Heating your pool
There are several options available to heat your pool: solar, electric, gas and more. Which one is right for you? Read on to find out more:
In our area, heat pumps are the most popular pool heater - by far! Heat pumps take heat from the air and put it into the water. They operate similarly to a house's heat pump in reverse. These units are very efficient, costing approximately $700-800 per season to operate. The downside to heat pumps is that when it's cold outside, there's no heat available to take, so they aren't great early and late in the season. That is why most heat pumps get turned on around the end of May, once it gets a little warmer outside. Most people run their heat pumps from late May to mid September.
Electric heaters operate by heating a coil that the water passes over. On average, a heat pump is 3-5x more efficient than an electric heater. Most pool owners with electric heaters only heat the water on demand - i.e.: they're having a party Saturday, so they turn the electric heater on a few days before to get the pool up to temperature.
Gas Heaters - Propane or Natural Gas
Propane heaters are even more costly to operate than electric heaters. Again, most people use them for on demand heat.
Natural gas heaters are more efficient than propane or electric, but still not as good as a heat pump.
Gas heaters have three main benefits: they heat very quickly, they are equally efficient when it is warm or cold out (so they are good for early or late season use), they cost less up front than a heat pump.
Solar panels operate by pumping water through tiny black piping. The black piping attracts the sun (it's a good idea to place a solar panel in very sunny locations) and heats the water inside.
Solar pool heaters cost virtually nothing to operate!
The downside to solar panels is that their total output (especially in Canada) is comparatively low compared to the other options. You will certainly gain heat from a solar panel, but unlike the other styles, you won't be able to keep your pool at the temperature you want all the time.
Solar systems can also be used in addition to another heater, to reduce the cost of operation. Be sure to look at pay back periods though, as the savings can take years to add up to the cost of installing the system.
Geothermal heat operates by recirculating water into the ground and extracting the free heat within the Earth. Geothermal systems are becoming more popular in new energy efficient home construction. Most geothermal systems can't match a heat pump for efficiency (during the warmer months) so in many cases, we'd recommend a heat pump instead.
In all cases, it is important to discuss your pool heating needs with an expert. The person that likes to swim for exercise in late April will need a different heater than a person that just wants to add a couple degrees in July - a pool expert should be able to help you choose the best heater for your family and pool.
It is also important to remember that using a pool cover or liquid pool cover will make a tremendous difference in the efficiency and cost of heating the pool!