Above Ground Pool Heaters – Everything You Need To Know

Last Updated on October 27, 2020

Who said pool season has to end once the summer season concludes?

With an above ground pool heater, you can extend your swimming pool season beyond the end of summer and even open your swimming pool earlier than usual, maybe sometime in late spring.

Above ground pool heaters can also improve your overall pool environment especially for those who experience chill during summer nights.

Even those pool owners who reside in warmer climates can benefit in adding a new pool heater to their pools if they prefer using their above ground pools after sundown.

For this above ground pool heaters buying guide, we’re going to discuss the different types of pool heaters you can use and their pros and cons. We’ve also identified the best heater for each type so you’ll know your available options right away.

Our Top Picks At A Glance

Best Overall
Hayward W3H150FDP Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU Pool and Spa Heater, Propane
Best Value
Raypak 014784 PR156AENC 150000 BTU Natural Gas Heater
Most Energy-Efficient
SOLARPOOLSUPPLY High Performance Solar Pool Heater System Kit | Made in USA | 15-20 Year Life Expectancy - (4) 4' x 12' / 2" I.D. Header
Most Affordable
EcoSmart SMART POOL 18 Electric Tankless Pool Heater, 18kW, 240 Volt, 75 Amps with Self Modulating Technology
Pool Heater Type
Propane
Natural Gas
Solar
Electric
Best For...
Large above ground pools
Large above ground pools
Medium-sized pools
Small to medium-sized pools
Energy Consumption
Medium to High
Medium to High
None
High
Maintenance
High
High
Low
Low
-
-
-
Best Overall
Hayward W3H150FDP Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU Pool and Spa Heater, Propane
Pool Heater Type
Propane
Best For...
Large above ground pools
Energy Consumption
Medium to High
Maintenance
High
-
Best Value
Raypak 014784 PR156AENC 150000 BTU Natural Gas Heater
Pool Heater Type
Natural Gas
Best For...
Large above ground pools
Energy Consumption
Medium to High
Maintenance
High
-
Most Energy-Efficient
SOLARPOOLSUPPLY High Performance Solar Pool Heater System Kit | Made in USA | 15-20 Year Life Expectancy - (4) 4' x 12' / 2" I.D. Header
Pool Heater Type
Solar
Best For...
Medium-sized pools
Energy Consumption
None
Maintenance
Low
-
Most Affordable
EcoSmart SMART POOL 18 Electric Tankless Pool Heater, 18kW, 240 Volt, 75 Amps with Self Modulating Technology
Pool Heater Type
Electric
Best For...
Small to medium-sized pools
Energy Consumption
High
Maintenance
Low

Factors To Consider When Buying The Best Pool Heater For Your Above Ground Pool

As we’ve already mentioned, when it comes to selecting an above ground pool heater, there are dozens of options to choose from. You can have one installed permanently to help you heat your swimming pool or you can choose a pool heater that you can easily move around and store away if you don’t have to use it yet.

So how do you select the best pool heater for your above ground pool?

Pool size and available space

The first thing you should consider is the overall size of your pool area, this includes your above ground pool and the space where it’s currently on.

You should also factor in the shape of your swimming pool. There are pool heaters that can only be used on a specific pool shape or size. Determining the correct size will also save you money since this will allow you to get a pool heater with the correct amount of BTUs. Doing this will limit the overall run time and can reduce your energy costs.

There are also certain above ground pool heaters that need constant sunlight to properly work. Some may have a specific space requirement upon installation.

All of those can play a part in what pool heaters you can use for your above ground pool.

Heating Capability

Not all pool heaters can give out the same amount of heat that one specific type can. Some pool heaters are generally weaker at heating your pool and have a certain limitation on how much it can heat your pool water.

For example, solar-based models are generally weaker in heating your above ground pool compared to high-grade units powered by natural gas or propane.

Also, how efficient do you want your pool heater to be in terms of how long it takes to heat your pool to your desired temperature?

The higher the BTU, the faster and more efficient your pool heater can be in raising the temperature of your pool water.

Remember that properly determining how much heat you need will play an important part in which type of pool heater you should go with.

Installation and Maintenance Costs

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to consider how much you are willing to invest in your pool heater. Some of them come with zero added expense where all you have to spend on is the installation cost while others require regular maintenance to keep your equipment in tip-top shape.

Types of Above Ground Pool Heaters

Above ground pool heaters are widely available online and in most pool equipment stores near you, but what if this is your first time getting one?

With all these types of above ground pool heater, what’s the best heater to use in your swimming pool?

Propane Pool Heaters

Using a propane pool heater is one of the most effective ways to heat your pool water, and it’s highly capable of heating a pool in cold weather temperatures below 55°F.

Propane heaters have various heat output, in BTU’s, and most manufacturers offer models with 100,000 BTU up to 400,000 BTU, with many sizes in between. Above ground pool propane heaters are often in the 100,000 to 200,000 BTU range and are easy to size up depending on the amount of gallons that your pool can hold.

The larger your propane pool heater, the faster it can heat your pool water. But you have to make sure that you do not overcompensate too much since this type of pool heater can significantly increase the energy cost your entire pool setup.

Natural Gas Pool Heaters

The greatest advantage of natural gas pool heaters is that they can heat your pool in minutes depending on how large your pool is. Gas heat is ideal for those looking to heat their above ground pools as needed. Most natural gas pool heaters are environmentally-friendly and have added benefits of being reliable and energy-efficient.

Another benefit of using a gas pool heater is it performs well in any type of climate. It can heat your swimming pool even on the coldest of days when the pool season supposedly ends.

Similar to propane pool heaters, natural gas pool heaters must be sized up properly to avoid unnecessary spikes on your energy bill.

Solar Pool Heaters

Solar pool heaters are gaining popularity today because of their long lifespan and how they significantly reduce swimming pool heating costs.

The typical solar-powered pool heating system includes the following:

  • Solar collector – where the pool water is circulated to be heated by the sun
  • Flow control valve – a device either manual or automatic that diverts your pool water through the solar collector
  • Filter – helps remove the debris before the water is sent through the collector
  • Pump – circulates water through the collector and filter and back to the pool

A complete setup of a solar pool heater can cost anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000 depending on the materials you’re going to use, pool size, and your needed heating performance.

Depending on your local fuel costs, it may take up to 5 to 7 years before you get your initial investment back. The good news is solar pool heaters are designed to last more than a decade, and they last longer than any of the available gas and electric pool heaters today.

Electric Pool Heaters

An electric pool heater is another type of pool heater that brings water into a heating tank, then pumps the heated water back into the pool. This helps in effectively warming up your pool water, even when the weather is cold outside.

Electric pool heaters are far less expensive to buy and set up than solar or gas pool heaters. However, the use of an electric heater can cost you more than other pool heating methods, so it may be a good idea to moderate the use of your electric heater to save money.

Solar Heater Mats

Using a solar heater mat is a cost-effective way to heat your above ground swimming pool by utilizing the sun’s rays. Most solar mats are designed to work with any type of above ground pool filter pumps.

Unfortunately, using them on large-sized above ground pools is not recommended because they can only do so little when it comes to heating them to your desired temperatures.

Solar Blankets

Solar blankets are more of a complementary equipment in keeping your pool warm. But for those living in warmer climates, it can be all you need to heat your above ground pool.

A solar blanket traps the heat of the sun into your pool water. It can be a great add-on for those who want to efficiently heat their pool to save on energy costs. Solar covers can be combined with the other pool heaters already mentioned above to better maintain the warmth of your pool water.

Best Above Ground Pool Heaters This 2020

We’ve done our research when it comes to the different above ground pools available in the open market and we’re able to find the best for each type of pool heaters.

Best Propane Pool Heater: Hayward W3H150FDP Universal H-Series Propane Pool Heater

Hayward W3H150FDP Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU Pool and Spa Heater, Propane
  • The Hayward Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU Propane Heater delivers premium heating performance for years of reliable, long-lasting comfort
  • A durable cupro nickel heat exchanger offers exceptional protection against corrosion and premature failure caused by unbalanced water chemistry
  • Industry-leading hydraulic design reduces circulation pump run time to provide major energy savings
  • Front-panel-only access and intuitive control pad provide easy operation, service and maintenance

Hayward is one of the most respected brands in the pool industry and they provide some of the best above ground pool heaters today like this Hayward W3H150FDP Universal H-Series Pool Heater that utilizes propane to warm up your pool water.

This machine is equipped with a polymer header design that provides superior hydraulic performance to lessen energy costs. Its heat exchangers are also made of Cupro Nickel for greater durability and longevity. With these features, you can even use it to heat a saltwater above ground pool.

This propane pool heater has the following variants: 150,000 BTU perfect for pools up to 25,000 gallons, 200,000 BTU for pools up to 30,000 gallons, and 250,000 BTU for those swimming pools above 30,000 gallons.

Best Natural Gas Pool Heater: Raypak PR156AENC Natural Gas Pool Heater

Raypak 014784 PR156AENC 150000 BTU Natural Gas Heater
  • Polyester-Coated, non-corrosive external cabinet for added durability.
  • Doesn't require fans to combat drafting problems.
  • Polymer headers prevent rust stains on your pool or spa surface.
  • All-Copper-Fin-Tube Heat Exchanger. Made from a single piece of extruded copper.

The Raypak Natural Gas Pool Heater is made of a polyester-coated external cabinet, all-copper heat exchangers, and polymer headers for better durability and efficiency.

This natural gas pool heater has 150,000 BTU and is recommended for those with medium to large-sized swimming pools up to 25,0000 gallons.

Important Reminder: If you’re not that confident in installing your pool heater by yourself, you should ask a qualified pool professional to install it in your above ground pool. You can also ask for their assistance when performing complicated maintenance or repair tasks on your machine.

Best Solar Pool Heater: Solar Pool Supply Solar Pool Heating Kit

On Sale Now!
SOLARPOOLSUPPLY High Performance Solar Pool Heater System Kit | Made in USA | 15-20 Year Life Expectancy - (4) 4' x 12' / 2" I.D. Header
  • PREMIUM QUALITY: Manufactured from high-grade materials proven to last in all types of weather and withstand the harsh conditions of a rooftop for up to 15-20 years. Each panel is put up against more...
  • MANUFACTURED TO LAST: Made from precompounded polypropylene, significantly increasing the materials resistance to UV light and lengthening service life substantially. This manufacturing process...
  • HIGHEST PERFORMING DESIGN: Constructed in a tube-and-web design which allows for normal expansion and contraction as the panel heats and cools, extending service life. A direct, metered manifold...
  • ASSURANCE GUARANTEED: Each panel is guaranteed to be free from manufacturer defects, withstand the effects of freezing weather and will not fail from corrosion or scale deposits in the walls of its...

The Solar Pool Heater System Kit by Solar Pool Supply is made of high-grade materials designed to last all types of weather and withstand the harsh conditions on a rooftop for up to two decades.

Solar Pool Supply collectors have pre-compounded polypropylene that significantly increases its resistance to UV light. This eliminates the inherent quality issues that plague cheaply manufactured products and lets you use your solar pool heater for the longest possible time.

Now, if your pool needs 150 square feet, the manufacturer recommends that you get 150 to 300 square feet of solar panels. Systems in the 50% offset range can provide sufficient heat during the usual pool season for additional comfort. If you are looking to extend your pool season utilizing a solar pool heater, you will need a system in the 70% to 100% offset range.

Best Electric Pool Heater: EcoSmart Smart Pool Electric Tankless Pool Heater

EcoSmart SMART POOL 18 Electric Tankless Pool Heater, 18kW, 240 Volt, 75 Amps with Self Modulating Technology
  • Flow Activation
  • Ecosmart Pool Heaters are compact and easy to install for a new or existing pool
  • Set your temperature digitally to increments of 1-Degree. Set it and forget it.Required Wire:2 x 8 AWG
  • Compatible with Ecosmart Remote Control

This electric pool heater from EcoSmart is designed for above ground pools with 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of water. The EcoSmart Smart Pool Heater operates by utilizing the latest flow sensor technology instead of the traditional pressure switch activation. This helps reduce the risk of burned elements, which increases the overall functionality and reliability of this machine.

The Smart Pool heater comes with digital thermostat control so you can set the temperature exactly where you want it using the EcoSmart remote control.

Best Solar Heater Mat: Intex Solar Heater Mat for Above Ground Swimming Pool

Intex Solar Heater Mat for Above Ground Swimming Pool, 47in X 47in
  • Eco-friendly solar technology increases temperature of the pool water by approx. 3 ~ 5 DegreeC (5 ~ 9 DegreeF) depending on weather condition.
  • Simple hook up, compatible with filter pump up to 1/2 hp or pump flow rate < 2500 gal/hr (9463 L/hr).
  • Suitable for above ground pools up to 8000 gal (30,280L). 1m sq (11ft sq) surface to absorb sun's rays.
  • 1 ¼” (32mm) hose attachment points, includes 1 adaptor A and 1 adaptor B for 1 ½” hose connection.

If you have an Intex pool, then this Intex Solar Mat can help you achieve your desired water temperature in the most affordable way possible. The good thing about this solar heater mat is it can be utilized even by non-Intex pool owners, as long as the pool fits the floor area on this mat.

Unlike, gas, solar, and electric pool heaters, solar heater mats are very easy to set up. You don’t need to climb your roof or use any complex equipment to set it up, all you have to do is lay it out flat on your pool area and set your above ground pool above it.

Note: This pool heater mat can only support pools op to 8,000 gallons. If you have a larger above ground pool, we suggest using other heating options above.

Best Solar Blanket: Sun2Solar Clear Solar Cover

Sun2Solar Clear 12-Foot-by-28-Foot Rectangle Solar Cover Heat Retaining Blanket | 1600 Series with 6-Pack of Grommets Bundle | In-Ground and Above-Ground Rectangular Swimming Pools | Bubble-Side Down
  • EASIER TO MOVE - The included 6-pack of grommets are designed to allow water to pass through the solar cover when removing it from your swimming pool. This makes the blanket lighter to maneuver when...
  • JUMP INTO WARMTH - Show friends and family your bravery by jumping in without the standard toe dip. Enter the swimming pool confidently knowing the Sun2Solar solar cover worked all day keeping the...
  • SAVE ON HEATING COSTS - Sun2Solar clear solar blankets are made from a film of thousands of tiny bubbles, which work together to collect and retain heat in your pool at night and on those chilly days....
  • MINIMIZE WATER EVAPORATION - The use of a solar cover helps in preventing up to 95% of pool water evaporation. When not enjoying a refreshing swim, keeping your pool covered lessens the vast amount of...

The Sun2Solar Clear Solar Cover is designed to keep your pool warm while you’re not using it during the day. It also does a good job of preventing the evaporation of your pool water and keeping dirt out of your pool.

Sun2Solar clear solar blankets are made using films with thousands of tiny bubbles and they all work together to collect and retain heat in your pool. The air bubbles capture and transmit heat from the sun to your above ground pool to increase the temperature of your pool water.

Also, these solar blankers can fit all sorts of above ground pool sizes, all you have to do is grab a marker and a pair of scissors to cut it to your desired shape and size.

Final Thoughts About Pool Heaters For Above Ground Pools

As with most pool accessories and parts, your above ground pool heater should be carefully selected before adding it to your pool setup. Hopefully, this guide was able to help you decide which one best fits your needs.

Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. For solar pool heaters, they might be the most eco-friendly but they are not as powerful as gas pool heaters.

Meanwhile, electric pool heaters are affordable to acquire but may be too expensive for you to utilize in the long run.

Lastly are the gas pool heaters, as good as these heaters are they can be quite expensive for some pool owners. They can also be difficult to install and maintain if you haven’t used them before and may require you to ask for professional help.

Now, no matter which type you choose, make sure it can cover everything your pool needs. Remember that this is a major investment on your part and getting the right above ground pool heater can greatly improve your pool experience during the pool season and even after it ends.

FAQs About Above Ground Pool Heaters

Are solar heaters for above ground pools worth it?

You should only consider solar pool heaters if you can get a good amount of sunlight in your pool area. They are at their best when they can bask in sunlight for an extended period.

They might not be the most powerful pool heater for you above ground pool, but solar-powered pool heaters can still provide comfortable warmth during those chilly summer nights.

If you’re fine with those and paying high upfront costs for installation with little to no extra utility expenses, then this might be an option worth investing in.

How effective are those solar blankets in heating my pool?

A solar blanket or cover looks like a large sheet of bubble wrap. It’s an affordable way to heat your pool water by allowing more of the sun’s rays to enter it, while the air bubbles trap the pool’s heat during the night.

Solar blankets are not as effective as gas pool heaters but can still be a reliable tool if you can get enough sunlight in your pool area. We advise that you keep the cover on as much as possible between swims to maximize its heating capacity.

How long do pool heaters last?

Depending on the type of pool heater that you are using and how you maintain and balance your pool water, a pool heater’s lifespan can range anywhere between 3 and 12 years.

Solar pool heating panel system lasts between 10 and 15 years making them the most durable type of pool heater. Some companies offer warranties for their products exceeding a decade, meaning they are very confident in their solar pool heating panels.

Meanwhile, gas and electric pool heaters can last for 6 to 12 years with proper installation and maintenance. But it’s not that surprising to have one that only lasts for 3 years. This is why you should put heavy consideration on the brand and customer reviews before buying a gas or electric pool heater.

Solar blankets or covers will slowly deteriorate with continuous usage. You will need to replace it when you start seeing flakes and when the bubbles begin to fall off. A solar blanket can last for up to 3 years, but most pool owners replace them earlier than that.

What’s the best pool heater for large swimming pools?

Large above ground pools need more heat and a pool heater with high BTU. Both gas and electric pool heaters are recommended for large swimming pools.

For above ground pools above 25,000 gallons, it’s best if you can get a pool heater with at least 150,000 BTU.

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