The 4-1-1 on High-Efficiency Pool Equipment

little girl splashing in the pool

April 5, 2017


Home swimming pools provide entertainment, relief from the sweltering summer heat, and a great way to exercise. They can also consume a significant amount of energy. In fact, homes with pools use 49 percent more electricity than comparable homes without pools, according to a study published by Opower, an Oracle-owned company. That extra power translates to about $500 in additional energy costs each year.

Does owning a pool mean you are stuck paying such high energy bills year after year? Not if you make the necessary changes to conserve power.

Where Does This Energy Usage Come From?

Circulating and filtering pool water with a pump is an energy-intensive task. An air conditioner is the only appliance that uses more power, on average, than the equipment needed to filter and heat a swimming pool. Pool heaters, though not as expensive to operate as pumps (because they are usually powered by natural gas), still add to the annual energy cost of a home.

Opower’s breakdown of the average costs associated with pool ownership is as follows:

  • $250 to $300 per year added to the electricity bill for a pool pump
  • $100 to $250 added annually for a heater

Install New Equipment Without Breaking the Bank

Newer equipment and mindful practices can significantly lower the cost of operating a pool. With more efficient pumps and heating options on the market today, upgrading your personal pool can make a difference in your annual utility and water bills. While it may seem costly to install new ultra-efficient pool equipment, certain products, such as solar-powered pool heaters and high-efficiency pumps can qualify for PACE financing. PACE stands for property assessed clean energy, a program that allows property owners to immediately finance water-saving and energy-efficiency upgrades for no upfront costs and then pay back the cost over time on their annual property tax bill.

Simple Efficiency Practices to Implement Today

The Opower study recommends simple practices that can lead pool owners down the path to lower energy costs. The first step is to use a pool cover, which helps:

  • Keep the pool clean and reduce the need for constant pumping
  • Retain warm water temperatures
  • Slow evaporation, which will help cut water costs in the long run

The study also advises pool owners to install a variable-speed pump. This will allow for slower filtering when the pool is not in use. Lower speeds, of course, result in less energy consumption. Finally, a study by Florida Atlantic University found that pool owners in the Sunshine State remained happy with their water quality when they only ran their pumps three hours per day. This illustrates that no matter where a pool owner lives, he or she can strive to find a balance between clear and safe water and the minimum amount of pump time (and therefore minimal energy consumption).

How To Make Your Pump More Efficient?

The Florida Atlantic researchers examined other pump-related factors and their impact on efficiency. They discovered that replacing older pumps with newer models could achieve an annual savings of 40 percent. Upgrading the filter while limiting the pump time to three hours per day can generate a savings of up to 75 percent per year, according to the study. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) suggests installing the smallest possible pump and filter for your pool’s size and design to limit energy costs. While you should consult with your pool supplier, most residential pools only require a 0.75 horsepower pump to run effectively.

Small Features Make a Big Difference

The DOE also expounds on the strategy of limiting the amount of time a pool pump runs each day. While running a pump for only three hours can lower costs, it leaves 21 hours for debris to collect in the pool and for the chemicals, such as chlorine, to settle in the water. An efficient pump with a timer can solve the problem of 21 hours of stagnant water: the owners can set the timer so that the pump runs for short intervals throughout the day, instead of running it for one block of time, and leaving it off for the rest of the day. Keeping a pool’s drains filter clean will also help the pump work more efficiently, as it will not have to push against any blockages. So, which pump will work best for your pool? Again, it depends on the size and design of your pool. Approximately 500 different models have received Energy Star certification, so there are plenty of models to choose from.

What About Solar Power?

Solar-powered heaters can significantly lower the cost of operating a swimming pool. Regarding the initial price tag, these heaters are on par with systems powered by natural gas or heat pumps. The month-to-month operating cost, however, is much lower, since the bulk of the power comes from the sun. According to Energy.gov, the initial cost (which may be eligible for PACE financing) will be recouped in one-and-a-half to seven years with the savings on energy costs versus a standard pool heater. Also, sun-powered pool heaters also have a longer lifespan than their natural-gas-powered peers—lasting between 10 and 20 years with proper maintenance. Different variables, such as space to install the solar panels at the proper angle so that they get maximum sunlight, are part of the decision-making process for property owners interested in this form of heating.

The biggest drawback to solar pool heating, according to the DOE, is the amount of space needed to host the panels. In a sunny climate with the ideal angle toward the sun that space could equal half of the swimming pool’s surface area. In cooler, cloudier regions, the will likely much greater. In warmer climates, too, the panel surface area should be larger than 50 percent (60 to 70 percent) so that they can accommodate year-round use.

Plant a Hedge

Another simple step, recommended by Sunset Green Home, is to plant a hedge next to the pool deck. Aside from providing privacy, these shrubs act as a barrier to stop the wind, which can both blow debris and cool down a heated pool and make it more expensive to heat. Steady breezes can also cause water to evaporate faster. New equipment, technology, and operational practices make it easy to increase the efficiency of a home swimming pool. Investing in these high-efficiency upgrades can significantly lower the costs to operate your pool.


PACE can help you finance hundreds of energy saving and water conservation projects. Find out if PACE is available in your area – contact Ygrene at (855) 901-3999; info@ygreneworks.com.