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What are the Different Types of Swimming Pool Heaters?

By L. Hepfer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Swimming pool heaters are used to keep the water temperature in swimming pools at a consistently warm temperature. This allows a pool owner to extend the swimming seasons, by two or even threefold. There are three basic types of swimming pool heaters: gas heaters, electric heat pumps, and solar-based heaters. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.

Gas heaters run on propane or natural gas, and thus require a propane tank, or a natural gas hookup. Gas heaters can be rather expensive to operate once they are installed if they are run constantly. They work great for pool owners who only wish to turn them on occasionally when guests come for a visit, or if the pool is located at a vacation home, and is only used periodically. It is easy to keep the water at a consistent temperature using a gas heater no matter what the weather is, so gas heaters tend to work great for spas.

Heat pumps rely on electricity to operate. Air is pulled into the pump, ran through a compressor, then sent into the water from below. This type of pool heater is ideal for athletes and pool owners that wish to benefit from therapy. They are able to maintain a consistent temperature regardless of the weather, and they also tend to keep the water warmer than other swimming pool heaters.

Solar-based pool heaters use the sun's heat to warm the pool. The existing pool pump runs the water through a heater that is usually located somewhere on the roof of an adjacent house or building. Solar swimming pool heaters only work during daylight hours, and work best on bright sunny days. They are somewhat limited in terms of how much they increase the temperature of the water. As a result, they may not be very effective during extremely cold temperatures, or on cloudy days.

In terms of efficiency, heat pumps have an advantage over gas swimming pool heaters, and they cost less to run. On the other hand, gas heaters are less expensive to purchase in the beginning, but could end up costing the pool owner more later, depending on how often it is used. Solar-based pool heaters are the most cost efficient, since they have no operating cost, but may not be able to maintain as warm a temperature, depending upon the weather, and the outside temperature.

The overall practicality of different types of swimming pool heaters varies greatly depending on the size of the swimming pool, where it is located, and the desired water temperature. The size of the heater needed to properly heat the pool will depend on the geographic location, because this determines the type of swimming season, the amount of time needed to heat the pool, and the desired temperature at which the water is to be kept. Pool covers can be a great way to keep the water at its desired temperature when the pool is not in use. A pool heater can be installed by the pool owner; however, it is safer to hire a professional for the electrical and gas hookups.

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Discussion Comments
By anon142469 — On Jan 13, 2011

What heat loss value should be used for heaters when calculating total heat loss for a pool circulation system?

By anon121751 — On Oct 25, 2010

Really useful article. it's helped with my university research. Thanks

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