Longtime Pentair Dealer Began Preparing for 2021 Pump Regulation Years Ago

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Tom CucinottaTom CucinottaThe following content is supported by one of our advertising partners. To learn more about sponsored content, click here.

Although it happened at a pool industry trade show more than a dozen years ago, Tom Cucinotta remembers the day he was introduced to Pentair’s IntelliFlo® VS pump as if it were only last week. A company representative at the event told him that the pool industry’s first variable speed pump would help his customers save hundreds of dollars per year in energy costs. (In 2017, Pentair launched the IntelliFlo® VSF, a variable speed unit that also adjusts to changes in flow conditions.)

A few months after his first introduction to the IntelliFlo, the owner of Cucinotta’s Pool Service in Lake Worth, Fla. — and now one of the pool industry’s most sought-after education leaders — decided to test the efficacy of Pentair’s variable speed pump on his own pool.

“I raised my hand during a Pentair University class about the pump and said, ‘When I leave here today, I’m going to buy an IntelliFlo and put it on my own pool. If that thing doesn’t save me money, like you said it will, I want my money back,’” Cucinotta says today. “When I got the power bill for the first full month of use, it was $115 less than it used to be. So I went on a mission.”

That mission? To spread the word about variable speed pumps to his customers by explaining the energy savings that result from lower rpm and lower flow rates — and then proving it by replacing their single-speed pumps with IntelliFlo pumps. The equipment might cost more upfront, he warned, but it’ll quickly pay for itself in the form of reduced energy bills.

“I started selling the pump like crazy,” recalls Cucinotta, now a longtime Pentair dealer and certified warranty service provider. “I asked customers to track their power bills and share their savings data with me, and I took that to show other customers. Word spread, and everybody started turning to me to swap their pumps out.”

Whether or not he realized it at the time, Cucinotta and his grassroots effort were preparing his customers — and his own business — for the future. Beginning in July 2021, a new Department of Energy pump regulation will render most (about 80%) in-ground single- and two-speed residential pool pumps on the market today obsolete. Non-compliant pumps will no longer be manufactured, although those in the supply pipeline can still be installed after the new regulation takes effect. (New DoE-compliant single-speed pumps are expected to hit the market, too — including multiple Pentair models.)

As AQUA reported earlier this year: “This enormous regulatory change will come down to a retailer, builder or service pro explaining to a homeowner how much better it is to have a new, efficient variable speed pool pump than an old, inefficient single- or two-speed pump. Despite the higher cost. … [the pumps] are better for consumers and better for the country in the long term.”

Some people within the industry have likened this shift to passage of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Act, which was implemented in 2008 and imposed mandatory federal requirements for suction entrapment avoidance on drains. Cucinotta agrees with that assessment and suggests his fellow pool professionals not dismiss such comparisons as hyperbole.

“There are still a lot of people who don’t believe the DoE regulation is coming,” he says. “They’re still pushing single-speed pumps. They’re not doing anything to let their customers know what’s going to happen in less than a year, and that blows me away. They’re afraid the homeowner will have sticker shock, but the pump sells itself. Remember: An educated customer is always your best customer.”

‘All the Tools We Need’

As the inventor of variable speed pump technology, Pentair is leading the way in educating pool professionals about the new DoE standard with a dedicated website. As the site notes, given “a brand new pool of customers, with federal mandate in-hand and lots of questions,” the opportunity for builders, retailers and service pros to boost their bottom lines is tremendous.

Pentair offers three online calculators — a residential pool pump energy savings calculator, a commercial pool pump energy savings calculator and an energy audit calculator — which is why Cucinotta never enters a backyard without his iPad.

“I always have WiFi access and can do an energy audit for customers in five minutes with my smart tablet,” he says. “Pentair has taken the time to make all the tools we need available to us, which is great. They can lead us to water, but if we don’t take a drink, shame on us.” 

Cucinotta, who sent all of his customers a letter in 2019 notifying them of the new pump  regulation, also sponsors weekly two-minute television spots on local newscasts during which he explains the forthcoming changes and highlights the IntelliFlo VSF’s benefits. He calls those spots the best TV advertising he’s ever done.

Another less-costly way to educate pool owners, and one that has worked for Cucinotta, is the temporary installation of a sign in a customer’s yard indicating that particular homeowner is either saving more than $600 per year or more than $1,000 per year in energy costs with a variable-speed pool pump. The signs encourage people to call Cucinotta for more details. He also uses movie-theater advertising stills shown prior to feature presentations, inviting viewers to contact his company for a free energy audit and additional information.

Cucinotta may have helped Pentair move countless variable-speed pumps over the years, but the manufacturer also has made his own business better. “I would not be as successful as I am without Pentair’s entire support staff — from the factories to the engineers to the reps and the regional managers,” he says. “At any time, I can pick up the phone and get an answer from someone, fast. I never had that with other companies.” 

As it’s always done, Pentair will continue to support its partners as the industry enters a critical new era — one that Cucinotta has long been ready for. “Once people get over the fear of sticker shock with customers and make their first sale, things will take off from there,” he says.

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