Though some people live in areas that let them use their swimming pools all year long, most find that the swimming seasons runs from April or May through the end of September. With a pool heater, you can extend that season. You can jump in the water as early as March and keep enjoying the water all the way through October and even into November.
There are many things to consider when picking a pool heater like price, which is why we ranked the best heaters in terms of solar heaters, heat pumps and gas heaters that use natural propane gas. Take a look at our list of the top things to consider when buying a heater before looking at which heaters and manufacturers made our list.
How to Choose the Perfect Pool Heater
Manufacturers use British Thermal Units when explaining the amount of heat produced by a heater, but this term usually goes by the abbreviation of BTU. The higher output, the more heat you’ll feel. Most heaters have a minimum output of 75,000, but you’ll find some heaters with a higher output of up to 450,000.
Solar Pool Heaters
Solar pool heaters consist of solar panels or collectors that absorb heat from the sun and then use that heat to increase the temperature of your pool water, which passes through a dedicated system. Most come with systems designed to protect the heater from the cold as well as snow and ice. You can choose between a glazed or unglazed system, and while glazed systems are more expensive, these systems are also more durable.
Gas Pool Heaters
A more affordable option that many pool owners prefer is a gas pool heater. This heater has two tubes that pull cold water from the pool inside the heater and push the warm water back into the pool. A gas heater will also have a heat exchanger that heats up the water, a burner and a blower.
Pool Heat Pumps
Pool heat pumps, also known as heat pump heaters, are an alternative to other types of heaters. It uses an evaporator coil that slowly warms the cold water that comes from your pool before releasing it back into the water. These can work similar to the air conditioning system that you have in your home.
The capacity that the pool heater can handle will let you know if it’s a good option for your own pool. A higher capacity means that the heater will keep pushing warm water back into your pool and drawing in any cold water. Those with a smaller capacity may have a hard time keeping your pool filled with hot water.
Far too many pool owners look at how much a heater will cost upfront without thinking about long-term costs. You also need to think about how much it will cost to run and maintain that heater later. Solar heaters do not require any electrical energy but may need more maintenance than those heaters need.
Looking at the controls on that heater will help you see how you can use it. Some of the cheaper heaters have just one knob or dial that lets you turn the water temperature up or down. Newer models come with digital controls that you can use for setting a timer or a specific temperature.
If you decide on a pool heater that uses electricity, you must make sure that your home’s system can support that heater and provide it with all the necessary power. When it comes to propane heaters, you need to look at the costs of hooking that heater up to your existing gas line.
Don’t buy a pool heater without first ensuring that it will work with the type of pool you own. Some heaters work better with above ground pools, and some may not work well in an in ground pool.
Top Solar Pool Heaters
The ultimate solar pool heater is the 18-2X12′ SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater Complete System with Roof Kits, which comes with everything you need to increase the temperature of your pool for swimming on cooler days and outside of the traditional season. SunQuest offers this set in different sizes to fit more swimming pools, and you’ll find that you can install this system on either an in ground or above ground swimming pool. The MAX-FLOW design uses specially designed headers that work with your existing pump but reduce some of the pressure on that pump, and this system also ensures that you get a better flow of water that is more consistent for even heating.
With this system, you can change the temperature of your water by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit in less time than you ever thought possible. SunQuest guarantees that this set will be compatible with most pool pumps and that is it so easy to install that you can do it yourself. The system comes with a solar panel roll that you can install on your roof and then connect back to the pool’s pump.
Sun Dome makes the 24′ Above Ground Swimming Pool Solar Sun Dome, which gives you a more unique way to harness the sun’s rays to heat your pool, and it comes in multiple sizes that will fit most standard size swimming pools. This pool heater is unique because it essentially turns your outdoor swimming pool into an indoor pool that you can use on almost any day of the year. As the dome completely covers and surrounds your pool, it also keeps that pool safe from snow and ice as well as branches and other debris that might fall into the water.
Three windows evenly spaced around the dome let you see out and see whether there is anyone or anything in your pool, and it comes with its own door that provides easy access to the pool too. The dome absorbs the rays of the sun and transforms those rays into heat that it pushes into the water to heat the water without the use of any panels or poles. Sun Dome guarantees that three people can set the dome up or take it down in three hours or less.
If you want to heat your swimming pool without dealing with sockets and without adding solar panels to your roof, you might prefer a heating system that is easier to use like this Blue Wave 30-Feet x 50-Feet Rectangular Solar Blanket for In-Ground Pools. Though it lets you channel the energy and warm air produced by the sun and its rays, this works like a solar blanket that you simply toss on top of your pool when you’re not using it. The heat from the sun will penetrate the blanket, which will then radiate that heat around the surface of the water to help it come up to temperature.
Made from a thicker material, this blanket has thermal bubbles all across the top that actually retain the heat from the sun. This standard size will fit larger pools of a rectangular shape, but you can pick a solar blanket in a different size or shape to fit your own pool. Blue Wave gives you a six-year warranty on this solar blanket and guarantees that it will work just as effectively as a full solar system would.
A more affordable option for those who want to heat their pools and use solar energy that helps them save on their electric bills is this S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System from Smartpool. Designed specifically for in ground swimming pools, this set comes with a polyurethane heat collector that harvests heat from the sun’s rays as well as a separate solar heater. This heater features solar panels that measure 80 square feet that you can install on your roof or in a space near your pool.
Though this system takes some time to install, the manufacturer offers an optional installation kit that you can add when you purchase the solar system to more easily connect those panels to the system to ensure that your water reaches the temperature that you desire. The manufacturer recommends that you measure the overall square footage of your pool to purchase the exact number of panels needed for that size. Though Smartpool made the system suitable for in ground pools, you can also use it with an above ground pool with the right type of piping.
5. GHP 48″ x 20′ 80 Sq Ft In Ground / Above Ground Pool Solar Panel Pool Heater (View on Amazon.com)
To heat your pool to the perfect temperature without installing solar panels on your roof, you need the GHP 48″ x 20′ 80 Sq Ft In Ground / Above Ground Pool Solar Panel Pool Heater. Globe House Products designed this pool heater to work with both above ground and in ground swimming pools, and while it comes with solar panels, you can put those panels in a convenient location almost anywhere near the pool. Each set comes with one roll of solar panels that measure 24-inches wide by 20-foot long that take up 40 square feet of space, and you can purchase additional rolls for larger pools.
This set features a long tube on the end that you connect to the filter, which will then force water through the pump and filter and into the panel itself, and the second tube on the panel pushes that water back into the pool. The water will move through the panel, which will slowly increase the water’s temperature up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit before releasing the water back into the pool.
When you look at solar pool heaters, you’ll find that most of the heaters use a type of active energy, but this Solar Sun Rings SSRA-100 Solar Sun Rings Pool Water Heater w/ Anchors actually uses passive energy. That means you can save time both setting up the solar heater and using it because it doesn’t require a lot of time or effort on your part. This heater looks like a large round rug that includes bright colors like yellow and green and incorporates an image of a palm tree on the front.
The solar pool heater uses two layers of vinyl that are resistant to the sun’s rays and allow the vinyl to retain all its great colors after years of use, and you actually inflate the heater with an air pump before tossing it in the water. Its top layer is actually clear and allows the heater to absorb more heat from the sun, which is then pushes into the darker bottom layer, and that bottom layer releases the heat into the surrounding water. The manufacturer includes anchors that keep the heater from blowing away.
Best Solar Pool Heater
Before you consider investing in a cheaper solar system to heat your swimming pool, learn more about the benefits of the 18-2X12′ SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater Complete System with Roof Kits. As a complete kit, it comes with everything needed for installation, and you can connect this system to your pool’s pump with the use of a long flexible hose that will transfer water from the pool to the panel. A second hose then moves that warm water back into the pool.
Capable of increasing the water temperature up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, this kit is great for those who want to extend the swimming season by a few weeks and those who want to hop in the water earlier in the season. The included panels have a professional design that will last longer than cheaper panels do. Those panels are also resistant to all the weather conditions that are common in the winter and fall.
Top Propane Gas Pool Heaters
While there are a number of great pool heaters on the market today, the one that we recommend for shoppers looking at propane heaters is the Sta-Rite SR400NA Max-E-Therm Pool And Spa Heater. This natural gas heater comes with all the connections necessary for hooking it up to a new pool or for retrofitting an existing pool to work with it. You’ll also appreciate the digital display on the top that shows you the current water temperature as well as the temperature that you selected, and when you want to adjust that temperature, you can use the convenient touch buttons near the display.
Rated among the most energy efficient pool heaters, this heater uses up to 84% as much energy as similar models do, and it has a lightweight and compact design that won’t take up a lot of space or stick out from your pool. You’ll also loved the unique housing that protects the heat inside and the rustproof design of that housing, which makes it resistant to rust caused by ice, snow and rain as well as problems caused by other weather conditions.
Once you install this Raypak 336,000 BTU Digital Electronic Ignition Natural Gas Pool Heater and hook it up to your swimming pool, you’ll find that you can take a dip anytime you’re in the mood for a swim. The heater has an impressive BTU output of 336,000 that ensures your water heats up fast, and an internal microprocessor actually lets you set the temperature to the exact degree that you want and know that the pool will be at that temperature when you come back later. This microprocessor works with the thermostat to deliver quality heating power, even when you’re away from the pool.
All materials used in this heater are non-corrosive and both those parts as well as the cabinet are resistant to rust. The heat exchanger uses a copper tube that is more conductive than other materials, which will help the water come up to the temperature that you want faster. It also comes with water connections that make it easier to hook up your hoses for pumping water from the pool to the heater and then back to the pool.
Use the existing gas lines that you already have to heat your swimming pool with this Pentair 460736 MasterTemp High Performance Eco-Friendly Pool Heater, which comes with all the top features that you would expect from a brand like Pentair. Whether you install the heater yourself or hire a professional, you’ll find that the valves needed for your tubes and hoses are right on the side, and you can hook it up with either lightweight flexible hoses or more rigid tubes made from a material like PVC. It also comes with a shut off feature that helps you more easily shut the heater down during a power outage or an emergency.
Designed with the protection of the environment in mind, this heater produces fewer fumes and emissions than other heaters and comes with certification for use in areas with low nitrogen oxide emissions standards. It has a BTU output of just 400, which makes it better suited for smaller pools and spas than larger pools, but that lower outage rating also means that this heater runs quietly.
4. Hayward H400FDN Universal H-Series Low NOx 400,000 BTU Natural Gas Residential Pool and Spa Heater (View on Amazon.com)
With a BTU output of 400,000, this Hayward H400FDN Universal H-Series Low NOx 400,000 BTU Natural Gas Residential Pool and Spa Heater is suitable for all types of swimming pools as well as outdoor spas. The nickel heat exchanger inside is strong enough for daily use and does a good job of getting the water to the temperature that you need. One reason that many like this heater is because it meets all standards for low emissions areas and produces less emissions than similar heaters do.
Like other modern pool heaters, it features a digital display that helps you more easily adjust the water temperature up and down with small colored arrows on the front that serve as buttons, and the display itself shows you that temperature. It comes ready for installation with two separate connectors for attaching your intake hose and a hose to put the warm water back in the pool as well as a durable housing that is resistant to most weather hazards and conditions found in warmer and cooler climates.
Some pool owners pick propane and natural gas heaters because they want to save on energy and later find that these heaters use too much gas, but this TRANE TR250NA Residential Pool and Spa Cupronickel Heater features an energy-saving design that significantly cuts back on the amount of gas required while still delivering all the hot water that you need in your pool. It has a BTU output of 250,000, which is enough to heat a medium sized pool as well as some larger pools and even residential spas. You have the option of hooking it up to a brand new pump or retrofitting the heater to work with an older system.
As it produces fewer emissions than other gas heaters, it will meet all the air quality standards in your city or region. The heater comes with a heat exchanger made from nickel and a digital display with simple buttons for adjusting the water temperature. TRANE even used the word “hot” on the top of the case to warn that the case gets hot to prevent injuries.
6. Hayward H100ID1 H-Series Low NOx 100,000 BTU Natural Gas Residential Pool and Spa Heater (View on Amazon.com)
Though this Hayward H100ID1 H-Series Low NOx 100,000 BTU Natural Gas Residential Pool and Spa Heater is the cheapest propane swimming pool heater on our list, don’t assume that it won’t offer the performance that you need because it still does a great job of heating water, especially when used in a smaller pool. Available in both a natural gas and a propane gas model, it will work with the existing pipes in your home and installs easily on both existing pools and new pools. If you have problems with your gas lines, you can use the included AC adapter to easily hook this heater up to your home’s electrical system.
The cabinet has a cool touch design that ensures it remains cool to the touch, even if you have it turned all the way up, which will keep those running and playing around the pool safe. A knob on the front lets you adjust the pool’s water temperature with just a simple twist. Hayward lets you turn the heater off or turn it in a clockwise direction to reach a higher setting.
Best Propane Gas Pool Heater
Propane gas pool heaters can help you save money on your heating bills and will work with the existing natural gas lines already in your home, and the best propane gas pool heater on the market is the Sta-Rite SR400NA Max-E-Therm Pool And Spa Heater. With a 400,000 BTU output, this heater is one of the largest ones on the market and can keep your pool water at a higher temperature to make you and other swimmers feel more comfortable. It also has a lightweight and compact design for more easily installation on your pool.
A digital display on the top of the heater lets you select the exact temperature that you want, and you can use that display to watch as the temperature quickly rises. The housing unit itself features a durable coating that won’t suffer damage from weather conditions, and that housing is resistant to rust caused by snow and ice too.
Top Heat Pump Pool Heaters
The main problem that some pool owners have with heat pumps is that those pumps make a lot of noise, which can limit how much time they spend in their pools, but the TRANE TR21474T Residential Pool Heat Pump uses new technology that allows the heat pump to run so quietly that you may not even realize that you turned it on before swimming. A digital display found on the front of the heat pump makes it easier to select the temperature that you want for your pool, and you can use that display to see the current temperature too. TRANE includes a dependable warranty on this heat pump that you can use when you have any issues.
Designed for long-term use, this heat pump comes with a heat exchanger made from titanium that will last longer than those made from steel and an evaporator fin that is resistant to rust, which is helpful because of the amount of water that will move across this coil. Instead of using a metal case or housing like other manufacturers do, TRANE opted for a polymer cabinet that is resistant to rust.
The almond finish found on the case of this Pentair 460930 UltraTemp 70 High Performance Pool Heat Pump is a softer and warmer shade of light brown that will match the lining of your pool and ensure that the heater blends with any surrounding objects to keep it from sticking out. This heat pump is much easier to use than traditional heaters because it comes with a control panel that anyone can use to increase and decrease the heat, and you can view settings as well as the temperature on its LCD display. A connector on the front of the heat pump will work with flexible and more rigid hoses and tubes for hooking it up to your pool.
Automatic controls give you the option of picking the water temperature that you want before walking away. This heat pump will then monitor the water and automatically come on and on as needed to keep the water at that exact temperature. It also features built-in software that monitors the system for any problems to automatically fix those issues.
3. Hayward HP21404T HeatPro Titanium 140,000 BTU AHRI Residential Pool Heat Pump (View on Amazon.com)
The Hayward HP21404T HeatPro Titanium 140,000 BTU AHRI Residential Pool Heat Pump is one of the largest and strongest pool heat pumps available from Hayward, which lets you know that it will heat your water quickly and make your pool warmer. Hayward designed a profile blade system that moves quickly without producing a lot of noise, and this blade system works with the acoustic compressor case to ensure that you never hear this heater running. Its evaporator fin features a rust-resistant design made from durable metal for added longevity.
Hayward choose a durable form of plastic for the body panels that make up the exterior housing, and this material will not break down and is resistant to both UV rays and rust. You can use the digital display as well as the buttons near this display to view the water temperature and to adjust that temperature. Hayward designed this heat pump to produce a BTU output of 140,000.
Another solid heat pump available from Hayward is this HP50TA Residential Pool Heat Pump, which comes with a warranty that lets you seek help for problems you might have with the heat exchanger and other components. As Hayward uses high-quality materials though, you may find that you can use this heat pump for years without any problems. Those high-quality parts include a heat exchanger made from titanium that better regulates the heat to help water come up to the right temperature faster and a heavy-duty evaporator fin that is resistant to corrosion.
Hayward skipped the metal housings found on other heat pumps and opted for an injection-molded plastic that is more durable, and this plastic, which makes up the entire housing that surrounds the internal parts, is resistant to snow, ice and other weather conditions that might otherwise lead to rust. It also comes with an acoustic compressor cover that reduces the sounds produced by the machines. Thanks to its patented blade system though, this heat pump produces less noises than other models.
Though many of the swimming pool heat pumps you see today are large in size and take up a lot of space, this Hayward HP50A 50,000 BTU Horizontal Fan Swimming Pool Heat Pump is much smaller and more compact in size. Not only does it save you space around your pool, but it also reduces the risk of someone running directly into it and damaging the pump. Suitable for use in both in ground and above ground pools, it can consistently heat up to 13,000 gallons of water.
Designed to use less energy that propane and natural gas heaters do, it comes with a cooling feature that you can turn on to slowly cool down your water, which comes in handy on days that start out cooler and then become hotter. It features a horizontal design that allows water to quickly come in contact with the fan for decreasing and increasing its temperature.
Suitable for use in smaller swimming pools, this Fibroheat Swimming Pool Heater- Electric Heat Pump produces a BTU output of 55,000 for consistent heating of your pool. The hose connectors on the front come complete with attachments that ensure those hoses never slip out of place, and the manufacturer clearly marked each one to help you more quickly install the heat pump. Fibroheat recommends using this heat pump in above ground pools of a round or oval shape that use no more than 10,000 gallons of water.
Though it requires a 220V circuit, this is the same circuit necessary for using most power tools, and Fibroheat designed this heat pump to actually use less electricity than other electric pumps do. It comes with a housing made from metal with an enamel coating on top that can withstand all types of weather conditions, and the case won’t rust when exposed to pool water, rain or chemicals either.
Best Heat Pump Pool Heater
Though heat pumps are more expensive than other types of pool heaters, the TRANE TR21474T Residential Pool Heat Pump will last twice as long as those heaters or even longer. It comes with the dependable warranty that TRANE offers on all its products and a polymer housing that will last longer than housings made from metal because it is resistant to corrosion. The evaporator fan is also resistant to rust, and it comes with a heat exchanger designed for constant use.
TRANE designed this heat pump to include both connections on the front, which you will use to hook up an intake hose that pulls in water from the pool and push it across the inside of the heat pump and a connection that pushes the heated water back into the pool. This heat pump runs so quietly that you’ll never hear it as you take a dip, and it comes with a digital display that shows you the exact water temperature.