Variable Speed Pool Pump Reviews
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This page is a long form buyers guide for variable speed pool pump reviews. If you need a much shorter version of this article, with less technical details to sift through, you can switch to the abbreviated variable speed pump reviews page.
If you are shopping for a single speed pump read the single speed pump reviews and buyers guide section that covers both above ground as well as inground pool pumps. If you are looking for information about variable speed pool pumps then you will find everything you need contained on this (lengthy) page.
In the world of variable speed pool pumps the major three brands are Pentair, Hayward and Jandy. Pentair was the first company to introduce the concept of a variable speed pump to the market and many pool experts would argue that the Pentair IntelliFlo is the highest quality pool pump on the market. Hayward released the EcoStar variable speed pump and Jandy released the FloPro VS shortly afterwards to compete in the market for extremely energy efficient pool pumps that are dramatically quieter than their traditional single speed counterparts.
Variable Speed Pumps Save Money - More detailed information about how much money can you save with a variable speed pool pump
All of the big three variable speed pump manufacturers advertise up to 90% electrical savings when compared to full rate single speed pool pumps. While this statement may be a tad on the optimistic side once you actually get one of these pumps installed on your pool the reality is that the cost savings from these pumps is more than noticeable. Based on my field experience I tend to see customers saving between 50% TO 70% off what they had been paying previously for pump electricity. The concept is very simple actually in that a pump that you can set to run just enough to meet your minimum turnover rates will be more energy efficient than a single speed pool pump.
A single speed pool pump can either run all day and provide way more flow than your filtration system actually needs - OR - you can turn it off completely at least part of the day to reduce the turnover but this leaves your pool not filtering during these periods which is bad for a number of reasons. This, however, is flawed logic that is missing one huge, critically important piece of information: pump affinity laws
You can read more in depth about pump affinity laws in my article about why you should buy a variable speed pump but the take away is this: When you reduce a pump motor RPM by half, you reduce the energy consumed operating that motor by eight times. The lower you run the RPM, the more drastic and noticeable the reduction in energy consumption is. Running a single speed pool pump for only a few hours uses more energy than running a VS pump on low RPM for a week or more running 24/7.
A variable speed pump is not an improved, or more efficient pool pump. A variable speed pool pump is like getting rid of your old car that gets about 25 miles per gallon, and buying a new car that gets 500 miles per gallon of gas. It is such an incredible energy efficiency improvement that the Department of Energy in the USA has decided to introduce new minimum efficiency laws for residential swimming pool pumps which will come into effect in the next few years. Essentially the only pumps that will be able to pass these new guidelines? You guessed it...variable speed pumps and their ultra-efficient design. Soon it will be law that all pools use VS pumps for the filtration pump.
In my professional opinion every dollar you spend on a variable speed pool pump will be returned to you two to three times over in the form of electrical savings over the course of the life of the pump. The only reason you could possibly argue why not to get a variable speed pump for your pool is the upfront cost investment may not be returned if you plan to sell your home in 1-2 years or less.
What Is The Best Variable Speed Pool Pump?
Before you crack out your wallet and start upgrading your pool pad there are a few factors that must be considered to make sure you are ready for this upgrade. One of
the biggest differences that pool owners need to be aware of is that variable speed pumps often have the ability to output more volume of water than pretty much any
single speed pumps on the market under 2HP. This is especially true if you are looking to purchase the flagship models from Hayward or Pentair which have very
powerful 3 HP maximum ratings. A 3 HP pump is going to exceed the maximum flow rating for pretty much any sand filter, most DE filters and even some cartridge
filters. You will need to know what the maximum flow rate for your filter is to make sure that you get a suitably sized pump. For new pool installations the 3 HP
Pentair IntelliFlo and 2.7 HP Hayward EcoStar are great when paired with mid size and larger cartridge filters. If you are retrofitting a variable speed pump to an
existing pool system you may like to look at variable speed pumps with a smaller motor such as the Hayward TriStar VS with comes with a 1.85 HP motor but all the same
hardware and technology used in the flagship EcoStar. **
** Hayward has updated their entire line of variable speed pumps to now share the same interface and controller as originally used on the flagship EcoStar VS pump. The allows for the same level of control, programming and features with every model of VS pump from Hayward. This is a huge upgrade for the entry level VS pump series from Hayward, the Super Pump VS and the MaxFlo VS, as you get the same high quality and versatile controller with these pumps now as you would with their most expensive EcoStar model. If you would like to know more, you can read this article that compares all of the Hayward variable speed pumps together.
Pipe sizing of your pool will likely determine which variable speed pump you should buy
Newly built swimming pools really should have, at minimum, 2" suction and return lines or at the absolute least 2" suction lines. Older pools almost all will have 1.5" piping which is going to be a problem for some of the larger size variable speed pumps. The size of the pipe dictates the amount of flow, or gallons per minute, that can flow through the system. While a powerful pump can drive water through 1.5" pipe there is an efficiency loss that is fairly dramatic at higher flow rates and the risk to cavitate, or starve the pump for water, go up. If you have 1.5" pipe you should look into motors smaller than 3 HP pumps. I have seen installations that combine these successfully though you often will need to program the pump priming cycle to prevent it from ramping up to 100% every time you turn it on. If you want to learn more about how drastically pipe size affects system efficiency and flow rates you can read this article on pipe size for pools.
Variable Speed Pumps Suitable For Large Pools
Hayward EcoStar SP3400VSP 2.7HP variable speed pump
**The SP3400VSP EcoStar was discontinued 2018 and is now the SP3206VSP Tristar 2.7 HP from the open product line or TriStar 950 (SP32950VSP) from the dealer protected product line.
Buy from Amazon: SP3206VSP
Buy from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca: SP3206VSP
Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 / 011028 3HP variable speed pump
The 011018 is the base model IntelliFlo variable speed pump. 011028 is the same pump but with a rotating screen. 011056 is the variable flow IntelliFlo version. To see all IntelliFlo models you can read this article on Pentair IntelliFlo reviews.
Buy from Amazon: 011028
Buy from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca 011018
Hayward TriStar SP3202VSP 1.85HP variable speed pump
SP3202VSP is the part number for the open product line 1.85 HP TriStar. The same pump from the dealer protected product line is the TriStar 900 (SP32900VSP). This is a popular model as it is one of the most powerful / high flow pool pumps that can run on 1.5" plumbing without starving for water. 230 volts only.
Buy from InTheSwim.com: SP3202VSP
Buy from Amazon: SP3202VSP
Buy from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca: SP3202VSP
Entry Level Variable Speed Pool Pumps
Pentair SuperFlo 342001 1.5HP variable speed pump
Compatible with both 115 and 230 volts this is a very popular pump for being from a recognized quality brand (Pentair) as well as being versatile, efficient and cost effective to buy.
Buy from InTheSwim.com: 342001
Buy from Amazon: 342001
Buy from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca: 342001
Hayward Super Pump SP2603VSP variable speed pump (230V)
One of the most popular pool pumps ever sold was the Hayward Super Pump. This is a 1.65 HP variable speed version of the super pump and has a large leaf strainer basket and native 1.5" female threaded ports. 230 volts only. W3SP2603VSP is the open product line version and the dealer protected version is SP2670020VSP.
Buy from InTheSwim.com: SP2603VSP
Buy from Amazon: SP2603VSP
Buy from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca: SP2603VSP
Hayward Max-Flo SP2303VSP 1.65HP variable speed pump (230V)
The W3SP2303VSP is the part number for the open product line and SP23520VSP is the dual voltage dealer protected part number for the MaxFlo VS pump. This pump comes with union connections where the super pump VS does not. 230 volts and 1.65 HP this pump is a direct swap replacement for other Hayward MaxFlo pumps.
Buy from InTheSwim.com: SP2303VSP
Buy from Amazon: SP2303VSP
Buy from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca: SP2303VSP
Hayward Super Pump SP26115VSP 0.85HP variable speed pump (115V)
The W3SP26115VSP is the open product line part number for this 115 volt 0.85 HP variable speed super pump. This is the same pump as the SP2603VSP 230 volt pump except powered with a smaller 0.85 HP motor.
Buy from Amazon: SP26115VSP
Buy from PoolSuppliesCanada.ca: SP26115VSP
Electrical Requirements For Variable Speed Pumps
Almost all variable speed pumps require a 230 volt power supply be available. If your pool pump location only has 115 volt power available then you will need to run a new electrical circuit to your pump. Since pool pumps draw a heavy current many of them are already set up for 230 volts (which reduces the current by half versus 115 volt installations).
The most notable variable speed pumps that can operate on 115 volts are the Pentair SuperFlo and the two 115 volt Hayward pumps, the Max-Flo and the Super Pump. If it is at all possible you would want to consider upgrading the electrical supply to your pump area to benefit from a larger selection of pumps. Pumps that run on a higher voltage will be more efficient and more capable than any pump that runs on the lower 115 volt power option.
How To Choose Which Variable Speed Pump To Buy
There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when determining which of the variable speed pumps best suits your needs. The primary factors to consider are
the purchase price, product reputation and flow rates that the pump provides. One of the concerns is that the powerful EcoStar and IntelliFlo pumps can easily provide
too much flow for smaller filters and if you have 1.5" plumbing pipes you could have a problem with starving the pump for example.
Hayward SP3206VSP - 2 HP (2.7 max) horsepower motor capable of providing just over 160 GPM with 2" and 2.5" connection ports. This pump would be best suited for mid size and larger swimming pools, 18x36' and bigger, 25,000 Gallon pools and up ideally. Match with any cartridge filters or larger sand filters. This pump is powerful enough for rooftop solar heating, in floor cleaning systems, attached hot tubs and most waterfalls. The EcoStar name and part number has been discontinued in 2018 and this pump is now sold under the name Tristar 2.7 SP3206VSP. Use 2" pipe size minimum with this pump.
Pentair 011018 / 011028 - 3 horsepower motor that provides up to 145 GPM with 2" connection ports. Pentair is arguably regarded as the highest quality products available for residential pools and the 3 HP IntelliFlo pumps are their flagship models. While the max GPM this pump can output is slightly less than the 2.7 HP Hayward VS pump, this pump must still be paired with high flow cartridge filters or very large sand filters due to the massive flow potential. Use 2" pipe size minimum with this pump.
Hayward SP3202VSP - 1.85 HP motor capable of providing up to 140 GPM and comes with 2" and 2.5" connection ports. This is the largest pump that I recommend can be used on 1.5" plumbing lines without starving the pump. A great match for large sand filters or any cartridge filter this is an ideal pump for retrofitting to existing swimming pool systems. This pump is suitable for use as a filtration pump in pools ranging from small to very large.
Pentair 342001 - 1.5 horsepower motor (2.2 max) capable of delivering 113 GPM with 230 volt electrical supply. This is one of the only larger sized variable speed pumps that can also run on 115 volts in addition to 230 volts. It can provide a maximum flow of 103 GPM at the lower RPM. This pump is a direct drop in replacement for the Hayward super pump and Sta-Rite Super Max pumps for installation and can be considered to be the high end of the entry level variable speed pump market. Suitable for any cartridge filters and most mid size and large sand filters. 1.5" connection ports and comes with unions.
Hayward SP2603VSP - 1.65 horsepower motor provides up to 87 GPM but unlike the comparable Pentair SuperFlo this specific model of pump requires 230 volts only. This pump has a fully enclosed and permanent magnet motor, similar to all models of VS pumps that Hayward offers. It has both 1.5" port connection size and is suitable in size and flow for cartridge filters and most sand filters. Large strainer basket is suitable for pools with a lot of overhanging trees.
Hayward SP2303VSP - 1.65 horsepower motor delivers up to in impressive 106 GPM with 1.5" and 2" connection ports (unions included) this pump is a direct swap replacement for the entire Hayward Max-Flo pump series. You can read a full review on this pump in this article on the Hayward MaxFlo Pump Series. This pump is 230 volts only.
Hayward SP26115VSP - This variable speed pump has a 0.85 horsepower motor to allow for the 115 volt electrical supply this pump runs on. This can can provide up to 81 GPM of flow and is suitable for any small and medium sized pools and all filter types and sizes. This pump does not integrate with Hayward automation systems, but can operate independently or through a standard relay control.
Understanding Flow Rates & Plumbing Pipe Sizes
The maximum flow rate GPM that a pump is rated to provide is based on ideal installation conditions of which pipe size is of primary importance. Plumbing pipe size
will dictate the amount of flow your system will have as smaller pipe sizes like 1.5" pipe will experience a severe drop in efficiency with more powerful motors. As a
general guide there is a upper limit of the flow you can expect from any system:
1.5" pipe = 37 GPM suction / 50 GPM discharge
2" pipe = 62 GPM suction / 85 GPM discharge
2.5" pipe = 88 GPM suction / 120 GPM discharge
As you can see not only is 1.5" pipe a restriction on the performance of most variable speed pumps but even 2" pipes are a restriction for most of the more powerful pumps. Having 2.5" or 3" suction and return lines would be required for most variable speed pumps to realize their potential maximum flow rates however almost no existing pools will have plumbing lines this big. When sizing your equipment your existing pipe size and effective system head pressure will regulate the actual flow your system is able to achieve. You can see more examples of pipe sizes and how this affects flow rates for your pool in this article on pipe size and flow rates for pool systems.
What Is The Best Pool Pump?
I get emails daily from people asking me the same question - "what is the best pool pump?". I certainly understand that if you are trying to buy a pool pump yourself
the amount of choice can be intimidating. Since a pool pump is expensive to buy, and also can be one of the heaviest drawing electrical appliances in your home, it
stands to reason that you want to make your choice carefully. Instead of answering this question via email over and over again I have decided to add this information
here for everyone to consider. The best pool pump, in my professional experience after 25 years in the pool and spa industry, would need to meet the following
Be a recognized brand name - While the market is flooded with pool pumps I strongly encourage going with an established brand name pump. This ensures that you will always have access to replacement parts as well as service technicians familiar with your pump. By dealing with a large and recognized brand name you will also have access to warranty claims should you experience a manufacturer related early failure of your pump.
Be energy efficient - If you are going to invest in a variable speed pool pump then you want to get the most back from that investment. The more efficient a pump is, the faster it will pay you back for your investment. Plain and simple.
Move a lot of water - There are times when you want your pool pump to be as efficient as possible, however there are also times that you want it to move some serious water regardless of the cost. If you have hot tub booster jets, or any waterfalls or water features, then being able to move a lot of water is very important.
Last a long time - The warranty period for a pool pump, while important, is less important to me as a pool professional than you might expect. After thousands of pump installations, and also experience working in technical and warranty claims for one of the largest pool pump manufacturers in the world, it becomes clear that only a tiny percentage of pumps fail within the warranty period. If you are going to have an early pump failure it will likely come in years 3 - 5 and be a result of improper installation or improper maintenance such as leaks.
What does this all mean? From my perspective as a swimming pool expert, when I sell a pump to a client this is the information I am considering before I make my recommendation. Every pool technician will have their preferred brand, make or model of pump and I am no different. The reality is that any pump made by Jandy, Pentair or Hayward will probably be a "good" pump. There are also plenty of additional brands that are less known but still worth considering such as Speck pumps, Waterways and a handful of others. These recommendations are just based on my personal experiences in the pool and spa industry.
Highest Quality Pool Pump: Pentair IntelliFlo 3 HP
Best Overall Pool Pump: Hayward TriStar 1.85 HP
In my opinion the 011028 represents the highest quality variable speed pool pump that money can buy. The motor in the IntelliFlo is regulated down to 3 horsepower and is actually capable of more. This means that the IntelliFlo is overbuilt more than other comparable models. Most people in the pool and spa industry would probably agree that the Pentair IntelliFlo is the highest quality variable speed pool pump.
For my money I like the Hayward TriStar SP3202VSP for circulation systems and retrofit applications. The pump is just small enough to get by on 1.5" plumbing systems where most of the larger pumps starve for water. This pump is also powerful enough to compete with any other pump for flow rate potential which means this pump is suitable as the main filtration pump for pretty much any size pool circulation system. In total this is the most common pump referral I make to pool owners as the pump is "right sized" for many applications.
If I had to choose a variable speed pump to run on a 115 volt supply then I would choose the Pentair SuperFlo VS. In addition to this pump being high quality and capable the defining factor for me is the ability for this pump to run at either 115 volts or 230 volts. This would allow you to upgrade your electrical supply in the future to 230 volts without having to replace the pump again. The reality is that 115 volts is limiting for pool pumps so this one feature would heavily influence my decision. This pump would be suitable as a filtration pump on almost any size of pool and can work with 1.5" or 2" plumbing.
For smaller pools the Hayward MaxFlo VS is a good option due to a low upfront cost combined with impressive flow capabilities. This is the 230 volt version of this pump (1.65 HP) as the 0.85 HP is too small for many pools. This pump can work on many different pool sizes, but is optimally used on smaller pools with relatively simple plumbing systems and low resistance to flow. This pump comes with union adapters for 1.5" or 2" connections and can work well with 1.5" or 2" plumbing systems.
Best Inground Pool Pump
The biggest mistake that pool owners will make when researching variable speed pool pumps will be to try to find the "best inground pool pump" on the market. The truth is that it is much less important to choose the "best pool pump" than it is to choose the best pump for your specific application. Every swimming pool plumbing system is unique.
The differences in plumbing systems, pool options, plumbing orientations, pool equipment, elevation grade, size of the pool etc. all make a difference when choosing the best inground pool pump. There is no one-pump-fits-all solutions when you are shopping for a pool pump. The real secret to picking the best pump is to understand what your unique pump requirements (and limitations) are, and then selecting the best pump to suit this unique application. This is why there are so many pool pumps on the market. Pool pumps are essentially application specific and you need to figure out how to choose the best one to suit your unique needs. Fortunately, when you are talking about variable speed pumps, you are usually looking at a filtration system / circulation pump since this is where VS pumps are the most efficient to use. This helps to narrow down on the pumps that you should be choosing from. Before you can choose the right pump, you need to be able to answer the following questions:
1) Do you have 240 volts of power? - Power in North America is based on either 120 volts or 240 volts. Almost all variable speed pool pumps require 240 volts of power, and if you only have 120 volts available at your pump location you will either need to upgrade your pump electrical circuit, or pick one of the smaller VS pumps that are 120 volt compatible. Please note that 240 volts, 230 volts and 220 volts are all the same for the purposes of buying pool equipment. Voltage actually varies and terminology can be used interchangeably when talking about consumer equipment in North America. You either have 120 volts (or 110 volts) or you have twice as much voltage, 240 volts (or 230 volts, or 220 volts) as these are all the same thing.
2) What size are your plumbing lines? - One of the most important considerations when shopping for a variable speed pump is to choose a pump that will work well on your specific plumbing system. Of greatest concern is the size of the plumbing lines. Most residential pools have either 1.5" or 2" plumbing lines. The 2" plumbing lines are much more versatile, and the 1.5" plumbing lines in particular are somewhat limiting, especially for larger VS pumps. The concern is that many VS pumps are very powerful. A very powerful pump on a single 1.5" suction line is almost certainly going to be a problem. If you have 1.5" suction lines, even two of them, you need to choose from the smaller variable speed pump options (1.5HP or smaller on average) where if you have three or more 1.5" suction lines, or 2" suction lines of any number, then you can choose from any of the larger (up to 3HP) variable speed pumps.
3) Which filter do you have? - The flow rates from variable speed pumps, especially the larger ones, can be too much for some filters. The first thing you need to know is whether you have a sand filter, a cartridge filter, or a diatomaceous earth filter. You need to make sure that your new variable speed pump will not exceed the maximum designed flow rate for your filter. You can check what the designed flow rate is for your filter on this page of pool filter reviews. Almost all cartridge filters and D.E. filters have a very high flow rate design so even large VS pumps are not a problem. Sand filters however are much more of a concern and if you have a sand filter you should verify that it can handle the flow rate that your new pump can produce. This is actually hard to do since it is very difficult to calculate actual flow rates on a system. In most cases installing a flow meter in your plumbing system is the best real world way to know what your flow rates are. The short cut rule of thumb is that only large sand filters can handle the flow rates from the larger two and three horsepower VS pumps. If you have only a small or medium sized sand filter then consider buying a VS pump that is 1.5HP or lower, or upgrade the filter to a cartridge or D.E. filter at the same time that you upgrade the pump.
4) How much water do you need to pump? - The short hand way to determine how much flow your pool circulation system needs would be to have the ability to filter the entire volume of water in your pool between one to three times every 24 hours. Single speed pumps, and variable speed pumps running on high speed, can actually pump many times more water than this amount. The trick is to find a VS pump that can meet this flow rate while running at the lowest possible RPM setting. To help you understand why the motor RPM is so significant you should read this article about how a variable speed pool pump saves you money. You can also check out this article on How much power does a pool pump use as this includes video examples of variable speed pumps in action.
The secret to picking the best pump for your application is to choose the largest one that your plumbing system and other pool equipment can handle, and then run it on the lowest possible RPM that will meet your minimum filtration needs. The truth is that even the smallest VS pumps are still more than large enough to keep even large, deep 20x40' pools clean...but what is the point in buying a more expensive variable speed pump if you end up running it on maximum speed 24/7? This is why you want a larger pump that can move a lot of water at very low speeds - but you want to avoid a pump that might cavitate (starve for water) from undersized suction lines, or potentially push too much water through your filter when the RPM's are higher. If you have read all of this information and you still can not decide which is the best pump for your pool then please feel free to email Steve for help.
Pool Pump Comparison Reviews - If you would like to do more research on variable speed pool pumps to help find the best one for your application then you might find these comparison review articles helpful. In these reviews I compare some of the most popular models of VS pumps against one another. These articles compare popularity, motor size, flow rate and efficiency factor for some of the most common pumps:
Hayward variable speed pump reviews
Pentair IntelliFlo review
How much power does a pool pump use?
Hayward EcoStar versus Pentair IntelliFlo
Pentair SuperFlo versus IntelliFlo
How long do variable speed pool pumps last?
Pipe size and flow rates
How many hours per day should you run a pool pump?
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