The ability to heat a swimming pool drastically expands the seasons in which you can use a pool, especially in areas that aren’t warm year-round. Many of our pool owners will start swimming well before Memorial Day and long after Labor Day, sometimes putting off closing their pools until October or November. And for those who have spas, many will opt to heat these all winter long.

So what are the best options for heating your outdoor water features? There are a few different types of heating systems available for custom swimming pools and spas. Each one has unique characteristics that may make it the best option for your setup. Let’s take a closer look at the three main options and the pros and cons to consider for each.

Electric Heat Pump

In a typical installation, this style of heater is utilized for its ability to maintain a desired temperature in your swimming pool and extend the usable season of your pool. This is NOT a quick, “on-demand” heating system, it requires a little bit more forethought and planning to work efficiently.

The heat exchanger in the heat pump “pulls” heat from the outside air temperature and transfers it to your pool water. The warmer it is outside, the quicker your pool water can get up to temperature. For this reason, it is not the best choice if you want 84 degree pool water when it is 50 degrees outside! It is also not a good solution to heat up a spa that may be designed as part of your pool project.

Clients often look for spa water temperatures in the 98 – 104 degree range. A heat pump will not do the job. However, most of our clients are only looking to gain an additional month of swimming early in the season (May) and a month on the back end of the season (September/October). A heat pump is a great way to get consistent pool temperatures of 82 – 84 degrees during those months.

The energy efficiency of the heat pump comes from slowly warming the water up. It will take a few days for the heat pump system to get your water up to those temperatures…so plan accordingly. There are also times during the hottest parts of the summer when your pool starts to become too warm to be refreshing. Heat pumps can now be installed to actually help keep your pool cooler! Be sure to ask your pool professional if this may be an option worth exploring.

Gas Heaters (Natural Gas or Propane)

If natural gas is available and installed at your home, you will be able to connect a heater to your gas meter to take advantage of what is already available to you. If natural gas is not an option at your residence, you can purchase or rent a propane tank to supply the fuel necessary to install a gas burning heater.

Both natural gas and propane heaters come with a couple of installation options and challenges that need to be considered. For natural gas applications, the pool heater that is being installed has certain requirements for the volume and pressure of gas needed to operate the heater correctly. Your pool professional will need to coordinate with a plumber who is certified to install gas lines and hook ups to make sure that the system installed on your residence will meet these requirements.

There may be instances where the size of your gas meter or supply lines need to be upgraded to meet these requirements. For propane gas installations, you need to have a tank that supplies the gas to your heater. If you do not already have one or need a larger one, you can sit a tank above ground or choose to bury your tank. With either option, your tank needs to be within 100 feet of an area for a gas tanker truck to park and refill your tank as needed. So consider this as you are designing your project.

Unlike Electric Heat Pump pool heaters, gas heaters are designed to quickly heat up your pool or spa and have the ability to get water temperatures up to 104 degrees. For that reason, if a built in spa is part of your project design a gas heater is your ticket. The gas heater has a dual thermostat, so it can be utilized to heat both the pool and the spa. You can set the pool temperature to 84, but when you feel like slipping into the spa for some relaxation you can boost the spa temperature up to 102 with the same heater. This heater selection is better for that on-demand, “having a pool party this weekend” type of customer. If you use it as a consistent pool heater, you will burn through gas quickly! Be prepared for some hefty gas bills if you have a larger swimming pool.

Solar or Geothermal Heating Systems

These systems are a little less common in the Northeast part of the country, but are available options. These two types of installation will require coordination between your pool contractor and a professional contractor that specializes in that particular system. There are many different options available to consumers on solar heating systems, it is just a matter of finding what works for you.

Geothermal systems are typically installed with a new home being built where a geothermal heating source is already being planned for. One thing is for sure though, these systems work and are environmentally friendly!

Dual Heat Systems

Here is where we can get creative! We can combine any of these options to get a pool heating system that is truly custom. For example: If you have a pool and spa combination, we can install an electric heat pump to consistently keep both bodies of water at 84 degrees and also install a gas heater just for the spa to “boost” the heat up to 104. You could also supplement these heaters with a solar or geothermal system to further customize your options.

The most important takeaway is that you have options! Technology is constantly growing and improving, so be sure to seek the advice of an experienced pool company who understands what’s available on the market, and can present you with the best options for your pool project. With the investment you’re making in your pool, you want to be sure you get exactly what you want – and that you have a pool that is comfortably and functional for your lifestyle.

If you have additional questions about the right heating system for your pool or spa, contact Aquavisions today and we can help you!