Swimming Pool Heaters: Everything You Need to Know

Home/Swimming Pool Heaters: Everything You Need to Know

Why is a pool heater a must have? For one, there is nothing worse than jumping into a cold pool when you are trying to relax. Another reason is the swimming season might be over and it’s mid-November but all you want to do is get into the pool in the backyard; a pool heater can make this your reality.

There are multiple reasons why a pool heater might be on your must-have list, however, before you buy, you have to understand the types of pool heaters available and the cost associated with each one.

Types of Pool Heaters

  1. Gas Pool Heater

A gas pool heater uses either natural gas or propane. The pool is heated by the water passing through a hot tube that is at a burning temperature before depositing into your pool. Depending on the brand of the gas pool heater that you select, the price tag on an inground gas pool heater can cost about $1500-$3500.

If you decide on the gas pool heater, you will need to know the surface area surrounding your pool with measurements being in square feet. You’ll also need to determine what the average air temperature in the area is.

  1. Solar Pool Heater

With the solar pool heater, the water is still being pumped, however, the pumping is going from the swimming pool into the filter and from there, it is partially going through solar collectors that has the job of warming the water before it goes back into the swimming pool. The solar pool heater has two types: unglazed collectors and glazed collectors.

The unglazed collectors have either plastic panels or heavy-duty rubber while the glazed collectors have copper tubing along with an aluminum plate that is covered with iron-tempered glass.

The cost for this heater and installation is between $3000-$4000.

  1. Pool Heat Pumps

Just like the gas and solar heater, the water will pass through the heat pump. The fan inside the heater is what creates the heat, taking the air from the outside and targeting it over an evaporator coil. The coil houses a liquid refrigerant inside of it, which allows the air to become gas. That now warm gas is sent to a compressor that will cause an increase in heat before the warm gas is sent over to the condenser. The condenser will be the tool that delivers the hot gas to the pool water.

This particular pump will have prices that range all the way from $2000 to as high as $5000.

What size pool heater do I need?

Heat output is typically measured in BTUs. However, the different types of heaters may not put out exactly the same amount of heat even if they are rated for the same number of BTUs. Solar heaters and heat pumps also produce heat more slowly than electric or gas heaters, so it can take longer to reach the desired temperature with these heaters even when they are properly sized.

In general, you need three pieces of information to size a pool heater:

  • Average air temperature during the coldest operational month
  • Average water temperature desired
  • The surface area of your pool in square feet

Using these pieces of information, you can calculate the approximate number of BTUs necessary to heat your pool by using the equation Pool Area (sq ft) x Temperature Rise x 12. Temperature rise is defined as the difference between the average air temperature and the desired water temperature.

The majority of types of pool heaters come in sizes that will fit most pools. However, electric heaters are typically not used with larger pools because they are too inefficient and the cost to operate them would be so high. Solar heaters require a flat space that is approximately 75 percent of the pool’s surface area in order to work efficiently, so this limits their use on some of the larger backyard pools.

How do I install a pool heater?

Most pool heaters should be professionally installed. There are some considerable safety concerns involved with installing gas and electric heaters, especially. In some areas, there are regulations regarding who can work on gas lines, as well.

That said, gas pool heaters are basically installed by hooking them up to the gas lines at your home or the output on a gas tank, and then using PVC pipe to channel water from your filter into the heater and then back to the pool. Electric heaters plug into an outlet rather than a gas line but are otherwise installed pretty much the same way. The required equipment and materials are almost identical:

  • Hacksaw
  • PVC pipe and fittings
  • PVC glue or plumbing compound
  • Measuring tape
  • Gas line (for gas heaters)
  • Shutoff valve (for gas heaters)

It is possible for a very handy person to install a solar system or a heat pump, but these are much more complicated.

What to do if your pool heater breaks

First, troubleshoot the issue:

  • Is the power on (or gas line connected)?
  • Is the heater switched on?
  • Are all of the valves and connectors open?
  • Is the water temperature higher than the temperature that the heater is set to?
  • Is the filter pump working?
  • Is the pilot light lit? (gas heaters)

If none of these resolve the issue, have a professional assess the situation. You might just need a new part, or you might need an entirely new heater.

Find The Right One For You

It’s important to determine which one will work best for you. However, keep in mind that research shows that for individuals who live north that have access to natural gas; the best selection is a gas pool heater. For those who live north with no access to natural gas, get a heat pump. For those who live in the south, the best selection would be a heat pump or solar heater. Also, take the time to invest in a heater with a cover.

Where to Buy Pool Heaters

There are multiple retailers who sell these. Some of those retailers include; Wal-Mart, Best Buy Pool Supply, Leslie’s Pool Supplies, Hayward Pool Products, and Amazon.

Whichever you choose, make sure it’s the best for you.