flow rate that you require. So for example this 2500 GPH setup would be enough for 60,000 gallons every 24 hours of run time. This would equate to being suitable for pools up to 20,000 gallons in size but I would NOT install this on anything more permanent than a "throw away" pool. These pumps are also available in various sizes and flow rates such as 330 GPH and 1000 GPH as well.
This Intex Pump & 16" Filter combo is good for up to 2450 GPH which will filter about 60,000 gallons in 24 hours or 29,400 in 12 hours. If you have a large above ground pool then this is one of the systems that you would consider. Intex is Walmart quality pool equipment. It is cheap to buy and will probably do what you need it to do, but do not expect it to last forever, and every now and again you should not be surprised to find your brand new one is missing parts or is dead on arrival. This is just what the entry level looks like in the world of pool equipment. If you want a little more reliability than Intex, which I recommend you consider, then you should look towards a higher quality and name brand product.
There are different classes of above ground swimming pools, and this can muddy the waters, no pun intended, when it comes to pool owners trying to research what pump to buy. For example, you can have a 15' round above ground pool that cost you $100 for the entire pool. You can also have a 15' above ground pool that cost the better part of $5000 or $10,000 to install. You really need to qualify the difference between a throw away, single season pool, versus a high quality pool installation that happens to be located above the elevation of the surrounding grade. If you have a pool with inflatable walls, one piece construction, or a single return pipe, then maybe the cheaper Intex equipment is suitable for your pool. For anything else, I strongly recommend looking at a pump with a little more reliability and performance.
The Hayward Power-Flo LX Series would be my first recommendation to a pool owner with a modest above ground pool installation who is looking to replace their pump for cheap. While the Power-Flo LX is not the most efficient pump, apples to apples, it is the one with the lowest price tag (from the name brand vendors). This pump comes in both a 1.5 horsepower as well as a more affordable 1 horsepower version. The 1 horsepower version can move up to 86 GPM and the 1.5 horsepower model can move up to 91 GPM.
The Pentair Dynamo pool pump is an entry level above ground pool pump from one of the most trusted names for quality swimming pool equipment. The 1 horsepower version of the OptiFlo is capable of 82 GPM, and so is the 1.5 Horsepower version of this pump - which should tell you a lot about just how much horsepower ratings have to do with how much water a pump will move. These things can be very misleading if you are not careful.
What is the difference between an above ground pool pump and an inground pool pump? - An above ground pool pump is different than an inground pool pump in a few different ways. Typically speaking, above ground pumps are lighter duty, will move less water, and are able to overcome resistance to flow less well than a similarly sized inground pool pump. In addition to this, many areas require that above ground pool pumps come complete with an electrical cord end and plug directly from the manufacturer. This means that you are not supposed to alter the electrical connection for the pump in any way. If you order an above ground pool pump you can expect that it will come with a cord, and be 120v compatible. Once you start looking at inground pool pumps you will need to hardwire the electrical connection once the pump arrives on site, and you will likely also be presented with the option of 120 volts and 240 volts for the electrical connection for the pump.
You should not get an above ground pool pump for an inground pool. I know it seems like it should be fine...both pumps are a one horsepower pool pump so what is the difference? Well, it might not be to code in your area, though I understand not all people will really be concerned with this. Above ground pumps will not be very good at priming versus an inground pool pump. An above ground pump is designed to work below the height of the water level in your pool. This basically means the weight of the pool water pushes water through the skimmer pipe and right into the pump. An inground pump has the opposite situation where it needs to lift (with vacuum) the weight of the water in the pipe in order to pull it all the way to the pump. If you have a tiny pool, and your pump is located right next to the pool, or if you have an onground pool (partially buried below grade) then you might be able to get away with using an above ground pump...but for everyone else with an inground pool looking to cut a corner, I would advise you not to go this route.
Best Cheap Pump For Inground Pools
If you have an inground pool then the flow dynamics unique to your pool require you to buy an inground pool pump. It can be tempting to purchase a cheaper above ground pool pump, but this would be an example of one of the pitfalls associated with shopping for a cheap pool pump. It seems like a totally legitimate way to save some money, but more likely than not you will be shopping for a new pump again much sooner than you should be.
If you want to save money, then save money intelligently. If I had to install the cheapest possible pump for an inground pool that I felt confident would actually perform as advertised, for as long as advertised, then I would be looking at one of these popular models:
The Hayward MaxFlo XL pool pump is one of the first pumps I will refer a client to if they want to spend the least possible money upfront, but they do not want to just throw their money away. This is a very popular model from Hayward that has a very low upfront cost, relatively, while still moving an impressive amount of water. By the same metric as the above ground pool pumps listed above (20 foot head resistance), the 1 horsepower MaxFlo XL can move 95 GPM. If you drop to the 0.75 horsepower then the flow rate drops off sharply to 63 GPM.
The 0.5 horsepower Pentair SuperFlo is a very good choice for small, efficient single speed pumps when used for filtration systems. Both the 1/2 horsepower and the 3/4 horsepower Pentair SuperFlo have the same performance curve and will both move 70 GPM at 20 ft of head. A smaller pool with the equipment near to the pool and no significant elevation differences between the pool and equipment could use the half horsepower version. Otherwise the 3/4 horsepower version is the safer bet. A low horsepower motor with good flow characteristics like these pumps is the best you can do other than looking at dual or variable speed pumps. Pentair has the reputation of being high quality for pool equipment and I would feel confident to recommend this brand, and this pump, to any pool owner.
There are literally hundreds of pool pumps on the market and each one has a specific application that it has been designed for. The ones I have listed here are ones that I would feel confident to present to clients if they were looking to spend as little as possible on their new pump, but still expected a professional quality product in terms of both performance and longevity. You definitely get what you pay for, and if you really were worried about spending money then you should almost certainly buy a variable speed pump for your pool. There is no getting away from the fact that variable speed pumps cost more, but the math behind how much money they save is irrefutable. Still, not everyone is ready to take the plunge into variable speed, and traditionally single speed pumps have been used to filter swimming pools for decades...if you pick one of the ones on this page then you can be reasonably sure that you are getting what you are paying for, and avoiding the pitfalls that many pool owners encounter when pump shopping.
To see the flow rate for every brand, make, model and horsepower rating of single speed pool pumps compared side by side you can read this pool pump comparison review article.
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