Selecting a suitable heater is a crucial part of owning and enjoying an above ground pool. The best heater for above ground pool is useful, especially during the winter season, helping you have a nice time regardless, and also at times during the winter when there is an unexpected fall in temperature.
One of the best above ground pool heater is the solar-type, mainly due to an ability to absorb sunlight during the day and store for your use at night.
The best solar heating for above ground pools system works without electricity supply, hence are cheaper to run, and operates by drawing water, circulating it into the collector where it is heated and returned back to the pool.
There are verities of options to choose from amongst the best solar heater for above ground pools, and someone might get stuck and confused on what to purchase, which is why we have taken time out to bring this information to you containing everything you should know before dabbling into the market.
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Types of above ground pool heaters
The major different variations on the types of above ground heaters are in the sources of heat/ energy used in heating them up, and there are three types, which are;
- Solar-powered heaters:
As the name implies, these heaters make use of the sun as a source of heat. They come with mountable solar panels, from which they draw power, and are the most popular choice, owing to the fact that using them incurs no extra costs on energy bills.
Water is drawn from the pool and is circulated to a collector that is placed in an area reachable to sunlight, where it heated and sent back to the pool. The size of the collector determines how fast the water would flow from and back to the pool, hence solely in charge of your ‘pool’s heating rate.
- Gas heaters:
The gas heaters are also another popular type used in the heating of above ground pools. They are faster than an equivalent size of solar heaters since they employ the use of gases like propane which is burnt in the combustion chamber, where the heat is transferred to the water that flows in.
This water is then pumped back into the pool. Although they heat water quickly over a short period of time, the heat in the water only lasts a short period of time.
- Wood heaters:
The last above-ground heater is the wood heater. It is the least popular and ‘isn’t known for its efficiency, as it makes use of firewood as its heat source.
The heat generated as a result of burning the firewood is then transferred to the water that flows in from the pool, and then this water is pumped back.
Frequent replace of firewoods in the chamber is required for continuous running of this type of heater, hence making it not the most economical.
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Top 10 best heater for above ground pool
Specifications: Compact, digital display/ controls, rugged casing design, 400,000BTU, superior hydraulic design, weight 160lbs or 197 pounds, cupronickel heat exchanger, 110 or 220V compatible, low NOx emissions, 37.5 x 31.5 x 24 inches.
In simple terms, this heater is a beast considering its overall workload and efficiency performances in all aspect, and it is basically the best heater for your above ground pools. It comes with a very compact design, having a robust and rugged casing for helping it withstand environmental conditions while performing its primary job of heating. Although it isn’t the biggest of size, its weight makes it a literally sturdy item as per mobility, weighing almost 200pounds.
With a digital display at the top, the unit controls are really user-friendly, making it easy to understand and use the device. It makes use of natural gas as a power source, and with a mouthwatering output of up to 400,000BTU, it can serve enormous above ground pool sizes with a lot of water gallons in it, while being environmentally conducive, due to its low level of NOx emissions that makes them safe to use anywhere.
The heat exchanger is made of highly resilient cupronickel, which gives it more exceptional durability, as well as a longer life than a regular heat exchanger would have, even when used with salt-content aggressive water flow and different chemistry conditions. The polymer header is made with a patented design that affords it a performance that saves energy while being resistant to erosion and poor flow conditions.
The poor weather conditions by the environment are kept from affecting the performance of the unit, precisely in the flow rate, by the presence of a forced draft combustion system.
This enables the heater to maintain a flow rate. Also, the unit has been designed to work with either an input voltage of 110 or 220 and affords an easy installation which is compatible for the newest or preexisting system.
It is also energy efficient, able to save up to 18% of energy by reducing circulation pump runtime, and in all, you would bet the best from this unit. Although it might seem expensive, it is well worth the price.
- 1 year warrantee
- 83% thermal efficiency
- It is very expensive
Special features: 20,000BTU output, sleek design, clean heat pumps, rugged design, dimension; 16 x 36 x 24 inches, suitable for large-sized pools, mounting options, item weight; 74 pounds, digital display.
This is an impressively powerful unit, with a BTU (British thermal output) of 20,000, it is able to serve enormous pool sizes, enough to cover for both domestic and to an extent, commercial uses.
The unit is designed to be rugged and very compact, though it still looks sleek, and this design affords it adequate weatherproofing; therefore it can be left exposed to harsh weather conditions with little considerations for the adverse effects.
On purchasing the product, it is effortless to install as you don’t need any professional assistance as far as you know how to put a few things together. It should take about 30 minutes to install and kick-off fully. We would admit that this device is pretty weighty with about 74 pounds, which is why several provisions for mounting has been made.
It also comes with a digital panel that gives quick and easy access to all of the products control parameters, while having options of add-ons to the unit that enables the user to control the device from a distance of comfort in the home. The unit is able to condition the pool of enormous capacity, keeping it warm even in temperature conditions as low as 400F, which extends your swimming seasons by months, while allowing you dictate your fun time.
The energy supply to this unit is clean, therefore not posing any harmful environmental effects of much other above ground pool heater like the gas-powered type. The unit is also really energy-efficient, consuming only about 16 cents of power per hour.
- high heat output
- little installation time
- weatherproof casing
- Highly durable
- Not budget-friendly
Special features: large solar panel, product dimensions; 48 x 1 x 240 inches, item weight; 29 pounds
Smartpool WWS421P is an entirely solar-powered unit, possessing 2 x 20 feet solar panels, that spans about 80sqft in total in size. Each panel among the solar system is about 4 feet wide and 20 feet in length. The collector itself is pretty small in size and is made with a compact design.
This sizeable solar panel could be allowed to remain on ground level or be mounted a distance above, hence doubling as a shade for your above ground pool, while delivering a good amount of power to the collector.
The unit can serve pool sizes of about 20sqf and up to 11,000 gallons of water, which is suitable for domestic proposes like mini pools at the back yard, but for more commercial or vacation sized type, you would have to look on for a more substantial capacity unit.
A significant advantage of using solar-powered units in general including this model, it the fact that it draws its power directly from its panel, which generates electricity by drawing in and converting sun rays. This means that you ‘shouldn’t have to worry about any sorts of extra bills based on the addition of a new appliance to the home.
Installing the unit though could be a heck of stress if you intend doing it yourself, as it requires a lot of expertise and plumbing. If you ‘aren’t skilled in this, you would probably find installing the unit efficiently too difficult.
It is not too heavy and could be moved around (the collector of course not the panel) when compared to some other above ground pool heaters, simply weighing about 29 pounds.
Using the unit is very much convenient, and ‘wouldn’t give you much to think about after the stressful and extra cost installation, and would be a good buy for value, considering what it gives in return as per performance. It can raise your pool temperature by over 20 degrees in 5 days when used with the recommended pool size.
- Cheap to run,
- High BTU output,
- mountable options.
- only suitable for small-sized pool area but not water volume,
- additional installation cost
Special features: two threaded elbow adapters, trilingual installation manual, direct flow system, item weight; 18 pounds, assembled length; 16 inches.
The unit is designed to take up a similar structure as ‘it’s earlier same manufacturer product in the WWS421P, being a 4 by 20 feet large-sized panel after coupling. The solar panel offers a cheap source of electricity for heating the collector and has the advantage of not adding to overall energy bills in the home.
Setting up and installation takes a while also in this unit, though it might require some sort of technical assistance. Fees spent on installation could rise as high as $200 depending on the vendor, area you reside, and the nature of the installation, but in the end, it would be very much worth it.
The solar panel can be mounted on a rooftop also, as far as you ensure it is an angle where it would get direct sunlight facing it that is enough to run the heater. With a flow rate of about 635Gal/H, you would be able to get an estimated 2 to 10 degrees rise in temperature increase through the panel, depending on the of the day and angle of inclination to the sun.
When stacked up, the panels are able to collectively produce an average of 45,000 BTU/H in total, which is a good output rate and is enough to serve a pool capacity of 11,000 gallons, effectively raising the temperature as much as 10 degrees in a matter of days.
- solar panels,
- cheap to run,
- high BTU output,
- mountable options.
- additional installation costs.
Special features: item weight; 120 x 27.5 x 16 inches, item weight 17.5 pounds.
The heating ability of the collector present in this unit is able to raise the water temperature as far as 6 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It possesses several solar panels that are connected to each other, spanning about 2 by 20 feet for the total diameter. The solar panel can be easily installed with a DIY (do it yourself) procedure and is suitable for roofs, racks, ground, or fence areas.
The panels are made with a special patented design, featuring a web-like system to ensure that it receives maximum exposure to the instantaneous sunrays shines. It makes use of existing pool pumps for pushing water into and from the collector, and with a weight of 17.5 pounds, it is easily lifted for mounting purposes off the ground.
For 24 feet round above the ground pool, the unit was tested to increase the temperature of water from about 61 degrees to an impressive 77 under sunlight duration of just about 2 to 3 hours daily.
It is sure to double up under more intense and long-duration exposure to sunlight, the material used in designing the product though ‘isn’t durable, and may not survive long duration and exposure to harsh weather conditions.
Asides that, it offers a good value for money, and would do well in serving your small-sized above ground pool needs. It also offers a zero running electric bill costs like all solar panel heaters around, therefore it is efficient and a good choice for those looking to cut in on bills.
- cheap to run,
- mountable options,
- good flow rate.
- Additional installation costs.
Specifications: 100,000BTU, electronic direct spark ignition, induced draft technology, dimensions; 26.5 x 21.8 x 31 inches, weight 74.5 pounds.
This is really easy to install a gas-powered heater, with an even smaller size than the Pentair type, only just about 26.5 x 21.8 x 31 inches in diameter, but its outward design is also impressively compact and tough enough to withstand weather conditions. It is a sturdy unit that would serve your above the ground pool in a sufficient enough manner.
In using gas heaters, one of the significant difficulties could be in how the unit is light up, as it requires a spark to ignite and generate heat. This process of ignition is made more accessible in this unit through the presence of a built-in electronic direct spark ignition, hence starting up and varying heat actions have been made a whole lot easier.
Backed by a revolutionary induced draft technology, this device is able to perform to maximum conditions at all periods of the year, and regardless of weather and wind conditions. The heater is suitable for preferably domestic uses, and should not be installed at an elevation higher than 2000ft more than sea level.
It is able to serve large-sized pools, with a standard recommendation of about 450sqft, and with a heat output of about 100,000BTU, it is more than capable of heating up your water in a swift manner. The outer portion of this unit has been designed to completely remain at a cabinet cool to touch temperature while in operation, which makes it more environmentally friendly, and reduces risk of burns by a lot.
- suitable for large-sized pools,
- optimal heating in all weather conditions,
- cool to touch surface,
- easy to install
- it is expensive,
- non-durable heat exchanger compartment
Specifications: dome-shaped, greenhouse effect, foldable legs, dimensions; 28 x 11 x 28 inches, weight; 16.98 pounds.
The dome-shaped solar panel designs of this unit are actually unique and eye-catching while creating a more full surface area than conventional flat panel solar heaters, and it is efficient at trapping heat both for daytime and night uses. The dome features a pretty impressive material composition, which ensures it can survive as an outdoor pool heater regardless of the weather condition.
It possesses foldable legs for easy mobility, in case you might want to move your pool around, but more importantly, the foldable legs help the panel stay tilted at a suitable angle from which it can draw in a maximum amount of sun rays and also for storage purposes. The unit doesn’t require bypass when making use of pumps under a 1.5HP (horsepower).
Another primary reason for making the panel dome shaped by the manufacturer is the ability for it to create a greenhouse-like effect artificially. This speeds up heating processes in the panel, which in turn transfers more heat to the water flowing through, hence helping the pool water get to your desired temperature at a faster rate.
This unit is actually really efficient, as it produces its own source of heat, unlike electrical or natural gas type, hence it offers a relatively low running cost and would be a right choice for anyone. It is only able to serve small pool-sized though which is its major drawback, but it can serve up to 10,000 gallons of water in a small-sized pool though.
- 19 gallons per minute flow rate,
- easy storage,
- optimized for maximum sunlight exposure,
- it is relatively cheap
- suitable for small-sized pools,
Specifications: 45,000BTU, compact, dimensions; 43.5 x 30 x 18.8 inches, weight; 167 pounds, electric type.
This is a pretty cool heater that comes with a less complicated installation procedure, and hence can be done with simple adherence to DIY procedure. Though it can’t compete with the Pentair or Hayward H100ID1 in the amount of heat it produces or it ability to heat up large-sized pools in a reasonable amount of time, it does a good job when paired with the recommended pool size and gallon quantity.
This device is suitable for small-sized pools only, being able to serve a capacity of about 13000BTU, wherein it can raise the temperature by over 10 degrees in a few days. If you are the type that expects a really fast heating rate, then you should probably look further, as this unit gives a warm temperature change for above ground pools with square feet under 200.
As per the looks of the heater, it can be easily confused with the outer side of a split air conditioning unit. Hence it is quite bulky and large in size while being also a bit heavy. You would probably need helping hands in moving it to your desired area, and due to its size, it is best mounted. It makes use of electricity in the running, hence eliminating the danger of having natural ground around, and it is also very energy efficient, and would not cause a massive spike in your bills.
Though this unit wouldn’t do much as per the amount of pool size they can heat, they do an excellent job especially when used with small-sized pools, and comes out at a good quality based on the price it goes for. It is doesn’t possess the fancy digital display or controls like one might want too.
- good heat output production,
- easy to install.
- only suitable for small-sized pools.
Specifications: solar-powered, adjustable legs, durable material, weight; 12.45lbs, dimensions; 27.6 x 5.9 x 44.9 inches.
Being a solar-powered type, this heater model obviously features a solar panel that is able to effectively trap heat, and transfer it to your water as it flows across. Its solar panel spans about 27.6 x 5.9 x 44.9 inches in diameter and is powerful enough to serve a small-sized pool.
The unit is made with durable material, and as a result, is able to withstand harsh weather condition for an extended period of time, and its aerodynamic curvy nature is as such that it bounces off wind across while absorbing and retaining heat for present and later use.
Due to it being a solar radiation type, it is really cost-efficient, firstly in the aspect of initial investment, and then running cost. It doesn’t make use of electricity or natural gas as a source of heat, therefore using this unit would ensure there are zero running costs, and also during really windy and stormy conditions, the legs can easily be folded, making it portable enough to be picked up and stored.
It is able to heat up efficiently above ground pools of up to 8000 gallons in capacity, which is actually really small compared to many other types of heaters, and you should probably go for something higher if your pool isn’t in that range. The heater works by gradually increasing the temperature of the water; hence it has a prolonged heat up time, and can only increase its 8000-gallon capacity pool by about 5 degrees in 4 days (could vary in different atmospheric conditions).
In all, for its market price, it is a relatively good unit and owing to the fact that it virtually consumes zero dollars on running costs, it would be an excellent addition for your limited budget uses. The adjustable legs and curved design also allows the user to adjust the panel, ensuring it maximally faces the suns direction. The panel can also be mounted on the pool and used as a solar cover.
- easy storage,
- optimized for maximum sunlight exposure,
- it is relatively cheap,
- only suitable for small-sized pools,
Specifications: dimensions; 18.9 x 13.39 x 22.83 inches, solar heating retaining cover, reusable bag, weight; 8.3 pounds,
This type isn’t precisely a heater like the others on our list so far, but instead its strength is in its ability to absorb heat from the sun, and retain the heat already in your pool, while also preventing evaporation. It spans 18.9 x 13.39 x 22.83 inches in diameter, and it is used by being spread across the surface of your pool, covering it and preventing heat escape as well as evaporation.
The material is designed with several small plastics which are contained in blue bubbles pop covers, which is directly responsible for the capturing and retaining of heat in the pool. The material itself is designed to hold back regular evaporating water vapours from escaping the pool (it is as a result of this evaporation that the water in the pool mostly gets cool), and also it can retain heat as much as 92 to 108 degrees in the Arizona region.
This heat retainer type of heater is basically the easiest to use, coming at a meager price, and virtually adds an additional zero costs during usage, which is why many people go for it today. It has a real disadvantage though in its inability to stand the test of time. Over a period of time, the bubbles start to break, and can even be a source of pollution to your pool water.
This model of solar cover only lasts about 1 to 2 summer period (could be more depending on the material build and usage), after which it would have to replace. They can be easily stored though, and come with a reusable bag for storage purposes, with mobility is not also an issue, as it only weighs 8.3 pounds and can easily be folded.
- reduces evaporation by up to 95%
- easy to store,
- suitable for small diameter pools,
- short life.
Factors we consider when picking the best above ground pool heater
- Type of heater:
There are several types of heaters that differ by using different mechanisms in creating a source of heat for your pool, some of which are the solar-powered, gas, or wood-burning heater.
For those who reside in a warm and sunny climate, it would be both logical and economical for you to go with the solar-powered type.
The solar-powered heaters are also the most economical, since they generate their own heat used for running, hence sparing you from the extra costs attached to running the gas or wood-burning heaters.
- Heating capacity:
The heating capacity for above ground heaters is simply the highest amount of heat that it can generate and hold. The measuring units for this capacity are in BTU (British Thermal Units), and 1 BTU would raise the temperature of the heater by 1 degree Fahrenheit.
Depending on the type and design of a heater which varies, they come with different BTUs and of course, the higher the BTU, the higher the rate at which they can heat up your pool.
Depending on the size of the above-ground pool in use, you should purchase a heater that can sufficiently serve the diameter capacity as well as the total amount of gallons capacity of your pool. Heaters used in above ground pools are generally smaller than those for in-ground pools, due to the fact that above ground pools are usually smaller.
Of course you should consider your budget, in order to get the best of what you can with the amount you have. It is more important though that you purchase what can serve your needs.
Generally, for above ground heaters, the higher the BTU rating, the more expensive the heater would be, and also know that these heaters have a typically long life span, with some able to last as long as 10 years. Therefore, it’s better you get the best budgeted heater that would have you covered for the unforeseeable future.
- Professional installation needed:
Although getting the pool is a major step in your movement, you should know that some of these heaters would attract extra costs during installations. It is important you consider the amount that would be spent on a good, professional, and standard installation procedure before you commit to purchasing the heater.
Unless you have been trained too or acquired skill in heaters installations, it is wise not to attempt to install units that specially requires professional installations, as you can do more harm than good in the end.
- Pool size:
As it has been emphasized all throughout this write-up, the heater you would purchase should be able to cover your needs, hence the size of your pool.
- Control panel:
Units with control panel, digital ones precisely, are always a good buy, as it allows the user so much flexibility and a greater level of control over exact presences of the heater. Some of them even come with a temperature monitor for you to keep tabs on how hot your pool has become.
Above ground pool heater installation; step by step DIY approach
- Step 1: Location
pick a location; the location where the heater would be placed should first be marked out and note that this spot should not be on the floor directly. Instead, a leveled cement slab would do. For the solar heater, ensure it gets a sunny location, though it can be placed anywhere.
- Step 2: Connection check
Check the water connection; the connection to and fro from the heater should be marked out, and pipes mounted. Normally ‘there’s a pipe that draws water from the pool to the heater, and another that returns the eater back to the pool.
- Step 3: Elecrical/gas/solar panel Installation
Install an electric line; this is the power supply line from the heater to a breaker, it should be installed next if you can, but if not, do ensure you hire a professional for the job.
install a gas line; for those using gas heaters, install a gas line connecting the heater and gas supply directly, in order to ensure there is always gas supply to the heater for continuous running. It is best you hire a professional for this due to the numerous safety hazards.
Install the solar system; for solar heaters, simply mount your solar panels water heater in an area with good exposure to sunlight. The panels absorb heat and transfer it to the water.
- Step 4: Test Running
Carry out tests on the system; after installation, you can then proceed to carry out running tests in order to correct malfunctions and leakages, after which you are good to go.
How to heat a pool fast
Using solar blankets is a good way to heat up your pool, making it an excellent choice for above ground pools. Since pools lose about 75% of their heat through evaporation, solar panels are designed to stop this evaporation while absorbing and retaining heat from the sun.
They are efficient for heating up pools in the day, and keeping them warm at nights, though 100% of the surface of the pool must be covered by these solar blankets for it to work well.
You can also make use of solar rings, which has exactly the same working principle as the solar blankets but are much smaller and easier to store. They can generate up to 21,000BTUs of heat per day and only need to cover about 70 to 80 percent of the pool surface.
Bottom line: Best heater for above ground pool
Above ground pool heaters are a really good choice to use for you, helping keep your pool nice and warm. Although most units on our list have the same basic functions, they differ in qualities and recommend the best for you; we would pick the Hayward H400FDN Universal H-Series due to its high BTU output, while being able to serve large pool sizes of water, enough to suit your needs. The possession of a digital display screen for control is also affording the user awesome control experience.
Not too far behind is the Pentair 460734 MasterTemp, being able to serve a large volume of the water pool, and can offer a relatively inexpensive cost. It falls short of the FH120 ultimately in the amount of BTU it releases.
The best solar heater for above ground pool is the Smartpool WWS421P Sunheater Solar Pool Heater, due to the fact that its the most ecconomical for large pool size.