The future of energy efficiency in the pool and aquatics industry is unfolding, thanks largely to a ruling by the Department of Energy.
The DOE’s Energy Conservation Standards for Dedicated-Purpose Pool Pumps sets July 19, 2021 as the deadline by which variable-speed pumps will become mandatory for powering pool and spa filtration systems.
As the deadline gets closer, the industry is working on all fronts to ensure compliance of the federal rule. This goes beyond the pump manufacturers, who are working toward compliance, said Jennifer Hatfield, director, government affairs for The Pool and Hot Tub Alliance.
“As an industry, we will do more education and marketing on the rule for the next few years so we’re all ready -- not just manufacturers, but installers and consumers as well,” she said. “We’re working with energy advocacy partners to make sure we’re getting the word out and that everyone is aware of the rule.”
As the industry prepares for the deadline of the DOE ruling, commonly referred to as “DP3,” several new initiatives are advancing to springboard off this momentum. Their outcomes are not so clear.
On the top of the list is a replacement-motor rule to correspond with DP3. Right now, DP3 does not apply to replacement motors. So if a pump motor dies, it can be replaced with any model – no standard applies. Insiders see this as a potentially big problem.
“If we don’t address the motor, we won’t realize the full potential of energy savings,” Hatfield said.
Work is underway to rectify this concern with a dedicated purpose pool-pump motor rule, said Carl Chidlow, lobbyist and principle of Winning Strategies Washington, a government relations firm based in Washington, D.C.
In October 2018, public comments closed on a draft rule, and so far, the reception has been positive, he explains.
“There’s been nothing but enthusiastic support,” he says. “It will be the final closing of a loophole to make sure both the motor and pump are at the highest standard of efficiency.”
If the rule passes, Hatfield and Chidlow expect it to go into effect at the same time as DP3.
Also in the works, the industry is advocating to include swimming pools and spas in a potential whole-house Energy Star certification that could be a game changer in incentivizing homeowners to make energy-saving retrofits to their abodes.
“If there is going to be legislation in Congress that deals with the retrofit of a house, we don’t want the pool or spa to be cut out of that,” says Hatfield.
Meanwhile, more work is being done to have the Hot Tub Efficiency Standard, APSP-14, adopted throughout the country. Among other things, this voluntary standard requires spas to be labeled with key information pertaining to its energy use. Each year, Hatfield says more states are adopting the code, including 157 local jurisdictions and 20 states that have adopted it through legislation.
“We’re up to 50 percent, and we will see more,” Hatfield adds.
The industry and government agencies are also looking at water conservation. For instance, a pool-cover specification may be included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Sense program. Similar to the Energy Star program, Water Sense helps identify products that conserve water. In September, the EPA issued a notice of intent, which means the organization plans to move forward to create a specification for pool covers. Products that meet that specification would receive a EPA Water Sense label.
Public comments kicked off on November 15 and are expected to last approximately four months.
The outcome of this and other efforts are ultimately unclear, and while insiders agree there is much more work to be done in the coming years, the consensus is that the future is bright for efficiency.
“It’s not going away,” Hatfield acknowledges. “It’s something we’ve talked about for quite some time and it will be something we continue to work on.”