Actual Cost Of Owning A Pool – Part 3

It’s the season of home-buying, so we wanted to prepare a little PSA on the actual cost of owning a pool for you guys when you’re out looking at fancy-pants pool homes.

This is Part 3 of a three part series, so feel free to start at the beginning:



Significantly bigger than our backyard pool – but so beautiful!

So if you’re just joining the series now, here’s a quick recap. In Part 1, Mr and Mrs. PO (the Previous Owners of our house) ended up losing the house to foreclosure in part because of a cycle debt that began when they installed a brand new pool. In Part 2, we showed with the numbers why our pool was basically “free” to us given the craziness of the real estate crash in Florida in 2009. And now here we are in Part 3, where we’re going to see if my sister’s estimates for pool costs at $1,500 per year were right, or if we were able to DIY it and cut our costs to half that like we were hoping.


What Are The Costs?

The Basics:

  • chemicals and maintenance – chlorine, etc to keep your pool nice and clear
  • parts that break – occasionally stuff breaks, like that leak we fixed recently!
  • cost to run – electricity and water costs just to keep the pool running… my sister completely ignored these in her cost estimates, so how much could they possibly be?

Fancy-Pants Pool Expenses:

  • extra stuff – pool toys, patio furniture, food/booze to throw a pool party
  • HEAT – yes, this is totally a fancy-pants expense for us
Miscellaneous and Oft Ignored Expenses:
  • insurance – pools homes are bigger risks for insurers, so you’re going to pay for it. The question is by how much?
  • taxes – you’ll pay for your pool every year here, unless you’re like the Greeks

So let’s get some calculations going:


Basics – Chemicals and Maintenance

I’ve split this up into the two distinct periods that we used different methods to maintain the pool. DIY and outsourcing it for a monthly fee. We made the switch from DIY to hiring a professional when our pool vac broke after just 32 months.

DIY Era (32 months)

  • Pool Vac initial purchase – $400
  • Pool Guy visit to show us how to install/use the pool vac – $40
  • Pool Guy visit – taught us how to properly clean the filters – $20
  • Specialist Pool Guy visit to remove a gym sock that was stuck in one of the pipes underground – $40
  • Chemicals for DIY testing and cleaning – $1,600
  • Total – $2,100 or $65.63/month

Hire A Professional Era (10 months and counting)

  • Weekly visit by pool guy for all chemicals and maintenance including manual vacuuming and cleaning filter twice per month – $65 /month
  • Total – $715 or $65 /month

See why we outsource this now, right? Either way you slice it, chemicals and maintenance were costing us about $65/month.

Basics – Parts That Break

Remember in Part 2 when my sister said something usually breaks every year and costs $200-$300 to fix? Well, big sis was almost spot on!

  • pool pump died, replaced with (slightly) more energy efficient pump – $275
  • circuit breaker for pool burned out, required electrician and new breaker box – $312
  • leak in pool, leak detection guy came out and fixed – $159
  • leak in pool, wasted water filling it for 5 months – $20/mo x 5 mo = $100
  • Total – $767 or $18.26/month

My sister was right on the money – this works out to a $219/year on parts that break on our pool

Basics – Running Costs

My sister didn’t even mention these, but they definitely add up even under perfectly normal conditions

  • water lost due to evaporation – $3/mo on average, this will depend a LOT on your location. We live in an area that gets about 55+ inches of rain per year, so already get gifted 55″ of free water from mother nature each year. That’s about enough to replace the water in our pool completely once!
  • electricity to run pump – $50.58/mo on average

The electricity is where it really starts to add up when you’re not looking, and here’s how you calculate it. Your pool pump will have a label on it that tells you how many Amps and Volts it’s using. Our 1HP motor (this is the new one, our old one was 1.5HP) is pretty standard as pool pumps go. It’s neither super energy efficient like new variable speed models, nor does it have unnecessary power like the 1.5HP pump that was more power than our pool really needed before. So I would give its overall energy efficiency an “eh” rating – not the worst, but not the best. The label on our pump says it uses 115 Amps and 15.3 Volts, so remembering that Amps x Volts = Watts (yay for physics!), and that we buy power from the electric company in kiloWatts (1000 Watts), we’ll use this formula to calculate our hourly cost to run the pump.

({Amps * Volts} / 1000) * {Cost/kWh} = {Cost/hr}

Plugging in values for our motor and our marginal electric cost of $0.105/kWh.  When I say marginal cost, this is because our electricity use is tiered. The first 1000 kWh are at one price, and everything after that is at a higher price – in our case ten and a half cents per kiloWatt hour. I use the marginal cost since your pool costs sit on top of the rest of the home’s electricity use.

({115 * 15.3} / 1000) * {0.105/kWh} = {0.1847/hr}

And we get that our motor costs about $0.185 / hr to run. And it runs for about 9hrs/day on average, so we get a daily cost of $1.66/day. And a yearly cost of $606.90 to run it for 365 days. And 12 months in a year gets us to the number above of $50.58 per month in electricity for the pool pump.

  • Total Running Costs – $53.58/mo


Just For The Basics

  • chemicals and maintenance – $65/mo
  • parts that break – $18.26
  • cost to run – $53.58
  • Total – $136.83 / mo
  • $1641.96/year
  • $5,746.86 so far in the first 42 months…

Seriously – did you think it would be that high? Electricity is what caught you by surprise, right?

But remember, this is just for the basics. This buys you a clean pool that’s too cold to use much of the year. And if you think we’re exaggerating on the too cold bit, consider this. We live further south than 99% of US population. And our pool gets too cold to use without heat at least six months/year.


Fancy Pants – Extra Stuff

We don’t really pay for fancy-pants extras. Maybe we would if we threw more pool parties, but we don’t. We have basic patio furniture that we would probably have with or without a pool, and never went out and bought the requisite inflatable alligator. The only pool specific purchase we’ve made was a $7 projection screen from the thrift store so we could watch movies while hanging out in the pool at night in the summer time. So far, we’ve never used it. =( Readers, hold us accountable to finally put it to use this summer!

Fancy Pants – Heat

No heat = no frills. Seriously. We live where it’s warm, and our pool still costs enough to heat that we don’t even try it. Okay, part of that has to do with the fact that the condenser in our heat pump is broken and would cost another couple hundred dollars to fix – maybe we’ll call that the part that gets fixed in 2014! – but it’s also because it’s just flat out expensive no matter how you slice it.

According to FPL (our energy company), if our pool heater were a COP (coefficient of performance) rating of 5, it would cost an average of around $100/month to heat our 15,000 gallon pool throughout the year to a measly 78 degrees.

Sidebar: 78 degrees is not a warm pool. 78 degrees in the pool still gives Mrs. PoP goosebumps, but FPL’s estimate to get it up to 84 degrees is about $160/month – and goosebumps would still pop up. I am a baby and would love it to be a nice 88 or 90 degrees like cool bathwater but FPL won’t even entertain that as a possibility on their calculator. The cost estimates might make your eyes pop out of your head.

Remember, these cost estimates are for a COP 5 heat pump. While our pool heater currently has a COP of 0 (because it’s non-functioning), even if we got it working again, the maximum COP of pool pump that is 15 years old is probably not nearly that good. When it works, we estimate that it’s about $10/day to heat the pool – on par with what we pay to heat the house when it’s cold.

There are ways to get cheaper per day energy costs for heat, but they all require a fairly significant investment in new technology – either with the installation of a heat pump with a very high COP (these will run about $4K – more for the most energy efficient!), or via solar systems. The cost and heat output of a new solar system will vary widely as there seem to be some that are possible to DIY for the price of PVC piping and cheap solar panels (a few hundred bucks), all the way to a new system professional installed which can easily cost as much or more than a new energy efficient heat pump.

Less common around here are gas heaters, which according to seem like the devil incarnate, costing between 1.75 and 3x as much to get equivalent heat as you can get from a COP 5 heat pump.

No matter how you slice it, heating a pool can be a pretty pricey endeavor. So these energy costs are definitely in the fancy-pants category for us.


Miscellaneous – Insurance

When you get quotes to insure your house, it’s pretty rare that you’re able to compare the cost of insuring just the house compared to insuring the cost of the house and the pool. But last year, the PoPs got just that opportunity when our insurer dropped the coverage on our pool and pool cage. The full story is here in How We Decided To Self-Insure, but the gist is this. Our insurer doesn’t want to cover pools and pool enclosures. It’s too expensive and more liability than they want for what the state allows them to charge. If we wanted insurance that WOULD cover the pool and cage, it would be $2K more per year for our premiums.

Ours is a fairly extreme case since we are using a state run insurance corporation and live in a coastal area of Florida, but the same idea holds for all locations. Pools represent risks to insurers. It’s one more thing that can break or get damaged in a sudden storm, and it’s a liability in terms of someone slipping, falling, and deciding to sue the homeowner. It’s a risk. And though tough to quantify, it’s one that you’ll continue to pay for indefinitely. Or call your insurer and see what it would save you to take your pool off your policy – if that’s even an option!

Miscellaneous – Taxes

While somehow the Greeks are able to get away with avoiding paying taxes on their pools, we cannot. Your county property appraiser is going to find out about your pool, and increase the taxable value of your home. Our county property appraiser puts the taxable value of a pool at $20K. Since this $20K sits on top of your home’s value, it’s taxed at your marginal property tax rate.

So if your marginal property tax rate is 1% (average property tax rate in the US), then you’ll pay $200 (1% of $20K) each year in taxes for the luxury of owning your pool home.


Was Big Sis Right?

My older sister was pretty close with her $1,500 /year estimate. But the thing is, she wasn’t counting everything. For the two aspects that she thought of as “pool costs” (chemicals/maintenance and broken parts), we were able to get our yearly average to about $1,000 by DIY-ing and searching out the best deal we could find on a pool guy. So we saved $500 (33%) on big sis’ estimate. Not the 50% savings that we were hoping for, but not bad.

But she wasn’t counting everything that we still pay:

  • extra water & electricity: $643/year
  • heat: $0 for us, but I know big sis heats the pool sometimes (definitely when she has guests as it’s always nice and toasty when I’m around!)
  • insurance: hard to quantify, but right now we are self-insuring so have a $0 pool premium but carry 100% of the risk
  • taxes: $200 / year

So we actually pay another $843 on top of that every year, and that doesn’t include extras stuff or fancy pants heat or paying to insure it. That brings the grand total to $1,000 + $643 + 0 + calculated risk + $200 = $1,843 + calculated risk. Per year. Per year, people!!!


Here’s the biggest pool of all – and free to all. =)


Would We Buy A Pool House Again?

While I don’t think we would buy just any pool house again, Mr. PoP and I have no regrets over the purchase of this house, even with its pool and all the accompanying expenses.

  1. We got a fabulous deal on the price.
  2. We’re not having a hard time affording the costs associated with maintenance.
  3. It makes our house feel about twice as big as its 1,100 square feet might otherwise, so we’re a lot less inclined to want to upgrade to a McMansion.
But going through all the costs does make me want to make sure we use it more often. So I’m going to put on my suit right now and jump in! [Post script – I did jump in after writing this. And it was freezing! The thermometer had fallen to the bottom of the pool so I had to dive to get it. Guess what it read. 78 degrees!]


If you own a pool – how do these numbers square with yours in different geographic areas? If you don’t own a pool, do these actual costs scare you off?


39 comments to Actual Cost Of Owning A Pool – Part 3

  • I have to admit that that does seem expensive! But, I’ve never had a pool so I wasn’t aware of all that went into it. Anyway, as long as you like your house and pool and can afford it, then it doesn’t matter!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Life Insurance: What Would Happen If You Died?My Profile

    • And this is keeping an eye on costs and actively trying to keep them down. If you don’t, it’s easy to hire a pool guy for 2x what we pay, heat the pool to bathwater all the time and end up having paid $4K or more over the course of the year.

  • Oriol

    My parents have a pool on a rental property in Spain. The pool is not heated, and as you say, it can really only be used during summer. My father, being a DIY as he is, puts the Pool to hibernate for the rest of the year. He covers it with sort of a thermal blanket and put some chemicals in the water to maintain it during winter. When summer comes again, he uncovers it and throws in some more chemicals to bring it back to live. The recovery process takes about a couple of days. Too many chemicals? Maybe. But many people that rent the house for vacations, do really go because of the pool. So it is worth it despite of the additional maintenance cost.

    • That’s how a lot of people do it in climates a little cooler than where we live. They close the pool each winter and have to reopen it with what we call a shock treatment each spring.
      I can definitely see how the pool would encourage rentals. We have friends with a 4-plex 1 block from the beach who put in a pool and were able to get much better rental rates, and higher occupancies that they believe it’ll pay for itself within a few years. I think weekly or seasonal rentals definitely see a boost from a pool since they’re vacationers!

  • Wow does seem expensive! We want a pool but would only do it if it were the right price. And AH! A $6K insurance increase for a pool? Our home insurance is only $600 a year so I can’t imagine it going up to $2,600.
    Michelle recently posted..Easy Ways to Keep Your Pet SecureMy Profile

    • Yours probably wouldn’t go up nearly $2K – like I said in the post, ours is a pretty extreme case being that we’re coastal and are on a state-run insurer. But it’s still additional risk that your insurer is covering, so there would probably be some cost. Perhaps on par with an additional building on the property? A separate garage or something?

  • What a timely post, Mrs. Pop! We just looked at a house the other day that had a pool. We LOVED the house, but the pool itself was the sticking point.

    Would we want to take on all of those extra costs? Would I feel safe about my little one going outside with the pool out there? In the end, we decided to pass on the pool for now, and maybe reconsider with our next house when our littlest one is older.

    It sure would be nice to have our home be one of the gathering points for the neighborhood kids, tho!
    Jefferson @SeeDebtRun recently posted..Stuck in the Middle With YouMy Profile

    • I think it would be nice for kids to be the house that friends like to come over to, but you’re right to be wary of the safety. We don’t have fencing, but all of our friends with little ones and pools do. Pool fences aren’t pretty, but that’s not an accident you want to have.
      It’s also a good motivation for all of their kids to learn to swim early. I wish I had learned to swim much earlier than I did!

  • This post clearly took some hefty research, but I think it’s super valuable for anyone considering getting a house with a pool. I don’t think it’s for me, but you never know.
    I wanted to say that I really liked your description of how much it costs to run the pool pump. Being and energy guy, sometimes it’s tough for me to explain energy in layman’s terms, but I think you nailed it.
    CashRebel recently posted..Budget Overhauls And Sustainable ChangeMy Profile

    • Thanks! I think in my heart, I’m a math/physics teacher – so I appreciate the compliment on being able to explain the concept. =)

  • the low cost of water and high cost of elec is surprising but I guess if you didn’t have the elec fee you would need to change the water often and it would even out.
    Pauline recently posted..Friday recap, strawberry ice cream and new roadsMy Profile

    • And water is definitely pricey around here since we pay for it both ways. Our sewer charges are based on how much water you use – so you end up paying about double what you *think* it might be when you calculate the per gallon water charges.

  • Nearly $2000 a year in extra costs. That seems reasonable actually. But it does kind of drive home the fact that you had better be the kind of people who love having a pool and use it all the time in order to justify the expense.

    Personally, I think pools are nice, but I wouldn’t get enough use out of it to justify the cost.
    My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..17 Ways to save money without adversely affecting your quality of lifeMy Profile

    • For us, writing this has been a bit of a wake-up that we really should make more of an effort to use it since we’re already paying for it. It’s not like a netflix subscription that we can cancel easily when we don’t want to use it anymore.

  • Wow that’s expensive!!! Pool is not something I want in a house. I would only use 1 or 2 times a year.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..When investing above the 401K company match pays offMy Profile

    • Make friends with someone around the corner with a pool. Offer to bring food/beverage and help clean up for a pool party every few months and you’ll get more than your pool fill at a fraction of the cost. =)

  • There are NO public pools in our city–yes, CITY–and the cheapest membership is about $1,200 a summer and comes with all kinds of restrictions, so that doesn’t actually seem too gruesome when compared to a pool membership.

    Where we used to live, there were public pools everywhere–within walking distance for probably 80% of the teens in the community–and entrance fees were about $2/person. Even the few racquet clubs were WAY cheaper than here, if you were so inclined (we weren’t). There was little reason to want a pool there, despite the better weather for it!
    Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide recently posted..Your Shoes Are Not An InvestmentMy Profile

    • Wow Jenny – mind if I ask where you guys live? That’s crazy that a membership is $1200 – I hope that’s for the whole family!

      Growing up we had a city public pool in a park about a quarter mile from our house. Entry was $0.25 for kids, so we could scrounge in the couch and come up with enough money to entertain us for a whole afternoon. Looks like the price is up to $1 for kids these days, but I hope it continues to be a pretty affordable summertime treat for lots of people to enjoy!

      • East Coast. There really are very few public services that middle and lower income families want here. We have opera and tons of historical sites subsidized by the government, which is GREAT for upper-income folks, but things like cheap pools that lower income families would love–NOPE!

        $1200 is for the whole family.

        With the public pools where I used to live $2 is the adult price, and it’s like $1-1.50 for kids.
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  • Thanks for calculating the cost and showing it. It can lure a lot of people to have the pool, but it really is expensive. I am glad we do not own it and kids do not beg for it. We have a public open pool and rec center near by. The pass cost circa 50 bucks for the whole season, so no big deal.
    Martin recently posted..Market outlook, trend still unchangedMy Profile

    • The public pool was what we always used growing up. Swim team in the early morning. Sometimes an afternoon playing by the pool with friends, and swim meets at night. I spent entire summers at the pool and it was dirt cheap since it was city sponsored. Plus, it was a lot more social than swimming in your backyard!

  • Anne

    Wow! This was higher than I suspected, but mostly because of the electric costs. I haven’t run our numbers, but they probably work out similar as we pay more for pool service but less for electric; hoover dam makes really cheap energy. Insurance only runs us about $10/mo more, as hurricanes are pretty rare out west, and taxes I suspect are similar to yours.
    I will have to reconsider heckling my fiance about hiring a pool guy though. I know he took care of the pool at his house for awhile before hiring, and if his chemical costs were similar it’s not the budget difference I’d assumed it was.

    • Nice – I didn’t realize the Hoover Dam made your energy so cheap. Perhaps all the tours through it are subsidizing your energy costs with their entrance fees, too =)
      Hurricanes and storms definitely add to our costs because of insurance and electricity. One of the reasons that our electric is so high is because our power company does a LOT of preventive work to keep the power grid stable and fix outages quickly if they happen. It makes for higher costs, but more reliable service than we would probably have if they tried to cut corners with prevention measures before the storms.

  • Growing up, we had a pool, and we lived in a similar climate, where you don’t bother winterizing the pool because it’s only going to be closed for maybe a month or two. I know you’ve got your fancy-pants pool enclosure, but would you be able to use a solar blanket with it? That’s how we kept our pool at a good temp – the solar blanket was on all day soaking up the heat and by the time we got home from school (or work), the pool was nice and warm – even the deep end. My dad rigged a PVC pipe on triangles to hold the cover, and a crank on the pipe to roll it up. Just crank the cover off, and when you’re done for the night, pull it back over the pool. We had a kidney shaped pool and this worked pretty well, so with your somewhat more rectangle pool, should be pretty easy.
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..Our Story – Part 2: The PanicMy Profile

    • If we really wanted to use the pool more than we do now, we might consider a solar blanket. They’re pretty affordable and definitely help some with the heat (though less so for us because of the enclosure). The screen actually casts a slight shadow, so screened pools tend to run 2-3 degrees cooler because of that slight shade that they’re always under.
      One of the worries for us has been pets. I’ve heard horror stories of pets running out onto a pool blanket and falling in if they weigh too much or if it’s not 100% secure at the edge, falling in and not being able to pull themselves out from under the blanket. The last thing I would want is Kitty PoP or any other future pets being in danger because of that.

  • I’m kind of glad pools are of no use in private homes where we live. If you could make it into an ice rink, maybe! I would have to heat it. I can’t stand swimming in cold water, and if you had kids, you’d have to heat it up for them. When we go to the rec center pool and the temperature is below 85, my daughter’s lips turn blue and shiver. I also notice that my niece who has the pool at home isn’t as excited to go swimming as my daughter. It’s kind of old hat. I’m sure having a pool in Florida is kind of the standard in many places, so I can totally see why you guys were OK with it. Great analysis. I’m sure it will be useful to those on the fence of whether to have a pool or not.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Could You Survive Financially If You Lost a Job?My Profile

  • A DF once told me a pool was … “a hole in the back yard to shovel money”….He was sooo right. We get a “cheapy pool” every couple of years that holds about 6K gallons and I’m gonna try to talk the DW out of that this year. The cost that you highlighted though smaller are significant just the same and the family tends to use it less and less. Thank you for putting this informative article together.

  • Ooooo – my estimate was pretty close. But I have an advantage because I own a pool. I was off the grid yesterday so I couldn’t comment in.

    I guessed about $1500 a year. That’s about what we spend. $40/mo electricity (no heat – because like you, it will never be warm enough to offset the additional cost). $60/mo chemicals (DIY – I’ve never considered hiring a pool boy, but I might now if the cost is the same). $300/year reserve for any repairs (although we haven’t had any yet but recognize it’s inevitable so I put my smart budgeting hat on).

    We don’t insure. Insurance on an island is not for the faint of heart. I don’t need to increase it any. I’m just risking it here.

    We didn’t have any additional increase in our taxes because in our area a pool doesn’t increase the value of a home.

    And we don’t have pool parties, because, well – I don’t like to throw parties. :-)

    The cost of a pool is surprising once you add it up. You got it right there! But I honestly don’t think I can own a home without a pool, now that I have one. I just love it so much.

    Loved this series. Thanks for sharing!
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  • […] Actual Cost of Owning a Pool (a series) by Planting our Pennies […]

  • Holy s**t. I honestly didn’t think the costs would be that high. I thought buying the chemicals in bulk wouldn’t be too bad and didn’t figure on electricity being a significant expense at all. Great info when we eventually look at buying a house. Thanks!
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  • […] pool on the internet.  It’s in three parts, and here they are. Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3. […]

  • Krissy

    I’m in the market for a new home and really had my heart set on having a pool of my own (rather than continuing to use a community pool filled with unruly children!), but you have effectively convinced me that my budget simply won’t support. Something else only for rich people, I guess. So, your thorough and straightforward posts have done their job and opened my eyes! Unfortunately I am landlocked, so no ocean for me.

    What are your thoughts on swim spas and hot tubs as an alternative?

    • Glad to be a help!

      I think hot tubs can be much cheaper alternatives – the chemical costs will be much less because the volume of water is so much less. And you should be able to get a good idea on your power consumption, too. Just make sure you know figure out the volts/amps for both the pump and heater along with how long they’ll need to run. Again, it’s probably MUCH smaller than a pool since there’s so much less water to run through the system!

      • Krissy

        Thank you for the quick reply! I will definitely keep your tips in mind. I’ve been searching for weeks for an article that really explained the actual costs rather than a glossed over version meant to encourage pool sales! I’d rather use the money I would be saving on pool maintenance and spend it on a nicer hot tub (and the patio to go with it!) Again, thank you so much!

  • I had a pool growing up but I could not wait to get into it! I miss it dearly to this day. If it was super hot outside, getting into a 60 degree pool was AWESOME. Yes it’s cold at first, but you get used to it. I would say the pool was usable from April until October. You had to run the filter in the winter though because of the occasional sub-freezing days

    I can’t remember things breaking often… I do remember having a Polaris self-cleaner that lasted years and then my dad and I would do a vacuum cleaning once in a while. The biggest issue actually was the fact that in loamy-soil-filled North Texas, cracks were an issue and we were near needing to re-line the concrete layer and retile the sides. My dad was always using that water putty to seal cracks. We did not even have a heater in our pool so that luxury was out of the equation.

    My dad did everything himself with my help. I helped him even cleaning the filter and putting in new diatomaceuous earth. We went to Leslie’s Pool Supply frequently! And I remember most all of the june bugs who committed suicide in droves in our pool.

    I hope to get a home with a pool some day in the near future.
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  • David

    After growing up with a back yard pool I promised myself I would never own one. The only way I would buy a house with a pool is if the seller pays to have it removed, filled and seeded. Now I live next to a 6,000 acre lake and I don’t smell like chlorine when I get out of the water.

  • Dave

    In your example I’m guessing 115volts and 15.3amps not 115amps and 15.3volts.

    • Good catch! I haven’t checked on our pool pump, but your numbers make a lot more sense. Luckily the math works out the same either way. =)