Pool pumps don’t change every day like smartphones and the Amazon Kindle. The Best Variable Speed Pool Pumps for 2021 are basically the same as last year and the year before. Don’t be surprised because the top sellers are proven designs that have endured over the years. Imagine trying to start a pool pump company today — GOOD LUCK trying to compete with reputable brands like Hayward and Pentair. I predict that in 2021 most people will spending a lot of time in their swimming pool due to the limitations of the pandemic. Where else are you going to go? It’s sad but true. Fortunately, this pandemic will soon be over but you’ll still want an efficient pool pump either way.
💰 Save Money with State Rebates (more later)
Variable speed pool pumps have many advantages that you’ll learn about in this article. Something you may have not considered is the fact that you might be eligible for a rebate depending on where you live because when you buy a highly efficient variable speed pool pump you are dramatically using less energy which your state, city or country might reward you for. After all, we need to reduce our energy usage and buying one of the best pumps we’ve recommended in this article might be eligible for a rebate. We have links direct to the manufacturer so you can check before you buy. We’re here to help you save money and shop intelligently.
Below you’ll find the current best selling variable speed pool pumps…
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Intro | Best Variable Speed Pool Pump
I always get excited by new technology. At the same time, I prefer to remain realistic and do my research. When Pentair first introduced the variable speed pool pump, it certainly looked like they were onto something. Hayward were quick to follow and now there are quite a few other manufacturers that have jumped onto the variable speed pool pump wagon. Though, I’d say that Pentair and Hayward are the leaders in this field. So we’ll be taking a look at a few models from these manufacturers in our review of the best variable speed pool pumps.
After the review, I’ll go into more detail about this innovative technology, it’s certainly worth looking into and my initial impression is that these pumps are worth every dime. The energy savings seem to be amazing. I’ll start by giving you the basics – a quick rundown of why variable speed pool pumps are proving to be so popular.
Hayward SP3206VSP TriStar VS | Energy Efficient Variable-Speed Pool Pump
If we start by looking at manufacturer claims of up to 90% energy savings, it all seems a little too good to be true. I always want to look a bit deeper. Whenever I see the phrase “up to” I become skeptical. Maybe, in an ideal world, these claims could be possible, but the reality is usually a lot less impressive. So I did a little research to see what the pool experts have to say. How do variable speed pumps perform in the real world?
In practice, homeowners seem to be experiencing electricity savings of 50% to 70%. So this isn’t anywhere near 90%. It may be possible to get to a 90% saving, but let’s stick to the actual experiences. Lets’ face it, a pool pump is quite a beast at getting through kilowatts of electricity, so even if you’re getting the lower end of the savings curve (about 50%), you’ll be saving a lot.
A variable speed pool pump allows you to set it to the minimum requirement for your pool’s filtration system. This is normally much lower than the full-speed that regular pool pumps run at. We all know that using a timer to switch the pool pump on and off will save money. But you then have the disadvantage of losing out on the best filtration. If you’re using a variable speed pool pump, you can run the pump continuously and still save a fortune.
On the face of things, this might not make sense. Let’s say you run the pump at half the RPM for double the time. You might think that this will balance things out. Half power for twice as long should end up using the same amount of electricity, right? Not actually, the power consumption curve increases sharply as you increase the RPM – it’s not linear. When it comes down to it, reducing your RPM by half will cut your electricity consumption by eight times the amount of power you’d be using at full speed. So even if you’re running your pump at half the speed for twice as long, you’ll be using a quarter of the electricity. You also have the added benefit of the increased filtration time.
The energy savings displayed by the variable speed pool pump have not gone by unnoticed. The US Department of Energy is looking at introducing new legislation that places a limit on the minimum efficiency permitted for swimming pool pumps. The plan is to bring new laws into effect over the next few years. So, it will probably become inevitable, the law is going to force home owners to use pool pumps that consume less electricity and a variable speed pool pump seems like the best way to do this.
So, based on the lower energy consumption, a variable speed pool pump is the best way to go. More details about this technology will follow after the review. Let’s first take a look at what’s available and how the different variable speed pool pumps compare.
Hayward MaxFlo VS
Hayward SP2303VSP MaxFlo VS : 230 Volt Variable Speed Pool Pump
- ENERGY STAR Certified and compliant with industry regulations including Title 20 and APSP 15; eligible for local utility rebates
- Install in any application: in stand-alone mode, with Hayward automation* (including OmniLogic), or with competitive control systems (via relay control)
- Permanent magnet, totally enclosed fan cooled (TEFC) motor offers incredible energy efficiency and reliability
- Fully programmable, digital control interface rotates to four different positions or mounts to the wall for more convenient access and viewing
✓ Learn what rebates are currently available for this pool pump.
The Hayward MaxFlo VS range is an upgrade on the very popular MaxFlo pool pumps, the addition of the letters VS to model number stands for Variable Speed. This means that they are compatible with any existing Hayward MaxFlo installation. It’s an effortless upgrade. They are designed as one best variable speed pool pump options for small to mid-sized below ground pools and spas. While these are said to be entry level variable speed pumps, they have some advanced features and are extremely versatile. There are a number of options in this range from a small 115V variable speed pool pump up to more powerful 230V models. I’ll compare these pumps individually and look at their differences. Though there are many common features throughout the entire MaxFlo VS range and we’ll take a look at these first.
Hayward SP23115VSP MaxFlo VS — 0.85 hp
With an Energy Star certification, Hayward MaxFlo VS pumps have been independently verified as being energy-saving pumps – they claim an electricity saving of up to 80%. You might be able to reach this figure, but, as I said in the introduction, your real energy savings probably won’t be quite as good. By using a permanent magnet motor, the pump is more energy efficient at any speed. These are, simply put, the most advanced energy-saving electric motors available. Then of course, the ability to lower the pump RPM will reduce your energy consumption even further.
All the Hayward MaxFlo VS pumps can be used with any existing control system, either directly or by means of a relay system. The 230V SP2303VSP can also be used with the Hayward automation system. Every pump is fitted with a user interface and allow for a number of programming functions via an easy to use touchpad. The touch pad can be used at the pump or it can be wall mounted in a remote position for easier access. The program control panel can be rotated, so you can turn it to suit your position in relation to the pump. The programmable digital interface incorporates a 24-hour clock and 8 custom timer functions.
Apart from smart electronics and energy-saving variable speed, there are quite few design features that make the Hayward MaxFlo VS pump range very durable and versatile machines. The totally enclosed fan cooled (TEFC) motor is a great design and promotes reliability. All the variable speed pool pumps have universal union connectors for both 1½’ and 2” pipes, this makes them very easy to install to any existing pool pump setup. Though the larger 230V MaxFlo Vs pumps may be too powerful for 1½” pipes – the 115V model will be a safer bet if you’re using smaller pipes. The improved hydraulic design also aids efficiency and they are self-priming with a suction lift of up to 8’ above the water level of your pool. The basic design of these pool pumps makes them very quiet and at low revs, they are hardly audible.
So, this is what they all have in common, now lets’ compare your options in this range of variable speed pool pumps:
- Hayward SP2303VSP – This is a 230V, single phase, 1.65 HP variable speed pool pump with electronically controlled speed settings from 600 RPM to 3450 RPM and is compatible with the Hayward Automation system. It can be used with other automation systems and this will probably require a relay system, or it can be used as a stand-alone pool pump. This unit is the latest upgrade in the range. The changes mostly affect the built-in controller, which is more advanced and the ability to be used with external controllers. Ironically, this upgraded version is not quite as energy efficient as the older 1.5HP model. It does have a slightly larger motor and the reduced energy efficiency seems to be as result of design changes that make the pump more durable.
- Hayward SP23115VSP – One of the few 115V variable speed pool pumps with a 0.85 HP power rating. Variable rev range from 600 RPM – 3450 RPM. It can be used as a stand-alone pool pump or connected to an existing control system. This is a very economical variable speed pump for smaller pools and spas.
- Hayward SP2302VSP – A 230V, single phase, 1.5 HP variable speed pool pump, 600 RPM to 3450 RPM. Can only be used as a stand-alone unit. This is the previous generation – before the upgraded SP2303VSP. The major differences are in the programmability (this model isn’t as advanced) and the motor size, the upgraded model has a 1.65 HP output.
Best Variable Speed Pool Pump.
- ENERGY STAR Certified: meets strict energy efficiency criteria set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy
- Energy savings up to 90%* versus traditional pumps
- 8 programmable speed settings and built-in timer to ensure the pump runs at optimum speed and duration
- Ultra-efficient permanent magnet motor design reduces noise and vibration for greater efficiency and longer pump life
- Dramatically quieter operation – as low as 45 decibels – about 4 times quieter than most traditional-style pumps**
- Totally enclosed fan-cooled (TEFC) design and low average operating speed makes IntelliFlo the quietest pump on earth
- Fully compatible with IntelliTouch, EasyTouch, SunTouch Pool Control Systems and other brands of digital pool/spa controls for managing pump, heating, lighting, spa jets and water
- Built in diagnostics protect the pump for longer service life
▶ Learn more : Pentair 342001 vs 011018 (article)
As the first to develop variable speed pool pumps, Pentair may have a slight advantage, they’ve been working on this technology for about ten years. Though looking at the technical specifications, Hayward seem to have caught up and they use very similar technology – particularly where it counts. Both these manufacturers use fixed magnet electric motors and this is what makes them so incredibly efficient energy-saving motors.
They both have variable speed controls to reduce your power consumption even further. Both are Energy Star rated pool pumps. Basically, when it comes to energy efficiency and power savings, the Pentair and Hayward variable speed pool pumps are about the same. Hayward claim up 80% power savings, while Pentair claim up to 90% savings – I really don’t think the actual savings will be any different. I’ve already expressed my views on “up to” manufacturer claims. If anything, Hayward are being more honest by their savings stats.
Control Panel | Pentair 011018 IntelliFlo
Though the Pentair IntelliFlo range of variable speed pool pumps do have some cool features, particularly when it comes to versatility of the type of controls that you can use with the pool pump. It has a great controller on the pump (very much the same as the Hayward), it has 8 programmable settings and a 24-hour clock for timer settings.
The Pentair IntelliFlo has quite an advantage if you’re using a more sophisticated electronic pool management system like IntelliTouch, SunTouch, EasyTouch or many of the other timer and heating control systems available from a variety of manufacturers. The pump has a communication port that allows for a simple 2-wire RS-485 connection for an external controller. It also has an optional ScreenLogic interface that enables you to control your pool automation system from your smartphone. So this range of variable speed pool pumps has all the best that modern technology has to offer.
In its 3 HP format, the Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 has the power to deal with larger in ground pools and spas. With this extra power, you also have more future options, like adding water features to your pool that may need a more powerful pump. The motor is totally enclosed fan cooled (like the Hayward), so it has the advantage of higher durability and it has quite sophisticated diagnostics to help protect the pump. Pentair don’t give the RPM range within which you’re able to adjust the pump speed. Though having a look at the controller display, tells you what it does.
The lowest speed setting (1), displays 750 RPM on the LCD screen and it shows a power consumption of only 150W – that’s quite remarkable. Though 750 RPM might be a little too low for many pool filters. The maximum pump speed is 3450 RPM, which is what you’d expect the full speed for most pool pumps to be. Being a variable speed pump with an exceptionally efficient motor, the Pentair IntelliFlo is, naturally, quieter than most other pool pumps.
The 3 HP Pentair IntelliFlo gives you all the power you could possibly need without massive electricity bills. The advanced control inputs and an optional smartphone interface make it one of the most intelligent variable speed pool pumps available. Possibly the most advanced and versatile variable speed pool pumps, programmable, while using external controllers.
Pentair 342001 SuperFlo VS
Best Variable Speed Pool Pump
- Only variable speed pump on the market today with 115/208-230V and 50/60 Hz single phase capability. Operating nominal voltage range is 110V thru 230V
- Ideal for standard pools requiring up to 1.5 HP pump
- Three operating speed settings plus override capability
- Direct and superior drop-in replacement for the Hayward SuperPump
- An Eco Select Brand product: one of Pentair’s “greenest” and most efficient choices
Documents (Pentair 342001 SuperFlo VS):
The highly advanced and super powerful Pentair IntelliFlo 3 HP variable speed pool pump is an expensive item. While it’s well worth the hefty price tag, many pool owners might be put off by paying so much – even with the electricity savings. So if you’re looking for a cheaper upgrade and still want a variable speed pool pump that comes from the Pentair stable of trusted products, the smaller (and less sophisticated) Pentair 342001 SuperFlo VS is a great alternative.
VIDEO | Pentair 342001 SuperFlo VS
This Pentair variant is not nearly as powerful as the one we’ve just looked at – at 1½ HP, it has half the power. It also isn’t as advanced when it comes to controller options. The built-in electronic controller has three speed program settings and an LCD display provides you with the relevant information, such as RPM and wattage consumption. Like the other Pentair variable speed pool pumps, this range also has a 24-hour programmable timer cycle that’s really easy to use. There’s no input for external controllers and you won’t get a smartphone app either. This is to be expected, it’s not an expensive item, considering that this is a variable speed pool pump manufactured by one of the top brands in the business. There’s obviously going to be a compromise between the more expensive models and this one.
It’s designed for easy retrofit installation and has the advantage of using either a 115V or 208-230V, single phase power supply. The voltage range of 110V – 230V, means that you can use the existing wiring that would have been installed for any type of pool pump. What’s more, the pump detects the input voltage automatically and adjusts itself accordingly. There’s no specialized, complicated procedures when connecting the pump to the electrical circuit.
Control Panel | Pentair 342001 SuperFlo VS
The Pentair SuperFlo pool pump is very quiet and is as durable as one would expect a Pentair product to be. Like the more expensive variable speed pool pumps, this one also has a totally enclosed fan cooled motor, so it’s going to perform well for many years.
No one can ever expect a Pentair pump to be the cheapest, this is a premier brand. The SuperFlo variable speed pool pump is, none the less, cheaper than one would expect from a brand like Pentair. It’s not as advanced as their expensive offerings, but that’s to be expected. It is a high-quality variable speed pool pump and is going to save on your electricity bills for the rest of its life. This makes it a logical choice for the economy conscious home owner in need of pool pump with a 1½ HP capacity.
Hayward Super Pump VS
Best variable speed pool pump if you value energy efficiency and a quiet running pool pump.
Hayward SP2603VSP Super Pump VS (1.65 hp / 230-volt)
Three models :
- Hayward SP2603VSP Super Pump VS (1.65 hp / 230-volt) — manual
- Hayward SP26115VSP Super Pump VS (.85 hp / 115-volt)
- Hayward SP2602VSP Super Pump VS (1.5 hp / 230-Volt)
- Permanent magnet, totally enclosed fan cooled (TEFC) motor delivers maximum energy efficiency and reliability
- Exceptionally quiet compared to single speed pumps
- Fully programmable, touch pad control can be rotated to four different positions or mounted to the wall for more convenient access
- Universal compatibility: operates independently, with Hayward automation*, or with competitive systems (via relay control)
- Available in both 115V and 230V versions
VIDEO | Hayward Super Pump VS : Programming & Troubleshooting
There are a lot people asking what the difference is between the Hayward MaxFlo and the Super Pump. I can see why, they are almost identical. Both the Super Pump and the MaxFlo use the same electric motors. These being the Energy Star, permanent magnet, variable speed motors, with the option of a 115V 0.85 HP or 230V 1.65 HP output. Their controllers are identical too. So I’m not going to go into too much detail about this, you can scroll up the page to read about the electric motors and controllers. I covered all of this in some detail when reviewing the Hayward MaxFlo VS pool pump range. What I want to do here, is address the all-important question.
What is the difference between the Hayward Super Pump and the MaxFlo pool pumps?
The first thing you’ll notice is that the MaxFlo is slightly more expensive than the Super Pump VS. Though I wouldn’t place too much importance in this fact. It’s more about how you intend to use your variable speed pool pump.
These two pumps differ in the pump head design. The MaxFlo VS pump is designed for a greater flow rate. In other words, more Gallons per Minute (GPM). Immediately, one would think that the Hayward MaxFlo VS pump is the best option. It has better water flow and that means more efficiency and improved filtration. But it’s not that simple. As your head increases, the MaxFlow experiences a greater drop in the flow rate when compared to the Super Pump. So if you’re lifting the water to a greater height, the MaxFlow won’t perform as well. The MaxFlo has a head lift spec of 8’ and the Super Pump has lift spec of 10’. More importantly, the Super Pump does not lose as much flow as the height increases.
Most pools don’t have a big height difference between the pool pump and the water inlets and outlets. So, in most cases, the Hayward MaxFlo pumps will be the better option, despite their higher price tag. Though there are a few instances where the Super Pump is going to be beneficial. This is when you need to lift the water to a greater height.
A pool that is built on a site with a steep incline may have the pump situated substantially higher than the waterline of the pool. If your pump is more than 2-3 feet above the pool level, the Super Pump will be the better option, it won’t experience as much of a drop in the flow rate as the height increases. Similarly, if you have a waterfall feature in your pool, your pump is going to have to lift the water to the height of the elevated outlet and this can be as much as 6 FT, sometimes more. If you have a solar heated pool, it’s very likely that you have solar collectors on the roof of your house. This obviously means that your pump will need to lift the water to a much greater height than a standard circulation pump and that 10 FT lift capability with a lower flow reduction is really going to make a big difference here.
So, to break it down simply, these are both some of the best variable speed pool pumps with excellent motors and controllers. If your pool and pump are very close to one another in terms of height difference and you have no need to lift the water for any reason, the Hayward MaxFlo is the best variable speed pool pump for the job. If you intend lifting the water more than a couple of feet, for any of the reasons listed above, the Super Pump is going to give you the best results.
Is a variable speed pool pump the best choice for you?
We’ve already become used to two speed pumps and these have proven themselves to be energy savers. So why change to a variable speed pump? A lot has to do the with the permanent magnet electric motor. As the world has become more aware of energy conservation, a lot has been done to improve electric motors. The growing popularity of electric and hybrid cars has resulted in increased research into producing the most energy efficient electric motor. The permanent magnet electric motor was born out of the search for the most efficient electric motor to use in an electric car. When applied to pool pumps, these motors have resulted in huge electricity savings, based purely on the more efficient design of the actual motor. By utilizing a variable speed control, these savings are taken to new limits. You’re able to set the pool pump to the best speed for the situation at hand.
Adding programmability to the variable speed pool pump, means that you’re able to vary the speed automatically throughout the day to provide for different situations.
Having a pool pump running at the lowest speed for longer periods saves electricity, a lower speed drastically reduces your power consumption. Though there’s more to this than just reducing the electricity that your pump uses. Just like a car becomes less aerodynamic as it increases in speed, water flow works on the same basic principle – friction. When your pump is running at its highest, the fast moving water generates increased friction between the water and the walls of the pipes. This affects the efficiency of the pump – the extra energy is essentially wasted to friction.
In addition to this, water moving at a fast pace reduces the efficiency of your filtration system. When water moves through any type of filter (sand, DE, or cartridge filters), the particles are collected in the filter, by stopping their movement. The filter creates drag and the solid matter is collected. Slower moving water means that the particles suspended in the water move slower and are, therefore, stopped much easier by the filter. Slow moving water is particularly effective at removing algae.
So for most of the time, slower moving water is the best and it uses the least amount of electricity. But there are times when you want to increase the power of your pump to speed up the water flow and increase the water pressure. Pool heaters are designed to work optimally at a particular flow rate. A variable speed pool pump allows you to program your pool pump to deliver the perfect GPM rate for your pool’s heating cycle. By optimizing your pool heating cycle, you’ll be saving even more electricity.
Any type of pool cleaning system that uses the pool pump to work, needs the best flow and pressure. This would include suction side and power side automatic pool cleaners, as well as pool skimmers. Again, it’s possible to optimize your pool pump power to match the needs of your automatic pool cleaning system.
Basically, a variable speed pool pump gives you the flexibility to match the speed of your pool pump to meet your needs and alter it as required. You can program it to change the pump RPM automatically, or override it manually if you need to. For instance, after a heavy storm, you may want to bump up your pumps speed to quickly remove the extra debris in the water. In the end, a variable speed pool pump increases efficiency, whilst reducing your electricity bills and improving filtration.
Learn more about variable speed pool pumps.