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Variable speed pumps

Selling the savings

Certainly the most attractive feature of variable-speed pumps, from a consumer’s point of view, is energy savings. While variable-speed models can often pay for themselves in as few as two years, it can still be a challenge to convince homeowners to purchase a variable-speed pump. For clients who may still be closely watching their out-of-pocket expenses, trying to sell the savings based on the Affinity Law, permanent magnet motors and other completely foreign terms, may simply be a waste of time.

An effective way to convey the savings potential of variable-speed pumps is to explain the adjustability of pump speed by using light dimmer switches as a comparable. Instead of using technical jargon, explain to consumers that pump flow can be ‘dialed in’ to match the pool’s needs throughout the day, rather than operating at full power 100 per cent of the time. For example, basic filtration typically requires minimal flow, often just enough for water to spill over the skimmer weir. This is the mode a pump would likely operate throughout the day in order to maintain proper sanitization. Other events—such as running an automatic pool cleaner or operating spa jets—would require greater flow, but usually for much shorter periods of time. This concept is often easier for consumers to grasp, as opposed to explaining the details of the Affinity Law.

Providing savings estimates can also be a challenge. For example, simply stating variable-speed pumps can offer up to 90 per cent savings, while impressive, may not mean much to a consumer, especially if they don’t know how much it costs to operate a standard single-speed pump. Given the variables noted above (e.g. comparison pump model, hours of operation, electrical rate, etc.), determining even approximate savings may be difficult. To alleviate this challenge, most variable-speed pump manufacturers have developed energy savings calculators that, while still based on some basic underlying assumptions, provide reasonable annual savings estimates.

Explaining added benefits

In addition to reduced energy costs, variable-speed pumps can provide other benefits a customer can instantly appreciate. For example, reducing pump flow often improves overall filtration. The filter media—be it sand, cartridge or diatomaceous earth (DE)—is no longer ‘blasted’ with high-velocity water and, as a result, more particulate is usually removed. As with energy savings, improved filtration may vary based on specific installations.

‘Dialing in’ the flow is also particularly useful for water features and spa jets, where individual and situational preferences may dictate varying flow requirements. For instance, a homeowner may want a waterfall to peacefully trickle during quiet nights by the pool, but would prefer a roaring display while entertaining guests at a neighbourhood pool party. Variable-speed pumps also allow for customized spa jet action for each member of the family, often with the simple push of a button.

Perhaps the most distinct benefit customers can recognize is the pump’s relatively quiet operation at lower flows. Most customers cannot readily determine a pump’s power consumption, but they can often hear it operating, especially when at or near the equipment pad. A pump operating at low flows is remarkably quieter than one running at full speed. Many times, customers are only convinced a variable-speed pump is running when they physically touch the pump, since the sound is so much lower than expected.

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