Green Power From The Big Yellow

photo of sun design on bottom of swimming pool
photo courtesty Tom Dowd | Dreamstime.com

One of the greenest and most innovative new products to reach the pool and spa industry in recent years is a solar filtration pump from Lorentz, a German company that specializes in solar-powered pumping systems. This invention takes the DC electricity from photovoltaic solar panels to drive a DC pump, which improves the power of the unit over the more conventional approach of taking DC current off a solar cell and transforming it to AC for use (most appliances are AC).

Needless to say, being able to run a filtration pump off the grid reduces pollution and the power drain on local utilities, and saves money for pool owners. AQUA interviewed Curtis Texeira, owner of Go Green Pool Care in Modesto, Calif., for an update on how the product is faring in the field.

How does this product work?

Well, this pump is different in that it does not hook up to the grid. It uses a 300- to 600-watt solar array โ€” 600 watts actually translates to 1.8 amps โ€” to deliver 60 to 80 gpm. It's so efficient because it does not use a typical motor; it uses a DC motor. Solar panels produce DC electricity, and the pump uses that directly โ€” there's no inverters, which account for part of your losses in a typical system. It's simple, and it runs full speed given the right exposure all day so it really is one of the cleanest pools on my route.

Especially nowadays, you're running into that stingy customer who wants to cut down on the pump run time, and this is a great way to overcome that because it runs at zero cost.

How much is the initial cost of the system?

It's quite a bit more than a typical pump because you're dealing with so many more components. You're looking at a four-panel system that does not hook up to the grid, though you have the option to install a converter so you can run off the grid.

The basic cost for four panels, the controller and the pump itself, plus the miscellaneous wiring, is about $5,300. And you can add about $1,000 to that for the run-at-night option. There are two-panel and three-panel configurations, too. Each panel adds about $500, so you could reduce that basic package by $1000 by going to two panels, but you lose a lot of your gpms and you lose your head pressure so you can't run suction cleaners on those systems well โ€” they'll run really slow with only two or three panels. They won't climb the walls. It'll run a suction cleaner on a four-panel system, but not the two-panel.

Can you put it on an existing pool?

Oh, yeah, it's great for retrofitting. You can use check valves and plumb it in parallel to the existing pump and that saves you the cost of the power pack to run it at night because if you want a pump at night, just turn on your old pump. You would leave all those components in place. That has been done in the past. For simplification, you'd run off the power pack, but if you want to save cost and have the option of running at night, you can leave the existing pump in there. It installs much like a regular pump, except there's no programming. It's pre-programmed; there's an on/off switch, and that's the only control function on the controller. You just leave it on and it'll power up automatically. When the sun comes out, it can detect how much solar energy is available. It works completely automatically.

Sounds like you think it will catch on as more people learn about it?

I really do. Its one disadvantage is the initial cost, even though it pays for itself very quickly. It's going to make your pool much less expensive in the long run. When you're talking about the life of the pool, that's tens of thousands of dollars in energy you're going to be spending.

It pairs really well with financing because out here in a six-year term, you're able to get a smaller payment on your loan than what you otherwise would be paying in utility costs on your old pump, so you could pay nothing out of pocket and start saving immediately.

How is it performing?

The one I've installed is one of the cleanest pools on my route because it just runs all day and it's much simpler from a service tech's perspective. It's a much easier system to work with. You don't have to worry about digital or analog time clocks; you don't have to worry about programming or any of that stuff. It's much less complicated and I love that.

If you ask any tech, the more filtration and circulation you have, the healthier the pool is going to be, but I run into that issue with customers: They don't want to run their pump 10 hours a day. It's one issue I'm facing a lot lately. Everyone wants to run the pump less and then they wonder why the water doesn't look as good. This pump can run 12 to 16 hours a day given the right configuration on the install.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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