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Heat Pump vs Solar Pool Heating: What’s the Difference?

Do you ever feel like your pool is just taking up space in your yard during the majority of the year? With a heat pump or solar pool heater, you can take advantage of your personal oasis year-round.

In this article, we’ll compare the two and their associated costs, heating speeds, eco-friendliness, and lifespan to help you better understand these systems. Now let’s dive right in.

Swimming Pool

Heat Pumps

The general population most frequently purchases heat pumps for their pool heaters because they use electricity, making them quite efficient. While warmer temperatures make your heat pump’s job easier, they can operate in temperatures as low as 45 degrees in most cases (1).

Since heat pump systems hook up to your electrical system, heat pumps often require regular maintenance to keep performing well throughout the years.  

Solar Pool Heating

Solar pool heating, just as the name states, uses solar energy to heat your pool. It pulls water through a filter where a solar collector uses its power from the sun to heat the water and transfer it back to the pool. Ultimately, solar pool heating systems are eco-friendly and will help reduce your energy bills. 

Comparing the Details: Solar Pool Heating vs Heat Pump

There are many benefits to each but there are also some disadvantages, let’s get into them. 

Upfront Costs

Be prepared to pay a pretty penny for either a heat pump or solar pool heating system. Angie’s List estimates in a recent article:

Labor alone runs $500 to $1,500 in most cases.

Solar pool heaters typically range between three and four thousand dollars for an upfront cost. Still, they will vary depending on your pool size, your solar resource available, and your local rules and regulations. 

On the other hand, the heating pump costs on average about $6,000 but will vary anywhere between three and $10,000 depending on the energy efficiency, pool square footage, and overall system quality.

Winner: Solar Pool Heating

Operating Costs

Over time, heat pumps and solar pool heating systems can both save you money on your utility bills. An efficient heat pump won’t be a huge draw on your energy bill, but it will require a payment each month, at a higher cost in winter, especially.

In contrast, a solar heating system goes even further to reduce your bills and gives you back the money you spent on the system in the first place. 

On average, with the amount people save, a solar heating system will pay for itself in anywhere from 1.5 years to 7 years (3).

Winner: Solar Pool Heating

Heating Speed

What pool owners really want to know is, how soon can they jump in the warm water? The exact timeline of a heat pump vs solar pool heating will depend on the size of your pool, plus the power your heating source offers. However, heat pump systems are often faster at warming up the water because you can “crank up” the heat.

It’s not uncommon to wait one to three days for a solar heater to warm up your pool. A heat pump could take as long as a week, depending on the local climate and other factors.

Winner: Heat Pump

Eco-Friendliness

Heat pump systems rely on electricity, while solar heaters rely on solar energy. While both options are far more eco-friendly than the alternative gas heating pump, which burns fuel to heat your pool, the solar pool heating system is more eco-friendly than the electric heating pump.

The solar pool heating system converts the sun’s natural heat into energy whereas heat pumps demand energy straight from your grid. This makes solar pool heating much friendlier to the environment and more sustainable over heat pump systems in the long run. 

Winner: Solar Pool Heating

Lifespan

When considering solar pool heating vs heat pumps, you want a system that will last a while. A heat pump, on average, lasts around 15 years with adequate, regular maintenance. Manufacturers typically give solar pool heating, extremely durable systems, a warranty between 10 and 12 years.

However, to get the most out of solar pool heating, you can make sure to avoid these seven common mistakes:

With the right amount of care, solar pool heating can operate efficiently up to 20 years.

Winner: Solar Pool Heating 

Overall Cost

While both heat pumps and solar pool heaters have a considerable upfront cost, they also often require an installation cost and some maintenance throughout your ownership. Ultimately, heat pump costs and solar pool heater costs increase relatively evenly when adding these costs together.

The difference is that heat pumps will have a larger impact on your monthly energy bill.

The heat pump’s usage, while energy-efficient, is still hooked up to your electrical system and will require power to run. Depending on how frequently you use the system will change the billing price.

On the other hand, while solar pool heating has some extra costs after the initial pricing, they don’t affect your utility charges much. Around $10/month is the max to expect from most in-ground pool solar heaters. Due to their energy efficiency and eco-friendliness, in most cases, you will end up getting back the money you spent on the system in the long-run.

Energy.gov puts it like this:

You can significantly reduce swimming pool heating costs by installing a solar pool heater. They’re cost competitive with both gas and heat pump pool heaters and they have very low annual operating costs.

So, in terms of overall costs to heat a pool, solar pool heating has done it once again.

Winner: Solar Heating System

Final Verdict

For homeowners who live in an area with ample sunlight, in the battle between “heat pump vs solar pool heating,” solar pool heating wins. Solar pool heaters have a better overall cost efficiency, eco-impact, and lifespan when compared to their competitor.

It’s worth noting that heat pumps can help you to enjoy warmer water, sooner, as long as it’s above 45-50 degrees outside when you want to swim (1). However, with solar pool heaters, you’re more likely to end up getting back the money you invested in it, given a favorable climate; making solar a solid choice for many home pool owners.

FAQs

Deciding whether pool heaters like heat pumps and solar pool heaters are worth it, depends on your needs.

If you want to use your pool year-round and if your pool doesn’t typically get much heat from the sun organically, then you might want to consider getting a heater. If you find yourself not using your pool enough, adding one of these systems is a great way to help you get the most out of owning a pool.

No, you should not run a pool heater overnight unless you have to. To save money on your energy bill, and be the most efficient, you want to use your heating systems as little as possible ideally.

The nighttime is usually the perfect opportunity to give your system a rest.

Yes, solar pool heating does work in the winter. The problem is that solar pool heaters won’t generate quite as much hot water as during colder months for obvious reasons.

Heat pumps, on the other hand, are more well-suited to warm your pool during the winter months because they’re tied to your electrical grid and don’t rely on the sun.

  1. Heat Pump Swimming Pool Heaters. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat-pump-swimming-pool-heaters
  2. How Much Does It Cost to Install a Swimming Pool Heater. Retrieved from: https://www.angieslist.com/articles/how-much-does-it-cost-install-swimming-pool-heater.htm
  3. Solar Swimming Pool Heaters. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/solar-swimming-pool-heaters

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