Having a pool at home is a wonderful thing. After all, a swimming pool serves as a great family hangout as well as a venue for pool parties with friends and relatives. With a pool, you can have a relaxing dip, or have a full-body workout anytime in the comfort of home.
Living in a location around Sydney, though, means you’re often only able to use your pool comfortably for about half of the year or so. Pool heating can significantly change this, and help extend the time for using your pool. Moreover, having a heated pool amplifies the therapeutic effects of swimming. It also eliminates the possibility of kids and elderly swimmers getting cold.
Reasons why you may need a pool heater
Aside from the obvious, there are a couple of reasons why getting a pool heater installed would be a practical decision for you:
- You and your family don’t like swimming in a cold pool.
- You want to enjoy your pool for longer, even when the cold season sets in.
- You’re hoping to increase the value of your pool and property.
- Your pool is rarely exposed to the sun directly.
- You prefer or only have time to swim early in the morning or late in the day when the sun isn’t out.
- You’re a spontaneous swimmer, and want to be able to jump in anytime without having to worry about suffering from the chills.
After justifying your need for a swimming pool heater, your next concern would be pool heating options. How do you heat your pool, and which of the options should you choose?
The three different types of pool heaters
When it comes to heating your swimming pool, there are three types of heaters you can choose from: gas-powered, electrical and solar.
Considered the most expensive pool heating method, gas is also the most reliable and effective. It can maintain the temperature of your pool water at almost any temperature, any day of the year.
You can use either natural gas or liquid propane as fuel. With a gas heater, you needn’t depend on sunlight (which may be weak during cold, cloudy days). It also does not depend on the air temperature the way that a heat pump would.
If you have a pool and spa combination, a gas heater would be your best bet. Spas require that the water temperature be maintained at a comfortable temperature conducive to relaxation. Since they are primarily used for hydrotherapy and are meant to relieve aches and pains and alleviate the condition of muscular injuries, temperature stability is important. A gas heating system is also able to heat water quickly so it works great for those times when you need to use your pool in a hurry.
There are some downsides to using a gas heater, though.
First of all, gas is not a clean energy form. It is unsustainable and harmful to the environment. Gas is also expensive, so if you choose it, be prepared for high fuel costs. What some pool owners do is to use a gas heater as a backup system for their solar heater when there is not enough power stored in the solar collectors.
Common problems encountered with gas heaters and how to address them:
- When the pilot won’t light, you need to check if the gas pressure is normal. You also need to ensure that there is no blockage in the vents.
- If the heat pump won’t light up, check if the heater switch is on. Also, check if the thermostat setting is at a higher temperature than that of the pool water.
- If it seems that the water is not warming enough, make sure that the thermostat is at the correct setting for the temperature you want. If it’s a new heater, it may also be that the heater you are using is not the right size for your pool. However, if these are not the issues, you will need to get your heater checked for internal faults.
- For a leaky heater, the first thing you need to do is to check the connections, as well as the gaskets. See if anything is damaged, and get them replaced. If this is not the case, you may need to have the heat exchanger checked as pool chemicals and very low temperatures can damage it. However, if the leaking happens while the burner is lit, the problem may be caused by too much air flow or condensation build-up. Either way, don’t try to fix it yourself and get a professional technician to look into the problem.
- If the pool water becomes rusty, it may be due to the corrosion of heater elements. Pool chemicals can cause rusting so always make sure to check if the pool chemicals you use are in balance.
Heat pumps are a popular choice among Australian pool owners. What a heat pump does is reuse energy from the air, thereby making them a cost-effective solution to your pool heating requirements. A fan collects heat from the air and runs it over the evaporator coil and then through a heat exchanger, which then warms the pool water it passes through.
An electrical heating system can be a better choice over, say, a solar heater. However, this also depends on the climate in your location. Unlike solar collectors, a heat pump can continue collecting heat from the air even at night or during cloudy weather. It can also heat pool water much faster than a solar heating system could.
Some disadvantages of using a heat pump include the need for a dedicated or separate power line, and at least a 40-amp breaker. This, of course, depends on how big the pool heat pump is. Based on this setup, using a heat pump does require a substantial amount of electricity. They are more expensive to run and less eco-friendly compared to solar heaters.
When compared to a gas heater, an electric pool heating system can only give a slight increase in water temperature. However, heating costs are normally 50 to 75 per cent less expensive than those of a gas heater.
Common problems encountered with heat pumps and how to address them:
- When there is low water flow, check to make sure that the valves are completely open. They need to be fully open to get enough water flowing through the pump. Also, check the filter in case it already needs to be cleaned.
- If the pump stops running or has no power, check all power sources. This includes all connections and the breaker. It may also be caused by faulty wiring, so it’s best if an electrician checks the problem for you.
- If there is no heat being generated, ensure that the thermostat is set at a higher temperature than that of the pool water. Consider the external temperature as well since heat pumps should be used only with temperatures above 50°F.
- When there is low Freon, it is highly likely that your heat pump will be generating error codes. This usually happens when the outside temperature is below 50°F.
- If the unit gets covered in ice, it may be because the temperature is below 50°F. Most heat pumps automatically shut off when ice starts to accumulate, and then turn on when the outside temperature is at an acceptable level.
Currently, the most popular method of pool heating and the cheapest heaters to run in Australia and beyond, solar heaters make use of solar energy as their power source. Solar heaters are highly preferred because they are not only cost-effective in the long run but also because they run on clean energy that’s sustainable. Therefore, they are a safe and environment-friendly choice.
Solar collectors (which absorb heat from the sun) are mounted on a roof, or a small rack is installed where there is maximum sun exposure to warm the solar panels. Pool water is then pumped through the solar collectors and returns to the pool as heated or warm water. During especially sunny days, a solar heating system can consistently increase pool temperature by two degrees.
They work best in places that receive plenty of sunshine to ensure they provide adequate heat for more months of the year. For the best performance, solar collectors should ideally be mounted in a southern location on your roof. The number of solar collectors you need depends on the pool size. If you are going to mount them in a place which does not get any southern exposure, you may need to increase the number of solar collectors.
Common problems encountered with solar heaters and how to address them:
- If your solar heater seems to not work or is not heating the pool water at an acceptable level, you may need to have the filters cleaned. To prevent this problem from recurring, be sure to check filters regularly and replace them as needed.
- When there is not enough sunlight or the sky is cloudy, you may need to wait till your solar collectors get about four to six hours (minimum) of direct sunlight before attempting to use your heater.
Criteria for selecting the right pool heater for your home
Now you that you know about the three main types of swimming pool heaters, you may be ready to commit to one type. However, before making a decision, there are a couple of considerations you still need to make:
1. Frequency of heater use
If your pool mainly functions for weekends or occasional use, the most practical choice would be a gas heater which heats water on-demand. Solar heaters and heat pumps, meanwhile, supply a slow and steady heat output.
2. Your heating needs
Whatever the pool heater type, using a heater can easily add 10 degrees to the normal pool temperature, and 20 degrees more for correctly-sized systems. But if you have a hot tub, for example, and require a 30 to 40-degree increase in temperature, a gas heater could be the better choice. The same can be said when you want to swim in your pool during the autumn or near-winter season.
Moreover, you need to consider the size of your swimming pool. A larger pool requires a more stable and efficient heating system to ensure it is heated at a constant temperature.
3. Logistical considerations
Even if you have a ready choice, you still need to make some practical considerations.
- If you want to install a gas heater: You need to factor in the distance of the gas meter form the heater. You also need to consider operating costs. If connecting the gas meter to the heater means a substantial investment, you may want to weigh it against using a heat pump instead.
- If you’ve decided on installing a heat pump: You need to find out if you have enough power to actually use it. Otherwise, you may need to get an electrician to run a new line from the main panel in your house – a possibly costly undertaking.
- If your final choice is solar panels: Is the roof for the panels close enough to your pool equipment? This way, you will require less piping work going to and from the solar panels. Also, the best solar panel location should be getting about six to eight hours of direct sunlight every day, preferably facing south.
Since there are a number of technical considerations to take into account when it comes to selecting the best heater for your pool, it is essential to get professional advice. Speak to your local swimming pool builder, or a licenced pool plumbing expert. This way, they can help you assess your needs, and your pool set up, and come up with the best solution.
Choose the best heater of all
What you may find to be the best heater for you may not work with everyone else. The main thing, however, is that you carefully weigh the pros and cons of each heater type, and always consider your pool setup and requirements.
Call us for your pool requirements. You can rest assured we will give you the best advice there is based on your specific situation.