Going Beyond Water Quality

Oct. 11, 2017
Understanding the importance of pump safety & performance

About the author: Thomas M. Walker is business development manager for UL. Walker can be reached at [email protected].


Pump and pump system manufacturers have a lot to consider when designing components for use in the market. In addition to manufacturing pump systems that maintain water quality requirements, manufacturers also must work to ensure pumps perform as planned while remaining electrically safe and compliant with all energy standards. This challenge is further complicated by the number of standards that govern this industry from various angles.

Depending on the application, a pump system may need to be evaluated to assess its potential health effects and electrical safety, as well as use for fire suppression, in pool and spa applications, in hazardous locations, and with flammable liquids. Standards from NSF Intl., the Canadian Standards Assn., the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and UL cover different areas and applications across North America, meaning multiple evaluations may be necessary for a given product. The best way to combat these challenges is to understand how your products will be affected and what you need to do to help ensure market access and build customer trust.

Start With Quality

When producing components that will come in contact with drinking water or recreational water, specific health-related requirements must be met. Details on the two most common standards are as follows.

NSF/ANSI Standard 61: Drinking Water System Components - Health Effects certification evaluates pumps to help ensure the wetted materials do not add harmful contaminants to drinking water. Requirements or recommendations regarding this standard exist in 48 U.S. states and 11 Canadian provinces and territories, with most demanding third-party certification from an accredited organization.

NSF/ANSI Standard 372: Drinking Water System Components - Lead Content certification evaluates the lead content of the materials used to produce pumps to help ensure the weighted average lead content does not exceed 0.25%. Federal requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act impose restrictions on the permissible levels of lead in components and products that convey water for human consumption, and certification to
NSF/ANSI 372 is an easy way to demonstrate compliance.

Finally, though focused primarily on performance, NSF/ANSI Standard 50: Equipment for Pools, Spas, Hot Tubs and Other Recreational Water Facilities also addresses health effects and covers every form of pool and spa equipment and all components.

Pump Performance, Safety & Efficiency  

Establishing and certifying water quality for your products is just the first step. When these requirements are met, you should turn your attention to electrical safety and equipment performance.

As mentioned previously, NSF/ANSI 50 covers performance by addressing corrosion resistance, disinfection efficacy, durability testing, design and construction, as well as proper markings and user instructions for various types of equipment in pool and spa applications (private and public). In addition to NSF/ANSI 50, UL 778 and UL 1081 can help demonstrate compliance.

UL 778, Standard for Motor-Operated Water Pumps, is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-approved standard in its sixth edition. It broadly covers submersible and non-submersible motor-operated pumps. These pumps must be intended for use in ordinary locations in accordance with the National Electrical Code, NFPA 70. Certification to UL 778 indicates that a product has met all applicable construction, protection against injury of persons, performance, manufacturing and production line, ratings, markings and instruction manual requirements.

UL 1081, Swimming Pool Pumps, Filters, and Chlorinators, is an ANSI-approved standard in its seventh edition. This standard is more specific than UL 778 and covers electric motor-operated non-submersible water pumps, pump-filter combinations, and chlorinators for use with swimming pools, hot tubs and spas. These pumps must be used in accordance with the National Electrical Code, NFPA 70. Certification to UL 1081 indicates that a product has met all applicable construction, protection against injury of persons, performance, manufacturing and production line, ratings, markings and instruction manual requirements.

Electric motors are an integral part of these pumps and are of unique importance. Though electrical safety is important for all electronic and electrical components, safety here is especially important due to proximity to water. Helping to ensure the motor also meets certain regulations and standards is critical. For motors intended for use with a pump, the following regulations and standards apply.

U.S. DOE Requirements

The DOE outlines specific requirements for certain commercial and industrial electric motors. Title 10, Chapter II, Subchapter D, Part 431, Subpart B has expanded over the past 20 years and now includes most general purpose 1- to 500-hp (0.75- to 373-kW) motors. Validation and testing must be completed by a third party at an approved laboratory. These motors are required to have a cc number issued by DOE, even when installed in pump applications. The addition of Subpart X, which went into effect in March 2015, outlines the requirements for certain commercial and industrial small electric motors. This regulation covers single- and certain three-phase ¼- to 3-hp (0.18- to 2.2-kW) motors. For products under Subpart X, registration is not required and no cc number is issued; however, motors still are required to meet the minimum efficiency levels.

The government-backed Energy Star program is a voluntary symbol of energy efficiency. This symbol indicates that the pool pump meets a designated energy factor. Energy Star certifies the following pool pumps: “wet end” and motor, residential, multi-speed, variable-speed capable of operating on at least two speeds, in-ground, 0.5 < Total HP ≤ 4, and single phase. According to the Energy Star program, certified pumps allow consumers to save money and prevent climate change due to decreased energy consumption.

Natural Resources of Canada Requirements

The requirements under Natural Resources of Canada are similar to those enforced by DOE. These cover motors rated from 1 to 500 hp (0.75 to 373 kW), but also require a third-party mark, such as UL’s Energy Mark, in addition to registration. Although Natural Resources of Canada does not have regulations covering single- and certain three-phase ¼- to 3-hp (0.18- to 2.2-kW) motors, legislation similar to Subpart X was proposed in 2016 and is expected to be adopted in 2017.

California Energy Commission Requirements

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has adopted state-level requirements that go beyond the DOE and Natural Resources of Canada requirements. In addition to requiring similar standards for general-purpose motors rated 1 to 500 hp and single-and three-phase motors rated ¼ to 3 hp, the CEC has issued separate registration and testing requirements for pool pump and pool pump replacement motors.