How To Heat A Pool – The Ultimate Guide On Heating Your Pool

Last Updated on October 19, 2021

The pool season is coming to an end, but that does not necessarily mean you have to stop enjoying your swimming pool. One way to extend the fun is by simply learning how to heat a pool and knowing how you can utilize various heating products to keep your pool water warm.

Heating a pool will give you the ability to use your pool even after the summer season ends without the need to worry about swimming in cold water. This helps prolong your pool season by weeks or even months into late fall and you may even get the chance to open your pool early right after the winter season ends.

With the recent developments among pool equipment, there are now many different ways you can heat your outdoor swimming pool that includes using a pool heat pump, installing a pool water heater, putting on a solar cover or solar rings, or through a solar-powered pool heating system.

Choosing The Best Pool Heater To Use

Your pool heating requirements highly depends on four factors.

  • Swimming pool’s overall size
  • Pool’s location
  • Materials and equipment on your pool
  • Target water temperature

For those looking to heat a kiddie pool, it’s possible for you to just use an affordable solar cover or low-powered heat pool pump. Of course, this still depends on where you are located, since being in an area that has colder temperatures will force you to use a more powerful pool heater.

Meanwhile, for those with large above ground pools, a combination of pool solar cover or rings and a bigger pool heater connected to your pool pump might be necessary to keep your water warm.

In-ground pool owners who want to enjoy their pool during chilly fall months have the choice of using either a heat pump, gas pool heater, or solar heater.

You also have to answer the following question when choosing the best pool heater for your swimming pool.

What’s your ideal water temperature?

Some heating products can only heat your pool by a few degrees, so it’s best to know how much heat you will need first before making your selection. If you want a 86° F water, while the air temperature is below 60° F, you will need to get a larger heater to overcome the heat loss.

How often will you need to heat your pool?

You also have to consider the times you want to run your pool heater. During colder months, some heat pumps may struggle to generate enough heat to warm your pool. They might be great during warmer months, but when the daily temperature in your area is below 60° F, using a gas pool heater might be a better option for you.

How fast do you want to heat your pool water?

Not all pool heaters and pumps are created equal. Some pool heaters can warm your water and add 1 to 3° F per hour to your pool. While pool heat pumps might need a full day to raise your pool water temperature by at least 1 to 3° F.

Do you have a saltwater pool?

Heat pumps that have copper heat exchangers are not recommended to be used on saltwater pools. You need a heater that’s equipped with a cupro-nickel heat exchanger that’s corrosion-resistant and is more durable when used on saltwater settings.

Will you be using a solar pool cover?

Heating a pool without a solar pool cover may require you to get a more powerful pool heater just to keep your water warm. This means getting a pool heater one or two sizes larger than what is necessary for your pool size.

Our Recommended Pool Heating Equipment

Solar Covers
labworkauto Solar Pool Cover Round,Oval Rectangle Swimming Pool Solar Blanket Cover PE Blue 12mil,10x15
Pool Heat Pumps
FibroPool FH120 Above Ground Swimming Pool Heat Pump
Gas Pool Heaters
Hayward W3H200FDN Universal H-Series 200,000 BTU Natural Gas Pool and Spa Heater for In-Ground Pools and Spas
Solar Heaters
SunHeater Pool Heating System Two 2’ x 20’ Panels – Solar Heater for Inground and Aboveground Made of Durable Polypropylene, Raises Temperature, 6-10°F, S240U
Best For Any Pool Type
Best For Above Ground Pools
Best For Inground Pools
Best For Any Pool Type
Easy to use, Affordable, and Eco-Friendly
Durable, Low-Noise, and Reliable
Fast Heating, Long-Lasting, And Great For Cold Regions
Cost-Effective, Flexible, And Efficient
Installation Cost: $50 to $150
Installation Cost: $1800 to $4000
Installation Cost: $2000 to $3000
Installation Cost: $250 to $3,000
Low Maintenance
Low Maintenance
High Maintenance
Low Maintenance
Solar Covers
labworkauto Solar Pool Cover Round,Oval Rectangle Swimming Pool Solar Blanket Cover PE Blue 12mil,10x15
Best For Any Pool Type
Easy to use, Affordable, and Eco-Friendly
Installation Cost: $50 to $150
Low Maintenance
Pool Heat Pumps
FibroPool FH120 Above Ground Swimming Pool Heat Pump
Best For Above Ground Pools
Durable, Low-Noise, and Reliable
Installation Cost: $1800 to $4000
Low Maintenance
Gas Pool Heaters
Hayward W3H200FDN Universal H-Series 200,000 BTU Natural Gas Pool and Spa Heater for In-Ground Pools and Spas
Best For Inground Pools
Fast Heating, Long-Lasting, And Great For Cold Regions
Installation Cost: $2000 to $3000
High Maintenance
Solar Heaters
SunHeater Pool Heating System Two 2’ x 20’ Panels – Solar Heater for Inground and Aboveground Made of Durable Polypropylene, Raises Temperature, 6-10°F, S240U
Best For Any Pool Type
Cost-Effective, Flexible, And Efficient
Installation Cost: $250 to $3,000
Low Maintenance

Guide On How To Heat An Above Ground Pool

When it comes to heating an above ground pool, you will need either a properly-sized pool heater or a good pool heat pump. But if you want a more affordable way to heat a pool, you can always go with a solar-powered pool heating system.

Pool Heat Pumps

Using a pool heat pump to heat an above ground pool is best for those who are looking for the easiest installation.

You can either do it yourself or if things get too complicated you can always call a pool professional to do it for you.

Heat pumps work through thermal transfer which allows you to warm your pool water. However, since they heavily rely on the surrounding temperatures, they may not be that effective if used when the outside air temperature drops below 50° F.

FibroPool FH 220 Swimming Pool Heater Heat Pump
  • 4.85 COP. Best in its class
  • 20,000 Btu/Hr heating capacity
  • Suitable for pools up to 7,500 gallons in coastal climates
  • Suitable for ALL Hot Tubs

To heat an above ground pool using a pool heat pump, you will need to get at least 50,000 BTU for each 10,000 gallons. For a 15,000 gallon above ground pool, you’ll have to purchase a 75,000 BTU pool heat pump.

Gas Pool Heaters

Gas pool heaters are recommended to those pool owners who want to reach their desired pool water temperature at the fastest possible time.

Unlike pool heat pumps, gas pool heaters can work in any temperature even as the ambient temperature drops below 50° F.

Using a gas pool heater to heat your above ground pool will require either a propane or natural gas source. You will also need an electric source and a gas line to make everything work. For this reason, we advise that you let a professional do the installation for you.

Hayward W3H150FDP Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU Propane Pool and Spa Heater for In-Ground Pools and Spas
  • BEST FOR: In-ground pools and spas with a surface area up to 400 ft. where natural gas is available. Its low environmental impact makes it ideal for pools and spas located where low-NOx emissions are...
  • PREMIUM PERFORMANCE: The Hayward Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU Propane Heater delivers premium heating performance for years of reliable, long-lasting comfort.
  • CORROSION PROTECTION: The Universal H-Series boasts exceptional protection against corrosion and premature failure caused by unbalanced water chemistry.
  • ENERGY SAVINGS: The efficient, industry-leading design reduces circulation pump run time to provide energy savings.

For pool owners with an above ground pool of up to 10,000 gallons, a 100,000 BTU pool heat pump is recommended. Meanwhile, for those with pools up to 20,000 gallons, the best pool heat pump should have at least 150,000 BTU.

Solar-powered Heaters

A good alternative to those looking to save money on pool heating costs is getting a solar-powered pool heater. Similar to solar covers and blankets, a solar-powered heating system harness the free power provided by the sun to heat your swimming pool.

Instead of taking space on your swimming area, solar-powered heaters are installed in-line with your water circulation system.

This allows the heat coming from the sun to warm up the coils of your solar panels and these help heat the water before your pool water is returned to your above ground pool.

The main drawback of using a solar-powered pool heating system is it’s highly dependent on having a sunny weather. During cloudy or rainy days, it might be too impossible for you to reach your desired pool water temperature.

SunHeater Pool Heating System Two 2’ x 20’ Panels – Solar Heater for Inground and Aboveground Made of Durable Polypropylene, Raises Temperature, 6-10°F, S240U
  • SOLAR POOL HEATER – The SunHeater Solar Pool Heating System allows you to capture free heat from the sun’s rays to effectively raise your pool water temperature. It’s an efficient and...
  • EXTENDS POOL SEASON – Your pool’s pump pushes the water through the panel’s many tubes where it’s warmed by the sun and then returned into the pool. This system can raise the water temperature...
  • EASY TO INSTALL – This pool solar heater uses your existing filtration system and has 4 end caps, 2 elbows for flex hose connection, 6 stainless steel hose clamps, 1 roll of Teflon tape, and rubber...
  • TUBE ON WEB DESIGN – The tube-web-tube design allows the SunHeater to capture the most sun possible, maximizing square footage. It offers rigid flexibility, allowing panels to expand and contract...

Having a solar-powered heater installed for you above ground pool will cost you about $250 to $1,000 depending on how many solar panels you need.

The recommended number of solar panels is 50% of your pool surface area. However, this can be increased depending on your preference and budget.

Just keep in mind that the more panels you have, the greater the amount of heat you can add to your pool water.

Our Recommended Setup To Heat Above Ground Pools

The best way of heating an above ground pool is by having a reliable gas pool heater installed along with a good solar cover that can keep your pool water warm even when the heater is shut off. Having a solar cover can help lessen the number of hours you have to run your gas pool heater and this significantly reduces your energy costs.

Purchasing a brand new natural or propane gas heaters cost less than pool heat pumps and may set you back about $2 to $5 per day to run depending on your pool size and usage.

Guide On How To Heat A Kiddie Pool

Most kiddie pools are like your typical above ground pools, but are way smaller and can only accommodate about 300 gallons of water at most.

A good example is the Beach Wave Swim Center Pool manufactured by one of the most trusted above ground pool brands, Intex. It can fit up to 330 gallons of water that needs about 56 square feet of ground space.

To heat a kiddie pool is much more affordable than any other pool type and can be done without consulting a pool professional. Due to the size of most kiddie pools, the usage of pool heat pumps and pool heaters is not recommended.

Water Heater And Garden Hoses

Flexzilla HFZG550YW Garden Lead-In Hose 5/8 In. x 50 ft, Heavy Duty, Lightweight, Drinking Water Safe
  • Leading Manufacturer Of High-Quality Products
  • International Renown For Our Diverse Range Of Award-Winning Products
  • Fully Equipped With State-Of-The-Art Technology
  • All Products Have Been Designed With The Professional In Mind

Since kiddie pools don’t need much water, you can utilize an outdoor or indoor water supply that has both hot and cold water.

You just have to find the right fitting for your hoses and faucets, and start adding both hot and cold water to your pool at the same time until your ideal temperature is achieved.

Tip: Using a black garden hose that is exposed to direct sunlight is a simple way to heat the water before it enters your pool.

Solar Covers

In The Swim 28 Foot Round Premium Pool Solar Blanket Cover 12 Mil
  • Raises water temperature up to 8-10 degrees in approximately 5-7 days of consistent sunlight
  • Reduces your water evaporation and chemical loss to save you money
  • Reduces heat loss and minimizes the amount of debris that can get in the water
  • Extends the swimming season by maintaining a comfortable swimming temperature in the pool

Solar covers are not that effective in heating your water, but they are needed to keep your water warm for a long time.

If you can set up your pool in an area where direct sunlight can hit it during the day, then having a solar cover to harness solar energy can help keep your pool water warm until you’re ready to use it in the afternoon or during the night.

Solar Rings

Sun Ring Water Anchor Plain Circular Solar Cover
  • ABSORBS SUNLIGHT: Solar cover uses sunlight to heat the pool throughout the day
  • RETAINS HEAT: Thermal blanket effect helps the water retain heat during the night
  • REDUCES WATER EVAPORATION: Helps reduce evaporation of water and chemicals
  • EASY TO USE: Rings easily break apart to prevent tie-ups in accidental falls

Solar rings are similar to solar covers except they come in smaller sizes and using them on a kiddie pool is fairly easy. You just need to find out how many solar rings you need to use on your kiddie pool and let them float on your pool for most of the day.

They’re a very economical and environmentally friendly alternative for heating a kiddie pool.

Our Recommended Setup To Heat Kiddie Pools

Having a good water heater at home is a must-have for you to have a warm pool water fast.

Since kiddie pools are fairly easy to set up and move around, we advise that you set it up on a place that has good sun exposure and utilize either solar rings or a solar cover to keep the pool warm.

If you haven’t decided yet on which kiddie pool to purchase, you should check out our kiddie pool buying guide.

Guide On How To Heat An Inground Pool

For this section, we’re going to tell you how you can efficiently heat your inground pool to better reduce your pool heating expenses.

Inground pools tend to have more water to heat than above ground pools, so they will need heaters with more BTUs. And most of these heaters are known to be expensive to set up and operate.

Of course, the cost can still be affected by your pool usage, your heating preference, the pool’s current location, and your chosen heating system’s efficiency.

Heat Pumps

We recommend pool heat pumps to only be used by pool owners who are residing in areas with a mild and sunny climate since this equipment heavily relies on the ambient temperature surrounding your inground pool.

The warmer the air in your pool area, the less time you need to run your pool heat pump. The main drawback of using heat pumps to heat an inground pool besides its limitation of being used on areas that experience temperatures lower than 50° F is that its high initial cost.

A good heat pump for your inground pool can cost you upwards of $2,500.

However, when properly maintained, most pool heaters have an excellent lifespan of 10 to 20 years, and does not cost much to operate compared to gas pool heaters.

FibroPool FH120 Above Ground Swimming Pool Heat Pump
  • 120 Volt, 60Hz, 10A draw
  • Built in 8 foot long power cable with standard USA plug
  • Suitable for pools up to 7500 gallons in coastal climates
  • Plug into an GFCI protected outlet

Inground pools that have up to 20,000 gallons need a heat pump with at least 95,000 BTU. While 120,000 BTU heat pump is recommended for those pool with up to 30,000 gallons of water. Pool owners who have pools in between 30,000 to 40,000 gallons will need at least a 150,000 BTU heat pump to properly warm up their pool water.

Gas-Powered Pool Heaters

As we’ve mentioned already, gas pool heaters usually comes in either propane or natural gas. For this reason, having a natural gas hook-up or a propane storage tank is required before you can start using one of these pool heaters. Here are our best tankless pool heaters that we’ve reviewed.

Gas pool heaters for inground pools offer the fastest heat gain among other heating equipment and can easily increase your water temperature by 3° F to 5° F within an hour.

These are best used by those living in areas that experience temperatures of less than 50° F and for those pool owners who use their pools occasionally and in short periods but still want to swim in warm water each time.

The main disadvantage of using gas pool heaters is that they can be very expensive to operate and can cost you between $150 to $500 each month to operate depending on your pool size and your usage rate.

Hayward H250FDN Universal H-Series 250,000 BTU Pool and Spa Heater, Natural Gas, Low Nox
  • Standard Cupro nickel heat exchanger for superior value and reliability
  • Patented polymer header and bypass valve design for the ultimate in hydraulic efficiency and reliability
  • Hayward Universal design for easy and versatile professional installation
  • Environmentally responsible low NOx emissions to meet or exceed air quality emission standards in all Low NOx regions

Inground pool owners need about 100,000 BTU for every 10,000 gallons of water. For those in colder areas or those who don’t plan on using a solar cover, getting a gas pool heater that is one size larger is advised.

Depending on the energy efficiency of your gas pool heater, it can have a high upfront cost compared to other pool heating method.

Solar Heaters

Solar heaters are an inexpensive way of heating an inground pool. Most solar-powered pool heating systems for inground pools are installed on the roof and are better mounted on a location that is facing south.

It’s also best to place it in an area where there will be no obstructions like trees or other structures that might shade your solar heater.

It’s recommended that you install your solar pool heating system on a section of your roof that can get at least 6 hours of unobstructed sun daily. Solar pool heaters rely on the sun to heat your pool water and can be ineffective during cloudy or rainy days.

Also, they don’t work at all during the night, so it’s recommended that you use a solar cover to maintain the warmth of your pool water if you’re planning to do any night swimming.

Smart Pool S601 Inground Pool Solar Heating System, Includes Two 2’ x 20’ Panels (80 sq. ft.) – Made of Durable Polypropylene, Raises Temperature Up to 15°F – S601P, Pack of 1, Black
  • Keep your pool warm with a polypropylene heat collector. Direct Flow System - One Header Hole for Each Heating Tube
  • Solar heater features 80 square feet of solar panels
  • Pool accessory is perfect for heating any in-ground swimming pool
  • Panel array measures 4 feet wide x 20 feet long. Raises Pool Water Temperature 6-10°F (4-6°C)

When it comes to determining the right number of solar heating panels to use for your solar-powered pool heating system, you need to consider the size of your pool surface area. If you have a 30 feet by 50 feet inground pool, then you will need about 750 square feet of solar panel surface area.

For pool owners living in windy areas or are known typhoon areas, it’s suggested that you also install a hurricane mounting kit to protect your hardware.

Our Recommended Setup To Heat Inground Pools

As you may already know, gas pool heaters are still the best equipment you can use to increase your pool temperature. They are the only equipment that can heat your pool to your desired temperature within a couple of hours and they can be easily used by pool owners who are living in colder regions.

We recommend getting a properly-sized gas pool heater and a solar cover or blanket to help maintain the warmth of your pool water. Utilizing a solar cover will lessen the time you have to operate your gas pool heater and will often lead to big savings on your energy bill.

Frequently Asked Questions About Swimming Pool Heaters

How long do pool heaters last?

Heaters that are set up properly and that are maintained well can last for up to 10 years. However, it is not that surprising to see a pool heater only last for few pool seasons due to chemical damage or improper installation.

For this reason, we highly suggest consulting a pool professional if you’re unsure of how to set up a pool heater.

How long do pool heat pumps last?

Pool heat pumps are known to last for over a decade. Some can even work up to 20 years after they were installed as long as they are properly maintained.

With pool heat pumps, you have the option to only replace the motor if you notice any of these signs: noisy operation, pool water is not reaching your desired temperature, or the screeching of your pump’s front or rear bearings. No need for you to buy a new one as long as the damage or problem is repairable.

How long do solar pool heaters last?

Solar pool heaters can be used by pool owners for 15 to 25 years. Some can even be utilized for 30 years.

Depending on the brand, maintenance procedures done, and the location of your solar panels, you can prolong the lifespan of your solar-powered pool heating system for several years by simply doing proper installation and maintenance.

Are solar pool covers worth it?

Solar pool covers are definitely worth it! They are good at retaining heat and reducing humidity when used on any outdoor pool.

They are also very affordable and can help you save a lot of money on your energy costs in the long run.

Final Thoughts On How To Heat Pools

Heating any type of pool is pretty straightforward. You just need to find the right setup that fits your preference and budget.

For those who are living in colder climates, getting a reliable pool heater might be the only option for you.

Lucky are those pool owners who are in warmer climates as they can save more money by opting to use either a solar-powered pool heater or a pool heat pump.

Whatever pool heating equipment you decide to use, we still highly recommend that you also get a solar cover to help reduce your pool heating expenses.

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