Natural Gas vs. Electric Pool Heat Pump: Which is Better for Your Pool?

So you are thinking of buying a heater?  Maybe you are replacing an existing heater.  Maybe you don’t have a heater at all and are looking to extend your swim season.  Maybe you are building a new pool and have a fresh start.  Whatever the reason, we need to decide which type of heater is right for our swimming needs.  There are two types of swimming pool heaters.  One type is a gas heater and works off of natural gas.  The other is an electric heater, also known as a heat pump, which uses electricity.  Which one is right for you?

Natural Gas Heaters

These heaters require a gas line.  If you do not currently have a gas line installed, you will need to have one installed. 

Pro Tip: The size of the line and the length of the gas line run will determine what size heater you can install.  

Gas heaters utilize either propane or natural gas.  When your pump circulates through your equipment system by way of the pump, the water is drawn from the skimmer and/or main drain.  It passes through your various pieces of equipment.  One of which will be your heater.  If it is a natural gas heater, the gas will be burning in the heater’s combustion chamber.  As the water passes through, it gets heated.  Then the warm water is returned to the swimming pool.  

When referring to the size of a heater, we could be talking about actual dimensions, or footprint .  More commonly we are referring to the heat output.  Heater’s heat outputs are measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs).  The higher the BTU, the quicker your water will heat.

Pro Tip:  Always go for the highest BTU your gas lines can accommodate.  While this may mean more money upfront, it means lower operating costs for the life of the heater.  This is because it will heat the water much faster than lower BTU heaters.

Natural gas heaters make the most sense if you live in an area where electricity is expensive.  Gas heaters are more common and can be more affordable.

Electric Heaters

Electric heaters have the same common end: warm water.  They do not utilize gas at all, but electricity.

Pro Tip:  If you have, or are thinking about ever getting, solar.  A heat pump is a great purchase!

Heat pumps are very popular on the East Coast and in Florida.  They work a bit differently than a gas heater, even though the end result is the same.  Inside your heat pump is a fan.  This fan draws in the air from outside.  It is then directed over a coil.  Heat pumps have liquid refrigerant contained in the evaporator coil.  This refrigerant absorbs the heat from the outside air, turning it into a gas.  Then the warm gas in the coil passes through the compressor and heats the water as it passes through.  About 3 degrees each pass.  

Pro Tip:    Heat pumps are designed for areas that stay above 60 degrees during the day.  This is because they utilize the outside air as their heat source.

“But Heat Pumps are So Expensive”

Whether you go with a natural gas heater or an electric heater, it can get costly.  Any sound investment has this commonality.  Heat pumps can tend to be more expensive than gas heaters.  But you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg.  You can get an economical, fast acting, name brand ComforTemp electric pool heater for about half of what you would find for another name brand heater at your local pool supply store.  These heaters come in a variety of sizes?  (We mean BTUs, remember?) to fit any swimming pool.

These heaters will pay for themselves by cutting the cost of energy.  They are BT certified and come with the industry standard 1-year warranty.  My favorite part is the self diagnosis and easy-to-use displays.  Don’t believe me?  Check them out here.

Whatever heater you decide to go with, remember…swimming pools are supposed to be fun!  Don’t stress about this purchase.  Do your research, like you are doing now, and treat yourself to a brand new heater.  An investment you won’t regret as you enjoy it for years to come!  See you poolside!