Pool Heat Pump Guide: Pros & Cons of Heat Pumps & Gas Heaters

Heat Pumps vs Gas Heaters for Pools

When building a backyard pool, you have the option to add a heater that will keep the water at the perfect temperature for swimming year-round. However, there is a choice to be made: heat pump or gas heater—which is right for your pool?

Each option has advantages and disadvantages depending on how you plan on using your pool, so you should consider the features of each carefully. Here are some essential differences between the two to help you make an educated choice when buying a pool heating element or when choosing which heated pool home to buy.

How Heat Pumps Work: The Pros & Cons

Quickly growing in popularity with pool owners, heat pumps use ambient air surrounding the unit to heat the pool. This air passes over the evaporator coil, allowing the heated refrigerants to transfer heat to the water before it returns to the pool.

Pros of Heat Pumps for Pools

There are several perks to choosing a heat pump for your pool. Heat pumps are efficient, environmentally friendly, and tend to have lower annual operating costs versus gas heat pumps. Operating them requires no use of propane or natural gas, which lowers utility costs.

On average, heat pumps cost around $0.63 an hour to run with electricity, but that's a fraction of the cost of operating gas or propane heaters. Heat pumps utilized daily can increase the owner's electricity bill by $50 to $100 per month.

With proper maintenance, heat pumps can last 10 years or more. However, outside ambient air temperatures should be 45° F or higher for them to work correctly. Heat pumps may be optimal for pool owners who use their pool in warmer weather and those who reside in warmer climates during the colder seasons.

Cons of Heat Pumps for Pools

Pool heat pumps typically cost between $2,000 and $5,000 on average, which is a bit higher than the cost of gas heat pumps. These units are less effective at temperatures below 50º F. Another drawback is that larger pools will take longer to heat up than they would with a gas heat pump. Owners will also need to consider that they will need to install a dedicated 50–60 amp breaker to operate a heat pump.

Gas Heaters for Swimming Pools

Heating Options for Pools

Gas swimming pool heaters are by far the most popular options for heating a pool. These devices use propane or natural gas to operate. Let's dive into the pros and cons of choosing a gas heater for a pool.

Pros of Gas Heaters for Pools

Gas pool heaters are highly efficient when utilized for short periods. They heat pools very quickly compared to other heating methods. Gas heaters maintain constant temperatures in all weather conditions. Those who don't want to heat the pool during the entire swimming season or owners who don't use it frequently might find this the most efficient option.

Yet, owners must decide whether to operate the unit using natural gas or liquid propane. Therefore, they should consider the availability of propane and gas in their area and if a line is already installed. It's best to choose a fuel based on the availability and the price of use.

Cons of Gas Heaters for Pools

Depending on the fuel you choose and the property's geographic location, the cost of heating a pool using a gas heater can range from $3 to $9 per hour. Natural gas heaters generally cost a few dollars less per hour vs. propane pool heaters, which could result in higher utility costs.

Installation of a new gas line might be necessary, which not only costs more but is likely to require obtaining a permit. Additionally, a new gas meter may be necessary. These units have more moving parts than electric heat pumps, so they typically require more maintenance.

Deciding if a Heat Pump or Gas Heater is Best for Your Pool

Those finding themselves still asking, "Which heating method is best for my pool?" will want to consider the following questions:

  • How many days will the pool water be heated?
  • How many gallons of water does the pool hold?
  • Is the time it requires to heat the water important?
  • What are the seasonal weather conditions in the location?
  • What are the costs of electricity compared to gas in the area?
  • Is there already an electric outlet or gas line installed?
  • How much should I invest in heating the pool water?

With these questions answered, owners can make an informed decision and proceed with their purchase. However, those still unsure should consult a pool professional for guidance.

Enjoy Your Pool Year-Round With a Heat Pump

Now that you know the basics of each type of installation, you're ready to start shopping for a unit that best suits your pool type, size, and specific weather. Those who live in a colder climate and want to swim year-round might lean towards natural gas heat pumps. However, those who live in a warmer climate might find an electric heat pump is the better option. While both are effective ways to heat a pool, keep the budget in mind concerning operating them.

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