Above Ground Pool Heater – The Buyer’s Guide 2016


One of the most sought out and popular accessory amongst the above ground pool owners is the above ground pool heater. In fact, my post about the best above ground pool heater is amongst the most popular and viewed post of my website. I’ve got (and answered) many questions asked by the fellow pool owners about these heaters. So today, I decided to publish a small guide on my website which will cover all the important topics related to above ground pool heaters and answer some of the frequent queries that people who’re looking to buy a heater for their pool have in their minds. Let’s begin with the post then!


What is an above ground pool heater?Best above ground pool heaters 2016

Like the name suggests, an above ground pool heater is a heating device, available in different forms which are discussed later, used to heat the pool water. Another question that you may raise is:

Why would I want to heat my pool’s water?

The answer to this question consists of two factors: Climate and Personal preference.

Heating your pool becomes a necessity if you live in a cold region, assuming that you don’t enjoy jumping into ice-cold water. Also, If you want to use your pool in the winters, then again you’ll need to have a pool heater to raise the temperature of the pool’s water to a comfortable level.

Another reason for heating the pool water is simply a matter of personal choice. Some people, including myself, don’t like dipping into the cold water and prefer to have their pool’s water at a lukewarm temperature at all times. This requirement can be fulfilled by using a heater to heat the water.

Now that we know what an above ground pool heater is and what is it used for, let’s move on to the next part of the guide which describes the various types of heaters that are available in the market.

List of the Best Above Ground Pool Heaters – 2016

Types of Above Ground Pool Heaters

There are many different types of above ground pool heaters available to choose from. Each of these heaters varies in the way they heat the water and also the source of heat/energy required to operate them. Here are the different kinds of heaters:

1. Solar Heaters

Solar-Heater-For-Above-Ground-PoolsThese heaters use the solar power to heat the pool. Since it uses the free energy from the sun, the operating cost of such heaters is very low making them a very popular choice amongst the pool owners. The way these type of heaters work is the water from the pool is circulated from the pool into the collector, which is like a long tube placed under direct sunlight usually atop a roof. The water get’s heated up inside the collector and is then pumped back into the pool. The rate of heating is dependent on the size of the collector. The larger the size of the collector, the faster will the pool be heated.

The biggest drawback with a solar heater is it’s direct and complete dependence on sunlight. These are perfect heating solutions during the summers but they don’t provide a consistent and effective heating during the other seasons.

2. Electric Heaters

Pool Heater- Electric Heat Pump

An electric heater is quite similar to an electric geyser which is a common device found in the bathrooms of many households. It uses electricity to heat the water of the pool. The water is brought into the heater through the inlet, heated to the set temperature and then pumped back into the pool through the outlet. The operating cost of this heater will depend on the per unit electricity cost of your region and is generally quite low.


3. Electric Heat Pumps/Thermostats

TopChances Electric Heating Thermostat

Electric heat pumps highly energy-efficient devices. They capture the heat present in the air and then pass this heat into the water that’s passing through it. Electric Heat pump is also called as ‘Solar heat pump’ because it captures the heat from the air which in turn is heated by the sun. Because the main function of this pump is just to take in the air and absorb the heat from it, it uses drastically less energy. Both the output results generated by this device and its efficiency are dependent on the temperature of the air surrounding it. Hence, the electrical heat pumps function very efficiently in locations with higher temperatures.

4. Gas Heaters

Hayward H250FDN Universal H-SeriesGas heaters are the most widely used heaters for pools as well as spas. Gas heaters use either natural gas or propane as a source to heat the pool. When the source gas used for heating is propane, the heater called as a ‘Propane Pool Heater’. Gas heaters are quick in heating the pool, and when used for short durations, they are quite efficient as well. The water from the pool is brought into the heater which contains a ‘Combustion Chamber’. The gas is burnt inside this combustion chamber to produce heat. This heat is then transferred to the pool water that had entered the heater. This heated water is then pumped back to the pool. You can read more about the working of a gas heater here.

The main benefit of having a gas heater over a solar heater or a heat pump is that the gas heater can achieve and maintain any desired temperature regardless of the climate and the weather of the surrounding. This means that you will no longer have to depend on external weather conditions to be able to heat your pool.

5. Wood Heaters

Wood heater

Although these are the least commonly used and the most energy inefficient type of heaters, I will include them here anyway so that you have a complete knowledge of the different types of heaters available.

A wood heater uses firewood as the heat source. The firewood is burnt inside a chamber present in the heater. The heat produced in this process is passed to the pool water coming into the heater which is then pumped back into the pool. To keep this heater running, new firewood has to be continually placed inside the heater when the old ones have burnt out. These, obviously, are not the best option for heating your pool.

These are all the different types of heaters that can be used to heat your pool.


Tips for achieving maximum output and energy efficiency

Given below are some tips that will not only help you achieve a higher heating efficiency from your heater, but they’ll also help you to cut down the energy bills that are generated by them.

Increase Efficiency & Savings by Combining the Different Types!

It is recommended to combine the different heaters types to achieve the maximum output efficiency along with higher energy savings. For example, You could buy both: a solar heater as well as a gas heater. This way, you can use the solar heater during the summers as there will be plenty of sunlight available which will help you save on the heating costs. And in the winters, you can resort to the gas heater which will allow you to heat your above ground pool regardless of the outside temperature. By doing so, you’ll be able to heat your pool nicely and save on the energy bills in the summers and have a reliable heating solution during the winters.

Use a Pool Cover to retain the pool’s temperature!

Apart from this, a ‘Pool Cover’ or a ‘Solar Pool Cover’ can be used to maintain the pool’s temperature when it’s not in use.

For example, on one fine day, you decide to use your pool and therefore put your heater to work and let it heat the pool for four hours. After the pool’s been heated, you use the pool and enjoy the warm water. After it’s usage, you just leave it uncovered.

The next day, you find the weather to be perfect for another pool bath. You remember heating the pool from the previous day, and so, you excitedly head over to check the water’s temperature to find out that it’s become complete cold again. You’ll now have to heat the pool again and wait for four hours before you can use it. This waiting time could have been reduced to just two hours, or less, had you covered your pool with a pool cover the previous day.A pool covered with a Solar Pool cover

Not only does it reduce the waiting time, but covering the pool after usage also minimizes the operating cost of the heater as you’ll be using for a shorter duration. A pool cover helps in retaining the pool’s temperature by reducing the heat loss from the water. It also reduces the loss of the water through evaporation.

Best pool heaters for above ground pools

What to Look For When Buying an Above Ground Pool Heater?


“Which heater is right for me?”

“Is xyz heater right for my pool type?”

These are the most common questions that I get from the website’s visitors who are looking to buy an above ground pool heater. With so many different types and models of heaters available on the market with different heating capacities and varying prices, it sure becomes very confusing to decide the right heater for your needs. To make this process less confusing, listed below are some properties of above ground pool heaters which will make it easier for you to decide which heater is rightly suited for you.

1. Heater Type

Different types of heatersBefore you start looking for a heater, you must decide upon which type of heater you’d like for your pool from the various types mentioned above. For example, If you live in a warm place which gets a lot of sun time, then you should go for a solar water heater. Not only will it be efficient in heating your pool, but it will also be a cost effective solution for you. Inversely, if you live in a colder place, you should go for an electric or a gas heater as these will give you a better output.


2. Heating Capacity (BTUs)


BTUsThe heating capacity of every heater is rated in terms of BTUs. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a measure of heat energy.

1 BTU = The amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound (0.45kg) of water by one degree Fahrenheit.


Above ground pool heaters have a comparatively lower BTU rating as compared to the traditional in-ground pools. This is because above ground pools are generally smaller when compared to in-ground pools. Various heaters come with different BTU ratings. The higher this rating goes, the faster will be the heating action of the heater, but the cost of the heater will also increase with it. This is why it is recommended to buy a heater which has a higher heating capacity or a higher BTU rating than your requirement.

In short, if you want faster heating for your pool, you should go for a heater which has a higher BTU rating.

You can form an estimate of your BTU requirement from the table below:

BTUGallonsSquare Feet
100,000 – 200,0001,000 – 10,000300
200,000 – 300,00010,000 – 20,000500
300,000 – 400,00020,000 – 40,000800
400,000+40,000 – 80,0001200

3. Brand


Popular above ground pool accessories brandsThere are three major brands manufacturing above ground pool heaters: Haywards, Pentair and Raypak. All three of these brands make heaters of different shapes and sizes which have different heating capacities. Choosing one brand over the other is a matter of personal preference which can be based on your own experience or the recommendations of others.

For example, If you happen to own an above ground pool vacuum which is manufactured by Haywards, and you like it’s build quality and performance, you may choose to prefer a heater by Haywards when you’re shopping for one.


4. Budget


budgetYour budget will be the ultimate deciding factor for the purchase. It is very important to do the proper research and explore all the options that your budget permits when buying a heater.


A very important thing that I’d like to bring to your attention is that an above ground pool heater is a one-time investment. Once bought, they generally last for a decade at least. So when you’re setting aside a budget, make sure it’s big enough purchase a heater that meets your quality expectations and has the enough heating capacity.


These are all the important things you should know before buying an above ground pool heater. Once you’ve read this small guide, you should have a much clearer idea about the above ground pool heaters and should have answers to your questions associated with them. With all this information, I hope that you should be able to find the best heater for your pool. If you’d like to skip the research part, then have a look at this article where I’ve done the research for you and have created a list of the best heaters for above ground pools.


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