Swimming pool heaters can be expensive – anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 – and then there’s the annual cost of fuel or electricity to run the heater. Without a heater, however, your pool season might be limited to 2-4 months, even in warmer clients.
Most people base the decision on a variety of factors, including local climate, temperature preference and budget. But it’s important to note that, in most areas, your pool temperature may only reach 75 degrees in the warmest months, which is chilly for swimming. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, pool temperatures usually range from 78 to 82 degrees, and children and the elderly may require a temperature of at least 80 degrees.
Types of Heaters
There are three types of pool heaters: gas, heat pump (electric) and solar.
- Gas-fired models heat a pool quickly, but they’re expensive to operate due to fuel costs. They’re best for pools that are not used on a regular basis. Typically, they’re turned on when the pool is going to be used and turned off afterward.
- Heat pumps rely on electricity to heat the pool. They’re more expensive upfront than gas heaters but much cheaper to operate. They’re not very efficient if the air temperature dips below 50 degrees, but that’s not usually an issue because pools are most often used in warmer weather.
- Solar heaters rely on the sun for warmth. They’re often similar in price to gas heaters and heat pumps, but the operating costs are much lower.
Heaters come in varying sizes and efficiencies, so check with your pool contractor or a local expert to find out which models will work for you. The greater the size and efficiency, the more expensive the heater will be.
Pool Heater Annual Operating Costs
Annual operating costs depend on the type of heater, local energy rates, the size of the pool, the temperature you maintain, local climate, the length of the swimming season and more. This energy department guide offers estimates of what you can expect to pay for gas heat in various U.S. cities. Annual costs range from $100 to $3,600.
Contrary to what you might think, it’s not always cheaper to heat a pool in warmer clients because the swimming season is so much longer than in colder climates.
The chart also highlights the importance of using a pool cover to trap heat and reduce energy costs. In Chicago, for example, annual operating costs are estimated at $1,621 without a cover and only $216 when a cover is used.