by Rob Cox November 12, 2014
A quiet debate has circulated among pool service guys for years. Whether or not it's worth it to remove pumps or more specifically, pump motors, from the equipment pad during winterizaton. Pump motors can develop rust in the tiny air space between the stator and rotor, deep inside the motor, which can freeze up a motor when you try to start it in springtime.
Although cold temperatures likely do little harm to the steel, copper and plastic components of a pool motor, many feel that it can weaken the capacitor, which essentially is a battery. The larger concern is over water - rain and snow, sometimes feet of snow. The armature is sealed up pretty tight on a pool pump, but excessive water or moisture around or in the motor will accelerate the rust problem mentioned earlier. The issue of possible flooding around the motor is the largest concern, as flooded pump motors rarely survive.
When I first started in the pool service business back in 1988, we removed every pool motor, every pool heater burner tray, and every diving board. The burner trays were falling apart when trying to remove them, so I stopped that quickly, and then for fear of liability, stopped removing diving boards. We continued removing motors, in most cases, for probably 10 years, until I came to the realization that it really didn't seem to be affecting motor life, and in many cases was actually shortening the motor life, with damaged wires or terminal boards, dropped motors or other damage to the motor while in storage. So, we quietly stopped doing it, but would if asked by the customer.
There are two ways to go about removing a pool pump for winter storage - you can remove just the motor or you can remove the entire pump and motor. If your pump has union connections on the pipe, before and after the pump, it makes the job much easier. If you don't have unions, or have no room in the pipes to install unions, then you would remove just the pump motor by either removing 4-6 bolts or the volute clamp band, or the mounting nut used by Jacuzzi. After the pump volute is separated, grab the motor firmly and slide it straight back to separate it from the pump.
The second part of pool pump removal is more difficult, and also more dangerous, since you need to connect the wiring to the motor. Aboveground pumps can simply unplug the cord, and if small enough move the entire pump and filter system inside for the winter. But inground pool pumps are hard wired with a flexible conduit containing two power leads and a ground wire.
Make sure that power is OFF at the breaker, by shutting off all the circuit breakers on the sub-panel and also shutting off the time clock. Remove the On Dogs, or timer trippers from the timeclock, to prevent the clock from turning on again if anyone flips the breakers back on during winter.
For this next step, grab a seat on an upturned bucket or stool, and flip the motor gently, so that it is standing on the wet end, with the back of the motor pointing up. Open up the back of the motor by removing the end cap, or the cover plate to expose the 3 wires. Use the proper tool, either a flat head screwdriver or a 5/16" nutdriver to loosen the incoming power leads. Adding spade connectors to the wires can make this step faster. You may wish to make a note or sketch of the wiring to help remember how to rewire. Above the terminal board, you will see the green ground screw. Use a small flathead or a 1/4" nutdriver to loosen the screw and remove the ground wire from the motor.
Next step is to loosen the conduit connector nut on the outside of the motor, to disconnect the flexible conduit from the motor, while pulling the wires out of the motor (you may have to straighten the wires first, to be able to pull them through the small hole). With the wires removed from the motor, twist a electrical nut on the end of each and wrap all the wires tightly with electrical tape, covering the conduit opening also, to keep rain out.
The final step is to remove the bare copper bonding wire from the connector on the motor. Use a 1/4" nutdriver to remove the screw that holds the brass bonding lug to the motor, then screw the screw back into the motor, so it won't get lost.
THAT'S IT! Now store the motor or pump indoors, in a location where it won't get damaged. Don't store it near any chlorine chemicals, which give off gas which can corrode the metal parts of pumps and motors. Keep it on a low shelf so it won't fall or roll.
If you keep your motor outdoors all winter, you could build a 'lean-to' with lumber or plastic for snow, rain and tree branches, but keep good air flow around the motor, and don't wrap it in plastic, which traps moisture inside the motor.