Best pool heaters 2019: the best gas, electric and solar heaters for pools

Best Pool Heaters 2019 - Electric, Gas, Solar Heater Reviews

If swimming in a cold pool is leaving you blue, a pool heater can help thaw you out. You need a lot of knowledge to find the best pool heater, as your needs depend on a vast variety of small, everyday factors, such as the climate, the size of the pool, and even the availability of a gas line or power supply to the pool. So, before buying a pool heater, it best to understand how pool heaters work, and what type of pool heater is best for your circumstances. 

This buying guide will discuss the differences between gas pool heaters, electric heat pumps and solar heat pumps, so you are aware of the advantages and disadvantages between the types of pool heaters. We’ll talk you through all the things you should be aware of to enable you to find the best pool heater for your property. 

We have provided a review of the best pool heaters we have found to give you an idea about the things you should be considering. The best heat pump we reviewed was the Hayward HeatPro which topped our ratings as the most durable and energy 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. But we wouldn’t advise a quick purchase without outstanding the requirements of this product.

ProductPriceOverall RatingPerformanceInterface & DurabilityHelp & SupportOutput (BTU)EfficiencyHeating TypeFuelAdditional SizesDigital Display and Control PanelSelf-DiagnosticsTroubleshooting IndicatorTempterature Lock SettingsWeather Resistant ExteriorWarrantyContact Options
Hayward HeatPro HP21104TView Deal4.5/59.3103110,000C.O.P. 4.0 - 5.7Heat PumpElectricity4Display Message1 YearPhone, Email, Post
Hayward Universal H200 FDN or FDPView Deal4.5/51083200,00083%Gas HeaterPropane or Natural Gas6Display Message-1 YearPhone, Email, Post
Pentair MasterTemp 460730View Deal4/5993.3200,00084%Gas HeaterPropane or Natural Gas4LED2 YearsPhone or Online Form
Raypak P-R207AView Deal4/58.3101.5199,50083%Gas HeaterNatural Gas3Display Message1 YearOnline Form
Jandy JXi 200N or 200PView Deal4/57.8103.8200,00083%Gas HeaterPropane or Natural Gas2Display Message1 YearPhone, Email, Live Chat or Online Form
Sta-Rite Max-E-Therm SR200View Deal4/58.393.3200,00084%Gas HeaterPropane or Natural Gas3LED2 YearsPhone or Online Form
Trane TR250NAView Deal4/57.885.8250,00083%Gas HeaterPropane or Natural Gas1Display Message-5 YearsPhone or Online Form
EcoSmart Smart POOL 27View Deal3/57.321018 kW/92,00099.8%TanklessElectricity1-None--LifetimePhone or Online Form
SmartPool SunHeater S425PView Deal2.5/56.325.8Varies100%SolarSolar1--None-5 YearsPhone or Online Form

Best Overall

Hayward HeatPro HP21104T

Hayward HeatPro HP21104T

Lower operational costs than gas heaters
Ultra-Gold evaporator fin to resist corrosion
Low ambient option can work in cooler environment
Higher upfront cost than other heaters
Only 1-year warranty
Heats slower than gas heaters

The Hayward HeatPro HP21104T is designed with durability in mind, even in the harshest of conditions. This Hayward heat pump resists corrosion, even in coastal areas and salt water environments, extending its lifespan and protecting your investment. The heat pump also features a weather-resistant and UV-resistant outer shell. This heat pump is designed to be used for in-ground pools that are installed outside. This heat pump’s profiled fan blade enables quiet operation, letting you swim in a warm and peaceful environment.

Typically, heat pumps don’t work if the average temperature outside drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but the Hayward HeatPro is available in a low ambient option, which works down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best to use the HeatPro heat pump in environments that do dip down below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods, as it does depend on the ambient heat to warm the water.

The Hayward HeatPro HP21104T has an output of 110,000 BTU and a high efficiency rating. A helpful digital display shows troubleshooting information, as well as, the current temperature. Heat pumps like this Hayward model generally tend to be more expensive than gas heaters upfront, but they usually have a longer lifespan and cost much less to operate - making them more economical in the long run.

Read the full review

Best Value

SmartPool Solar SunHeater

SmartPool Solar SunHeater

Good for DIY
Less expensive than other options
Can also be used to cool water
Requires a lot of direct sunlight
Does not affect pool temperature as much as others
Diverter sold separately in most models

The SmartPool Solar SunHeater system is a great alternative 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 you want to swim when it’s sunny outside. This solar power heater requires no installation of any complicated equipment, making the SunHeater great if you’re looking for an easy 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 being pumped in your pool. This solar power pump can also work as a sort of radiator to lower 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 extra boxes of panels to create a bigger sunlight collector if you better coverage or more heat for your pool.

Read the full review

Best Gas Pool Heater

Hayward Universal H200

Hayward Universal H200

Comes in size options to fit any pool
Gas heaters work regardless of ambient temperature
Upgraded cupro nickel heat exchanger comes standard
Only 1-year warranty
Higher operational costs than other heater types
Exterior not weather resistant

The Hayward Universal H200 is a powerful gas pool heater. This Hayward pool heater will warm your pool up quickly and keep you swimming laps long into the night or winter. As the operation costs of the H200 are high, this pool heater is best suited for occasional use and not for constant temperature maintenance.

The Hayward Universal H200 is versatile gas pool heater, that can run on either propane or natural gas, depending on the owner’s preference. Propane has more heating power per volume offering a quicker more powerful heating option, but it tends to be more expensive than natural gas. If you are looking for warmth at a low price, running this pool heater on natural gas is the better option. .

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 that are designed with specific pool shapes, depths and climates in mind. Like the name suggests, the Universal H-Series was designed to be adaptable.

Due to the universal junction boxes on both sides of its body and common union connections, installation of this pool heater is pretty simple. 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 has a thermal energy rating of 83% and meets all low NOx (nitrogen oxide) air quality standards - meaning it doesn’t release environmentally damaging gases.

Read the full review

Best Warranty

EcoSmart Smart POOL 27

EcoSmart Smart POOL 27

It has a 99.8 percent efficiency rating.
Its non-weatherproof exterior reduces its durability.

Unlike any other pool heater in our comparison, the EcoSmart Smart POOL 27 is electric and tankless.

When compared to other pool heaters it runs at a faction of the cost, making it is the least expensive heater to run. This economical minded pool heater does come with other costs. For one, it has to be installed indoors. This pool heater is built flimsy, there are no internal mechanisms to protect the unit from weather or humidity damage. This means its lifespan is short, especially when it is located outside.

This heat pump also lacks a settings lock and self-diagnostic features common in most other pool heating appliances. The EcoSmart Smart POOL 27 comes in two sizes, 18 and 27. The larger size is the one that we tested, and it has a higher output and is compatible with pools that can hold up to 15,000 gallons.

Impressively, it’s also 99.8% efficient no matter what the ambient temperature is. Built-in flow sensor technology helps reduce the risk of its elements burning out. The Smart POOL 27 comes with a lifetime warranty, beating out every other heater in our comparison which mostly offer a warranty that last a year or two. You can contact the customer support team directly via online form, and there are a variety of informational resources you can search through on the manufacturer’s website.

Read the full review

Most Size Options

Pentair MasterTemp

Pentair MasterTemp

Comes in a great variety of sizes
Has high operational costs

The Pentair MasterTemp can run on propane or natural gas and comes in a variety of sizes between 175,000 BTU and 400,000 BTU.

This heater also comes in an HD model with cupro-nickel heat exchangers that have a higher resistance to corrosion but lower thermal efficiency. The standard models have an 84% efficiency rating, compared to the HD version's 82% rating. All models are certified for low NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions, so they meet all regulatory standards, even in states like California, which has strict requirements.

The MasterTemp series of pool heaters have tough rust-proof exteriors and displays. The display rotates, so you can access the control panel regardless of how the heater is installed. The display doesn’t show specific error messages like those on the best heaters we reviewed, but there are two LED indicators to alert you to possible issues. It has a manual gas shut-off valve, which makes it easy to service, and it runs on 120- or 240-volt power circuits. Pentair offers a two-year limited warranty on its MasterTemp heaters. If you have questions or need help finding a certified installer, you can contact the company by phone or email.

Read the full review

Why trust us

We are a team of researchers, data compilers, writers and professional product reviewers dedicated to providing the information needed for 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 find out what makes them the best. 

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 design 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 found the best pool heater

We spent over 50 hours researching the best pool heaters. We started this process by investigating the available pool heaters on the market. We noted models that had the highest customer and reviewer ratings and cross referenced these two metrics to find the most popular products. We shortlisted the most highly rated swimming pool heat pumps, being sure to get a robust sample of solar, gas and electric pool heaters. 

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. We also consulted government and regulations on pool heaters. Once gathered, we compiled all that data into a massive spreadsheet so we could compare the information and products to find the very best pool heaters.

All products we reviewed are low NOx emitting and can be used in areas with air quality regulations. A good tip, regardless of which type of pool 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.

How much does a pool heater cost?

The cost of a pool heater varies greatly, and it depends on several factors - like the size of the pool. The initial cost of a pool heater usually starts around $750 and extends to $2000. Higher range models offer better power, high quality construction and more consistent results. 

When you work out your budget, it is best to keep in mind that there will be an additional cost on top of your initial purchase. We recommend that you hire an installer to connect your heat to you pool, especially if electrics are involved. This can add anything from $500 to $1500 on the purchase price of a pool heater. One factor that affects the price of installation is the type of pool heater you are installing - connecting gas pool heaters can be expensive. 

In addition to this, there is also the ongoing cost of electricity, or gas to keep the pool heater working. When budgeting for a pool heater, always keep the installation and ongoing costs in mind. 

Gas pool heaters vs heat pumps vs solar pool heaters 

Knowing what type of pool heater you need can be hard. It’s best to start by knowing what type of pool heaters there are, and why they are different. 

There are three main types of pool heaters, gas pool heaters, electric heat pumps and solar powered heaters. The main difference between these types of pool heaters are their power source, but this has a big impact on running cost, installation needs and even the climate they are best suited for. 

To determine the best pool heater for your circumstances there are a number of factors to take into account, such as your location, climate, temperature preferences and how and when you plan to use your heater. 

Gas pool heaters:

How gas pool heater work

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 in a similar way 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.

The advantages of gas pool heaters

Gas pool heaters are usually more powerful than the other types of pool heaters. This means they are good for heating pools that have a large volume of water. As they are more powerful than heat pumps, they also heat the water quicker. This means they are good for people who need their pool heated quickly. 

As gas pool heaters are more efficient at heating the water, they are usually in use for shorter periods of time. This means they suffer less wear and tear, and usually have a longer life span. 

The disadvantage of gas pool heaters 

One of the biggest disadvantages of gas pool heaters is the higher long term cost. In terms of cost, these pool heaters are a little deceptive. The initial upfront cost is lower than other types of pool heaters, but the installation costs are usually higher. In addition to the added installation cost, the ongoing running cost is higher due to the gas fuel. The ongoing cost does depend on the fluctuating price of oil and gas.

The reason there is an increase in installation price is due to how gas pool heaters operate. They require the pool heater to be connected to a gas line through an underground gas pipe. Depending on the location of the nearest gas source, this installation option can be prohibitively costly. 

Although there is a lower likelihood of things going wrong with gas pool heaters, when things do go awry the cost of repairs are higher when compared to other types of pool heaters. 

They are also not the most eco-friendly pool heaters.

Installing a gas pool heater

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. 

A key consideration is how close the heater is to a gas pipeline, as this will lower the cost of installation considerably. 

When to buy a gas pool heater

We’d recommend gas pool heaters to people that have large pools, and live in colder climates. They are also useful for people that only need to heat the pool occasional, and for small periods of time. 

Electric heat pumps for pools:

How electric heat pumps work

Heat pumps for pools do not have their own heat source. They operate by using the warmth of the surrounding air to heat a pool. This means that they are efficient for keeping your pool warm if the average ambient temperature remains above 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The advantages of electric heat pumps

The biggest advantage of an electric heat pump for pools is the overall cost. Although the initial cost for the heat pump maybe higher than gas heaters the running cost and installation cost are lower. 

Electric heat pumps run at a lower overall cost, meaning they are great for people who want to spend a longer time in the pool. 

Installation of electric heat pumps are usually easier than gas pool heaters. Unlike gas heaters, they don’t need to be connected to a gas line, and some of the more user friendly models come with easy install options. If you don’t have an electrical line running to the power, you’ll still need one installed. The installation of this power line is a lot less than a gas line. We recommend hiring an installer, as it is never a good idea to mix water and electrics if you are a novice.  

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.

As heat pumps use the ambient temperature to heat the water they are more eco-friendly than gas pool heaters. 

The disadvantages of electric heat pumps

One of the biggest disadvantages of electric heat pumps for pools is they rely on the ambient temperature. This limits the type of climates that you can use the heat pump in, and it is better for areas where there are higher temperatures for longer periods of the year, as it stops being effective as the surrounding temperature drops.  

When compared to gas pool heaters, these heat pumps are less powerful. They need to run longer to heat a pool - although, this is mitigated by the lower running costs. 

Installing an electric heat pump

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.

When to buy an electric heat pump for a pool

We recommend electric heat pumps for pools that are located in areas where the climate is naturally higher. Heat pumps are better for pools that are going to be used longer, and more often. We’d also recommend this option for someone that wants a pool heater with a low running cost. 

Solar pool heaters:

How solar pool heaters work

Solar pool heaters collect the thermal energy of the sun through solar collectors and transfer the collected heat to the water in the pool. The solar collectors are usually placed around the existing pool pump, so the heat is transferred to the water as it is pumped into the pool. All heating processes are purely natural.  

The advantages of solar pool heaters

Solar pool heaters are the most eco-friendly pool heater. Unlike the other types of pool heaters they use all natural energy sources meaning they are the most economical pool heater to run long term. 

As you don’t need to connect a solar pool heater to any kind of energy outlet they are super easy to install, and can often be done as a DIY project - negating the need to hire an installer. 

The disadvantages of solar pool heaters

Solar pool heaters do depend on the sun. This not only limits their use geographically, but also means they are less effective during the night. Some solar pool heaters make the pool water colder at night, as they absorb the cooler temperatures. So, they are not the best pool heater to use in cooler environments with shorter periods of sunlight. 

If you want to use the pool at night without experiencing colder water, you have to purchase a diverter. These are optional extras that run the water being pumped into the pool through a separate line. This means there could be extra costs involved. 

The effectiveness of solar pool heaters also depends on the location of your pool. If the pool pump is in a naturally shaded area, or location where the sun doesn’t hit directly, it limits the amount of heat they will collect. This is something you should always check before buying a solar pool heater. 

A solar pool heater is also the weakest in terms of heating power. 

Installation considerations for solar pool heaters

The biggest installation consideration is whether your solar pool heater will collect enough sun. Always place the collectors in an area that gets a lot of direct sunlight, for long periods of the day. We highly recommend it for swimming pools that are located in large, unshaded areas that are south facing. 

When to have a solar pool heater

A solar pool heater is a great choice for eco-friendly people who live in an area that is sunny for long periods. 

Why is climate an important factor in buying a pool heater?

Climate is an important factor when buying a pool heater for many reasons. Firstly, it will affect the type of pool heater you will need to buy. Some models of pool heaters rely on the ambient temperature or sunlight to heat the pool. As such, climate is a big consideration. 

Another reason it is important, is that it factors into the energy requirements you need when calculating the power requirements you need to heat a pool. Raising a pools temperature takes time, and energy. The more you have to raise the temperature until it reaches a comfortable level the more energy you need. This energy level is usually referred to as BTU (British Thermal Units).

How to calculate the BTU you need in 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.

The Math

To calculate the power a heat pump or pool heater need for the size of the pool, we followed this guide on calculating pool heater size for an outdoor pool. The first thing to determine is what temperature you want the pool water to be while you are swimming. 

You also need to consider the environmental temperature outside the pool. This guide suggests finding the average temperature for the coldest month in which you are going to use the pool. 

By subtracting the coldest temperature outside the pool from the desired temperature you will find out the total number of degrees you need to raise the pool temperature. This is an important number for determining the BTU output needed in a pool heater. 

The next step is to calculate the pools surface area in square feet. There are handy online calculators for swimming pool area. Calculating the area of your pool largely depends on the shape of the pool. 

Once you have determined the area of you pool, the following equation will help you determine the BTU/hour you need in a pool heater. 

Pool Area ×Temperature ×12 

This will give you a rough idea of the BTU you need in a pool heater, as there will be other variables to consider that may throw this calculation out - such as the wind average speed or even the degrees that the pool temperature raises. 

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 of pool heaters

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.

Why is nitrogen oxide important for pool heaters?

Depending on the state that you live in, there are different regulations surrounding the emission levels in a pool heater.

States with higher levels of regulations, like California, require a pool heater to have lower emissions. So, by choosing a low level nitrogen oxide pool cleaner, you can ensure you are complying with state regulations. 

Nitrogen oxide population results in many negative effects in both the environment and humans. It can produce help create acid rain, make the air hazy, contaminate coastal water and cause respiratory issues. These are the reasons it is important to choose a pool heater with low NOx emissions

Read more:

Best pressure pool cleaners
Best pool alarms
Best solar pool covers