Variable-speed pool pumps offer a lower noise output, higher energy savings, and more control than single-speed and dual-speed pumps. However, there are plenty of variable-speed (VS) pumps on the market, making it difficult to know which one is best for your swimming pool. Many pumps aren’t compatible with various pool sizes and plumbing dimensions.
The best variable-speed pool pump is the Pentair Superflo VS Pump. This 1.5HP pump offers a wide RPM range for the best speed settings available. You can use it with water features, vacuums, and optimal filtration. It works with 1.5” and 2” PVC plumbing, making it suitable for almost any pool.
You might also prefer the following VS pumps depending on your situation:
- The Black + Decker 1.5HP VSP is budget-friendly.
- Try the Pentair Intelliflo i1 if you have small plumbing.
- Use the Hayward TriStar for larger pools.
- The Hayward MaxFlo is excellent for in-ground pools.
- The Black + Decker 2HP VSP is great for its ultra-quiet operation.
Throughout this post, I’ll cover what you need to look for when buying a variable-speed pump, including multiple reviews for the top options on the market.
What to Look For in a Variable-Speed Pump
Choosing the best variable-speed pump for your pool will result in the greatest energy savings. That being said, you wouldn’t want to get a pump that’s too big for the plumbing or comes with complicated controls that you might not need. It’s best to find a pump that lets you limit energy usage while providing optimal water flow.
Here’s what you should look for:
- Horsepower: Every variable-speed pump has a maximum horsepower. Most of them range between 1.5HP to 2.5HP, but some pumps deviate from the average grouping. Pools between 10,000 to 15,000 gallons can use a 1.5HP pump, whereas pools between 15,000 to 25,000 gallons should use a 2.5HP pump.
- Speed Settings: All variable speed pumps let you adjust their speeds. Some of them allow manual RPM changes in 50-RPM increments, while others come with several pre-set options. These speed settings become more useful if you want to run water features or vacuums randomly.
- Energy Efficiency: The vast majority of pool owners upgrade to VS pumps because they save money in the long run. Variable-speed pumps use rare earth magnets that allow them to operate with less wattage while reducing the noise output. Some VS pumps are more energy-efficient than others, though.
There are plenty of stats and characteristics to look through when you’re getting a new variable-speed pump. These three factors are only a handful of what you should keep an eye out for, so I’ll provide tables with additional details below each pump on the list. Let’s jump into the importance of horsepower, speed settings, and energy usage below.
Variable-speed pumps come in multiple sizes, all of which are labeled by their horsepower. Getting a pump that has too much horsepower can cavitate the impeller by producing steam from the increased pressure. You’ll also get more horsepower than you need, which could end up making you spend more money on your energy bill.
On the other hand, getting a VS pump with not enough horsepower will slow your pool’s circulation and lead to algae growth. You might also have to run it throughout the day and night, rather than only a handful of hours. It’s important to find the sweet spot by following these golden rules:
- All pools below 5,000 gallons need a 0.5HP VSP.
- Any pool between 5,000 to 10,000 gallons needs a 1HP VS pump.
- Pools from 10,000 to 15,000 gallons require a 1.5HP pump.
- Any pool between 15,000 to 25,000 gallons should get a 2.5 HP pump.
- Anything over 25,000 should use a 3HP pump.
Many pool owners overestimate their pool’s gallon total. Multiply the cubic feet of the water by 7.5 to estimate the size. You can produce much more power with a 3HP variable-speed pump, but it’s usually unnecessary.
I typically recommend that people choose a VS pump that lets them run it at a lower speed for as many hours as possible since moving water reduces the chance of algae blooms. Running a variable-speed pump longer will also prevent the water from freezing.
If you feel like your variable-speed pump isn’t producing enough flow, consider ramping up the RPMs. All VS pumps have RPM settings that let you increase or decrease the pump’s speed. It’s a good idea to use multiple speed settings if you have multiple features that rely on the pump throughout the day.
Some VS pumps have two settings while others have eight or more options. It can be a little complex if you’ve never used a VSP. However, it’s essential to have several settings if you have waterfalls, suction-side vacuums, pressure-side vacuums, jets, connected spas, etc. These features require more power, so you’ll need optional speeds.
Adjusting your variable-speed pump’s speed settings offers numerous advantages, including:
- You can lower the speed to prevent the pump from tripping the breaker. It uses less power, which means older circuit breakers won’t be overloaded. Furthermore, it buys time for you to get a new breaker that can handle the typical 230V energy demands.
- Running the pump at a slower speed for more hours reduces its energy consumption while preventing algae. It also circulates the chemicals more thoroughly, preventing them from clumping and damaging the liner. While I often suggest running the pump for one hour per ten degrees Fahrenheit, you can operate a VSP 24 hours a day in some cases.
- Some pool vacuums demand more power. If you don’t have enough speed on one setting, you can increase it for a couple of hours to provide more power to the vacuum. This timer adjustment lets the vacuum run for three hours or so, then it switches back to regular circulation without any hands-on input.
- VS pump speed settings work on a timed schedule. You can set them when you install the pump and never adjust them again (unless the pump timer malfunctions). I’ve programmed hundreds of variable-speed pump timers without ever having to go back to the customer’s house to reprogram the setup.
- You can program each speed to a specific number (usually 1 through 4) on the pump’s interface. Click the number to adjust the pump’s speed. This setting is excellent for destroying algae blooms, or when you have a bunch of guests and pets swimming in the pool.
Keep in mind that some variable-speed pumps come with more settings than others. For example, the Pentair Superflo has three speed options, whereas the Pentair Intelliflo i1 has up to eight settings (four digital and four buttons).
Most people look for VS pumps because they save money. Variable-speed pumps don’t require very much energy. Single-speed pumps are some of the most energy-demanding appliances in the average household. However, you can save over $500/year by switching to a variable-speed pump.
So, how do variable-speed pumps save money and remain energy-efficient? Here are the three primary reasons:
- VS pumps use magnets to create energy rather than relying on a steady supply of high wattage. Most other pumps have old-school motors that are loud and energy-consuming. This new-age tech helps your pump operate much quieter and more efficiently, saving you money in the long run.
- You can run your VS pump at lower speeds, which means it doesn’t need too much energy. While these new pumps typically cost twice as much as single-speed pumps, people often get their money back in savings within two to three years. Everything after that is saved from your VSP investment.
- Variable-speed pumps are tailored to your pool’s needs. Your new VS pump will start and stop at the best times, run on the correct schedule, and more. You can pair most variable-speed pumps with automation, which lets you program lights, water features, and more.
As you can see, energy efficiency is a top priority for VS pump producers. If you want to save money, reduce your carbon footprint, and take control of water features, variable-speed pumps are the way to go. They’re also much quieter than the average single-speed pump because they don’t overload the motor every time they’re on.
Variable-speed pumps also last much longer than single-speed and dual-speed pumps. With all of these benefits in mind, it’s time to decide which VSP you want for your swimming pool. Without further ado, I’ll dive into the reviews below.
Our Top Variable-Speed Pumps
- Best Overall: Pentair Superflo Pump
- Best for the Money: Black + Decker 1.5HP VSP
- Best for Small Plumbing: Pentair Intelliflo i1 VSP
- Best for Large Swimming Pools: Hayward TriStar Pump
- Best for In-Ground Pools: Hayward MaxFlo Pump
- Best for Low-Noise Output: Black + Decker 2HP VSP
Best Overall: Pentair Superflo Pump
The Pentair Superflo Pump is hands-down the best variable-speed pump available. It’s a 1.5HP pump that comes with three programmable time-speed combinations.
You can set the pump to run between 100 RPMs to 3,450 RPMs (some models only go down to 800 RPMs, but you wouldn’t ever need anything less than that for a swimming pool).
One of my favorite features of the Superflo VS pump is that it comes with 1.5” and 2” unions. You can install it into any PVC plumbing if you have the proper adapters. This universal pump packs a ton of power with a small footprint. The clear lid lets you see when the basket needs to be emptied or if the impeller is clogged.
The Pentair Superflo uses a universal union height that almost always makes it a plug-and-play installation. Pentair includes a multi-year manufacturer warranty, too. The interior cooling fan and rare earth magnets combine for up to 80% of energy savings annually. You can also adjust the 24-hour internal clock to override external timers.
Bottom Line: The Pentair Superflo Pump is user-friendly, easy to install, and hands-free once you program it. You’ll love everything from the reliable energy savings to the durable exterior that protects it from direct sunlight, chemical corrosion, and more. It’s an all-around excellent pump for any swimming pool with PVC plumbing.
|Dimensions||28 x 15.5 x 12.5 inches|
|Voltage||115V and 230V|
- Includes universal unions to fit 1.5” and 2” PVC plumbing
- Saves up to 80% of energy each year
- Comes with three customizable speed settings
- Uses an adjustable 24-hour clock with an override mode
- No need for an external clock and additional wires
- Not suitable for pools over 20,000 gallons
- Limited to three speed settings, unlike other VS pumps that have 8+ settings
- Not enough power for those with multiple water features and vacuums running simultaneously
Best for the Money: Black + Decker 1.5HP VSP
Black + Decker might not be known for swimming pool equipment, but its 1.5HP VS Pump is an excellent choice for the money.
Those seeking a simple, budget-friendly variable-speed pool pump will enjoy the 1.5HP, 240v setup. It comes with 1.5” and 2” unions to fit almost any PVC in-ground pool plumbing.
This pool pump offers four speed settings with an RPM range of 450 to 3,450. You’ll have maximum control over when the pump starts, when it stops, and how quickly it runs. It’s a perfect setup for those with water features and vacuums. The interior fan keeps it cool, preventing the motor from overheating.
These variable-speed pumps come with an impressive five-year limited warranty. Most of the competition includes warranties between one to three years. Much like the previously mentioned Pentair Superflo Pump, the Black + Decker 1.5HP VSP saves up to 80% on your pool pump’s energy usage. You’ll save money on the initial purchase and over the long run.
Bottom Line: Black + Decker managed to create an impressively quiet and efficient design without breaking the bank. You’ll receive most of the features of other high-end VS pumps while saving hundreds of dollars. It’s also self-priming, saving a ton of work and energy spent starting the pump every time it turns on.
|Dimensions||26.5 x 11 x 13 inches|
|Voltage||220V and 240V|
- Comes with a five-year manufacturer warranty
- One of the most affordable VS pumps on the market
- Includes four settings for some of the best customizations
- Includes 1.5” and 2” unions for most plumbing fixtures
- Comes in a 2HP and 3HP variant for those with larger swimming pools
- Most of the parts are made of low-grade plastic
- The small pump basket clogs quicker than other models
- Uses too much power for a 110V or 115V setup
Best for Small Plumbing: Pentair Intelliflo i1 VSP
Pentair’s Intelliflo i1 VSP is a smaller version of their heavy-duty Intelliflo 2. This VS pump has small unions to fit all 1.5-inch plumbing setups.
It’s perfect for those with pools under 10,000 gallons since it has a 1HP motor. Most other VS pumps are overpowered for smaller pools, making this the ultimate pump for many pool owners.
Another excellent perk of this pump is that it has four programmable speed buttons and four additional digital speed settings. You can make it run whenever you want for however long you need it to circulate the water. There’s also a manual override that lets you operate the pump without using the preset schedule.
Pentair is well-known for its compatible automation setups. The Intelliflo i1 Pump connects to any Pentair automation system to work with various lights, water features, vacuums, music, and more. It’s a great addition to the ultimate backyard pool party. The ultra-quiet motor makes it even more appealing to any pool owner who’s tired of their loud, old-school pump.
Bottom Line: The Pentair Intelliflo i1 VSP is a step down from the powerful Intelliflo 2, but it’s still a worthy contender. Those with small pools shouldn’t look any further. This VS pump combines high-quality, advanced technology with plug-and-play customizations. It even has a built-in diagnostics tool that tells you when something’s wrong with the pump.
|Dimensions||23.41 x 10.78 x 12.50 inches|
- Comes with Pentair’s limited manufacturer warranty
- Perfect for small pools that don’t need a ton of horsepower
- Compatible with Pentair’s popular automation systems
- Includes four programmable speed buttons and four digital settings
- Built-in diagnostics tell you what you need to do to fix the pump
- Doesn’t include unions, which means you’ll need threaded PVC pipes
- The small motor doesn’t work for pools over 10,000 gallons
- Complex features could be too much for first-time VS pump owners
Best for Large Swimming Pools: Hayward TriStar Pump
The Hayward TriStar Pump is the best pick for those with pools above 20,000 gallons. It has a massive 2.7HP motor that’s whisper-quiet compared to any single-speed pump of the same horsepower.
It also works with 115V and 230V electrical wiring, so there’s no need to switch circuit breakers or hire an electrician.
Hayward claims their TriStar Pump saves up to 90% of annual energy compared to 2.7HP single-speed pumps. The unique internal magnets kickstart the motor for a long-lasting, low-noise, energy-efficient setup. You’ll also enjoy the UV-resistance exterior coating that prevents damage from direct sunlight.
This VS pump includes four programmable speeds, letting you decide when it starts, stops, and at which speeds. It comes with 2” unions, so you’ll find it easy to cut out the old pump and install this one in its place. For a 2.7HP pump, this is as quiet as it gets. You can run it at lower speeds for a longer period of time to reduce the noise output while preventing algae blooms.
Bottom Line: Hayward is a trustworthy, reliable brand, so it’s no surprise that its TriStar VS Pump remains the best VSP for large swimming pools. Everything from the adjustable settings to the ultra-powerful motor makes it a top choice for countless pool owners. The energy savings are as good as it gets.
|Dimensions||30.1 x 13.6 x 16 inches|
|Voltage||115V and 230V|
- Includes a massive 2.7HP motor for the best power in the price range
- Suitable for dual-electrical setups, so there’s no need for rewiring
- Comes with several customizable options, including speeds, times, and more
- Comes with the necessary 2” unions for PVC plumbing
- Saves up to 90% on energy usage
- Weight 65.9 pounds, making it one of the heaviest VS pumps around
- The warranty is void if it’s not installed by a professional
- Not suitable for 1.5” plumbing
Best for In-Ground Pools: Hayward MaxFlo Pump
Do you have an in-ground pool and a single-speed pump? If so, I highly recommend the Hayward MaxFlo Pump.
This variable-speed pump cycles up to 160 GPM (gallons per minute) with a 1.65HP motor. Much like many other energy-saving VS pumps on the list, you’ll save up to 80% on your pool pump’s power usage.
Hayward did everything it could to make a universal user-friendly pump with this model. Everything from the extended handles on the pump’s lid to the locking display lid is designed with you in mind. There’s even a handle on the pump’s basket to help you remove it quickly, dump it, and install it back into the pump.
This VS pump is compatible with 115V and 230V electrical setups. Simply remove the wires from the old pump and connect them to the new motor. You can turn off or remove the external clock since the MaxFlo Pump includes a built-in timer. Program up to four different timers for the ultimate pump circulation schedule.
Bottom Line: The Hayward MaxFlo Pump is one of my top choices for in-ground pools because it’s cost-effective, easy to install, and extremely energy-efficient. I truly believe that anyone with a pool of around 15,000 gallons will love this variable-speed pump. It’s quiet, money-saving, and very simple for a VS pump.
|Dimensions||27.8 x 11.9 x 15.9 inches|
|Voltage||115V and 230V|
- Cycles up to 160 gallons per minute
- Comes with an EnergyStar certification for up to 80% energy savings
- Includes an ultra-quiet 1.65HP motor for slightly more power than the traditional 1.5HP VS pump
- Uses an internal clock to override external timers with a built-in schedule
- Includes a built-in cooling fan to prevent overheating
- The warranty is ineffective if the pump isn’t installed by an expert
- Includes a small pump basket that needs to be emptied often
- Comes with a bulky interface module that could be too big for crowded equipment pads
Best for Low-Noise Output: Black + Decker 2HP VSP
The Black + Decker 2HP VSP is incredibly quiet compared to all other 2HP VS pumps. You don’t have to reduce the power or increase the energy consumption to enjoy a whisper-quiet VSP these days.
This pump includes a powerful 2HP motor with a four-speed setup that ranges between 450 RPM to 3,450 RPM.
The secret to this VS pump’s quiet operation is the air-cooled motor. It uses a massive built-in fan that prevents the bearings, capacitor, and impeller from working too hard and wearing down.
The fan is quiet enough to barely hear it unless you’re right next to the pump. In fact, you likely wouldn’t even hear the pump running when it’s at 450 RPMs.
Much like the other Black + Decker VS Pump, this one includes a five-year limited manufacturer warranty.
It also comes with a pre-installed pump pad to elevate it off of the ground. This pad prevents unwanted cracks, vibrations, and water damage. It’s also great if you need to lift the pump to reach the pre-existing plumbing.
Bottom Line: The Black + Decker 2HP VSP is incredibly quiet for a 2HP pool pump. You won’t have to worry about the hissing, grinding, screeching sounds that accompany most 2HP pumps anymore. It’s also quite energy-efficient and easy to program. The extended warranty is even better if you have it installed by a professional.
|Dimensions||26.5 x 11 x 13 inches|
|Voltage||220V and 240V|
- Comes with a wide RPM range to suit any pool owner’s needs
- Includes unions for all PVC plumbing setups
- Uses a built-in elevation pad to protect it from debris and level it with the existing plumbing
- Comes with a built-in cooling system to keep it quiet and prevent overheating
- Multiple customizable speed settings makes this an easy setup for pool owners of all experience levels
- Most of the parts are made of low-end plastic, so they might need to be replaced (However, it comes with a five-year limited warranty)
- You can’t use this VSP with a 110V or 115V electrical setup
- Not as many advanced features as you’ll find with major brands, such as Hayward and Pentair