The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to assign the well-known Energy Star designation to qualifying pool pumps.

EPA officials hope to make certification available as early as August 2012.

“The pool is commonly overlooked [in energy-efficiency incentive programs],” said Jeff Farlow, program manager of energy initiatives at Pentair Water Pool and Spa in Sanford, N.C., who has been working with the EPA to launch the program. “This helps legitimize our product as a true energy conservation means in the home.”

Farlow also expects the program will help pools shed the reputation they have carried, at times, as energy hogs.

For a product category to qualify for the Energy Star program, it must be able to deliver enough energy savings over time to allow the consumer to recoup any higher upfront costs. Also, more than one nonproprietary technology must be available.

The EPA explored such a program at the prompting of industry members and utility companies, said Christopher Kent, the EPA product specification lead charged with coordinating the pool-pump program. “When we started really delving into some of the saving opportunities, it blew us out of the water, so to speak ... so it seemed to be a great opportunity,” he said.

At this stage, the EPA plans to include single-, multi- and variable-speed models, though that may change as more data become available. Though the intent is to focus on residential inground pumps, some have asked that aboveground pool pumps also be included, Farlow said.

The agency is not considering replacement motors, controllers or pumps specifically designed for spas or commercial applications.

Farlow hopes the Energy Star pump program will undergo development through a “fast track process,” which shortens the procedure to about six months, compared with the traditional 12 to 15. For this to happen, manufacturers must conduct testing and provide data to the EPA to guide it in developing the program. However, fewer producers than had been hoped supplied information by the first deadline in January, Farlow said.

At this point, the EPA is preparing to release an initial draft of the testing methods and parameters that may be required. Manufacturers, utilities, environmental advocacy groups, test labs and other stakeholders will comment, after which there likely will be additional rounds of drafts.

The EPA is optimistic that those who sell pumps at the retail level also will weigh in with opinions. Anyone interested in participating may contact Christopher Kent at [email protected].

Once the program has been launched, independent laboratories will perform the certification. Though the parameters may be finalized this summer, it isn’t known how quickly Energy Star pumps will hit the marketplace. Turnaround depends on how well-equipped the labs are to perform the specific tests, and how quickly manufacturers have their products tested, labeled and distributed.

When all is said and done, Kent expects it to become easier for consumers and more profitable for the industry to lower the energy usage of pools.

“The Energy Star marker has a great consumer understanding,” he said. “Without having to know the details of the efficiency of that product, they can just look for the label to distinguish what is more efficient from one product to the next. It’s great for manufacturers as a selling point for their products.”