Pool Heater Buying Guide

Are you on a mission to find the best pool heater for your pool?

Look no further as we’ve got you covered. On our website, we will list out the absolute best pool heaters currently available on the market, along with expert reviews and our opinions on each product, including gas heaters, solar heaters, and electric heaters. There are a ton of pool heaters on the market and finding the right one for your pool is a daunting task, which is why we made this buyer’s guide for you.

Why purchase a pool heater?

If you live anywhere other than near the equator, you will not be able to use your pool year round without a pool heater. Even if you live in a warm climate, all pools need a form of heater to keep the pool at a comfortable swimming temperature year round. If you live in a city that experiences cold weather, a pool heater is a must and will extend the length of time during which you’ll be able to enjoy the use of your pool (beyond just those scorching summer months). Heating a pool takes a lot of effort, and both time and energy.

Buying a pool heater is no easy task. If you currently own a pool or are looking to purchase one in the near future, it is important that you do your research and look into the different types of pool heaters available. There are many things you should consider and we will do our best to outline them below. Solar, natural gas, propane and electric are the most common types of heaters. They each have their benefits. Depending on where you live and what kind of pool you own, one may be better than another for you. Read below where we discuss the different types of pool heaters.

The Best Pool Heaters

Before we continue, we’d like to present to you some of the best pool heaters. These are all highly rated. Please note these are not the top three natural gas heaters or the top three solar heaters. These are the top overall! Check out the individual reviews for further detail. However, before you purchase one, we recommend that you read the rest of this guide.

We’ve also compiled separate lists of the best natural gas heaters, best electric heaters and best solar heaters.

Pool HeatersTypeRatingRead our
review
Eco Saver 20-Foot Solar
SolarClick here
Hayward 400,000 BTU
Natural GasClick here
Hayward 100,000 BTU
Natural GasClick here
Hayward 11-Kilowatt Electric
ElectricClick here
Pentair MasterTemp 400,000 BTU
PropaneClick here
Coates 240 Volt Electric
ElectricClick here
Sta-Rite 400,000 BTU
PropaneClick here
Hayward EasyTemp 110,000 BTU
PropaneClick here
Smartpool Solar Heater
SolarClick here
Hayward Solar Heater
SolarClick here

Determine which pool heater is best for you

Your location and the size of your pool are the two main factors you must consider before purchasing a pool heater. If you live in California or a location that is exposed to a lot of sunlight throughout the year, a solar heater might work (other factors must be considered as well). However, if you live in Canada or Northern United States which experiences significantly less sunlight throughout the year, a natural gas or propane heater would be better. Furthermore, if you have a large pool, you will need to consider the size of the heater.

All in all, you will want a heater that is cost effective but efficient (saving you time and energy!). Here are a few considerations:

  1. If you don’t plan on using your pool when temperatures fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, consider purchasing an electric heater as these are more efficient in those circumstances.
  2. If you live “off the grid” or in an area where electricity is expensive, consider purchasing a propane pool heater. However, these are generally more expensive to operate.
  3. If you will be using your pool infrequently, consider purchasing a natural gas heater. These are the most effective at heating your pool quickly.

We will discuss a number of factors in the pool heater reviews section of our website. Considerations such as efficiency, size of the heater and cost will be the main factors discussed as these are factors buyers should be aware of when purchasing a heater.

Learn about the different kinds of pool heaters

First off, there are many different types of pool heaters. Electric, propane, natural gas and solar are just some of the different kinds of heaters one can buy. They each have their pros and cons. The newly designed natural gas heaters are generally highly efficient, easy to rely on and safe. Over the past few years, there has been a rise in solar pool heaters as the cost of solar panels decreases and their efficiency increases. You will find articles on this website that outline the pros and cons of the different pool heaters currently on the market. These heaters were reviewed by industry professionals.

Solar Heater

If you live in a state like California, New Mexico or Arizona, a solar heater may be the most cost effective solution for you. If you live in climate where sunlight is more infrequent than frequent and you still want a solar heating system, you will need to pair it with an electric or gas pump. An electric or gas heater will be able to compensate – it’s always good to have a backup! – and keep your pool warm when the sun is scarce.

A solar heater is comprised of a few components such as a solar collector, a filter and a pump. The solar collector is responsible for warming the water with the solar energy, the filter ensures that only filtered clean water gets warmed up in the pool and the pump is necessary to move water. In order to be effective, it is required that the solar heating unit is mounted in a location that faces direct sunlight. If you are located in the northern hemisphere, your solar collector will need to face south for optimal sunlight and if you are in the southern hemisphere, your solar collector will need to face north for optimal sunlight. Make sure that there are no objects such as trees or buildings in the way that block sunlight for a significant period of the day. A solar pool heater will be expensive at first as you will need to purchase the panels and unit and pay for installation. However, the yearly maintenance and energy cost will essentially be nil therefore the upfront costs will pay themselves back over time! In addition, you can possible get tax credits for using a renewable energy source.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Free energyOnly works when the sun is shining
No emissionsOnly good in locations with a lot of sunlight
Over time, savings will cover installation costsIt may take several years to repay itself
Great for warm climatesNeed a backup heater in cool climates

Here’s a great guide issued by the Natural Resources Canada. It’s all you need to know about residential solar pool heaters!

Natural Gas Heater (or Propane)

While a solar heater requires sunlight and outside conditions that are out of your control, a natural gas or propane heater works regardless of outdoor conditions. These types of heaters are very efficient at heating a pool quickly. Burning the combustibles creates energy and the heater transfers this heat to the pool water.  Although they are one of the least cost efficient options, they are still relatively inexpensive to operate, especially given the fact that the cost of natural gas has declined quite significantly over the past few years.

If your home is connected to a natural gas line, a professional can hook the system directly to your household gas line. If you do not have a natural gas line, it may be more difficult to install and in those cases you should consult with a professional. A propane tank is recommended for those living in remote areas as the heating system connects directly to a stand-alone tank. On average you can expect to pay around $500 to $1000 (depends by location) per year in fuel to heat a medium sized pool for a few months of the year. Keep in mind, if you want to keep a pool warm in cool conditions, it will be even more expensive as more fuel is needed to keep the pool at a consistently warm temperature.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Relatively clean burningMore emissions than alternative options
Propane tanks are portablePropane is costlier than natural gas
Heats the pool quicklyExpensive for large pools
Heats the water regardless of outside temperatureNot as fuel efficient as other options

Electric Heat Pump

Electricity is generally the most expensive energy source, more expensive than both natural gas, propane and solar energy. However, electric heat pumps are designed in such a way that they are more efficient at heating water, using less overall power than a comparable natural gas heater. You may be wondering how does an electric heat pump work? It’s an interesting device that pulls warmth from the surrounding air, pulls it through a compressor that compacts the heat and injects it into the pool water. Even if it’s cool outside (such as below 50 degrees Fahrenheit), an electric heat pump pool heater can still find warmth in the air and use it to heat a pump. Nevertheless, as you would imagine, it is even more efficient and cost effective in warmer weather.

Most electric heat pumps plug into a standard 220V electrical outlet. You will need to ensure that your pool is close to an outlet. If not, you will want to consult with a professional electrician who will be able to set it up for you. Furthermore, the unit must sit on a level surface (preferably concrete) and must be within striking distance of the pool filter and the air handler (which is the device that contains the blower motor and electric heat pack). An electric heat pump will set you back around $250 to $500 in yearly electricity costs every year. That is for a medium sized pool with moderate usage.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Great in temperatures below 50 degrees FNeed a 220V outlet nearby
Efficiently uses electricityElectricity is an expensive energy source
Zero emissionsGrid energy may emit high emissions
Can be used in solar deficient locationsNeed adequate pool deck space

Used Pool Heaters

Given their cost, many people will consider purchasing a used pool heater. Do we recommend this? It depends. Heaters are made with a number of parts. If any one of these parts are faulty it will lead to significant, expensive repairs. Therefore, we only recommend that you purchase a used heater if a) you are technically inclined and you have the knowledge to inspect it or b) you purchase it from a reputable source that has inspected it and certified it.

4 Comments

  • norbert weissberg says:

    I have just installed a set of expensive German boilers to heat our 7,500 sq. ft. house using natural gas.

    We are now eager to purchase a heating devise for our 50’/20′ pool and our 6ft. in diameter by 6 ft. deep spa in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, only 12 miles from Montauk Point. (half the pool is 10 to 6 foot deep, the other half is four feet deep.

    Some recommend a heat exchanger. Others a natural gas pool heater. Which is your choice?
    Can I heat both the spa and the pool with one exchanger? with one pool heater?
    Are there specific devices you would recommend?

    Thank you in advance

    Norbert Weissberg

  • FRED KOZLOWSKI says:

    Interested in a gas pool heater question is whether to get electronic ignition or pilot lite and how many BTUs for about 8,000 gallons.

  • Stephen says:

    Great article. It really has some great info if you are looking to buy some pool heaters and narrow your choice and chose the one that most suits your purposes.

  • Dick Ditore says:

    We want to install solar heating. San Diego. Inground 16×30. The smartpool system seems to get good ratings, but I read that vortex was a much better design. It seems to be a lot more than the smartpool. Is there really that much difference? Don’t mind spending it if it is worth it.

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