Gas vs. Electric Pool Heaters: What is the Difference and Which One is Better?

When it comes to keeping your swimming pool warm and comfortable throughout the year, gas and electric heaters are two popular choices.

But which one is the best fit for your needs?

Here, we compare gas vs. electric pool heaters to help you find the most cost-effective and hassle-free solution for your home. By examining the unique advantages, disadvantages, and benefits of each type of heater, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision.

Gas vs. Electric Pool Heaters: How They Work

How Electric Pool Heaters Work

Electric pool heater

Electric pool heaters work by using heating elements, also known as resistors, to warm the pool water. These heaters are equipped with thermostats that allow users to set and control the temperature. Water is circulated through the heating elements using pumps, and as it passes through the elements, it is heated before returning to the pool. However, due to their high energy consumption, electric pool heaters are best suited for smaller pools, hot tubs, and spas.

A more efficient option for homeowners is an electric heat pump. These devices use electricity to capture heat from the air or ground and transfer it to the pool water. As a result, they consume much less energy than traditional electric pool heaters, helping you save on your energy bills.

How Gas Pool Heaters Work

Gas pool heater

Gas pool heaters work by burning natural gas or propane in a combustion chamber to heat the pool water. The heater draws in air from the surrounding environment and directs it to the combustion chamber where the gas is ignited. The resulting heat is transferred to the pool water, which is circulated through the heater using pumps.

Gas pool heaters have burners and heat exchangers that efficiently transfer heat from the combustion gases to the pool water. These heaters are typically faster at heating water than electric heaters and can be used for larger pools, even in cold climates.

Gas vs. Electric Pool Heaters: Pros and Cons

Electric Pool Heaters

Electric pool heaters provide reliable heating for pools regardless of weather conditions or the season. With proper installation and regular maintenance, they can have a longer lifespan and ensure consistent operation.

These pool heaters are particularly well-suited for smaller pools, hot tubs, and spas due to their high energy consumption.

Advantages of Electric Pool Heaters

  • Cost-effective: Electric pool heaters are generally more affordable to purchase and install than gas pool heaters.
  • Environmentally friendly: They do not produce any emissions or fumes, making them a clean option for heating your pool.
  • High efficiency: Modern electric pool heaters are designed to be highly efficient, which can help reduce your energy bills.
  • Reliable: These heaters are generally very reliable, requiring minimal maintenance and repairs.
  • Compact size: Electric heaters are typically smaller in size than gas pool heaters, making them a great option for smaller spaces.
  • No venting required: They do not require any venting, reducing installation costs and making them easier to install in a variety of locations.

Disadvantages of Electric Pool Heaters

  • Not ideal for larger pools: Electric pool heaters may not be the best choice for larger pools due to their higher operating costs and slower heating times.
  • Slow response: Compared to gas heaters, electric pool heaters may have slower response times when heating the pool water.
  • Complex installation: These heaters can be more complicated to install than gas heaters, and may require professional installation to ensure safety and compliance with local electrical codes.
  • Electrical requirements: They may require changes to your electrical panel due to their high amperage and heavy-duty wiring, which can add to the overall cost of installation.

Gas Pool Heaters

Gas pool heaters are a popular choice among homeowners due to their powerful gas burners, which allow them to heat pool water quickly and effectively in any weather condition or climate.

Natural gas pool heaters are particularly well-suited for large pools or spas, where a large amount of energy is needed in a short amount of time. They are also a good option for occasional use, as they can quickly bring the pool up to temperature when needed.

Advantages of Gas Pool Heaters

  • High heating power: Gas pool heaters are powerful and can heat pool water quickly and efficiently, making them a popular choice for those who want to use their pool year-round.
  • Fuel flexibility: These heaters can use either natural gas or propane, giving you more flexibility in your fuel source and potentially saving you money on energy costs.
  • Fast response time: They have a quick response time and can bring your pool to your desired temperature quickly, allowing you to enjoy your pool without a long wait.
  • Ideal for larger pools: These devices are well-suited for larger pools or spas that require a large amount of energy to heat up quickly.
  • High efficiency: Modern gas-powered heaters are designed to be efficient, helping to reduce your energy bills and save you money in the long run.
  • Affordable: They are generally more affordable to purchase and install than other types of pool heaters.
  • Compact size: They have a relatively small footprint, making them a great option for smaller spaces.

Disadvantages of Gas Pool Heaters

  • Heating pools with propane gas is expensive
  • Gas is not available everywhere as electricity
  • They require some maintenance and cleaning
  • Most models are not eco-friendly (low NOx models are)
  • Shorter lifespan

Comparing Costs of Gas Pool Heater vs. Electric

Initial Cost

According to experts, the cost of a standard gas pool heater typically ranges from $1,000 to $4,500, while electric resistance models can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000. The cost will depend on factors such as the size of the unit, its quality, and available features.

Additionally, when budgeting for a pool heater, it’s important to consider installation costs. Gas pool heaters may require an installation cost of up to $1,500, while electric models can cost up to $1,000 for the necessary electrical hookup.

Cost of Operation

In the long run, electric pool water heaters generally consume less energy than propane gas models, but more than natural gas options.

The average monthly operating cost for an electric heater is around $400, $300 for natural gas models, and $500 for propane, making it the most expensive option.

While it’s difficult to predict future operating costs, it’s always wise to prioritize energy efficiency when selecting a pool heater. The higher the efficiency rating, the better.

It’s also important to note that electric resistance heating is the least economical option for homeowners.

Life Expectancy

When comparing gas vs. electric pool heaters, it can be noted that electric heaters generally have a longer life expectancy of 10 to 20 years, while gas heaters typically last between 5 to 10 years.

Gas pool heaters may wear out faster and require more frequent servicing and maintenance than electric models. However, the lifespan of either type of pool heater depends on various factors such as element quality, usage, water chemistry, and location.

To extend the life of your pool heater, it’s essential to maintain the proper pH level as recommended by the manufacturer and clean the pool regularly. Additionally, performing regular maintenance, checking the filter for proper function, and promptly addressing any issues can help maximize your pool heater’s lifespan.


Both electric and advanced gas pool heaters have energy efficiencies of over 90%, which translates to significant cost savings and minimal energy loss.

Comparing Best Electric and Gas Pool Heaters

EcoSmart SMART POOL Tankless Heater 27kW

If you are looking for a small and compact electric device to efficiently heat your pool to a precise temperature, the EcoSmart Smart Pool model may be the perfect fit for you.

This model is easy to install and is capable of operating at both 110 and 240 volts, making it suitable for various pool applications.

Hayward H400FDN

The Hayward H400FDN is an energy-efficient and high-performance gas pool heater that offers top-notch features, including a Cupro-nickel heat exchanger for superior saltwater and corrosion resistance, and low NOx gas emissions.

It can work with both natural gas and propane and deliver up to 400,000 BTUs of power with over 80% thermal efficiency. This versatile and eco-friendly unit is recommended for reliable and cost-effective water heating in large pools and small spas.

So, Which One Should I Buy: Gas or Electric Pool Heater?

When deciding between a gas or electric pool heater, it’s important to consider your specific needs and circumstances. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages.

If you need fast heating and plan to use your pool occasionally, then a gas pool heater might be the best option for you. However, if natural gas or propane is not available or convenient, an electric pool heater could be a good alternative.

Electric pool heaters are a great option for those who want to heat their pool year-round, regardless of the climate or season. They are also more affordable and have a longer lifespan than gas pool heaters.

Ultimately, the choice between an electric and gas pool heater comes down to personal preference and individual circumstances. Whatever type you choose, make sure to choose a high-quality unit and maintain it properly to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

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