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Pentair IntelliFlo Review

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Pentair IntelliFlo Variable Speed Pump This page is a Pentair IntelliFlo review article to help you decide if this is the best variable speed pump for your pool. The IntelliFlo is the flagship pump from Pentair which comes in over 10 different model options. If you are not familiar with the different models of IntelliFlo you can read this article on Pentair pool pumps to see some of the different versions of this pump available. Pentair does not offer 10 different variable speed pool pumps, instead they alter the IntelliFlo to fit new pump applications, such as with the IntelliFlo i1 and IntelliFlo i2 which are still IntelliFlo pumps, but they have been throttled down to one and two horsepower respectively.

While there are many versions of the IntelliFlo VS pump to choose from, this review covers the most popular model version, the 011018 / 011028 (previously the 011013) which is also called the VS 3050. While there are many different versions of IntelliFlo available, the 011018 traditionally has been more popular than the rest of the IntelliFlo lineup put together. If you are looking to buy an IntelliFlo but are not sure which one to buy, then you are most likely looking for the 011018 IntelliFlo version. In 2018 the 011018 IntelliFlo model number is being retired, and the new model number for this IntelliFlo pump (including an updated drive unit) will be 011028. The flow efficiency for the 011018 and the 011028 are identical otherwise.

You can also see a comparison of the EcoStar versus IntelliFlo variable speed pumps as these are, by far, the two most popular VS pumps on the market. If you have already decided that a Pentair variable speed pump is what you want then you might like to see their two most popular models compared in this review of the IntelliFlo versus SuperFlo. If you are still not sure which brand of VS pump you want then start at the beginning with these variable speed pump reviews to see the most popular brand, makes and models of VS pumps you should be considering.

Pentair IntelliFlo
Horsepower: 3
Max flow: 145 GPM
Part Number: 011018 / 011028 (formerly 011013)
US shoppers buy this pump from Amazon.com
Canadian shoppers buy this pump from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca

Why Should You Buy The 011018 / 011028 IntelliFlo - There is a definitive advantage to buying the most popular product from a product line. This will mean that you will always have easy access to replacement parts, as well as no trouble finding experienced service technicians for service and repair one day in the future. You will also benefit from the most research and development since manufacturers obviously devote a great deal of resources towards their most popular products. Finally, you will also benefit from the lowest possible pricing since the more of a single product you manufacture, the cheaper you are able to manufacture it for. If you price compare all of the IntelliFlo models you will most likely find the 011018 IntelliFlo to be the most affordably priced as well as the most widely available. While this is likely to change since Pentair continues to improve their already impressive pump offerings, knowing the history of the 011013, 011018 and now 011028 IntelliFlo pumps can help to make a decision for which pump you are most interested in.

Pentair IntelliFlo Flow Rates

If you shop for a pool pump based on the horsepower rating then you are sure to not get what you think you are getting. Horsepower is a very poor number to look at as it can be altered while still being "technically accurate" because the pump "service factor" can be changed to make the pump sound more powerful than it is. To make sure that you are getting what you are paying for it is a much better idea to look at numbers which are not easily manipulated. By looking at the actual flow rate that a pump produces, as well as the amount of electricity the pump uses to generate this flow, you can get a very good baseline to compare other pumps against.

The best information available currently for comparing these values has been provided in the California Energy Commission Appliance Audit. In this report pool pumps were tested under three distinct flow configurations called Curve A, B and C. Curve A is supposed to mimic a typical pool system, and Curve B represents a less efficient pool system with smaller plumbing lines and more resistance to flow. At the request of equipment manufacturers Curve C was also added which models a more efficient swimming pool system than Curve A. While none of these conditions will precisely match your unique pool installation, this should give you enough information to make an informed decision about the IntelliFlo, especially as it compares to other similar pumps.

Pentair IntelliFlo VS 011018 / 011028
Motor RPM = 3450
Curve A = 74 GPM
Curve B = 44 GPM
Curve C = 100 GPM

Pentair IntelliFlo VS 011018 / 011028
Motor RPM = 775
Curve A = 17 GPM
Curve B = 10 GPM
Curve C = 22 GPM

Pentair IntelliFlo VS 011018 / 011028
Motor RPM = 450
Curve A = 10 GPM
Curve B = 6 GPM
Curve C = 14 GPM

Why does the flow rate of the full RPM Curve C not equal the maximum flow rate of 145 GPM that is listed for the IntelliFlo? This is because the testing is trying to simulate real world conditions. The flow rate of 145 GPM is based on the calculated ideal values. In a real world setting the pump will experience energy losses to friction and turbulence as well needing to overcome resistance to flow in the system such as the filter. The main factor that prevents the IntelliFlo from achieving higher flow rates in these tests is because the 2" pipe size simulated in Curve C is still too small to realize the full potential (and power) of the IntelliFlo. If you were to increase the pipe size for the Curve C test to be larger than 2" then you would see even higher flow numbers. All pool pumps are affected by pipe size limitations in the same way however larger pumps like the IntelliFlo suffer the most efficiency loss when trying to run them at full speed. While none of the large class of variable speed pumps can perform well on 2" pipe, the IntelliFlo perhaps is the best suited to deal with this as the oversized motor and high service factor of this pump make it more robust than other similar pumps with lower service factors when it comes to opposing the flow restriction (head pressure) in a pool system.

How Energy Efficient Is The Pentair IntelliFlo

Pentair IntelliFlo Pump If you are going to spend twice the price of a single speed pool pump to get a high tech variable speed pool pump then you want to make sure that you will get a reasonable return on your investment. The good news is that upgrading from an older single speed pump to a new variable speed pump like the IntelliFlo is actually one of the fastest returning, and highest returning, investments you can make in your home. Variable speed pumps are so much more efficient than their predecessors that the Department of Energy will soon require by law that all swimming pool filtration pumps are variable speed. If you have read the information from the VS pump manufacturers you have already seen claims about how variable speed pumps can save you up to 90% of the electricity you spend to operate your pump. To help pool owners understand exactly how a VS pump saves you money, and exactly how much you can expect to save, I wrote this article on variable speed pump savings to help you understand why VS pumps are so much better, and how much you can expect to save over the service life of the pump based on a real-world filtration schedule. The numbers are pretty convincing to say the least.

There are two ways in which the same California Energy Commission report data shows how efficient the IntelliFlo is, and these are the power (Watts) that the pump uses for each Curve, as well as an energy factor number which is a calculation based on the flow and the energy consumption combined. The calculation used to determine the energy factor in this report was the flow (in gallons per minute) multiplied by 60, then this is divided by the power (in Watts). The higher the number, the more efficient the pump is said to be, and the lower the number, the less efficient. It is worth noting that the three curves used in these tests are modeled after real world conditions, however they do not represent the maximum potential of each pump. For example, even the Curve C test, which represents the most efficiently designed plumbing system of the three curves, does not allow the IntelliFlo to run in the most efficient way possible. If you were to build a pool using larger suction and return lines than 2" and test the IntelliFlo on this, the performance curve, maximum flow rates and energy factor would all show improvements over these numbers. You can however, using this information as an insight into pump performance, compare the IntelliFlo to any other variable speed pumps that you are considering. This still is not a perfect method to determine the "best pump" however it does allow some insight into the actual abilities of the pump under various conditions. For the average, each of the three curve values were added together and the total was divided by three.

Pentair IntelliFlo VS 011018 / 011028
Motor RPM = 3450
Average Power = 2426 Watts
Average Energy Factor = 1.75

Pentair IntelliFlo VS 011018 / 011028
Motor RPM = 775
Average Power = 88 Watts
Average Energy Factor = 11.03

Pentair IntelliFlo VS 011018 / 011028
Motor RPM = 450
Average Power = 101 Watts
Average Energy Factor = 5.91

As we saw in the EcoStar VS IntelliFlo comparison the IntelliFlo is able to provide as much, and even more flow than the EcoStar (the main competitor of the IntelliFlo) under some flow conditions. What is noteworthy in this comparison is that the IntelliFlo is less efficient across the board for all three test conditions. The reason this is has to due with the way these pumps have been designed for their application. Sure they both move a similar amount of water, and they are both variable speed pool pumps, but the way in which the manufacturer achieved the end result is quite different. For example, the EcoStar has a 2.7 HP motor with a service factor of 1.0. To find the true horsepower, multiple the rated horsepower by the service factor. In the case of the EcoStar, 2.7 x 1 = 2.7.

The IntelliFlo however is rated as a 3.0 HP motor, with a service factor of 1.32. Doing the same calculation you can see 3.0 x 1.32 = 3.96 horsepower. When you look at the numbers like this the IntelliFlo is almost 1.5 times as much pump than the EcoStar is. The question is...do you consider this to be an advantage?

How Long Will An IntelliFlo Pump Last?

If you are going to get a financial return on your investment in a variable speed pump like the IntelliFlo then you definitely want it to last a long time before is needs major service or replacement. So how long should a pool pump last anyway? Manufacturers state that pool pumps should operate for about seven years on a seasonal schedule, or about half this amount in areas like Florida where pumps operate year round and the blazing sun requires high levels of circulation to keep water clear.

If you install your pump in such a way as to minimize the wear and tear, such as installing a pump motor cover to keep the blazing sun off the motor, as well as observing industry best practices for flow dynamics, then you can likely expect to get even longer than this. In my experience, the vast majority of variable speed pumps that I have encountered that have failed early were almost all installed on systems with major deficiencies in the plumbing system and plumbing orientation. If you want to learn more about how to install pool equipment correctly you can watch this 50 part video series I made reviewing pool equipment installations. You can also read this article about why pool pumps overheat to learn more about pump installation errors, which was picked up and published by Aqua Magazine as a two part series in 2017.

If you want to know how long an IntelliFlo pump will last then another way to answer this question would be to say, "as long or longer than most, if not all other similar pool pumps". Now that, right there, is a bold claim. Perhaps the IntelliFlo is not the best variable speed pump on the market, and maybe it won't last the longest...but it might. Most swimming pool industry professionals consider Pentair to offer some of the highest quality pool equipment in the business. The IntelliFlo is not only the flagship pump, but the flagship product, for Pentair pool and spa division. It is hard to definitely say that the IntelliFlo is the best, because there are pump manufacturers out there that you have probably never heard of, such as Speck Pumps, who manufacture some extremely high quality products. Also companies like Hayward with the EcoStar (and other variable speed pumps) as well as Jandy (Zodiac) variable speed pumps, all hold a huge market share. Still, if you are a consumer that wants high quality equipment and you are trying to find something that most people would agree is high, if not highest quality, then the IntelliFlo is a solid choice for sure.

What Is The Pentair IntelliFlo Warranty?

Much like the other major manufacturers of swimming pool products, Pentair has received a lot of backlash from their dealers due to pool owners purchasing products online for as low as a contractor is able to purchase for through approved distribution channels. Pool equipment manufacturers have responded to this by developing different product lines that you can only purchase from an authorized dealer as well as changing the warranty protection period for products that are purchased online. In order to qualify for longer than a 60 day warranty when you purchase an IntelliFlo you will need to have the pump installed by a "professional". Fortunately Pentair is pretty loose with who they consider to be a pool professional, and their online warranty information says this:

A qualified installer is defined as a licensed professional who charges a fee for his services, and possesses a business license, contractor's license and/or resale permit. Common examples of a "qualified installer" include: Swimming Pool, Home Repair or Landscape Professional; Plumber or Electrician; General Contractor; Heating and Air Conditioning Specialist.

As you can see this leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and after speaking with all of the pool equipment manufacturers that have similar warranty and installation policies, the manufacturer is not so much concerned with who installs the pump, so long as there is some kind of paper trail that shows someone with some relatable skills has installed the pump. While I understand the logic of needing some kind of guidelines to qualify for warranty, you would have a pretty hard time convincing me that your average landscaping professional knows enough about flow dynamics to be able to install an IntelliFlo better than, say, a retired mechanical engineer who does not want to pay a premium for work that is lower quality than they can perform themselves. Such is the conundrum of limiting warranty coverage for products that are sold online. It would seem to me that a protected price point would be better for pool professionals, pool owners and equipment manufacturers, and this is something that I have written about previously in this article about buying pool equipment online.

Extended Warranty - If you purchase and install a minimum of three pieces of Pentair equipment, by a qualified professional, then you may actually be able to get up to three years of warranty coverage. You can find more information about equipment bundle offers from the Pentair warranty webpage.

If you are decided on Pentair for your new variable speed pump but still are not sure about which model then you can read this article about the two most popular VS pumps from Pentair, the SuperFlo VS IntelliFlo comparison. You can also read this article that explains the 10 different Pentair IntelliFlo models. You might also like to take a look at this review of the two most common variable speed pumps in the pool industry, the IntelliFlo versus EcoStar compared side by side. For an overview of all the VS pumps that you should be looking at for your pool you can read the main variable speed pump reviews article, and if you are still too overwhelmed to decide which pump is best for you then you can also contact Steve directly for some assistance.

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