Enjoy Your Pool Year-Round with Pool Heaters and Chillers Pool Heater FAQs Pool Heater Types Top Pool Heater Questions Pool Chiller FAQs Recommended Brands

Enjoy Your Pool Year-Round with Pool Heaters and Chillers

We all love our pools, but only a lucky few of us live in a place where we can enjoy our pool year-round. The good news is modern technology gives us a solution to extend the life of our pool to both the coldest and the hottest months: Investing in a heater or a chiller can mean the difference between using your pool just two or three months out of the year to eight, nine or even all twelve months!

inground swimming pool

Pool Heater FAQs

There are plenty of heaters to choose from, and lots to learn about before you dive into your purchase, so let’s take a look at some of the most common questions regarding these two wondrous additions to modern pools.

Do I need a gas, solar, propane, electric heater or heat pump?

Gas, solar, propane, electric heaters and heat pumps all have their pros and cons. From cost-efficiency to power capacity, there are advantages and challenges facing each type of pool heater. Let's explore electric, solar or gas heaters and heat pumps together:

Electric Pool Heaters

These heaters rely on a metal heating element (kind of like the coil on an electric stove), which heats up the surrounding water. The warm water flows through your pool’s filtration system, mixing with the cooler water until the desired temperature is reached.

Electric swimming pool heaters are a popular choice, and with good reason: They’re inexpensive to purchase and easy to install (no need for a professional; most swimming pool owners can easily go the DIY route). What’s more, they’re super-versatile: An electric swimming pool heater will work with any type of pool, in any climate.

Of course, there are a few downsides to going electric: This type of heater can take a while to warm your swimming pool water, especially compared to, say, natural gas heater or heat pumps. This means you either have to keep your electric heater running all the time (which can drive energy costs up) – or you have to say goodbye to spontaneous dips during cooler months.

swimming pool

Solar Pool Heaters

Live somewhere sunny? Trying to “go green”? A solar-powered swimming pool heater might be your answer. These eco-friendly heaters get high marks for their high efficiency and super-low operating costs (sunshine is free, after all). Pool owners also appreciate the fact that solar heaters are relatively low maintenance. Looking for other ways to “go green” with your pool? Check out our guide to making your pool energy efficient and eco-friendly.

A few things to keep in mind if you’re considering going solar: First, you need sunshine. Most pool professionals recommend that you have between four and six hours of sun a day. Second, you need space: Although they don’t use much energy, solar pool heaters do take up a lot of room. If your backyard is too small for solar panels, you might want to look at other types of heaters. And third, they’re one of the most expensive types of swimming pool heaters to purchase – although you’ll quickly make up for that in energy savings.

Gas or Propane Pool Heaters

Gas swimming pool and spa heaters have a lot going for them: They work fast, and they perform well in any climate. They’re also small and relatively inexpensive to purchase. All in all, they’re a great combination of price and performance for any swimming pool owner.

Natural gas pool heaters typically connect to your existing natural gas line. This means that, for safety reasons, you’ll need to call in the professionals if you want to install a gas swimming pool heater. If you don’t have a gas line – or if you don’t want the extra costs associated with professional installation – you can opt for a propane heater instead. Propane swimming pool heaters offer the same benefits (small size, quick heating), but they don’t need to be connected to your gas line.

Aside from the installation issue, the only other drawback with gas or propane heaters is that, compared to other types of pool heaters, they have a shorter lifespan. Gas and propane can also get pricy, compared to electric and solar.

Heat Pumps

Live in a warmer part of the country? A heat pump might be just the thing to keep your pool swim-ready all year round. What’s a heat pump? Unlike a traditional swimming pool heater, which creates heat and then circulates it via your pool filtration system, a heat pump draws and distributes heat from the warm outside air.

The great thing about swimming pool heat pumps is that they’re affordable and easy to maintain. You can also run your heat pump 24 hours a day, which means your pool water will always be warm and toasty (bring on the spur-of-the-moment pool parties)!

Of course, because a heat pump isn’t a true heater, it’s not a good choice if you live somewhere with very cool air temperatures. Most swimming pool professionals say that if outside temperatures in your area regularly drop below 50 degrees, you should probably consider a traditional heater instead.

nice swimming pool

How can I heat my pool fast?

Gas or propane pool heaters are by far the fastest type of pool heater, but even if you have a slower heater, there are a couple of tips you can use to help your pool heater along.

  • Consider investing in a solar pool cover, which can help trap the heat in.
  • Liquid or chemical covers can be dissolved into your pool to create an alcohol-based film that keeps heat in your pool.
  • Even simple things, like ensuring your trees are trimmed back to reduce shade can help your pool stay warmer, longer.

Is it more efficient to turn my pool heater on each day, or leave it on overnight?

In general, leaving your pool heater on each night uses less energy than during the day, enabling your pool heater to run at a slow, steady burn. When you turn your heater on each day, it has to heat the entire pool back up again, as all the work your heater did the day before has been lost.

What type of heater maintenance is required?

Your pool heater will require some sort of professional maintenance at least annually, and many people choose to have regular heater maintenance performed by their weekly pool maintenance company. However, if you are the DIY type, here are few things you can do to maintain your pool heater health:

  • Check your pool filters regularly - debris in your filters can cause your heater to malfunction
  • Maintain your pool chemistry - imbalances in your chemistry can damage your heater
  • Winterize your heater if you expect hard freezes during your winter - frozen water can expand and ruin your equipment
  • Consult your owner’s manual for maintenance tips specific to your heater type - many owner’s manuals are now online, so search for your heater’s make, model and type if you’ve lost your original.

What size pool heater do I need?

The size pool heater you need depends on:

  • the size of your pool
  • how quickly you want to heat your pool
  • the temperature outside during the coldest months you want to use the heater

Pool heater “power” is rated in something called British thermal units (or “BTUs,” for short). The greater the BTUs, the stronger your heater. A 400k BTU heater will heat your pool about twice as fast as a 200k BTU heater.

In general, you will need somewhere between 4 and 6 BTUs per gallon of water. To calculate how many gallons are in your pool, consider using our pool volume calculator.

Choosing exactly the right “bang for your buck” when it comes to pool water heaters can be a bit tricky. The minimum BTU recommendation is not always the best option. After you’ve done some preliminary research, we suggest consulting with a professional before you make your final purchase.

What’s the Perfect Swimming Pool Temperature?

While there’s no true “magic number” when it comes to swimming pool water temperature, most pool professionals agree that the ideal temperature is between 78 and 84 degrees

What is the best pool heater on the market?

Probably a better question is what is the best pool heater for you?

When choosing your heater consider:

  1. Price
  2. Size (see previous question)
  3. Brand reputation and ratings
  4. Maintenance costs
  5. Energy efficiency
  6. Product lifespan

You may also want to consult with several pool maintenance professionals and retailers. Each person you consult is likely to have a different favorite and will offer a different reason for their choice. Getting several opinions will help you make a more informed decision.

What is the best above ground pool heater?

The same types of pool heaters (gas, propane, electric, and solar) are generally available for above ground and in-ground pools, and you will want to ask the same types of questions when making your decision. Typically, above ground pool heaters come in BTU ratings under 125k or 150k BTUs. If you want a more powerful heater, you may choose to purchase an in-ground pool heater to heat your above ground pool. Keep in mind, however, that a more powerful heater will heat the pool faster, but will also be more expensive.

Pool Chiller FAQs

If you live in a very hot climate, a pool chiller can help keep your water cool, even when temperatures rise. Considering a chiller? Have questions? Let’s dive in!

cool swimming pool

How can I cool my swimming pool in the summer?

If you live in a hot climate, have a small swimming pool, or your pool gets a lot of sun during the day, your refreshing dip may feel more like a lukewarm bath. Fear not. You need not be relegated to dumping buckets of ice onto your guests’ heads to make the experience bearable. Consider instead a pool chiller (also sometimes called a pool cooler, swimming pool cooler, water chiller, or pool water cooler). A pool chiller, just as the name implies, will keep your pool cool and comfortable even in the hottest summer months.

You can save money and the environment with a heat pump and chill combo unit!

A variable-speed, combo unit will help you save energy, water, and chemicals all at once. Variable-speed motors will save power when you are only filtering, and the cool water from the chiller will prevent evaporation and improve the efficiency of your chemicals.

How low can I cool my swimming pool?

Pretty cold. For those of us who enjoy the experience of a “cold plunge pool”, pool chillers can reduce the water temperature to the mid- to low-40s!

How can I use a pool chiller to cool my pool?

The system works by circulating water and using air to remove the heat. User operation is very simple, and most come with easy-to-use digital controls that allow you to set and maintain the temperature of your choice.

Do I need a pool chiller?

If you find you aren’t enjoying your pool in the summer months because your pool is too warm, a pool chiller may make sense for you. After all, your pool is a significant investment. If you aren’t enjoying your swims, the pool could seem like an awful waste of space -- and money!

Other benefits to a chiller include:

  • reducing the chance of algae blooms (algae thrives in hot temperatures)
  • reducing the amount of chemicals you use (pool chemicals are more effective in lower temperatures)
  • reducing the amount of water you use (cooler water evaporates slower)

If you want to try some other methods of chilling your pool before investing in a chiller, consider:

  • installing a water feature
  • keeping your pool uncovered
  • adding shade
  • removing any blockages to air flow across the pool’s surface

Pool chillers and heaters may not be for everyone, but for those of who want to get full use of our backyard oasis, these two pieces of equipment are surely on the must-have list.

Recommended Brands

Ready to heat or cool your pool?

Find a Store Near You