Efficient Swimming Pool Heaters: Expert Recommendations for Year-Round Comfort

If you’re considering buying a swimming pool heater, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right one for your needs. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to decide which type to go for.

That’s where we come in.

Our comprehensive guide provides buying tips and reviews of different swimming pool heaters, including gas, electric, and solar models, as well as heat pumps. We also feature popular models from leading brands such as Hayward, Raypak, AquaCal, Jandy, and Pentair, suitable for both above-ground and in-ground pools.

Swimming  pool
(photo: pixabay)

A swimming pool heater can extend your swim season, allowing you to enjoy your pool even when the weather is less than perfect. With a properly heated pool, you can relax in warm water throughout the year, control the temperature to your liking, and save money on energy costs in the long run.

Our guide is designed to help you select the best type and model for your specific needs, so you can make the most out of your pool and enhance your overall swimming experience.

Swimming Pool Heaters: Things to Consider

Benefits of Using Swimming Pool Heaters

Extend the swimming season. Swimming pool heaters allow you to control your water temperature, so you can enjoy swimming for longer, even during the months when most are closed.

Increase property value. People value comfort and convenience, and a heated pool can provide just that. It’s a desirable feature that can make your home more appealing and potentially increase its value.

Comfort and convenience. Rather than going to public indoor pools, you can swim in the comfort of your own heated pool. You can avoid crowds, driving, parking, and busy traffic, and ensure that your kids swim in clean water without the risk of catching viruses or bacteria. Plus, you have full control over the water temperature, ensuring that it’s always at a comfortable level without the high levels of chlorine found in public pools.

Free operating costs and low maintenance. Save money and reduce maintenance costs with certain types of heaters, such as solar-powered ones. These heaters use free, renewable energy from the sun, so all you need to do is buy the panels. You can enjoy energy savings and contribute to environmental protection at the same time.

Types of Swimming Pool Heaters

When it comes to heating your pool, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Just like there are different types of water heaters for homes, there are various types of pool heaters to choose from. To help you find the perfect match for your needs, we’ve outlined the different types below:

  • Gas-type
  • Electric-type
  • Solar-type
  • Heat pumps

Gas or Propane Swimming Pool Heaters

Gas pool water heaters are the most popular type of pool heaters, thanks to their ability to heat water quickly, their improved efficiency in new models, and affordable pricing. However, propane heaters can be more expensive in the long run. Despite this, gas heaters are reliable and can last up to 15 years.

Gas or propane heaters are ideal for pools that are not used daily. Propane is more expensive than natural gas, so keep that in mind when considering the operating costs. However, if you can afford it, you’ll enjoy the powerful gas burner and heating speed.

The combustion heating system in gas pool heaters makes them fast and efficient, regardless of the water temperature or weather conditions. If you’re considering a natural gas or propane heater, look for the latest models with advanced features. New models are more energy-efficient and have lower emissions, which is especially important in California and Texas.

The Hayward H250FDN from the H-Series is a great option to consider.

The size of swimming pool heaters is measured in BTUs, which stands for British Thermal Units, and indicates the amount of heat generated by the device. This factor is critical, as you’ll need to choose a heater with the appropriate BTU output. Most heaters are available in sizes ranging from 100,000 BTUs for small pools up to 500,000 BTUs for larger ones.

While pool heaters are initially affordable, the operating costs can be significant, especially for heavily used pools. For example, monthly costs can exceed $600 for some models. However, the initial cost can range from $1500 to $3500, depending on the size and type of heater.


  • Heats water fast.
  • It can be used in almost any climate.
  • Not expensive as heat pumps.
  • Durable.


  • Needs natural gas or propane (more expensive) supply.
  • More installation work and costs.
  • Not eco-friendly.
  • Propane is expensive.
  • It needs a propane tank for supply and regular delivery.
  • Short lifespan.

Electric Swimming Pool Heaters

Electric heaters are advantageous because they take up less space than other types, are often small, and can be turned on and off easily. However, in the long run, they can be more expensive than gas heaters because electricity is more expensive than gas.

Electric heaters heat the water using a resistor element that generates heat by using electrical current, which heats the water as it passes through the element. The water is then pumped out of the device and into the pool. Although effective in heating water, this method uses a lot of electricity and can be expensive, leading to high energy bills. It may also require modifications to your home’s electrical panel.

For pools that are used more than five days a week, electric models can cost up to $600 or more per month. This makes them less desirable for most people unless they can afford the cost. Electric heaters tend to last for up to ten years, and for the luckiest users, they can last up to 15 years. For those who can afford it, electric water heaters are excellent as they can be used almost anywhere and provide great results.

Electric heaters are recommended for small pools, spas, hot tubs, or where there is no need to heat up for a long time. They can cost as little as $500, but the most efficient and powerful devices can cost up to $5000. Additionally, installation costs may increase the overall expense.


  • Cheap.Clean.
  • Small.
  • Easy to use.
  • Can work in any weather.
  • Reliable technology.


  • High operating costs.
  • High installation costs.
  • Do not heat water fast.
  • Low efficiency.
  • Short lifespan.

Heat Pump Pool Heaters

Heat pumps may be the “greenest” approach to pool heaters available in the market behind solar heaters. They are easy to install and use while having lower operating costs.

A heat pump extracts heat from the surrounding warm air, compresses the heated refrigerant inside with a compressor, and then heats the water with the hot compressed refrigerant while throwing the cold air out the top of the appliance.

These heaters take a little longer to heat the water than others, especially when compared to gas units. However, they can become a lot more efficient and useful in the long run, especially in warm to hot environments. The minimum temperature needed to use a heat pump is 45 degrees Fahrenheit; anything lower than that will make this heating device inefficient.

At first, heat pumps can be more expensive than other types, as they heat water differently. However, the operating costs are little to nonexistent. And what’s even better, they can last up to 20 years without breaking.

The less powerful heat pump may cost as little as $1,800 but can go up to $5,000 in the biggest and most effective ones.


  • Low operating costs.
  • Clean and environment-friendly.
  • Quiet.
  • High efficiency.
  • Easy to use.
  • It can provide both heating and cooling.
  • Reliable.
  • Great for larger pools.
  • No pollution.
  • Long-lasting.


  • Lower efficiency with the lower outside temperature.
  • Expensive to buy.
  • Heats water slowly.

Solar Pool Heaters

Solar energy is the greenest and most energy-efficient method for domestic and pool water heating known. It uses solar panels to harvest solar heat, which is eventually stored in collectors.

Water is pumped into the solar panels’ collectors and out again towards the pool when it is heated. This demands not only more installation efforts but also a lot more time to heat the water. In the long run, however, solar pool heaters are a lot more affordable to use.

The problem with these heaters is that they can’t be used at night or when there aren’t many sun rays to heat the panels. Solar panels are used in winter or cloudy places but with reduced efficiency, so backup heaters are recommended.

The water may not heat up efficiently during cold weather as the process lasts longer than a heat pump, which is slower than electric and gas options.

If you think this one fits your needs, make sure you have enough space to install solar panels. They take up a lot of room and most of the time need an expert to evaluate the location before installation. Despite being a little more complicated to install, the installation cost may still be lower than an electric heater.

A solar panel heater price may range from $2,500 up to $4,000, including installation costs. This price range is for the glazed type. Cheaper options are flexible ones (unglazed), which usually come as a DIY kit and do not require professional installation.

And, of course, they don’t cost anything to operate while offering a lifespan of up to 20 years without breaking.


  • Utilizes free energy.
  • Ideal for use in warmer regions.
  • Very low operating cost.
  • Environment-friendly operation.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Long-lasting.


  • It requires direct sunlight for the greatest performance.
  • High purchase cost.
  • High installation cost.
  • Hard to control the water temperature.It heats water slow.
  • Can damage the roof (can develop leaks).
  • Glazing (tempered glass) can break.
  • It takes a lot of space.

The Cost of Service

According to the AquaCal manufacturer of swimming pool heaters, heat pumps are the cheapest to operate, mainly due to their high energy efficiency. 

AquaCal heat pumps have an operational cost of $6.25 per million BTUs of heat. The next cheapest option is natural gas heaters, with a cost of $27.50, followed by electric types ($38.10), and the most expensive option is propane gas units at $40.76.

These cost comparisons are based on the following prices: $3 for a gallon of LP gas, $2.20 for natural gas, and 13 cents per kilowatt, with the heat pump’s Coefficient of Performance (COP) at 6.1.

While heat pumps are the most cost-effective option, the upfront and long-term costs should also be considered when making a decision.

Selecting Tips

Popular Manufacturers

  • Hayward
  • Aquacal
  • Raypak
  • Pentair
  • Jandy
  • Rheem

Picking the Right Size of Pool Water Heaters

The right size of a pool heater is all about how powerful it is and whether it can heat water per specs. This is done by calculating BTUs and overall needed capacity.

Calculating Gas Heater Size

First, consider the temperature to which you want the pool heated. Then, find out the average temperature outside, taking into account the coldest month.

Second, subtract the average temperature for the coldest month outside your home from the desired temperature for your pool heater. This will give you the temperature rise.

Third, calculate the area in square feet. You can do this by multiplying the length and width of the pool if it is rectangular, or RxRx3.14 for a round pool (R is the radius of the pool).

Fourth, use both the temperature rise measurement and the total square footage area multiplied by 12 to determine the total BTUs you need. For example, 20 x 500 x 12 = 120,000 BTUs you will need for your heater.

Calculating the Electric Heater Size

Electric heaters follow a similar sizing calculation as gas-powered devices. However, it is important to note that they can heat water faster if they offer more BTUs. This means that any electric heater with more than 200,000 BTUs will be more efficient in the long run than a gas option.

Calculating the Heat Pump Heater Size

Heat pumps are similar to electric and gas water heaters in that they use BTUs as the power measurement.

However, they also tend to use horsepower (HP), which is correlated with the amount of BTUs the device can provide.

For a heat pump with 75,000 BTUs, it should have at least 3.5 HP. For a 100,000 BTU heat pump, you should go for one with 5 HP, and for 125,000 BTUs or more, it should have at least 6 HP, up to 8 HP for the most powerful ones.

Calculating the Solar Heater Size

Solar heaters require a different approach when it comes to calculating the appropriate size.

They often require much more space compared to other types of heaters, as they can take up to 75% of the entire pool area.

For example, if your pool takes up 1000 square feet of space, your solar panel area should be at least 700 square feet. While this may seem like a lot, it is necessary to meet your temperature requirements, especially in colder environments where it is recommended to go for 100% of the square area of the pool.

Which Pool Water Heaters Are Better for You?

When it comes to choosing a swimming pool heater, it all comes down to your location and climate, the availability of your energy source, and your financial capacity to afford the device that best suits your needs.

By considering the above suggestions and tips, you can make the right buying decision for your water heating device.

Don’t let a cold water turn you away from enjoying a nice swim. If you live in northern regions or own a business like a hotel, motel, or gym, purchasing a pool heater for an extended swimming season is highly recommended.

Natural gas heaters are recommended for their fast heating capabilities, but if you live in southern regions, consider purchasing a heat pump for efficient water heating.


Should I Cover My Pool Heater in the Winter?

Yes, it is recommended to cover your pool heater during the winter season to protect it from any potential damage caused by the elements. Covers specifically designed for swimming pool heaters are available and can help prolong the life of your heater by preventing rust, corrosion, and debris buildup.

When Should I Turn My Pool Heater On?

You should turn on your heater when you want to start using your pool and the water temperature is too cold for your comfort. It’s best to turn on the heater a few hours before you plan to use the pool to ensure that the water reaches the desired temperature. However, it’s important to keep in mind that running the heater continuously can be expensive, so you may want to consider using a pool cover to help retain heat and reduce your heating costs.

Should Pool Heaters Be Left On?

Pool heaters should not be left on when the pool is not in use or overnight. It is recommended to turn off the heater when the pool is not being used to save energy and avoid unnecessary wear and tear on the heater. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for turning the heater on and off to ensure proper operation and avoid potential safety hazards.

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