Hayward makes automation easy to add to existing pools
photos by Womna Agbaza
Next year, 600,000 people are going to replace pumps, says Greg Fournier, senior product manager for controls and backyard synergies at Hayward. Some will replace old single-speed pumps with another single-speed, but many will upgrade to a variable-speed pump.
“Most new pools, probably about 65 percent, get some sort of automation, controls,” says Scott Petty, global product manager for pumps and filters at Hayward. “But the vast majority of existing pools, probably 70 percent, do not have control other than some sort of time clock. In a world where you can do almost everything from your phone, the ability to control your pool — turn on your lights, set your temperature — has basically been the same for 30 years.”
To Hayward, those numbers indicate opportunity to bring automation, along with variable-speed technology, to the aftermarket.
“We’re taking our variable-speed pumps and adding the ability to control other equipment, leveraging what we’ve been able to do with our Omnilogic,” Petty says. The new variable-speed pump line is called VS Omni. “You’re bringing a lot of pools up to the 21st century.”
There are already ways to add electronic controls to existing pools, but the time and cost to do so has been prohibitive. There’s the $1,200 to $1,500 price of the system, and the additional cost and hassle of hiring a licensed electrician to help with the installation. “A lot of service techs to the aftermarket are not licensed electricians and don’t have that on their staff,” Petty says. “So it’s a barrier to the trade because it’s not in their day-to-day wheelhouse.”
VS Omni can control not just the pump, but also the heater and one other device, which for most older pools would typically be lights. An additional relay can be purchased to add one more item to control, like a booster pump.
“This is the first product with integrated control we’ve designed with the servicer in mind — the guy you call when something goes wrong with your heater, your pump,” Fournier says. “It’s the first product we made that he can install, without having any worry because all he has to do is deal with some low-voltage wiring and some wire nuts. If he can replace a pump, he can install this pump with control.”
To install the system, the pump is replaced as usual, but instead of putting the conduit back in the pump, it’s installed at a new hub. The other equipment is similarly connected to the hub. Wi-Fi is built into the display, which needs to be connected to the home network. A pool built in the ’70s now can be controlled from a smartphone.
“You’re doing it all at the pad, you’re not having to go into the electrical panel,” Petty says. “Electrically, service guys are doing this day in and day out: Just have power from an old pump and plug in a new one.”
VS Omni will be available on four pump sizes. “The servicer is already there, he’s already got the pump apart, he’s already plumbing it in,” Fournier says. “To add this could add an hour and a half to two hours to install.”
Hayward put everything in the box a servicer will need, including whips and electrical connections. They also made the system flexible: The smart relay can fit inside a light switch box and can be mounted almost anywhere, from a wall to a piece of rebar.
“Time is money and for servicers, the more people they see, the more they service, the more money they make,” Petty says. “The more time they have to spend on a jobsite, that’s less money. The ease and speed they can [set up VS Omni] has really resonated.”
Final pricing hasn’t been established, but Petty says the price will be significantly lower than an automation system.
“The trade can be excited,” he says. “We like to believe it’s going to be such a straightforward proposition [service pros] don’t have to spend a lot of time selling. The market has been shifting toward variable speed. Now, for not much more [money], you have control capability. They’re not putting a hard sell on the homeowner and taking up time. They’re able to do something they really haven’t been able to do before.”