Friday, March 1, 2019

I Finally Gave Up On My Hayward Variable Speed Pool Pump.

Several times over the years I've mentioned my Hayward Variable Speed Pump. When I got it, it was a dream come true. Here was something that could filter my pool and save me money doing it. I could control the speed and pretty much design my pool filtering around the power company's lowest rate requirements.
But, right off the bat, it failed. Hayward fixed it and all was well with the world. Then, it failed again. Hayward fixed it again. Then, you guessed it, it failed again. This time Hayward told me it was out of warranty and would cost me $550 to get the new 'drive' unit. I bought one, but from a supplier on ebay because I didn't want to pay the required installation fee they wanted to hook up the wires that replacement would require. I'm perfectly fine with hooking up wires.

It failed again a few days ago. At that particular time it was actually snowing here in the Arizona desert. Surprisingly, we had about four inches of snow on the ground that morning. No, it wasn't frozen, I checked and the darn thing failed before the temperature dropped below freezing. Remember, I record the power usage of the house and monitor the status of the pool as well. The way I discovered the pump had failed was noticing a thin layer of ice on the pool. That has never happened because the no freeze controls on the pool keep the water moving.

Looking at it, there was an error message, "Motor Stalled". I actually believed that message and took the pump loose from the plumbing (yes, in the snow) and turned the impeller. The motor was not frozen. It did cog a bit from the magnets, but it turned freely. Next, I pulled the wiring loose and took it to the patio table (out of the snow) and pulled it further apart. There was nothing mechanically wrong. Fine, look on the internet.

There was story after story about this pump. "Drive Error," and "Motor Stalled" were the two that most often occurred. I asked around, and a friend recommended a place that specialized in pool pumps. I called them. and they were very nice to me, consoling me on the problems with that pump, but didn't offer much in the way of suggestions other than replacing the electronics for $650 plus a small labor charge.


I asked about just replacing the dog gone thing. For a little over $500 I could get a 2.6 HP two speed pump motor installed on the existing impeller housing. Really? You can do that? Yes. I'll be down tomorrow morning. Here's the pieces sitting on the garage floor waiting for me to do something else to it:

I loaded up the Hayward VSP pieces into the Jeep and took it in. True to their word, they fitted the motor to the impeller housing and replaced all the gaskets and worn parts as well. These folk actually did it while I waited, and I got to talk to several people that came in for various problems and parts. 

I noticed on their outgoing shelf waiting for pickup were three pumps just like mine. All of them waiting for pickup after having some similar problem. Of course the "doctor" analogy applies. I'm at a doctor's office so everyone I see is sick, but it certainly made me feel better because, "Misery loves Company."

Here's what it looks like with the old impeller housing and new motor.

I'm sure someone wants to know what the motor is, so here's a picture of the label on the side of the motor. Thinking about it, I need to put clear packing tape over that so I'll be able to read it in a year or two.

And, here are the pieces that should go in the trash, but I want to play with that motor some. I suspect I may be able to used a three phase converter from some ebay supplier and turn this into a variable speed motor for my drill press. A three horsepower variable speed drill press !  Sweet.

So, the only piece that is going in the trash (after I see if there's anything inside worth keeping) is the part with the heat sink on it.

I brought the new assembly home and have it sort of installed. I didn't have to change the plumbing at all since it was the same impeller housing. I do have to add a wire for low speed, but (surprise) I want to change some things.

I want to add multicolor wiring for the various line power items. I had a heck of a time chasing down which wires went where and it was a real pain walking back and forth from the power panel each time I wanted to shut off the power to the pump. So, since the controller housing has facilities for breakers, I'll add breakers right where I can get to them and multicolor wiring so I can tell which things hook to what. That should make it much easier to work on next time.

But, since the motor technology is over a hundred years old, all I'll need is bearings, seals and an occasional start capacitor. If the motor wears out entirely, there will be plenty of choices on what I can stick in its place.

Heck, for that matter the Goldline controller I use is not made anymore and I probably can't get parts for it when it fails, so next time it fails, I'll gut it, keeping the power supply, power relays and tossing everything else. That complex, ever failing, mess will be replaced with a simple XBee, Arduino, and the power relays that the controller already has.

Yes, the VSP was a cool piece of technology, and did save me money on power usage. However it simply didn't save me as much as I spent on it to keep it working. Where's the fun in that?

And, yes, that means all the research I did on the protocol and operation of the motor won't ever be used by me. Others have leveraged that work and I know there are some control systems for this motor out there based in part on that work, plus it was fun to work on.

But what about saving energy? I have friends that are energy conscious, and they don't understand my motives. I'm not energy conscious as much as I'm MONEY conscious. The latest rate increase my power company put into place played right into my hands. Without thinking about it, they gave me the periods of greatest need at the lowest rate. I need to run the motor while the sun is at its peak, around noon or so, so the solar heater can have maximum impact. That's also the time for sitting by the pool and cooling off from the intense summer sun. The (idiotic) power company in their infinite greed made the peak sun period part of the "off-peak" period so they could screw over the solar installations since that is also peak solar production hours and they get to credit the solar folk less.

That played right into my miserly little hands. I can run the pump at any speed I want to from 8 PM until 3PM the next day. Sure, that falls right across dinner hours, but I can easily work around that little problem.

And while we're at it, take that Hayward. You charged me a small fortune for the pump, and due to your own bad engineering, had to fix it twice (which must have eaten up the profit). I had to fix it once, but learned my lesson, and used part of your mess and created my own custom pump arrangement.

Soon, I'll be looking for a three phase converter to try on that fancy motor.


  1. I can understand why you gave up on it. I haven't had an issues with mine but I simply set the timers to run it. I'll eventually use the wired connection to vary the speeds with a bit more control but I'm not going to mess with trying to vary it by program. As for the power company, we went solar last May. The utility company does everything they can to hide taxes and fees where you can't find them, insuring that you still have a decent bill every month. Case in point, if I were to shut off the main breaker for a month, I'd still have a bill of $11.27. $10.17 is their "customer charge" and the rest is taxes. It's taken me almost 6 months, but I finally annoyed enough people at the utility that they just gave me the HUGE spreadsheet that computes the bills. Talk about an eye opener. My electric cost last month was a little over $3, my electric bill was over $15.... Insane....

    1. I can download the spreadsheet from my power company as well. You're totally right, they have worked out the proper methods of hiding what they actually get from us.

      I love how they say the fees were approved by the government. Yes, after they held hearing for a year and drove everyone that objected away because they couldn't compete with the lawyers hired by customer fees.


  2. Variable speed motors are simply evil. Ask any ham radio operator who is active on the HF frequencies and has a variable speed motor in their furnace.

  3. Hi,
    Disclaimer.. I am a pool professional. Your experience with the Hayward Ecostar variable speed pump is common. That pump is now discontinued and a new design has replaced it (Tristar Vs950). Variable speed pumps are excellent and provide more options than 2 speed motors. Unfortunately you had bad luck and purchased a model that was plagued with drive failure problems.

    1. Variable speed motors DO offer many more options. You're absolutely correct and thank you for chiming in.

      The thing is, how many options do we actually need? Low speed uses roughly 5 hundred watts and moves plenty of water for extended filtration, plus I can kick it into high speed and move a whole lot of water when I need to.

      Interestingly, the darn housing cracked around the rock filter cover. That cost me even more money. Now I have an almost completely new combination of parts because all the seals come in a package one can order and put in at the same time.

      Of course, that wasn't the end off the repairs, the cartridge filter that the county required me to use to save water since you don't backflush fell apart from the hot weather here. I put in an oversized sand filter since they no longer have to inspect it.

      With basically replacing all the new fancy environmentally conscience stuff with tried and true technology from 50 years ago, I have a very reliable system now that only has to be tended to occasionally.

      Bet you know all about that stuff though. I'm going to replace that over engineered control system real soon with my own over engineered system that I can mess with at will.

      I really appreciate your input; thank you.

  4. Hi,

    The point that everyone needs to consider is that every pool has different DNA. A pool with 2"-2.5" plumbing, the equipment pad being 10' from the pool, an In-floor cleaning system, an attached spa, and a water feature is very different a pool that has 1.5" plumbing, a suction side cleaner and the equipment is 20' from the pool. My point is that each pool will need a slightly different high speed to run the cleaning system effectively, the spa and water features can be manipulated to provide the desired flow with as little noise as possible, and a low speed that is not only filtering and circulating the water but is still drawing enough water into the skimmer to make it effective. Variable speed pumps provide tunability to make each pool run as effectively as possible while maximizing electricity and noise reduction. Some pools do fine with a 2 speed motor but you can't tune it. There's a good chance your high speed is higher than ideal and your low speed might be lower than ideal.

    In July 2021 a lot of this debate will go away. New Department of Energy regulations will make variable speed pumps the only option for most in ground swimming pools. The regulations will take place at the manufacturer level.

    It's great that you have found solutions that work for you. If you love "sand filters"...try Dr Drydens Activate filter media. It's a game changer. Sand is actually a very poor filter media.

    1. I absolutely will. Thanks for the pointer. The sand filter is so much better than the cartridges. I live in the dirty desert and it's months between backflushes. The cartridges are a hundred bucks each and they wear out in a year here.

      I'll have my money back in very little time and sand is cheap. Heavy though.

  5. I live and work in Gilbert, AZ. So I'm very familiar with your environment. "Sand" filters are great for pools that are exposed to the natural desert. Cartridges need to be cleaned to often in that environment which makes maintenance intolerable. Dryden's activate will give you the filtration abilities of a cartridge without the maintenance. It's also considered a lifetime media. Sand has to be replaced as needed.

  6. Can anyone please recommend an East Valley shop that can convert a stalling variable speed pump to 2-speed?

    1. Perry's Pool Pump. Look it up on the web.

  7. I have had a terrible experience with the eco star series. I live in Florida, so climate is pretty steady. I have had to replace the eco star 3400 vsp every two years at a cost of $1500.00 each.
    I just bought a tristar 2.7 the. Pinch a penny wanted $1900.00 plus $200.00 installation. I bought it in Amazon for $1,500.00 and since it's configuration is the same as the eco star 3400 vsp, I did the installation. If this pump last the average two years as the previous ones, I will give up on Hayward products. Remember if you do the installation, the pump bears a one year warranty, That is what I was told by Hayward.

  8. I live in Phoenix and inherited an Ecostar from the previous owner of the house. The drive didn't take long to fail so I opened it up and replaced the IC inside and it worked for another 2 years. Getting tired of replacing it again I ordered a Chinese-brand VFD drive and programmed it to work with the motor. The challenge is to locate the VFD in a climate-control room (laundry room in my case) to prolong its live, knowing no drive will survive the AZ heat for long. It has worked for almost 4 years without a single issue.

    1. That's actually a pretty good idea. I was so disgusted that I didn't want to look at it anymore though, so out it went.

      Would have made for a great article though.