Being from the land of the Frozen Tundra we @ Pool Pros are used to the cold, but who wants to swim in a cold pool? Definitely not me! To help you get the most out of a short and sometimes cold swimming season Pool Pros put together the ultimate guide to pool heaters! In this article we go over the differing methods you can implement to give you the warmest and longest swimming season possible.
WHAT TEMPERATURE SHOULD I SET MY POOL HEATER?
This is the #1 question we get asked by all new pool owners and its a good one. It ultimately is personal preference but there are a few things to consider. The most important is water chemistry believe it or not!
Once your pool water reaches 84 degrees or higher, the temperature will reduce the effectiveness of the chlorine in your pool by 50%. So if you plan on heating your pool above 84 degrees plan on needing twice the chlorine in your pool to maintain the same chlorine levels. If you don't track this closely it will likely lead to algae outbreaks and then lost swimming time. At Pool Pros we always recommend setting your pool heater for 82 degrees. That gives you a little wiggle room to work with and is still a very comfortable temperature to swim or float around in.
NATURAL GAS POOL HEATERS
Natural gas pool heaters are the best option for heating your pool up as quickly as possible. Some gas heaters on the market vary due to reliability and design. Pentair is a popular choice for a natural gas heater. The Master Temp Pool Heater that Pentair offers is a great choice for a natural gas heater to keep your pool warm and cozy and is what Pool Pros uses on the majority of its new pool builds.
EFFICIENCY: Most modern natural gas or propane heaters have an optimized efficiency of around 84%. Once a heaters efficiency increases above that level it creates condensation and corrosion inside the pool heater.
Natural Gas and Propane Heaters are the best choice of all the pool heaters to get your pool up to temperature quickly. It does it at a cost though. A natural Gas Pool Heater burns alot of fuel to heat that pool water. The big selling point for us is that this type of pool heater will extend your pool season by a few weeks early on after you open your pool and then at the end of the season as well. @ Pool Pros we are finding that after pool owners get the pool up to temp that the pools tend to hold that temperature pretty well throughout the season and most clients don't even run their pool heater peak season which is end of June through Mid September.
The average natural gas or propane pool heater costs about $5- $7,000.00 to purchase and you can anticipate using an extra $100.00 or more in fuel costs per month during the pool season. It can vary widley based on the size of the pool heater, the size of the pool and type of pool cover you have as well.
We always recommend installing a pool heater at the time you build your pool. This will be the most economical option for installation. On average you can anticipate to spend $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 to have the gas line installed. This is based off the length of run and amount of trenching required.
Generally Natural Gas and Propane Pool heaters require little to no maintenance. The big factor that will help determine the useful life of a pool heater is your water chemistry. Unbalance water chemistry can eat up the most expensive component of the pool heater in no time. To replace a heat exchanger will cost thousands. So be diligent with testing and balancing your pool water to prevent expensive repairs. In our neck of the woods we have to winterize pools due to the severe cold temps we get blasted with each winter. At this time is when you need to make sure that any and all water in the pool heater is completely removed to prevent freeze damage. That's it for pool heater maintenance.
HEAT PUMP POOL HEATER
A heat pump is a device that can heat the pool by transferring thermal energy from the outside using a refrigeration cycle. Many heat pumps can operate in opposite directions. Air source heat pumps are the most common models. The heat pumps have good efficiency. A heat pump is a great option for maintaining water temperature throughout the season at a lower cost than a natural gas pool heater but a heat pump will not heat pool water when the outside temperature is lower than 58 degrees. So this heater is not a great option if you are in a cold climate and want to heat your pool when its cold out. You will lose weeks of swimmable pool season with a heat pump.
The heat pump has a great efficiency of 300%-700%. Meaning every unit of electricity it takes to run the compressor you get 3-7 units of heat out of the heat pump.
The cost can vary based on the size of the unit and the amount of water to be heated. $6,000.00 to $8,000.00
The cost to install a heat pump is basically just the electrical service to the heat pump. This can be anywhere from $2,500.00 to $3,500.00 and can vary based on the amount of open breakers in your main electrical panel and the length of run from the panel to the pool equipment.
With a heat pump there is very little maintenance needed. Due to its titanium heat exchanger a heat pump is much more impervious to wide ranging water chemistry levels that would destroy a natural gas pool heater. Heat pump do create condensation and that condensation will make it look like the heat pump is leaking at times but its not. So don't worry if you have a constant wet area on your equipment pad. Keep the heat pump in a sunny wind blocked area and keep it free of debris and you will be in good hands.
THE HYBRID POOL HEATER
This is my favorite pool heating option hands down. The Hybrid Pool Heater is both a Natural Gas/Propane Pool Heater and a Heat Pump all in one. With the Hybrid Pool heater you get the best of both worlds. The quick heating of a natural Gas Heater that will extend your pool season and maintain that temperature at a lower cost through the middle of the season with the heat pump. The Pentair Ultra Temp ETi Hybrid Heater is the first pool heater to combine a heat pump and a gas fired heater. This heater provides outstanding efficiency.
93% thermal efficiency gas engine that is coupled with a high-performance heat pump. Onboard intelligence creates great energy efficiency and the Titan Tough Direct Fire-Pure Titanium gas heat exchanger ensures corrosion free performance with a long lasting life.
This is the only downside. This heating beast is expensive. The cost runs from $9,000.00 to $11,000.00 based on the model.
Since installing this heater requires a very large and thicker concrete pad than traditional pool heaters we recommend installing this with your pool. The Hybrid Pool Heater will require Natural Gas and Electrical service for it to run. You can anticipate spending $5-6,000.00 to have this beast hooked up.
Again, with Pool Heaters there really is very little maintenance other than keeping it free of debris and balancing your pools water chemistry.
SOLAR POOL HEATING
Solar Heating of your pool may be a great option. It takes the perfect setting for this to work properly as the main heating source for any pool. If you can take advantage of free heat from the sun why not. The down side is that this is what's called a passive heating source. Meaning that it doesn't work. Cloudy days, cold winds and running water through your solar panel at night will drastically reduce the water temperature in your pool. Which is why @ Pool Pros we would recommend a solar system as secondary option to a natural gas or propane pool heater. A solar pool heater works on the premise that as water flows through a large black solar panel, the heat from the sun is transferred into the water that flows through the panel then back into the pool.
With a solar heating system you need to run water through the solar panel only at peak hours of sunlight. If you allow water to flow through the system when the panels are not warmer then the watr in th epool it will actulayy suck the heat out of the pool acting as a cooler not a heater. The best way to achieve this is thorugh a series of bypas valves and actuator with sensors that detect when the solar panel temp reaches a certain level which will then open valves and allow for the water to flow into the solar panels in turn absorbing the free heat from the sun. When the panel begins to cool as the day wears on the temperature probes will detect this and close off the panels to prevent loss of heat.
The solar heater is the least efficient of all types of heaters. The efficiency is based on one main variable and that is sunlight. The more sunlight for the most hours of the day lead to better efficiency. We have had several clients that have had amazing results and other have had mediocre results with solar pool heater performance. It really takes the perfect location to get optimal performance out of a solar pool heating system. Pool Pump Speed can also have an effect on efficiency as well. If the water flows throw the panels too quickly it will not absorb the heat from the sun as it should. So the use of a variable speed pump is critical to find that sweet spot to optimize heat transfer.
A Solar Pool Heating System can range from $6,000.00 - $12,000.00 based on the number of panels and installation location. i.e Roof, Rack, of laid out flat in the yard.
To install a solar pool heating system it will roughly cost $4,000.00 to $6,000.00 based on a few variables like panel location, automation, etc.
A Solar Pool Heating System has the most amount of maintenance of any pool heater type. To obtain optimal performance of a Solar Pool System it needs to be monitored very closely. Especially if no automation is installed on the system. If not you will reduce the potential output.
Geo thermal pool heating is a trend that has been slowly catching on for the last 10 years or so. A Geothermal Pool Heating system is simply attaching a heat exchanger in the loop for the homes geothermal system and tapping into it.
Having a dedicated geothermal system for a pool heater is just not feasible yet. A geothermal field is a large system that has coils that are buried underground and extract heat from the ground and transfer it to the home and from there to the pool. Geothermal heating is similar to solar in that it helps improve performance if you have a variable speed pool pump to help find that sweet spot pump speed were you are getting optimal heat transfer to the pool water.
A Geothermal Pool Heating System is typically just a few thousand dollar ad on to an existing Geothermal Heating System for your home and costs around $2,500.00
If you are installing a hole new geothermal system you can expect to sepnd $50,000.00. If you are just adding to an existing system you can expect spend around $2,500.00.
Once a Geothermal system is installed there is little to no maintenance required.
MORAL OF THE STORY
As you can see there are 4 Pool Heating options that may be beneficial to your swimming pool project. The Ultimate Pool Heating option for us at Pool Pros is the Hybrid Pool Heater that can heat your pool quickly and can heat it affordably throughout the season. It is the best of both worlds. Do a little more research and see which option is best for you and your new swimming pool.