Pool heater for salt water pool – Electric, Gas, and Solar Options

Is It Possible To Heat A Salt Water Pool?

If you don’t reside in a warm southern state like Texas, California, or Florida, pool season can come and go much faster than you’d like. Some regions only receive 2 to 3 months of pool weather per year before the water becomes too cold to swim in. In this situation, a swimming pool warmer could be a good investment to extend your swimming season. You won’t be able to keep the water warm all year, but you will be able to spend a little more time in your pool each year. Saltwater pools have a unique water sanitation system that use a saltwater chlorinator rather than normal chlorine tablets. So the question is whether you can heat a saltwater or freshwater pool.

Salt water pools are similar to chlorinated pools in that they can be heated using the same ways. Your salt water pool can be heated using the same gas, propane, solar, or heat pump heaters as a chlorine or bromine pool. They are both connected to the pool system in the same way and have no differences.

One of the most common misconceptions regarding salt water pools is that they do not contain or use chlorine. A salt water pool produces its own chlorine by reacting with salt. Because a salt chlorination system electrically transforms salt to chlorine to disinfect and keep the pool clean for swimming, salt water pools are also chlorine pools. From the standpoint of heating, salt water pools are identical to other chlorinated pools.

Can You Heat a Saltwater Pool?

With the installation of a pool heating system, the pool season can be extended. For your salt water pool, you can choose from a variety of heaters.
With the installation of a pool heating system, the pool season can be extended. For your salt water pool, you can choose from a variety of heaters.
You have the same heating options for a salt water pool as you do for a chlorine pool, as noted above:

Heaters for Saltwater Pools

Solar Water Heater

Because of their cheap recurring costs and environmental friendliness, solar heaters are excellent choices. The solar panels heat the water by harnessing the sun’s energy. Water from the pool is pumped through a pipe to the solar panels, where it is gradually heated. Because solar heaters rely on the sun’s energy to function, they are inefficient in too gloomy climes or areas that receive little sunlight throughout the year. For many, the expense of a solar heater is also a deterrent.

A solar heater is made up of many elements that utilise the sun’s rays to heat pool water. Solar panels are typically installed on your home’s roof, with piping running up and down the house to enable water flow up to the roof, where the sun’s rays can heat the water before returning it to the pool. Obviously, a solar heater only works when there is enough sunlight, and you’ll need a powerful pump to push water up to your home’s roof. So, unlike a gas heater, you can’t heat a pool overnight when it’s dark. If the piping and solar panel equipment are visible running up the home and on the roof, some people may consider them an eyesore. The purchase and installation of a solar heating system could cost between $4000 and $5000 for a solar heater’s cost. You can also review some DIY Solar Pool Heaters to really save some money

Heat Pump Thermostat

A heat pump system is a more recent type of pool heating that works well in warmer climes with temperatures above 45 degrees. To heat up cold pool water, a heat pump uses a compression mechanism to transport heat from a condenser to it. Because the system is powered by electricity, you will need to have access to an electrical outlet to utilize it. You rely on warm/hot weather, just like with a solar heating system, thus it doesn’t necessarily supply on-demand heating like a gas heater.

Heat pumps are one of the more lately used pool heating systems. The heat pump works by absorbing heat from the outside air and transferring it to the pool water. Near the pump, the heat pump is connected to the pool’s filtration. Their initial cost is higher than that of gas heaters, but they are more environmentally friendly and have a lower recurring cost. Heat pumps, unlike solar heaters, work best at temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and do not require sunshine to operate. They can range in price from $2500 to $5000.

Heater that runs on gas or propane

A gas heater is usually built adjacent to the pool equipment and connected to the system so that water passes through the heater and existing pool plumbing before returning to the pool. An underground gas pipe is connected to a gas heater. A propane heater uses a propane tank that, like a barbeque propane tank, must be filled when it is empty.

A pool heater connected to a gas line assures a steady flow of gas to the heater and eliminates the need to refill or replace a tank. Because a gas pool heater heats the water directly and delivers on-demand heating whenever you want, it is by far the most efficient and easiest pool heating solution. This form of installation necessitates the use of a gas line, which may increase the cost.

Gas heaters are unquestionably the most energy-efficient way to heat your pool. You can either connect the pool heater to the gas piping in your house or use a propane tank to power the pump. The heater uses natural gas or propane to heat the pool water, which is circulated through coils similar to an electric heat pump. Because the system is not powered by sunlight, you may heat the pool overnight.

Because heating uses a lot of fuel, gas heaters can be more expensive to run than other options. It’s possible that you’re paying $300 to $500 each month to keep the heater running. The initial installation of a gas heater, on the other hand, is far less expensive than that of a solar heater or a heat pump, depending on the size, brand and model, and gas line availability, a decent gas pool heater can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 to buy and install.

Features of a Gas Pool Heater

Pool heaters that use natural gas or propane are more efficient and environmentally friendly than ever before. Some gas pool heater brands boast efficiency of up to 95%, as well as pilot-less technology that wasn’t available even a few years ago. At a fraction of the cost, you can now have the fastest pool heating option.

Emissions of NOx are minimal.
When it comes to gas pool heaters, we talk a lot about efficiency, and emissions are a huge part of that. A low-NOx pool heater is made to emit fewer nitrogen oxides and function more effectively. It will also heat your pool more quickly and at a lower cost of operation. In the United States, Canada, and Australia, low-NOx heaters are required by law in some states and highly recommended for all pool owners.

Electronic Ignition (Digital)
If you’re buying a new heating system or upgrading an existing one, it’s important to understand the differences between electronic and millivolt igniters. Because they were unreliable, attracted critters, were difficult to manage, and were not allowed in certain localities due to their low efficiency, millivolt piloted heaters are now extremely rare.

Millivolt starters were once popular because they didn’t require electricity, allowing them to be utilized in places where electricity wasn’t available or was too expensive. They used gas to light the burners, which meant they had to be on all the time to keep running, wasting a lot of fuel.

Electronic or pilot-less ignition systems do not require a pilot light and consume fuel only when heat is required. Because the pilot light is no longer needed, you will use less fuel and save money each season. Aside from enhanced efficiency, digital electronic starters are more dependable, accurate, and easy to regulate, making them ideal for pool automation.

Propane or Natural Gas?
Natural gas and propane are the two forms of fuel that can be used to power a gas pool heater. Natural gas is the most common since it is less expensive than propane and is frequently used to heat homes. A gas fitter can easily run a second out-of-sight gas connection from the house to a barbeque or pool heater to provide steady fuel when needed.

On the other hand, finding a home that runs on propane is quite rare. This means you’ll need to store propane near the pool in a large container or holding tank. Installing a huge gas tank adjacent to the pool can be time-consuming and costly, not to mention unattractive. You should anticipate to pay up to 85% less for natural gas vs propane, in addition to having the propane tank replaced on a regular basis.

Pros and Cons of Gas Pool Heaters
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of the gas pool heater so you can see how it compares to other pool heaters on the market. They are without a doubt the quickest way to heat up a pool or hot tub, but they do have some disadvantages that may make them less tempting to some pool or hot tub owners.

The quickest time to heat up
It’s simple to set up and automate.
In any climate, heats any size pool.
Operating costs are high.
Maintenance can be expensive.

Pool Heater Comparison

Because of the speed and efficiency with which a gas pool heater heats salt water pools and spas to a pleasant and inviting temperature, it is the most preferred technique of heating salt water pools and spas. You’ll be able to quickly make deliciously warm water, allowing you to swim late into the night or extend your pool season into the winter months.

Natural gas or liquid propane are used to power gas pool heaters. Natural gas obtained through an underground municipal line is the most popular and cost-effective, although it is not available to everyone. If you don’t have access to natural gas, you’ll have to rely on a huge propane tank or holder to keep the heater running.

A gas pool heater heats the water in the pool in the same manner that a gas furnace heats the air in a house. In a combustion chamber, the gas is burned to create flame, and water passing through it is heated by the water-carrying tubes. This flowing pool water through the heater operation is repeated until the appropriate temperature is obtained. We’ll go over all there is to know about gas heating, including the top gas pool heaters available.

Pool Heat Pump vs. Gas Pool Heater

When comparing pool heat pumps with gas pool heaters, there are two major distinctions. A gas heater can heat a pool in a matter of hours, whereas a heat pump may take several days. A gas heater is a great option if you are in a hurry and need to provide warm water temps for a party or event.

Gas and heat pump heaters are very similar in price, however a high-quality heat pump for a large pool may cost more. In general, a heat pump heater will last longer than a gas pool heater, thus the somewhat higher price tag is often justified. In terms of operational costs, you may expect to pay $2-$8 per hour for a gas pool heater versus under $1 per hour for a heat pump if you reside in a warm environment.

The basic line is that a gas pool heater will heat the water faster than a pool heat pump, but it will cost more to operate. If you live in a northern state or in Canada, you should only use an electric heat pump heater when the air temperature is above 50°F (10°C).

Solar Pool Heater vs. Gas Pool Heater

When comparing a gas pool heater to a solar pool heater, one significant difference is that a gas pool heater heats a pool in hours, whereas a solar pool heater can take several days. If there aren’t enough sunlight hours, the ambient temperature is too low, or there isn’t enough area for enough solar collector panels, a solar heater’s potential is limited.

A solar heater delivers free heat every hour the sun shines, but a gas heater requires the combustion of fuels, which can be costly. Many pool owners are opting to use a gas pool heater in conjunction with a solar heater to reduce monthly operating expenses, energy consumption, and gas heater life.

When acquiring a high-quality solar-powered pool heater system, the upfront costs of both heaters are comparable. In general, though, a solar pool heater will cost less than a gas pool warmer. A solar heater can be expensive to install, but it can also be done by a skilled pool owner, whereas a gas heater should be installed by a qualified service expert.

When comparing a gas pool heater to a solar pool heater, keep in mind that you may need a bigger pump to get enough flow through the extra pipes, valves, and solar collection panels. With a solar heating system, a variable speed pump with additional horsepower is frequently required to maintain appropriate circulation.

Will my pool heater be harmed by salt water?

To be sure, any of the three heating systems can be used to heat your salt water pool. The most common heating method used by pool owners is the gas heater, which is also the most direct because it heats water on demand at any time and is not dependent on the sun or outside temperature to operate.

Many pool owners will find that saltwater swimming pools damage pool equipment and filters. If the chemicals in your pool aren’t balanced properly, saltwater and chlorine water might cause harm to your pool equipment. The issue is usually not with the saltwater itself, but with the water’s acidity or calcium hardness.

Pumping low-pH water into your pool heater might corrode specific components and potentially destroy the heater over time. Saltwater with a high calcium hardness will transport a lot of grit, which will eventually damage your equipment. It could also induce calcium buildup on the pool’s surfaces. Unless the area around your pool is built of tile or another salt-sensitive material, well-balanced saltwater should not harm your pool equipment.

Pool Heater Installation

Is it possible to add a pool heater to an already existing pool? Yes, but there are a few caveats.

Do you have enough space to do so? Our pool equipment was installed on the right side of the garden, towards the back. Our pool was built by the previous owner, and it came with a heater so they could prepare for it. However, if you already work in cramped confines and have limited space, you may need to do some planning. The width of a Hayward H-Series gas heater is 21 inches, and it weighs 150 pounds. On the small end, a Hayward heat pump heater is 30″L x 34″W x 37″H. We wouldn’t be able to install this Hayward heat pump to replace our gas heater since it’s too large in our backyard, which is landscaped with large boulders.

Our neighbors, on the other hand, added a pool in their home years after purchasing it. They elected to put their pool equipment on the side of the home, giving them plenty of space for everything, including the heater. Their gas heater was simply connected to the gas line due to its proximity to the house. Because our pool equipment was built towards the back of the home, a gas line had to be run underground all the way to the back of the property, which added to the cost.

More plumbing is required. Your pool heater will be integrated into your current plumbing system. As a result, whether or not the heater is turned on at the moment, pool water flows through it. However, you’ll need to put piping into and out of the heater to connect it to your current plumbing. Unless you have prior experience and understanding, this work is normally performed by the installation. Again, if your pool equipment is in such close quarters, the amount of space you have to deal with could be an issue.

Remember to select a heater that is appropriate for the size of your pool. In the sense that your heating system requires enough BTUs (British Thermal Units) to heat the amount of water in your pool, bigger is better. The larger the heater is in terms of dimensions, the more BTUs you require. The more pricey it is.

Additional ideas

  • best pool heater for salt water pool
  • electric salt water pool heater
  • heater for above ground salt water pool
  • natural gas pool heater


A chlorine or bromine pool can use the same kind of gas, propane, solar, or heat pump pool heaters as a salt water pool.
Like other pool systems, a pool heater is placed after the pool filtration.
The most common pool heating systems are gas heaters connected to an underground gas line, which allow on-demand heating at any time, including overnight, and do not rely on direct sunshine or heat like solar and heat pumps do.
If you’re building a pool without a heater but intend to add one later, make sure to include that in when deciding where to put the pool equipment.
Many people prioritize adding a heating component to their pool because it extends the pool season and allows them to swim in the pool even in October and November. As the weather outside begins to cool, no one wants to leap into a cold pool. Owners of saltwater pools must frequently consider how their pool differs from regular chlorine pools. Fortunately, there isn’t much of a difference between heating a freshwater and a saltwater pool. There are also a variety of heating alternatives for your saltwater pool. Make sure you acquire the finest solution for you, whether it’s a solar heater, a gas heater, or something else.

Check our article discussing pool salt water filters that are best

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Mike Hunter

Mike is the owner of the local pool shop. He's been in the business for over 20 years and knows everything there is to know about pools. He's always happy to help his customers with whatever they need, whether it's advice on pool maintenance or choosing the right chemicals. He's also a bit of a pool expert, and is always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who's interested.

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