As the Department of Energy prepares its first energy-efficiency regulation for pool pumps, the California Energy Commission is revising its Title 20, the 10-year-old appliance standard that has affected the rest of the country.

Unlike Energy Star designations, which are voluntary, the new DOE regulation must be complied with for pool pumps to be sold in the U.S.

The regulation will stipulate a cut-off size at which pumps must be variable-speed to be sold in the U.S. for residential inground pools. To define the threshold, DOE is using a measure not common in the pool industry — hydraulic horsepower, also known as wet-end horsepower. If passed in its current form, the regulation will require all pool pumps of 0.711 hydraulic horsepower (approximately 1 total horsepower) or higher to be variable-speed. Those under the threshold or used for aboveground pools and pressure cleaner booster pumps will need to be energy-efficient single-speed at the very least.

The effects on the industry are yet to be determined, but they have the potential to be significant. “Many of the current available SKUs — any self-priming single-speed [pool] pump of 0.711 hydraulic horsepower or greater — is likely going to go away,” said Jeff Farlow, program manager of energy initiatives at Pentair Aquatic Systems in Sanford, N.C.

Some exceptions: The standard will not apply to pumps of more than 2.5 hydraulic horsepower (about 5 total hp). Those referred to as waterfall pumps, which have a maximum operating speed of about 1,750 rpm, also are excluded. Very small, inflatable aboveground pools will only need a timer.

DOE is implementing a method that’s relatively new to it, namely, allowing a negotiated rulemaking committee to hash out the language. This group includes all types of stakeholders, including pump manufacturers and energy-efficiency advocates, so they can provide their own perspectives to help ensure all needs are addressed. “It gave us a voice at the table and allowed us to play a role in creating what would be the destiny for the pool industry,” Farlow said.

The committee has settled on language, which now goes through a higher-level DOE committee and legal counsel before being released for public comment. The standard is expected to come out later this year.

Meanwhile, the California Energy Commission is aware that the DOE is embarking on a regulation that will supersede Title 20, the state’s standard governing pool and spa pumps. As such, it is changing the focus to pool and spa motors — new and replacement. This will close a loophole whereby homeowners choose to replace their motors rather than pay for a new variable-speed pump, said Gary Fernstrom, a consultant working on behalf of the California investor-owned utilities.

But Title 20 also applies to spas, and this is where the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals is most concerned. If California applies the currently proposed language to inflatable spas, this product category likely wouldn’t qualify for sale in the state, said Jennifer Hatfield, APSP’s director of government relations. To mitigate this, the association is requesting that a different standard be used for inflatable spas.

The revision of Title 20 is expected to be finalized this year and go into effect in 2019.

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