How to Heat an Above Ground Pool

One of the saddest things for any pool owner is packing up and winterizing the pool at the end of the season. You may still crave a dip in the pool in October or November, but how could you with the water so cold?

There are a few different options for both above ground and inground pool owners when it comes to warming up your chilly water. In this article, I will go over some of the main pool heating options, the pros, and cons of each method, and finally, some frequently asked questions. After you find a good option, you can use this pool heater size calculator to figure out how big of a heater you need.

Heating Options for an Above Ground Pool

Solar Heater

Solar heaters are a great option, especially for pool owners who live in areas with lots of sunshine throughout the year, like Arizona, Texas, or California. They are similar in price to the other heating options, but there won’t be any annual costs since you use the sun’s energy. Most owners of above ground pools opt for solar heaters because of their easy setup.

A solar heater works by pumping water into its coils heated up by the sun throughout the day. It pumps out cool water into it and pumps hot water out. It will generally take 2-5 days for a solar heater to heat your pool water and it can increase the water temperature by 10-20 degrees.

Pros

  • Solar heating has very few annual costs.
  • Solar heaters work very efficiently in climates that get lots of direct sunlight year-round.
  • Solar heaters last a very long time (20+ years) because they are relatively simple and generally come with at least a 10-year warranty.
  • They are also better for the environment than electric or gas-powered alternatives.

Cons

  • There are not many budget-friendly options for the initial purchase of the equipment, and they are considered the most expensive initial option for heating.
  • Most solar heating devices will take longer to heat the pool than other options.
  • They do not work well at all on cloudy or overcast days. They need direct sunshine to work efficiently.

Best Solar Heaters for Above Ground Pools

Here are a few of the best solar heaters for above ground pools on the market. For all of my top picks, regardless of pool type, head over to the best solar pool heaters article.

Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System

This is one of the best solar heaters you can buy for your above ground pool. It is very durable and will last a very long time. In my opinion, the coolest feature of this heater is its versatility. You can mount it on a special rack that can be bought separately or lay it on the ground in the sun. It can also be mounted on the roof of your house.

Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System for Above-Ground Pools

FAFCO is incredibly reliable for above ground pools and one of my most recommended solar heating systems.

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GAME SolarPRO Solar Pool Heater

This is a very high-quality solar heater that can be used for your above ground pool. It has a distinctive curve in its design that helps maximize the sunlight it takes in. It is also super durable and able to withstand extreme temperatures.

GAME SolarPRO Curve Solar Above-Ground Pool Heater

This heater is best used for Intex and Bestway above ground pools.

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Electric Heat Pump

Electric heat pumps are another very popular option because they are very efficient and heat the water quickly. Electric heaters need to be connected to power and pump in cold water and heat it by pumping the water into electric coils similar to a solar heater.

The main difference between an electric heat pump and a solar heater is that an electric heater needs to be connected to power to work.

Pros

  • Heat pumps are very effective at warming the water and can even heat your pool water in 1 day!
  • They are relatively easy to install, especially when compared to gas heaters.
  • They have less costly maintenance costs than gas heaters.
  • Heat pumps may not last as long as solar heaters, but they can still last 10-20 years on average.
  • Electric heat pumps can function when the weather is overcast or even at night, unlike solar heaters, which require sunlight.
  • Electric heaters also generally have lower annual costs than gas heaters.

Cons

  • Compared to solar heat pumps, they can be pricey to use in the long run because you will need to pay for the electricity used to run them.
  • You can only use an electric heat pump in temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In colder temperatures, heat pumps won’t warm the water effectively.
  • Although they are cheaper than solar heaters, heat pumps are still pretty expensive compared to gas heaters.
  • They can also be a bit of a hassle to use for outdoor above ground pools because they need to be connected to power.

Best Heat Pumps for Above Ground Pools

Here are some of my best recommendations for heat pumps to use on an above ground pool.

Happybuy 3KW 220V Electric Pool Heater

This is a great electric pool heater for a small above ground swimming pool. It is super lightweight and easy to maneuver. I usually use this on smaller, inflatable above ground pools. But, as long as the swimming pool is less than 1,300 gallons, it should work well.

Happybuy Electric Water Heater

If you prefer to go electric for your small above ground pool, Happybuy is a great option.

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FibroPool FH120 Above Ground Pool Heat Pump

This is a great pool heater for slightly larger above ground pools. They can heat pools up to 8,000 gallons. The product is super easy to install and low cost compared to other similar models. This pool heater will keep your pool at a warm, steady temperature and extend your pool season.

FibroPool FH120 Above Ground Swimming Pool Heat Pump

This heat pump is a beast! It's well-suited for large above ground pools.

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Gas Heater

Gas heaters are the final option for heating your above ground pool. Instead of pumping warm air to create heat or using the sun’s energy, gas heaters use natural gas to make a small fire and produce their own heat. This is what sets them apart from the other options.

Pros

  • Gas heaters can be used in colder temperatures than electric heaters or solar heaters.
  • They are the fastest heating option. You can have your entire pool heated in one day because they create their own heat.
  • They are generally the cheapest initial option to purchase.

Cons

  • Gas heaters cost the most to run overall because natural gas usage is more expensive than electricity on average.
  • They are the least environmentally friendly option.
  • Gas heaters need more maintenance than the other options and generally only last 5-10 years.
  • They can restrict the location of your above ground pool because most gas heaters need to be connected to natural gas lines. However, some models run on propane tanks.

Best Gas Heater for Above Ground Pools

Here is one of the best gas heaters to use for above ground pools. Check out my guide on the best pool heaters for more recommendations for other pool types.

Hayward Universal H-Series Above Ground Pool Heater

This is a great option for reasonably large above ground pools. I don’t recommend using a natural gas pool heater unless you have a large pool. The heater should be attached to your natural gas piping. This can be a tedious task, so I seriously recommend having a professional manage this unless you have some experience.

Hayward Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU Propane Pool and Spa Heater

If you prefer a gas heater and have a very large pool with a lot of heating needs, go with this option from Hayward. It's been really reliable for me over the years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Fastest Option to Heat an Above Ground Pool?

The most efficient method for heating above ground pools is a gas heater, as it can warm up your water within hours. Solar heaters may be cheap to run, but they can take 3-5 days to increase the water temperature by 10 degrees. On the other hand, a gas heater can heat the water by up to 20 degrees in less than 1 day.

What is the Cheapest Option to Heat an Above Ground Pool?

Although solar heaters are generally viewed as the most expensive pool heater, they are great affordable options for smaller above ground pools. Solar heaters are the cheapest option if you factor in the ongoing costs.

When it comes to larger pools, a gas heater will almost always be the cheapest to purchase initially. But keep in mind that they are pretty expensive to run.

If you’re looking for a new pool, make sure to read my recommendations for the best above ground pool too.

Do you have any questions regarding pool heating options? Feel free to reach out; I am happy to help! Also, be sure to check out my related heater articles below.

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