With the cooler months ahead and summer starting to wind down, we thought that we would talk once more about how you can extend your swimming season with a pool heater and how to find the right pool heater for you. So we turned to one of our favorite sources, swimuniversity.com!
Why do you want to buy a pool heater? Do you hate swimming in a cold pool? Perhaps you just want to extend the pool season so you can swim a little early in April and keep it open until October…or even NOVEMBER!
Whatever your reasons, you’ve found the right guide to buying a pool heater. You’ll learn about the 3 major types of pool heaters including Solar Pool Heaters, Gas Pool Heaters, and Pool Heat Pumps. We’ll dive into how they work, how much they cost, how to find the right size for your pool, the pros and cons of each, and how much money you’ll save each year using a heater with a cover.
Before we begin, the only technical info you need to know is that all pool heaters are sized using BTUs, which stands for British thermal unit. A BTU is the measured amount of heat created by a pool heater. Outputs range from 75,000 Btu to 450,000 Btu. That’s it; that’s really all you need to know. On to the fun stuff!
Let’s start with the most expensive, but most sought after pool heating system.
Solar pool heaters work by pumping the water from your swimming pool to your filter, and partially diverting it through a group of solar collectors that warms the water before it goes back into the pool.
Glazed collectors are more expensive, but are more durable than unglazed collectors. However, both include freeze protection to protect against colder weather areas.
A solar pool heating system usually costs between $3,000 and $4,000 to buy and install.
Solar pool heaters require a lot of space in your backyard. The surface area of your solar collector should equal around 75% (more if you keep your pool open year-round — up to 100%).
For example, if you have a 16’x32′ inground swimming pool in the southern United States, you would need a 100% equal surface area. So we multiply 16′ by 32′ to get the square footage of 512. This means you’ll need 512 square feet of solar collectors.
However, if the same size pool is located in the northern United states, which only has the pool open for 6 months out of the year (if you’re lucky), then you would only need about 75% of the surface area equaling 384 square feet of solar collectors.
You’ll need the right size pool pump for a solar heating system. If you’re replacing your current heater with a solar system, you could need a larger pump or a separate pump to help push the water through the solar collectors.
Before you run out and find an installer, make sure you have enough room in your yard or on your roof for a solar collector. Remember, for large pools, you’ll need a lot of square footage, and the further away the collectors are from your pool, the bigger your extra pump will have to be and the more horsepower you’ll need.
It also depends on the area you live, so make sure you do the math before reaching out to a professional. For more information on how to determine if your property is right for a solar pool heater, follow the section called “Determining the Efficiency of Solar Swimming Pool Heating System” in this article.
Gas pool heaters use natural gas or propane. Water passes through while a combustion chamber burns and warms the water before returning to the pool. In other words, the water passes through a burning hot tube then back to your pool.
The type of fuel you use will depend on the availability and the price of fuel in your area. The good news is both types of heaters are the same price.
If your home has Natural Gas you can also use it to heat your pool. If you don’t, you will have to buy a large, ugly propane tank and install in your backyard, which will need to be filled up regularly. On the other hand, propane is 2 1/2 times more expensive than natural gas, depending on supply and demand.
Millivolt means you have a small amount of gas that keeps a pilot light lit so that it’s always available to fire up while an electronic ignition lights the burners with a spark just like a gas grill.
I recommend going with an electric ignition so you don’t risk a gas leak and you end up using less fuel.
A “Low NOx” gas pool heater is designed to release low emissions, which also makes them more efficient than regular pool heaters. This also means your pool will heat faster.
If that wasn’t enough of a sell for Low NOx, they also meet the Nox Emission standards set by the California South Coast Quality Air Management Commission for 2001 and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission Code. So if you live in those two states, you’re gonna need a Low NOx heater anyway.
So how much does a pool heater Cost? On average, the cost to run a natural gas pool heater is $300-$600 per month, and even more for a propane heater.
New inground gas pool heaters can cost between $1500-$3500, depending on the size, type, and brand.
Just like any pool heater, you need to first know the surface area of your pool in square feet. You’ll also need to figure out the average air temperature in your area.
For example, if you own a 16’x32′ inground pool in New Jersey, you can use the US Climate Data website to find the average temperature in your area. The average temperature in NJ during the month of October is: 65 degrees fahrenheit.
If I want the temperature of my pool to be 80 degrees all the time, then my Temperature Rise calculation is:
80 (degrees) – 65 (degrees) = 15 degrees in Temperature Rise.
Using the BTU formula my calculation would be:
512 (pool surface area in square feet) x 15 (Temperature Rise) x 12 = 92,160 BTUs of heat needed to be generated by my new pool heater.
Before you buy a gas heater, it’s good to know the distance from the gas meter to where the heater will be installed. Even if you’ve sized the heater correctly, the distance from the meter their gas line size may not support the heater. Simply stated: the heater wont fire.
By the time you have spend up to $2000 for a heater and then to learn its going to cost $500-1000 to run a new gas line; the additional investment generally ends with frustration.
What land minds to avoid:
Knowing the correct size of heater to purchase, distance, and gas size beforehand will save time and trouble.
Gas heaters will get the job done quickly. That’s the reason I like them. I’m a pretty Eco-friendly guy, so I would never buy one. But if you REALLY hate a cold pool and want to extend your pool season, you might want to think about getting one.
I would recommend them if you live up north where outside temperatures are cooler. You can heat the pool up quickly and use a solar cover to maintain the heat so you can cut down on operating costs.