Are variable speed pumps as unreliable as the reviews make them seem?

sccm_sysadmin

Well-known member
Apr 25, 2017
206
Greensboro, NC
I've been looking at reviews for variable speed pumps for a bit and they all seem to be rated pretty poorly. Even the supposedly higher-quality and expensive Pentair pumps have some just terrible reviews (where the device dies and there's basically no or little customer service.) 3-years seems to be the point where things go wrong on them.

Right now I have a cheap Hayward 1HP SuperPump -- single speed. It got hit by lightning about year and a half ago so I replaced the motor for $140 and it's been working fine ever since. It isn't energy-efficient at all but I usually only run it about 6-hours/night anyway and electricity isn't too expensive where I live.

Why would people pay $800-$1,500 for a VS pump that has such terrible reviews? Or am I just seeing the unhappy people and no one that is happy with their pump leaves a positive review?
 

chiefwej

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 12, 2011
3,293
Tucson
I replaced my Hayward 2hp SuperPump with a Pentair Intelliflo VS 3hp 011018 pump about 5years ago. The new pump has worked flawlessly, using only a small fraction of the power. The pump has more than paid for itself in power savings. Even without the power savings, I would still have a VS pump for its flexibility and programing.

My pool has an infloor cleaning system, a salt water chlorine generator, and a solar heating system, all of which require different minimum flow rates. The VS pump allows me to tailor the pump settings to the precise speed and runtime for the most efficient operation. The pump has an onboard controller which is set to come on in the morning at the correct speed for cleaning, then shift to a lower speed selected to support the SWG. If heat is called for and available at the solar panels, the pump shifts to a higher speed and the solar valve opens. When the solar is finished heating it returns control back to the pumps timer. In the afternoon, when my pump has finished, cleaning, chlorinating, and heating my pool, it shifts to a very low speed (that uses less power than a single light bulb) for some extra filtration. Late evening, the pump shuts down, and then repeats the program the next day. All done automatically using the pumps onboard controller. Do I like my VS pump.....well if died now, I would have a new one on order immediately.

It’s is important to provide a VS pump with surge protection. They are very sensitive to power fluctuations and surges. I have whole house type surge protectors on both my main service panel and my pool panel.
 
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mknauss

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
May 3, 2014
13,653
Laughlin, NV
My Pentair Intelliflo VS is in its 4th year. It is still as quiet as it was when new.

FYI - in 2021 - all pool pumps greater than 0.711 hp that are sold after that date will have to be variable speed. A federal regulation takes effect then.
 
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BMK

Bronze Supporter
Mar 29, 2016
247
SW PA
VSP's are so much more energy efficient that as an incentive to swtch, many energy providers offer one time discounts on your bill with proof of purchase.
 

YippeeSkippy

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jan 17, 2012
9,410
Evans, Georgia
I think the surge protection is important for all pumps, really. When we finally get a VS pump it will have its own protection.

Skippy and I lost a pump, a BOSE home theater system, and a few other things to some lightening strikes over summer one year. I wouldn't have thought we could get hit so hard and so often but man... its been expensive!

Maddie :flower:
 

BowserB

Active member
Jul 29, 2018
25
Katy, Texas
There's a lot of hearsay in the swimming pool world, but here is what Pentair's Engineering Manager Brian Boothe told me. The Pentair Intelliflo VSF at 1/2 speed, uses 1/8 the power, so run at 1/2 speed for twice as long as full speed gets you all the filtration with 1/4 the power usage and a quieter pump. Hearsay is that cartridge filters are more effective at lower speeds, too, although I have no empirical evidence of that. Also, I have Ozone and UV-C on my system, and slower water flow makes them more effective, although most people here will tell you that adding a cup of snake oil to the pool each morning will be as beneficial as Ozone and UV-C treatment, so disregard that portion of my info. According to the Pentair Link2O app, when my VSF pump runs at 2900 rpm (3450 rpm is max) it draws 1499 watts. At 2000 rpm, it draws 420 watts, so for a 30% speed reduction, I get a 72% power reduction.

Oh, and I also have a whole house surge protector installed in conjunction with my Kohler standby generator. Can't risk having no pool pump just because the power goes out!
 

Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
11,321
Bedford, TX
S,

Most reviews are done by people with an axe to grind.. I have three Pentair IntellilFlo pumps that have been running 24/7 for an average of about 6 years. Yet, I have never written a good review. Let's say you see 5 or 10 bad reviews... what you don't see is out of how many pumps that were sold?? 5 bad pumps out of 100 is pretty bad quality. But 5 bad pumps out of 10,000 is a pretty low failure rate. The customer also matters.. There are a lot of idiots out there that only 'think' they know what they are doing. I suspect the "No Problem Found" rate for Amazon returns in general is 75%...

You can get almost the same electrical savings by going with a two-speed pump.. The people that benefit the most from VS pumps are those pool owners that have a need for multiply speeds to run things like waterfalls, bubblers, Spas, SWCGs, Spa spillovers, etc..

Thanks for posting,

Jim R.
 

sccm_sysadmin

Well-known member
Apr 25, 2017
206
Greensboro, NC
My Pentair Intelliflo VS is in its 4th year. It is still as quiet as it was when new.

FYI - in 2021 - all pool pumps greater than 0.711 hp that are sold after that date will have to be variable speed. A federal regulation takes effect then.
Good to know, thanks!

VSP's are so much more energy efficient that as an incentive to swtch, many energy providers offer one time discounts on your bill with proof of purchase.
I looked into it for my electric provider. Duke Energy has a rebate program for up to $300 but they require that the pump be installed by "participating contractor". So most of the rebate would be spent having someone come install a pump, and they'd probably want me to buy the pump from them (at a highly inflated price). Its's also annoying that if you buy a pump online, Pentair has a reduced warranty period. There's always a catch!


Am I correct in assuming that VS pool pumps last longer and run better if they are covered and protected from the elements? Maybe it's time I look into sheltering my equipment somehow. As of right now it's never in the sun but it is under some trees that drop leaves, and it all gets rained on.
 

mknauss

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
May 3, 2014
13,653
Laughlin, NV
They are designed for outdoor conditions. Direct sun (especially here in the desert) will destroy most anything over time. My equipment is in shade for all hours except very early morning. Rain should not be an issue as long as the water cannot pond to the point of the equipment being submerged. I would suspect in you high moisture environment most all electronic components have more risk for failure. But, again, the components on the VS pump are designed for outdoor environment.
 

chiefwej

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 12, 2011
3,293
Tucson
To protect my pump from rain and direct exposure to the desert sun, I just used a storage bin and a utility knife to make a cover. Anyone following suit, just be sure to cut open the end for the cooling fan.
 
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