Say Goodbye to Chilly Dips With These Best Pool Heaters (2024)

A pool heater is a great way to maintain a comfortable water temperature—a welcome relief in really hot climates—and extend your pool time into the cooler months. Some heaters can even cool the water temperature down to 50 degrees, which is perfect for a cold plunge.

There are various options, including gas, electric, and solar-powered models, and it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each type. “Electric units are great because they use a common fuel type, and the units come in a variety of sizes and dimensions based on your heating needs,” says Asif Gajraj, Thumbtack Pool Pro and CEO of JALCA Enterprises, LLC. Their con, as he points out, is that they have a limited BTU rating—usually a max of 140,000 BTUs, which means they take a lot longer to heat your pool.

Gas heaters are the most effective of the three for colder climates. However, they tend to be more expensive, and the ongoing fuel costs can mount up quickly. Solar pool heaters are great because they heat the water efficiently and don't cost anything. However, they are ineffective in the winter and during cloudy or wet days and require bolting to the roof.

We researched the best pool heaters on the market, carefully evaluating each product on energy efficiency, heating capacity, durability, ease of installation, and temperature control options.

Our Top Picks

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What We Like

  • More eco-friendly than gas or propane heaters

  • Energy-efficient and durable design

  • Digital control panel with easy-to-read display

What We Don’t Lik

  • Not recommended for dry or colder climates

This pool heater from FibroPool is powered by electricity, making it a more cost efficient option in places where the cost of electricity is significantly lower than natural gas. This unit delivers a heat output of 55,000 BTUs, which makes it suitable for in-ground pools up to 10,000 gallons, as well as above-ground pools up to 21-foot round or 15 by 30-foot oval.

According to the manufacturer, this heater can heat 10,000-gallon pools to 82 degrees Fahrenheit under ideal conditions. Like any heat pump, it works best in a humid climate (ideally above 60 degrees Fahrenheit).Keep in mind that heat pumps aren’t the most powerful option and, therefore, not the best choice for larger pools or colder climates.

The FibroPool heat pump has many notable features that set it apart from the competition. Utilizing advanced compressors and titanium heat exchangers, it’s one of the most energy-efficient options in its class. Thanks to an enamel-coated steel chassis, it can withstand all sorts of outdoor conditions, from harsh storms to intense sunlight and everything in between.

There is a digital control panel on the side that is easy to read and offers temperature settings and monitoring. We particularly like that the heater can be used with both freshwater and saltwater pools.

Dimensions: ‎40 x 16 x 24 inches | Fuel Type: Electric | Heating Capacity: 55,000 BTUs | Pool Type: Inground or above-ground

BTUs: What to Know

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a measure of the heating capacity of a pool heater. It is important to choose the BTU rating that is recommended for the size of your pool. The higher the BTU output of the heater, the faster it will be able to raise the water temperature of the pool.

What We Like

  • Monitors operational status as well as service diagnostics

  • LCD digital display provides accurate temperature

  • High-wind resistance

What We Don’t Like

  • Requires a gas line installation

  • Relatively short warranty

The Raypak Digital Low NOx Gas Heater is our top gas choice because it offers powerful and fast heating capabilities, as well as an array of convenient features. Generating 266,000 BTUs (more than four times the amount as our best overall, electric), it can provide ample heating for inground pools and spas with up to 20,000 gallons of water. This heater is available in four different sizes, running from 306,000 BTUs to 399,000 BTUs, to suit a variety of needs.

Since it runs on natural gas, you will need to have a natural gas line connection installed, which may require the help of a professional. Designated as a “Low NOx” heater, it meets low nitrogen oxide emission standards and can be used in areas where gas is regulated.

Thanks to microprocessor-based thermostat control, you can set the temperature exactly where you want it by simply pressing the up and down arrows. When the water temperature drops below the programmed temperature set point (that you set), the electronic ignition will start the heater automatically, allowing for almost effortless operation.

The digital display provides a constant readout of your pool water temperature, so you can easily monitor and adjust it as needed. It’s also equipped with onboard diagnostic controls, allowing you to troubleshoot the unit and determine where the problem is in the control circuit without the need for a service technician.

This heater won't retain residual heat after it is turned off, eliminating the need for costly metal heat sinks during installation. It also offers heavy-duty construction and high wind resistance, allowing it to withstand a variety of outdoor conditions. Despite all that, it’s important to note that this heater has a relatively short one-year warranty.

Dimensions: 28 x 23 x 31.81 inches | Fuel Type: Natural gas | Heating Capacity: 266,000 BTU | Pool Type: In-ground

What We Like

  • Exceptional heating performance and durability

  • Can be used in saltwater pools

  • Meets low nitrogen oxide emission standards

What We Don’t Like

  • Lower energy efficiency

  • Higher operating costs

The Universal-H runs on natural gas or propane and is best suited for pools up to 1,200 square feet. Like our best overall, electric pick, it can also be used in saltwater pools. This unit has a durable cupro nickel heat exchanger that protects against corrosion and early breakdowns caused by unbalanced water chemistry.

While cupro nickel heat exchangers are usually standard on mid-range heaters, you don’t often find them on budget heaters like this one. If you live in an area that requires pool heaters to meet low nitrogen oxide emission standards, such as Southern California, this heater is a great choice because of its Low NOx designation.

With a 400,000 BTU output, this unit does an exceptional job of heating up a pool quickly. However, it’s not your best choice when it comes to energy efficiency—nor are gas heaters in general. While some gas heaters boast a 94 to 96 percent rating, the Universal-H Series models have energy efficiency ratings in the low 80s–a substantial difference. However, if you can forgo energy efficiency, you will get an extremely powerful and durable heater at an affordable price point.

Dimensions: 40 x 31 x 43 inches | Fuel Type: Natural gas or propane | Heating Capacity: 400,000 BTU | Pool Type: In-ground

What We Like

  • Titanium heat exchanger

  • Dual thermostats for pool and spa

  • Non-corrosive and durable design

  • Relatively quiet operation

What We Don’t Like

  • Loses efficiency as temperature drops

An electric heat pump is an alternative type of pool heater that uses ambient air to heat pool water. This heater is best suited for in-ground pools that are used frequently to maintain an ideal, consistent temperature. With a 95,000 BTU output, the Hayward HeatPro is capable of heating an average-sized to large swimming pool.

Thanks to a dual thermostat, you can heat your spa as well. One drawback to air-source heat pumps is that they lose efficiency as the outdoor temperature drops.

Since this heater is ideal for warmer climates with high humidity, it has some noteworthy features that protect it from the elements. The titanium heat exchanger and evaporator fin are highly resistant to salt water and chemical corrosion. This unit also has UV-resistant body panels and stainless steel hardware to prevent rust and deterioration.

Compared with some gas pool heaters, the HeatPro series offers superior durability and quieter operation. For example, the profiled fan blade is designed to improve airflow efficiency and reduce noise during operation. It also has an acoustic compressor cover to minimize the noise level.

Dimensions: 40 x 31 x 43 inches | Fuel Type: Electric | Heating Capacity: 95,000 BTU | Pool Type: In-ground

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What We Like

  • Combines a heat pump and gas-fired heater

  • Versatile and efficient heating modes

  • Titanium heat exchanger for optimal performance

  • Can be operated via an app

What We Don’t Like

  • Requires a gas line installation

  • Automation systems are sold separately

The Pentair UltraTemp ETi is one of the most unique and versatile options in our roundup. It is a hybrid pool heater that contains both a heat pump and a gas-fired heater. You can switch between four operating modes: gas only, heat pump only, dual, or hybrid.

In “dual” mode, the heat pump and gas heater run simultaneously to boost the temperature quickly and deliver maximum heat output. In “hybrid” mode, this unit will automatically determine the fastest and most economical method for heating the pool based on your preferences. This hybrid pool heater is also a boon for spa owners: In just over half an hour, the UltraTemp can increase the water temperature by 30 degrees in a 500-gallon spa.

In addition to all of this innovative technology, the Pentair UltraTemp ETi has a durable design, ensuring years of reliable use. The heat exchanger in the heat pump is made from long-lasting titanium. If you purchase one of PentAir’s automation systems, you operate the heater from an app for optimal control over your pool system. To top it off, this heater is compatible with in-ground, above-ground, and saltwater pools.

Dimensions: Not listed | Fuel Type: Electric and natural gas or propane | Heating Capacity: Not applicable | Pool Type: In-ground, above-ground and saltwater

What We Like

  • Ability to heat or cool water

  • Titanium heat exchanger with lifetime warranty

  • Can be controlled via smartphone

  • Extremely quiet operation

What We Don’t Like

  • Need PoolSync Wifi Controller to use app

  • Repairs can be costly

This innovative unit from AquaCal has the ability to heat and cool pools, and it can be operated via a smartphone for added convenience. We also like that this versatile pump can be used on in-ground, above-ground, and saltwater pools.

Although this heater/chiller combo is significantly pricier than other types of heaters, its high-quality construction justifies its steep cost. AquaCal offers a lifetime guarantee on the titanium heat exchanger, the primary component of this machine.

Plus, it offers superior performance compared to the traditional copper or cupronickel materials used on mid-level models. This heater is enclosed in a corrosion-proof cabinet, and it has an exclusive integrated top that protects the internal components from debris, leaves, and other vegetation that could get inside and cause damage.

Operating at 55 decibels (comparable to the sound made by a household refrigerator), the AquaCal Heat Pump is one of the quietest options on this list–giving you plenty of undisturbed pool time. For added convenience, you can adjust the heat mode and temperature settings in AquaCal’s PoolSync app. However, you will need to purchase the PoolSync Wifi Controller in order to use the app. Users will also appreciate the easy-to-read and informative digital display. With all that said, one potential drawback to having a pool heater this advanced is that repairs can be very expensive.

Dimensions: 34 x 34 x 44 inches | Fuel Type: Electric | Heating Capacity: 126, 000 BTUs | Pool Type: In-ground, above-ground and saltwater

What We Like

  • Low-cost and eco-friendly heating method

  • Raises water temperature up to 10 degrees

  • Can be mounted to a roof or rack

What We Don’t Like

  • Ineffective on cloudy days

  • Installation kit sold separately

This solar pool heating system from Smart Pool is a cost-effective and eco-friendly solution for warming up in-ground pools. It consists of two durable polypropylene panels, each measuring 20 feet long by four feet wide, providing a total coverage area of 80 square feet.

You can purchase additional panels to cover larger pools. This system hooks up to your pool’s pump, which pushes water through the tubes in the panels. The water in the tubes is warmed by the sun before it’s recirculated back to the pool.

Keep in mind that you will need to have adequate space to roll these panels out. You can lay them out on the ground or mount them to a roof or rack with the installation kit (sold separately).

According to the manufacturer, this system has the ability to increase pool temperatures by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Like any solar pool heater, these panels require ample sunlight and won’t be effective on cloudy days.

Dimensions: ‎2 panels (each measuring 4 feet wide x 20 feet long) | Fuel Type: N/A | Heating Capacity: N/A | Pool Type: In-ground

What We Like

  • Ideal for heating large above-ground pools

  • Advanced LCD display/controller for convenient operation

  • Corrosion- and UV-resistant enclosure

  • Certified for low NOx emissions

What We Don’t Like

  • Requires a ¾-inch gas line installation up to 50 feet from the source

  • Limited placement options

If you have an above-ground but don’t feel like dealing with a slow solar heater, this natural gas heater from Pentair is a great solution. With 125,000 BTUs, it’s suitable for large above-ground pools with up to 15,000 gallons of water. It uses pre-mixed gas combustion technology and offers 82 percent thermal efficiency, which is the highest in its class.

At only 80 pounds, this unit’s lightweight design and compact size allow for easy installation. That said, it’s important to note that this heater requires a ¾-inch gas line installation up to 50 feet from the source.

Despite its compact size, the Pentair has all of the advanced features you’ll find on larger models. It has a rotating LCD digital display that makes installation orientation, programming, and monitoring a cinch. The enclosure is both corrosion- and UV-resistant, helping to protect the heater from the elements and extend its lifespan. This unit is certified for low NOx emissions, which means it can be used in areas that require pool heaters to meet low nitrogen oxide emission standards.

Dimensions: Not listed | Fuel Type: Natural gas | Heating Capacity: 125,000 BTU | Pool Type: Above-ground

What We Like

  • Compact design

  • Compatible with in-ground and above-ground pools

  • Digital thermostat for precise temperature control

  • Flow sensor technology improves durability

What We Don’t Like

  • Limited heating power

  • Not recommended for spas

Pool heaters can be bulky and take up a lot of space, but this model from EcoSmart offers a tankless and streamlined design to free up your yard. This heater is equipped with a digital thermostat, which you can set to your desired temperature in 1-degree increments.

Instead of a traditional pressure switch, this heater uses flow sensor technology to reduce the risk of burned elements, increasing its reliability. EcoSmart Pool Heaters can be used as an alternative to a heat pump or used in conjunction with one as a booster.

This unit is compatible with above- and in-ground pools with up to 15,000 gallons of water. Please note that this is not recommended for spas, however. One drawback to a tankless model is that it has limited heating power. It takes one hour to raise the temperature by 1 to 1.5 degrees, so it could take more than 24 hours to increase the temperature of a large pool by 20 degrees.

Dimensions: ‎6 x 14 x 17 inches | Fuel Type: Electric | Heating Capacity: Not listed | Pool Type: Above- or in-ground

What We Like

  • Meets low emissions standards

  • Compatible with in-ground an above-ground pools

  • Easy to operate

What We Don’t Like

  • Not great for large pools

This propane heater produces 125,000 BTUs, making it a great choice for smaller pools of up to 15,000 gallons. Equipped with a natural gas burner and copper heat exchanger, this unit provides fast and ample heating for inground and above-ground pools.

Although it's one of the most reasonably priced options on this list, you won’t have to sacrifice quality or convenience. Pentair’s MasterTemp has an 82-percent efficiency rating, plus it is certified for Low NOx emissions, helping to keep exhaust emissions to a minimum. This heater is one of the quietest options on this list, so it won’t disturb your leisurely pool time.

In lieu of a pilot light, the MasterTemp features a hot surface ignition that makes startup a breeze. User-friendly features like an LCD digital display and LED indicator lights allow for simple operation and monitoring. Plus, the rotating digital display allows easy access from any position. This unit also has some impressive safety features, including a water pressure and stack flue sensor to prevent it from overheating—and it will shut off automatically when the temperature exceeds factory limits.Encased in corrosion- and UV-resistant housing, the durable design ensures years of reliable use.

Dimensions: Not listed | Fuel Type: Natural gas | Heating Capacity: 125,000 BTU | Pool Type: Above-ground

Final Verdict

Our top recommendation for a pool heater is the AquaCal Heatwave SuperQuiet IceBreaker Heat and Cool Pump, a flexible machine that can either boost or lower your water temperature without making a lot of noise. Since it’s electric, it’s an excellent choice for areas where gas heaters are being phased out because of environmental concerns. For a more budget-friendly heater, we recommend the Hayward Universal H-Series because it is durable, heats the water quickly, and is available in different sizes and BTUs.

What to Look for in a Pool Heater

Energy Efficiency

Look for pool heaters with high energy efficiency ratings to minimize operating costs. To operate efficiently, a heater must be appropriately sized for your pool. An oversized heater may warm up your pool quickly, causing it to cycle on and off, which in turn wastes energy and increases operating costs. On the other hand, an undersized heater will likely run continuously on its highest setting, sucking up energy to try to sustain the desired temperature. Our best overall, electric pick, FibroPool Swimming Pool Heat Pump, uses advanced compressors and titanium heat exchangers, making it one of the most energy-efficient options in its class.

Heating capacity

Typically, the heating capacity of pool heaters is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). One BTU raises one pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. The higher the BTU rating of your heater, the faster it can heat your pool–this means larger pools typically require higher BTU ratings. If you have a very large pool, your best bet is a propane or natural gas pool heater. Our best propane pick, the Hayward Universal H-Series has an output of 400,000 BTUs to heat up pools quickly.

Heater Type

There are three types of pool heaters on the market, which are classified by their power source: gas, electric, and solar.

  • Gas heaters use natural gas or propane to quickly heat up the water in the pool and maintain the desired temperature. When it comes to producing more heat (BTUs) and heating up pools faster, gas heaters are far superior to electric and solar pool heaters. They’re also the most effective option for colder climates. On the downside, gas heaters tend to be more expensive and the ongoing fuel costs can mount up quickly. “If the homeowner has a gas tank on their property that has to be refilled by a gas company, the cost of refilling the tank can be costly, which is a con,” says Asif Gajraj, Thumbtack Pool Pro and CEO of JALCA Enterprises, LLC.
  • Electric heaters are more energy-efficient than gas heaters, and their initial cost tends to be a bit less. Of course, ongoing costs are dependent on the price of electricity in your area. Our best overall, electric pick, FibroPool Swimming Pool Heat Pump, is a good choice for heating smaller-sized pools.
    An electric heat pump, which transfers the heat from the air into the water, is an excellent choice for warmer climates. Our top pick in this category, the Hayward HeatPro, can effectively heat average-to large-sized swimming pools. Due to the lack of ambient heat, electric heat pumps are not very effective in colder climates, however.
  • Solar pool heaters are the most affordable option, and they provide the most energy-efficient heating solution. They come in a variety of forms: From solar blankets that cover your pool and absorb heat from the sun to more advanced systems that circulate your pool water through a series of panels. Our top pick is this category, Smart Pool S601 Sun Heater High-Density Solar Heater, can warm up pools by as much as 10 degrees, and the panels can be mounted to a roof for maximum light absorption.

Temperature Control Options

Nowadays, most pool heaters have a user-friendly control panel with an easy-to-read display and temperature settings. Some models, like our best overall, gas pick, Raypak Digital Low NOx Natural Gas 266,000 BTU Pool Heater, have dual thermostats that can monitor both your pool and spa.\

Standout Features

Smart control capabilities

For added convenience, some pool heaters can be operated via a smartphone. “Automation systems are handy because they give the homeowner the option to control the heater from anywhere that has a connection to the internet,” says Gajraj. “They can turn up the pool temperature or turn it down with electric units that have a water cooling feature.” Our best splurge pick, AquaCal Heatwave SuperQuiet IceBreaker Heat and Cool Pump, allows you to adjust the temperature setting right from the app.

Dual fuel compatibility

Certain pool heaters can operate on dual fuel types, providing flexibility and backup options. These types of heaters come in handy if you want to heat up a pool extremely quickly or sustain a consistent temperature in the most efficient way possible. One of the most versatile options in our roundup, the Pentair UltraTempETi Heater, is a hybrid heater that combines a heat pump and gas-fired heater for maximum efficiency and performance. “Another great way to minimize operating costs is having both a solar heater and either an electric or gas heater working together,” says Gajraj. “The solar heater heats the water first and the non-solar heater is the backup in case there's a need to heat the water a few more degrees to meet desired temperatures.”

FAQ

  • How much does a pool heater cost?

    An entry-level mechanical heater with the basics that’s made by one of the top five most respected pool companies typically costs more than $2,000, while a high-end heater can cost $6,000-$9,000. Not surprisingly, larger heaters that can produce more heat (BTUs) typically cost more. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a solar system could cost $2,500 to $4,000 to buy and install.

  • Can you install a pool heater yourself?

    Our experts recommend that a pool professional install your heater, especially when dealing with flammable materials like natural gas and propane. The benefit to you is that some heater manufacturers will actually give you a better warranty if you buy a heater from a brick-and-mortar store and have an expert install your system.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article was written by Sage McHugh, who has been covering home and garden products for The Spruce since 2019. To select the best pool heaters for this roundup, she considered dozens of products, carefully evaluating their energy efficiency, heating capacity, durability, ease of installation, and temperature control options.

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