Over the fifteen-year life span of the CEE is happy to announce the launch of the High Efficiency Residential Swimming Pool Initiative. Source: iStockphoto.CEE Super Efficient Appliance Initiative, market penetration of highly efficient residential appliances such as clothes washers and refrigerators has increased dramatically, and the energy savings remaining to be captured in these products has diminished commensurately. This situation prompted efficiency program administrators to look for new sources of residential energy savings.

Swimming pools were quickly identified as a significant and largely untapped energy savings opportunity, often accounting for over half of the total energy consumption in homes with pools. While the Initiative covers numerous components of pool systems, pool filtration pumps are responsible for 70 percent of the energy used to operate a typical pool. Thus the initial focal point for CEE members is on the largest savings opportunity: promoting energy efficient pool pumps.

The result of more than three years of development, CEE launched its High Efficiency Residential Swimming Pool Initiative on January 1, 2013. The Initiative brings CEE’s binational focus to an entirely new area by supporting member efforts to capture the significant opportunity for energy savings in swimming pools, focusing first on pumps. The Initiative also informs industry by advancing a credible, third-party definition of energy efficient pool pumps and controls, as well as analysis of the associated energy savings potential, all of which is designed to aid in increasing market uptake of these products. Although the initial focus is on pumps and motors, the Initiative purposefully looks at swimming pools as systems of interrelated components, and thus provides an opportunity for CEE members to capture additional energy savings available with other pool equipment, as well as through the promotion of quality installation and maintenance practices. 

Pool Pumps

Pentair Aquatic Systems, Intelliflow Variable Speed PumpBroadly speaking, there are three types of pool pumps: single speed, multi speed, and variable speed. In general, single speed pool pumps are less expensive than multi or variable speed pumps, making them the low cost choice for many purchases occurring for either new systems or replacements. Single speed pumps not only dominate the current market, but also consume the most energy.

While there is a modest range of efficiency profiles available to consumers within the single speed pool pump motors category, the most significant energy savings with pumps derives from the ability to operate the filtration pump motor at lower speeds; a facility that is only available with multi and variable speed pumps.  These units, which can garner 55% and 83% energy savings, respectively, as compared to single speed units, do have higher first costs, but offer pool owners substantial savings potential over their operating lifetimes.

Pool Pump Controls

CEE recognizes that achieving energy savings with efficient pumps is also dependent on other factors such as climate, pool hours of operation, and especially proper installation and programming of the equipment to take maximum advantage of energy savings potential. In practice, many efficient pumps are set to operate at higher speeds and for longer run times than is needed for their particular application. As a result, the Initiative includes a control specification that requires controls products have the ability to operate pumps at multiple speeds and default back to lower speed settings.

Reaching Out to Contractors

An important goal of the Initiative is to support contractors in the proper installation of multi and variable speed pumps. CEE members believe this will serve to ensure customer satisfaction with the performance of highly efficient pumps by resulting in consistently high water quality without excess energy consumption, thereby lowering energy bills.

In an effort to support this objective, CEE members are engaging in discussions with industry partners about quality pool contractor training across the United States and Canada. Additionally, CEE provides a forum for sharing successes and lessons learned regarding educational and marketing materials and approaches. The goal is to realize greater savings by raising awareness about the benefits to efficient products and quality installation.

Overcoming Price Resistance

While lack of awareness among consumers and contractors is one market barrier for efficient pumps, another, possibly larger one, is simply the price tag. Although lifetime operating costs of multi and variable speed pumps are lower than for single speed units, contractors and distributors often have a difficult time convincing owners to look past the higher initial cost of high efficiency pumps. Disseminating lessons learned about marketing these pool pumps can help make this conversation easier. Vital to overcoming the cost barrier however, is lowering the incremental cost of efficient pumps. By providing a binational definition for efficient pool pumps, controls, and their savings, CEE is supporting the development and expansion of programs that offer incentives for these products.  More activity in the market works to minimize the price differentials, and increase market penetration of efficient pool pumps and controls.

CEE is currently building and will maintain a qualifying product list of pool pumps that meet its Specification. This list provides a centralized resource where contractors can easily identify multi and variable speed pumps that are currently available in the market, and serves as a credible resource for consumers and efficiency programs to learn more about the performance characteristics of efficient pumps.

The CEE Specification defines two performance tiers for pool pumps and controls. Tier 1 pool pumps may be multi or variable speed pumps that meet the low and high speed energy factor requirements. Tier 2 pool pumps must be variable speed pumps and are required to meet specific low, mid, and high speed energy factors. To ensure that energy savings are realized, controls must also be installed so that pumps run at the appropriate speed(s), given a particular system configuration.

The CEE Specification for pool pump controls also has two tiers. Tier 1 controls provide the ability to operate a pool pump at two speeds based on user presets, while Tier 2 controls offer the ability to operate at more than two speeds. In order to qualify, both Tier 1 and 2 controls must have a default filtration speed that is no more than half of the motor’s maximum rotation speed, and must return the pump to the lowest user preset speed within one cycle or 24 hours.

Currently, CEE members have swimming pool pump rebate programs operating in eleven states, but with this new Initiative, and its binational definition for efficient pool pumps and controls, CEE offers members support that should lead to development and adoption of pool pump programs in additional geographies. Working together at CEE, members and industry alike are excited to continue work in this area in the future to advance efficiency and capture these and other energy savings presented by swimming pools. To get involved, or for more information, contact CEE.

About CEE
CEE is an award-winning consortium of efficiency program administrators from the United States and Canada. Members work to unify program approaches across jurisdictions to increase the success of efficiency in markets. By joining forces at CEE, individual electric and gas efficiency programs are able to partner not only with each other, but also with other industries, trade associations, and government agencies. Working together, administrators leverage the effect of their ratepayer funding, exchange information on successful practices and, by doing so, achieve greater energy efficiency for the public good.