A guide to pool heating

There are three main types of pool heating including solar, heat pumps/electric and gas.  Here we’ve listed the pros and cons of each to help you choose what pool heater is best for your pool.

Solar Heating

How does it work?

Solar pool heating works by using the sun’s free energy to heat the circulating water and return it back to the swimming pool at an elevated temperature.


  • Eco-Friendly. Now more than ever we should be concerned about our impact on the environment and solar powered heating is the best option in this regard.
  • Affordability. You can set up a solar heating system for under $2,500 for a regular sized pool.
  • Low maintenance. Once installed, there is almost nothing you need to do except enjoy the warm water!
  • Long-lasting. Solar pool heating systems are void of any internal wiring and moving parts. This means that they will not rust as there are quite simply fewer components able to. The only damage you will see is from the sun after a very long time and the damage is more often than not easily repairable.
  • Easy to install. Solar pool heating systems are really easy to install. In fact, you can do it yourself. It does require getting on the roof and connecting some piping, so perhaps only DIY if you’re a confident roof climber! Alternatively, a local pool supply store or handyman will be able to assist.
  • Low-cost. Solar heating is free! Once the set-up is complete, the heating won’t cost you a cent.


  • Not as efficient as a gas heater. Solar heating is only really effective when the panels are subjected to direct sunlight and so will not work at night. Some of the systems are quite advanced with control settings to assist with these issues.
  • Takes up a lot of space. In order for this pool heating to work effectively, a decent amount of surface area is required. A 16×32 pool (512 sq ft) should have about 260 sq ft. of solar panels. This is simply not possible for some homes.
  • Not the best-looking heating system. Solar panels certainly aren’t inconspicuous and some might even say that they ruin the appearance of a home. This is personal preference and some homes may be able to conceal their solar panels better than others.

Find out more about solar pool heating here

Swimming Pool With Natural Stone Paving
Swimming pool with Eco Outdoor Bolzano stone paving

Gas Heating

How does it work?

Gas pool heating works using either natural gas or propane. The gas is burned, heating copper coils that the water flows through and is subsequently heated before returning back into the pool.


  • Low initial investment. Gas pool heating requires a lower initial investment in comparison to heat pumps and they’re usually even cheaper than solar heating in terms of up-front costs.
  • On-demand heat. Gas heaters heat swimming pools fast and well and no matter the size of the pool or the current temperature.
  • External weather factors, not an issue. Unlike solar heating or heat pumps, gas heaters don’t rely on any external weather factors or elements in order to operate.
  • Year-round swimming. Gas heaters operate efficiently even in the winter months, so you can use your pool all year round!


  • Short lifespan. The lifespan of a gas heater is much shorter compared to solar for instance. Although gas heaters can last longer with regular maintenance and repairs, their average lifespan is five years.
  • Not environmentally friendly. Not only are they more expensive to operate, because they emit carbon dioxide, but gas heaters also have a higher environmental footprint.
  • Not DIY friendly. It is generally recommended that repairs to a gas heater are made by a professional and this can result in an increase to the overall maintenance costs of the gas heater.

Swimming Pool With Natural Stone Coping
Swimming pool with Raven Granite coping

Heat Pump or Electric Pool Heating

How does it work?

An electric pool heater, also known as a heat pump, works by bringing water into a heating tank and then pumping the warmed water back into the pool. The constant exchange of cold and warm keeps your pool heated. There are two types of electric heaters; water-source and air-source. While both work in similar ways, the water-source heater transfers heat from a water-source to your swimming pool water and an air-source heater uses heat from the air. 


  • Long lifespan. The lifespan of electric pool heaters is generally in the vicinity of 10 years; double that of a gas heater.
  • No emissions. Compared to gas heaters, electric heaters do not emit any pollution.
  • Reliable. The most reliable pool heater you can have is an electric one. Solar panels are dependent on the amount of sun they can receive, and gas heaters can be affected by extreme temperatures. Electric heat pumps do not have these issues and can be run at any time of the year, no matter the conditions. Most electric heat pumps also allow you to cool the water which is a valuable feature in areas with extremely hot temperatures. The heating and cooling functionality enable ideal temperatures all year around.


  • Costly install. The installation is costly because the electric heaters require large circuit breakers and a lot of wiring.
  • Climate limitations. Air-source heaters are limited to climates with outside temperatures of 50 degrees or more. Below that temperature and there is no heat to withdraw from the air.
  • Slow to heat. Electric heaters heat slowly. In order to get the best result, i.e. a heated (or cooled) pool all day, you’re best to leave the electric heater on overnight. However, this, of course, increases the overall running costs.

Limestone Coping Around A Swimming Pool
Beautifully textured Eco Outdoor Chalford Limestone is used around this swimming pool.

The Bottom Line

The best place to start when you’re selecting a pool heater is to figure out how often and when you’ll use your pool, what your budget is and what best suits your pool and home. Once you’ve got a good idea of these elements, choosing the right pool heater should be fairly straightforward.

If you need more help deciding between one heating source over another, take a look at what the experts say here.