So you are shopping for a heater?  Hooray!  Heaters can be a great addition to any swimming pool.  They can make the water more comfortable during swim season.  They can extend your swimming season by keeping the water warmer, longer.  They are required for any spa.  Maybe you just don’t like cold water.  I sure don’t!  Whatever the reason, you may be wondering which type of heater is right for you.  We are here to help.  There are two major types of heaters.  There are gas heaters (either natural gas or in rural areas, propane heaters) and electric heat pumps.  

What Do Swimming Pool Heaters Do?

To keep it simple, both natural gas heaters and electric heat pumps will give you the same end result: warmer water.  They operate a bit differently.  A Natural gas heater uses gas while a heat pump uses both electricity and the outside air to function to give us our desired temperature.  As the swimming pool water is drawn from your skimmer and/or main drain, the pool pump pushes the water through your various pieces of equipment.  You definitely have a swimming pool filter as this is where the water gets cleaned.  You may also have a salt system, in-line chlorinator and, you guessed it, a heater.  The warm water is then returned back into the swimming pool through the return inlets.

How Heaters are Sized

When talking about heater “size” it is unlikely we are referring to the dimensions.  Although the dimensions can be an important factor if you have limited space on your equipment pad.  When we talk about heater size we are usually referring to the heat output.  This is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs).  The higher you go with your BTU will determine how quickly your swimming pool or spa water will get heated.  The measurement of BTU applies to both natural gas heaters and electric heat pumps.

Natural Gas Heaters

These heaters require an existing gas line,  If you do not currently have one, you will have to have a plumber run them before purchasing a natural gas heater.  You also may need to get your gas meter upgraded.  Talk to your  gas company about the requirements in your region.  

Natural gas heaters work in any type of climate because they do not rely on the outside air.  If you are looking for a speedy way to heat your swimming pool or spa then a gas heater may be for you.  They do heat the water more quickly than a heat pump.  They are more efficient in this regard. 

Pro Tip:  The size of your natural gas heater depends on the size, and length of run, of your gas lines.

How quickly do they heat?  With any heater it depends on several factors.  The current temperature of the water and how many degrees you would like to heat it.  The size (BTU) of the heater comes into play.  The size of your body of water is another factor.  Obviously, a large swimming pool will take more time to heat compared to say a spa.

Electric Heat Pumps

Electric heat pumps can be a great alternative.  Be advised they are designed for use in temperatures 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is because along with electricity, they rely on the outside air to heat your pool water.  As I just mentioned, heat pumps run on electricity–not gas.  They have reported lower annual operating costs versus a natural gas heater.  They also tend to have a longer lifespan!  They are both efficient and friendly for the environment.

How a heat pump works in simple terms is that they pull in the outside air and the, utilizing a compressor, they increase the heat of the water as it passes through.  The average is typically 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit each pass through.  Because of this, electric heat pumps were not designed for quick heating. Factually, one can expect to operate their heat pump for 24-72 hours to achieve your desired temperature.  They can be great at maintaining a temperature once it is reached.  Like we talked about with natural gas heaters, the speed in which you can expect depends on gallons, current temp vs desired temp, BTUs and with a heat pump, the temperature outside.]

Because heat pumps are used to maintain the water’s temperature is why we can expect to run it longer.  They are slower at raising your swimming pool water’s temperature.  With an electric heat pump, the usage is measured in watts or kilowatts.  You can reference your electric bill to see your price per watt/kilowatt.

If an Electric Heat Pump is Right for You

Like any luxury item, heaters can be expensive to purchase,  I like to think it is also because of all of the fun you are going to have in your newly heated swimming pool.  If we were to venture out to a local swimming pool supply store, either a gas or electric heater could have a price tag of approximately $4,000!  No joke!  Heat pumps are generally more expensive that gas heaters.  My recommendation is to choose a name brand and efficient heat pump.

You can actually find an electric heat pump with these two qualities and more for MUCH lower of a price than you think.  I like the Nationally known brand of ComforTemp.  ComforTemp makes an efficient and very high quality electric heat pump.  I am talking amazing quality.  These heaters are energy saving and fast acting, saving you money on operating costs.  They are also extremely quiet.  My favorite part is the self-diagnosing feature that these heaters have.  There is no need to sacrifice quality for price!  Check them out here.  See you poolside!