Whether you’re simply a fan of swimming in warm water or looking to get more use out of your pool or spa in the cooler months, a pool heater can be a useful addition to your pool equipment pad. In this article, we’re looking at gas heaters, solar heaters and electric heaters (heat pumps) for your pool or spa.
Pool heaters come in a variety of styles and sizes that can quickly have your head spinning. We’ve simplified things and reviewed the best pool heaters. Below you’ll find our list that includes the different features and information associated with each heater. Then we’ll move on to an in-depth buying guide where we’ll weigh these features against each other and discuss the best way to choose a pool heater for your needs.
Best Gas Pool Heaters Review 2018
Below you’ll find a selection of the best pool heaters where the energy source is gas: natural gas or propane.
|badge||For The Above Ground Pool Owner|
|product||Hayward 150k BTU Gas Heater||Pentair MasterTemp 400k BTU Natural Gas Heater||Hayward 100k BTU Propane Above Ground Pool Heater|
|bottom line||A great way to heat your smaller to medium sized pool during the off-months (but not quite enough for a spa)||Ideal for a larger pool or a pool with an attached spa||For those with an above ground pool and no existing natural gas or electrical hook-ups|
|link to shop||Go to store||Go to store||Go to store|
Best Budget Option Hayward 150k BTU Gas Heater
- Hayward universal installation compatibility
- Patented polymer header assembly
- Cupro nickel heat exchanger
- Low nitrogen oxide emissions
The Hayward 150k BTU gas heater is designed with ease of installation in mind. The unit offers left-side or right-side electric, gas and water connections, with 110v or 220v electric hook up. This unit is also sold in both natural gas and propane configurations.
- Easy, universal install
- Low Nitrogen oxide emissions
- Polymer header (no rust)
- Smaller size, lower BTU (BTU is a unit of energy measurement, see buying guide below)
- Possible warranty and parts issues with Hayward
If you own a smaller to medium sized pool and are looking for a gas heater, this is a great way to heat your pool during the off-months. If your pool has an attached spa, this might not be a large enough heater to give you quick access to hot water when you want it. We’ll elaborate on this in our buying guide below!Check price on Amazon
Editor’s Pick Pentair MasterTemp 400k BTU Natural Gas Heater
- Low nitrogen oxide emissions
- Large 400k BTU output
- Rust proof exterior
- Rotating digital display
The Pentair MasterTemp 400k BTU Natural Gas Heater is a low nitrogen oxide emitting, high efficiency heater. The heater includes several features that allow for easy use, such as the elimination of a pilot light and the inclusion of a digital display that is focused on quick and simple accessibility.
- Large, 400k BTU
- Easy to access display
- Expensive due to size
If you have a larger pool or have a pool with an attached spa, you should be looking at a 400k BTU heater such as this. The rotating digital display is a nice added feature, especially if your pool equipment is in a cramped space and hard to access.Check price on Amazon
For the Above Ground Pool Owner Hayward 100k BTU Propane Above Ground Pool Heater
- Electronic ignition
- Propane configuration
- 110v plug in style power cord
This heater is equipped to be installed with an above ground pool. This includes a 110v power cord for applications where the equipment isn’t hardwired, and a propane configuration for those without a gas line.
- Designed to be above ground compatible
- Simple control interface
- Will heat pool slower than larger models
- Propane can be expensive
If you have an above ground pool that doesn’t have existing natural gas or electrical hook-ups, this Hayward heater provides a simple solution. Make sure to monitor your propane usage, and keep in mind it will take longer to heat the water than with a larger BTU heater.Check price on Amazon
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Best Solar Pool Heaters Review 2018
Below you’ll find a selection of the best solar pool heaters which utilize the sun’s rays as their energy source.
|product||SmartPool 2’x20’ Solar Heater||Game SolarPRO Curved Solar Heater||“The not a Solar Heater” Blue Wave Above Ground Solar Blanket|
|bottom line||If you live in a warm climate and are looking to heat your pool up only a few degrees higher, this solar heater could help you out.||An alternate design that is more compact and attractive than the usual sheet-style solar heater||Although not a solar heater per say, it works just as effectively as significantly more complex and expensive products|
|link to shop||Go to store||Go to store||Go to store|
Best Budget Option SmartPool 2’x20’ Solar Heater
- 2’x 20’ panel size
- Slotted panels for easy installation
- Fittings and adapters included
This 2’x 20’ heat panel can be installed easily in multiple locations such as your roof or fence using the universal slots. The panel comes included with the fittings and materials needed to install this in your current equipment.
- Simple to install where needed
- May be delivered with missing parts
- Takes up a lot of space
- Some might view as unattractive
If you live in a warm climate and are looking to heat your pool up only a few degrees higher, this solar heater could help you out. You will need to have adequate area to install it, and you might need more than one to heat your pool a substantial amount.Check price on Amazon
Smaller-sized Model Game SolarPRO Curved Solar Heater
- Curved shape maximizes heat
- Adjustable feet
- Easy to link with additional units
The Game SolarPRO Curved Solar Heater is a compact panel unit that comes with the hoses and adapters needed to attach to your above ground or in ground pool. The unit claims it can raise your pool temperature by 5 degrees in 4 days. Multiple units may be required for larger pools or faster heating results.
- Small footprint
- Well thought out panel shape
- Easy to link multiple units
- Proven issue with leg supports being weak
Ultimately, there are only a few styles of solar heaters to choose from. This panel provides an alternate design that is more compact and attractive than the sheet-style. For those interested in purchasing this panel, make sure to have your own support structure to mount the panel on, as the feet on this panel are proven to be weak.Check price on Amazon
Editor’s Pick – the Not a Solar Heater Solar Heater Blue Wave Above Ground Solar Blanket
- 8-mil thickness
- Available in multiple sizes
- UV-protected polymer
The Blue wave solar blanket is available in a number of sizes and consists of a bubble-like surface that works to retain heat in your pool. The blanket can raise water temperature by up to 15 degrees.
- Takes up no space in use
- Effective at raising temperature
- Deteriorates after 2-3 years
Although this might not meet some people’s definition of a solar heater, this inexpensive and simple solution uses the sun to raise your water temperature just as effectively as significantly more complex and expensive products. If you’ve considered other solar heaters and aren’t happy with how large of a space they take up in your yard, or don’t want to go through the hassle of hooking them up to your filter system, this is a solid option.Check price on Amazon
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Best Pool Heat Pumps Review 2018
Below you’ll find a selection of the best pool heat pumps which use electricity to “pump” heat into your pool water.
|badge||In a Tight Spot|
|product||Hayward HeatPro 50k BTU Heat Pump||Pentair UltraTemp 70 Heat Pump||FibroPool 55k BTU Heat Pump|
|bottom line||A quiet and compact unit which however takes longer to create large temperature increases||A good option to upgrade from a smaller (50k BTU) unit||A unique, very well reviewed heater with an extremely small footprint from a smaller manufacturer|
|link to shop||Go to store||Go to store||Go to store|
Best Budget Option Hayward HeatPro 50k BTU Heat Pump
- Acoustic compressor cover
- Titanium heat exchanger
- UV resistant body panel
- 50k BTU
The Hayward HeatPro 50k BTU Heat Pump is designed to be a heavy-duty yet quiet piece of equipment. The stainless steel hardware, UV resistant body panel, and polyethylene screen to protect the evaporator coil are all features that help increase the lifetime of the unit.
- Quiet in use
- Compact footprint
- Rust/UV proof
- Only 50k BTU
- May be difficult to interact with Hayward on repairs
If you have a smaller pool, or are okay with a pump that takes an extended amount of time to create large temperature increases, this might be the heater for you. The reviewer agreement that this is a quiet and compact unit means it won’t take away from the ambiance of your back yard or swimming experience.Check price on Amazon
Editor’s Pick Pentair UltraTemp 70 Heat Pump
- User friendly LCD Panel
- Auto-set controls
- Updated and advanced software
The Pentair UltraTemp 70k BTU heat pump places a big focus on ease of use and interface. The LCD interface and software give the owner an easier time setting temperatures and diagnosing issues. This heater also brings together standard non-corrosive components like a titanium heat exchanger.
- Larger 70k BTU rating
- Well designed software/interface
- Most expensive heater on our list
If you’re set on purchasing a heat pump but the 50k BTU unit seems like it might be too small for your pool, this is a good option to upgrade to. The added usability features are an added bonus.Check price on Amazon
In a Tight Spot FibroPool 55k BTU Heat Pump
- Quick disconnect fittings
- 5” plumbing connections
- Slim footprint
The FibroPool Heat pump is a slim, unassuming looking heat pump. The heat pump deviates from 2” plumbing connections and has 1.5” quick connect fittings. This heat pump also includes a standard titanium heat exchanger.
- Extremely slim footprint
- Well reviewed performance track record
- 5” fittings
- Metal case
This is a unique heater, and not from one of the big manufacturers. It however carries extremely positive reviews, and most importantly has an extremely small footprint. If your equipment pad is already extremely crowded or you barely have space to install a heater this might be the best heat pump for you. One thing of note is that this comes with 1.5” connection fittings, which are not standard for in ground pool plumbing. This will put a degree of strain on your pump (going from 2” to 1.5”) and will require some unique adapter fittings.Check price on Amazon
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Pool Heater Buyer’s Guide
How Do the Different Types of Pool Heaters Work?
Pool heaters exist to do one thing: make your water more comfortable to swim in. The more effectively this occurs, the more flexibility you have as a pool owner to swim when you want. Pool heaters are measured in degrees of strength by BTU’s, a degree of measurement that indicates how much energy is required to raise 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit. The important takeaway is the higher the BTU’s, the quicker you can heat your pool. We’ll discuss picking the right sized heater below!
- Gas pool heaters are fueled with natural gas or propane. The pool pump circulates water from the pool, through the filter, then finally through the heater, before returning the warmed water back to the pool. Either natural gas or propane is burned in the heater’s combustion chamber. This reaction creates heat that is then transferred to the pool water.
- Heat pumps use electricity to transfer heat instead of directly burning fuel and generating heat. Water circulates in the same method as described above, but heat pumps use a fan to draw in outside air that is ran over an evaporator coil. This coil absorbs heat, creating a gas, and then transferring this hot gas to a condenser coil that heats the pool water.
- Solar pool heaters utilize collector panels that must be mounted in areas that get optimal sun exposure (such as your roof). Pool water flows through these panels that have been heated from the sun, and the water is returned to the pool.
Picking the Right Sized Heater
There are a number of different formulas that calculate the exact amount of energy and time required for a pool heater to change water temperature, but most industry professionals follow the following guide:
|Size Heater||Gallons in Pool||Sq. Ft. Surface Area of Pool|
|100k – 200k BTU heaters||1,000 gals to 10,000 gals||up to 300 sq ft|
|200k – 300k BTU heaters||10,000 gals to 20,000 gals||up to 500 sq ft|
|300k – 400k BTU heaters||20,000 gals to 40,000 gals||up to 800 sq ft|
|400k BTU heaters||40,000 gals to 80,000 gals||up to 1200 sq ft|
It’s also important to note that pools with attached spas should generally be paired with larger BTU heaters. If you plan on using your spa, you generally don’t want to wait around for hours as the water heats. A larger heater can make your spa usable in cold weather in just 15-30 minutes.
Solar heaters are more difficult to size to your pool as they depend specifically on the amount of sunlight the installation area receives. So it’s hard to measure just how much energy output they will create. A good rule of thumb is that the area of your solar collectors should be 75% of the area of your pool if you live in a sunny climate, and closer to 100% if you live in any less than sunny climate.
Which Pool Heater is Best?
Gas Pool Heaters
Gas heaters will always be most effective for pool heat on demand. They are strong enough to be used in the coldest winter months no matter your location and will heat your pool more quickly than any of the other options.
However, there is an associated cost. Natural gas or propane will constantly be used when the water is heating. Natural gas heaters also require an existing gas line to be plumbed at the equipment site. Propane heaters utilize a tank that will need to be refilled often if used frequently. If a natural gas hook-up is available, it will almost always be preferred to propane. To help you calculate a rough cost estimate for using your gas heater, you can try an advanced utilities calculator.
Gas pool heaters are…
- Fastest to heat to high temperatures
- Available in natural gas or propane
- Most expensive utility cost
Depending on utility costs in your area, a heat pump will generally be a less expensive way to warm your water. Heat pumps, however, do not work in every climate. When temperatures drop below 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit, heat pumps can no longer convert heat from the outside air and transfer it to your pool water. If you’re just looking to extend your spring and fall swimming time this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’d like to swim in the winter, this is a deal breaker.
Pool heat pumps are…
- Good for maintaining a smaller temperature increase over time
- Slower to reach desired temperature
- Won’t work in temperatures under 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit
Solar heaters heat water at the slowest rate, and require the most ideal conditions to be effective. If you live in a cloudy or rainy climate then you will likely receive few benefits from a solar heater. However, if you live in an already warm climate and would like to continually boost your water temperature by a small amount then a solar heater is a low cost, utilities free solution. Keep in mind that solar heater panels do require a large amount of space to install, and that some buyers might find these panels to be unsightly.
Solar pool heaters…
- Generally require a large panel area to be effective
- Only work in sunny weather
- Next to zero operating costs besides the unit itself
It’s important to note that neither solar heaters or heat pumps pack even close to the same punch that a gas heater will. Don’t expect to be able to heat a body of water in a short amount of time. Heat pumps and solar heaters can take days to create a large temperature change in your water, and will be unusable during winter months. Solar heaters and heat pumps are great if you’re just looking to extend your swimming time in the spring and fall, but if you’d like to swim in the winter on the fly, or heat a connected hot tub up in less than an hour, gas is the choice.
Top Tips to Preserve Your Pool Heater
Pool heaters are often one of the most expensive pool equipment pieces to purchase. They are a large investment that is often mistreated and regarded as fragile due to owner neglect. Here is a list of the top things to consider when purchasing a pool heater:
- If you use a salt generator, or chlorine injection system, make sure these are installed after the heater, and that a check-valve (stops water from flowing backwards) is installed between the heater and this system. This prevents high chlorine content water from corroding the heater internals.
- Install a bypass valve for your heater, allowing you to skip the heater while maintaining normal pool circulation. This should be utilized if you plan to winterize your pool, or when adding harsh chemicals.
- Maintain properly balanced pool water. High chlorine levels and low PH are bad for your pool surfaces, as well as any heater components. These corrosive conditions can greatly reduce the overall lifetime of your heater.
- Unless you are familiar with gas plumbing or installing 220-volt appliances, enlist a certified professional to install your pool heater. Incorrectly installed gas heaters can be extremely dangerous, no one wants a gas leak anywhere near their house. If you think you are comfortable installing your pool heater, you may want to check out a helpful walkthrough Hayward has provided:
Whether you just want to add a few weeks to your swimming season, or you’d like to take a dip when it’s freezing outside, make sure you understand the ideal environments each heater works best under. For most heater installations it’s advisable to have a certified professional to the job, as gas plumbing and 220v electrical work can be dangerous. Once your heater is installed make sure you follow the most important rule, enjoy your wonderfully warm water!