If you have an outdoor swimming pool that you would like to heat, you will normally have a choice of installing either an electric pool heater or a heat pump. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of heating systems, and this guide will provide you with the information you will need to make a more informed buying decision.
Electric Pool Heaters
Electric pool heaters are similar in design and the way they work to a regular electric hot water tank. The water is passed over a coil. The electric current provided by the pool heater heats the coil, which in turn heats the water that flows into the pool. Although this method will cause the water temperature to rise, it is a very slow and inefficient way of heating a swimming pool. Therefore, if you consider the cost of electricity in most parts of the country, the design is not very efficient or economical.
The one good thing about an electric pool heater is the initial cost of the unit and the amount of money needed to have this type of heater installed. Of all the types of heaters available for a swimming pool, an electric pool heater is by far the cheapest. Also, an electric pool heater can be installed rather inexpensively and can even be done by the pool owner in most cases.
Electric Pool Heat Pumps
An electric pool heat pump is a much more efficient design for a swimming pool heater. A swimming pool electric heat pump works much in the same way that a central heating and air-conditioning unit does. It draws in warm air from the outside that is used to heat the refrigerant coolant inside the heat pump. The heat pump compressor then provides additional heat that helps to warm the water even more.
The hot air is then forced into the heat exchanger where a very hot gas is created. The exchanger then transfers the gaseous heat to the water in the swimming pool. Because a heat pump doesn't actually create the heat, but simply transfers it, the process is much more efficient and economical. This will usually result in a much lower monthly electrical power bill when using an electric heat pump versus a standard electric pool heater.
Although the heat pump design is more efficient, it is not always reliable. Because the heat pump transfers warm air from the outside to the heat exchanger to force hot air into the pool water, the design is not very effective during the fall and winter months when the outdoor temperature is not as warm. Therefore, people that use electric heat pumps to heat their swimming pools in cold climate areas are usually not able to use the pool during very cold weather. So, even if you install an electric heat pump, you may want to use an electric pool heater as a backup heat source to use during the winter months.
Electric heat pumps are also expensive and usually need to be installed by a professional installer. This means that most home owners will not be able to do the work themselves.