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California has passed new energy efficiency standards for pumps, motors and spa testing.

On Dec. 3, 2008, the California Energy Commission adopted amended language to its Title 20 appliance efficiency program. The changes were the result of more than 10 months of public comments and recommendations from manufacturers, trade associations and individual contractors.

“We’ve had differences of opinion on how to get the best results, but the good news is, generally everyone is focused now on energy efficiency,” said Gary Fernstrom, a staff augmentation employee at Pacific Gas & Electric Co., who has spearheaded advocacy efforts for energy efficiency in pools and spas.

The more significant changes will affect the sales of pool pumps and motors.

As of Jan. 1, 2008, filtration pumps sold with a capacity of 1hp or higher must be capable of operating at two or more speeds. But the language failed to clarify two issues: whether replacement motors were subject to the same law and how “capacity” is defined.

The newly amended language now includes replacement motors in its scope, thus making them part of the requirement. The language also clearly defines capacity as total horsepower (the product of the nameplate hp and the service factor). These changes will go into effect Jan. 1, 2010.

However, CEC is still considering issuing a clarification to define capacity as total horsepower in the current language, according to Fernstrom. The clarification would be effective immediately and require new 3/4hp pumps, which generally have a 1.25 total hp, to be sold as two-, multi- or variable-speed for filtration applications.

The new Title 20 amendments also allow for more leniency in spa testing.

“The way they [wrote] it originally … it was really a difficult test to achieve the requirements they asked for,” said Angelo Pugliese, senior engineer at Dimension One Spas in Vista, Calif. “They gave us some leeway and that was a big help.”

The amendments established allowable variances in ambient air and water temperatures. The changes should ultimately enable more spas to become compliant with the state’s energy efficiency requirements.

PG&E is currently planning to research energy savings between automatic pool cleaning products and solar thermal heating systems. Though the company is not looking to advocate any more laws, the results may influence the California Public Utilities Commission’s new incentive and rebate programs, which should be unveiled this summer.