Pros / It has the highest energy efficiency rating of the gas pool heaters we evaluated.
Cons / Pentair charges a premium for a cupro nickel heat exchanger.
Verdict / The Max-E-Therm is a compact, lightweight gas heater with great efficiency and flexibility.
The Pentair Sta-Rite Max-E-Therm is a gas pool heater that can use either natural gas or propane. It is small and lightweight and suitable for both indoor and outdoor installations. Alongside the Pentair MasterTemp, the Sta-Rite has the best energy efficiency rating of the gas pool heaters we reviewed, at 84 percent. The Sta-Rite heater is also a low NOx (nitrogen oxide) appliance, so it complies with air quality standards in the U.S.
The SR200 model outputs 200,000 Btu (British thermal units) of heat per hour, and there are three other sizes of heaters in the Max-E-Therm line for larger pools. You can also choose to upgrade to a heavy duty (HD) or American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) version, depending on your durability needs. The HD version features a cupro nickel heat exchanger, which is more resistant to corrosion than the standard copper one, though cupro nickel tends to be less efficient. If you don't want to choose between longevity and efficiency, the Hayward H200 has both a high efficiency rating and a cupro nickel heat exchanger.
This Sta-Rite model has an interesting exterior compared to other heaters we reviewed – it is made of Pentair's Dura-Glas, a thermoplastic resin, which handles heat and weather well and won't rust. The control panel sits on top of the Max-E-Therm's rounded top, and it can rotate to face any direction for easy access and visibility. The panel features a digital temperature display, five buttons and five indicator LEDs to keep you appraised of the heater's systems and operations. The heater's self-diagnostics can identify issues and let you know when something's amiss via one of the two service lights on the control panel. On the back of the panel, there are additional LED indicators for troubleshooting specific issues. We like systems like the Hayward HeatPro that show diagnostic information on the digital display, as they make the troubleshooting process a bit easier, but this system works too.
Pentair covers the Sta-Rite Max-E-Therm under a two-year warranty, which is a bit longer than other manufacturers offer on their heaters. We recommend hiring a professional to install the heater, as improper installation can cause premature failure and void the warranty. Problems with installation and resulting damage can also cause dangerous malfunctions like gas leaks and fire. To contact Pentair, you can call or fill out the online form on its support page.
The Pentair Sta-Rite Max-E-Therm is one of the most efficient gas pool heaters we reviewed, and it meets low NOx standards. Its troubleshooting system isn’t as easy to use as others, but the Max-E-Therm is still worth considering.