My Quest for a Heated Pool
When I built my own inground pool about 9 years ago I looked into all of the different options to heat my own inground pool. When looking into the first option of a natural gas heater, I called my local gas company to get a quote on how much it was going to cost to run the gas line from the meter in my home over to the pool heater. The gas company came over to my house and looked at the location of my pool heater and determined that it would cost $1800 to run the gas line from the meter to the heater.
When I heard that price quote I almost fell down and thought there is no way I would be able to afford heating my pool for my kids and I knew they were going to be very disappointed.
I didn't want to give up on a heated pool, so I looked into the next option which was a propane gas fired pool heater. The first question the propane company asked me was what size heater I was going to install? My pool is a 16’x32’ and the heater size I was thinking of using was a 250,000 BTU heater. The propane gas company told me for that size pool heater I would need a minimum of a 100 gallon tank, and they would install the tank for free. My next question was how much per gallon? They told me $3.50 per gallon.
I quickly grabbed my calculator to figure out what the operating cost would be for that size propane heater. As a rule of thumb, a propane heater burns 1 gallon fuel per 100,000 BTU’s per hour. Example: A 250,000 BTU heater burns 2.5 gallons per hour x $3.50 per gallon of propane which = $8.75 per hour. This was not a cost effective alternative to heat my pool and something I felt that I could not afford.
As we didn't feel that we had a good roof line or exposure for a solar pool heater, my third and final alternative to heat my pool was an electric heat pump. The first thing I did was go down to my main electrical panel (breaker box) to see if I had enough room in my box for a new 40-50 amp breaker. After determining there was room for a heat pump on the circuit box I called a local electrician for him to come over and give me an estimate on how much it would cost to install the wiring necessary to install an electric heat pump. After about a week I received an estimate for upgrading my panel and running the power to a pool heat pump. Needless to say, it was the most affordable installation out of all the options, and this is the way I currently heat my own inground pool - in Massachusetts.
When I open my pool in the beginning of May it takes approximately 3 days for the water to heat up and get to the desired temperature of 86 degrees. When using an electric heat pump to heat the pool it does take more time to heat compared to a gas heater but the operating cost is much less expensive.
One of the advantages of my pool heat pump is that you can maintain a constant temperature whether it is 6am or 11pm, and are a great option if you swim on a daily basis - like my family.
Heat Pump Operation Cost
A heat pump in my personal opinion is the most cost effective way to heat an inground pool. When you compare an electric heat pump to a gas fired heater the cost of purchasing a heat pump is much more expensive than a gas heater, but your operating cost will be 2/3 less expensive.
When using a heat pump you get approximately $5.90 worth of heat for every $1.00 you spend to run it. This means that you receive a 590% return which is much more efficient than a gas fired pool heater. If you compare efficiency of a gas heater to an electric heat pump a gas heater gets 70-80 cents for every dollar spent to run a an electric heat pump. The operating cost varies around the country based on the per kilowatt hour you pay per hour for your electrical usage.
Another factor which affects operating cost for a heat pump is the ambient outside air temperature and also the relative humidity. The warmer the air and also the greater the humidity the less the operating expense will be. For all of you that live in warmer climates your monthly operating cost will be much less expensive than mine living in Massachusetts. I heat my pool from May to September - at a consistent 86 degrees and my heating cost last year was $800.00 - for the entire swim season.
Heat Pump Installation
In regards to installation of a heat pump it does require a separate 220v dedicated electrical line that has to be wired a licensed electrician. The dedicated electrical wire goes from the circuit box in your home to your pool heat pump. Dig a trench to bury the electrical wire, so the closer you have your pool equipment to your house the quicker the install and the less expensive it will be to install your heat pump. When it comes to the plumbing you can do it yourself or hire a plumber if you prefer, see owner's manual for placement and plumbing guidelines.
The location of your heat pump is very important; it can’t be installed indoors and also you want to make sure the heat pump has 5 feet of clear space all around it, as heat pumps need as much air flow as possible around the unit. Before using the heat pump make sure your electrician checks to make sure it is grounded or bonded, as required.
A heat pump can be cheaper to install than a gas pool heater. If you have a subpanel breaker box at your equipment pad, you may already have space to add a large breaker. In this case, you have only the cost of a new breaker and wire from the breaker box to the heat pump.
If you do not have space available in your current pool pump breaker box to add a 40-50 amp breaker, then the electrical cost will rise. The closer your heat pump is located to your main house breaker box, the less expensive the installation cost will be. Costs will also rise if your main breaker box can’t accommodate the 40-50 amp breaker that is required to operate your electric heat pump. But in most 200 amp home service, space can be made - if not, a new 100 amp panel will have to be added.
The total cost for installation for a heat pump is determined by how long it takes your electrician to install the breaker and the wiring, and what he charges per hour for his labor. It can range from $300 to over $1000. From my own personal experience it took less than three years for me to get my money back. I am currently in my 9th year with my electric heat pump, so I received my money back and much more!
Heat Pump Sizing
When it comes to using a heat pump bigger is always better. Faster heat up, and the larger the heat pump the less amount of time you need to run your pool pump in order to maintain your desired pool temperature.
If you have high winds, or you don’t use a solar blanket, the size of the heat pump will need to be larger. I am usually pretty good about keeping my pool covered; it's only uncovered for about 8 hours per day. It's one of those things usually done near the end of the day, shut all the doors, turn off the lights - put the solar cover back on... I have trained my older kids in this however, so I do not have to do it every time.
Pool Heat Pump Buyer's Guide
We currently sell 4 different brands of inground heat pumps and here's a few particulars.
Aqua Cal - Is one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of heat pumps. Aqua Cal does not make any other products besides heat pumps for pools in both residential and commercial applications. Their heat exchanger is titanium. Aqua Cal has an easy to read digital display, dual thermostat and whisper quiet fan motor. The thermostat has a lockout option which will prevent anyone from adjusting the pool temperature.
Aqua Pro - the AquaPro heat pump has a titanium heat exchanger with a 5 yr. warranty on the heat exchanger. Most of the units have a digital display with a dual thermostat. The housing on the heat pump is very durable and is weather resistant. Aqua Pro is one of the leaders in pool heat pumps, and one of the first manufacturers in Florida.
Hayward Easy Temp - The Easy temp is Hayward's original heat pump also has a titanium heat exchanger to help prevent and protect against chemical corrosion. The cabinet on the Easy Temp is weather resistant and will help ensure optimal performance during any climate. Very good warranty 10 years on the titanium heat exchanger, 5 years on the scroll compressor and 2 years on parts.
Hayward Heat Pro – Hayward purchased EUS in 2003, and added the Heat Pro, which has a titanium heat exchanger to help prevent from chemical damage and also Hayward Quiet technology built into their heat pump. The compressor and fan blade helps reduce noise. Hayward Heat Pro has an Ultra Gold corrosion resistant evaporator coil which helps provide excellent durability even in coastal environments. The Heat Pro has an easy to read digital display with temperature lock out capability.
CONCLUSION: When researching what is the most cost effective way to heat your pool, do a cost analysis to have the most information possible to help determine which heating method makes sense for you. No matter which type of pool heater you install, you can reduce your pool heating costs dramatically by using a solar blanket or taking other wind-stopping measures.
Please let us know if we can help with any pool heating questions, specific to your inground pool.
SPP Pool Expert