How to Heat Your Pool: Solar Covers, Solar Heaters, Heat Pumps, and Heaters

We know you love swimming. We do too! Which is why we sympathize with that moment when you finally admit that pool season is coming to an end. The water is just too cold to justify another afternoon in the pool.

It doesn’t have to be that way! There are a few different options to extend your pool season. Whether you just need to reduce heat loss to maintain a few degrees, or significantly increase the pool temperature, we can help!

How to heat your pool

Your options:

Solar Cover

The first and cheapest option is a cover for your pool. solar-cover-applicationUsing a pool cover helps your pool retain heat and significantly reduces evaporation. A solar cover is highly recommended, whether or not you are using anything else to heat your pool. It is, hands down, the most bang for your buck when it comes to keeping your pool warm.

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Tip: A clear solar cover will allow more sun (and heat) to penetrate into the pool, but will also allow UV rays through (which will burn-off FC). A solid-colored cover will not let as much heat into your pool, but will better protect your FC from burning off.

Solar Heater

A solar heater, as the name implies, is a mechanism that uses heat from the sun to warm up your pool water. Thin tubes, often made of black plastic, are arranged in either a coil or grid formation. Water is pumped through the solar tubing, and the sun’s heat warms it up.

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pool solar heating
The more sun exposure and surface area your solar heater has, the better it will be at warming your water. It is very important to use a solar cover in addition to a solar heater. Since you are limited to a certain number of sunlight hours in a day, you need to prevent as much heat-loss as you can.
Tip: The efficiency of a solar heater is dramatically reduced by wind. If you live in a particularly windy area, you might want to consider a different alternative for heating your pool.

Heat Pump

A heat pump is another great alternative to keeping your pool water warm. A heat pump draws in outside air, and converts that air into heat for your pool. For this reason, heat pumps are most effective when the ambient temperatures outside are hot. In fact, the air temperature needs to be at least 45 degrees (Fahrenheit) for the heat pump to work at all. If you live in an area that gets colder than that, you should look at other options. Of course, the hotter air temperature, the better a heat pump will work for you!

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pool heat pumps
Curious about what size heat pump you should buy for your pool? The equation below shows how to size a heat pump.

length x width x desired temperature rise x 12 = Required BTU

Example 20 x 40 x 20 x 12 = 192K BTU

Although a heat pump will require a bigger up-front investment (when compared to the cost of a heater), the operating costs relatively low. A heat pump uses half the amount of gas for equivalent BTU as a pool heater, and about one quarter of the electricity. So if you plan to heat your pool often, the higher up-front cost of a heat pump will be subsidized by lower operating costs.

Pool Heaters

A pool heater uses electricity to create a flame, then burns either natural gas or propane to heat your pool. With a properly sized heater, this is the fastest way to heat your pool water. Best of all, a pool heater can be used in all climates and temperatures!
hayward pool heater
Tip: A 400k BTU heater will use twice as gas as a 200k BTU heater, but also heat your water twice as fast. So at the end of the day, you are using the same amount of gas to reach the desired pool temperature (a bigger heater just gets you there faster).

So what size heater do you need for your pool? Well, the bigger the better, but if you want to know the minimum BTU size (which will raise your pool temp one degree per hour) you can use this equation:

(Gallons + 10%) X 10 = BTU needed to raise temp 1 degree per hour

Example: (30,000 + 10%) x 10 = 330K BTU


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Still can’t decide which option is the best for your pool? Feel free to comment below, or email me directly at [email protected]!

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When Kevin’s not enjoying the water himself he’s engaging himself in the wide world of pool and spa knowledge which he passes on to our customers through producing content for our blogs and website. Outside of the pool world you can find him enjoying life with friends, family and his off the wall dog Brixton.