Robotic Icon Swimming Pool Heaters: Here’s our 2022 complete guide to get the best!

updated: September 16, 2022

Visualize this: it’s a gorgeous summer day, and the sun shines high in the sky as you bask in its delicious warmth. Your swimming pool glistens in delightfully shimmering patterns as solar rays reflect off it. You’re ready to dive into the inviting turquoise waters but stick a toe in the pool first to check the temperature.

Unfortunately, your appendage tells you it’s too frigid to take a dip. This means you won’t be able to go for a swim until the water heats up naturally—which, depending on the climate where you live, could be weeks or even months.

People are in cold pool
Pool Heaters keep the water at Comfortable Temperature!

If you had a pool heater, you wouldn’t have this problem! It can help you keep the waters of your backyard swimming oasis at a comfortable temperature all season long. Not having one means wistfully watching your neighbors revel in the blissful feeling of swimming in a heated pool while yours is covered until summer.

Using a pool heater can extend your pool season by about two months if you live in a cooler climate. Even if you live in a balmy place all year long, day and night temperatures can vary wildly. With a pool heater, you can go for a dip even if there’s a bit of a chill in the air.

Editors’ Choice for the Best Pool Water Heaters of 2022

Best Swimming Pool Water Heaters And the Energy Sources They Use

If you want to find out what the best pool heaters of 2022 are for inground and above ground pools, you’ve come to the right place! But first, let’s talk about the different pool warmer options available.

There are four types of pool heaters: solar, electric, heat pump-style, and gas. A solar pool heater system is a fantastic option if you live in a sunny area and don’t mind waiting a day or two for your water to heat up in your swimming pool.

People use solar pool heater to warm their pool
Solar Pool Heater

The sun’s warming rays naturally heat the water in your pool. With a solar-powered pool heater, this effect gets amplified a thousandfold. It allows you to enjoy an increase of 10 to 13 degrees in your pool water without worrying about sky-high operating costs or contributing to air pollution.

Electric pool heaters work the same way as tankless water heaters. Water is pumped into the unit and is heated as it passes over a heating element.Their compact design and size makes them perfect for pool areas with limited installation space such as spas.

Next up are pool heat pump-style heaters. A heat pump doesn’t generate heat from a heating element like an electric heater. Instead, it harvests warmth from the air and transfers it to your pool water. This is much like how an air conditioner works, only in reverse.

Because heat pump-style pool heaters move heat from one place to another instead of creating it, they use only a tiny amount of electricity to run the compressor and other components. This makes them super-efficient and an excellent choice for environmentally conscious pool owners.

Natural gas and propane pool heaters

There are two types of gas pool heaters: natural gas pool heaters and propane pool heaters. They both burn gas in their combustion chambers, which heats water flowing through copper coils before flowing back into your pool. Unlike solar heaters and heat pumps, a gas heater doesn’t rely on sunlight or air temperature to operate, making them a better choice for people in colder climates.

If you own a saltwater pool, you’ll need to determine if the pool heater you’re considering buying is compatible. While you can use any type of heater in a saltwater pool, it could corrode if not intended for saltwater use. That’s because many pool heaters have copper elements, and saltwater can cause these components to rust.


The Hayward W3H250FDP Universal H-Series with 250,000 BTUs is the best Propane Gas Pool Heater you can buy.


1Most energy efficient
Exceptional pool heater with unrivaled fuel efficiency.

For over eight decades, Hayward has been enhancing the pleasures of pool ownership with their technologically superior pool equipment. The Hayward W3Hs50FDP is no exception. It’s a fantastic pool heater ideal for inground pools and spas with a surface area of up to 750 feet. Its super-efficient cutting-edge design significantly reduces pump run time, saving you hundreds of dollars a year.

The W3Hs50FDP comes with a Cupro nickel heat exchanger, offering more robust protection against corrosion than ordinary copper exchangers.

ProsThe Good

If you’re the proud owner of a saltwater pool, you’ll be ecstatic to hear that this unit offers superior saltwater resistance. Moreover, it’s engineered to withstand the harsh chemicals in pool water. This means that this model will most likely still be in service long after lesser units have stopped working.

If you’re an environmentally conscious pool owner, you’ll love that this unit meets rigorous air quality standards for nitrous oxide emissions, making its environmental impact practically zero.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

Unfortunately, customer service isn’t as good as it could be. Pool owners trying to get their defective units operational were often initially given the runaround by service agents before finally getting their problems fixed.

The good news is that Hayward has a well-deserved reputation for manufacturing high-quality pool equipment. This makes defects necessitating returning their devices relatively rare.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Customers rave about the high fuel efficiency of this unit. Frequently, pool owners running their propane-powered heater for the first time think their tank is leaking because it’s using so much gas.

That’s not the case with the W3H250FDP. While it likely uses more fuel than heaters running on natural gas, its fuel efficiency is unrivaled when you compare it to other models also running on propane. Because of this, you’ll be mightily impressed with how little fuel it consumes and how much heat it gives off.

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A gas pool heater burns natural gas or propane in a combustion chamber, which heats water flowing through copper coils before flowing back into your pool. These types of pool heaters can run on natural gas or propane.

Because propane costs twice as much as natural gas, it’s the more expensive option. However, propane is more energy-dense than natural gas, so you’ll get more bang for your buck than you would from the same quantity of natural gas.

K5 Premium Electric wands
Hayward W3H250FDP – Best Propane Gas Pool Heater

Pool heaters running on natural gas require access to a pre-existing gas line. Because you’re always connected to this line, you’ll never have to worry about running out of fuel. If you don’t have access, you’ll need to buy a propane pool heater or pay to have a line installed.

Because most pools are in a person’s backyard and a bit of a distance from natural gas connections near the street, it can be quite costly to run natural gas lines to your pool area. That’s why propane is often the better choice when deciding what kind of gas-powered heater to get.

If you’re going with propane, make sure you have enough space for a standalone tank. For a 21,000-gallon pool, you’ll need a heater with a BTU of between 300,000 and 400,000, which means you’ll need a 200-gallon propane tank.

California has been leading the country in addressing human-driven climate change by working to lower greenhouse gas emissions. One of the target gases is nitrous oxide, emitted by gas-burning devices such as generators and furnaces.

The Golden State seeks to reduce harmful emissions by 40% by 2030. If you live in California or a state trying to do what this state is doing, you’ll need to buy a propane pool heater that meets these rigorous standards. If you want to read more about propane pool heaters, check this article out.


The Hayward W3H250FDN Universal H-Series 250,000 BTU is the best overall Natural Gas Pool Heater. Read all about it in our 2022 review!


2Fastest heating speed
High-performing energy-efficient pool heater saves you money.

The H250FDN is one of the most reliable and energy-efficient pool heaters on the market. It not only performs better than comparable models, but it also has almost zero environmental impact. That’s because it’s been designed to produce virtually no nitrous oxide emissions, unlike other models that contribute to the high ozone levels that devastate ecosystems.

The forced draft system directs air through the combustion chamber at a precise rate. This helps to reduce the effect of meteorological variables, such as windy conditions, that can negatively impact the performance of a pool heater.

ProsThe Good

It comes with a host of features that boost energy efficiency. These are things like stainless-steel burners, a rust-resistant heat exchanger, and an insulated fire tile combustion chamber with an exceptional ability to trap heat.

Because its advanced hydraulics significantly reduce runtime, you’ll save up to 18% in operating costs compared to similar pool heaters. Because this unit can raise the temperature of an 800-gallon pool in less than sixty minutes, it’s quick too. This means no more waiting around for hours for your pool to get warm enough to take a dip.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

The unit is known to give off a nasty plastic smell when you first fire it up, which is most likely a protective coating burning off a component. However, the good news is that this odor diminishes with each subsequent use.

The sight glass is almost useless for flame inspection. You’ll be able to see flame color, but that’s about it. However, because the pressure regulator is preset, you might not need to adjust the flame.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Many users love how the LED control panel allows them to monitor heat performance, get a temperature readout, and quickly identify if the unit needs service. This helps them to prevent small problems from snowballing into bigger ones.

Other customers like that the W3H250FDN has a Cupro nickel heat exchanger that protects the unit from corrosion, which helps extend its useful life.

More Info

When deciding which natural gas pool heater to buy, look closely at heater efficiency. This is the ratio of usable output to total energy output. The higher the efficiency, the lower your pool heater natural gas cost will be. For example, a 75% efficient unit converts $75 worth of gas into usable energy for every $100 spent.

Man is using Hayward W3H250FDN Universal H-Series 250,000 BTU pool heater to warm the pool
Try to get a Pool Heater with 89 to 95% Efficiency

Some gas pool heaters feature their efficiency percentage on their nameplates. A pool heater manufacturer can also provide this information.

NOTE: Most gas-powered heaters use either a copper heat exchanger or a Cupro nickel heat exchanger. A Cupro nickel heat exchanger offers more robust protection against corrosion than the copper kind. Units with this feature tend to be more expensive, but the cost is usually worth it.

A common complaint among gas heater owners is that sometimes, their units suffer from an appalling lack of durability. That’s why you need to pay close attention to the housing that protects your unit and whether the corrosion protection is sufficient. You can prevent heat exchangers and other components from prematurely rusting out by ensuring that your pool chemistry is always balanced.

Gas-Powered Pool Heater Advantages

Plus

Unlike solar heaters and heat pumps, a gas heater doesn’t rely on sunlight or air temperature to operate, making them a better choice in colder climates. They produce more heat than electric and solar models in less time and are ideal for people who only occasionally use their backyard swimming oases.

Gas-Powered Pool Heaters Disadvantages

Minus

Gas heaters are less energy efficient than solar heating systems and heat pumps. Their fuel emissions make them the least ecologically friendly of all heater types, and they tend to wear out faster than other kinds. Check out our rating of natural gas pool heaters if you’d like more information.


The SunHeater S240U is the best Solar Pool Heater. Read our article to find out why!


3Most environmentally friendly
Incredibly energy efficient and cost-effective solution to your pool heating problem.

Not ready for the swim season to end? With the SunHeater S240U, it doesn’t have to! The S240U allows you to capture free heat from the sun to raise your pool water temperature to a comfortable level. It’s the most efficient and cost-effective method to heat your pool.

By running the system at night, you can even cool your water. This is a fantastic feature if you ever have severe heat waves.

ProsThe Good

This heater can raise your water temperature by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, which can significantly extend your pool season. It’s available for in-ground and above-ground pools of all shapes and sizes. You choose where you want to install it, whether on your roof, a fence, angled on the ground, a backyard shed, or anywhere else that strikes your fancy.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

In colder climates, the system might not generate enough of a temperature increase to be worth the cost. Some people say that the tubing that comes with the heater is a bit too thin. If you’re not careful, you can accidentally create tiny pinholes in it, which means that it must be replaced.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Many owners of this highly efficient pool heating system love how much money they save using it. The cost to warm up your backyard swimming oasis can start to add up in late spring and early fall if you’re using a gas or electric heater. However, the only expense in using this heater is the cost of running your pool pump, which is something you would do anyway.

Other users love how environmentally friendly it is and how easily it can be installed by the average pool owner.

More Info

A solar pool heater is an excellent option if you live in a sunny area and don’t mind waiting a day or two for your water to heat up. While traditional pool heaters such as electric or gas are more powerful, pool solar heaters are becoming increasingly popular because they’re less expensive to operate and are more ecologically friendly.

The sun’s warming rays naturally heat the water in your pool. With solar pool heating, this effect gets amplified a thousandfold. It allows you to enjoy an increase of 10 to 13 degrees in your pool water without worrying about high costs or contributing to air pollution.

How solar pool heaters work step by step
How Solar Pool Heaters Work

A solar panel pool heater enhances the natural effect of the sun using three components: a panel and your pool’s existing pump and filter. The pump forces water through the filter to strain out leaves and debris. Then, water is pumped into a solar panel mounted on your roof, fence, porch, or other location with excellent sun exposure. The water heats up as it moves through the panel and flows back into your pool.

What Solar Pool Heaters are Made Of

Most solar heaters are manufactured using black polypropylene. This material is flexible and lightweight, which is good news for DIYers looking to mount solar panels to their roofs themselves. Although water can’t damage polypropylene, it can be weakened by the sun’s relentless UV rays.

That’s why polypropylene in high-quality solar heaters is first treated with a stabilizer that protects the material from the sun’s harsh rays. Most solar pool heaters will last for 10 to 15 years before the material begins to break down due to damaging UV rays and exposure to extreme temperatures.

Solar Pool Heater Advantages

Plus

The energy generated from a solar heater is almost 100% free, the only cost being the electricity running your pool’s pump. This makes a solar pool heater the perfect solution for people who want to keep their pools comfortable all season long but don’t want sky-high utility expenses.

These days, people are becoming increasingly conscious of their environmental impact. Energy sources that rely on fossil fuels mean generating emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect. This makes solar pool heaters a smart choice for ecologically minded pool owners.

Installing a solar heater might make you eligible for solar tax credits. Because the laws around them change frequently, check state and local laws and energy regulations to determine if you’re eligible for them and, if so, how much you can get.

Solar Pool Heater Disadvantages

Minus

While this type of heater has the lowest operating cost, it takes a bit longer to heat up your pool water than the other types. Also, the performance of this kind is directly linked to the amount of sunlight shining on it. This makes it a fantastic choice for geographic areas with lots of sunny days but a less attractive option in areas with substantial cloud cover.

Solar heaters take up more space than the other types and require between 50 and 100% of your pool’s surface. That’s why if you have a larger pool, you should probably get an electric or gas model instead.

NOTE: A solar-powered pool heater might not be enough to achieve a comfortable water temperature if you live in a cooler climate. That’s because solar heaters can only increase the temperature by up to 12 degrees. Read more about solar heaters for pool here if you want to learn some additional stuff about them.

Read our review to find out what makes the EcoSmart Pool 27 the best Electronic Pool Heater!


4Most reliable
Highly efficient electric model with exceptional reliability and heating speed.

The EcoSmart Smart Pool 27 is an energy-efficient pool heater that allows you to enjoy a refreshing dip in your pool even when there’s a bit of a chill in the air. It uses leading-edge flow sensor technology instead of traditional pressure switch activation. This drastically reduces the risk of the heating element burning out prematurely, thus boosting reliability. It comes with a digital thermostat, so you have total control over how hot you want your pool water to be.

ProsThe Good

Because it doesn’t run off natural gas or propane, it doesn’t give off carbon monoxide. This means you can use it to heat your indoor pool. This unit is 99.8 percent energy efficient, saving you a ton of money on electricity bills. It’s compact, making it perfect for pool owners with limited space.

Because it’s whisper quiet, it won’t disturb your neighbors if you want to heat up your backyard swimming oasis in the wee hours of the morning so you can get a nice revitalizing swim in before starting your day.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

This unit lets you set a temperature as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so you must be careful about the settings. This is particularly true because there’s no way to lock your settings.

A few users had the heat exchangers in their units suddenly spray water all over the place. However, these people quickly got a replacement unit from the manufacturer and the problem never reared its ugly head again.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Customers who don’t have access to an existing natural gas line and aren’t crazy about putting up with the hassles of constantly monitoring propane levels love the Smart Pool 27. With an average temperature rise of between one and one and a half degrees Fahrenheit every hour, they can have their pool swim-ready more quickly than many comparable units.

More Info

Electric pool heaters work the same way as the tankless water heaters used to provide hot water for homes. Water is pumped into the unit and is heated as it passes over a heating element. Warmed-up water is then returned to the pool, creating a pleasant swimming environment.

The Advantages of an Electric vs. Gas Heater

Plus

Because electricity is typically the most easily accessible heat source for a pool, electric water heaters for pools are popular in places with no existing natural gas lines.If keeping the noise levels down in your backyard swimming oasis is important to you, you’ll be ecstatic to hear that electric pool heaters are usually quieter than gas-powered ones.

The initial price tag for an electric pool heater is often less than their gas- or solar-powered counterparts.If you have a tiny pool or spa, you’ll find them more energy efficient than gas heaters. Unlike gas heaters, most can be located in a shed where ventilation is minimal. Some of them can even be installed indoors if this is where your pool happens to be.

Other Electric Heater Advantages

The compact design of electric heaters makes them perfect for pool areas with limited space. Unlike heat pumps, electric pool heaters work no matter how frigid the temperature gets.

Electric heaters warm perfect the pool areas
EcoSmart Pool 27 – the Best Electric Pool Heater

You can unplug and safely store them away for the winter to protect them against harsh meteorological conditions. Electric heaters are simpler to install than most other heater types.

Because an electric pool heater doesn’t generate planet-destroying greenhouse gases, you can feel good about using one. If your energy company supplies you with energy from wind or solar power, using an electric pool heater has close to zero environmental impact.

Electric Heater Disadvantages

Minus

If you live in a cold climate or need your pool heated up quickly, you might be disappointed to find out that electric heaters cost more to operate. Often, the electrical needs of this type of heater exceed a home’s capacity.

This means an electrician will need to make changes in the electrical configuration of your home before you can safely operate this heater type. If you need recommendations on which electric heater to buy, check out our top-list of electric pool heaters.


The Hayward W3HP21404T HeatPro 140,000 BTU is the best Pool Heat Pump on the market. Read our review to find out why!


5Lowest operating costs
Exceedingly economical pool heater with impressive heat-generating capabilities.

Hayward has been manufacturing high-quality pool equipment for over eight decades. During that time, they’ve reigned supreme over the industry when it comes to innovative design.

The W3HP21404T is a shining jewel in their crown. It has super low operational costs—about $1.00 an hour. Using this model, you can heat a 40,000-gallon pool from a completely cold state to a pleasant 83 degrees within a couple of days, and it will only cost you about 50 bucks.

ProsThe Good

If you have a swimming pool but only get to use it for a few short months, there’s really no point in having one. That’s where the W3HP21404T comes in. The self-diagnostic capabilities of the digital control panel save you time and money by alerting you to problems before they have a chance to throw a monkey wrench into your plan to always have pool water at the perfect temperature.

You might expect this unit to be ear-piercingly loud because it works by hungrily sucking up heat from the atmosphere. However, it’s exceptionally quiet.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

Because this is a heat pump-style model, it has a higher purchase cost. It has a lower BTU per hour output than other kinds of pool heaters, so you’ll need to operate it for longer periods to achieve the same results.

While Hayward’s products are top-notch, their customer service leaves much to be desired. The good news is that with a product this superb, the chances of requiring their services are minimal.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Customers like how the W3HP21404T generates heat for much less than what they’d pay for a gas-powered pool heater. In fact, many of them are saving up to 80% on their pool heating bills.

Other users love how efficiently the leading-edge titanium heat exchanger extracts every bit of warmth from the surrounding air. This makes this unit more economical than natural gas, propane, and electric heaters.

More Info

A pool heat pump doesn’t generate heat from a heating element like an electric heater. Instead, it harvests warmth from the air and transfers it to your pool water. This is much like how an air conditioner works, only in reverse.

Heat pump takes water from the atmosphere

The heat pump pool heater’s fan sucks in outside air and directs it over an evaporator coil. Liquid refrigerant within the coil absorbs heat from the outside air and becomes a gas. The warm gas in the coil passes through the compressor, which makes the gas hotter. Then, the gas goes through the condenser. The condenser transfers the heat from the hot gas to the cooler pool water circulating through the unit.

The water, now heated, flows back to the pool. The hot gas travels through the condenser coil and turns back into a liquid as it heads for the evaporator. Then, the process begins again.

Heat Pump Hayward W3HP21404T HeatPro 140,000 BTU is warming the water
Hayward W3HP21404T HeatPro 140,000 BTU

Most heat pumps shut down when the temperature gets below 50 degrees and start up again once the temperature reaches 50. Some heat pumps can work in temperatures below 50 if they have an active hot Freon defrost. You can boost the performance of your heat pump on cool days by using a solar blanket.

The Advantages of Heat Pumps vs. Gas Pool Heaters

Plus

Heat pumps are cheaper to run than gas heaters if you keep your pool water at a moderate temperature. Because heat pump-style pool heaters move heat from one place to another instead of creating it (like gas-powered heaters do), they use only a tiny amount of electricity to run the compressor and other components. This makes them super-efficient and an excellent choice for environmentally conscious pool owners.

Heat Pump-Style Pool Heater Disadvantages

Minus

Heat pumps typically take longer to heat your swimming pool than other styles of electric heaters. On the other hand, gas and propane pool heaters use more energy than pool heat pumps because they create heat rather than extracting it from the air.

However, if you live in a colder climate, a heat pump will use more energy than the other types. That’s because it’ll take a lot of work to extract the warmth from the frigid atmosphere. In fact, if you live in a place with wild day-to-night fluctuations you might not be able to use this type of heater at all. Read more about pool heat pumps in our informative article about the subject.


How to Choose the Type of Pool Water Heater That’s Best for You

When choosing how to heat a pool, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, or a magical calculator that can instantly figure out what’s best. It requires careful consideration of your particular circumstances. and what kinds of costs you’re willing to incur including installation. Here are some factors to think about:

Healpfull tips for choosing pool heater.

  1. Pool Size – The amount of water you’re looking to heat plays a significant role in determining how large a heater you’ll need. However, there are other factors to look at. If you’re buying a unit to heat a tiny above-ground pool, knowing the number of gallons you’re heating is the most crucial factor. Surface area is more important when looking to heat a large in-ground pool. That’s because bigger pools with a lot of surface area exposed to the wind, cold rain, sun, and evaporation have more significant heating needs than smaller ones.
  2. How Often You Use Your Pool – If you use your personal swimming hole every day, you’ll probably want to keep it at your optimal temperature most of the time. You can accomplish this by using a smaller heater that generates lower BTUs. If you only swim on weekends, your heating needs won’t be as significant. This means that a fast-heating unit that has a high BTU output could be the right choice for you. However, if it’s warm where you live, you won’t need as big a size. In fact, if it’s sweltering much of the time, you might want to look for an electric heater with water cooling capabilities.
  3. Climate – One of the most critical things to consider when choosing which pool heater to buy is the climate you live in. If you live in a region of the planet with frigid nighttime temperatures, you’ll need a powerful heater to combat the effect evenings have on your pool temperature. Look for a gas-powered unit with as much heating capacity as possible because when it comes to cooler climates, the bigger, the better.
  4. Some Other Things to Consider

    A gas-powered heater might be best for you if you have a spa attached to your pool that you need to heat to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It might also be the most suitable choice if you plan on warming up your pool early in the spring, late into the autumn, or year-round.

    If adding a 30-to-50-amp breaker requires significant modifications to your existing electrical service, you might want to go with a gas heater instead of an electric one. Otherwise, the price you pay for your heater might be more than you’re willing to pay. If you already have at least a 500-gallon propane tank on your property or your gas meter is located right next to your pool equipment pad, a gas-powered unit could be the option that makes the most sense.

    On the other hand, if an environmentally friendly choice that doesn’t spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is the most crucial factor, consider getting a pool heat pump. This also might be the type to get if you don’t swim much when the outside temperature gets below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, if you don’t mind your pool water taking a long time to heat up.


The Raypak 206,000 BTU Digital Electronic Above Ground Pool Heater is the best you can buy. Our in-depth article tells why.


6Best above-ground pool heater
A powerful above-ground heater that generates heat quickly in any climate.

The Raypack R206A is a powerful above-ground pool heater that uses an electronic ignition that automatically starts the system when your pool’s temperature falls below your desired heating settings. The intuitive LCD display lets you easily see and set the thermostat temperature. Because it’s gas-powered, it can heat your pool water quickly in any climate.

ProsThe Good

The R206A can run on natural gas or propane. With a 206,000 BTU rating, it’s a fantastic option for small to mid-sized pools.

Some above-ground heaters have casings that mice and rats can easily infiltrate. This isn’t the case with the R206A because the manufacturer seals the unit’s computer boards in a rodent attack-resistant compartment. Other models have been known to catch on fire. With the R206A, this won’t be a problem because, unlike lesser units, it’s adequately vented.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

Some users report that the temperature button on their unit didn’t work. Others have had the unfortunate experience of the heat exchangers in their devices leaking after using them for a short while.

However, most of these individuals were able to get replacement units that didn’t have these issues. However, the downside is that Raypak needs to work on its technical support because it frequently takes too long to return customers’ calls.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

For above-ground pool owners who never had a pool heater, buying the R206A has been an eye-opening experience. That’s because they no longer need to swim in water so frigid that it makes bodily parts numb. Instead, they get to take an enjoyable dip in pleasantly warm water, thanks to their brand-new heater. Moreover, the R206A allows them to extend the swim season beyond what they’re used to.

More Info

There are four kinds of above-ground pool heaters: solar-powered, electrically-operated, heat pump-style, and those that run on gas (either natural gas or propane). Although they all warm up your pool water, so it’s nice and toasty, each uses a different method to achieve that objective.

Buy a gas-powered heater if you want a really quick way to heat up your pool water. While solar-powered pool warmers are the cheapest and most energy-efficient way to heat up your pool, this method takes several days.

Raypak 206,000 BTU is heating the pool
Raypak 206,000 BTU Digital Electronic Above Ground Pool Heater

There are also electric and heat pump-style pool heaters. While electric heaters heat your above-ground pool more rapidly, heat pumps do it much more efficiently. Not all pool heaters work with pools of the above-ground variety. However, there are a number of them that do.

How big your pool heater for your above-ground pool needs to be depends on pool volume and how many months out of the year you plan to swim. The bigger the above-ground pool, the more BTUs you’ll need to efficiently heat the water. Pools that hold up to 13,000 gallons only require a 50,000 BTU heater, while larger pools of up to 21,000 gallons need at least 85,000 BTUs.


The Hayward W3H250FDN Universal H-Series 250,000 BTU Natural Gas In-Ground Pool Heater is the best heater you’ll find for this type of pool.


7Fastest heating speed
High-performing energy-efficient pool heater saves you money.

The H250FDN is one of the most reliable and energy-efficient pool heaters on the market. It not only performs better than comparable models, but it also has almost zero environmental impact. That’s because it’s been designed to produce virtually no nitrous oxide emissions, unlike other models that contribute to the high ozone levels that devastate ecosystems.

The forced draft system directs air through the combustion chamber at a precise rate. This helps to reduce the effect of meteorological variables, such as windy conditions, that can negatively impact the performance of a pool heater.

ProsThe Good

It comes with a host of features that boost energy efficiency. These are things like stainless-steel burners, a rust-resistant heat exchanger, and an insulated fire tile combustion chamber with an exceptional ability to trap heat.

Because its advanced hydraulics significantly reduce runtime, you’ll save up to 18% in operating costs compared to similar pool heaters. Because this unit can raise the temperature of an 800-gallon pool in less than sixty minutes, it’s quick too. This means no more waiting around for hours for your pool to get warm enough to take a dip.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

The unit is known to give off a nasty plastic smell when you first fire it up, which is most likely a protective coating burning off a component. However, the good news is that this odor diminishes with each subsequent use.

The sight glass is almost useless for flame inspection. You’ll be able to see flame color, but that’s about it. However, because the pressure regulator is preset, you might not need to adjust the flame.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Many users love how the LED control panel allows them to monitor heat performance, get a temperature readout, and quickly identify if the unit needs service. This helps them to prevent small problems from snowballing into bigger ones.

Other customers like that the W3H250FDN has a Cupro nickel heat exchanger that protects the unit from corrosion, which helps extend its useful life.

More Info

If you’re looking for an in-ground pool heater to keep your pool water at a comfortable temperature, keep in mind that there are four different kinds: solar-powered, electrically operated, heat pump-style, and those that run on gas.

In Groung pool
Kinds of Pool Heaters for In Ground Pool

Electric pool heaters for inground pools use a heating element to warm up pool water. Heat pumps suck out warmth from the outside air and are amazingly efficient.

A solar pool heater for an in-ground pool uses the sun’s free energy to make your pool water warm enough to swim in. If you want to put in a solar pool heater in your backyard, you’ll need to live in a relatively balmy climate with plenty of sunshine.

If you live in a frigid place where nighttime temperatures can reach bone-chilling levels, you’ll probably want an electrically operated or gas-powered model. That’s because they’ll be able to get your pool water hotter and do it much more quickly than the other types.

A gas-powered heater Hayward W3H250FDN Universal H-Series 250,000 BTU
Gas-powered Pool Heater Hayward W3H250FDN

A gas-powered heater could be your best bet if there’s an existing natural gas line near your pool. This type of heater is popular in chillier locations because, unlike solar-powered and heat pump-style models, they’re effective no matter how frigid it gets. Although they cost more to run than electrically operated or solar-powered models, they generate more heat in a shorter time frame.


What’s the Most Comfortable Pool Temperature

The answer to the question, “What’s the most comfortable pool temperature?” depends on several factors, including how you plan to use your pool. For example, you’ll probably want your pool warmer if you’re lounging around. You’d typically prefer it a little cooler if you’re doing strenuous activity.

However you’re going to be using your pool, you need to be vigilant about regulating its temperature because failure to do so can compromise your safety. This includes not exposing yourself to temperature extremes for long periods, which is particularly dangerous for those with acute medical issues, pregnant women, and children.

Most comfortable temperature
Comfortable Temperature of the pool depends on some factors

The National Swimming Pool Foundation’s official guidelines are pool temperatures of 82 degrees Fahrenheit for adult recreational swimming and between 90 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit for kids aged four and younger. Water below 78 degrees Fahrenheit can cause severe breathing difficulties, especially for people with respiratory ailments such as asthma and COPD.

Safe water temperatures depend on what kinds of activities you’re doing. According to the World Health Organization, water temperatures ranging from 58 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit are considered okay for those getting a moderate level of pool exercise.

The more strenuous the water-based activity, the more critical it is for the water not to be overly warm. That’s because the hotter the water is, the more your blood pressure will increase. This can lead to feeling dizzy or even passing out.

Jumping into a pool with water between 50 and 60 degrees can be hazardous. That’s because water this cold can cause you to hyperventilate as you desperately gasp for air. Your body goes into cold shock, which means you won’t be able to swim, which significantly increases the risk of drowning.

Algae and bacterias can cause some problems

Unregulated pool temperatures cause more problems than merely affecting bodily processes. For example, bacteria, algae, and other microorganisms will flourish like there’s no tomorrow if your pool is too warm. Because pool-borne bacteria can cause life-threatening diseases, they should be eliminated immediately.

Another problem is algae. You’ve got an issue with it if you see a green film or disgusting green, brown, or yellow gobs destroying the pristine purity of your swimming water. Algae can cause swimmers to have itchy skin, give the pool a nasty odor, and clog your filtration system to the point it no longer works.

The best way to keep your pool temperature comfortable is by using a heater. These devices have built-in thermostats and continue to operate until they reach your desired temperature level. Some pool heaters have timers that turn the unit on during times you’re most likely to swim.


How Long Does it Take to Heat a Pool

How long it takes to heat up your pool depends on pool size, BTUs of your unit, and desired temperature.

Here’s the formula:

GALLONS OF WATER X WEIGHT PER GALLON (8.33 POUNDS) X HOW MUCH YOU WANT THE WATER TO INCREASE/BTU HEATER OUTPUT

For instance, if you want to raise the temperature in a 20,000-gallon pool by 15 degrees with a 100,000 BTU heater:

20,000 x 8.33 = 166,600

166,600 x 15 = 2,499,000 needed to heat the water 15 degrees

2,499,000/100,000 = 24.99 hours


The Cost of Different Types of Pool Heaters

Heaters That Operate on Natural Gas or Propane

Money

Pool heater prices and their operational expense vary widely depending on the model. For example, gas-powered pool heaters are cheaper to buy than solar-powered or heat pump-style models. Installation is also less expensive. However, you’ll shell out more money to operate them than you would if you had bought one of the other types. Expect to pay between $1,500 and $6,000 for a heater fueled by gas, with an additional $500 to $1,500 in labor costs.

Fuel for gas-powered heaters is either natural gas or propane. While propane contains more energy per gallon than natural gas (thus giving you more bang for your buck), it’s usually more expensive. Expect to spend $200 to $850 a month with a pool heater powered by propane compared to $100 to $400 for a natural gas one.

Heat Pump-Style Heaters

Heat pump-style pool heaters have a higher initial purchase and installation cost than gas-powered models. While you can get an above-ground heat pump heater for under $1,000, most will set you back $2,000 to $6,000, including installation.

However, this heater style has lower operating costs than gas-powered models because they’re so much more efficient. These operating expenses are usually $50 to $150 a month.

Solar-Powered Pool Heaters

Harnessing the sun’s limitless power to heat your pool makes the energy you generate almost 100% free. If you’d like to do this, it’ll cost you between $2,500 and $7,500 to buy and an additional $500 to $1,500 to have someone install it for you. What’s great about a solar pool heating system is the only ongoing cost is the cost of electricity to power your existing pool pump—usually less than $75 a year.

Electric Heaters

While pool heater costs are usually less for electric models than gas-powered ones, your operating expenses will most likely be higher because gas heaters aren’t as efficient. To install a gas pool heater, you’ll pay about $2,000 to $5,000, including labor, and monthly operating expenses will be $100 to $600.


How to Calculate Pool Heater Size

To know how much heat a pool heater gives off, you’ll need to look at its BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating. A BTU measures how much energy you’ll need to boost the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Most pool heaters have BTU ratings between 150,000 and 400,000.

Your pool heater should generate at least 50,000 BTUs for every 10,000 gallons of water in your backyard swimming oasis. For a pool with 20,000 gallons, you’ll need a heater with an output of at least 100,000 BTUs. The more BTUs your unit is rated for, the faster it’ll warm up your pool, and the sooner you’ll be able to take a refreshing dip.

To calculate heater size for an outdoor pool a little more precisely, try to figure out your ideal temperature. Next, calculate the average temperature for the chilliest month you’ll be using your pool. Subtract this number from the first number. This is how many degrees your heater needs to raise the water to reach your ideal temperature.

Once you have this figure, determine the surface area of your pool in square feet. Lastly, use this formula to determine the BTU output requirement of the heater: Pool Surface Area x Temperature Rise x 12.

Luke Reed - Pool Maintenance Expert
For example, let’s say your ideal pool temperature is 78 degrees. The average temperature for the coldest month you’ll be using the pool is 67 degrees. 78 minus 67 is 11, the temperature rise needed to get your pool up to where you want it. Your pool’s surface area in square feet is 800. 800 x 11 x 12 = 105,600, which is the BTU rating you’ll be looking for when buying your pool heater.
Expert Team

Installation Tips for Pool Heaters

You should have a licensed electrician and a technician certified in working with natural gas devices to assist you with a heat pump-style pool heater installation even if you’re doing most of the work yourself. That’s because you shouldn’t fool around with these types of hookups if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Because heat pumps require lots of air circulation, it’s best to install them in a location with plenty of clearance and no obstructions. An ideal installation will have approximately 24 inches of clearance around the unit with no blockages above it. It should be on level ground near your pool’s dedicated filtration system and no more than 25 feet away from the pool. The tubing is underground, and locating the unit farther away could cause significant heat loss.

Before proceeding with the heater installation, remove all debris, such as stones and roots from the area and ensure that the ground is level. Excavate a hole for the equipment pad, which you’ll use to keep all the pool heater components in place.

Once you install the unit and run it in heating mode, ensure the exhaust from the top is cooler than the ambient air. This is an indication that your heat pump is working correctly. If the heat pump still runs after you turn the water pump off, kill the power to the unit and call the manufacturer for advice.

Author
Our pool maintenance expert, Luke Reed, earned his BS in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1998. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of industries, including design and construction of luxury swimming pools.
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