Pool Heater Cost Breakdown

Written by Michael Dean
June 16, 2023

swimming pool heater next to a cost analysis

For many pool owners, a heater seems like a luxury. Not only is there the initial expense of the heater itself, but also installation and operation costs to consider. However, you might miss out on months of poolside fun every year without a pool heater.

A pool heater is well worth the money for most homes to regulate your water temperature. The right pool heater allows you to make the most of your swimming pool year-round, even when the weather starts to get chilly. In this article, I will break down how much it costs to heat your pool and how to do it efficiently. For data on specific heater models, head to my research on the best pool heater.


Main Takeaways

  • There are three types of pool heaters: solar heaters, electric heaters (heat pump or resistance), and gas heaters.
  • It costs between $1,500 and $7,500 to install a new heater.
  • Some factors that affect the cost of heating include: the outside weather, the size of your pool, using a cover, utility costs, and your preferred temperature.

The Different Types of Heaters

You can choose from three main types of pool heaters that primarily differ in which energy source they use, price point, and operating costs. Depending on the heater you want, you may pay between $1,500 and $7,000 for a new unit.

Heater TypeAverage Price Range
Solar Heater$1,500 to $7,000
Electric Heat Pump$2,000 to $6,500
Electric Resistance Heater$1,000 to $5,000
Gas/Propane Heater$1,500 to $6,000

Solar Heaters

BreakdownCost
Equipment$1,500 to $7,000
Labor$500 to $2,500
Total$1,500 to $9,500

Solar heaters have a higher initial cost than other types of heaters, but for many pool owners, they pay for themselves over time. Solar heaters convert energy from the sun into heat for your pool using solar panels without costing you a dime. Find out more about the cost of a solar pool heater in my cost breakdown article as well. They’re also environmentally friendly, low maintenance, and typically hold up around 25 to 30 years.

Solar heaters tend to warm the water more slowly than other options, at a rate of about one to three degrees per minute. They also require light year-round and won’t work well if they aren’t directly facing the sun. They are also a great option for above ground pools; check out my article on how to heat an above ground pool for more information.

Advantages:

  • Free to operate
  • Eco-friendly and energy-efficient
  • Don’t require much maintenance
  • Last up to 30 years

Disadvantages:

  • High installation costs
  • Heats the water more slowly than other options
  • Require light year-round
  • Panels don’t work well when facing north

You can head to my solar pool heater reviews for specific recommendations.

Electric Heat Pumps

BreakdownCost
Equipment$2,000 to $6,500
Labor$500 to $1,000
Total$2,500 to $7,500

Heat pumps use a 220V electrical line and at least a 40 amp breaker to convert energy into heat. They’re relatively expensive to purchase, but don’t cost much to operate. Most heat pumps have a green, energy-efficient design that keeps energy usage and emissions low.

Electric heat pumps are ideal for those who use their pool daily. If you prefer only to heat the water occasionally, a heat pump might not be the right choice for you. They heat the water very slowly, especially when it’s cold outside.

Advantages:

  • Clean, green option
  • Energy efficient
  • Relatively low operating costs

Disadvantages:

  • Fairly expensive installation
  • Heats water slowly in cold temperatures

Electric Resistance Heater

BreakdownCost
Unit$1,000 to $5,000
Labor$500 to $1,000
Total$1,500 to $6,000

Though this type of heater also runs on electricity, it warms water through a different mechanism than heat pumps. Instead of relying on heat from the surrounding air, this type of pump passes water directly over a heating unit.

Electric resistance heaters function well independently of temperature, making them a good choice for cold climates. However, the design is relatively inefficient and costly to run. It’s also a significant drain on your daily energy consumption.

Advantages:

  • Produce clean energy
  • Works well in both warm and cold climates
  • Low initial cost

Disadvantages:

  • Inefficient design
  • Costs more than other options to operate

Propane and Gas Heaters

BreakdownCost
Unit$1,500 to $6,000
Labor$500 to $1,500
Total$2,000 to $7,500

Propane and gas pool heaters are popular for homeowners because they’re relatively cheap to install and heat water quickly. They make a good choice for those who only swim occasionally and want the option to heat and cool their pool as needed, as propane offers complete control over temperature.

While propane heaters might be cheaper upfront, it’s important to remember that they cost more to operate than other options. Propane also poses more of a potential danger to your household than other energy sources if misused.

Advantages:

  • Fairly cheap to install
  • Heats the water quickly
  • Offers precise control over temperature

Disadvantages:

  • Expensive to operate
  • More hazardous than other options

Check out my complete comparison of electric vs. gas pool heaters for more similarities and differences and which you should choose. I also wrote a guide on how pool heaters work if you’re curious about the specific mechanisms of each heater type.

Cost Considerations When Installing a New Pool Heater

Once you find the right pool heater for your pool, there are still installation costs to consider. You must prepare your pool, from removing old pool heating equipment to installing new hookups.

Removing Your Old Pool Heater

If you already have a heater in your pool, you must remove it before installing a new one. The cost of removing an old pool heater will average around $25 to $50, depending on the type of heater you have and how it fits into your pool setup. If you hire a professional, most will simply include removal in the overall installation cost.

If you are unsure whether you need a new pool heater, read my guide on how long pool heaters last.

Installing Hookups

If you don’t already have existing utility hookups attached to your pool, you’ll have to add some before installing your heater. Gas, propane, and electric heaters require specialized utility lines to work, while solar heaters need to connect to functioning panels.

If you have to add hookups or switch to a different utility line, it will add an average of around $300 to $1,700 to the final installation price. Installing new gas lines costs between $300 and $900, and adding an electrical line costs between $400 and $2,500. A new water line can run you anywhere from $300 to $2,000.

DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

As you can see, a big portion of pool heater costs comes from installation. So, some pool owners save on installation expenses by installing a heater themselves. DIY installing your heater can save you as much as $2,000 on installation fees. That said, I don’t recommend installing a complex electric heat pump or gas heater unless you REALLY know what you are doing. While the DIY route might seem prudent, keep in mind that it may cost you more in the long run. An improperly installed heater can cause all sorts of problems and can be potentially dangerous, especially if you improperly install a propane line. Often, it’s best to leave the heater installation to the professionals.

Need to Install a Pool Heater?

I partner with HomeAdvisor to help you find the best swimming pool heater installers in your area. Compare quotes for free from fully vetted pool heater professionals.

The Average Cost of Installing a Pool Heater

It costs most pool owners anywhere between $1,600 and $4,000 to install a new heater. On average, you can expect to pay $2,800 to replace your old heater or install a brand-new one. But, obviously, this price varies drastically depending on the type of heater, the size, and the installation route you go for.

The most expensive heater options upfront are heat pumps and solar heaters, which can cost up to $9,500 to purchase and install. However, it’s important to remember that these heaters also tend to be cheaper to operate than other options.

While gas and electric resistance heaters typically cost just $1,200 to $6,200 to install, their monthly operating expenses can add up over time. However, the cost difference may be worth it to someone looking to heat their pool quickly.

What Affects the Cost of Heating?

The type of pool heater you choose isn’t the only thing that can affect your heating bill’s cost. There are several other factors to keep in mind that could potentially push you past your budget.

The Outside Weather

Climate is one of the most important things to consider when looking at pool heaters. A high daily average temperature can save you on energy costs, whereas cold weather means less efficient heating. Heavy rain, high winds, and snow can make your heater work harder. If you live in a warm and sunny region, the sun will do most of the work for you in heating your pool, so you won’t need to worry about warming the water as much.

When it is 100 degrees outside, there is obviously no reason to turn your pool heater on. So, most pool owners spend more money during the winter months to heat their pools. If you live somewhere cool year-round, you may also have to use your pool heater in the summer, though you will definitely spend less than in the fall or winter.

The Size of Your Pool

It probably comes as no surprise that your pool’s size is a key consideration for heating efficiency. A small or weak heater will take much longer to heat a large pool than a high-capacity heater.

A general rule of thumb is to increase your pool heater size by 50,000 British thermal units (BTU) for every 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of water your pool holds. If you live in a cold climate, you may need to increase that to 100,000 BTU.

Volume (gallons)Surface Area (Sq. Ft)Heater Size (BTU)
1,000-10,000Up to 300100,000-200,000
10,000-20,00030-500200,001-300,000
20,000-40,00050-800300,001-400,000
40,000-800,000801-1,200400,000+

Make sure to read my article on what size pool heater you need (which has a calculator) to figure out the right size for your pool.

Using a Cover

If you leave your pool heater running 24/7, using a cover can help insulate the pool water and reduce your heating costs by up to 70%. By keeping it covered when it’s not in use, you reduce both heat loss and evaporation. Pool covers are especially handy in colder climates.

Installing a pool cover means more than just throwing a tarp over the water. An automatic cover costs around $650 to $2,200 to install, depending on your pool setup. You can also opt for a cheaper solar blanket, which will cost around just $70 to $400. This type of cover transfers heat from the sun to the water, lowering your overall energy consumption.

If price is no object, you may want to build an enclosure for your pool. Doing so can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $50,000, but with this high cost comes some benefits. Enclosures prevent heat loss while protecting your pool from the elements. An enclosure will also keep your pool clean and make daily maintenance tasks easier.

Utility Costs

The price of utilities such as propane, gas, and electricity can vary from state to state and even between cities. Utility rates in your area can significantly impact how much you have to pay to heat your pool. When choosing a heater, you may want to look into which utilities are cheapest and most easily accessible where you live.

Your Preferred Temperature

If you like to keep your pool at near-sauna temperatures, you’ll need to expect your heating costs. High water temperatures require lots of energy, especially during colder months. If you want to save on heating costs, you don’t necessarily have to resign yourself to swimming in uncomfortable water. You can lower the temperature whenever the pool isn’t in use to use less energy and thus save on your energy bill.

The Average Cost of Running a Pool Heater

It’s important to factor operating costs into your monthly pool budget if you plan on installing a heater. The cost of running a heater can vary greatly depending on what type of fuel source you use.

Type of HeaterCost Per YearCost Per Month
Solar$0 to $120$0 to $10
Heat Pump$600 to $2,400$50 to $200
Electric Resistance$1,200 to $7,200$100 to $600
Propane$2,500 to $10,200$200 to $850
Natural Gas$1,400 to $4,800$200 to $400

Ready to Dive Into a Warm Pool?

Installing a new pool heater isn’t always cheap, but most people find the investment well worth it. You’ll get twice as much use out of your inground pool over the year, rain or shine. With so many options, there’s bound to be a pool heater that will fit your lifestyle and your budget.

Still not sure how much a pool heater will cost you in total? Reach out to me; I am happy to clear things up!

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