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Swimming Pool Heater vs. Heat Pump

If you’re looking to open the pool earlier this spring and keep it open later in the year, pool heaters and heat pumps are the best options available. But what makes one different from the other? To help you make an educated decision before purchase, we’ll help you understand the main features of a swimming pool heater vs. a pool heat pump.

Pool Heaters

Swimming pool heaters are the most popular option when it comes to heating your pool. Heaters utilize natural gas, propane, or electricity to heat water returning back into your pool. They have a lower upfront cost and raise water temperatures quickly. Although heaters have a lower upfront cost than heat pumps, they do require the ongoing expense of propane or natural gas. This ongoing cost of operation generally exceeds the expense of running a heat pump.

Depending on the type of fuel used (propane or natural gas) and the geographic location of your pool, the cost to heat your pool can range from about $3.00 to $9.00 per hour. Natural gas heaters typically cost a few dollars less per hour vs. propane heaters. Depending on where you live, natural gas can also cost up to 85% less than propane gas. On the flip side, propane might be the most readily available fuel source in your region.

An electric pool heater is another great option if propane or natural gas won't work for your pool. Electric heaters aren't quite as efficient as other styles of heaters, so these are typically reserved for smaller pools, indoor pools, or spas and hot tubs. Electric heaters will increase your monthly electric bill, but they're a dependable way to heat any pool.

Jacuzzi Pool Heater


  • Lower upfront cost.
  • Heats pool water quickly.
  • Works in any temperature.
  • Easily installed into plumbed gas line from your home.


  • Higher utility costs.
  • More moving parts compared to heat pumps.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular for pool owners. They use the ambient air surrounding the unit to heat your pool. The air passes over an evaporator coil, and the heated refrigerant transfers the heat to the water returning back into your pool. This process does not require natural gas or propane resources, which lowers running utility costs drastically. Heat pumps cost about $0.63 an hour to run on electricity; a fraction of the cost of propane or natural gas.

Although running costs are low, heat pumps do have a slight disadvantage. Since heat pumps use the surrounding (ambient) air around the unit, they only work well when temperatures are higher than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures drop below 50 degrees, heat pumps lose the ability to effectively heat your pool water.

To learn more about how heat pumps work, be sure to read our detailed article, How Do Pool Heat Pumps Work?

Jacuzzi Heat Pump


  • Lower run cost.
  • Energy efficient.
  • Easier to install.
  • Great for mild climates.


  • Higher upfront cost.
  • Ineffective below 50 degrees.


Both heaters and heat pumps are a great solution for pool owners looking for effective ways to heat their pool water. The main deciding factors between a pool heater vs. a heat pump will be your location, budget, and heating needs. If you live in a colder climate and want to enjoy the longest pool season as possible, you should probably lean towards a natural gas, propane, or electric pool heater. However, if you want something that will save you money in the long run, and you live in a climate that does not drop below 50 degrees often, a heat pump may be the best option.

Shop the best deals on natural gas pool heaters, propane pool heaters, electric pool heaters, and heat pumps from the leading manufacturers like Jacuzzi, Pentair, Hayward, Raypak and more. Still have questions? Our team of pool experts are here to help you find the best heating solution for your swimming pool and lifestyle. Stop by your local Leslie's today to speak with one of our friendly associates.

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