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Pool Heaters and Heat Pumps Learning Guide

Pool Heaters and Pool Heat Pumps

There are various methods to heat your swimming pool.  Knowing the features and benefits of each type of pool heater will help you choose which is right for you. If you would like assistance estimating and comparing costs for different pool heating methods, a professional can help you.

What are the different types of pool heaters?

How do pool heaters work?

How much do pool heaters cost to operate?

How to reduce pool heating costs

How will I choose the right pool heater?

What BTU size do I need?

Comparison between a pool heater and a heat pump

Pool heater installation and maintenance

How to protect your heat pump or pool heater investment


What are the different types of pool heaters?

Natural Gas or Propane Pool Heaters

Gas or Propane Pool HeatersNatural Gas pool heaters are most efficient when they are used for short periods of time.  They are good for heating a pool quickly and will heat water faster than other heating methods.  Apart from heat pumps and solar heating; gas or propane are able to maintain a constant water temperature.

This option is ideal for swimming pools that aren't used on a regular basis.

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Heat Pump Pool Heaters

Pool Heat Pump Pool HeaterPool heat pumps are an efficient, environmentally friendly way to heat a pool.  Heat pumps can save pool owners money in the long run as they typically have a much lower annual operating costs than gas heaters and with proper maintenance, can last up to 10 years or more.

This method of heating is environmentally friendly as they use less energy than other heating methods.  They operate by extracting heat from the outside air, increasing the heat with a compressor, delivering the heat to the water, and ejecting the cold air out the top of the unit.  

For a heat pump to operate effectively, the ambient air outside should be 45* or higher.  This method of pool heating may be ideal for pool owners who use their pool in warmer weather or who live in warmer climates during the colder seasons.

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Pool Chillers for Heating and Cooling

Pool Heat Pump Pool HeaterHeat and cool pool heat pumps, also known as pool chillers, can extend swimming season even longer by giving the option to cool pool water on hot summer days and warm the water in the cooler months.  Heat and cool units can typically operate at lower temperatures, sometimes as low as 35 degrees depending on the application. Chillers are energy efficient electric fan cooling systems that require no Freon or gas to operate.  The pool water circulates through the unit and heat is removed from the water instantly.  The chilled water is then pumped back into the swimming pool.
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Electric Pool Heaters | Spa Heaters 

Electric Pool HeaterElectric element  heaters are also known as tank-less heaters.  They are less expensive to buy initially and are convenient for spas because they don't take up much space and can be put indoors. For pools, this method is one of the most expensive methods of heating, and can cost up to 5 or 6 times more to run than a heat pump.

Electric pool heaters are ideal for spa heaters, but cost too much to run and heat a swimming pool. 
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Solar Pool Heaters 

Solar Panel Pool HeaterSolar pool heaters use solar energy to heat and cool a swimming pool and are an environmentally friendly alternative to typical gas heaters.

The solar pool heaters work by pumping the pool water into a solar hot water collector.  These collectors are usually mounted on the roof of a house.  Positioned towards the sun, the collectors use the sun’s rays to heat the water.

If the pool is located in a climate with very hot weather, the solar collectors can be used to cool down water by running the system at night.

Solar pool heating systems can be used in many areas of the world.  Even if the pool is not located in a climate that's warm and sunny most of the time, there still may be an adequate solar resource to heat the pool.  The number of solar panels needed to efficiently heat a pool will depend on the size of the pool.

To view a sizing guide and decide on the amount of paneling your pool would need, use the solar panel sizing calculator.

How do pool heaters work?

Gas heaters use natural gas or propane to create a flame on a gas burner that heat a metal heat exchanger. 

Water is drawn from the swimming pool and circulated through a filter in the gas heater and back into the pool.  Gas burns in a combustion chamber, which heats the water that passes through.

Over time, the circulated pool water will warm up and maintain a constant temperature. 

How heat Pumps workHeat Pump Pool Heaters

Unlike gas and propane heaters, heat pumps use electricity and do not generate heat.  Instead, they have a fan which draws in heat from the outside air and circulates it through an evaporator coil.

The water which is pushed through a heat exchanger by your pool pump is heated three to five degrees as it passes through.  The warm water then flows back into your pool. 


Heat pumps use electricity to capture heat and move it from one place to another and do not generate heat.

Higher efficiency heat pump pool heaters usually use scroll compressors versus the reciprocal compressors of standard units.

Heat pump pool heaters work efficiently as long as the outside temperature remains above the 45ºF–50ºF range.  The cooler the outside air they draw in, the more energy they use. However, since most people use outdoor swimming pools during warm and mild weather, this usually isn't an issue.

How much do pool heaters cost to run?

Price Comparison
Heat pumps can save a pool owner a significant amount of money, because they use less energy to produce more heat.  Annual costs for gas or propane heaters are much greater than the annual costs to run a heat pump, and with proper maintenance, heat pump pool heaters typically last much longer than gas pool heaters, saving you more money in the long run.As an alternative, you can significantly reduce costs by choosing to install a solar pool heater.  They are low maintenance and have low annual operating costs, compared to gas or heat pump heating methods.  Learn More

Heating costs are affected by many factors, including sizing of a pool heat pump in relation to the size of the pool; if the pool is covered; and the location of the pool. With a pool heat pump comparison, we will give you the information you need to make an informed decision on the best and most economical way to heat your pool.

Calculate Pool Heating Costs

Our experts will estimate costs and give you a comparison for different pool heating options.

Tips to Reduce Heating Costs

There are several ways to reduce heating costs if you are considering to purchase a pool heater.  If you choose to heat your pool with a gas or propane heater, you will need to take several steps to maintain efficiency.

Purchase a solar blanket.
Also called a ‘pool blanket or solar pool cover, solar blankets keep evaporation to a minimum, keep out debris, reduce chemical consumption and help heat the pool water.  According to the US Department of Energy, solar blankets, can reduce pool heating costs 50 to 70 percent, can reduce the amount of water that needs to be added to a pool by 30 to 50 percent and can reduce the pool's chemical use by 35 to 60 percent.

Turn down the temperature.
  Always choose the lowest setting on your thermostat which remains comfortable.  Maintaining a constant temperature, without overheating, can reduce the monthly heating cost.  When your pool will not be in use for over 3 days, lower your thermostat setting.  Completely turn off the heater if it will not be in use for longer periods of time, to lower monthly heating bills.

a gas or propane heater to a swimming pool heat pump or solar heating system.  Pool heat pumps and solar heating systems are more cost efficient to operate long term.

Be consistent with maintenance.
 A well maintained heater will work more efficiently, reducing your monthly operating costs.

How will I choose the right pool heater?

We recommend that you do your research and learn about all of the different pool heating options.  Begin by determining what options would be beneficial for your pool and location; natural gas, propane, heat pump, adequate location for solar panel installation, etc.

The most beneficial way to choose the type of pool heater you need, would be to have one of our pool heating experts evaluate your specific application, by swimming pool size; whether or not the pool is covered, and geographic location.  We will give you all of the information you need to make an informed decision on the best and most economical way to heat your pool.

Find out what pool heater is right for you.
Our experts will estimate costs and give you a comparison for different pool heating options.

What size pool heater do I need?

Solar CoverPool heater sizing is measured in BTU’s (British Thermal Units.)  The higher the number of BTU’s, the quicker you can heat your pool water.  To find out how many BTU’s are required for your specific application, you must calculate the surface area of your pool, your geographic location, ambient temperature, and the environmental conditions such as shade or wind.  Whether you retain heat with a solar cover, also determines sizing requirements.  Learn More.

IMPORTANT:  A trained pool heating professional should perform a proper sizing analysis for your swimming pool to determine the correct pool heater size that you need.

Get your FREE analysis now.
Our experts will analyze your pool to calculate the correct pool heater size you need.

What is the difference between a Pool Heater and Heat Pump?

pool heater compared to pool heat pump

Heat pumps operate differently by using electricity to capture heat and move it from one place to another and do not generate heat like a gas or propane heater.

Gas and Propane pool heaters will use more energy than pool heat pumps because they are required to create heat, rather than transfer it.  However, if you live in a location with colder climates, a heat pump would need to use more energy since it needs to draw in heat from the outside air.  Heat pumps may be ideal for those who use their pool in warmer weather and do not live in a location with cooler climate.

Pool Heater Installation and Maintenance

Heat Pump Delivery Lift Gate Truck Heat Pump Pallet Heat Pump Undamaged Package

Properly installing and maintaining your pool heater will optimize its efficiency, allowing it to last typically five or more years. It's best to have a qualified pool professional install the heater and even perform complicated maintenance or repair tasks, especially for hookup of electrical wires and performing complex repairs and maintenance.

Read your owners manual for a maintenance schedule and/or recommendations. You will likely need to tune up your pool heater annually.  Also, scaling in the burner or heat exchanger may decrease efficiency over a period of time.

For more on what to expect during the process of a new heat pump or pool heater being delivered to your home. Learn More

For tips on choosing a quality installer, click here.


How to Protect your Heat Pump or Pool Heater Investment

Protect your pool heat pump or pool heater investment from the snow, ice, rain, leaves, sand, pine needles, dust and the harsh sun.  Heat pump covers helps your unit look better and last longer for years to come.  Order your custom made pool heater cover for the non-season/winter use.  View pool heater cover options.

Review the maintenance schedule and other recommendations in your owner's manual.  Your pool heater will probably require routine maintenance approximately once a year.

If you properly install and maintain your heat pump pool heater, it can last five to ten years or longer.



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