Last Updated: May 26, 2021
You may have heard that variable speed pool pumps can save you a lot of money, but you might be scared away by the prices and the relative difficulties of figuring out which model is right for your pool. You can’t just ask the pool company, as they’ll certainly charge you more than it’s worth to recommend and install a new pump.
Shopping online is supposed to solve that problem, but we all know that there are times where online retailers are no better than the pool company.
We believe that it doesn’t have to be that way and that a well-informed consumer can make a great decision for their pool and for their budget. We’ve created a list of some of our favorite variable speed pool pumps of 2020, and our reviews cover the good and the bad. That way, you’ll know what you’re getting before you buy. We’ve also created a buyer’s guide which is designed to teach you what you need to know to evaluate these machines as an expert would.
|Best Overall||Pentair IntelliFlo Variable Speed Pool Pump||
|Hayward TriStar Variable-Speed Pool Pump||
|Hayward MaxFlo Variable Speed Pool Pump||
|Sta-Rite IntelliPro Pool-Pump||
|SPLASH Pool Pump (Variable Speed)||
The Pentair 011018 IntelliFlo Variable Speed Pool Pump is the pump you want to get if you want to save money by taking advantage of a variable speed pool pump. This model comes with a massive eight speeds, so it can be programmed to run at the optimal speed for the operations that take place at different times of day. Consequently, users can achieve very high efficiencies and save a lot of money by running this pump at lower speeds when critical operations aren’t taking place. It also runs more quietly than many variable-speed pumps, putting out only 45 decibels, which the manufacturer estimates is four times as quiet as a comparable fixed-speed pump.
It is also compatible with control systems from other brands, including IntelliTouch, EasyTouch, SunTouch, and others. That makes this pump easy to integrate into your heating, lighting, spa jet, and other water feature control systems. The big downside to this model is that it has complicated programming, which is difficult enough that many people will benefit from having expert installation just to get the programming done correctly. Still, the efficiency and savings this model provides are enough to earn it the top place on our list.
The Hayward SP3206VSPVR 2.7 HP Variable-Speed TriStar VS is another great model for people looking to invest in a high-quality variable speed pump. The best thing about this model is that it’s Energy Star approved. Not only do most users see real and meaningful savings on their electricity bill every month, but many electric companies offer rebates for installing pumps with that certification, which can save you even more money. It also comes with smart technology which is designed to help prevent suction entrapment, even without the installation of extra safety equipment.
This model is easy to install relative to most pumps, so it is a project that most people could tackle on their own. It’s also easy to program, which gives it a leg up over our top model in that area. However, it runs much more loudly. If you already have an enclosure around your pump, you probably won’t hear much of a difference, but this pump’s noise is noticeable without one. Overall, this is a great pump to buy to save a lot of money, and if it were redesigned with some noise-reducing features, we could easily rank this model first on our list.
The Hayward SP2303VSP MaxFlo VS is less powerful than the previous pump from the same manufacturer, but it packs in many of the same great features. Like the previous model, this model’s highlight feature is its Energy Star certification. This is a model you can use to dramatically cut your costs versus a fixed-cost model, and it’s one that could potentially earn your rebates from the electric company once it’s installed. It’s also very easy to program relative to most pumps, so you won’t need to call in an expert to get it done, and most people report that they can get finish quickly.
However, it also creates a lot of noise, especially when running at higher speeds. That’s going to annoy most people, but if you have an enclosure for the pump, the effect won’t be as noticeable. This model is cheaper than the previous one, but it doesn’t have the same durability. A small number of units only last two or three years. That’s not enough time to get a return on your investment when it comes to energy savings and means that people who end up with those units will be disappointed with their buy.
The Sta-Rite P6E6VS4H-209L IntelliPro Variable Speed pool pump is one of the stronger models on our list, so it’s one you should consider if you have a larger pool. It also runs more quietly than most models, so if you’re in a situation where every decibel matter, then this model might be the one for you. While it doesn’t boast the same Energy Star certifications that come with the Hayward models and thus won’t qualify for rebates, the variable speed operation will save you money on your electric bill.
Unfortunately, this model suffers from quality control issues. Some units ship with problems, such as cracks and non-functioning parts which should have been sorted out at the factory. They also suffer from poor durability. A significant number of pumps break down within the first three years. These would be less serious issues if the company was good about honoring their warranties. Unfortunately, Pentair has a reputation for denying warranty claims on the slimmest of grounds, which means that most people will be on their own if something breaks. While this model will save you money in the short term, its other problems make it a bad purchase in the long run.
The SPLASH PUMPS VAR 1500 Variable Speed Pump comes with a very low price, but its value is low enough that most people will be better off with a different model. It does come with a nice touchpad control, and unlike most models, there don’t appear to be problems with this part wearing out. You can also get this model for about a third to a sixth for what you’d be paying for the other models on our list. However, like most products that are significantly cheaper than the competition, it appears that some corners have been cut.
The pump isn’t that powerful at the lower power settings, meaning it needs to run near its maximum to be effective, which offsets its power savings. It also has poor durability, and many customers report it wearing out within three years, which is a huge problem. The manual is also confusing and incomplete, making it hard to correctly program this pool pump. Many people will be drawn to this model by its low price, but the fact of the matter is that the headache that this model causes makes it a poor choice for most people.
Our reviews may already have led you to the model which is right for you, but we know that some people still won’t have the information they need to feel like they’re making a great decision. If that’s you, don’t worry. This buyer’s guide is designed with you in mind. We cover a couple of key areas you’ll need to understand before you buy so that by reading this guide you can look at these machines like an expert would. We’ve also included some advice on maximizing the value you get when you buy, so if you’re looking for a great deal, make sure you check out this buyer’s guide.
The number one reason you should buy a variable speed pool pump is efficiency. By running at a high speed when demanding operations, like cleaning and or running water features, are going on and running a low speed the rest of the time, a variable speed pool pump can save you dozens, or hundreds of dollars per month in electricity savings. That means that even expensive models will pay for themselves in a year or two.
Of course, in order to get those savings, the pump needs to be able to get the job done without too much strain, and it needs to be programmed correctly so that it will run at the correct times for cleaning cycles and other events. If it’s not programmed correctly, you’ll either not save money, or your pool will start to get gross.
That’s why it’s very important that you get an efficient model. More efficient models can run at more speeds, and the most efficient models come with Energy Star certifications. Those models sometimes qualify for rebates from the electric company, which can lead to further savings.
Most pool pump companies require that you have a professional install the system. If you don’t, the warranty will be invalidated. However, some companies and some models don’t have that requirement in the small print.
The fact of the matter is that if you’ve been maintaining your own pool, you already probably know enough to change out the pool pump on your own. If you don’t mind voiding the warranty, you can save a lot of money by installing the pump yourself.
However, something you have to keep in mind is that variable speed pool pumps need to be programmed to work correctly. Some brands make this very easy, but most don’t. In fact, a good word to describe the programming on variable speed pool pumps would be “infuriating.” So, if you’re going to install one yourself, make sure you invest in a brand and model which has a reputation for being easy to program. If you don’t, you may find yourself having to call the pros to finish the job.
There are a lot of decent ways to go about shopping for a variable speed pool pump. However, if you want to get the best value for your money, you need to be strategic in how you shop. You need to know your pool’s needs, and you need to figure out what secondary features you’d like to see on your pump. If you’re going to be installing it yourself, make sure you invest in a model which is easy to program.
Start your buying process by making a short list of pumps with those features. Those will leave you happy with purchase, no matter the price. Of course, saving money will leave you the happiest, so choose the cheapest model from that list. That pump provides all the features you need for a good experience at the lowest overall price, making it the best overall buy for the money.
The Pentair 011018 IntelliFlo Variable Speed Pool Pump is our favorite variable speed pool pump due to its quiet operation, eight speed settings, and great efficiency. The Hayward SP3206VSPVR is another good choice, with features that help prevent suction entrapment, easy programming, and a money-saving Energy Star certification. The Hayward SP2303VSP MaxFlo VS also comes with an Energy Star certification, as well as easy programming and installation, though its noisiness drops it to third place. The Sta-Rite P6E6VS4H-209L IntelliPro Variable Speed runs quietly and is very efficient, but its poor durability and quality control issues mean it can take no better than fourth place. In last is the SPLASH PUMPS VAR 1500 Variable Speed Pump, which comes at a low price, but has issues with efficiency and durability.
We hope that our reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you gain a better understanding of variable speed pool pumps. You should now be able to find the model that’s right for your pool, and for your wallet.
You may also be interested in reading our above-ground pool pump guide found here.
Other articles we’ve written on this topic:
10 Best Above Ground Pools of 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks
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How To Level An Above Ground Pool With Water In It Already