So you’re building a new pool, or updating an existing one, and you come across these two heating options: Traditional gas/propane heater or an electric heat pump. Of course your first question is, what one costs less? Let’s dive into each option with a little more detail than that:
Gregg Weber, who has been with Quality Pool Supply for 30 years and installed pools for 15 years before that, says, “The best way I can explain it is that a heat pump is a Prius, an electric car that gets 50 miles to the gallon. The gas heater is a Corvette, it’s gonna get you there quick but it’s going to suck a lot of gas.”
Gregg goes on to say, “I tell people with heat pumps to open their pool as soon they can in the spring. This gives the pool time to warm up, then whatever temp you like leave it there.” He adds, “On the other hand with a gas heater, you turn it off so pilot is not burning. If your pool is 72 degrees on Wednesday, and you have a party on Friday, you can get it to 84 but it’ll cost you 100 bucks in gas. A heat pump couldn’t get to temperature that fast.”
Some people in the pool industry believe that heat pumps only work best on small pools, so we asked Gregg what he thought. He says, “An 18×36 and under is fine for a heat pump. It just really depends on your expectations, it’ll work on a 20×40 just fine but it will take a while to get to heat and maintain it.”
Then what is the real cost difference? A heat pump costs almost double the price of a traditional gas heater, but, it does not require its own gas line (which can run you anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500). The heat pump does require electrical hookup, but that is going to cost you less because your pool equipment already has it ran out there. When it comes down to total cost, they are really the same upfront. The real money savings with a heat pump comes from its electrical usage versus gas costs. Hayward reports that a heat pump can save up to 80% on yearly energy cost.
Then what is the answer? It all comes down to preference. Would you prefer your pool to be one consistent temperature all summer, because you’ll be using it everyday of the week? Then get a heat pump. Do you plan on having pool parties every other weekend and only need the heater for those events? Then a gas heater might be right for you.
Either way, Gregg tells us, “Cover your pool overnight with a solar cover. This will keep in heat and help fight evaporation. Even using solar pills, which are about 60% as effective as a solar cover, really helps a lot. You have to do one the other, or you better have a very big heater.” Of course, auto covers are also a great option for sealing in heat and something to consider when building a new pool.