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Choosing the Best Heating Option for your Pool

There are many new technological advancements in swimming pool heaters that can make it difficult to make the best decision for your needs.

Understanding Different Heater Types:

Ignition System for Pool and Spa Heaters - How your heater turns on (fires).

Electronic Ignition: This design only generates a pilot when there is a call for heat.  Keeping the sensors active requires electrical power, so power must be wired to the unit.  The internal transformer will accept either 120V or 240V power, and then transforms it to 24V for use within the heater.

Millivolt Ignition: This design has a constant standing pilot, sitting just below a small generator.  The generator uses the heat of the pilot flame to generate small amounts of power in milli-voltage, which are thousandths of a volt.  This trickle of power is then used to operate the rest of the system.  

Heat Exchangers in Pool and Spa Heaters - The core component responsible for heating your water.

Standard Copper Units: These heat exchangers are the most commonly used in Pool and Spa heaters. Heaters which contain copper heat exchangers are typically lower in price than Cupro-Nickel units (described below). These units will provide excellent service and performance as long as water chemistry is maintained properly at a constant. These units are not recommended when Salt Water Chlorination is being used.

Cupro-Nickel Units: These heat exchangers provide added protection against aggressive water chemistry, which has been known to attack copper heat exchangers and cause premature failure. Cupro-Nickel's major advantage over standard copper is that it's more tolerant of bad water chemistry and is more resistant to erosion, thanks to a harder surface and a wall that is approximately 50% thicker. When you are unsure of your ability to maintain the pool or spa water chemistry, a Cupro-Nickel heat exchanger is a cost-effective way to protect against premature failure.  These are highly recommended whenever Salt Water Chlorination is being used.

Gas Types for Pool and Spa Heaters - What fuel type your heater uses to ignite.

Natural Gas: Heater has a galvanized gas line connected to it which is ran from a gas meter located on the local property.  Your gas company should be consulted to verify if your gas meter regulator is adequate whenever a heater is being introduced into a system where a heater doesn't currently exist.

Liquid Propane: Heater has a galvanized gas line connected to it which is ran from a large liquid propane tank located on the local property.  In many cases, these tanks are located underground.  Propane tanks must be kept at least 50% full in order to ensure proper operation of the heater.

Emmisions and Exhaust for Pool and Spa Heaters - What your heater emits and what is required for you.

Low-NOx Units: These heaters contain natural gas burners with improved energy efficiency and lower emissions of nitrous oxides. They are better for the environment and are required in California and Texas. Call our Sales Department at (855) 766-5360 for more information regarding these requirements.

Non Low-NOx Units: Though these units are typically lower priced, they will emit a higher level of nitrous oxides into the air and are not as efficient as Low-NOx heaters.  These units have been outlawed for usage in California and Texas.


Assess expectations:

A good place to start when determining your best heating option is to find out what your swimming patterns will most likely be.

“Start by asking them how often they plan to use their pool,” says Terry Doyle, marketing manager at Raypak in Oxnard, Calif. “Are they looking for a system that allows them to turn the heater on Friday night and be swimming in warm water by Saturday? Or are they looking to maintain a constant temperature year-round?”

If heating the spa in a moment’s notice is important, then a Gas Pool Heater may be your best choice as they’re reliable and heat up water quickly. If you are willing to wait several days to get the water to the desired temperature and maintain that temperature for an extended period of time — a Heat Pump or solar heating system is likely to make more sense. These are the most energy efficient options available.

Another question to ask yourself is how long of a swimming season do you expect. Are you wanting to extend your swim season and, if so, for how long? Every region is different, but having a general idea will be beneficial in making your decision.

If it’s your desire to swim much later into the fall, a gas heater would be your best option. If you hope to swim just a few extra weeks after summer, a solar heating system or a heat pump in tandem with a solar cover would work best and be much more energy efficient.

It is common knowledge and highly recommended to incorporate a solar cover to assist with your pool heating efforts. “We always recommend some type of cover — whether it be a liquid solar cover or a traditional Solar Cover — because most of the pool’s heat is lost from the surface of the water,” says Kirk Hall, president of Kirk’s Poolworx in Midland, Tx.

Weigh the options:

Now let’s compare the costs and benefits associated with each type of heating options. Even though there might be significant energy savings, isn’t always enough to justify the expense. So, a more detailed look at the numbers is necessary to determine which direction to go.

A gas heater will cost about $2500 to $3000, after installation, and can have a gas bill anywhere from $150 to $500+ per month, depending on the region.

A heat pump will cost about $1,000 more than a gas heater but will produce a monthly electric bill much lower than the gas bill the standard gas heater produces, somewhere between $75 and $300 per month, depending on your climate. So, even though the upfront cost is a bit higher, the operating costs will be considerably lower. So, if you’re willing to wait on the desired temperature to be reached, a heat pump may be a good fit for you.

The “Green” option would be to choose solar heating. With a price tag similar to that of a heat pump, maybe slightly higher, this is a very reasonable option based on up-front costs.

Solar heating is very basic. You will have no costs associated with heating by solar other than the cost of running your circulation pump. But, if you choose to have a higher than normal desired temperature, you will have to run the pump longer. This will increase your electric bill. The main downside to solar heating is the pace in which it heats the water. Standard is somewhere between 2 and 4 degrees per day.