Do you have a pool and contemplating adding a pool heater? Well, if yes, then choosing a gas (propane) pool heater would give the quickest guaranteed heat output. Gas-powered heaters are the most popular heaters because of the features they come with but mostly because they give the highest BTUs and therefore quickest heat time. Compared to other pool heaters, propane pool heater has higher thermal efficiencies, they are the cheapest with regards to initial installation costs.
A propane gas heater can be used to heat an above ground or in-ground pool swimming pool or spa. One discouraging factor about using a propane gas heater is the fuel cost in most areas. These heaters are costly to run due to the increased price in propane gas. That aside, propane gas heaters will help you extend those swimming periods making your pool a pleasure to be in earlier and later in the season.
What Is the Best Propane Pool Heater on the Market?
How Much Does it Cost to Run a Propane Pool Heater?
Any pool owner, most people in general want to save as much as possible. However, when it comes to running and operating a pool. Adding a pool heater would seem inexpensive investment if running it was free. Propane gas powered pool heaters have an affordable initial outlay cost, however the operating cost can be somewhat expensive. The advantage to having a pool heater is it is not ran all the time. Only early in the swim season to bring the pool up to comfortable temperatures, or to keep the water warmer longer at the end of the season. Let’s see what the cost are.
So how much fuel would my pool heater require? According to Scientific studies, propane gas has 91,452 BTUs per 1 gallon (based on the EIA.gov). So, officially 1 BTU is the thermal energy measurement of heating 1 pound of water and raise it by 1 degree Fahrenheit.
With this knowledge we can calculate BTUs with the weight of water at 8.33 lbs. and therefore it would take 8.33 BTUs of propane to heat and raise the temperature of 1 gallon of your pool water by one degree. With 100% efficiency that is. The average propane pool heater runs at a respectable 83% (the higher the better!). Now, how many gallons is your pool?
The average pool size is around 19,000 gallons. Based on that we can determine it would take 158,270 BTUs to raise the whole pool by 1F, but at 83% efficiency, that changes to 190,687 BTUs. Now, lets figure out how many BTUs we need to raise the whole pool temperature. Average water temperature is around 50F (10C), that is trucked in, or from your hose. It could be colder, or warmer in your area? We will settle on 50F for discussion. We want the water to be 75F (24C) That means we need to heat the water 25F (14C) to get our desired swim temps. That means we will need a total of 3,956,750 BTUs at 100% efficiency, and 4,767,169 BTUs at 83% efficiency to raise our pool water to desired temperatures. How Much does that cost?
On average, a gallon of propane is around $2.50 per gallon and we said a gallon of propane has 91,452 BTUs per gallon, so all we need to do is take our total BTUs needed and divide by the BTUs per gallon. It would like ; 4,767,169/91,452 = 52.13 gallons of propane.
Now we just multiply $2.50 by 52.13 gallons and get…$130.33. Therefore, it will cost you $130.33 to heat up 4 gallons of water every hour with a 400,000BTUs power heater. This figure can change downward or upward depending on your propane prices.
The water radiates heat off, and an in-ground pool can suck heat out the sides too a little bit. adding a pool cover can help reduce this loss because it helps the retention of heat and the prevention of evaporation.
Other aspects to needing more BTUs is the fact that the air and ground temperature will pull the built up thermal energy in the water and try to pull it out. A pool blanket helps a lot. Think of a hot cup of coffee…why does it cool down? Because of the cooler air around the cup and especially the open top dissipates heat. Put your coffee in a travel mug it stays hotter longer because the top is covered. Adding a pool blanket helps a lot in keeping your $ in the pool.
Quick Pick on the Best Propane Pool Heaters
What Size Propane Tank Do I need for My Pool Heater?
Propane gas tanks hold liquid propane (LP) which vaporizes when the tank is opened and released as the gas that is used as fuel your heater. Hopefully we have this plumbed into a gas line. Externally, the gas tank is filled by a delivery truck and should be somewhere the driver can have access to fill the tank. So, how big should my tank be for my pool heater? Insufficient gas can cause poor combustion and based from our calculations above it is a good practice to have at least a gas tank that is 100 gallons in size to power a propane powered pool heater. Bigger pools may want a 250 gallon tank if heating with propane.
Kindly note that the speed at which liquid propane vaporizes into gas is determined by factors such as air temperature, humidity, and the surface area of the liquid in the tank. To ensure efficiency it is advisable to always start the season with a full tank or have it refilled when it is below 50% of its full capacity.
How Long Does a Propane Pool Heater Last?
The question on every pool or spa owner would be, how long would a pool heater be of service to them. The reason? We all want to see the value for money well invested. The averagely propane pool heater will last between 7 to 15 years without much attention and depending on a few factors.
Here is a list of things that determine the lifespan of your pool heater.
- Moisture in environment
- Bugs, and insect nest building
- Winterizing properly
- Het chamber debris build up
- Improper chemical balances
How Do Propane Pool Heaters Work?
Propane pool heaters are powered by propane gas. Propane tanks come filled with propane liquid which when released vaporizes into propane gas which in turn combusts and powers the heater.
The pool pump, or sometimes a separate pump circulates pool water pulled from the pool, passes through a filter, and then passes through the heater. The heater (being propane) heats from the combustion, transfers the heat to the water and then it flows back into the pool. The process is repeated for hours or days to provide comfortable temperatures to the pool.
The one major advantage that this process has over the other types of pool heaters is the fact that it warms the pool within a short time. Propane pool heaters are ideal for pools that are not used on a regular basis and also they can maintain the desired temperature within a short time regardless of the climatic conditions.
Are Propane Pool Heaters Safe?
Most people think of explosions any time propane gas-fired pool heaters come to their minds. Who wouldn’t? It is human nature to have safe and dangerous instincts. However, over time propane pool heaters come with many safety measures to reduce the chances of explosions. Does this mean that we are safe from any danger? The answer is no.
Pool heaters pose a danger either directly or indirectly with others being things that you may overlook. Here are some possible health hazards that you ought to look out for any time you are using a propane pool heater.
These heaters are known to emit carbon monoxide during combustion. This is a very poisonous gas if inhaled for too long. To prevent this always ensure your pool heater is properly vented.
Always ensure that there are no leakages to the gas connections that supply the gas to the heater from the gas tank. soapy water can check this out safely and easily.
If the connections to the heater are leaking, it can cause fire and or explosion. Propane gas is stinky and if it comes into contact with open flames it will ignite quickly.
Reviews of Best Propane Pool Heater
1. Best Propane Pool Heater – Hayward W3H400FDP Universal Heater
This model is a versatile propane pool heater that allows you to configure your pool water, gas supply, and electric power connections from either side, however it comes connected on the right side. The heater has the following notable features; efficient heating, it is very quiet and the design occupies less space for easier access and management, but also less distraction from the pool area.
The heater boasts of being environmentally friendly because it emits low carbon monoxide, it has a higher heating capacity over other styles. It is also very easy to install and very durable due to the cupro-nickel heat exchanger that is resistant to corrosion from water & pool chemicals.
- Easy to install
- Highly durable
- Environmentally friendly
- Easy to maintain and operate
- Hydraulic design helps provide major energy saving
- The coil is very hard to replace
2. Propane Inground Pool Heater – Pentair Digital Propane Pool Heater
The heater is a model manufactured by Pentair brand. It has a compact design and comes with a cupro-nickel heat exchanger that ensures efficient and proper heat transfer. There is minimal chance of corrosion because of the heat exchangers material used in manufacturing. Moreover, the heat rate is increased by the manufactures design of pre-mixing the air and gas mixture prior to combustion.
This model can be used in medium-sized to large-sized pools because of its power rating of 250,000 BTUs. Other features include emission of low carbon monoxide gases, five LED system indicator lights that allow easy monitoring with easy access to controls and digital display.
- Emits low carbon monoxide
- Easy to install
- Fast temperature rise
- Easy to operate
- None found
3. Best For Swimming Pool – Raypak Digital Propane Gas Pool Heater
This model is made of highly durable materials that are non-corrosive and idea around high waterborne and moisture areas. The powder coat paint is made through a 7 step process that allows for proper bonding to the metal sheets. The sheet is galvanized as well making it corrosion resistant and great for protecting your internal components. It has a self-diagnostic system that allows it to protect from things that may choke off an ordinary heater.
Other features include an electric ignition, uninterrupted heating performance, easy installation, and easy programming.
- Microprocessor controlled thermostat
- Electronic ignition
- Wind proof design
- Polymer header
- It is heavy
4. Best For Above Ground Pool – Raypak 406,000 BTU Digital Electronic Ignition Propane Pool Heater
Raypak is a well-known brand that manufacturer’s great propane pool heaters. For this heater, they included the following things as main features, cupro-nickel fin tube that is very rugged, cupro resin headers that prevent rust, and a Unitherm Governor that ensures the water output temperatures are above 105 degrees.
This model allows you to digitally control the heater settings and temperature via an LCD display. It is easy to install using the PVC 2 inch threaded unions.
- Easy to install
- Thermal efficiency
- Smart microprocessor controls
- Silent operation
- High BTUs
- Cupro-resin headers
- It is heavy
5. Best For Pool and Spa – Sta-Rite Propane Gas Pool and Spa Heater
This is a model designed for indoor or outdoor installation for pools and spas. The features that come with this heater are, cupro-nickel exchanger, LED temperature display, temperature safety lockout, rust-proof materials, 6 mode controls and dual thermostat control, and lets add easy installation with PVC union connections. It is rated as the best model among its class with an 84 % efficiency rating.
- Compact design
- Environmentally friendly
- Lightest in its class
- Rustproof design
- Easy to switch
- Very efficient an 84% rating
- Needs more maintenance attention over others
6. Best For Wind-Resistant – Raypak 014951 266000 BTU Digital Propane Gas Pool Heater
The Raypak Digital Cupro-Nickel Natural Gas Heater offers features that offer simplicity and longevity. Which promise you comfortable heating for your swimming pool and to extend swim season for longer periods. It has a “padoga” housing design that ensures your heater is efficient even during possible downdrafts.
Other features include galvanized metal with powder coating, polymer resin headers and a cupro-nickel fin tube.
- Powder-coated galvanized metal construction
- Prevents rusts stains
- Cupro-nickel fin tube
- It is heavy
7. Best Small Propane Pool Heater – Raypak 105,000 BTU Swimming Pool and Spa Heater
This model works well on above-ground pools and is the only Raypak heater of this size that has been engineered to use all components and features of their bigger gas powered pool heaters. It is made for longevity.
Yes, it is the smallest of the Raypak pool heaters but the standards it exhibits meet the threshold that other products from this brand manufactures. Seems to have less quality packed in than other Raypak products. Most likely due to reducing the price where they can to compete in this size range.
- Easy to install
- PolyTuf coated non-corrosive casing
- Stainless steel burner deck
- Polymer headers
- Not suitable for inground use
- Quality issues
Swimming Pool Water Chemistry
One major factor that speeds corrosion of components of your pool heater is unbalanced pool water. To prevent this always ensure that you maintain the appropriate pH and alkalinity in your swimming pool. Another trick is installing your heater before installing any chlorine or bromine feeders. Check out our recommended pH Kit.
The type of material used to make the heat exchanger determines the pool heaters’ lifespan. A majority of failures to the pool heater comes from the heat exchanger, reason? They are susceptible to corrosion from water pool chemicals. If the heat exchanger is made of copper or cupronickel, then it is susceptible to attacks from chemicals, however, if it is made from titanium then it is impervious to chemical damage. Notably, titanium is highly durable and a very cost-efficient material to have for your pool heat exchanger. However, it is expensive to manufacture with it.
Without a doubt regularly maintaining your pool heater will help extend its lifespan well past its warranty timeframe. Simple hacks to help you have a properly working heater is, always ensure that your heater has proper airflow by removing debris that comes on top of the heater, hiring a professional or learn how to do any internal maintenance to your heater such as cleaning internal parts, checking the water flow, and redirecting any sprinklers and excessive wetness away from your heater.
Many manufacturers provide a one year to two years warranty. The warranty majorly covers labor during repair and parts. Moreover, there are other manufacturers who provide lifetime warranties that can even cover tubing to your system. Always check on the warranty before you purchase a pool heater, the longer the warranty the more confidence the manufacturer has on the product typically.
The pool heater is definitely the best addition to your swimming after the swimming pool filter. It may be expensive but this is not an investment that you should overlook. The propane gas pool heaters are less expensive on the upfront but can be expensive when it comes to operating costs.
So if you are thinking of doing a pool, then this guide will help you choose the best, cost-efficient, environmentally-friendly propane pool heaters.