Ideal for temperate environments where extreme weather conditions aren't the norm. Heats effectively and at lower cost than other available devices. Quiet operation with efficient performance. Doesn't require professional setup.
Some concern about the quality of the heater's casing.
Easy to set up. Can heat hot tubs or small pools up to 18 ft. in diameter or 7,500 gal. Customers appreciate the quietness of this heater as well. Compact design. Offers both heating and cooling modes.
Requires extra equipment such as a circulating pump.
If you’ve got a modest-sized aboveground pool and live in an area that gets good sunlight, this is a cheap, efficient, and environmentally-friendly alternative. It’s relatively easy to install for those with basic DIY skills.
Needs mounting to a frame (not supplied). Designed for aboveground pools only.
Compact and easy to install. Designed to be effective in as much as 11,000 gal. of water. May use its share of energy, but it does heat quickly in a variety of environments. Can be set to 1°F increments.
You might need to hire a professional to help configure the system.
Electronic ignition for automatic operation. Draft technology ensures optimum heating and all-weather performance. High marks for ability to generate comfortable water temperatures quickly. We like that it uses gas, which can lower ongoing costs.
Some units may leak.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Having a pool in your backyard usually means plenty of summer fun and a convenient way to get your exercise without having to work up a sweat. But if you find that cooler temperatures prevent you from getting as much use out of your pool as you’d like, it might be time to invest in a pool heater.
A pool heater draws water from the pool into its system, where it’s heated. The water is then returned to and circulated throughout the pool to warm all the water. Pool heaters can work for both in-ground and aboveground pools and extend the swimming season no matter what climate you live in.
If you’re going to invest in a pool heater, you want to be sure to choose a model that can really handle the job, but with so many pool heaters available, sorting through all the options can be a challenge.
There’s no need to worry. Our shopping guide is full of all the tips and tricks you need to choose the ideal heater for your pool. When you’re ready to buy, check out our top pool heater picks to take all the stress out of shopping.
While there are pool heaters for in-ground pools and aboveground pools, the models are not necessarily interchangeable. Make sure that the heater you choose is meant to be used with your type of pool or it may not be able to handle the job.
Pool heaters are available in three types: gas, electric, and solar.
Gas: A gas pool heater is the most common type because it heats a pool quickly and effectively. Most models use natural gas that requires a line from your local gas company, though some heaters run on propane. Gas can be fairly inexpensive compared to other fuel types, so it’s an affordable option for many pool owners.
Gas heaters are extremely effective at maintaining consistent water temperatures, but keeping the water warm can require a great deal of gas in cold weather. Many newer models have pilotless ignition, which means the pilot light doesn’t have to run constantly, which can save gas and money.
Electric: An electric pool heater is similar to an electric hot water heater: it uses electricity to heat up a coil inside the heater which then heats the water. Because of this process, it usually takes longer for an electric heater to warm up your pool’s water.
However, many electric models use a heat pump, which transfers heat from the outside air to the pool water. Because a heat pump doesn’t generate its own heat, this process uses less energy than a gas or standard electric pool heater. It also means that heat pumps can last longer. However, you might pay more initially for a heat pump heater.
Solar: Solar pool heaters can be the most expensive option to purchase initially, but this type of heater has the lowest operating costs over the long term. And a solar heater can last for up to 20 years, so it can be an extremely solid investment for your pool.
As with a solar home heating system, a solar pool heater uses flat solar panels to capture heat from the sun, which then heats the water inside the system. The system doesn’t work at night or on cloudy days. In most cases, a solar heater has a loop that passes water through the system. If the water is warm enough, it doesn’t go through the system. If the water requires heating, a valve in the heater pushes it through.
Sometimes a solar heater can be added a pool’s existing pipes, but yours might require a new pool pump, depending on the positioning of the solar panels. For this reason, solar heaters require professional installation.
The size of your pool determines the size of the heater you need, but other factors can play a role, including your desired water temperature and the average air temperature in your area, as well as the humidity and wind levels. If you’re not sure what size heater will work best for your pool, it’s best to consult with a pool-maintenance expert.
Measure your pool. You can get a rough idea of the heater you need by determining your pool’s surface area. Multiply the length and width of your pool to get the surface area in square feet. If your pool is irregularly shaped, use approximate figures to get the measurement. (With a solar heater, the surface area of the collection panels should be approximately 70% of the pool’s surface area. The heater may need to be larger if your pool isn’t positioned to receive much sun or you want your water to be extremely warm.)
Determine the temperature rise. Subtract the coldest average temperature for the period you’ll be using the pool from your desired water temperature.
While a solar pool heater is a fairly expensive investment, it can usually pay for itself within seven years depending on the fuel costs in your area.
Ease of installation
Some pool owners prefer DIY installation to professional installation, so a heater that’s easy to install is a priority.
Electric heaters or heat pumps can be the easiest heaters to install, but they may have voltage and amperage requirements that make it necessary to hire an electrician in some cases.
Professional installation is recommended for gas and solar pool heaters. That can add time to the installation process and increase the overall price of the heater, but some pool owners prefer the peace of mind that comes with having a professional do the work.
Like any type of machinery, pool heaters can make quite a bit of noise while in operation. If you enjoy relaxing in your pool, a loud heater can definitely ruin the mood, so it helps to look for a model that doesn’t make much noise.
Pay attention to the pool heater’s decibel level when it’s in operation. For a quiet heater, look for a model that operates at about 50 decibels. Electric heat pump heaters are some of the quietest options.
For many pool owners, choosing an energy-efficient heater is a priority both in terms of the money it can save and the impact it has on the environment. Solar pool heaters are typically the most efficient, but they require the largest upfront investment, which means they aren’t ideal if you’re on a budget.
Electric heat pump pool heaters can also be extremely efficient, and they aren’t as expensive as solar models, making them an ideal choice if you want a more affordable option.
Gas pool heaters are the least efficient. If you prefer a gas-powered model, make sure that its marked as “low NOx,” which means the heater has lower emissions and offers greater energy efficiency.
While keeping your pool warm enough to comfortably swim in is a priority for many owners, you might find yourself needing to cool the water if you live in a climate with extremely high average daily temperatures. Some electric heat pump pool heaters also have a cooling or chilling mode, which can help bring down the water temperature when necessary.
Because it can be more expensive to operate, a gas pool heater is best if you don’t need to heat your pool very often.
Pool heaters vary in price based on the type and size. Most models range from $100 to $6,000.
Electric pool heaters range from $100 to $1,800, depending on size, with above-ground heaters costing between $300 and $900. Heat pump heaters, which are more efficient, cost between $1,800 and $5,000, but you’ll save on operating costs.
Gas pool heaters usually cost between $300 and $3,000, with above-ground models costing between $300 and $900. The operating costs are higher for gas than for electric models. Gas heaters may also require professional installation, adding to the overall price.
Solar pool heaters are usually the most expensive models, ranging from $2,500 to $6,000, although above-ground models come in at about $100 to $300. Professional installation is often included in the price for the more expensive units. These heaters don’t cost anything to operate, so a solar heater might be a good investment if your pool receives good sun.
Before buying a solar pool heater, check your local building and zoning codes to make sure it’s permissible.
Maintain your pool heater for maximum efficiency. Most pool heaters require annual maintenance to operate effectively. Consult the owner’s manual to determine the proper schedule and procedure for your model.
Pair a solar heater with a heat pump. Because a solar pool heater can only operate when the sun is out, some pool owners pair it with a heat pump for consistent, efficient heating.
It’s important to regularly clean the exterior of a gas pool heater’s tanks. If dirt, debris, or spider webs clog the burner openings, the heater won’t operate properly.
With so many pool heaters to choose from, there are plenty of models that may be a good fit for your pool. The Raypak Digital Ignition Propane Pool Heater is an ideal option if you prefer a gas-powered model but don’t have access to a natural gas line. It also provides 336,000 BTUs, so it can handle a good-size pool. We also love the Sun2Solar Solar Panel System if you prefer a more eco-friendly heater for your aboveground pool. This ground-mounted kit also allows for DIY installation if you’re handy.
Q. How long does a pool heater usually last?
A. It depends on the type of heater you choose. A standard electric pool heater can last up to 15 years, while gas-powered models usually last approximately 15 years. Electric heat pumps and solar heaters can make it up to 20 years if maintained properly.
Q. How long does it take for a pool heater to warm up the water?
A. The type of heater that you choose determines how long it takes for the water to heat to your desired temperature. Gas heaters usually work the fastest, with electric coming in second, and solar bringing up the rear. In general, you can expect a heater to increase the water temperature by approximately 15°F within 24 to 72 hours.
Q. How do you prepare a pool heater for the winter?
A. The winterization procedure varies from model to model, so you should consult the owner’s manual that came with your heater to determine the proper way to ready it for winter. Some heaters may even require a pool professional to handle the task.
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