Pool heaters are great for extending swimming season or swimming in cooler months. However, using them can add considerably to your energy bills and your home’s carbon footprint. Other factors to consider are efficient water temperature control, automation, above/below ground pool suitability, environment and pool size. To back up your pool heater, your pool cover should always be put to maximum use to offset energy requirements and improve pool efficiency. How do pool heaters work? Pool heaters work by utilising heating technology, including solar, electrical and gas. Utilising a device called a heat exchanger, pool water is circulated to the heat source – where it warms up – and is then transferred back into the pool. They don’t sound too complicated and function automatically much like heating systems commonly used in homes. Pool heating options – in order from the least to most impactful on pool efficiency – include:
  • Solar heating pumps – The least impactful pool heater, solar heating pumps utilise free sunlight energy best during spring and summer. They also provide a few extra months heating before and after swimming season – but only on bright, sunny days. So, they are not a reliable year round heating option, unless you live in the Northern Territory or WA.

    Solar heating pumps operate by pumping pool water to either a flat-plate or evacuated-tube solar collector/heater on your roof. The water in the collector is heated by the sun, and transferred back into your pool – pollution free. Solar heating piping, pumping & filtration systems can be independent or integrated with an existing filtration system. Additionally, a quality solar pool heating temperature controller/sensor and pool cover use are essential to improve pool efficiency.

    Initial price range: Up to $7,000 Install: Up to $2,000 (Energy-efficient solar heaters are expensive but DIY kits start at $1000)

  • Pool heat pumps – Next in line are electrical pool heat pumps. These outdoor units heat your pumped pool water, similar to the way inverter AC heat pumps heat circulating refrigerant. Heat pumps do not emit CO2 emissions and are environmentally-friendly in residential zones (but maybe not at the power plant). They are cheaper to run during off-peak electricity times (10pm-7am & weekends). You can also connect & meter your heat pump via controlled load tariffs 31 & 33 from your Qld electricity retailer, separate from the rest of your property. Controlled load tariffs (a.k.a. ‘economy tariffs’) are dedicated to large high-energy usage appliances such as pool heat pumps.

    Keep in mind that a heat pump’s heat exchangers need to absorb heat from the surrounding outside air (down to -15˚C), so they can be a little noisy on cold still nights.

    Initial price range: $2,500- $9,000 Install: Up to $1,400

  • Gas pool heaters – Gas heaters use natural gas or propane (LPG) to heat pumped pool water, similar to continuous-flow hot water systems. They can heat up large pools much faster than solar or electric heaters, so you can have your pool ready for a spontaneous pool party with friends in no time. Additionally, gas heaters can also easily maintain your desired water temperature, regardless of weather fluctuations or time of day.

    The main drawback with gas heaters is that they generate household greenhouse gases and unhealthy air emissions, especially in built-up residential zones. Using natural fossil fuels damages the environment. With the Brisbane City Council wanting residents to reduce average carbon emissions 40% from 10.5 to 6 tons by 2031, gas heating for large home pools may become taboo in a few years time – so be warned.

    Initial price range: $800 to $4,000 Install: Up to $700