Swimming Pool Heaters: Everything You Need to Know

So, you’re thinking about buying a heater for your swimming pool. Congratulations! A swimming pool heater can extend your swimming season, make night and morning swimming more enjoyable, and even increase your home’s value.

With so many different types and sizes of heaters on the market, though, how do you know which is right for your pool and your budget? What are the differences between solar heaters and electric swimming pool heaters? All of this sounds complicated, right? Don’t worry. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about pool heaters, and it’s all actually pretty simple.

pool heater

Types of swimming pool heaters

Swimming pool heaters, including above ground swimming pool heaters, come in three basic types: Solar, gas, and heat pumps. Determining the type and size of heater that’s right for you will depend on your budget, the climate in your area, and pool size.

Heat pump

The heat pump swimming pool heater operates in much the same way as an air conditioner or refrigerator, except that heat is redirected rather than removed. A compressor draws freon from an evaporator tube, a process that releases hot gas. Pool water then runs through the pump, warming before being returned to the pool.

Swimming pool heat pumps usually last from about ten years to as long as twenty years. They also have a relatively inexpensive operation cost compared to gas heaters. On the other hand, they tend to heat more slowly than gas heaters.

Solar heaters

Solar pool heaters convert sunlight into energy, which then warms the water in your pool. They’re quiet, require little maintenance, and cost virtually nothing to operate, making them a desirable option. Solar heating systems can be an expensive initial purchase, though, and depending on your pool’s size, they can be large and take up a lot of space.

There are two types of solar pool heaters, those with glazed collectors and those without. Which type is right for you depends on the climate where you live. Glazed collectors, which are coated in glass and constructed from more expensive materials, including copper, are better suited for climates where the temperature falls below freezing.

In more moderate climates, less-expensive unglazed collectors, fabricated from UV-treated rubber and plastic, may be used.

Gas heaters

Gas swimming pool heaters use gas or propane to heat copper coils, which, in turn, warm water as it passes through the system. Gas heaters are by far the fastest way to heat your pool, as they can raise your pool’s temperature by two to five degrees per hour. Solar heaters and heat pumps can take up to a day to raise a pool’s temperature by two or three degrees.

What size heater do I need?

When choosing a pool heater, you’ll need to determine how powerful a heater your pool will require. Heaters of every type come in a variety of sizes and strengths.

Like air conditioners and refrigerators, a pool heater’s power is measured in BTU’s or British Thermal Units. One BTU is the energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

As a general rule, your pool’s surface area, divided by three, will give you the minimum BTU amount necessary to heat your pool. When installing a solar heater, your pool’s square footage will determine how many solar panels you’ll need. Still, it’s always a good idea to consult a pool heating expert before purchasing any pool heater.

Which heater is right for my budget?

When determining the pool heater that best suits your budget, you need to think about the heater’s cost over the long term. You need to consider the initial purchase cost and the ongoing cost of operating your heater. For example, gas swimming pool heaters are usually the least expensive to buy but, depending on the price of propane or natural gas in your area, can be expensive to operate.

Electric swimming pool heaters and heat pumps generally cost a bit more than gas heaters, but they last longer and, as a rule, cost less to operate. Again, it’s always best to talk with a pool heater expert in your area to determine the heater that’s best suited to your pool and your budget.

Solar heaters are the most expensive to buy and have installed. Of course, the payoff is that they cost practically nothing to operate, harnessing the light of the sun and converting it into energy to heat your pool water.


The climate where you live should also be taken into consideration when choosing a swimming pool heater. People living in warmer climates with lots of sunshine may find a solar heater best suits their needs. In variable climates, it may be best to go with a gas heater that warms quickly and doesn’t depend on the sun for energy.

Now that you know more about the different types and sizes of swimming pool heaters, you’re ready to make a more informed decision as to which is right for you. Why not contact an area pool heater specialist today so you can start enjoying a longer swimming season and perhaps even increase the value of your home by as much as seven percent.

Outfitting your new pool

Deciding on a heater is just one of the big decisions you’ll need when installing a new pool. Global Pool Products manufactures high-quality pool ladders, railings, and swimming pool slides as well as swim-up bars and pool games like volleyball and basketball. Check out our full range of swimming pool products to finish outfitting your pool today!


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