Heating an above-ground pool is essential for many homeowners who want to extend their swimming season into the colder months.
Pool Heater Systems
During the summer months, there’s probably no better way to cool off than by jumping into the pool. However, before you know it, summer is over, and you’re putting your swimming pool’s cover back on, hoping the next summer comes as soon as possible. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way - with the right pool heater system, you might be able to extend your swimming season by weeks, if not months depending on your location.
In this article, we will talk about the types of pool heater systems, mentioning things like their installation process, pros and cons, as well as costs associated with them, so that you’ll have a full understanding of how heater systems work and whether this is something you might need.
Types of Pool Heater Systems
Depending on what type of fuel you prefer, you can choose between three main types of pool heaters - solar pool heater system, electric heat pump and natural gas/propane pool heater system. Although you also might encounter some other types of pool heater systems, those are rarely used in residential settings.
Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of each of them.
Solar Pool Heater System
As the name suggests, solar pool heaters use solar panels to warm up the pool’s water. It is probably the most commonly used type of pool heater system, as well as the most cost-efficient one. Solar water heaters work by pumping the pool water through a filter, where all the debris is removed, and the collector, where it gets warmed up before being returned to the pool.
Since it uses natural energy that it retrieves from the environment, it is the greenest option among heater systems for your swimming pool and, compared to other heating options, can actually help you save a lot of money when it comes to electrical bills. Also, it's very low maintenance - once you install the solar pool heater, there's almost nothing to do, aside from checking every once in a while whether all the elements are in good condition.
Solar panels can last a long time - since there are practically no wires or moving parts, the chances of them rusting and breaking are close to none. The only damage they are prone to is the damage caused by the sun, but in most cases, it can be repaired. On average, solar panels last about 25 to 30 years.
However, while all this sounds great, just like most things, the solar pool heater system also has some disadvantages. Probably the most important one is that for it to work most efficiently, you need to live in a place that receives a lot of sunshine. Does it mean it won’t work if you use it somewhere that sees more clouds than the sun? That’s not really the case - it will work. It just won’t be as effective as it would be when located in a place with a lot of sunshine.
Another con is that it requires quite a bit of space that some homes simply don't have, so be aware of that if you're considering a solar heater.
When it comes to how much it costs, on average, the heater system and installation costs total anywhere between $2,500 to $4,000. The final cost is influenced by a few different things, such as the size of the system you need, what type of solar pool heating system you want to install, the position of your pool, and so on. The good news is that solar pool heater installation is actually easy, so if you have some experience when it comes to similar things, you can save some money and install solar heating on your own.
How much it will take for it to pay itself back depends on several factors, but generally speaking, it takes between a year and seven years.
- Easy installation
- Low maintenance
- Won’t work as efficiently in a usually cloudy location
- Require a lot of space
Electric Heat Pump
The second type of pool heater is an electric heat pump, also known as an electric pool heater. The most common electric heat pump type is the air-source one. In simple terms, an air-source heat pump pool heaters draw the heat from the environment surrounding them, which is then transformed into heat that warms up the pool water. It's important to notice that a heat pump does not produce heat but captures it from the air.
Since electric heat pumps use electricity instead of solar power, they work better for climates in which the sun doesn't come out very often, as they can gather heat from the air even during the night. However, this can also be seen as a disadvantage, as more energy is required, which translates to higher electrical bills. Despite that, electric heat pumps are still among the most cost-effective heating options, as the average operating costs fall between $50 and $100 per month.
Additionally, while not as eco-friendly as a solar swimming pool heater, a heat pump is still a better option for the environment than gas heaters, as it doesn't emit any pollution.
When it comes to cons, heat pumps don't work well when the temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 10°C, and even when they're slightly higher, it might take longer for the heat pump to warm up your water. So, while there's no need for the sun to be out, if usually, the temperature in your location falls under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you might want to reconsider your pool heater choice.
The next disadvantage of electric heat pumps is the installation. Due to the fact that those heaters require wiring and large circuit breakers, it can get expensive, not to mention that it needs to be done by a professional.
Last but not least, electric heat pumps tend to take a while to warm up the swimming pool water, so if, for instance, you want to spend a whole day in a warm pool, then the best practice would be to leave the heater running overnight.
Electric heat pumps can last you quite a while, as the average lifespan of this type of heating system is about 10 years. Of course, how long it will actually last you depends on several factors, including regular maintenance, but that's still a pretty good average.
- Costly installation that needs to be done by a professional
- Take a while to warm the water
- Don't work below 50 degrees Fahrenheit
Gas Pool Heater
Finally, the last of the most commonly chosen pool heaters is a gas pool heater, which is fueled either by propane or natural gas. Gas heaters work by pumping the pool water first through a filter and through a heater, where it is warmed up by the gas burning in the combustion chamber. The warm water is then returned to the pool.
Probably the main advantage in favor of a gas pool heater is the fact that it is efficient and warms up the water pretty quickly, no matter how big the pool or how low the air temperature is. What's more, contrary to solar pool heaters and heat pump pool heaters, the external factors don't make a difference in how the heater functions, which means that you can use your pool even throughout the whole year if you want to. Finally, gas pool heaters tend to cost less than solar heaters or heat pump pool heaters.
Now, for the cons. First of all, if not taken care of properly, gas pool heaters last a lot shorter than other pool heating systems - the average lifespan of a gas heater is 5 years. Also, since they use natural gas or propane as a fuel, they aren't environmentally friendly, so if that's something you care about, you should consider one of the other heating options.
Gas pool heaters tend to be more expensive to run than the other two options we mentioned above - the average monthly cost of a gas heater falls between $300 and $500. Of course, if you don't use it often, you'll pay less, but that's something to keep in mind when making a decision.
Another disadvantage is that the installation, as well as all the repairs that will be needed during the lifespan of this type of pool heater, should be done by a professional, which can significantly increase the costs of maintenance when compared to, for example, solar heating panels.
- Efficient - warm pool water quickly
- Not influenced by external factors
- Pool can be used throughout the whole year
- Tend to be less expensive than other heating systems
- Maintenance can be expensive
- Can be expensive to run
- Has a short lifespan
- Not a green option
The Bottom Line
Owning a pool can be a real life-saver during the summer. However, more often than not, the swim season ends way too soon, and before you know it, you find yourself waiting for the next one. However, it doesn't have to be this way, and you could read all about the solution above. Pool heaters can help you extend your swimming season even by a few months.
But how can you know which one will be the best one for you? Well, it all depends on what your priority is. For instance, if you want to use your pool throughout the whole year, but you live in a place that is often cloudy and chilly, then your best bet would be a gas heater. On the other hand, if the most important aspect for you is the eco-friendliness of a pool heater, then solar water heaters might be the bullseye.
All in all, a pool water heater is a very individual matter. The choice you make will depend on several factors, such as your budget, how much space you want to dedicate to it, and more. And since it's not something that you expect to change a year or two after you install it, it needs to be a very conscious decision. If you need to, do more research, but don't rush - it’s never a good idea.
Generally, depending on where you live, running a natural gas pool heater can cost around $300 per month, while propane
A solar power heater is a great sustainable addition to your pool fixtures. It can offer you sustainable savings on