Monday Dec 22, 2008

Energy Saving Pool Pump

This really is about pool pumps, not Java. ;\^)

Almost 10 years ago we upgraded to a new house and when planning out the landscaping, we decided on a pool. I'd never owned a pool before and had no idea what I was getting into. Growing up in Southern California, a great deal of my childhood summers were spent in the local city pool. The thought of having my own pool seemed like a cool idea, and it is great to have, and it looks really cool:

But... pools do not come cheap. One expense is the pool service, which runs me over $130 per month. As an expense compromise, we decided to do our own the yard work, but pay to have the pool taken care of.

Anyway, more to the point of this blog. Pools use pumps, electric pumps, to circulate and filter the water. Depending on your electric rates, the cost of running these pumps can easily run thousands of dollars a year. In my area of California, the cost of electricity is priced in 5 tiers, the highest 5th tier is twice the lowest or baseline tier. Larger homes are pretty much guaranteed to enter the 3rd tier, many get into the 4th and 5th, and the pool pump alone could cost people $4,000 per year. And this cost includes cutting back the time the pump runs in the winter, these pool pumps use lots of electricity.

So about 9 months ago, a loud screeching out by the pool equipment area announced that our pool pump had lost a bearing and managed to destroy itself enough that it needed to be replaced. Just replacing the pump was going to be over $500, but having been given some variable speed pump information recently from Allan Freeman at Alliance Solar. I decided to wait and investigate. Luckily we have two pool pumps, one for the waterfalls and one for the pool filtering, so we had the pool people swap the pumps, temporarily giving up using the waterfalls (not a big deal). This bought us some time.

Then recently Allan contacted me with an estimate to install a variable speed pool pump including the interface to the pool automation system. His estimate also included a predicted electricity savings of somewhere between $700 to $1500 per year! These variable speed pool pumps can potentially pay for themselves in roughly 2 years. So we went for it. Go green! ;\^)

The new interface box is on the left of the pool control box, and the new variable speed pump is the left pump, the right one is the pump for the waterfall. The interface box is what somehow maps the pump settings to the older pool control system settings, different speeds are needed for different pumping situations.

Basically the old pump was drawing 9amps, all the time. The new pump will draw anywhere from .7amps to 5amps at the highest speed setting. The really big savings comes from the fact that the basic pool filtering action can use the lower if not lowest pump speeds, and the basic pool filtering is probably 80% of the pump's usage. What a deal!

So if you have a pool, and you want to save on your electric bill, before you go buy solar electric panels, investigate these new variable speed pool pumps. Dollar for dollar, these new pumps could pay for themselves well before solar electric panels could.

Just to note, we have had solar electric and solar pool water panels for many years:

The panels on the right are only used in the summer, heating the pool water, we had those installed probably 8 years ago. The panels on the left are solar electric panels we have had for 4 years or so. The goal on the solar electric panels was to get us out of the more expensive 4th and 5th tiers of the electricity rates, which they have done, and they save us maybe $150 a month, but the system cost close to $8,000 after all the rebates and tax credits (the rebates/credits change from year to year, so investigate this carefully before you buy anything). The panels send DC electricity to the Sunny Boy converted in the garage:

The AC electricity is mostly consumed but if there is excess, it spins the electric meter backwards (no batteries on ours), kind of giving us a credit or in a sense using PG&E (the elctric company) as our battery. We generate far less than we consume, but that was the plan when it was installed, to generate the electricity we would have paid a premium for. Of course, that's why our new pool pump won't save us as much as a neighbor who doesn't have solar electric panels. Still, it saves us money, but it takes much longer to get your money back from a solar electric system. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we did it, but people need to understand that these systems do cost quite a bit to have installed. First, go for the variable speed pool pump, well, assuming you have a pool. Then look into solar electric panels.

Allan Freeman and his excellent professional crew from Alliance Solar Services in Alameda installed all our solar panels and the new variable speed pump. They can be reached at (510)-523-2833 and I HIGHLY recommend them.

-kto

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Various blogs on JDK development procedures, including building, build infrastructure, testing, and source maintenance.

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