Suntrek Industries

The increase in energy efficiency awareness is manifesting itself in two new pieces of regulatory language — one on the federal level, one for local adoption; one for pumps, the other for solar heating systems.

The Department of Energy is drafting a regulation to govern the efficiency of pool and spa pumps and to outline the testing method for determining if a product qualifies for sale in the U.S. It is expected that pump manufacturers will have to comply with the regulation beginning five years after it is published.

On the solar side, the International Code Council, the Solar Rating and Certification Corp., and APSP are collaborating on a model code for solar pool heating systems. This language will become mandatory in areas that adopt it.

Pump regulation

DOE is assembling a committee to write the language pertaining specifically to pool pumps of all functions, whether for filtration or as booster pumps for spa jets or waterfeatures. The scope probably will include single-phase pumps between 1- and 5hp serving residential and small commercial applications, said Gary Fernstrom, a consultant working on behalf of the California investor owned utilities. Sump and pond pumps likely will not be included.

Three standards familiar to many pool and spa professionals are expected to hold large influence on the new regulation — California’s Title 20 Appliance Efficiency Regulations and two Association of Pool & Spa Professionals standards relating to energy efficiency.

APSP and other stakeholders will work with DOE on the regulation. According to Carvin DiGiovanni, APSP’s senior director, technical and standards, the trade organization and federal agency have been collaborating for several months to lay some of the groundwork. DOE reached out to APSP, and they will work together under a negotiated rule-making platform, meaning various stakeholders can provide input.

DiGiovanni believes this bodes well. “This is a better opportunity for both sides to get in at the ground level,” he said.

By having a regulation dedicated to pool and spa pumps, DiGiovanni said, the product category should avoid being folded into more stringent regulations for larger commercial pumps.

There are expected to be alterations from Title 20 and the APSP standards simply because DOE’s writing procedures are different. For instance, while Title 20 requires that pumps of 1 horsepower or more be multispeed or variable speed. On the other hand, DOE probably will rely on a performance metric such as energy factor to determine if a pump qualifies for sale.

Still, this could very well mean the phasing out of less efficient single-speed pumps, Fernstrom predicted.

“I think there’s a reasonable likelihood that five years from now, predominantly [two-speed and variable-speed] products are allowed to be sold,” he said. “So the days of the inefficient single-speed pump may be drawing to a close, except for ones that happen to be exceptional at the jobs they do.”

This will seem less and less unusual, he said, because variable-speed pumps continue to gain inroads in the market. “And five years from now, that prevalence is probably going to increase, so this shouldn’t be a big surprise or shock,” he added.

Fernstrom believes the language will be published in approximately a year, but the DOE generally puts its regulations into effect five years afterward, allowing manufacturers time to retool if necessary to comply.

As someone involved with Title 20, Fernstrom would like to see the new regulation maintain at least as high a standard. “A less stringent regulation would mark a step backward in energy efficiency for California,” he said.

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Solar code

The ICC/SRCC/APSP Pool Solar Water Heating and Cooling System Standard marks something of a ramping up for solar standards. The ICC/SRCC recently published two broader codes concerning solar technology in general.

The measures come largely in response to increased interest in the technology, especially among states such as Massachusetts and California, which in the last couple of years have introduced bills either promoting the technology or certification for it.

“This is an opportunity to provide a higher level of performance for the industry and set minimum standards now that we see model codes being established for pools and spas,” said Shawn Martin, director of technical services for ICC-SRCC. “There’s a need to better establish that.”

These codes also come after ICC’s consolidation with the SRCC last year.

A major goal of the standard is to help increase sales of solar systems on pools, Martin said.

Currently, the intention is to write the code so solar pool systems can be certified out of the factory like an appliance, to speed up installations and inspections. “Instead of a code inspector having to check each little connection, the design can essentially be certified in advance, and then the code inspector would check to make sure that what’s installed matches the certified design,” Martin said.

The group also hopes such a streamlined process would motivate more builders to include solar systems in new-pool construction. “Right now most are retrofitted,” Martin noted.

The standard committee will hold its first meeting in October. The group is composed of 1/3 solar producers, 1/3 government officials and 1/3 installers and others who will have to adhere to the standard. The meetings are open to noncommittee members, Martin said.

The standard is expected to be published in summer 2016.

It will not cover photovoltaic systems.

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