Types of Pool Heaters

With all the makes and models of pool heaters on the market, how do you select the best one to keep your pool water toasty warm.  Let’s start by looking at the different types of pool heaters on the market.

There are basically four types of pool heaters to choose from:

1. Electric Resistance Heaters

Typically used to heat small therapy pools and portable spas, electric resistance heaters generate heat through electric currents. While they work well, electric resistance heaters require a substantial amount of electricity, making them less than ideal for most pools.

Pros
  • The majority of electric resistance heaters are relatively inexpensive with price tags under $2,000.
  • Unlike gas heaters, electric resistance heaters don’t release gases into the environment, making them an environmentally friendly option.
  • Electric resistance heaters aren’t dependent on air temperature in order to operate.
Cons
  • Although relatively small, electric resistance heaters require circuit breakers with large amperage and heavy-duty wiring, potentially making them expensive to install.
  • Electric resistance heaters have a COP of 1.0, which means they’re not energy efficient and costly to operate.

2. Gas Heaters

Twenty years ago, any pool expert would have recommended a gas pool heater as this type of heater was widely used and considered the best pool heater option. However, since these types of pool heaters use propane or natural gas to heat pool water, their popularity is in decline as more and more pool owners are opting for more efficient heat pumps rather than paying increasingly higher gas prices.

Pros
  • Many gas heaters are inexpensive to purchase. In fact, many are available for less than $1,500.
  • Unlike heat pumps, which seem to dominate most pool heater reviews, gas heaters are not dependent on air temperature in order to operate.
  • Gas heaters are capable of heating pool water very quickly, ensuring your pool warms up quickly whenever you feel like taking a dip.
Cons
  • Due to rising gas prices, gas heaters are expensive to operate, costing pool owners $300 to $500 per month.
  • Like electric resistance heaters, gas pool heaters are not energy efficient. Most gas heaters have a COP of 0.80 to 0.85.
  • Unlike solar pool heaters, gas heaters emit air pollution and are not environmentally friendly.

3. Heat Pumps

Gulf Stream Heat Pump Vero BeachSimilar to electric resistance heaters, heat pumps use electricity to heat your pool. There are two types of heat pumps: air-source and water-source. Like their names suggest, air-source heat pumps transfer heat from the air to heat pool water and water-source heat pumps, or geothermal heat pumps, transfer heat from water. Thanks to their energy efficiency, these types of pool heaters have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Pros
  • Due to their high level of energy efficiency, heat pumps are inexpensive to operate and only cost pool owners $50 to $150 a month.
  • Water-source heat pumps are not dependent on air temperature to operate.
  • Heat pumps are durable and built to last. In fact, most models have a lifespan of up to 20 years.
  • While many pool heater reviews only mention solar heaters when the topic of environmental friendliness arises, heat pumps use renewable energy and do not emit harmful gases into the environment, making them an environmentally friendly option.
Cons
  • Heat pumps are more expensive to purchase than gas or electric resistance heaters, with many models costing $2,000 or more to purchase.
  • Air-source heat pumps are dependent on the temperature of the air in order to operate successfully.
  • Unlike gas heaters, heat pumps take a while to heat an average or large-sized pool.

4. Solar Heaters

Solar pool heaters utilize solar panels to transfer the sun’s heat directly to your swimming pool. The solar panels collect heat from the sun and transfer this heat to your pool water as it is pumped through the circulation system and solar panels. Since solar heaters are dependent upon the sun, they obviously work best in warm and sunny climates. Most pool owners also use an auxiliary heater on cloudy days or during the night.

Pros
  • Solar heaters require no additional costs to operate.
  • They operate via a pool pump, making them extremely energy efficient.
  • Like heat pumps, solar heaters are durable and have a lifespan of up to 20 years.
  • Solar heaters use renewable energy and do not emit harmful gases into the environment, making them an environmentally friendly option.
Cons
  • Not surprisingly, solar heaters are expensive to purchase. In most cases, you can expect to pay at least $4,000 for a quality model.
  • While many of today’s pool owners immediately consider solar heaters when reading pool heater reviews in search of the best pool heater, these energy efficient and environmentally conscious pool heaters are dependent upon the sun and can only operate efficiently on bright and sunny days.
  • Solar heaters heat water slowly

Remember everyone deserves to step into a warm, comfortable, and inviting pool.  Here are a few more things to consider on your quest to find the best pool heater for you:

  • Natural Gas vs. Propane – If you opt for a gas heater, your fuel options are limited to natural gas and propane. The type you choose should largely come down to the availability and price of these fuels in your neck of the woods.
  • Millivolt vs. Electronic Start Heaters – Due to the variety of swimming pool heaters on the market, it should come as no surprise that there are different types of ignition systems for various models. If you decide to go the conventional non-solar route, chances are you’ll have to decide between a millivolt swimming pool heater and an electronic start heater. Similar to a gas range, a millivolt swimming pool heater operates via a standing pilot light that must remain lit in order to fire up the heating process. Like its name suggests, however, an electronic start heater utilizes an electronic heat initiation process. While both have their merits, there’s no need to re-light a pilot light with the latter.
  • High-Altitude Pool Heaters – If you happen to live in the Rockies or anywhere 2,000 feet or more above sea level, you’ll need a high-altitude pool heater designed to perform well in lower oxygen environments. (Clearly we don’t need to worry about this here in Central Florida.)

Here in Indian River County, Florida the pros at Absolute Pool Repair believe the electric  heat pump, by manufacturers like AquaCal, and Gulfstream, offers the best solution.  Heat Pumps function by drawing heat from the surrounding air and transferring it into the water flowing through the unit.  As long as there is sufficient heat in the air, heat pumps are an extremely efficient, and cost effective way of warming your pool water.  With our relatively high year-round ambient air temperatures, Florida is a perfect environment for the electric heat pump.

We like solar pool heating systems in theory, but we have yet to see a system we believe will hold up to the occasional harsh weather we experience in Florida from time to time.

This information is presented by the experts at Absolute Pool Repair, a local family owned business here in Vero Beach.  If you have any questions about your pool heater, or which kind of pool heater would best serve your needs, please feel free to give us a call.

pool heaters and pool heater repair from Absolute Pool Repair, Vero Beach

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