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    Pool Heater Selection: Heat Pump vs. Gas Heater

    September 14, 2014


    As the weather turns cooler, a perfect topic to bring up is heating of swimming pools. And for our inground pool kit clients, the question of whether or not to install a pool heater is made early on in the process.

    I suppose that slightly less than half of our DIY pool building customers install a pool heater at the time that they build their own pool. However, about half of those who didn't install a heater end up installing one after the first season - especially those who are in the Northeast and Midwest. Without a heater, my pool here in Connecticut is warm enough for swimming for about 2 weeks during July (for me that is - my kids, they do not seem to care what temperature the water is).

    My Pool Heater Story

    I too, was one of those people that built their own pool, but opted to save a good chunk of money (about 15%) by not installing a pool heater at the time. For me, it was a financial decision, I knew that I would need a pool heater, but later - after absorbing the cost of building my own inground pool.

    In the spring of the second year I set aside a few thousand bucks to install a gas pool heater, but found out that a few grand wouldn't even cover running the gas line, since my gas meter was on the other side of the house. Add in the cost of the gas heater, and I was looking at over $4000, a lot of money 10 years ago, and a lot of money today!my-pool-heat-pump

    So, I started looking at pool heat pumps, which were not new to the market, but weren't commonly installed in the northeast. The first thing I noticed in my research, right away actually, was that heat pumps for pools are almost twice as expensive as gas pool heaters. About $2700 for the model I was looking at, even with my SPP discount! But - installation would be easy, because I had enough room in my sub-panel to add a 40 amp breaker. I called an electrician who wired it up for $300, and within a week, my water was a very comfortable 85 degrees.

    For me, the choice was simple - for only $3K, my heater was installed, saving me $1000 over a gas heater. Plus, the cost to run a pool heat pump is much less than the cost to run a gas heater. My annual cost to run my heat pump, for 5 months, is about $800. My neighbor Ed, who also keeps his pool in the mid-80's, spends almost twice as much running his gas heater, and he uses a solar blanket, to try to retain most of the heat.

    Which Pool Heater Type is Best?

    Even though I became a happy heat pump owner - pool heat pumps aren't for everybody - and gas heaters still outsell heat pumps 2 to 1.


    A gas pool heater may be the best choice if:

    1. You have an attached spa that you want to heat to over 100°
    2. You plan to heat the pool very early in the spring, and late into the fall, or year around.
    3. Adding a 30-50 amp breaker requires a "Heavy-Up" to your electrical service.
    4. Your gas meter is located very close to your pool equipment pad.
    5. You already have a 500 gal. propane tank (LPG) installed on the property.

    A pool heat pump may be the best choice if:

    1. You want a more eco-friendly pool heater that doesn't emit carbon oxides.
    2. Your pool is usually closed when daily outside temperatures dip below 60°
    3. Gas fired appliances make you nervous, just a little bit.
    4. Like me, the cost for a gas line is very high, but electrical hook-up cost is low.
    5. Slow heat-up is no problem (2 degrees per day for heat pumps vs. 1 degree per hour for gas heaters).

    DIY Pool Heater Installation

    Both heater types, gas or electric, can be mostly homeowner installed. I say mostly, because for safety, you should hire an electrician for a heat pump, or a gas contractor for a gas pool heater connection. The DIY pool owner can do everything else however, including purchasing, placing and plumbing your pool heater.

    Purchasing a Pool Heater: Sizing a pool heater takes into account the size of the pool in square footage of surface area, an estimate of average wind speed, and whether or not you will be using a pool cover. It also looks at what your optimum temperature rise will be, or how much heat do you need? 10 degrees is easy, twenty is do-able, but if you need to raise the temperature 30 degrees or more, you will need a large heater, and probably a gas heater. Myself and the SPP Pool Experts are here everyday, to help you purchase the best pool heater for your needs.

    Placing a Pool Heater: You may need to make some room near the pool filter to accommodate a pool heater. They are not small, and generally need about a 5'x5' space to provide for ventilation, exhaust and access for service or repair. A suitable pad should be bought or built, so that the heater sits dry above the surrounding earth, and is level. Avoid placing the unit beneath windows, or under overhangs or leaky downspouts. A sunny, dry location is best, without excessive plants,  bushes or overhanging trees.

    Plumbing a Pool Heater: Once you get it placed, level on a solid pad, you will cut the return line, after the heater but before any chlorinator or salt system, and redirect the pipes in and out of the heater. You'll need some basic PVC fittings, like couplings or 90's, some PVC pipe and some PVC glue and primer. Simple plumbing for a DIY pool owner!

    Give us a call at 800-983-POOL or send an email to [email protected] for any assistance or questions you have about heating your own pool!

    Chris Low
    SPP Pool Expert  

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