If you ask "experts" for advice about water heaters for pools, the answer will probably be – anything but an electric water heater.
But, is it?
It is essential to be accurate because there are two types of electric pool heaters – standard electric resistance water heaters and electric heat pumps.
Let's explore the nuances and discover which one might be the right choice for your pool heating needs.
When it comes to choosing the right pool heater, understanding the various options is paramount. Among the electric pool heaters, two distinct types emerge, each with its own set of characteristics and benefits.
Electric resistance water heaters are among the least cost-effective units in the pool water heater market. They generate heat by applying an electrical current to a heating element, which then warms the water. They are not recommended for heating larger bodies of water, as they require a substantial amount of energy, resulting in lower efficiency.
Heat pumps are also powered by electricity and stand at the other end of the spectrum as the most energy-saving water heaters. Instead of generating heat, they extract warmth from the surrounding air, amplify the temperature within the compressor, and transfer this heat to your pool water. They perform optimally in mild climates, boasting the highest efficiency among all types of pool heaters.
Therefore, here, we are discussing only electric resistance heaters that utilize electrical current to generate heat.
If electric water heaters for pools are expensive to operate, why choose them? What are the pros and cons, and how do you select the best one?
To put it simply, electric water heaters might be an ideal solution if electricity prices are low. They use energy that is readily available, are easy to install, maintain, and operate. These units are compact and lightweight, making them easily transportable and manageable.
The purchase prices are reasonable, and you can find a wide selection on amazon.com.
You may also hear that electric pool heaters are used as spa heaters. In reality, manufacturers produce these heaters with varying power capacities, labeling weaker ones as spa heaters and stronger ones as pool water heaters.
All of them are suitable for smaller above-ground pools, hot tubs, indoor pools, and warm climate pools where they won't be extensively used.
While electric heaters provide quick heat, which is useful for smaller pools and spas, they are not great for maintaining constant heat, especially in larger pools. This is why many homeowners would decide to go with the gas models.
Electric heat pumps are a better alternative than resistance heaters because the efficiency is much higher and costs are significantly lower.
Due to their low efficiency and higher operating and installation costs (especially when the electrical upgrade is needed), resistance pool heaters are typically considered only if other options are not feasible.
With four types available to heat swimming pools, homeowners have the opportunity to purchase an affordable electric pool heater, which can range in cost from $500 to $5000. Additionally, expect to allocate $500 to $1000 for labor and installation.
According to the experts, operating an electric heater will cost between $175 and $600, which is cheaper than running a gas unit ($200-$850) but more expensive than operating an electric heat pump ($120-$200).
Due to their limited power output, electric pool heaters are primarily recommended for smaller pools and spas.
To reduce operating costs, using a pool cover and solar blanket is always a wise choice.
Electric pool heaters are known for their durability, reliability, and cost-effectiveness compared to gas models. They offer lower installation, maintenance, and repair expenses, and their service is more straightforward.
In contrast to electric heaters, gas models can deliver substantial power and heat the water quickly, making them suitable for all climates, including cold winters, and suitable for both small and large pools.
Electric models, which produce no gas combustion or greenhouse gas emissions, do not contribute to local pollution.
So, the question remains: Gas or electric?
The answer depends on your budget, pool size, fuel rates, location, and how frequently you plan to use the pool while extending the swimming season.
Can I install my electric pool heater?
This is one of the most common questions among homeowners who prefer to DIY and save money.
If you are a handyman with some plumbing and electrical knowledge/experience and have the required tools and materials, installing an electric pool heater is relatively straightforward and can be completed in a few hours. However, this is only advisable if you are confident in your abilities.
You will need to determine the right location, typically either close to the power outlet or your pool, to avoid the need for installing a new outlet or running a lengthy pipe.
DIY installation is recommended for simple hookups, but when it comes to electrical work, it's best to hire a professional.
We will cover two brands here: EcoSmart and Coates, both highly recommended by many experts and homeowners.
EcoSmart is a favored brand among homeowners and installers, offering water heaters in both 'spa' and 'pool' variants. Shoppers can choose from two EcoSmart models: the Smart Pool 18 (with 18kW of power) and the Smart Pool 27 (with 27kW), both robustly designed for swimming pools. It's worth noting that their equivalent outputs, in comparison to other water heater types like gas, are 61,000 BTU and 92,000 BTU, respectively.
These models are equipped with a digital thermostat and the latest flow sensor technology. You can expect a 1° to 1.5°F rise per hour for an average pool (up to approximately 15,000 gallons). Additionally, keep in mind that you will require a 200 Amp main breaker. Prices for EcoSmart pool water heaters range from $900 to $1000.
Coates is a company with a 70-year tradition in manufacturing water heaters and pool equipment. Their product range spans from 1.5 kW to 57 kW units designed for residential spas and pools, extending to commercial series ranging from 180 to 300 kW.
In addition to selecting the appropriate water heater size in kW for your needs, you'll gain insight into the calculation structure and the factors that influence it.
It's important to note that Coates water heaters are on the higher end in terms of pricing. For an 18 kW pool water heater, the cost is $1,460, while a 54 kW heater, suitable for large pools and cold weather applications, is priced at $2,780.
It is worth mentioning two well-known companies: Hayward and Raypak, which specialize in small electric water heaters.
What is important to consider when buying an electric water heater for the pool?
Firstly, check the electrical wiring in your house and unit specifications, as you'll need heavy-duty wiring compatible with large amperage circuit breakers. This often requires an upgrade, which increases the installation cost.
Evaluate the quality of the tank and heating elements – the use of stainless steel is preferable, along with protection for other components.
Additionally, examine the indicators and safety features provided.
Lastly, if you're uncertain about whether an electric water heater is suitable for your pool, consider an alternative like a heat pump. With comparable usage, the operating costs can be up to six times lower per month compared to an electric resistance heater."
Do pool heaters need to be GFCI protected?
Most devices and equipment that are used for pools must be protected by ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices.
How long does an electric pool heater last?
If properly installed and regularly maintained, electric pool heaters can last up to 15-20 years. There are also other factors that can greatly affect the life expectancy of any pool heater including the unit quality, water chemistry, usage, location, climate, etc.