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Pool Heater Options: Gas/Propane vs Heat Pump vs Solar Which is Best?

By: Jason Hughes on April 16th, 2015

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Pool Heater Options: Gas/Propane vs Heat Pump vs Solar Which is Best?

Options and Accessories


Are you looking for a way to utilize your swimming pool for as much of the year as possible?  At River Pools we meet with hundreds of folks across Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia each year regarding their inground pool projects and we receive many questions regarding pool heaters.  Today we're going to discuss the benefits of heating your pool, different heating options, and how much each option costs initially and on a monthly basis.    

Why Would I Want to Heat My Pool?

Great question!  Without a pool heater your swim season may only last three or four months, while the addition of a heater will typically extend your swim season about two months depending on location and climate.  We all know how much kids enjoy the swimming pool and closing time can be kind of a bummer but with a pool heater you and your family can maximize the fun.  

What Kind Of Pool Heaters Are There?

There are three main types of pool heaters:

  • Solar
  • Heat Pump (electric)
  • Gas

How Do They Work?

Solar Pool Heaters are very efficient in southern climates year-round and extends swim time in northern climates. By using the sun's energy the existing pool pump will circulate the water through the heater which will be typically located on the rooftop or on a frame constructed in the yard.  The downs Solar heating requires a system equal to 50%-100% of the pool's surface. While solar energy may be free, the pool pump must be running for the solar heater to properly operate which can increase your electric bill.

Electric Heat Pump amazingly, the electric heat pump is actually a form of solar energy. How is that possible?  Well the sun warms the air and that heat is pulled from the air.  This warm air is pulled in, enhanced, and transferred into the water, requiring temperatures of approximately 55+ to properly function.

Gas Pool Heaters use either propane or natural gas. Operating independently of outdoor temperature conditions, gas pool heaters burn the fuel within a combustion chamber all while your pool water runs through copper coils to then return to the pool warm. 

How Do Electric Heat Pumps Save Me Money?

While solar pumps may be "free" you still have to leave the pump running in order for it to function boosting you electric bill by $300 to $950 a year. Gas heaters can range $300-$500 per month depending on the fuel you choose. Electric Heat Pumps are highly efficient costing owners on average $50-100 per month. We find that about 19 of 20 of our customers who install heaters choose heat pumps simply because of their dependability and low operating cost.  You can even check out this nifty savings calculator created by AquaComfort here.

Electric Heat Pumps can extend the average pool use by 2-3 months depending on location/climate.  Going back to how a heat pump works will determine how long it will extend pool use per year according to location. Outside temperatures need to be around 55+ degrees so in an area such as Texas or Louisiana the heat pump will efficiently keep temperatures regulated almost the entire year. In areas such as Virginia the heat pump can extend pool use averagely about two months. And in areas such as Ohio pool heaters are NOT optional heating is required to keep the water temperatures comfortable.

So if you're interested in heating your pool or just considereing options for your future pool here are the three options and why electric heat pumps are a known favorite amung a majority of our customers, plus who doesn't enjoy saving a little cash? 


Additional Resources

Fiberglass Pool Options and Accessories 

AquaComfort Savings Calculator