We’ve touched on swimming pool heater basics, and the obvious reasons why to consider one–but what about practicality? How will the heater benefit the way you use and enjoy your above ground pool? This, in addition to pool size, will play into the kind of heater you choose.
The quickest way to heat a swimming pool of any size is by a gas heater, which can run on either propane or natural gas. The gas works in a combustion chamber that heats pool water as it is filtered in and out. If your family only uses the pool a couple of times a week, or less in general, this may be the option for you.
Gas heaters cost around $2000, depending on the brand, size and efficiency. With the cost of propane and gas continually increasing, costs to regularly run a gas heater in a single season can reach the same amount. To minimize operation costs, use a pool cover to keep heat in. The life of a gas heater (sometimes as little as five years) is not as long as other options, so maintenance is imperative.
Heat pumps kind of have it all when it comes to pool heaters – efficiency, affordability, reliability and the green factor. Though not as quick, these heaters can operate up to five times more efficiently than propane or natural gas heaters, saving you significantly over an entire swim season. Heat pumps are excellent for those who plan to use their pool frequently, as the cost of operation is so much less than a gas heater.
With the use of little electricity, heat pumps extract warmth from the air, heat the air further then send it into the pool using a compressor. Additionally, for those lucky people in regularly warm climates, there are also pumps that do the opposite, allowing one to cool their pool. Heat pumps don’t operate as quickly as gas heaters, but can be run longer for less money. You could also be diligent about using a pool cover to minimize the heat that escapes.
Startup costs for heat pumps can be a little pricy – usually around a few thousand for in-ground pools and about half that amount for above ground pools. Either way, your money will be returned later in energy bills and overall longevity of the product.
The only heat option more green than a heat pump is to go strictly solar. The downside to this super eco-friendly choice is the inability to program a temperature on demand, making it most ideal for frequently sunny climates. In the Midwest, where it’s not uncommon to have rainy or overcast days during the summer, solar panel heating is not always as reliable as the previously mentioned options. To raise water temperature by 5 degrees, it could take several days of great, sunny weather.
Costs to purchase and install all materials needed for solar heat ranges around $3000-$4000 – so, competitive to gas heaters and heat pumps. The final product many times is not so aesthetically pleasing as it requires a lot of piping and valves to run the solar collectors’ heat to the pool’s water. If you’re serious about your commitment to the environment but still want a consistently warm pool in a not so consistently sunny area, use a solar pool cover in conjunction with your solar panels.
Generally, it’s best to have a professional help you determine the size of heater you’ll need. Things he or she will consider include: pool size, surface area, average temperature and wind speeds, and desired water temperature. Be on the lookout for the final piece of Kayak Pool Midwest’s pool heater series where we’ll focus on the installation process of each type of heater.