The open availability of illegal pumps and motors — and the absence of law enforcement on the issue — is frustrating pool professionals across the state.
Arizona’s Pool Pump and Portable Spa Energy Efficiency Standards took effect on Jan. 1, and require multi- or variable-speed pumps on all residential installations with a pump size greater than 1 horsepower. The law was modeled after Title 20, a California code that makes similar provisions.
“From what I’m hearing at trade association meetings, compliance is lower than 25 percent in some areas,” said Dan Jonaitis, owner of Arizona Pool Specialists in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Jonaitis said some service technicians have been making pump replacement bids that undercut his by half, due to their willingness to skirt the law — and the fact that, while the code’s wording prohibits single-speed pumps and motors from being installed, it doesn’t explicitly prohibit the sale of those parts. Thus, many single-speed pumps and motors still can be purchased legally from distributors.
“It’s sad to say, but when you’re trying to win a new service account, that’s not the best time to tell the client that the law says they have to upgrade their pump,” Jonaitis said, “especially when your competition is telling them they don’t really have to.”
Though awareness of the state’s new energy-efficiency legislation continues to spread through the industry, techs report that public outreach has been scarce, with little more than a few debates on local television news and talk radio.
“This law’s gotten very little publicity outside our industry,” said Rick Chafey, owner of Red Rock Pools in Gilbert, Ariz. “I think most consumers, and techs who don’t belong to a trade association, are just ignorant of it.”
Still, veteran pool professionals know that ignorance of the law isn’t a valid legal defense, which is leading some to grumble about the state’s lack of enforcement.
“I’ve heard people saying things like, ‘Why should I be forced to comply when these other guys aren’t?’” Jonaitis said.
Enforcement of residential pool codes has indeed proven a tough nut to crack, as evidenced by legislation such as Title 20, as well as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act — both provisions require replacement of residential pool components, yet compliance has improved only gradually over the past several years.
As for Arizona’s new law, no reports of any enforcement have surfaced so far, and in dialogues with trade groups, some legislators have stated that they don’t yet understand the technical specifics of the law thoroughly enough to police it effectively.
Even so, many techs agree that improving pool energy efficiency is a positive step for the industry as well as consumers.
“We’ve been recommending variable-speed pumps to our clients for years because of the savings they bring,” Chafey said. “This law just forces the competition to keep up with us.”