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Pool Heat Pump vs Gas Heater – A Detailed Comparison 2022

by Lisa Hayden
Pool Heat Pump vs Gas Heater

There are a few critical differences between pool heat pumps and gas heaters. Heat pumps use electricity to transfer heat, while gas heaters burn fuel to create heat. Heat pumps are more efficient than gas heaters since they don’t have to generate their own heat. Gas heaters also tend to be more expensive to operate than heat pumps.

Another key difference is that heat pumps can cool and heat your pool, while gas heaters can only generate warmth. This makes heat pumps an excellent choice for areas where the temperature fluctuates frequently or for used year-round pools. Finally, heat pumps tend to be larger and more cumbersome than gas heaters, so they may not be the best choice for small pools.

Which is the suitable device for your pool? How should you choose the appropriate heating tool? Keep reading and find out.        

Pool Heat Pump vs Gas Heater: Comparison

Gas heaters and heat pumps are designed for different purposes and have various advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at each of these devices and how they work so that you can choose the right one. 

What is a Gas Heater?

A gas heater for a pool is a traditional heater that runs on propane or natural gases. It produces heat that it uses to heat the water in the pool. It works by pulling in water and heating it before releasing hot and comfortable water back into the pool. 

This device can act fast and heat the pool quickly to maintain stable temperatures. Even better, it can perform its task even if the temperature drops. The installation cost is low, though there’s a recurring operational cost to buy fuel. 

So it’s popular in colder regions to heat pools that are less frequently used. If you want to extend the use of your swimming pool by about a month at the start and the end of the summer season, a gas heater can keep the pool warm even as the temperature fluctuates.

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a relatively slower but more efficient pool heating solution that operates without producing heat, making it a green option. The device draws heat from the air and compresses it. Then, it passes the water of the pull through this compressed hot air.  

The efficiency level of this device reaches its peak when the temperature outside is warm, reducing its energy usage. It’s best for places with a temperature of 45 degrees or above. It does not use gases or pollute the air with harmful emissions. 

The operational costs are low though the initial cost is higher. These devices are sturdy and long-lasting with little maintenance. You cannot turn them on and off frequently and expect them to heat water instantly. That’s because they take a while to start working.      

Points of Difference

Let’s take a look at how the two pool heating units differ from each other – 

a) Energy Source

Gas heaters for pools use propane or natural gasses to operate. There are similar pool heaters that also operate on electricity. On the other hand, heat pumps themselves run on electricity. At the same time, they use thermal energy to heat the water in a pool.  

b) Heat Production

A gas heater for pools produces heat, which it uses to heat the water in the pool. It draws water, heats it, and then releases it back into the pool. But a heat pump does not produce heat. It draws heat from the air and uses that heat to warm the pool water.  

c) Eco-Friendliness

Gas heaters use a substantial amount of fuel and produce heat to heat the pool water. Plus, their fuel use is also limited. On the other hand, since heat pumps do not produce heat, they do not make harmful emissions, making them more energy-efficient.  

d) Heating Time

Gas heaters act quickly in heating pool water. They are preferred by those who need to heat a pool at short notice or repeatedly turn the heater on and off. But a heat pump takes more time to heat the pool, and you’ll need to keep it on longer before you swim.  

e) Initial Cost

Gas heater units are readily available, and the upfront cost of purchasing a unit is relatively low. Its installation is also low-cost, especially if you already have energy hookups. But heat pumps are less common, so the cost of buying and installing them is higher. 

f) Operational Cost

Operating a gas heater costs higher due to the regular use of propane or natural gas. It is about $3-$9 per hour. So it’s preferred for short-term use. Natural gas costs less. But the hourly price of electricity used during long-term use of heat pumps is less than a dollar.

g) Longevity 

The design of a gas heater for a pool is such that it has an overall shorter lifestyle. Because they have several moving parts, they require more maintenance. However, a heat pump tends to last for several decades and also requires less maintenance in comparison. 

h) Maintenance Cost

Because gas heaters require frequent maintenance, the cost of monitoring and maintaining these heaters is much higher. This is due to the structure of the device. However, maintenance requirements for a heat pump are less frequent. So the costs are lower.   

i) Outdoor Temperature

Gas pumps produce heat and use it to warm up the pool water. As a result, the outdoor temperature in your location doesn’t affect their performance. But a heat pump draws ambient heat to operate. So it doesn’t perform well when the outdoor temperature is too low.   

j) Tanks or Lines

If you’re installing a gas heater for the first time, you’ll need a large tank for the gas that must be refilled repeatedly. Or, if you don’t already have gas lines to the pool, you’ll need to plumb that in to run the device. A heat pump needs an electric hookup instead of gas lines.     

Comparison Table: Heat Pump vs Gas Heater

Features Gas Heater Heat Pump
Energy Source Propane or Natural Gas Electricity and Thermal
Heat Production Produces Heat No Heat Production
Eco-Friendliness Co2 & Heat Emissions No Emissions
Heating Time Heats Pool Water Fast Long Cooling Time
Initial Cost Cheap Unit & Installation  Costly Unit & Installation
Operational Cost High Cost of Fuel Low Fuel Cost
Longevity Short-Lived Unit Life Durable Unit for Long Use
Maintenance Cost Frequent Maintenance Low Maintenance
Outdoor Temperature Can Work in Cold Weather Efficient Above 45 Degrees
Tanks or Lines Gas Lines or Tanks Required Needs Only Electric Hookup 

Gas Heater: Pros

  • The low initial cost of buying and installing
  • Works in frigid outdoor temperatures
  • Acts quickly to heat the pool water
  • Readily available and easy to install
  • Ideal if you already have gas lines

Gas Heater: Cons

  • The high operational cost of fuel
  • Short-lived and needs frequent maintenance
  • Emits heat and CO2 that harm the environment 

Heat Pump: Pros

  • Eco-friendly heating solution
  • Low cost of fuel and operations
  • Gas lines or pumps are not required
  • Sturdy and long-lasting unit
  • Ideal for daily pool heating all year

Heat Pump: Cons

  • Expensive and complex unit and installation
  • Low efficiency if the temperature drops 
  • Take a lot of time to start heating water

Which is Better: A Heat Pump or Gas Heater for A Pool?

Which is the right appliance to heat your pool? Should you install a heat pump or a gas heater? It depends on a couple of factors. These include the temperature of your location and when and how frequently you use the pool. It will also help to consider if you already have a gas line. 

When Should You Choose a Gas Heater?

Choose a gas heater for your pool if you – 

  1. Want to add a month to the start and the end of the summer
  2. Plan of using the pool only on weekends
  3. Live in a place where the temperature can go below 45 degrees
  4. Cannot bear the initial cost of buying and installing a unit
  5. Already have gas lines or a tank that runs to the pool
  6. May need the pool to be heated up quickly
  7. Plan to turn the heater on and off frequently

When Should You Choose a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is ideal if you –

  1. Live in a place where the temperature remains 45+ degrees
  2. Wish to keep swimming around the years
  3. Can keep the heating device on for a long time stretch 
  4. Do not need the pool water to heat up instantly
  5. If you’re comfortable with investing in an eco-friendly choice
  6. Do not have gas lines or tanks and don’t wish to invest in it
  7. Can bear the initial cost for low-cost operation and maintenance

Pool Heating Unit Installation Process

No matter which pools heating option you choose – you must be aware of the installation basics. Luckily, both gas heaters and heat pumps can be installed by homeowners – unless you’re a novice when it comes to working with electricity or gas connections. 

The first step is to choose and buy the heating appliance. Consider the pool size and whether or not you can cover the pool when it’s not in use. You must also consider your location, average wind speed, and temperature rise or drop. 

Then, it’s time to take into account your swimming plans. How often would you swim during summer? Would you swim every day or just during the weekends? Will you be swimming during the winter months – or will just two extra months in the pool do?

Accordingly, you must decide how much of a  temperature rise you need. A rise by 30 degrees or more requires a high-capacity heater. Next, you need to plan the placement of the device near the pool filter. There should be enough space for ventilation and access.   

Place it on a pad to ensure it’s dry and level – and any spot beneath windows, overhangs, or downspouts that leak or near too many trees or plants. Next, you need a return line in front of the salt systems and chlorinator – and behind the heater. 

Plumbing requires simple DIY items, i.e., PVC fittings like couplings, pipes, glue, primer, etc. You can handle this by yourself if you are good with tools, plumbing, and electronic or gas connections. Otherwise, you’ll need an expert’s help.   

FAQ

Is it cheaper to heat a pool with a gas heater or a heat pump?

A gas heater is cheaper to buy and install than a heat pump. But in the long run, you’ll have to bear the recurring cost of propane or natural gas. In comparison, the operational price of heat pumps is lower. Plus, the cost of maintaining a gas heater is also higher.   

How long does it take to heat a pool with a heat pump?

The time taken by a heat pump to heat a pool depends on many factors. However, you can generally expect the device to heat the pool by 20 degrees in 24-72 hours. This is because this device does not produce heat of its own. Instead, it uses heat from the air.  

How long does it take for a gas heater to heat a pool?

A gas heater generates heat of its own to warm up the water in a pool – which is why it is the fastest way to heat a pool. A gas pump can complete the job of heating a large pool in just about 8-14 hours. During this time, you’ll see a rise in temperature by 20 degrees. 

Final Words

For any pool owner, the pool heat pump vs gas heater dilemma is quite natural. But there is no right or wrong way to settle this. The ideal heating solution depends on your pool, needs, location, and temperature. Don’t forget to take a hard look at your budget, too!

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