Electric Pool Heaters: Here's What You Need to Know (2024)

Getting into a freezing cold pool is no fun at all — no matter what time of year it is. So if you live somewhere that tends to get a bit brisk at night or frosty in the fall, a pool heater might be just what you need.

Not only will you be able to extend your pool season by weeks (if not months), you’ll be able to enjoy early morning and late-night swims without freezing your cheeks off.

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Types of Electric Pool Heaters

All heaters and coolers, regardless of where they are located, work under the same basic principle of heat transfer. I’m going to refer to heaters only, however, from here on out because that’s what you’re interested in, right?

What happens when you take a pot of water and put it on a hot stove?

The pot of water heats up. This is the heat exchange principle at work in which the heating element transfers heat to the surrounding area and heats whatever it comes in contact with.

This same principle applies to your pool. You just won’t be able to make soup with it.

In your pool, the heating element is surrounded by pipes that pump your pool water through. The heating element transfers the heat to the pool water and then the water is then returned to your pool, giving it a nice toasty feeling, perfect for a dip.

The difference in electric pool heaters comes from the heat source or the heating element. The two major types that you’ll encounter are:

  • Electric Pool Heaters
  • Electric Pool Heat Pumps

Let’s start with electric pool heaters.

Electric Pool Heaters

An electric pool heater is just the generic term for any pool that uses an electric heating element to heat your pool. There are some different types but again, the same principles apply.

Electric pool heaters use electricity to heat the heating element (usually metal coils). Pool water is then pumped around the coils to steal the heat away and return it to your pool.

Have you ever looked inside a toaster while waiting for your breakfast to pop out and noticed the metal coils within heat up? That’s basically what’s happening here. Electricity is doing all the work.

Electric Pool Heat Pumps

Electric heat pumps do something a little bit different. They use electricity but not to directly heat your pool. Heat pumps take heat from somewhere else and transfer it into the pool water.

Don’t worry, there’s not a literal Robin Hood Heat Avenger stealing heat from other pools and adding it to your own. Heat pumps usually take heat from the surrounding air by compressing and decompressing refrigerant at different stages.

It’s a lot to take in, but the moral of the story is that heat pumps use electricity, but they use a lot less to steal heat from elsewhere versus making it by themselves.

Electric Pool Heaters

I like to think of toasters when I explain electric heaters. It’s a great visual and who hasn’t made toast?

Electric pool heaters are fairly simple, operationally speaking. They have a series of heated coils within them that are powered directly by electricity. As the coils heat up, water is pumped around the coils and heat is transferred into the water, which goes back into your pool, all nice and warm.

The Good, the Bad, and the Toasty

They also use a lot of electricity to get the job done, so you’re going to notice a jump in your electric bill when you use it. Depending upon your climate, you may not have many other options to heat your pool. The advantage of a pure electric heater is that they work in all temperatures.

Electric pool heaters are typically ideal for spa owners since there is less water to heat. However, if you’re not worried about your utility bill and you want warm water fast, these can be a good option.

When choosing one for your pool, you’ll want to pay close attention to the wattage they use. They can cost anywhere between $3-$10 per hour to run.


  • Cheaper initial expense than other options
  • Ideal for spas, rather than pools
  • They work in all temperatures


  • Use more electricity, causing higher utility bills over time
  • Less energy-efficient overall
  • Have lots of component parts, may need frequent repair

Electric Heat Pumps

Before we talk about the good and the bad, let’s look at the cycle of heat pumps.

Heat pumps work in two cycles using two different coils for compression and decompression. Inside the heat pump is a refrigerant, similar to the stuff in your fridge or air conditioning unit.

In phase one, the refrigerant is allowed to evaporate, becoming a gas that absorbs heat from the surrounding air.

Phase two compresses the air from one coil and transfers it into the second coil where all of the absorbed heat is released. This is where the pool water is pumped around the heated coils to transfer the heat to your pool.

The cycle then repeats, pumping the refrigerant back into the first coil to evaporate and absorb more heat.

The Good, the Bad, and the Versatile

Electric heat pumps are the new kids on the block. As consumers become gradually more environmentally-conscious, there are more and more options in appliances that leave a smaller carbon footprint. Electric heat pumps use a lot less electricity than their counterparts and do a pretty good job at heating too.

They do have some issues, however.

Remember when I told you that they take heat from their surrounding area? So then what happens when it’s really cold outside and there’s no heat to take?

The simple answer is: there’s no heat to take.

Although environmentally-friendly and much cheaper to operate, if you find yourself needing to heat a pool in temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you may have some trouble heating the pool quickly.

Another point worth mentioning about heat pumps is the initial cost. If you’re simply doing a price point comparison between a heat pump and a traditional electric pool heater, the electric heater is always going to be the cheaper option, based on actual cost-to-buy.

That doesn’t mean they’re cheaper in the long run, however. If you plan on using your heater a lot, the money saved by a heat pump outweighs the initial cost. The cost to run a heat pump based on electricity alone is under $1 an hour. That’s pretty reasonable in the scheme of things.


  • Energy-saving and environmentally-friendly
  • Best for pool owners in warmer year-round climates
  • Lower utility costs over time


  • More expensive initial cost than electric pool heaters
  • Less efficient in cold or extreme temperatures

A Balmy Swim in No Time

Electric pool heaters or pool pumps are a great investment to extend your swim season and to be able to actually use your pool during the early morning and late-night hours. If you think about it, getting a pool heater is really just a way to get to enjoy your pool more often (and be more comfortable doing it).

Whichever type you choose, electric pool heaters are a great option for keeping your pool at a toasty temperature. Just don’t forget to use a pool cover! These will keep the heat in longer and save you some bucks in the long run.

Electric Pool Heaters: Here's What You Need to Know (2024)


Electric Pool Heaters: Here's What You Need to Know? ›

Electric Pool Heater [Heat Pumps]

How to choose an electric pool heater? ›

Consider the size, shape, and location of your pool, as well as the climate and your desired pool temperature. Different types of pool heaters have different heating capacities and efficiency ratings. Compare the initial cost, installation cost, operating cost, and maintenance cost of different pool heaters.

What to know about pool heaters? ›

Heat pump pool heaters work efficiently as long as the outside temperature remains above the 45ºF–50ºF range. The cooler the outside air they draw in, the less efficient they are, resulting in higher energy bills. However, since most people use outdoor pools during warm and mild weather, this usually isn't an issue.

Are electric pool heaters effective? ›

Electric pool heaters are nice for providing quick heat, although they are not ideal for maintaining constant heat. Electric heaters can heat pool water up quickly, although gas pool heaters will heat slightly faster than an electric pool heater under the same conditions.

Should I leave my electric pool heater on all the time? ›

Also, turn the temperature down or turn off the heater whenever the pool won't be used for several days. This will save energy and money. It's a myth that it takes more energy to heat a pool back up to a desired temperature than you save by lowering the temperature or turning off the heater.

What size electric heater do I need for my pool? ›

To find the number of BTUs needed to heat a pool to 80 degrees Fahrenheit on a typical 70-degree day, you should multiply your pool's number of gallons by four. So, a 15,000-gallon pool will need a pool heater size that can accommodate at least 60,000 BTUs to heat it during a 70-degree day because 15,000 x 4 = 60,000.

How long does it take to heat a pool with an electric heater? ›

How long Does it Take to Heat Your Pool. As a general rule of thumb, it can take anywhere from 8-48 hours to increase the temperature of an average size pool (around 15,000-20,000 gallons) by 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is it OK to run pool heater all night? ›

We do not recommend leaving a pool heater on overnight for most property owners, even ones with advanced solar heating systems. The massive power draw will negate any savings they gain from using solar cells and receiving renewable credits from the government.

What is the most efficient type of pool heater? ›


Solar pool heaters are the most cost-effective option that uses the sun's energy to heat your swimming pool water. It uses solar collectors, filter, a pump and a flows control valve to heat the pool in a way that is very economical.

Which pool heater lasts the longest? ›

Solar pool heaters

Solar pool equipment tends to have the longest life expectancy and lowest monthly cost to operate, but you will need a higher initial investment. While the money you save will make solar worth it in the long run, these pool heaters have the highest initial cost.

What is the life expectancy of an electric pool heater? ›

A propane or natural gas pool heater typically lasts between 7 to 12 years. But electric heaters last between 15-20 years, and solar heaters have a lifespan of about 20-30 years.

Is it expensive to run an electric pool heater? ›

Since heat pumps run off electricity rather than gas, the hourly rate to heat the pool won't drastically increase your utility bill. Heat pumps use about 5 kilowatts per 100K BTU per hour, and the median cost per kilowatt hour in the U.S. is $0.15.

What are the cons of a pool heater? ›

A gas pool heating system has its drawbacks. Not only does its required fuel add to your utility bill, but it also is only efficient if used for short periods of time. It also produces emissions since the heater burns fuel, so it isn't eco-friendly.

What is a comfortable pool temperature? ›

Safety and Comfort

For example, Mayo Clinic suggests that younger children and the elderly will generally need warmer temperatures ranging from 84°F to 94°F, while a comfortable pool temperature for adults is 85°F to 89°F. If you are swimming for fitness, cooler temperatures of 78°F to 84°F are recommended.

When should I turn on my electric pool heater? ›

So it was suggested that they turn their heaters on a few hours before the time that they normally swim. A bigger pool heater may only require two hours to have a pool nice and warm and a smaller heater made need three hours to get that same size swimming pool to a comfortable swim temperature.

What is the best temperature to heat a pool? ›

Despite this, the average pool temperature, which is said to be ideal for all, is between 77-82°F. These temperatures are low enough to prevent bacteria from growing, but also warm enough to take the chill off.

How many amps does an electric pool heater need? ›

If you need to know the electrical requirements for your inground pool, here is a list of common pool equipment and the approximate volts and amps required for each: Pool Pump: 240v, 10amps. Salt Water Chlorinator: 240v, approx 5-8 amps. Pool Heat Pump: 240v, 50 amps.

What size breaker do I need for an electric pool heater? ›

Gas pool heaters will also typically have conduit from the time clock, to carry power into the heater, whereas pool heat pumps will require a dedicated breaker, of substantial amperage, usually 30-50 amps.

How do I choose an electric water heater? ›

There are two ratings to check before you buy any heater: the energy factor (EF), which tells you how efficient it is, and the first-hour recovery (for storage water tank heaters) or flow rate (for tankless). The EF is easy to understand—the higher the number, the more efficient the unit.

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