Best Pool Heaters of 2018

Rebecca Armstrong ·
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent over 50 hours researching different ways to heat your pool – from solar arrays to traditional heaters to heat pumps – to find the best products to keep you swimming. Overall, the Hayward HeatPro electric heat pump topped our ratings as the most durable and efficient pool heater. It strikes the perfect balance between the power and convenience of traditional gas heaters and the efficiency and low operational costs of solar power. The HeatPro is also available in a low ambient option, which is more effective than other heat pumps at lower ambient temperatures. 

Best Overall

Hayward HeatPro HP21104T

The Hayward HeatPro heat pump is our best pick for heating your pool because of its high efficiency and low operating costs. Its premium construction and materials mean it will last for years.
View on Amazon
Best Value

SmartPool Solar SunHeater

The SmartPool Solar SunHeater system is an inexpensive alternative to gas or electric pool heaters. This solar heater is easy to install and is available in multiple sizes.
View on Pool Supply Unlimited
Best Gas Pool Heater

Hayward Universal H200

The Hayward Universal H-Series H200 gas pool heater includes premium features like a cupro nickel heat exchanger that resists corrosion and a digital control panel with diagnostic display.
View on Amazon

Product
Price
$3249.99Amazon
$1520.00Amazon
$1628.99Amazon
Check Price
$3179.82Amazon
$2158.18Viglink
$2098.35Amazon
Check Price
Check Price
Overall Rating
8.8
8.7
8.4
8.1
8
8
7.6
5.9
4.9
Performance
9.3
10
9
8.3
7.8
8.3
7.8
7.3
6.3
Interface & Durability
10
8
9
10
10
9
8
2
2
Help & Support
3
3
3.3
1.5
3.8
3.3
5.8
10
5.8
Output (BTU)
110,000
200,000
200,000
199,500
200,000
200,000
250,000
18 kW/92,000
Varies
Efficiency
C.O.P. 4.0 - 5.7
83%
84%
83%
83%
84%
83%
99.8%
100%
Heating Type
Heat Pump
Gas Heater
Gas Heater
Gas Heater
Gas Heater
Gas Heater
Gas Heater
Tankless
Solar
Fuel
Electricity
Propane or Natural Gas
Propane or Natural Gas
Natural Gas
Propane or Natural Gas
Propane or Natural Gas
Propane or Natural Gas
Electricity
Solar
Additional Sizes
4
6
4
3
2
3
1
1
1
Digital Display and Control Panel
-
Self-Diagnostics
-
-
Troubleshooting Indicator
Display Message
Display Message
LED
Display Message
Display Message
LED
Display Message
None
None
Tempterature Lock Settings
-
-
Weather Resistant Exterior
-
-
-
Warranty
1 Year
1 Year
2 Years
1 Year
1 Year
2 Years
5 Years
Lifetime
5 Years
Contact Options
Phone, Email, Post
Phone, Email, Post
Phone or Online Form
Online Form
Phone, Email, Live Chat or Online Form
Phone or Online Form
Phone or Online Form
Phone or Online Form
Phone or Online Form
Best Overall

Hayward HeatPro HP21104T

The Hayward HeatPro HP21104T resists corrosion, even in coastal areas and salt water environments, thus extending the lifespan of your heat pump and protecting your investment. The HeatPro is designed to be used for in-ground pools and installed outside, and its profiled fan blade ensures quiet operation.
Typically, heat pumps don’t work if the average temperature outside gets below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but the Hayward HeatPro is available in a low ambient option, which works down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The HeatPro heat pump is best suited to climates that do not often dip below 50 degrees, or to extend a summer swim season in areas with cooler winters, as it loses efficiency as the temperature drops. The Hayward HeatPro HP21104T has an output of 110,000 Btu and a high efficiency rating. It features a weather- and UV-resistant outer shell and a helpful digital display that shows troubleshooting information as well as the temperature readout. Heat pumps like this Hayward model generally tend to be more expensive than gas heaters upfront, but they usually last longer and cost much less to operate.
Pros
  • Lower operational costs than gas heaters
  • Ultra-Gold evaporator fin to resist corrosion
  • Low ambient option can work in cooler environment
Cons
  • Higher upfront cost than other heaters
  • Only 1-year warranty
  • Heats slower than gas heaters
$3249.99Amazon
Best Value

SmartPool Solar SunHeater

The SmartPool Solar SunHeater system is a great alternative option to traditional gas pool heaters and heat pumps. It lets you collect the heat of natural sunlight to warm your pool water up to 10 degrees. Though it has less heating power than other products, the SunHeater solar system is a great value if you have a lot of sun exposure and mainly want to swim when it’s already warm outside. Because it does not involve installing any complicated equipment, the SunHeater is also great if you’re looking for a DIY project.
The SunHeater consists of black polyethylene panels that, when exposed to direct sunlight, collect heat. You connect these panels to your pool’s pump, and water cycles through the tubes in the panels, where the stored heat transfers into the water and then back into your pool. It can also work as a sort of radiator to bring down the temperature in your pool if used at night. If you don’t want to lose your pool’s heat at night, you need to divert the water flow to avoid cycling it through the panels until they’re in sunlight again. SmartPool sells a diverter kit separately. You can purchase the SunHeater in a few different size options, and you can purchase multiple boxes of panels to connect to each other if you need more coverage for your pool.
Pros
  • Good for DIY
  • Less expensive than other options
  • Can also be used to cool water
Cons
  • Requires a lot of direct sunlight
  • Does not affect pool temperature as much as others
  • Diverter sold separately in most models
$287.44Pool Supply Unlimited
Best Gas Pool Heater

Hayward Universal H200

The Hayward Universal H200 is a powerful gas pool heater that can heat your pool quickly and keep you swimming regardless of how cold it gets outside. The H200 is best suited for occasional use as opposed to constant temperature maintenance, as its operating costs can get high. It runs on either propane or natural gas, both of which have advantages. Propane has more heating power per volume, but natural gas tends to be much cheaper. Because gas heaters generate their own heat, they can be operated in cooler temperatures, unlike heat pumps.
The Hayward H200 is part of the Universal H-Series line of gas pool heaters, which are all basically the same except for the Btu output. The H-Series includes variety of model sizes to fit most pools. Like the name suggests, the Universal H-Series was designed to be adaptable. There are universal junction boxes on both sides of its body and common union connections to make installation simpler. The H200 – and the rest of the H-Series products – features a cupro nickel heat exchanger, which stands up well to corrosion. Many manufacturers charge extra for this feature, but it comes standard with the H200. It also has a thermal energy rating of 83 percent and meets all low NOx (nitrogen oxide) air quality standards.
Pros
  • Comes in size options to fit any pool
  • Gas heaters work regardless of ambient temperature
  • Upgraded cupro nickel heat exchanger comes standard
Cons
  • Only 1-year warranty
  • Higher operational costs than other heater types
  • Exterior not weather resistant
$1556.78Amazon

Why Trust Us

We are a team of researchers, data compilers, writers and professional product reviewers dedicated to helping you make informed purchasing decisions. We know that savvy consumers like to shop around to find the best of the best, so we aim to create a one-stop shop so you can compare the best products and be on your way.

Shopping for a pool heater can be a particularly difficult process, since there are so many options that sound identical and a lot of elements that factor into finding the perfect one for your pool. We dived deep into the world of pool heating to find the pros and cons of different types of heaters, the best products for different circumstances, sizing and installation advice, and in-depth information about each of the best pool heaters on the market, all to recommend the best pool heaters to keep you swimming in warm waters.

How We Evaluated

We spent over 50 hours researching the best pool heating products. We started this process by shopping around, looking for the highest rated and most popular products out there. We created a list of about 15 heaters, heat pumps, solar products and other options for consideration and did further research into the specifications of each of these.

Since pool size and climate are hugely important factors when choosing a pool heater, we created our recommendations based on two scenarios: a round, above-ground pool (24 feet in diameter and 52 inches deep) in the Southwestern U.S (Arizona), and the same pool in the Midwestern U.S. (Ohio). We considered the theoretical performance of each product for our imaginary pool in both climates. We gathered a lot of info from installation instructions, user manuals, specs sheets, online reviews, expert opinions, videos and any other useful thing we could find, and we did quite a few calculations as well. Once gathered, we compiled all that data into a massive spreadsheet so we could better weigh and compare the information and products against one another to find the very best pool heaters.

How to Choose a Pool Heater

There are several ways to heat a pool, from gas pool heaters to electric heat pumps to solar options. Determining the best one for your circumstances depends on a number of factors, such as your location, climate, temperature preferences and how and when you plan to use your heater. All products we reviewed are low NOx (nitrogen oxide) emitting and can be used in areas with air quality regulations. A good tip, regardless of which type of heater you choose, is to invest in a solar pool cover. This helps insulate your pool to keep warmth in your water, and it also slows evaporation.

Gas Heaters
Gas pool heaters use natural gas or propane. Most products of this type are available for either power source, and some are convertible. Propane tends to cost more, though you get more heating power from it. Natural gas can be much cheaper than propane, so it’s best to figure out which fuel type is more cost effective in your area. These heaters run similarly to your home’s hot water heater. They burn gas in a combustion chamber and transfer that heat into the pool’s water as it circulates through the heater.

Gas pool heaters are best for pools that are not used every day. They heat quickly and work regardless of ambient temperature. Money-wise, they cost less upfront than heat pumps but have higher operating costs. You also may need to hire a professional for installation.

When considering a gas pool heater, you need to calculate the size and surface area of your pool, as well as your desired swimming temperature, to determine which model and size would work best.

Heat Pumps

Pool heat pumps run on electricity and transfer the warmth of the surrounding air to heat a pool. This means that they are efficient for keeping your pool warm as long as the average ambient temperature remains above 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Electric heat pumps are a great option if you live in a climate that rarely dips below that range or if you simply want to extend your swimming season a bit into late spring and early autumn.

Electric heat pumps raise your pool’s temperature less quickly than gas heaters, but they can be kept running longer for less money, which makes them a more cost-effective option if you want to use your pool every day. The units cost more upfront but can have much lower operational costs, factoring in both fuel and repairs.

When looking for a heat pump, you need to consider your swimming habits, the size and surface area of your pool, and your area’s climate. You may also need to run a proper 220-volt electrical line and get professional installation.

Solar Heaters
Solar pool heaters harness the power of the sun to heat your pool and can be the most cost-effective option in places with a lot of sun. Most of these work by pumping your pool water through a solar collector, which absorbs the sun’s rays and transfers heat into the water before circulating it back into your pool. These can use your existing pool pump, so they don’t require much more electricity than you already use, making them a great, cheap way to raise your pool temps a few degrees.

More so than heat pumps, solar arrays rely upon warm ambient temperatures and, of course, sun exposure to heat your pool. Prices for solar arrays can vary widely, with several products available for a few hundred dollars or less and other, more expensive options that can also heat your water for domestic use.

If you want to go solar, consider your solar resources. If you have a largely unshaded, south-facing area, that should do the trick. You should also grab a diverter so that you can run your pump without running the water through the panels, which can actually cool your pool when the panels are not collecting sunlight.

Sizing a Pool Heater
Whether you want a gas, electric or solar pool heater, finding the correct sized product for your pool is important. Gas and electric heaters are measured in Btu, or British thermal units. This is the amount of energy it takes to raise one pound of water by one degree.

Before we get to the math, you should know that there are plenty of helpful calculators online that can help you figure out your heating needs. You can also consult a pool pro for some more specific guidance.

To figure the size yourself, you first need to know your pool’s surface area. For quadrilateral pools, this is the length times the width. For circular pools, this is half the width multiplied by 3.14. Kidney-shaped pools should be treated like rectangles for simplicity’s sake. Make note of the surface area. Then take that and multiply it times the average depth of your pool. This is the volume of your pool in cubic feet. There are about 7.5 gallons of water in a cubic foot, so multiply your volume by 7.5, and you have approximately how many gallons are in your pool. Many pool heater manufacturers have charts available to help you figure out what size heater you need based upon these measurements. Know also that things like your climate, ideal swimming temperature and how quickly you want your pool to heat will also factor in.

Solar pool heaters should be roughly equivalent to half the surface area of your pool. This can take up a lot of room, so make sure you have enough space without shade. Many people opt to place their solar collectors on a roof, though this requires a little more exertion from your pump.

Installation
We generally advise that you consult a professional about the installation of gas heaters, electric heat pumps and more complicated solar arrays. Some manufacturers require professional installation of their product in order to make warranty claims, and improper installation is the most common reason why heaters fail. Apart from voiding the warranty, improper installation can be dangerous, leading to gas leaks, fire and a whole host of other problems you don’t want to deal with.

Some products are meant to be DIY projects, like the SmartPool Solar Sun Heater, but if you are at all unsure or confused about setting up your pool heater, seek professional help.

id:1736