California’s New Variable Speed Pool Pump Law

Living in Florida, we view the state of California as a front-runner in energy efficiency. This is especially true in the pool industry. With Title 20, California set the industry standard for pool motor efficiency. It was the first successful attempt to regulate residential pool pump and motor combinations. However, make room for California’s new variable speed pool pump law. Although Title 20 has been around for over 10 years, new rules and regulations threaten the current status quo as we see today.

In this article, we will describe what Title 20 is and how the changes can affect pool owners in the United States.  

The Whats and Whys of Title 20

Historically, operating pool equipment accounts for up to 20% of a household’s energy consumption. Now, imagine the number of pools in a large state like California. That is a lot of energy consumption. As a result, this significantly impacted California’s electrical grid. For this reason, California adopted a set of new standards for residential pool pumps.

Now, the California Energy Commission (CEC) requires you to use a dual, multiple, or variable speed motor. According to the CEC, implementing these standards can save you up to 80% of the electricity needed to circulate and filter your pool.

According to Section 1605.3(g)(5) of California’s Appliance Efficiency Regulation, California requires:

  • Pump motors that are made after January 1, 2006, cannot be split-phase or have a capacitor start-induction run type
  • Motors with a total horsepower greater than .75 must operate at two or more speeds
  • The pump must operate with a control that is capable of running the pump at two speeds (minimum)
  • The control’s default circulation speed setting cannot be more than one-half of the motor’s maximum rotation rate
  • High-speed override capabilities cannot exceed one 24-hour cycle without resetting to the default settings
  • Pressure cleaner booster pumps, commercial pool pumps and motor combinations, and auxiliary pumps are not regulated by Title 20. 

** Title 20 Fact Sheet: California Appliance Efficiency Regulation**

California’s New Variable Speed Pool Pump Law

All in all, we wish we could say that the changes to Title 20 were sudden, however, they weren’t. Title 20 has been in effect for over ten years. Now, with 2019 approaching, we begin to see tighter regulations and stricter enforcement. By January 2019, the CEC intends to expand the existing scope of replacement pool pump motors and replacement motors.

Now, the new regulations align with the scope for federal dedicated-purpose pool pumps. They include:

  • Tougher regulations on standards for single, dual, multi, and variable speed pump motors sold separately from the pump as replacements
  • All replacement motors 5 HP or less
  • Update testing procedures for manufacturers
  • Power standard and label requirement for portable electric spas

How the Changes Affect Pool Owners in California

Although a lot of the changes affect manufacturers and retailers (like us), some of the changes also affect you as a pool owner. Beginning January 1st, pool owners are no longer able to purchase single- speed pumps or replacement motors. This is an attempt to transform the energy consumption in the state. Sure, this policy is already in effect, now agencies are enforcing it.

Before, it was easier to get around the pump mandate. In the event that a pool owner wanted a single-speed pump, they could simply order one online. In fact, we would sell you one. However, things are changing. Now, instead of targeting pool owners, agencies turned their attention to retailers and vendors like us.

As a result, we no longer will ship single speed pumps or replacement motors to pool owners in California. This also means that if you currently own a single speed motor, be prepared to replace it with a variable speed option.

What About Pool Owners Outside of California?

What about the pool owners outside of California, you ask? Well, you’re not out of the clear just yet.

If the Department of Energy has its way, beginning 2021, variable speed pool pumps will become mandatory for pool owners everywhere. Yes, you read that correctly- everywhere. Together, the Department of Energy, pool manufacturers, and utility companies finalized a federal regulation setting minimum efficiency standards for pool pumps.

This also closes the loopholes we currently see in states like California, who already have efficiency protocols in place. The 2021 regulation will supersede any state regulations in place and applies to both residential and commercial applications.

In short, variable speed pumps are slowly but surely becoming the law of the land. Sure, many things can happen before 2021, however, variable speed pumps aren’t going anywhere. Right now, it is the fastest-growing popular pump group on the market.

If you are on the market for a new pump or motor replacement and are unsure which ones qualify under Title 20, click HERE.

Are you for or against the new policies? Leave us a comment.

29 thoughts on “California’s New Variable Speed Pool Pump Law

  1. What is the quality of the new motor at opposed to the old 1 hp single speed, for example?
    I understand it’s more energy efficient, but how does it compare regarding the job they each do?
    Wondering because my new energy efficient clothes drier takes about 3 plus hours to dry a few towels. I have to run it three times in a row to get the job done.

    1. A pump motor is a lot simpler than a drier. It’s only job is to spin the impeller, there’s not much difference between how a single speed and a variable speed motor works with the pump.

  2. I am in Calif. My motor died and my local installer put in a motor that specifically said “cannot be sold, installed, used in Calif”. He argued with me and says that is not true. How can I file a complaint against him for violation of code 24?

  3. Fortunately I don’t live in California, however the single speed 1.5 HP 48Y frame motor that is popular for pool pumps, is exactly the same motor used for my small irrigation pump. How would a vendor differentiate between someone buying a motor for a pool pump, from someone purchasing the same motor for an irrigation / sprinkler pump?

  4. I just bought a pool pump that looked exactly like the one that was damaged currently bump on the side that says also has same specifications except for a bump on the side that says energy conservationist and it came with a sticker that it could not be sold in California. The seller is an online retailer from Florida. What should I do because I do not want to leave the pool without a pump for too long.

    1. If you want to be in compliance with the ordinance, you should contact the dealer you sold you pump to have them return it. They can be fined for shipping you a non-compliant pump.

      If they refuse to take it, then you may be able to take it up with the agency that enforces the ordinance to put pressure on them.

      1. I am in california and my local pool motor installer replaced old one with one that specificallt states that it “cannot be sold, used or installed in Cal”. He argued with me and said that is not true. How can I file a complaint against him? thanks

  5. I just found out about this policy at my local pinch a Penny. They have stopped selling the high-efficiency single speed 3/4 horse motor. They stated I need to buy a whole new pump system at approximately $1,200.I looked at the specs the kicker is it uses one extra amp than my old single speed high efficiency motor did

    1. First, are you comparing like for like horsepowers? Second is a dual or variable speed motor? if so, then the point of having those multi-speed motors is to run on the lower speeds which are significantly more efficient. For example, the dual-speed B984 motor may use 11amps on 3450 RPM, it uses 1.8 amps on 1725 RPM. The multi-speed motors should only be used on higher RPMs if you need more flow for vacuuming or heavy filtering.

  6. what about my home warranty company First American who is trying to illegally replace my pool pump motor with a refurbished pool pump that is not CA Title 20 compliant. How are they able to do that? Isn’t it being illegally replaced

  7. Hello, I live in California, I just bought a older home with a built in pool not realizing pool has a single speed motored, is the Seller required to update Pool Equipment before sale House?
    I feel I was missed lead Pool appear to be beautiful the first and second viewing, but once key we’re handed over pool went downhill. Pump looks outdated, filler Beyond cleaning and I was told Pool has been resurfaced. Paint is Pulling up every time I turn on this pool sweeper. Can anybody tell me if I have any rights as a first time home buyer with a pool That has major issues.

  8. I recently purchased a single speed pump/filter motor. The pool supply store said the duel speed pumps were not as good as they advertise and he has a motor that saves 1/3 on the energy, but it is a single speed. Was he just trying to get rd of his inventory? Or did he Brak the law?

  9. I need to replace my
    AO smith SK1102 motor with a compliant motor. What are my options? Thanks

    1. Hello Oliver – because that is the old keyed shaft style SK1102, there is no drop-in compliant replacement for your motor. There are two routes: conversion to threaded shaft or replace the whole pump. Your pump model may still be in production and there are threaded shaft conversion parts. The conversion would be costly but cost less money than the next option. Your pump is discontinued, requiring that you buy a whole new dual or variable speed pump.

  10. I need to replace a booster pump, not the main pool pump. Does the booster also need to be variable speed? and could I order a Variable for the main pump and single for the booster?

  11. Where can I turn someone in for violating the law. A customers motor fried, 1hp on a old brass pump. I insisted on title 20 compliance they found someone else to have motor rebuilt then take over pool service. I shouldn’t be punished by trying to follow the law. Client and new pool company were aware of the law and clearly in violation. It’s just not right.

        1. Yes where can you report violations, I have had 2 warranty affiliated companies try to replace my motor with non-complaint motor

  12. I’ve had a variable for about 12 years connected using manual speed switch. This is due to a Fafco on the roof which the slow speed can’t handle. So, most od the time i only use high-speed unless i have isolated the plumbing to bypass the trip to the roof. Is there another way to manage this?

  13. I don’t mind the change for the sake of energy efficiency. changing the pump wasn’t that difficult either.

    my question is this: I now have a single speed pump sitting in my garage gathering dust. what should I do with it?

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