How to Heat an Above Ground Pool

Heating your above ground pool can make swimming more comfortable as it extends your pool season each year. Just imagine taking a dip in the warm water at night as the fall chill settles in around you. Can you see how an above ground pool heater can increase the usability and enjoyment of your pool?

Above ground pools are temporary structures that give you more options than inground pools. For example, if you plan to move, you can pack up and take an above ground pool with you. This could make investing in a permanently installed pool heater less attractive.

Above Ground Pool

Fortunately, there are many different ways you can heat your pool, including using a pool water heater, heat pump, solar rings, solar covers, or liquid treatments.

Heating an above ground pool requires a heat source or another method that stops the water from evaporating from the pool. Heat sources, such as pool heaters, require energy to operate. This can include natural gas, propane, solar panels, or electricity. Solar rings and solar covers are less expensive options and do not require outside energy sources.

Did you know?

Don’t let fears about the cost of heating your pool keep you from swimming in comfort! There are affordable ways of warming up the water that allows you to extend the swimming season of your above ground pool.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Needs

Pool heating requirements depend on the size of your above ground pool, what it is made from, where you live, and whether or not the pool is a permanent structure.

For instance, for small above ground pools, an affordable solar blanket or heat pump might provide enough heat to allow you to use your pool year-round in the Southern United States. However, in the Northwest U.S., a pool heater might be necessary to extend the swimming season for a large above ground pool. If you only need to warm up your pool a few times a season, or the pool isn’t permanently installed, using a liquid heat blanket could be sufficient.

By understanding your goals, needs, and budget, you can make the best decision about how to heat your above ground pool. Remember: the same solution won’t work for everyone.

Step 2: Decide on Your Heat Source

There are five general categories for above ground pool heaters, with dozens of brands and models for each type. Your pool heating needs and your budget are important considerations when deciding which type of above ground pool heater to buy.

Type: Cost: Why You Need It: What to Look For:
Pool water heater $$$

A pool water heater is a permanently installed and effective heater that can work with some types of above ground pools. It is the most expensive option but can easily raise water temperature by 30 degrees or more.

Pool water heaters can use propane, natural gas, or solar panels to power the heater. Some pool water heaters work well with certain types of above ground pools.

Heat pumps $$$$

While heat pumps are more expensive to install, they are less expensive to run. These heaters use the surrounding heat in the air to warm the swimming pool.

A heat pump works by extracting heat from the environment. If you live in a particularly cold climate, it may not be an effective choice for year-round use.

Solar blankets $$-$$$

Solar blankets or covers go on top of the pool’s surface and stop evaporation, which helps the water retain heat.

Floating blankets do not require professional installation, but solid pool blankets require a mechanical device to be installed that covers and uncovers the pool. When using a floating solar blanket, you will have to take precautions so children and pets don’t accidentally fall in.

Solar rings $

Less wieldy to use than a solar blanket. To use them, place as many solar rings on your pool’s surface as it takes to cover the pool.

Make sure to measure your pool so you have an idea of how many solar rings you need to provide adequate coverage. If the solar ring has a 5-foot diameter, you will need to figure out how many you need for a pool of your size. For example, a 10-foot by 20-foot pool would need 4 rings.

Liquid heat blankets $-$$

This creates a nontoxic chemical barrier that helps slow down evaporation. You can’t see liquid blankets, so they won’t alter your aesthetic.

While initially less expensive, it’s only good for one use. When you want to heat your pool again, you will have to buy more. The costs can add up over time.

Pro Tip

It’s okay to keep solar rings or a solar blanket on your pool all the time. But you don’t want to leave your pool heater on unless you need it. You’ll waste propane, natural gas, or electricity. Instead, plan to turn it on a few hours before you need it.

Step 3: Buy an Above Ground Pool Heater

Above ground pool heaters and heat pumps are rated by BTUs, which is a simple measure of how much energy it takes the unit to heat one pound of pool water by a single degree. A heater that is for an above ground pool will have a lower BTU than in-ground pool heaters. Generally, inground pool heaters have more water to heat and need more BTUs.

Liquid heat blankets, solar rings, and solar blankets are not rated by BTUs. However, you will need to know how many gallons your pool holds or what its dimensions are so you can purchase the right heating element for your pool.

Step 4: Install Your Above Ground Pool Heater

It’s easy to install a liquid heat blanket, solar ring, or floating solar blanket on your own. You simply need to put it in the pool or on the pool’s surface. Solid solar blankets require professional installation, but you will be able to operate the blanket on your own afterward.

Above ground pool heaters and heat pumps should also be professionally installed. Depending on where you live and how it’s installed, you may need a city permit and the help of an electrician to place the tanks and set up the wires. After installation, you will need to ensure that the propane and natural gas tanks remain filled.

Every pool will have different heating needs, based on where your home is located and its size. Overall, pool heaters are the most effective while also costing the most. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable options that might be just right for your pool, especially if you live in a warmer climate.