Let’s face it, the swimming season in Ottawa is pretty short. In order to maximize (and even extend) their swimming season, more and more pool owners are therefore looking at buying a pool heater. Today, we will look at the different kinds of pool heaters that are available and help you decide which is the right one for you!
Gas Pool Heaters
Gas pool heaters use either natural gas or propane to heat your pool. They work by igniting gas within a “combustion chamber” located inside the heater. Inside this combustion chamber, the burning gas heats a metal coil. As the pool water flows through the heater, it passes through this coil and is heated to the desired temperature. This temperature can be adjusted manually using the heater’s built-in controls.
- Near instantaneous heat. A properly sized gas heater can easily increase the water temperature in a pool by 3-4°F per hour. A pool that is 70°F in the morning can be easily heated to 80°F or higher by lunchtime!
- Temperature control. Gas heaters also allow you to set an exact temperature for your pool water.
- Costly to install. A good gas heater will set you back around $2000 plus installation. While the plumbing installation doesn’t take much, the gas installation can be pricy depending on where your existing gas hookup is located.
- Costly to operate. The cost per hour of a gas heater is the highest among the three heater options.
Heat pumps use electricity to heat your pool water, although not directly. Heat pumps work by drawing in warm air from outside using a built-in fan. This warm air then passes over the heat pump’s “evaporator coil”, which is filled with a refrigerant. When the warm air combines with the refrigerant, a chemical reaction occurs which produces a warm gas. This warm gas is then used to heat a metal tube. The pool water then passes through the metal tube and is heated to the desired temperature.
- Lower running costs than gas heaters. The cost per hour to run a heat pump is much less than that of a gas heater.
- Temperature control. Like gas heaters, heat pumps allow you to set an exact temperature for your pool water.
- Slow to heat the water. A properly sized heat pump can usually at best only manage around 1-1.5°F per hour.
- Costly to purchase. Although usually not quite as expensive as gas heaters to install (they only require a 220V electrical service and basic plumbing installation), their high purchase cost means that heat pumps have the highest up front costs of any pool heater.
Solar Pool Heaters
As their name suggests, solar heaters use energy from the Sun to heat up your pool. They are made up of black plastic or rubber panels that absorb solar heat. Water then passes through these panels and is heated up.
- Cheaper to purchase and install. Solar pool heaters are less expensive to purchase than both gas heaters and heat pumps. Since they do not require electrical or gas hookups, they’re also much cheaper to install!
- Cheap to run. Although they’re not free to run (your pool pump needs to be on in order for water to pass through the heater) the costs to operate a solar pool heater are much lower than both gas heaters and heat pumps.
- Inconsistent heat. Solar heaters can only effectively heat the pool water on hot, sunny days. On cold, cloudy days they can actually cool the water! To combat this, most people will install shutoff valves in the pool plumbing so that they can bypass the solar heater on colder days.
- No temperature control. Unlike gas heaters and heat pumps, most solar pool heaters don’t let you set a temperature. You simply get what you get.
Which Type Of Pool Heater Is Better?
So now that you know a little more about each type of pool heater out there, the question is which one is better? The answer is that it depends on how you plan on using your pool. As you can see, each type of pool heater has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few common scenarios that should help you decide which pool heater is best for your family.
You Only Swim When It Is Sunny
If your family is the type that only wants to swim on hot, sunny days, solar heaters are probably the best option for you. Their low purchase and running costs means that you won’t be overpaying to heat your pool.
You Want To Keep Your Pool At A Consistent Temperature
If your family use your pool often throughout the summer and want to make sure that it stays at a consistent temperature, a heat pump is your best choice of pool heater. Heat pumps are perfect in this scenario as they are able to maintain your desired temperature and are significantly less expensive to run than gas heaters.
You Only Use The Pool On Certain Days
If you’re busy and only have the chance to use your pool sporadically then a gas heater is likely your best choice. Because they heat the water so quickly, you are able to heat the pool within a matter of a few hours, perfect for spontaneous swims!
Since you will only be running the heater for a few hours each week, in this scenario a gas heater will also be less expensive to run than a heat pump. This is because a heat pump typically needs at least 24 hours to properly heat a pool, where the gas heater will only need 2-4 hours.
You Want To Extend Your Swimming Season
If you want to extend your swimming season, you will want to get either a heat pump or a gas heater. Solar heaters simply don’t work well in colder weather and are therefore not suitable to extending the swimming season.
The heater you ultimately choose will again depend on how often you will be using the pool. If you consistently use the pool throughout the week, get a heat pump. If you plan on use the pool less often, a gas heater will ultimately end up being the cheaper option.