The 12 Best Pool Heaters - Products and Buying Guide - Summer 2019

Solar Pool HeatingEach year across America backyard swimming pools get more popular than ever, and this is why you need the best pool heater! And why not, they tend to be the center of attention at any home during the warmer months. They become a magical place where families bond together and enjoy many hours of fun. Backyard swimming pool areas are also a great place to entertain friends, have a birthday party or celebrate your kids’ latest achievements with their friends. It’s too bad they get shut down over the cooler months. The thing is, this does not always have to be the case. There are several good options as far as a keeping a swimming pool at a comfortable temperature so it can be used almost year-round. Having the best pool heater installed at your home can definitely help with this.

Pool Heater Buying Guide 

Ok, so you know you want to heat your swimming pool to extend your swimming season. The problem is maybe you don’t know which method of swimming pool heating is right for you. Knowing a little bit more about the many ways there are to heat a swimming pool will help you decide. Here are some short descriptions of the major types of pool heaters that the swimming pool heater industry produces and some critical questions to ask yourself when deciding which type of pool heater to buy.

Solar Pool Heater

New Smyrna Beach Solar Pool HeaterThis is by far one of the most overlooked methods of heating a swimming pool. And by any measure, the best pool heating process that exists. And it’s kind of surprising too, because using a solar pool heating system is also one of the least expensive ways to heat a swimming pool. The amazing thing is that they cost very little to run once they have been installed. They work especially well in the Southern United States where there is abundant sunshine year-round and the average air temperature rarely gets close to freezing. A solar pool heating system is even good at generating a decent amount of heat on a cool day that has a lot of sunshine. 

As the name implies, these types of swimming pool heaters use energy from the sun to heat water. A group of solar collectors can be placed upon a roof or mounted to specially designed panels at ground level. The pool pump circulates water slowly through the solar panels and as that water passes through them it picks up the heat generated by the solar panels. They even have a bypass valve design that allows them to be turned off if the water temperature gets too hot. And this can actually happen in the hot summer months! Your pool temperature can start to feel like a warm bath, and for some people, this is not very refreshing.

Some of you may be wondering what happens on days there is no sun? Will your swimming pool start to get cold? The answer here is no because most swimming pool owners who use solar pool heaters will also make a small additional investment and have a backup gas heater to use on extremely cloudy days. The minor amount of gas a backup heater uses each year does not add up to a significant amount of money most of the time.

Those who live in colder weather areas cannot expect solar heating to help them extend their swim season more than just a few months each year. They can even use a small printer to get you a list of heaters that will give you the best value. When using the right guide, your local pool professional can help you determine if you need a larger

Electric Pool Heater

These are the kind of pool heaters that you don’t see very much. The reason for that is they are not very economical when it comes to heating large bodies of water. They also tend to be quite inefficient at heating pools with many thousands of gallons of water in them. With that being said, they do have their uses. A good example of this would be on an indoor swim spa.

They work much like a hot water heater except on a much larger scale. Electricity passes through a heating element that has a certain amount of resistance to it so it builds up heat. That heat is passed into the pool water as it slowly passes around the heating element.

One very nice thing about electric power swimming pool heaters is they are a relatively tiny piece of pool heating equipment. Almost any pool owner can find a small space near a pool pump where these can easily be hooked up.

Natural & Propane Gas Heaters

For many years gas swimming pool heaters were the best-selling products for those that wanted to heat their backyard pools. There simply is no faster way to take cold water in a swimming pool and make it warmer. Gas pool heaters come in a wide variety of models and heating efficiency choices.

Propane and natural gas heaters are rated in what are called British Thermal Units (BTUs). How does a British Thermal Energy Unit work? It can best be described as the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of a single pound of water by one degree on a Fahrenheit temperature scale. The higher the BTU’s that a gas swimming pool heater is rated the faster it will heat a swimming pool of comparable size.

Gas pool heaters are also much easier to operate than they were many years ago. They no longer have pilot lights that can blow out and they have a very accurate digital thermometer system built into them too. New inground gas pool heaters also feature warm gas heads that help increase fuel-efficiency.

The downside to gas pool heaters is a big one. They are expensive to operate, so you want to use them sparingly. When your gas tank runs dry, you need to call your local gas company for a refill. And each time the truck comes out to refill the tank it will cost anywhere from $250-$500 depending on the size of your tank. This is the great thing about solar pool heaters…they have no operating cost! Once they are installed, they often run for a decade or longer with no expense.

Heat Pumps

Pool PumpThis is one of the newest ways that swimming pool owners are choosing to heat their backyard pools. They are among the best heaters you can buy because they will heat a swimming pool reasonably fast and they are very energy-efficient while doing it. Heat pumps are also a very eco-friendly type pool heater because they do not give off harmful emissions while operating. In the long run, heat pumps provide one of the best pool heater values that are available today.

They use cutting-edge technology to extract heat from the air and then transfer it into a swimming pool. You might describe them as a reverse air conditioner type device. If you stand next to one while it’s working, you can even feel the cool air movement. The ideal pool heat pump will also have a heat exchanger that is made of better metal than copper (Titanium or cupro-nickel).

One thing you must be aware of with heat pumps is that they do not produce heat very quickly at all if the ambient air temperature starts to get low. The lower the air temperature, the slower they will produce heat. Many heat pumps will not even work once the air temperature gets below 45° – 55°. This makes them a poor heating choice for those that live in cooler Northern USA climates who want to significantly extend their pool season. They are, however, an excellent pool heating choice for those that live in the southern half of the USA. Pool heat pumps are also a great choice for those that demand an alternative type of heat that avoids high gas prices. Heat pumps do produce a bit of noise, but it’s not bothersome unless you are right next to them.

How Quickly do you Want to Heat Your Pool?

Solar Pool Heating Buying Guide

This is a major factor in any pool heater buying decision. That’s because each type of swimming pool heater that is made generates hot water at a different pace. Here are the main types of pool heating systems ranked based on how fast that they will heat a swimming pool of comparable size.

  1. Natural Gas or Conventional Propane Heaters: No type of swimming pool heater works faster than natural gas or propane-powered heaters when it comes to heating up swimming pool water. But you will pay for it!
  2. Heat Pumps: These heat water fairly consistently if the air temperature does not get too cool.
  3. Solar Heating Systems: Pool heating systems are the next best thing to heat pumps because they actually warm water at about the same speed when the sun is shining.
  4. Electric Pool Heaters: It’s almost unfair to judge electric pool heaters because they are specifically designed to heat up smaller size swimming pools, but they do warm them fairly fast.

When you are shopping for a new pool heater, it’s never a bad idea to consult with a professional pool person as to the type and size of pool heater you need to warm your swimming pool quickly and efficiently. Be prepared to give them the gallons (or square footage) of your swimming pool and other pertinent pool information when you call them so they can best help you. For example, you may have to tell them you have a 20,000-gallon pool that is an outdoor pool. Being able to determine what size pool you have is critical to them being able to help find you the right size and type of pool heater. 

Budget vs. Pool Size for Your Solar Pool Heating

You do have to be very careful here when it comes to pool heater cost and sizing a new pool heater or pool heating system.

Sure, a smaller size gas heater or heat pump may save you money initially, but that money saved can go away in a hurry with the extra energy it takes a smaller size heater to keep a larger pool warm. It may even be the case where a smaller heater cannot maintain a large pool at a swimmable temperature on cooler days no matter how much it runs.

Also, when using a solar pool heating system, it’s often best to add a few extra solar mats to decrease the heating time for larger pools. It also will help keep your pool warm on days with less than optimal sun without having to use supplemental pool heat. Having a few extra solar panels installed is a small price to pay for the benefits that you will get from having them. And if you’re not sure if you have the correct number of mats, it would be smart to schedule a free inspection with the pros at Wayne’s Solar!

Again, contact your local pool dealer’s customer support team to help you with this.

Best Pool Heater for Your Needs

Here is a guide for the best pool heater to buy under specific circumstances or based on your own personal desires:

Heaters that Don’t Harm the Environment

Sure, gas pool heaters work great, but one of the worst things about them is they emit pollutants into the air. That’s why many environmentally-conscious swimming pool owners are reluctant to use them even though they heat pool water very fast. Well, some gas heater manufacturers have decided to do something about that. A few of them are making gas pool heaters now that have significantly low emissions that are less harmful to people and the planet.

Some examples of gas heaters that fall into this category include some of the Hayward H-series heaters. One of the best of these, the Hayward H400FDN, features a high BTU output, but at the same time it’s also a low-NOx gas pool heater. So it not only heats your swimming pool nicely but it’s also environmentally-friendly while doing it. NOx Emission standards are available for most gas heaters that Hayward products. Other manufacturers are starting to follow suit too and many are also making their gas heaters fuel efficient. Hayward has been known as a quality pool heater manufacturer for many years now.

Of course, solar pool heating systems have little to no impact on the environment as they run and are a great choice here too.

The Best Way to Heat a Detached Hot Tub or Baby Pool

You might want to consider an electric heater for doing these tasks. They are not very useful on bigger size swimming pools but do a great job heating detached hot tubs and wading pools. Electric pool heaters require virtually no upkeep and their temperature controls are very accurate too. These electric pool heaters are also built in a way that allows easy access to their heating elements if they ever need replacing.

Using a Solar Bubble Cover to Heat Your Pool

Some people are misled into believing that a solar bubble cover will actually help heat up their swimming pool. While this is somewhat true, the heat bubble covers in pools only impacts the first few inches of surface water, and it does not add a significant amount of heat. Are we against people buying these covers? Absolutely not. They do have their good uses. For one, they will help your swimming pool retain the heat that your pool’s heating system puts into it. They also cut down significantly on water loss due to vapors of the warmer pool water being emitted into the air.

Economical Pool Heating in Moderate US Climates

Only technical info can help you determine for sure what the best heater option is for you where you live. With that being said, rest assured there is no more economical way to heat pools in areas of the USA that have moderate climates than by using solar pool heaters. They work great in places where the average daily temperature rarely gets below 50 degrees. Best of all, you won’t have to spend much money on them once they are put in place. When paired with the right size pool pump, solar heating systems work great on any outdoor swimming pool that comes in standard sizes.

Best Heaters for Saltwater Pools

Solar Pool HeatingThe best pool heating system for saltwater pools, just like other pools, will always be solar pool heating. A pool heat pump and a gas heater will also do a nice job heating your saltwater backyard swimming pool. You just have to be aware there is a catch here. If you choose to purchase one of these types of pool heaters, you better make sure they have either a standard cupro-nickel heat exchanger or a titanium heat exchanger. Talk to the professionals about this, as they will carefully guide you down the right path.

That’s because the water in saltwater swimming pools tends to erode copper-based heat exchangers much faster than you would like. Although you can purchase replacement parts, heat exchangers are a little on the pricey side so it’s best to just get a higher quality heat exchanger to begin with. Better quality heat exchangers are also impacted less by the adverse effects of poor water chemistry.

Large Pool Heating on a Budget

There simply is no more budget-friendly way to heat an average or larger size swimming pool than to use a solar swimming pool heating system. Once the price of the equipment and installation are paid for, there is little more investment on a homeowner’s part to be able to heat their swimming pool for years to come. These systems run off the existing pool pump in most cases, and only a little additional plumbing is needed to accomplish this. Using such equipment as an Intex Solar Heater Mat absorbs much of the sun’s powerful rays and then transfers the heat from them into your swimming pool water. This is a great way to avoid the steady utility costs that come with heating your swimming pool with a gas heater or heat pump.

Northeast United States Pool Heating

Without a doubt, the best choice here is a gas or propane swimming pool heater. That’s because solar heating systems and heat pumps simply will not cut it during the colder months of the year and there are a lot of them from late fall to early spring. Electric pool heaters are an option here for extremely small size pools such as wading pools or swimming pools under 7000 gallons. This same information holds true for almost all Northerly locations in the USA. But if you are in Florida, or anywhere in the Southeast, solar pool heaters are the way to go.

Heating a Small Indoor Pool

You actually have a few different choices here.

For indoor pools that are less than 10,000 gallons, you may want to consider using an electric swimming pool heater. They are very safe for indoor use. This is because they have no flame and do not emit harmful fumes. All electric heaters also have a built-in high limit cutoff switch which shuts them down if a dangerous amount of heat is detected inside of them. When hooked up using a GFI breaker, it greatly eliminates any possible shock hazard too.

You can also hook up a gas heater to use on your indoor pool. This might be the preferred way to go if you have a large indoor pool. If you decide to go this route, it is highly recommended that you set up your new gas pool heater outside of your home. That way it is not as much of a fire hazard and you eliminate the possibility of dangerous gas emissions if your heater is not vented properly or for some reason that venting ductwork gets plugged up.

Above Ground Pool Heating

Solar pool heaters are an ideal choice for above ground pool owners. A rooftop solar pool heater, in combination with an energy-efficient Blue Wave Replacement Pump can make for an economical and comfortable pool heating situation. There is no reason why an above ground pool owner can’t enjoy the benefits of a heated pool without going to a big expense. Prices for above ground solar pool heaters are very reasonable and they do a great job at quickly heating the water on sunny days.
Electric pool heaters are also available to help heat extremely small size above ground pools and there are smaller size gas heaters available too.

The Temperature of The Pool Water That You Prefer When Swimming?

The temperature of the pool water that you like to swim is a big consideration when purchasing a pool heater. For example, if you are a senior that feels much more comfortable swimming in pool water that is 80° or higher, then your best choices are to choose between natural gas heaters, propane heaters or heat pumps. Solar heating systems supplemented by gas heaters may also be used if you live in extreme southern states with a warmer climate such as Florida or Texas. For pools less than 10,000 gallons, electric pool heaters can also be used to consistently achieve these temperatures.

Highly Recommended Pool Heater Models

What are some of the highest-rated swimming pool heaters that are made? Many find genuine Hayward product ideal as far as swimming pool heaters are concerned. Especially the H400FDN Universal H-Series heater. It is a powerful natural gas heater that will help keep a swimming pool warm even during a long winter season. Although it’s considered to be a medium size heater, its unique technology can more than adequately heat even larger size swimming pools.

Another highly recommended pool gas heater is the Pentair MasterTemp line of heaters. Even though they have the extreme power necessary to heat even large size swimming pools, they still have a reasonable initial cost and are cost-effective to run because of their maximum heat transfer capability. They are an amazing product that will generate a lot of heat for your swimming needs with their immense power. Their ideal gas heater design also features highly accurate stack flow sensor breaks and they are perfect for both inground or large above ground pools.

Easy to Operate Pool Heaters

So you want a swimming pool heater that is simple to operate? Maybe one that offers easy care of the heating needs of your swimming pool? That is fully understandable. No one wants to have to do any more maintenance on their swimming pool than they already must do. Well here is good news. Most swimming pool heaters are very easy to operate and maintain. Gas pool heaters, heat pumps, and electric heaters just need to be set to a certain temperature and then will function on their own. Even solar heating systems can be made so they automatically turn on and off.

Best Pool Heaters | Summary

Without a doubt, owning the right pool heater can be very beneficial to anyone that owns a swimming pool. At the very least, they will extend a swimming season a few months in either direction. Those in warmer climates such as Florida, may even find they can comfortably use their swimming pools almost all year round if they add a heater. They really do that good of a job at keeping a swimming pool at an enjoyable swimming temperature.

You must be careful though when you go to buy a new swimming pool heater. There are many different models to choose from and not all of them are good ones. And it’s imperative that you match up the right type heater with your particular swimming pool size and location. You definitely want a heater setup that is the most economical and the most efficient for your pool heating needs. If you follow the advice in this buying guide, you should be able to greatly narrow down your choices as to a few types of pool heaters that are right for you.

Wayne's SolarIt also never hurts to consult with a pool professional when making a swimming pool heater choice. Companies such as Wayne’s Solar are experts at installing several different types of pool heating solutions. These companies can help guide you to the perfect choice of swimming pool heater for your needs. You can contact us at 386-673-9720, or schedule a consultation where one of our solar pros can give you experienced advice based on the particulars of your swimming pool.

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