The best pool heater
If you and your family want to get the most out of your pool, a heater is a must-have. A good pool heater can extend the season for weeks or even months. However, choosing the right model isn't just about pool size, as climate can also impact your heating requirements.
We have put together a concise buyer's guide to help you understand the types of pool heaters available and find a model that meets your needs. Our top pick, the Hayward HeatPro, delivers fast, efficient warmth for even the largest in-ground pools.
Considerations when choosing pool heaters
Determining the requirements of your pool
A pool heater needs to warm your water to a comfortable temperature, but finding the right heater requires you to consider a few factors. These include your climate and the amount of water your pool contains.
If you search online, you will find several different ways of making a calculation. The most common method uses BTUs (British Thermal Units), which is a rating most pool heater manufacturers use to tell you the power of their device. Determining BTUs can give you an accurate estimate of how many degrees your pool will be heated by each hour -- but calculating BTUs can be challenging and will involve a bit of math.
If you don't want to do the calculations, a simpler alternative is to work out how many gallons your pool holds and pick a comparable pool heater. While this method is not as precise, it will work for most people's needs.
Types of pool heaters
Solar heaters give you free energy but are generally not very powerful. Weather also plays a big role, as several days without direct sunlight can leave your pool a bit chilly.
Propane is another option, but unless you have a bulk tank, purchasing and changing tanks on a regular basis can be a costly nuisance.
If you have access to natural gas in your area, gas-powered heaters are popular for their efficiency, and costs are comparable to electric models.
Electric pool heaters are the most common option. There are pass-through models -- effectively a big water heater -- but they aren't as efficient as heat pumps. These are available in a wide range for every size of above- or in-ground pool.
Colder climates can present challenges when it comes to heating a pool. Heat pumps, for example, don't work well under about 45°F. If it's frosty out, you might be able to heat a hot tub, but you won't heat a pool.
How much control do you need? Some heaters are very basic -- they're on or off. Others offer complex systems that will maintain a precise pool temperature.
How easy is your pool heater to install? Is it something you can do yourself, or will you need to call in a pro? Take this into consideration when comparing the price of different models.
Is it noisy? A low hum may not seem too disturbing, but if you are trying to relax, it could soon become annoying.
What are the maintenance demands of your pool heater? While most models are relatively easy to look after, maintenance is essential for long-term efficiency.
If you don't already have a cover, it's a good idea to get one to help your pool retain as much heat as possible.
Pool heater prices
The cheapest pool heaters we looked at are around $150 to $300. At the low end, many owners were unhappy with performance, but good solar models are fine as long as you understand their limitations. Mid-range pool heaters start at around $700 to $1,000, and from then, on it's really a question of how much heat output you need. You could spend as much as $6,000 for the most powerful models.
Pool heater FAQ
Q. How fast will a pool heater warm up my pool?
A. Pool size and heater power are directly related to heating time, so it's impossible to say without knowing the details. However, most manufacturers claim speeds ranging from 5°F to 15°F per day. It's important to buy a heater with adequate output for your pool and climate or results will be disappointing.
Q. How long do pool heaters last?
A. It depends on the type of heater and environmental conditions. Seven to 10 years is average -- although some last longer. Proper maintenance is key to extending the lifespan of your heater.
Pool heaters we recommend
Best of the best: Hayward HeatPro Titanium Heat Pump
Our take: Immensely powerful and durable heater for large in-ground pools.
What we like: High-quality components throughout. Superb performance. Acoustic compressor reduces noise. Efficient and durable. Rated for 20,000 gallons, but we found satisfied owners with pools three times that size.
What we dislike: Inconsistent quality control. Poor customer service.
Best bang for your buck: Smartpool Sunheater Aboveground Solar Pool Heater
Our take: Who doesn't like free power? Efficiency will depend on local climate though.
What we like: If you live somewhere bright and sunny, solar is the obvious answer. Owners claim this heater is efficient in pools up to 12,000 gallons. Among the cheapest to buy and zero running costs further increase its value.
What we dislike: You will need to build your own supports for the panels -- they won't stand on their own.
Choice 3: Fibropool FH120 Pool Heater
Our take: Energy-efficient electric heat pump for pools up to 12 x 24 feet.
What we like: Above- or in-ground use. Running costs as low as 16 cents per hour. No complex wiring -- standard three-prong 120V plug. Will operate down to 40°F.
What we dislike: While there are few issues, this is not the fastest heater.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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