Below we have set out the different types of pool heaters, how they work, as well as the benefits to each individual one.
We have also covered some commonly asked questions to ensure you are fully equipped to face your swimming pool heater purchase.
Electric Pool Heaters
Electric pool heaters, also called heat pump pool heaters, make use of electricity and heat from the air to warm up your pool. This means that they are energy efficient, but don’t function well in all weather conditions.
How do Electric Pool Heaters Work?
Electric pool heaters make use of hot air outside the heater in order to warm up your swimming pool water, as opposed to actively generating heat.
A blower is used to capture heat from the air and the heat is then transferred to an evaporator coil. The liquid substance in the coil becomes gas after absorbing the heat and then travels to a compressor to become even hotter.
Your cold pool water is drawn in through your filtration pump and meets the hot gas in the heat exchanger, which warms up the water before the water flows back into your pool.
The hot gas passes through the condenser to become liquid again so the process can continuously repeat.
Besides adjusting the water flow rate, there is no way to accurately control the water temperature using this method.
Electricity is by far the most common source of energy in the US, making it a readily available energy source for pool heaters.
There is also a high possibility that you already use electricity to run a pool pump, meaning that the wiring to install your electric pool heater as a permanent fixture is already largely in place.
Large Range of Models
There are a wide variety of electric pool heaters available on the market to suit numerous needs. Whether you want a professionally installed pool heater that is ready to go at all times or a portable plug-n-play pool heater that is easy to set up and uses less energy, you’ll be able to find what you want in the electric pool heater category.
Electric pool heaters require at least two days to heat up your pool to a comfortable temperature.
This process will take place faster in warmer weather and is also dependent on your pool size.
Electric pool heaters are dependent on the temperature of the surrounding air to produce heat, as it extracts heat from the air as opposed to generating it. This means that pool heaters will function very slowly or sometimes not even at all when the temperatures start to drop.
Electric pool heaters require at least an annual professional check-up in order to ensure durability. It is even suggested that pool owners who frequently use their pool heaters do maintenance checks up to twice a year.
Electric pool heaters are the mid-tier option in terms of costs, but the variety of available models ensures that these pool heaters can suit a wide range of budgets. Initial purchase and installation costs can range from $2000 to $7000, while operation costs tend to be between $3 and $5 for an hour of running time.
Solar Pool Heaters
Solar pool heaters make use of solar energy to warm up your pool water. This heating system works perfectly in sunny weather, but unfortunately isn’t functional at night or in very cold seasons.
How do Solar Pool Heaters Work?
When you would like to heat your swimming pool, you can guide your pool water from your filtration system to your solar pool heating panels, called solar collector panels, on the roof using a series of valves and pipes.
These solar collectors are specially designed to maximize heat absorption through their designs, materials and black color.
This heat gets transferred to your water as your water flows through the solar system, ensuring it is thoroughly heated by the time it exits the system and re-enters your pool through the connected pipelines.
Besides adjusting the water flow rate, there is no way to accurately control the water temperature using a solar heating system.
As solar pool heating is mostly reliant on energy from the sun, you can rest assured that you are minimizing your carbon footprint.
The only greenhouse gasses released in the process of heating up your pool with a solar pool heater are related to the electricity that is consumed to run the pool pump.
Low Operation Costs
The best part about solar power is that it’s absolutely free. The only cost you’ll incur while heating your swimming pool with a solar pool heater is the price of the electricity used to run the pool pump.
As a solar pool heating system runs on some pretty basic mechanics, you can rest assured that you won’t need to call in the repairman often. Solar pool heaters will often run for up to 25 years without any hiccups along the way.
Increased Property Value
Considering the pricy installation of professional solar heaters, functioning solar systems can be very appealing to buyers and raise the price of your property. Potential home buyers might not even know they want a pool heater until they see yours, making your home stand out from the rest.
Solar pool heating systems are unfortunately only meant to prolong your swimming season, as opposed to keeping your pool water comfortable year-round. This is because a cold ambient temperature as well as little or no sunlight will render your solar pool heater incapable of increasing your pool’s temperature.
Solar pool heating systems typically take up to two days to heat your pool to a comfortable temperature, with smaller pools requiring less time to warm up.
Solar pool heater installation costs are the highest of all pool heating methods, with prices reaching up to $9000.
Solar pool heaters have the most jarring upfront costs, with installation and initial purchase ranging from $4000 to a whopping $9000.
This investment still proves worth it to many pool owners, however, as a solar pool heating system has minimal operation costs. You can expect to pay less than $1 per solar pool operation hour regardless of where you are in the United States.
Gas Pool Heaters
Gas pool heaters make use of propane or natural gas to heat your pool water. This is the only pool heating system that allows you complete control of your water temperature regardless of the weather.
How do Gas Pool Heaters Work?
Your swimming pool water is circulated through your gas heater via a filtration pump. Once in the heater, the water runs through heating coils that are heated up by the hot gas produced in the burner.
Gas heaters also include a component called a blower that is responsible for guiding your fuel gas and air into the burner to trigger the combustion process.
Your desired water temperature is upheld by a thermal regulator and internal bypass that adjusts the water flow rate through the coils to either decrease or increase the temperature. This is what gives you the unique experience of having complete control over your pool temperature.
Not Reliant On Weather
Unlike solar and electric pool heaters, gas pool heaters are able to warm up your pool regardless of weather.
Solar panels are reliant on the sun and electric pool heaters are affected by the ambient temperature, but gas pool heaters are unfazed by anything the seasons may throw at it.
Whereas solar and electric pool heaters can be expected to take a few days to heat a large pool, gas pool heater can make all the difference in a matter of hours.
Two Fuel Options
Gas pool heaters can run on natural gas and propane gas. This is highly convenient as it gives you the choice to use what is most readily available to you to heat up your swimming pool.
Both of the fuel options used to run gas pool heaters can work out to be more expensive on an hourly basis than other pool heater types.
It is, however, worth considering that they require less run time to heat your pool to your desired temperature than solar and electric pool heaters, thereby potentially cutting costs in that regard.
Gas pool heaters have the heaviest impact on the environment of all the pool heater types. This is because natural gas and burned propane both release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere that contribute to environmental issues.
The installation costs of gas pool heaters are on par if not slightly cheaper than electric pool heaters, with the initial purchase and installation being between $2000 and $4000.
In terms of operation costs, gas pool heaters vary greatly. This is because natural gas and propane are priced differently, with natural gas usually being the less expensive option if it is readily available in your area. You can expect to pay around $3-$6 per hour to run your pool heater on natural gas and between $7-$13 hourly to fuel your heater with propane.
While not inherently very different, above ground pools are often used with portable pool heating methods such as a portable electric pool heater. This is because a portable pool requires a portable heater and they are usually small enough to function perfectly despite the pool heater’s limited BTU. Above ground pools also often use heat pumps. In-ground pool heaters usually require a lot more BTU and function as and alongside permanent fixtures such as filtration pumps.
Pool heaters are measured in BTU, meaning you will have to purchase a pool heating system with a BTU relative to the size of your pool. This required BTU can be calculated by dividing the surface area of your pool by 3 and multiplying the answer by 1000. This is simply the minimum required heater size and sizing up will always be beneficial.
There are quite a few commercially available products that can help you raise your pool temperatures by a few degrees over time such as insulating pool covers, liquid solar pool covers and solar sun rings. All of these products work to reduce evaporation from your pool, which is the leading cause of heat loss.
Solar pool heaters have by far the longest lifespans, with 20 years being the minimum amount of time you can expect them to last without much maintenance. Gas and electric pool heaters require more frequent maintenance and have shorter lifespans, with gas heaters lasting around 10 years and electric heaters around 15.
Every pool heating system comes with its own unique benefits and drawbacks. The pool heater that is best for your family depends on factors such as your climate, pool size, swimming frequency and much more.
That being said, we hope this article has taught you everything you need to know about solar pool heaters.