Not so long ago, heating options for aboveground pools were rather limited. Manufacturers took notice of the demand as U.S. aboveground pools have grown to number 4 million installed.
Today, aboveground pool owners wanting to take the chill off have the same heating options as inground pool owners. Gas pool heaters, Heat Pumps and Solar pool heaters are all available in smaller styles and prices to fit any above ground pool.
Gas Pool Heaters
Gas Heaters are powered by either Natural Gas or Liquid Propane Gas (LPG), gas-fired pool heaters heat up your pool water as it is pumped through a copper-finned heat exchanger.
Fast and hard working, gas pool heaters make sense for many aboveground pools. Propane gas models can use smaller LP gas tanks and if a Natural gas heater were located close to your house gas meter, gas line installation costs are manageable.
Installation involves placement on a non-combustible base and making a plumbing connection to the return line, in and out of the heater. A 115v or 230v line is needed to power the newer, digital models. This can be supplied by taking power from the pump timeclock or electrical outlet.
The gas line connection is best left to a qualified gas contractor who can make the connection from the meter to the (natural gas) heater. Propane supply companies will set up a properly sized tank nearby and connect it to the heater. Their trucks visit periodically to fill the propane tank.
Above ground Pool Heat Pumps
Heat pumps for aboveground pools operate like a reverse air conditioner, absorbing the ambient heat in the outside air, and transferring it into your pool water as it cycles though a titanium heat exchanger.
Slow and steady is the way for a heat pump. Not the fastest kid on the block, but it gets the job done. It sips electricity to power the fan and compressor, creating reliable heat at half the cost of gas pool heaters. Considered a “greener” pool heating option by many; with no direct use of fossil fuels and zero emissions.
Heat pumps are extremely reliable with no moving parts and durable, with few sensitive components. They won’t however, heat the pool water when the outside air temperature drops below 45 degrees. This means that for a pool in the northern U.S. a pool heat pump can produce 6 months of heat, while deep southern pools can use a heat pump all year around.
Installation involves placement on a suitable base next to the pump and filter. Cut the return line, after the filter and route the pipe in and out of the heat pump.
The electrical requirement for heat pumps is heavy, most need a minimum service of 30 Amps. This may mean you need to have an electrician run a new line from the house main panel (breaker box) to the heat pump, to provide enough amperage to power the heat pump.
Solar Pool Heaters
Solar Heaters are a modified version of the old cowboy method of using black hoses to heat water in the old west. Today’s solar panels are not black hoses, but a similar design that flows water through black mats of polyethylene, which are heated by the sun.
Solar pool panels are modular; they connect together. Use 1 panel for small aboveground pools, or connect 2 or 4 panels together for larger pools. Aboveground solar pool heaters are 4′x10′ or 4′x20′ panels.
Most backyards have a suitable location (southern exposure is best) for mounting solar panels. Panels can be installed on a roof, angled to the sun on a solar rack, or they can also be laid right on the ground, next to the pool. 4-6 hours of direct daily sun is recommended.
After deciding where to locate the solar panel, installation is simply a matter of running your pipe or hoses in and out of the solar panels. A diverter valve allows you to turn the solar heater On or Off.
For smaller pools, a new player in solar pool heating for aboveground pools this year is the Solar Arc. Easy to set up and install, and like the solar panel system, modular units can be connected together.
What about a Pool Cover?
That’s a good question, since using a cover such as a solar blanket or a winter cover can save up to 70% of your pool heat from escaping from the pool.
You don’t have to cover the pool to heat it, but if you do, you will heat the pool for less money while saving energy. Your heater may require less maintenance and should be able to achieve higher overall temperature rise than without a pool cover to retain the heat.
To start heating the pool before the weather turns too cold, first decide on the type: Solar, Gas or Electric. Consider the cost of installation and understand your pool usage patterns to help you decide. Or, give our aboveground pool heating experts here in Chicago a call – many can speak with authority about their own pool heaters!
InTheSwim Blog Editor