There are so many choices in our variable speed pool pump category that it can be overwhelming browsing the list trying to pick out the differences between each pump. To make it easier for the curious pool owner (and even us) we test the major variable speed pumps on the scene. We found pumps we loved, thought were had neat features and others that probably aren’t worth your time.
The big chart below shows the results of testing and general specifications for each pump. But below we hand out awards for the highlights and lowlights of the Pool Pump Variable Speed class. We’ll call the award, The Varies.
Click image to enlarge.
This category was the hardest to choose mainly because there are so many goodies included on variable speed pumps. Since it was so hard to mention just one, we have a few honorable mentions.
The Winner – Pentair IntelliFlo VF automatically calculates turnover – Displays GPM
Your VF automatically calculates your required flow rate according to the information below that you put in:
- Pool size (in gallons)
- How many times you want to turn over your water
- Total run cycles in a day
The IntelliFlo VF does away with the guesswork required to calculate necessary RPMs and runtime needed for other variable speed pumps, by allowing you to input desired GPM instead of RPMs. This guarantees that you keep your pool clean and your electric bill lean.
Using RPMs as the measure for throttling a pool pump is an imperfect solution when you need precise water flow and runtime schedule. Using RPMs can mean a difference of tens of gallons of GPM for a pump’s RPM on a pool with different feet of head ratings.
Intelliflo VF – Clean Filter Alarm
Another neat feature of the VF is its Clean Filter alarm which alerts you when your system’s PSI has risen above your recommended level. To set up this feature, clean your filter or install a new filter media then turn on your pump. Through the VF’s filter menu, set the Clean Filter Pressure and PSI Level Rise that will trigger the “Service System Soon” alert.
After the Service System Soon alert pops up, your IntelliFlo switches from monitoring GPM to managing system pressure. The VF will throttle its speed so as not to exceed the set “dirty filter” PSI value. This keeps your filter running smoothly and safely until you can clean your filter at your earliest convenience.
Antifreeze – All pumps contain this feature
All the variable speed pumps in our test group have an antifreeze feature that protects against pipe bursts and cracked pool equipment caused by freezing water. Antifreeze is activated when air temps dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the pumps give you the option to adjust the antifreeze activation temp, usually between the range of 40 – 50.
Easiest to Program
The Winner: Prime 1.65 – Easy Programming
The simplest variable speed to program is the PureLine Prime 1.65 HP. The Prime’s Century VGreen motor lacks the usual LCD display, but that slims down the programming options to three scheduled speeds, and an override option.
The gadgets and features of a variable speed are nice, but they are useless if the user is unable to program them correctly. This is why it is important that a variable speed’s controller is user-friendly and the Prime’s no-frills display keeps it simple. The Prime 1.65 would be ideal for small to medium-sized pools without water features.
Best Bang for Your Buck
The Winner – PureLine Prime
The PureLine Prime is the best combination of performance and price among our variable speed competitors. The Prime 1.65 or 2.7 HP models offer comparable water flow to the bigger brands, while its EnergyStar Rebate almost guarantees you can install a prime of equal or less than the cost for a comparable single speed pump. The Prime is powered by the leading manufacturer in pool pump motors – Century’s VGreen. The pump’s wet end may be familiar to pool owners, as it borrows from the Hayward Super Pump’s distinct square strainer frame, a design tested and proven over decades.
A point of note, even though PureLine is an Inyo-exclusive product, many of the replacements can be substituted for the Hayward Super Pump (meaning replacement parts can be sourced locally).
The Prime’s bestselling feature may be its price. The price of the PureLine 1.65 VS is hundreds of dollars less than the comparable Hayward Super VS. The Prime also boasts a more robust, and stable mounted timer.
The Prime’s EnergyStar rating makes it eligible for utility company rebates, depending on your area of the country. Meaning, you can snag a Prime VS for less than a standard single speed. The rebate incentive makes this an unbeatable deal.
The Winner – Pentair IntelliFlo VF
The cream of the variable speed crop is the Pentair IntelliFlo VF. The VF’s combination of performance, reliability, and unique flow-rate-based programming makes it a dream buy for pool equipment geeks. The IntelliFlo VF is based on the IntelliFlo VS, except the VF allows you to set desired flow rates instead of requiring the guess-and-test RPM method. This is why it won the best feature category.
You might ask, “Why is that a big deal?”
It is because RPMs are an imperfect way to calculate the proper flow rate for the pump. The biggest determinate of pump flow rate is a pool’s feet of head. This measurement has to take into consideration the distance from the pool, how many turns, the type of turns, and the rise in height of the water level and the pump. All that means is that 2,200 RPMs on Pool A can push 80 gallons a minute while on Pool B it may be 45 gallons per minute.
Our only point of bother is the reset button for backwashing and rinsing. It is a step that can be easily forgotten, but not a source of real annoyance.
And Lastly, Our “Thanks For Playing” Category
The downside of creating a ranked list is that there have to be contestants that come in last. We shy away from calling these pumps losers, because they are still serviceable pumps that can do the job. Though, they just do not add up to the tough competition in this variable speed class.
And the “winner” is…
The full line of Jandy Variable Speed pumps, the FloPro and the ePump. Our selection was based almost entirely on Jandy’s user interface the JEP-R. The JEP timer is about as user-intuitive as an IKEA assembly manual for the Oxberg Bookcase.
Our first gripe is the series of menus used for setting up runtimes, speeds, and other features like freeze protection. All of these features are spread over three different menus titled: Use, User Setup, and Service Setup. The menus have to be accessed by pressing three different combinations of menu keys, as instructed in the manual.
Without the manual, a user would be lost to adjust settings. The finicky and loose buttons do not appear to be made for the long haul. If the keypad is not kept covered, I could foresee the timer being affected (a costly repair that could be remedied by a redesign). The same could have been said for the old-style Hayward controllers. Fortunately, Hayward has addressed this in their recent redesigns.
I felt bad because we have a few categories, but Hayward did not place in any of them. The facts are, Hayward has a model for every need; whether it is the Super Pump VS for small pools all the way to the TriStar VS for large pools with a bunch of water features. Their performance made them the bridesmaid, but still a good pump if you can find it for the right price.
As you can see, not all pumps are equal. According to our tests and opinions, the Pentair and PureLine have an edge over the competition, but do not fret if you have the Jandy or the Hayward. The latter are solid machines, but could use some improving to improve their programming and reliability.