Above Ground Pool Heaters
In the temperate climates of the Caribbean, Mediterranean and even America – residential backyard swimming pools
are pretty much taken for granted, and it's often quite odd to find homes without them. For those of us in the U.K,
and colder climates of Europe or U.S – our temperatures simply aren't high enough to motivate a trend for outdoor
splashing and bathing, which is why above ground pool heaters are becoming ever the more popular.
The statistics for consumers opting for both in-ground and above-grounds has shot up by 60% since 2005, largely due
to our climates becoming warmer. Above-ground pools tend to be the most favorable – purely because they can be
compacted for storage during winter months. If your pool is not contained within a purpose-built enclosure or
out-building, your leisure-time will be largely influenced by the unpredictable weather we're so accustomed to.
As pool-lovers will testify, swim-time is also influenced by water temperature. No matter how much the sun
shines over the course of one day, it cannot and will not heat the water in your pool to the comfortable range of
25-27C. This is why above ground pool heaters are the ideal solution.
The majority of above ground pool heaters are relatively compact in size, especially considering how much heat
they generate. Of the smaller units, you can expect them to range upward of 30 x 26 inches.
You've no doubt considered alternate options prior to an above ground heater, and while it is true that solar
covers are a great way of retaining heat while a pool is not in use - the efficiency disappears once the cover is
removed. Over 90% of a pool's heat is lost through surface evaporation alone, so that cover won't benefit the
long-term heating requirement for your pool.
So what are the options?
The pool heater market is currently dominated by four main types – electrically powered pump models, solar
powered and gas powered models (the latter usually requiring propane as the fuel source.) Deciding on the right
variant for you largely depends upon your budget, the size of your pool and anticipated pool-use.
If you think you and your children will want to enjoy entire afternoons splashing around in the sunshine, you
will need to consider above ground pool heaters with a large power out-put. Electric models range from as little as
2kw, right up to 18 kW and are available in “single phase” or “plug and play” models. Single phase refers to a
model designed for one timed period of heating, while the “plug and play” models run constantly until the plug is
Solar Pool Heaters
Solar pool heaters are among the most compact on the market, the smaller “pod” models measuring a miniature
580x580mm. Featuring a flat or domed set of solar panels at the top of the unit, solar heaters work by harnessing
the U.V (ultraviolet) light emitted by the sun, and converting it into electrical energy. This in turn powers the
unit which is connected to the pool via easy-to-assemble tubular hoses – one of which blows heat directly into the
water via a pump.
Solar pool heaters are the greenest type on the market, and can be adapted to either in-ground or above-ground
pools. These models are ideal for pools up to around 14ft, however are not as efficient for pools above this size
due to the time it takes for 12,000 or so litres of water to be heated.
Gas/ Propane Pool Heaters
Gas powered pool heaters are the energy efficient alternative to electric models, and particularly ideal if you
dislike the idea of wires trailing across your garden (potentially a hazard if small children are resident.)
Gas pool heaters operate via connection to a mains or bottled gas supply – propane which is contained within
canisters. (Propane fuelled heaters are far more common.)
Gas pool heaters work on the basis of water extraction, circulation and re-pumping – heating the water as it
travels through the system. The gas is ignited once the sensors detect water passing through the pump-tube, in turn
heating an internal element which warms the water in a similar way to your central heating boiler. The water flows
through copper insulated piping to retain the heat, and temperature variation can usually be controlled via manual
These types of above ground pool heaters are ideal for when you want a quick solution, and suitable for both
summer and winter months. Gas powered heaters also benefit from a greater range of manual control than solar
heaters, therefore can be switched on and off as required.
Electric Pump Pool Heaters
Electric pump pool heaters are undoubtedly the easiest variant for any pool-owner to install, and are extremely
effective at heating a pool to the desired temperature – usually regardless of external temperature conditions.
Pump heaters extract air from the exterior, sucking it into a compressor which heats quickly and then pushes
circulating water out through a lower, tubular hose.
They differ greatly in terms of power-output (up to 18 Kilowatts) – ideal for small 8ft above-ground pools, to
the mighty 16/18ft specialist pools. 3 Kilowatt models tend to be the domestic standard, and will effectively heat
a pool with a volume of up to 12,500 litres.
Unlike their gas counterparts, electric pump pool heaters rarely need to be “wired up”. Most domestic models are
direct “plug and play” devices which operate instantly. Electric heaters also allow users a great deal of control
over water pressure and temperature with integrated thermostats and controls. Some models also feature a “safety
thermostat” which ensures water is never heated to above a desired temperature. Clever sensors consistently monitor
temperature levels to ensure water never exceeds or dips below a certain degree range.
Your choice of above ground pool heaters will be largely determined by how often you intend to use your pool, as
well as the pool volume (in litres). Plastic and wooden above ground pools rarely exceed 12ft in diameter, and
typically only contain about 10,000 litres of water. For larger, or in-ground pools you will need a significantly
more powerful heater with an increased litre-capacity.
Its important to remember that if you attach a 3 kW heater to a 16ft pool, you won't really see any benefits.
This is simply because the power-output is too low to cope with the volume of water it must channel. The majority
of branded heaters will feature full specifications on the limitations and capabilities of the unit, so always be
sure to check before buying.