When you become a swimming pool owner, chances are you put together a budget for ongoing upkeep and maintenance and for the increases in utility bills you were going to be faced with once the pool project was done. Now, you’re looking at the calendar and the temperatures and wondering if you’re truly ready to walk away from the swimming pool or if you’re leaning toward heating the swimming pool water so you can swim a bit — or a lot — longer this season.

For many pool owners, the swim season is fleeting and that is especially true if you live in the northeast or the midwest where frigid temperatures can come seemingly overnight.

You’ve spent so much money having your swimming pool constructed — do you really only want to be able to use it three months of the year? Many pool owners will give a resounding, “no!” If you’re in that camp, this might be the year to talk with your pool contractor about heating the pool water so you and your family can swim for more months of the year.

The main benefit of a pool water heater is that you can swim for more weeks or months of the year. When you’re thinking of pool water heaters here are the three options: 

  1. Solar
  2. Gas
  3. Electric — heat pump models

Take your time to gain an understanding of each type, their advantages and drawbacks before you invest in not only the equipment, but its installation and ongoing utility bills.

Is Heating The Pool Water Worth It?

heating pool waterWhen shopping for the pool heater take into consideration the BTU (British Thermal Unit) of the unit you’re going to have installed. Many pool heaters range from 75,000 up to 450,000. The higher BTU unit you invest in, the warmer the water and the quicker it will heat up.


Pool water can be heated through natural gas or propane. Natural gas would require access to a natural gas line — not available in all areas of the country. When you heat the water with natural gas or propane, you’re going to spend about the same money for either piece of equipment to purchase it.

The price tag will be about $2,000 to $4,000 to buy the equipment. The cost for running it monthly may add up to $500 per month to your utility bills (this all depends on how often you run it and the temperature).

Gas heater pros:

  1. Inexpensive to purchase
  2. Quickly heats the water
  3. Doesn’t need warm ambient temperatures to be effective

Gas heater cons:

  1. It uses gas — a fossil fuel (this makes it not environmentally friendly
  2. Costly to operate
  3. Natural gas or propane will be determined by where you live. If you use propane you will need to have propane delivered or invest in propane tanks (similar to those on a gas grill. Propane tanks can detract from your landscaping

Heat pump

A heat pump is more environmentally-friendly than a gas heater, but it relies on the ambient air to warm the water. If it’s freezing cold, there isn’t enough warm air to heat the water effectively and the heat pump will struggle to keep the water at a swimmable temperature.

A heat pump will cost between $2,000 and $3,500 and if you set the water temperature to around 80 degrees, you may see an annual increase of about $1,000 to your utility bills.

Heat pump pros:

  1. Inexpensive to operate
  2. Have a long life span
  3. Environmentally friendly

Heat pump cons:

  1. If you don’t have one you will need a 220V electrical outlet
  2. Not efficient or very effective in cold temperatures
  3. Do not heat the water quickly and will require planning to heat the water when you want to swim


The sun is plentiful and a resource that costs you nothing to access. You will need to install a solar pool water heater in order to harness the power of the sun. Your choice for a solar pool water heating system will include glazed or unglazed heat collectors — make sure you ask your pool contractor for the pros and cons of each.

Budget for about $3,000 for the unit — depending on the size you need to heat your unique pool shape and size and depth. A solar heating system may also detract from the aesthetics of your yard.

Solar heater pros:

  1. Environmentally friendly
  2. It has a great ROI
  3. The sun — its energy source — is free
  4. With care they can last decades

Solar heater cons:

  1. Direct sunlight is needed. If you live in a shaded area, it may not work as well.
  2. They take up a lot of yard space and detract from the aesthetics of your landscape

As with any purchase you need to do your homework and you also need to budget not only for the cost of heating, but for the ongoing cost of pool upkeep and maintenance. If, however, you simply cannot get enough of the pool and the time you and your family spend there — then do your homework and get a pool water heater!