Best Pool Heaters of 2018

Renee Shipley ·
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We have been reviewing pool heaters since 2015. Recently, we did in-depth online research to determine how effectively different solar, gas and electric heaters work for both in-ground and above-ground pools. Our research revealed that the Hayward HeatPro HP20654 is the overall best heater. It is a powerful, energy-efficient in-ground pool heater that delivers 85,000 Btu with a maximum temperature allowance of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a UV-protected outer shell, as well as a corrosion-resistant evaporator fin that is specially designed for longevity in coastal environments. 

Best Overall

Hayward HeatPro HP20654T

The Hayward HeatPro HP20654T is easy to set up and has an innovative design that protects it against corrosion. It can effectively heat a pool of up to 15,000 gallons and doesn’t require a propane or gas hookup.
Best Value

Blue Wave

The Blue Wave SolarCurve is an above-ground, environmentally friendly pool heater that relies on solar power and can heat your entire pool with a single unit.
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Most Versatile

Pentair MasterTemp 125

Pentair MasterTemp is a pool heater that can heat indoor and outdoor pools, and it comes in different sizes for large or small pools. It can also be used for both above- and in-ground pools.
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Best Overall

Hayward HeatPro HP20654T

The Hayward HeatPro HP20654T is a heater designed for use with in-ground pool systems. This heater has a durable exterior body that is UV-protected, with a unique design that includes a mesh evaporator fin that resists corrosion, making it great for people who live on the coast.
But it works in all environments with the proper maintenance. This pool heater works best with small pools of up to 15,000 gallons. It delivers 85,000 Btu, with a maximum temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also use this pool heater to heat your outdoor spa instead of running your spa heater all the time. It runs on electricity, which makes it a good fit for homes that don’t have access to propane or natural gas, and it runs cleaner than gas heaters. It is also more energy-efficient than gas and can save you money on energy bills. The outer shell of the heater is UV-resistant and made from durable stainless steel that resists rust and corrosion, even when the unit is exposed to the elements. An LED readout tells you the current temperature of the water and suggests diagnostic options to help you run the pool efficiently. The HeatPro is a solidly built pool heater that looks good and runs efficiently.
  • Has a corrosion-resistant evaporator fin
  • Come with a generous warranty
  • Doesn’t require a propane or gas hookup
  • Isn’t the best choice for large pools
  • One of the most expensive pool heaters we reviewed
  • Not the best choice for above-ground pools
Best Value

Blue Wave

The Blue Wave SolarCurve pool heater is a compact solar pool heater designed to heat above-ground pools. Since it doesn’t rely on gas or propane, it is environmentally friendly.
However, because it relies on the sun instead of electricity or gas, it may take a few days to heat your pool, which is standard for a solar heater. It doesn’t heat to or maintain a specific temperature, so the water temperature will vary according to the weather and the season. This pool heater can increase the water temperature by 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It works best if you have a swimming pool with a lot of direct sunlight, and you will maximize its efficiency if you pair it with a solar blanket to prevent heat from escaping at night or on cooler days. The SolarCurve features a single solar panel that connects directly to your pool's pump system. Unlike other solar-powered heaters we reviewed, you only need to buy one to heat the entire pool. You must set the panel up in a location where it can get a lot of sunlight, and you are limited to the length of the installation hoses that come with the unit. If the pool doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight, it won’t work well. There is no control panel or buttons or an LED screen to tell you the temperature of the water. The only way to turn it off is to uninstall it from the pool pumps.
  • One heater can heat your entire pool.
  • It’s compact.
  • It’s easy to set up and use.
  • It cannot be used for in-ground pools.
  • The device heats much slower than a gas or electric pool heater.
  • It needs a lot of direct sunlight to work effectively.
Most Versatile

Pentair MasterTemp 125

The Pentair MasterTemp 125 has different size units you can buy that range in output from 175,000 Btu to 400,000 Btu. It features 1.5-inch plumbing hardware built to handle small loads.
A 400,000 Btu pool heater can generally heat commercial-size swimming pools, but the heater itself has small plumbing outlets. The MasterTemp125 is available in either propane or natural gas models, and it can be used indoors or out. You can hook up the unit’s smaller pipes to a large pool, but you may not get maximum efficiency. The alternative is to have a professional upgrade the outlets. One plus to the small included plumbing fixtures is that the heater can be hooked up to an above-ground pool, not just the in-ground pools it is designed for. It has been certified for low NOx emission and has one of the highest energy-efficiency ratings in its class. The control panel lets you check the status of the pool at any time. If you run into problems with the heater, the control panel also has a self-explanatory troubleshooting menu that helps you get your heater back online and warming up your pool.
  • It works for above-ground and in-ground pools.
  • You can use it for large and small, indoor and outdoor pools.
  • It is very energy-efficient for a gas- or propane-powered pool heater.
  • It comes with small plumbing outlets and upgrading requires a professional.
  • If you choose the propane option it may not heat as consistently during the summer as the natural gas option.
  • If you opt for propane, you will end up paying more in the long run than the natural gas option.

How We Researched

We carefully examined the online product information of all pool heaters we reviewed. In addition, we read online customer reviews and gathered information from the manufactures and other professionals. Our reviews reflect this research and can help you narrow your choices to find the best pool heater for you and your family.

Why Trust Us

We have been reviewing pool heaters since 2015 and spent more than 50 hours researching a variety of models for all types of pools: in- and above-ground, indoor, outdoor, large and small. We looked at the online product pages, watched videos online, read reviews and contacted manufacturers with numerous questions so we could present accurate information and help you decide which heater will be best for your specific needs.

Solar pool heaters don’t generally have a control panel, digital display or monitoring functionality to check the pool’s temperature. Installing an external thermometer is a good way to test how effectively it is working. 

What Key Features to Look for When Buying Pool Heater

Pool Size
Pool heaters are rated based on the number of British thermal units (Btu) they put out. A single Btu can raise one pound of water a single degree Fahrenheit. Several factors can influence your pool's Btu requirements, including its surface area and the temperature rise. The more Btu your pool heater has, the faster and more efficiently it can heat. Most pool heaters specify on the website, product packaging or both the size of pool the heater is capable of heating. One that is too small for your pool can work too hard and not provide sufficient heating. A heater can never be too large for a pool – but it could be unnecessarily large for your budget.

Fuel Type
The most common types of fuel for heating pools are electricity, propane, solar and natural gas. Propane and natural gas heaters are effective but can be expensive and tend to be the least energy-efficient. Some manufacturers take pains to make them as energy-efficient as possible. It is expensive to use a gas heater to keep your pool at a consistent temperature, but if you simply need it for occasional use, it works quickly.

Electric heaters are the best choice for keeping your pool at a consistent temperature year-round. They can maintain temperatures of between 80 and 90 degrees, even when outside temperatures drop low. Solar pool heaters take longer to heat, but they can maintain pool temperatures around 80 degrees.

Control Panel
Control panels can be digital or analog and enable you control the temperature of your pool or make adjustments without guesswork. Some pool heaters only offer a temperature monitor. Less-expensive models may not even come with a control panel, in which case you’ll have to monitor your pool water with an external thermometer.