New DOE Pump & Motor Regulation
In January 2017, the DOE established the first national energy efficiency standards for dedicated-purpose pool pumps (DPPP). This standard impacts most in-ground pools by requiring variable-speed technology. Pumps for smaller in-ground pools, pumps for above ground pools, and pressure cleaner booster pumps can continue to be single-speed.
For a few hours each day, pool pumps need to operate at a high speed to provide a high flow rate for mixing and cleaning. However the majority of the time, the pump just need to circulate the pool water through the filtration system at a low flow rate. According to the DOE, the use of variable-speed pumps can reduce energy usage by about 70% when compared to single-speed pumps, as they can operate at a lower speed for the rest of the day when the pump is just circulating water for filtration.
A motor on a pool pump could fail before the variable speed DPPP needs to be replaced. The concern is whether an unknowing homeowner or contractor might replace it with a single-speed replacement motor which would negate the benefits of the variable speed pump.
A definition for a “dedicated-purpose pool pump motor,” covers any motor that is certified to UL 1004-106 and/or designed and/or marketed for use in DPPP motor replacement as well as those included in DPPP applications should be included. This applies to motors manufactured domestically or imported. The scope would exempt six types of pool pump motors including: polyphase motors capable of operating without a drive (and distributed in commerce without a drive), waterfall pump motors, rigid electric spa pump motors, storable electric spa pump motors, integral cartridge-filter pool pump motors, and integral sand filter pool pump motors. These exemptions align with the DPPP standards.
In July 2021, new pool installations and replacement DPPP will require a variable speed pump and motor. According to the DOE, variable speed pumps can reduce energy usage by about 70 percent relative to single-speed pumps, by operating at a lower speed when the pump is circulating and filtering water. While the variable speed pumps may have a higher initial cost, its energy efficient operation will provide payback. The DOE estimates average life-cycle cost savings for owners of in-ground pools of $2,140 with a simple payback of less than 1 year.
The new regulations will be enacted in July 2021. Manufacturers will be transitioning and selling based on the new regulations, but existing inventory of non-compliant pumps are still permitted to be sold and installed. Replacement variable speed motor legislation is still pending (see “loophole” below).
Department of Energy (DOE)
The next step is for the DOE to adopt the stakeholder recommendations and issue a Direct Final Rule. Enacting this legislation would effectively close the replacement motor “loophole.” This would set a prescriptive standard that all pool pump motors on the market must meet, regardless of whether they are being sold with a new pool pump or as a replacement. This approach ensures that customers will benefit from the variable speed motor technology that is projected in the upcoming 2021 pool pump standard.
California Energy Commission (CEC)
The CEC has been working on their own legislation and has adopted a significant part of the DOE’s petition. They have also moved ahead and addressed the replacement motor “loophole.” However, their legislation includes the use of variable speed (VS) motor’s below 1.15 Total HP. The use of VS motors below that THP range has been challenged as to whether the energy efficiency would exceed the additional upfront cost, and this course is not consistent with the Federal DPPP pump rule.