It’s the height of summer and you couldn’t be more excited to finally dive into your own above ground pool and make the most of the good weather with your friends and loved ones.
At least, you couldn’t until you finally get in there and the water is so shockingly cold that you leap right back out again.
If so, it’s time to start shopping around for one of the best above ground pool heaters to keep your water warm and ensure you and your family can truly enjoy the kind of summer fun you deserve.
Today, we’ll share with you our pick of the five very best brands currently on the market as well as offering our expert tips and suggestions to help you pick the right model for your particular pool.
Types of Above Ground Pool Heaters
On the face of it, it may not seem as though the type of above ground pool heater you buy makes all that much difference.
After all, as long as they help you enjoy your pool at a comfortable temperature, then surely it’s no big deal whether you use a pump, a solar-powered heater or one that runs on electricity, right?
There’s a big difference between the three main types of pool heaters, and if you’re going to get the most from your investment, then it’s essential to know which type is best suited to your particular needs.
Unlike the other types that we’ll look at, heat pumps don’t actually generate their own heat using a standard heating element, but rather draw in heat from the air and transfer it to your pool, making them an ideal solution if you live in a particularly warm climate.
Most pumps tend to cost more to buy than your average electric or gas heater, but once you’ve bought it, that extra cost is offset by the fact that heat pumps are a lot cheaper to run.
Typically, they generate roughly six kilowatts of heat for every one kilowatt of electricity they use, compared to the six kilowatts of electricity that it would take an electric heater to produce the same amount of heat.
Sometimes referred to as ‘tankless heaters, electric heaters are one of the cheapest types to buy off the shelf, but end up costing as much as six times more to run than other models.
These types of heaters use a standard heating element to raise the temperature of the water, though due to the high running costs, most people use them only to heat a spa or sauna rather than an entire above ground pool.
Gas pumps work in much the same way as electric pumps as they use a standard heating element to warm up the water, but use natural gas or propane as their fuel source.
These do a great job of keeping your water at the same temperature for a long time so that you don’t have to keep checking your pool thermometer and adjusting the temperature, but the cost of all that fuel soon adds up and can be very harmful to the environment.
Solar pool heaters like our number one ranked SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater System rely on the sun’s thermal energy to heat your pool.
With this type, water is pumped from your pool into a device called a solar collector which sits on your roof or other high location in direct sunlight.
The solar panels on your collector soak up the sun’s energy and use it to warm up the water, then pump it back down into the pool.
Though the initial investment in a solar heater may be a little more expensive, the long-term cost savings simply can’t be understated as there are no running costs involved.
Another strong point is that using solar energy is by far the most eco-efficient way of heating your pool, though on the downside, attaching that collector to your roof and setting up your solar system can be quite complicated.
Top Five Best Above Ground Pool Heaters
|2.||FibroPool FH120||Heat Pump|
|3.||Hayward H100IDP1 H-Series||Gas|
|4.||EcoSmart Smart Pool 27||Electric|
1. SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater Complete System with Roof Kit
Right off the bat, SunQuest’s Complete Pool Heater System with roof kit comes with almost everything you need to heat any medium-large above ground pool.
We say ‘almost’ because SunQuest says that you still have to go out and buy the pipes which connect your solar panels to the pool yourself. This is both a little disappointing and frustrating, but we’ll give them a pass since this is still a very good quality kit.
Once you have all the pieces together, this simple do-it-yourself system can be installed and ready to go within half an hour.
From there, the SunQuest kit is capable of raising your pool water temperature by up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit in warmer climates and maintaining that raised temperature for hours at a time.
SunQuest Pool Heater Kit specifications:
Heat output: Up to 15°F
Size: 6 panels at 2ft x 12ft (other sizes available)
Weight: 93 lbs
Customer rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
SunQuest Pool Heater Kit Pros
- Most energy-efficient pool heater
- Easy installation
- 2″ OD headers allow for better circulation and less pressure on your pool pump
- Available in multiple sizes to heat larger pool
SunQuest Pool Heater Kit Cons
- Requires extra piping to connect pool to solar panel
- Takes longer to heat up pool than gas or electric-powered models
2: FibroPool FH120 Above Ground Swimming Pool Heat Pump
After solar, heat pumps are the most efficient way to heat your pool, so it’s no surprise that FibroPool’s impressive FH120 Above Ground Swimming Pool Heat Pump consistently earns rave reviews from those who use it.
Weighing in at almost 75 lbs with an output of 20,000 BTU’s, there’s no mistaking it, this is a beast of a device.
Yet kind of size and power is exactly what makes the FH120 so effective, providing adequate heat for pools of up to 7,500 gallons faster than competing models.
Not that this particular pump is going to be a drain on your home energy.
Thanks to a combination of a titanium heat exchanger and a high-pressure scroll compressor, the FH120 is designed to be as efficient as possible, raising the temperature of your pool by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit and maintaining a consistent temperature for less than 16 cents per hour.
All in all, this is a solid investment if you have a larger pool that needs heating but beware of the cost. While FibroPool may make some of the best above ground pool heaters around, they’re also some of the most expensive.
FibroPool FH120 specifications:
Type: Heat pump
Heat output: Up to 10°F
Size: 25 x 20 x 10 inches
Weight: 74 lbs
Customer rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
FibroPool FH120 Pros
- Best pump heater for larger pools
- Cost-effective – runs at 16 cents per hour
- Works well even in dry climates
FibroPool FH120 Cons
- Expensive cost may put it out of some pool-owners’ price range
- Large and heavy, making installation harder
- Slower than electric heaters at heating water
3: Hayward H100IDP1 H-Series 100,000 BTU Above Ground Pool & Spa Heater
Above ground pool heaters powered by propane may not be the most ecologically sound method of warming up your pool water, nor are they generally the most cost-effective option if you have an especially large pool.
Yet for small pools or spas, the Hayward H100IDP1 H-Series 100,000 BTU Above Ground Pool & Spa Heater may prove to be a budget-friendly choice, particularly if you already have a surplus of propane for your other outdoor devices.
As gas-powered heaters go, the Hayward H1001D1 H-Series earns high marks for its top-notch performance, bringing the heat of your pool water up by close to 15 degrees Fahrenheit and keeping it there.
One big criticism of these kinds of heaters is that the cabinet surface temperature can often be hot to the touch, increasing the risk of burn injuries. Here, Hayward counters that with a specially designed surface that remains cool no matter how hot it gets inside the heater.
Best of all, it’s much cheaper than many of the best above ground pool heaters that run on gas, making it a solid choice if you’re looking to keep an eye on your wallet.
Hayward H100IDP1 H-Series specifications
Heat output: Up to 15°F
Size: 26.5 x 30.5 inches
Weight: 79 lbs
Customer rating: 3.4 out of 5
Hayward H1001DP1 Pros
- Affordable cost makes it a good choice for budget-conscious pool owners
- Electronic ignition makes for easy automatic operation
- Draft technology ensures optimum performance in all-conditions
- Stay-cool case to prevent burns and injuries
Hayward H1001DP1 Cons
- More expensive to run than other types of heater
- Burning propane can be harmful to the environment
- Not well-suited for larger pools
4. EcoSmart Smart Pool 27 Electric Tankless Pool Heater
If you’re adamant that an electric-powered pool heater is the way to go for you, then EcoSmart’s digital tankless option should be at the top of your list.
At just 24 lbs, this is one of the smallest and most lightweight options we’ve seen so far, making it easy to store in compact spaces.
The small size also makes it very easy to install, while the hand EcoSmart Remote lets you control the temperature without even leaving the pool.
Durable and long-lasting, the EcoSmart Smart Pool 27 can raise your pool temperature by 15 degrees in one-degree increments, providing a level of control that you just don’t get with other models.
EcoSmart Smart Pool 27 specifications:
Heat output: 15°F
Size: 6 x 14 x 17 inches
Weight: 24.2 lbs
Customer rating: 3.7 out of five
EcoSmart Smart Pool 27 Pros
- Compact design makes for easy installation
- Comes with a remote so you can control the pool temperature from anywhere in your garden
- Digital thermostat for more precise temperature control
EcoSmart Smart Pool 27 Cons
- Electric-powered pool heaters are more expensive to run
- Needs an extra water-proof enclosure to protect it from damage
5: SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater
Another very popular solar-powered heater, the SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater earns major points for its use of renewable energy, making it the most cost-effective and energy-efficient way to heat your pool.
Yet it’s hardly the only solar-powered option out there, so what makes this one stand out from the pack?
For one thing, we love the fact that the SunHeater S120U is a breeze to set up and use. Unlike other solar pool heaters that seem to require a degree in advanced engineering to install, this one attaches effortlessly to a roof, fence or rack, and can even be positioned in the ground where it will be effective provided there’s adequate sunlight.
We also like the fact that there’s no need to buy or install a separate pump. This popular pool heater integrates with your existing pool pump to send the water through the tubes and into the collector, where it can raise the water temperature by as much as 6 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
An affordable, eco-friendly pump, the SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater is the perfect choice if you live in an area with lots of warm sun. Otherwise, you may want to consider a model that runs on gas or electricity.
SunHeater S120U specifications:
Heat output: Up to 10°F
Size: 120 x 27.5 x 16 inches
Weight: 17.5 lbs
Customer rating: 3.3 out of 5 stars
SunHeater S120U Pros
- Easy installation
- Works with existing pool pump
- Affordable price for a solar heater
SunHeater S120U Cons
- Only a good choice for states with lots of sunshine
- Slower at heating pool water than other models
Above Ground Pool Heater Alternatives
If none of our top five above ground pool heaters sound suitable, then you may be glad to know that there are other options available.
The best part is that most pool heater alternatives prove to be much easier to use, much more environmentally friendly, and often much more cost-effective than the heaters themselves.
Here’s a look at some other options you might want to consider if you decide that a heater isn’t right for you.
Solar Pool Covers
Sometimes known as pool blankets, solar pool covers like the popular Sun2Solar Blue 1200 Series Heating Blanket absorb the sun’s energy throughout the day and focus that energy into the water to heat it.
Meanwhile, the air bubbles trap all that heat in the water and stop it from escaping once the sun goes down so that your pool remains at a warm temperature.
Even if you decide not to opt for a solar-powered one, investing in a good quality pool cover can help you keep your pool warmer for longer as it prevents the heat from escaping.
Solar Pool Mats
Given the level of effort it takes to adequately heat your pool this way, products like the Intex 28685E Above Ground Swimming Pool Water Heater Solar Mat are best reserved for smaller pools.
Solar mats are heated by the sun and transfer that heat to the pool water as it is pumped through them.
While this can prove effective, it tends to take much longer to heat up your pool this way than it does using other products which is why we recommend only using them if you have a small pool, or if you’re going to be using your pool so infrequently that you can afford to wait a while for the pool to be adequately heated.
Buying a Pool Heater – Three Key Things to Consider
Having tried and tested dozens of leading pool heaters over the summer months, we’re confident that our guide really does reflect the five very best products available right now.
Yet while each one may outrank their competitors in terms of performance, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re all perfectly suited for your particular needs.
For example, while our first-placed SunQuest Complete System may be ideal for our readers in permanently sunny climates, those further North may find that our third-placed Hayward H100IDP1 H-Series is a more appropriate purchase.
So how do you determine which is the best pool heater for your above ground pool?
Here are three things you need to consider:
There are two distinct costs to consider when buying a pool pump:
1: Upfront costs
2: Running costs
When it comes to upfront costs, a gas model will take the smallest bite out of your budget, while a solar-powered above ground pool heater is going to cost you the most from the outset.
However, since they rely solely on the sun’s energy, solar options won’t cost you a thing to run, while the high cost of gasoline or propane may mean that the cheap gas heater ends up being the most expensive model in the long-run.
If you have the money to spend upfront, then a solar-powered cover is going to provide the best long-term value for money.
Otherwise, you may want to consider an electric-powered heater or heat pump. These are both cheaper to buy than solar covers and cheaper to run than gas models, meaning they’re the best of both worlds.
The type of environment you live in will play a big determining factor in the kind of heater you buy.
If you live in the Southern states, then a solar-powered pool cover is perfect for capturing all of that warm sunshine and using it to heat your pool.
However, if you live in an area with a more moderate climate, then you may find that there isn’t enough sun to make solar a viable option. In that case, you might want to opt for a heat pump or electric heater.
3: Pool Size
The larger your pool, the bigger the heater you’ll need. Therefore, It pays to calculate the volume of your pool water before you invest in a heater to ensure you enjoy maximum efficiency and thus maximum value for money.
How to calculate the volume of water in your pool
The most effective way to determine how much water is in your pool is largely dependent on the shape of your pool, though rest assured that each method is pretty straight forward.
To calculate the water volume of your round pool, use the following formula:
3.14 x Pool Radius x Pool Radius x Pool Depth = Pool Volume.
You can easily work out the radius of your pool by first measuring the diameter and then halving it. Half of the diameter gives you your radius.
To measure the water volume of your rectangular pool, use the following simple formula.
Pool Length x Pool Width x Pool Depth = Pool Volume.
Four Easy Ways Extend Your Pool Season
If you’ve read this far, then you know all too well what a big difference a pool heater can make to your pool season.
After all, while those in places like Florida may be blessed with beautiful sunshine and scorching temperatures right the year round, those of us in other parts of the country aren’t so lucky.
If you live in an area where colder climates are the norm, then you don’t need us to tell you what a brief window of opportunity you usually have to make the most of your above ground pool, nor how disappointing, if not utterly infuriating this can be.
Let’s face it, above ground pools don’t exactly come cheap, and if you’re only getting to spend a few weeks enjoying yours, then you’re simply not getting the kind of value for money from it that you deserve.
With that in mind, here are four easy ways to extend your pool season, ensuring you get to enjoy your pool for weeks, if not months, after all of your neighbours have packed up and gone inside.
1: Save Money on Extending Your Pool Season With Liquid Solar Covers Pool Covers
By far the cheapest way to extend your pool season is to invest in a liquid pool cover such as SunHeater’s Solar Blanket Liquid HeatShield SHS32 Solar Blanket in a Bottle.
Retailing for between $15 – $30, liquid covers create an invisible barrier on the surface of your pool which absorbs the sun’s rays and converts them into water-heating energy while at the same time preventing heat-reducing evaporation by as much as 85%.
Given that you’ll have to physically go around and spray your liquid pool cover over the surface of the water, this soon becomes the most time-consuming and physically demanding way of extending your pool season.
However, if you’re in an area with lots of sunshine but don’t want the expense of a physical solar-powered pool blanket, then this may prove to be the perfect option for you.
2: Switch from Solar to Electric Heaters in Cooler Climates
If you find that the sun doesn’t shine quite as bright towards the end of summer as it did at the start, then you may want to reconsider your solar cover altogether.
If the air remains warm despite the lack of sunlight, then heater pumps such as our second-placed FibroPool FH120 may be a good fit as they draw in the air surrounding your pool and convert into heat-raising energy, however, these are typically only helpful in temperatures above 50°F.
For the best results, look at electrical heaters, which can extend your pool season by a good six weeks at either end of the season by using a standard heating element to make the water comfortable enough to swim and relax in.
3: Opt for Gas Heaters for the Quickest Way to Extend Your Pool Season
Much like electric heaters, gas-powered pool heaters don’t rely on any particular type of climate to be effective.
Running on natural gas or propane, they get to work quickly and can provide adequate pool heating whenever you feel like enjoying your pool.
So, while your neighbors may wait until the height of summer to start using their pool, you could use your gas heater to begin your season as early as spring and finish as late as the fall.
4: Use Solar Rings as an Easy, Low-Cost Solar Pool Cover Alternative
OK, so you don’t like the cost of top-of-the-range solar pool covers, but you’re not to keen on walking the length and breadth of your pool to spray down an invisible, liquid cover either.
In that case, you might want to consider solar rings as a happy compromise.
Given their size, solar rings like these ones are better suited to smaller pools, but if you have enough of them then they can prove effective for larger volumes of water.
Multiple rings can be connected with in-built magnets, providing the same kind of heat as a standard solar cover without any of the costs or complications involved.
In our experience, these are typically a great option for starting your pool season early, though we’ve also been the envy of our neighbors by using them to spend more time in the pool than anyone else in the neighborhood.