So you finally lashed out and purchased your dream swimming pool just in time for summer. The temperature climbed and the pool was wonderful – for about two months – then the temperature dropped and the water temperature went with it. For the next eight to ten months you need a wetsuit to be able to use your beautiful, expensive and near-useless pool. Now you find you have spent somewhere from $25,000 to maybe $100,000 on something you can happily enjoy less than three months out of twelve. What’s the answer? Simple, install a pool heater.
For a cost of up to about $5,000 or so, you could be enjoying your swimming pool for a lot longer – even all year-round! Yes it’s true. With a bit of upfront thought you can extend your swimming season almost indefinitely and not at an exorbitant cost. The main thing is to find the right solution for your pool before you lash out with the dollars.
Pool heating systems can cost anywhere between a couple of hundred dollars for a do-it-yourself system to $5,000 plus (don’t forget installation costs). The more expensive systems are the better solar pool heaters which cost more initially but should pay for themselves well inside their lifetime as, of course, their running cost (besides maintenance) is zero.
Solar pool heaters are an obvious choice for many people. A good system properly installed should deliver free water heating with a minimum of maintenance for up to about twenty years. Combined with a controller, you can keep your pool water at a near-constant temperature over a longer period – perhaps 2 to 3 times your normal swim season. Naturally, they lose efficiency when the sun drops lower or the sky is heavily overcast. Also you need to be aware of objects such as trees or taller buildings casting shadows over the panels.
The most popular pool heating method by far is the gas pool heater. So long as your gas is piped to your home (natural gas) and not bottled gas (propane) the running cost is not too bad. Depending on your location, you would be looking at roughly $1,500 to $3,000 a year for gas to keep a 25′ by 40′ pool up around the 80 degrees F mark. Invest in a pool cover and this drops to about $400 to $600 – a pool cover should be number one on your list! A major advantage with a gas heater is it will work on demand all year – no matter if the temperature is 20 degrees below and the bird bath is a mini ice rink you will still be swimming! They are also quick to heat a pool – great if you don’t want to use it all the time. A gas pool heater will last up to about 10 years when properly maintained.
As far as efficiency goes, you cannot beat an electric heat pump. These work like your refrigerator in that they move heat from one place to another by compressing and expanding refrigerant gas. Same as an air conditioner only it takes heat from the air and uses a heat exchanger to put it in your pool water. This method is highly efficient and will cost less to run than a gas heater – using the same pool as the gas heater you are looking at roughly half the cost or $800 to $1,500 without a cover and about $125 to $300 if you are wise and use a pool cover. “Wow” you say “why doesn’t everyone have one?” – there’s a bit of a catch – as the outside air (where the heat pump picks up the heat) becomes colder the heat pump becomes less efficient. In fact, at about 45 degrees F they stop working. Not a problem if you don’t intend to use your pool in the colder weather but not great if you want to do your laps right through winter without turning blue. Unfortunately, heat pumps do not have a great lifespan – about 5 to 10 years with proper yearly maintenance.
Three less popular methods of pool heating are oil wood and electric immersion. Oil-fired heaters are a viable option if you are in a colder climate and don’t have access to gas. Like a gas heater they can operate all year- round and can heat a pool quickly. Their lack of popularity is due to the pollution aspect and higher running cost. Wood-fired heaters are very inefficient, very polluting and very time-consuming as they need constant stoking. Electric immersion heaters are another fast method of heating pool water but just watch your electricity meter spin – you could use it as a fan!
In conclusion, you can certainly have much better use of your swimming pool by investing in some form of pool heater. Sit down and do some homework to find out which method is going to you your budget, pool, usage pattern and geographic location best.