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Pool heaters may seem like a toy that only the rich can afford, but the fact of the matter is that anyone can get a great pool heater, and often for less money than they may think. However, it’s not always easy to shop for these great models online.
Some product’s descriptions are less than forthright. They leave out important, and sometimes critical, information that would show potential consumers that that model is wrong for them. That leads to situations where people get bad value for their money or end up with a model they can’t use.
Our reviews are designed to show you the good and the bad, so you end up with a product that you love. We’ve also included an extensive buyer’s guide so that you can learn to evaluate these products like an expert would, and get great value for your money when you’re ready to buy.
|Hayward H400FDN |
|Hayward HP21404T ||2 Years||4.7/5|
|EcoSmart SMART POOL |
|Hayward H100ID1||2 Years||4.2/5|
|Smartpool S601P||4 Years||3.9/5|
The Hayward H400FDN Universal Gas Pool Heater is a monster of a pool heater and one which will heat any-sided pool very quickly. It comes with a very efficient Cupro-Nickel heat exchanger. It boasts 83 percent efficiency when converting gas into warm water, making it one of the best pool heaters in that regard. The Cupro Nickel heat exchanger provides great durability, even if you have a salt pool, a pool that isn’t perfectly pH-balanced, or even those with high flow rates. That means it will last a very long time on a well-maintained pool but will boast surprising resilience even if you’re lax when it comes to maintenance.
It’s also a low NOx-certified machine, so if you live in a state or country which regulates the emissions of NOx, you’ll still be able to use this pool heater. The one problem we have with this model is with its control panel. It’s not built as well as the rest of the unit, and many users that it needs to be replaced every few years, which is an expensive pain in the butt. However, the heater itself works well enough to earn the position as the best pool heater on our list.
Another great Hayward model comes in second on our list. The Hayward HP21404T HeatPro Titanium is the model you want to get if you’re looking to heat a smaller pool. It’s a heat pump instead of a pool heater, which means it doesn’t pack the same punch as our top model, but it will do a great job with smaller pools. This model goes further with sound-dampening tech, including an acoustic compressor cover and a profiled fan blade, which dramatically cut down on the noise this model makes.
It also comes with a titanium heat exchanger, which will last a long time and provides efficient heat exchange. The evaporator fin is also made from corrosion-resistant materials, making this model a good choice for pools that are in a tropical or coastal region with a lot of salt in the air. The connectors to the waterline are also made from stainless steel, so they’ll hold up well in the same environments. Unfortunately, this model comes with a plastic shell, which means it’s not the most durable product on the market, but it still works well enough to earn the title of best electric pool heater.
The EcoSmart SMART POOL 27 Electric Pool Heater is the model you should get if you’re looking to get a great pool heater and save yourself some money along the way. You can get this model for about a third of what you’d pay for the top two models on our list, which earns this model the title of “best for the money” on our list. However, it’s not only a great deal because of the price. It comes with a lot of great features most homeowners will appreciate, including a tankless design, which heats just as quickly as other models but cuts down on the size significantly.
It’s also a good choice for people who want a second water heater to use to boost a larger water heater’s performance. That can save you some money and will put less wear on the larger water heater over time. The only downside to this model is that it’s a complex installation, and while most people should have their heaters professionally installed, that goes double for this model. However, the savings from this model’s low price are enough to mean that even after professional installation, it’s still a great deal. All in all, this is definitely one of the best pool heaters for the money.
The Hayward H100ID1 has some things going for it. If you’re looking to heat an above ground pool, it’s not a bad choice, since it requires a single 120-volt outlet to work. That makes installation super easy and means that it’s great for above-ground pools. It also comes with electronic ignition, so it will run well in cold weather, even though its primary heating source is propane or natural gas. It’s also certified to be Low NOx, which means it’s legal to use in areas that legislate the emission of that substance.
However, this model has some problems which cost it places on our list. It doesn’t have the best overall durability, and most people find that something critical breaks within just a few years of ownership. Likewise, this model comes with quality control issues. Screws are often loose, and occasionally extra work will be required to get this machine running, as parts were improperly installed at the factory and not checked before they were shipped out. But, if you’re looking to save some money and want to avoid hiring a professional for installation, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a more suitable model.
Solar pool heaters are a smart option for those with a little know-how who are looking to save a lot of money versus a gas or electric heater. The Smartpool S601P Inground Pool SunHeater uses sunlight to heat the water and consequently has a very low operating cost versus standard heaters. It operates by running water through a thin plastic bag which you typically mount on the roof, which can heat the water to as high as 90 degrees on a sunny day.
However, solar heaters aren’t without their flaws. You need a powerful pump to pump water to the roof and back, which means you might need to spend money to upgrade in that arena. The heaters also operate differently depending on what the weather is like. If it’s sunny, you’ll get very warm water, but if it’s an overcast day, it may not do much good at all. This model suffers from a lack of instructions, as well. While it’s mostly straightforward, it’s always nice to be sure that you’re taking the right steps when you install. While some people might get some use out of it, it’s going to be a bad choice for most.
Although it’s priced at an absolute premium, this 406,000 BTU digital natural gas pool heater from Raypak is an impressive machine. Capron® nylon resin headers prevent rust, helping to keep your pool clean and free of discoloration. The high-quality Cupro-nickel fin tube can stand up to the toughest of water conditions such as low pH, high flow, or near-constant use.
The fully digital control and LCD for easy programming were a nice touch that we appreciated. Although we did appreciate the high-end feel and function of this Raypak heater, we didn’t think it was the best option for the price. The Hayward that made our first pick is slightly less expensive with just as robust of a feature set and we felt that it heated the pool slightly faster.
Keeping your pool heated can be a very expensive task, not just in terms of paying for a heater, but also the cost of the electricity to run that pump for hours on end. If you wish you could extend the swimming season but don’t want to pay a sky-high price to do so, then you may consider an option like the Goplus Solar Dome swimming pool heater. You will need to purchase an external pump to move the water though, so keep that in mind.
Instead of electricity, this device heats your pool using solar power, a much cheaper source of energy. On top of this, the Goplus dome is just about the lowest-priced option available if you want to warm up your swimming pool water. That said, it’s only going to have a minor effect on your pool’s water temperature, so don’t expect to swim when it gets frigid. For the price, we were impressed that it worked at all honestly, but it did. We only saw a rise of a few degrees, but at this price, that’s pretty impressive.
With an output of 55,000 BTU, the FibroPool FH055 electric swimming pool heater can comfortably heat up to 10,000 gallons of water. The all-metal, enamel-coated case is built to last years of exposure to the elements while protecting all of the internals. Rated by the US Department of Energy as the top Energy Efficient System, it only costs $0.25 per hour to run. The digital display makes it easy to adjust your settings and installation takes a quick 30 minutes. It does require 220V electricity though and will not run on a standard 110V circuit.
We felt that the FibroPool heater worked pretty well, though it didn’t want to raise the water temperature more than a few degrees above the ambient air temperature. There was also no install guide or user manual included with this heater. We called and emailed FibroPool, but it seems that their customer service department is non-existent. For the price this heater sells at, we expected much better help from the company after purchase.
This 400,000 BTU MasterTemp pool heater from Pentair runs on natural gas. Nitrogen oxide emissions with this heater are sufficiently low. The rust-proof plastic exterior helps provide a long service life. In our experience, the plastic was brittle and prone to cracking. The corners on the top were particularly subject to breakage. Our first one arrived with several cracks and broken pieces. The next one was less damaged, but the plastic was weak enough to break during installation.
Although this machine is priced in the same class as some of our top picks, we don’t think it’s a close contender. It’s just too weak and prone to damage and we didn’t feel it could last several seasons of changing weather conditions. We suggest spending the money on something that’s proven to be more robust.
This pool heater from SteamSun is a very economical way to get warmer water for swimming later in the season. Unfortunately, it seems to only have a lifespan of one season. When we first used it, we were impressed that it actually managed to warm up our pool considering the very low price it’s available for. But we noticed right away though that our electricity bill had skyrocketed. What you save on this heater will be spent on the energy it consumes.
After letting it sit for the winter, spring came, and we were excited to fire it up and get our swim season started early. It turned on and the lights started and everything seemed fine. Except, no heat was produced. We tried everything but couldn’t get the element to heat. After doing some research, we discovered that this is a very common problem with the SteamSun OrangeA heater. Although it seems very affordable at first glance, we think your money is better invested in a pool heater that will last through more than a single season.
Hopefully, our reviews have already helped you find the pool heater which is right for you. Of course, you may still feel like you don’t have the information you need to make a well-informed decision, and that’s okay. This buyer’s guide is designed to help you understand pool heaters, inside and out, so that you can buy with full knowledge of what you’re getting and get the model that is right for you. We’ve also included a section on getting great value for your money, so if you’re looking to score a deal, make sure you check out this buyer’s guide.
The great news is that there are a ton of options when it comes to buying pool heaters. One of the most common varieties is those powered by gas, which has a few subcategories of its own.
The first and most common type is the coil gas pool heater. It runs water through a coil. The coil is heated by an open flame that sits under the coil, reminiscent of cooking food over a gas flame on the grill.
The second-most-common type is the convection heater. These are best for small pools or spas since they don’t have the fastest output. They use a single large flame and greatly raise the inside ambient air temperature, to heat the water, as opposed to the multiple flames found in the coil gas heater, though both models allow water to run through a single tube on the inside.
The final gas type is the tank heater. It’s best for spas and works like a home’s water heater. It warms up the water in the tank, but once the water in the tank runs out, you’ll have to wait a while for it to recharge.
The coil gas pool heater is the best type for large pools, since it heats the fastest, though it consumes more gas in the process.
The upside to gas pool heaters is that they’re generally inexpensive to operate, especially in places where natural gas is cheap. They also typically don’t require much maintenance, and there’s not a lot of moving parts that could break. However, some states require you to get gas-powered models that are certified to be low NOx. This means that these machines produce low amounts of nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants.
Electric pool heaters come in two varieties. The first of these is the heat pump. These work like a reverse air conditioner or refrigerator. Instead of cooling air off, they first run warm air from the surroundings over the refrigerant to warm it and then pressurize it to make it much hotter. The refrigerant is then and then expose it to a heat exchanger which transfers the heat from the refrigerant to the water. The refrigerant is then depressurized, both by losing its heat and by a pressure value and returned to the start of the cycle.
Relative to a gas-powered pool heater, there’s a lot more which could potentially break, though well-made heat pump pool heaters will last just as long as their gas-powered brethren. However, heat pumps work better when the temperature is warm, as the warmer the air is, the higher the starting temperature of the refrigerant.
The other kind of electric heater works like an electric stove or oven. Electricity is run through a metal element with a high resistance, which creates a lot of heat. Water is run directly over the element, heating it up. The plus side to this kind of electric heater is that the air’s ambient temperature doesn’t affect how warm it can heat the water, though, like all heaters, it’s going to take longer to heat the water in colder months than it would in warmer ones.
The upside to electric heaters is that they don’t produce any kind of emissions. That makes them generally a good choice for the environment. However, they tend to be a bit slower than gas-powered heaters, which can typically get much hotter in a shorter amount of time. The other downside is that they can cost a lot to operate, especially when you live in an area where electricity isn’t cheap. Since natural gas or propane prices often correlate with electricity prices, it’s often a better idea to go with a gas-powered heater if you have the choice, even when electricity is cheap, since gas is usually also cheap in those areas.
Solar pool heaters come in two major varieties, but both share the same strengths and weaknesses. They harness the power of the sun to heat your pool, which means they have no operation cost and make them a cheaper alternative to gas or electric pool heaters. However, they depend on the power of the sun to heat your pool, which means they’re most effective on bright, sunny days, and may fail to make a difference on overcast days. They also don’t work well overnight and tend to be the slowest of the pool heaters.
Since they’re not the best choice in winter, people often pair them with a small gas or electric pool heater, so that by daisy-chaining the two systems together, they can enjoy warm pool temperatures all year long.
The first kind of solar pool heater is the solar blanket. These are thin, plastic sheets which you lower into your pool, and you typically want to cover as much of your pool as possible. They increase the amount of solar energy which is absorbed into the water, and they also prevent heat from escaping. The good news about this method is that it’s incredibly cheap. The bad news about this method is that it’s probably the least effective method, and it’s the most sensitive to overcast days.
The second kind of solar pool heater is the solar system. These are reminiscent of solar panels, though they don’t require any electricity to work. Instead, these are giant panels that you hook into your pump system. The water passes through the long, thin sheets, and is heated by the power of the sun. While this doesn’t sound like it might do much, some people have to install temperature regulars, as their solar heaters are capable of producing water that is warmer than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
These require a lot of space, so people generally put them on their roof. If your home has black asphalt shingles, this does double duty, as they radiate solar energy back into the solar heater, meaning they get warmed from both sides. However, you can put them on the ground if you have the space, though they run a higher risk of getting punctured on the ground.
Electric heaters that use heating elements are the most expensive to run and can cost upwards of 50 dollars a month to operate. Electric heat pumps, on the other hand, are more cost-effective than the other electric heaters and can cost just cents on the dollar to run.
Gas pool heaters vary. If they’re very powerful, they can heat your pool the fastest, but they also burn the most gas to do it. That can be very expensive if you live in an area with high gas prices. Still, gas-powered pool heaters are typically the less expensive option, and most users report that they cost about half of what their former electric system cost.
Solar systems tend to be the cheapest to purchase and cost practically nothing to run, though if you put them on the roof, you’ll need a powerful pump to get the water up there. However, they’re the least effective heating type, which is something to keep in mind before you buy.
Everyone has a different pool and a different situation surrounding it, meaning that there’s no right model for all people. The first thing you need to do is figure out if you’re best served by a gas, electric, or solar pool heater. That may involve researching the prices of gas and electricity in your area, though you may choose based on emissions or other factors.
Then, it’s important to consider the size of your pool. The bigger the pool, the more robust your pool heater needs to be. In some cases, you can use a weaker pool heater, but it will take longer to get the pool heated, and it may fail to take the edge off in the fall and winter. However, as long as you consider your specific needs and make sure to invest in a model with good reviews, then you’ll be sure to end up with a model you’re very happy with.
The Hayward H400FDN Universal Gas Pool Heater is our favorite model due to its great efficiency, low NOx emissions, and Cupro Nickel heat exchanger. The Hayward HP21404T HeatPro Titanium is the model is another good model, and great people who need an electric pool heater, due to its sound-dampening tech, titanium heat exchanger, and corrosion-resistant evaporator fin. The EcoSmart SMART POOL 27 Electric Pool Heater is tankless, compact, and can be used to boost an existing heater. You can get it for a fraction of what you’d pay for the top models on this list, making this model the best overall value for the money. The Hayward H100ID1 is a low NOx device and is easily installed, making it the best model for above ground pools, though durability questions drop it to fourth place. In the last place is the Smartpool S601P Inground Pool SunHeater which harnesses the power of the sun to heat your pool, but requires a powerful pool pump and works best in certain weather conditions.
We hope that our reviews and buyer’s guide will help you find the best pool heater for your needs. Best of luck!
Featured image credit: Bill Jacobus, Flickr
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