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Heat Pump vs Solar Heating

When it comes to pool heating systems, there are three main ones to choose from: Gas Pump, Solar Pump and Electric Heat Pumps. Each method has its upside, and gas has been the most common way of heating pools in the past, however solar is increasing in popularity and electric heat pumps are always becoming more and more efficient.

Whatever your pool heating goals, you should find an alternative that will work best for your pool type, your budget and your lifestyle. This article is designed to help you develop an understanding of each pool heating method and make the right decision for your own situation. If you have any further questions, or product queries, we’re always available to discuss options.

Choosing a pool heating system: Key considerations

When you’re comparing gas, solar and electric heat pumps, you’ll want to keep a few key considerations in mind. If you haven’t already answered these key questions, do so now before digging in on each individual method. Once you know your basic requirements it’s time to start your research into different brands and individual products.

  • Do you already have a solar roof system?
  • What temperature do you want the water to be?
  • What temperature does it get to outside? What climate are you living in?
  • What’s your pool size?
  • How important is the initial purchase cost versus ongoing running costs?
  • How important is it to swim in the dead of winter?
  • Do you have a well fitted, functioning pool blanket?
  • How much time/interest do you have for maintenance? Or are you prepared to outsource the cost of maintenance?

Once you’ve considered these questions and answered them as best you can, it’s time to consider the differences between gas, solar and electric pump heating systems.

Gas Pool Heaters – how they work

As already mentioned, gas pool heating has been the most common pump system for heating pools, but it no longer has the monopoly it once did as gas prices have risen and more efficient electric pumps hit the market. Gas retains one distinct advantage – it can be up to 35% cheaper to install than other methods of heating pools. It’s also consistent and able to warm your pool year-round.

A gas heating pump works by burning gas in a combustion chamber with copper coils, which get hot and in turn heat up the water as it passes through. It’s a fairly simple system, though does require significant maintenance and care, you’ll need to do regular maintenance checks throughout the year. You should also expect your gas heat pump to last around 5 years.

Why would you want to install a gas pool heating system?

One of the main drawcards for gas heaters with customers is consistency and the fact it works year-round. You don’t have to run the pump all the time if you don’t want to swim for a few days or a longer time, but you do need to ensure you turn it on early enough for when you do want to swim. There are a few other reasons gas might be your preferred choice:

  • Setting desired water temperature is usually done easily using a control panel
  • It can be cost-efficient if you don’t run the pump all the time, though this is always dependent on the price of natural gas
  • They don’t depend on outside weather or temperature

How long to heat a pool with a gas heater?

Gas heat pumps will certainly do the job of heating your pool water, within about 24-72 hrs to between 26-32 degrees Celsius (a spa can be warmed a lot faster as it is a smaller area).

See our range of gas pool heating products available on the website.

Electrical Pool Heating Systems – How They work

There are also two main types of electric heat pumps: water source and air source.

An air-source electrical pump uses the same refrigeration cycle used by an air conditioner or refrigerator but in the opposite direction. It releases heat into the water rather than the surrounding environment. This also means it simply draws heat from the surrounding external air, so long as the temperature is above 7.7 degrees Celsius.

Using a water source electrical pump water is pumped into a heating tank and then pumped back out into the pool.

With either system, you’ll want to consider that you may need an electrician to help connect your pump to the mains power supply.

An electrical heat pump may take up to 3-5 times longer to heat your pool than a gas heat pump system, but this depends on the outside temperature so may not be that much longer at all.

According to the Master Pool Builders Association of Australia, electrical pumps can range from 6kW to 300kW output, and your choice should be determined by:

  • Local climate conditions
  • Your desired pool temperature (exercise or recreational 24–28 degrees is recommended. Therapeutic 28-35 degrees)
  • Shading and exposure to wind
  • Pool water volume
  • Pool position
  • Swimming season

Why would you want to buy an electrical pool heating system?

Electrical pool heat pumps have become increasingly energy-efficient as the technology has progressed, so more home pool owners are choosing them as opposed to just commercial pools and spas. The increased energy efficiency helps improve their score on cost-effectiveness, as well as their environmentally friendly nature.

In terms of running costs, an electric heat pump system can come in at half the cost of a gas system to run month on month. It can also run overnight, consistently.

An electrical heat pump will function relatively smoothly and quietly, and using one may free up roof space for solar panels to run your home. It also shouldn’t require as much maintenance as other heat pump systems, though to be prudent you will still want to plan on doing regular inspections a few times per year to ensure everything is functioning properly.

Out electrical heat pumps are available in-store only, however you can view the details and options, including the popular EVO Heat Pump, on our website.

Solar Pool Heating Systems – How they work

A solar pool heating system works by water being pumped from the pool or spa through a multi tube solar collector, usually mounted to the roof of your house, and then back to the pool. The water gets warmed by the sun as it passes through the solar collector. Solar pool heating pumps generate heat all the time the sun is out, just not during rainy days and nights, and are effective for pretty much all of the Australian climate.

Solar pool systems can be controlled either manually or automatically, and some work still on cloudy days, though might not be quite as effective. You can expect as much as 2-3 months longer in your swimming season with a solar system even if it’s limited to working during the day. The deciding factor for how warm your pool gets appears to be the size of the solar collectors you have installed, the orientation and pitch of the roof they are installed on.

How to install a solar pool heating system?

You’ll generally need a professional to install your solar pool heating system, but it should only take 1-2 days. There are 3 types of installation which you should seek advice on:

  1. Integrated – usually recommended for older pools, and you need to run your circulation pump to drive water through the solar system
  2. Divert valve – where the existing circulation pump is expanded by a valve that diverts water into the solar system when there is enough sunlight to increase temperature; and
  3. Independent systems – that work without the use of the main circulation pump

We have a range of solar pool heating options, including Hydromatt, in different sizes, available on the website and are always happy to chat through options.

Why would you want to install a solar pool heating system?
There are a few good, solid reasons for installing a solar pool heating system. Of course, they are the eco-friendly option, consuming almost no energy, but you have also pretty much paid for the system once it’s installed as ongoing costs are very low.

Aside from the key considerations of environmental friendliness and cost, solar pool heating systems are also very low maintenance and have a longer lifespan than the other systems, estimated to last for up to 20 years.

Choosing the right way to heat your pool

There are a lot of things to consider when deciding how to heat your pool, including installation costs vs running costs, your pool’s location and climate, what length of swimming season you want and a whole lot more mentioned at the beginning of this article. It’s important to feel confident in your decision, and make the decision that suits your pool heating goals and lifestyle, so take note of maintenance issues required when speaking with manufacturers, your budget requirements and understand how your system will function so that you will know how to look for any specific issues or maintenance needs. Ultimately you’re heating your pool so that you can enjoy the water for longer, so you want to get the most out of the system you choose. Good luck!

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