Swimming pool heaters can add value to your inground pool project, especially if you have any potential users that won't go anywhere near colder water. This blog post is designed to help you decide if you should install a heater now, or if you should wait - to see if you really need a pool heater. So now, the question is:
Should You Install a Pool Heater?
There are few questions you should ask yourself which will help determine whether you should or should not install a pool heater.
Which months do you want to swim? If you live in the snowbelt, you might want a heater to extend your swim time, easily adding a month of warm water at the beginning and end of summer. Sunbelt pools can have naturally warm water for longer periods of time, but may still want a heater to take the chill off.
Do you receive full sunlight on your swimming pool during the course of the day? If the answer is yes, you may try swimming without a pool heater to start, or using a solar pool heater. Each person is different so really depends on what temperature is comfortable for you to swim in.
Without a pool heater will the pool be used? We often experience that new pool owners who do not have some form of heater, aren't getting much use out of the pool. They spent a lot of money installing their own pool, but no one is using it because the water is too cold.
Which Type of Pool Heater is Best?
Again, you should ask yourself some questions to help determine if gas, solar or electric is your best option.
How will you heat the Pool? Intermittently or Constantly? If the pool is a vacation home, or the pool is only used on most weekends, a gas heater is probably your best option. Gas heaters can heat on demand. Heat Pumps and Solar Heaters are slow and steady in their heat output.
How much heat do you need? All pool heater types can easily add 10 degrees to the pool, and most properly sized systems can add 20 degrees. But if you want a 30 or 40 degree temperature rise - for use with a hot tub, or for heating the pool when its 40 or 50 degrees outside, then a gas heater will be the better pool heater choice.
How far is the gas meter? I was quoted $1500 to run a gas line from the meter to the heater, and with propane gas prices being nearly $4 per gallon, I decided to install a heat pump. The heat pump cost about the same as a gas heater when adding in the cost for the gas line. And, it operates much more cheaply.
Is there enough power for a heat pump? I had enough power in my pool electrical sub-panel to add the large 50 amp breaker needed for my heat pump. Without enough power at the pad, an electrician will need to run a new line from the house main panel, which could be costly.
Is there a good location for solar panels? The best location would be a roof that faces south, with 6-8 hours of unobstructed sun daily. The roof would ideally be located close to the pool equipment, to need less piping going to and from the solar panels.
Types of Pool Heaters
Gas - Gas pool heaters are available in both natural gas and liquid propane. With a natural gas heater you need to run a gas line from the meter in the house over to the pool heater. it is very important to size the gas line correctly, determined by how far the run is from the meter to the heater. The further the distance the larger the gas line that is required.
With a propane heater you run a gas line from the propane tank over to the gas fired propane heater. The propane company will provide you with the proper size gas tank based on the size of your pool heater and they will also hook up the propane gas line to the pool heater. Gas heaters increase the temperature in the pool the fastest.
Electric Heat Pumps are very similar to a central air conditioning unit - only in reverse. Pool heat pumps operate by transferring the heat from the outside air into your swimming pool water. This is done by a fan drawing the warm air over the evaporator coil and then through a heat exchanger, which warms the pool water as it passes through.
A pool heat pump does require a separate 220V dedicated line and typically at least a 40 amp breaker; depending on the size of the pool heat pump. The advantage of an electric heat pump is that you can maintain a constant temperature, with heating costs 50-75% less expensive than a gas heater.
Solar - Mount solar collectors on a roof or build a small rack where the sun will warm the black solar panels. Your pool water is pumped through solar collectors which absorb the heat. You want to mount solar collectors in the area you get the most sunlight during the course of the day; typically a southern exposure is an ideal location.
When purchasing solar heating panels you should have at least 50% coverage of the total square footage of the pool in order to have solar panels work efficiently. If you plan on mounting solar panels in another area that does not have a southern exposure you should increase the amount of solar collectors.
When using solar panels you receive free heat from the sun but the temperature in the pool may increase slowly. The warmer the air is outside the more efficient the solar panels will be. If it's 90 degrees outside, your pool water can also be nearly 90, if desired. When it is cooler outside, you are not going to get your pool water much warmer than the ambient air outside.
Annual Costs for Pool Heaters
Operational Costs: There are a lot of variables that come into play with determining the operating costs for the 3 different heater types listed above. The number one variable could be your own usage patterns, and how warm you keep the pool. Number two factor is whether or not you will use a pool cover to retain the heat put into the pool.
Solar Heat: In regards to solar the operating cost would be the least expensive because you are getting free heat from the sun. The only cost would be how much it cost to run your pool pump. In order to filter your pool water the pump has to be running anyways - so, there really is no operating cost when it comes to using solar heating panels.
Gas Heater: The operating cost with a gas heater will vary depending on how often you use the pool heater, the desired temperature of the pool water and whether you use a solar blanket. I would recommend using a solar blanket because that will reduce your operating cost by about 30-50%. The total operating cost would be determined by how long you have to run pool heater to maintain temperature and what you pay per therm for a natural gas heater or what you pay per gallon for liquid propane.
Heat Pumps: Finally the operating cost for an Electric heat pump would be much less expensive than a gas fired heater roughly 2/3 less expensive. With a heat pump you get $5 worth of heat for every dollar to run a gas heater, so it much less expensive to operate a heat pump. Around the cost of using a 100 watt bulb, or a dollar or two per day.
Repair Costs: With all three different heating options that are very minimal repair costs. As long as you pay attention to your pH and Alkalinity you should have very few repair costs. If you live in an area where you have freezing conditions and you winterize your pool make sure you follow proper winterization instructions.
Solar heating panels usually last about 10-15 years and are the least expensive to repair. Holes in the solar panels can be spliced, but are very rare.
Gas fired heaters also last approximately 7- 12 years. With the new style electronic ignition there are very few problems with these heaters as compared to the old style millivolt heaters which required more frequent service and repair.
Electric heat pumps average life expectancy would be approximately 10-15 years. I have had an electric heat pump in my own backyard for 10 years and have not spent a penny on repairs.
If you and your family will use the pool more with some type of pool heater then it is worth the extra cost to have the warm water everyone will enjoy. It comes down to figuring out which pool heater option is the best for your heating needs and what your budget is for heating your pool. Any pool heater can be added later on, so you may want to plan on a location for a heater as you lay out your equipment pad, even if you do not decide to install one during your pool kit construction project.
If you're still confused on which pool heater type to buy, give one of our pool heating experts at Specialty Pool Products a call and we can help you choose which heating option is for you. 800-983-7665
SPP Pool Expert