When looking for ways to save energy in the home, we generally focus on the most obvious day-to-day energy uses: heating and cooling, water heating, refrigeration, lighting and so on. While these areas are certainly rich targets for the application of energy conservation measures, most of us overlook other conveniences that make our home significantly less energy efficient.
Surprisingly enough, it is not uncommon to find that one or more of these forgotten conveniences can account for more energy usage than a refrigerator or water heater. In terms of overall energy use, these residential products often fall a close second behind central air conditioning and central heating systems as the leading energy users in a home.
One area that is often overlooked, especially during the winter months, is swimming pool equipment. Now that the summer heat has slowly fizzled out and has given way to the cooler temperatures, swimming pools receive less attention.
Just as HVAC thermostat settings are adjusted to accommodate the various seasons, the same should ring true for the operation of pool equipment. Pool timers are simple devices that can be used to manipulate and reduce a pool pump’s operation time.
United recommends decreasing the runtime of pool pumps during the winter months. A good rule of thumb is to limit filtration times to an hour or less for every 10 degrees in outdoor air temperature. Running a pool filter only six hours per day versus 24 hours per day can reduce energy use by 75 percent. If the water does not appear clean, increase the time in half-hour increments until it does.
According to the Department of Energy, pool pumps often run much longer than necessary. Obviously, circulating pool water keeps the chemicals mixed and removes debris. However, as long the water circulates while chemicals are added, the chemicals should remain mixed. It’s often not necessary to recirculate the water every day to remove debris, and most debris can be removed using a skimmer or vacuum.
To develop a better understanding of the relationship between pump size (horse power), electrical consumption and a consumer’s hard-earned dollar, here are some of the key components in calculating operation costs. For simple calculation purposes, one horsepower (1 HP) is approximately equivalent to one kilowatt (1 kW). Over a one-hour duration, this is equivalent to one kilowatt hour (1 kWh), due to the inefficiencies inherent with single-speed motors. Therefore, if we use United’s October 2016 electric rate of $0.083 per kWh, a one horsepower, single-speed pump costs $0.083 per hour to operate. If the rate was consistent and if we presumed that a two horsepower (2 HP) single-speed pump was operated eight hours per day, year-round, the electric cost to run the pump would equate to roughly $485 per year. An additional hour of operation per day for a year’s time would result in $61 in electrical consumption. So, by simply reducing the operation hours of the pump, one could easily begin to see savings.
Most pools are equipped with freeze protection, causing the pool pumps to come on automatically when the temperatures get below a certain set point. This helps keep the exposed pipes from freezing. This will significantly increase the runtime during the winter months.
“It’s not uncommon for a pool pump to run several days straight in the winter following a strong cold front,” said United’s Energy Expert Kanyon Payne. “By simply adjusting the time your pool operates to night or early morning hours, a homeowner can offset some of the time the pool is already on for freeze protection. Members have done this to ensure that the pool pumps are not operating during the day due to the preset timers, and then again at night when the temperatures drop. Many members have even turned their timers off during weeks when the freeze protection is frequently cycling on the pumps,” he said.
For members who might need to replace a pool pump, or who are in the market to install a new pool, United recommends purchasing a variable-speed or multi-speed pool pump. Pool pumps today have evolved into a quiet and efficient workhorse that allows pool owners to reduce the rate at which the pump operates, significantly reducing electric usage. Variable-speed pool pumps and multi-speed pool pumps allow pool owners to filter and circulate a pool’s water longer, more quietly, and much more efficiently when compared to traditional single-speed pumps. The slower circulation rates put less strain on the filters, plumbing and other parts, requiring less maintenance and prolonging the life of the system.
According to the EnergyStar.gov website, on average an ENERGY STAR certified pool pump uses 70 percent less energy than standard pool pumps. This will result in a savings of over $300 per year, or over a thousand dollars over the life of the pump, and will provide a return on investment in less than two years.
A regular preventative maintenance program for pools is also recommended to ensure maximum efficiency. The filters need to be regularly backwashed, foreign materials need to be removed from the strainer baskets in the pump and skimmer, and the walls need to be regularly brushed in order to help keep pools clean and operating at optimum efficiency. The pool pumps are unable to filter and remove all the particles and debris from a pool.
Every electric consumer should develop a personal philosophy for wasting less energy, whether they currently own a pool or they are considering installing one. Taking even a few proactive measures in energy efficiency can benefit every consumer’s comfort and yearly energy savings. Members are encouraged to call or visit any one of United’s offices for more Energy Innovation tips and ideas.