A Buyer’s Comparison of Pool Heat Pumps and Gas Heaters
Most swimming pools are heated one of two ways: with an electric heat pump or a gas heater. Each heating system has its pros and cons, as you’ll read below.
In the simplest terms, an electric heat pump works by drawing in outside air and heating it up. The warmer the outside air, the hotter the water will be. Because of this, heat pumps are more common in warmer climates. When the temperature dips below 45 or 50 degrees, heat pumps start to become inefficient.
How Much Does a Swimming Pool Heat Pump Cost?
Electric heat pumps for in-ground pools cost anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 – significantly more than gas heaters. For above-ground pools they’re less expensive, ranging from about $1,700 to $2,500.
However, electric heat pumps cost less to operate, with annual costs averaging $800 to $1,000. If you keep the pool covered when it is not being used, you can cut the operating cost in half.
Choosing an An Electric Heat Pump
Size is one of the most important considerations in choosing an electric heat pump. Pool heat pumps are generally categorized by horsepower (hp) and British thermal unit (Btu) output. Standard sizes include 3.5 hp/75,000 Btu, 5 hp/100,000 Btu and 6 hp/125,000 Btu. If you’re unsure of what size to buy, consult a professional.
Efficiency is equally important, but it can be difficult to measure. Heat pump efficiency is measured by coefficient of performance (COP), which ranges from 3 to 7, with higher numbers meaning more efficiency. However, different manufacturers use different methods of rating COP. Pay attention to the efficiency rating, but never choose on that alone. Read product reviews to find out how the heat pump actually measures up.
Swimming Pool Heat Pump Pros
- Cheaper to operate – You’ll spend several hundred less per year in energy costs with an electric heat pump. They’re also cheaper to maintain and repair than gas heaters.
- Longer lifespan – Many electric heat pumps last up to 10 years. The lifespan of gas heater is about half that.
- Can run 24/7 – Because electric heat pumps are energy efficient, you can leave them on all the time without breaking the bank. Using a gas heater constantly would get pricey.
Swimming Pool Heat Pump Cons
- More expensive upfront – Electric heat pumps cost about twice as much upfront as gas heaters.
- Not ideal for cold climates – Electric heat pumps need an average temperature of 45 degrees or higher in order to operate efficiently, so they’re not ideal for cold climates unless they’re only used in the summer months.
Swimming Pool Gas Heater Overview
Gas pool heaters are powered using natural gas or propane. They are more popular than electric heat pumps, despite being less efficient, because they heat quickly and cost less upfront. Gas heaters are particularly popular in cold climates, where they can greatly extend the swimming season.
In order to use a gas heater, you’ll need to have a gas line running to your home. However, having a gas line installed simply for the purpose of connecting it to a pool heater doesn’t make financial sense for most people.
How Much Does a Swimming Pool Gas Heater Cost?
Gas heaters generally cost about $1,000 to $2,500. Operating costs run about $1,000 to $1,500 per year, assuming the heater is used several times per week but is not left running all the time.
Choosing a Gas Heater
Size and efficiency are the most important considerations for gas heaters, too. Size is measured in BTUs ranging from 75,000 to 450,000. As with electric heat pumps, consult a professional if you’re unsure of what size to buy.
Efficiency is easier to measure with gas heaters because manufacturers use a standard measurement based on BTU output. Most modern gas heaters have an efficiency rating of 80 percent or higher, which means 20 percent of the fuel is wasted. High-efficiency models have ratings of 90 to 95 percent.
Swimming Pool Gas Heater Pros
- Upfront cost – Gas heaters are much cheaper upfront.
- Heats up fast – Gas heaters warm up quickly. Because of this, you only need to run them when you want to use the pool. Electric heat pumps need to be running all the time because they take longer to heat up.
- Suitable for all climates – Gas heaters can be used even in cold, harsh climates to extend the swimming season.
Swimming Pool Gas Heater Cons
- Cost to operate – Gas heaters are not as energy efficient as electric heat pumps, so they cost more to operate.
- Expensive to repair – Gas heaters have more parts and components that are susceptible to failure, so they’re more expensive to repair. They also tend to break down more often.