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What are the Different Types of Spa Heaters?

By Swapna Goel
Updated May 16, 2024
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Although many different types of spa heaters exist in the market, gas and electric spa heaters are the most popular and easily available. Heaters come in different sizes, and the right heater depends on the size of the pool or spa, the maximum temperature desired, and whether the device needs to heat both the spa and the pool, or just one. In addition to gas and electric heaters, other options include fossil fuel heaters that are run on propane or oil, heat pumps, and solar heaters.

Natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are usually easily available, so gas heaters are the most common option for heating swimming pools and hot tubs. Easy to regulate, gas heaters are ideal to set the particular temperatures required in pools and spas. Natural gas fueled heaters are the fastest, warming up the water within a few minutes, half the time taken by most electric heaters. Popular for quick and consistent heating, gas heaters are also the cheapest and most convenient to use. Low running costs, minimal maintenance, and instant availability make it a good choice to heat a pool or spa.

Heaters fueled by heating oil or propane cost more than gas spa heaters. Propane-fueled heaters must be handled with care; the gas is heavier than air, so leaks do not easily disperse, posing a risk of explosion. Air-to-liquid heat pumps, which use warm ambient air to heat the water, are another common option to heat up a pool or spa.

Like gas heaters, electric spa heaters are built as stand-alone units. Water flows from the pump to a filter, and then to the element tank for heating. While large and commercial heaters come with a separate cabinet, portable electric heaters common in small spas or pools with a limited power supply have heaters mounted to other equipment, and controls integrated into the common spa control panel. Due to high running costs and comparatively longer time taken to warm up, electric heaters may be impractical in large spas.

Many owners are investing in a solar pool or spa heater, which can significantly reduce heating bills. After the initial investment in the solar heating system, there is a very low operating cost and minimal maintenance. Made up of light-weight plastic, unglazed solar collectors connect directly with the existing pump system and can be easily rolled up and stored when the season ends.

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Discussion Comments

By Animandel — On Oct 01, 2014

@Drentel - I understand your fears about electric spa heaters and electrocution, but I have read that you are more likely to have issues with gas heaters because there are so many more things that can go wrong with gas heaters. And let's face it, gas isn't the safest heating source available either.

I think a solar spa heater would be the best way to go if it wasn't so expensive to install.

By Drentel — On Sep 30, 2014

I have learned that there are a lot of different factors to consider when you are looking to purchase the best spa heater. I really thought the process would be simpler, but you can't just go to the store and tell the salesperson to show you the best heater.

I have heard good things about both the gas and the electric spa heaters, and I am leaning toward buying a gas one. For some reason, I just cannot help but feeling that an electric heater or any type of electricity is not a good idea when you are around water.

By Feryll — On Sep 30, 2014

A friend of my parents had a spa and pool at his house when I was growing up, and we would go over there for pool parties because he had a couple of kids near the same ages as me and my brother. We always loved going over to their house and spending time in the pool, especially during the hot summer days, because we didn't have a pool, and swimming was a good way to cool off.

However, when the weather cooled the story was a bit different. Even though he had a heater, and he used the pool and spa almost all year, it sometimes took forever for the water to warm enough so that you could actually go swimming.

I don't know what type pool and spa heater he had, but you should definitely consider the warm up time when you are buying a heater. Like this article says, some pool heaters take twice as long as others to heat the water and this can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your spa or your swimming pool.

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