Pool Pump Regulation Changes for 2021

The federal regulations for pool pumps are changing in 2021. We've put together a guide detailing what's changing and how it might affect you.

After July 19, 2021, variable speed pumps will be required on all installations of new and replacement in-ground pool filter pumps. The requirements are part of a mandate from the Department of Energy that focuses on minimum efficiency standards for U.S. homes and businesses.

The new variable speed pool pump law involved input from a number of sources, including utility companies, manufacturers, trade associations, and consumer groups to produce new standards that would be fair and feasible. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy produced a document in Sept. 2018 entitled “Energy Conservation Standards for Dedicated-Purpose Pool Pump Motors."

So what does all this mean for you?

Do you have to buy a new filter pump?

Unless your current pump fails, you do not have to replace your current single speed pump with a variable speed pump. After July 19, 2021, all new or replacement filter pumps over .711 Hydraulic Horsepower (HHP) — roughly 1.15 Total Horsepower — must be variable speed.

What is Hydraulic Horsepower and how does it factor?

Hydraulic Horsepower is the true measure of a pump's performance. It represents the amount of water a pump can push to, and through, the pool. The new regulations for 2021 mandate that any single speed pump operating at .710 HHP or lower meets the guideline. Any single speed pump operating at .711 HHP or higher (up to approximately 2.5 HHP) requires variable speed technology.

ENERGY-SAVINGS TIP: Although you don't have to change your existing pump, and even if your current single speed pump operates at less than .711 HHP, switching to a Variable Speed pump can save you significant money on your utilities bill each month. See how much with our energy calculator.

Are there exemptions or exceptions?

Yes, there are some exceptions. As of now, the DOE is specifically concerned with filter pumps used on in-ground pools. The federal mandate does not apply to:

  1. Filter pumps with greater than approximately 2.5 HHP.
  2. Waterfall pumps, manufactured and labeled as a waterfall pump.
  3. Integral sand and cartridge pump and filter units used on portable pools.
  4. Booster pumps used for pressure pool cleaners.
  5. Rigid spa pump filter pumps and circulation pumps.
  6. Pumps manufactured and labeled for above ground pools.

What are the benefits of variable speed pumps?

Jacuzzi Variable Speed Pool Pump

The biggest advantage is that a VS pump can save 40-80% on your utilities bill by consuming less energy. That range depends on how you use your pump and how much resistance is in your filter system. Running a VS pump on low speeds a majority of the time saves the most money, with higher speeds used only for filtering, cleaning, or heating purposes.

System resistance is also key. Two-inch plumbing, with simple designs (limited 90° elbows), has less resistance to overcome. Large cartridge filters are ideal because they have no backwash valve; slide valves have significantly less resistance than multiport valves.

In addition to energy savings, VS pumps are quieter and cooler to the touch because of their brushless, permanent magnet, DC motors. They also last longer than standard motors.

How are variable speed pumps installed?

VS pumps are installed just like any other pump. The larger VS pumps are wired with 230V, while smaller VS pumps can accept 115V or 230V power. Plumbing is exactly the same — one pipe in, one pipe out, attached with some thread sealant such as Teflon tape.

Can above ground pools use variable speed pumps?

Yes. Like an in-ground pool, be sure that the flow rates match fairly closely to the filter Design Flow Rate, and do not exceed it on high speed by more than 10-20%.

For above ground pools, the smaller VS pumps are a fine choice for in-ground pools up to 25,000 gallons.


See how you can get ahead of the upcoming requirements and take a look at our Variable Speed pump selection to find which one is right for you and your pool.

For questions about the upcoming deadline, VS pump selection, or installation, contact or stop in your local Leslie's store, or call us at 1-800-LESLIES.