Listen, nobody wants to dive into a pool of cold water, am I right? And the crazy thing is that the water doesn’t have to be all that cold to feel like an ice bath.
Believe it or not, anything under 78° is enough to make you shiver. Sure, you’ll get used to it after a few minutes, but who wants to take that plunge?
The best thing you can do for your swimmers, including you, is to install a pool heater that will keep your water at a comfortable level. Not only will you enjoy your pool more, but you’ll enjoy it longer.
However, there are a lot of options out there, so knowing what to buy is key. Here are our top picks:
10 Best Above Ground Pool Heaters
#1. Blue Wave Solar Blanket
- RETAINS HEAT - Insulating thermal cells trap heat and retain warmth on cool cloudy days allowing you to swim in warmer water all summer long
This solar blanket from Blue Wave is made with insulating thermal cells that trap heat to keep your water warm, even on cooler days. It’s made with a UV-protected material that holds up longer than other products to those damaging rays.
In addition to keeping your pool warm, it also uses passive heating to raise the temp of the water up to 15°. And it prevents a lot of evaporative water loss, which will help you use less water filling it up, and keep your chemicals more balanced.
#2. Pentair MaterTemp Propane Gas Heater
Heat your pool water fast with this 125,000 BTU propane heater. It boasts some of the same features of a much larger unit in a smaller size.
This heater has a rotating digital display with temperature controls and service indicator lights. But best of all, it’s compact, lightweight, and quiet.
You’ll love how efficiently this little unit works without taking up much space!
#3. Intex Solar Heater Mat
- Eco-friendly solar technology increases temperature of the pool water by approx. 3 ~ 5 DegreeC (5 ~ 9 DegreeF) depending on weather condition.
Also, this mat is very inexpensive, easy to find, easy to store, and takes up very little space.
Depending on your weather conditions, you can expect this heater to warm your water by up to 5°. You can use this for pools with up to 8,000 gallons of water.
#4. Hayward Natural Gas Pool and Spa Heater
- The Hayward Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU Natural Gas Heater delivers premium heating performance for years of reliable, long-lasting comfort
For fast, efficient heat, you can’t beat a gas pool heater. And Hayward is a name you can trust in the pool industry, so you definitely can’t go wrong with this product.
This model comes in quite a few sizes so you can use it with any size pool. It will keep your water constantly heated while in use in any weather.
Hayward takes care to ensure their products are not harmful to the environment, and this heater has low NOx emissions that meet air quality standards everywhere.
#5. Sun2Solar Clear Heat Retaining Blanket
- ATTRACTIVE BLUE DESIGN - Sun2Solar solar blankets are made from a film of thousands of tiny bubbles, which work together to collect and retain heat both at night and on those chilly days. The blue color provides an appealing look while also using the sun’s rays to help warm your swimming pool.
These clear solar blankets are made with thousands of tiny air pockets that hold in the heat from the sun. The fact that it’s clear makes it easier for the UV rays to penetrate.
With the Sun2Solar Clear Heat Retaining Blanket, you’ll also have the added benefit of lower water evaporation. This way, you’ll have to refill the pool a lot less often, preserving our natural resources.
Using this regularly when no one is in the pool will help you retain the heat it accumulates during the day.
#6. Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System
This Fafco heating system works a little like solar heating panels in that it pumps water through the solar collector to heat it up. Then, it pumps it back into the pool.
But instead of solar panels, this one is just one solar collector that looks like a long rubber mat.
This gives it a nice blendable appearance. And it can be installed almost anywhere — on the roof, on the ground, or on its own included rack.
It’s a great alternative to big bulky solar panels that have to be installed at certain angles in specific areas. But it’s not quite as great at collecting rays on cloudy days.
#7. Universal Solar Pool Heater
- Simple DIY installation; for in ground or above ground pools
Here’s another solar pool heater that has a more seamless appearance. It can also be installed on a fence, ground, roof, or rack, and works with your existing pool pump.
We love this one for its super simple installation for any type of pool. Plus its patented web design really soaks up the rays, even on less than the sunniest of days.
With the Universal Solar Pool Heater, you can expect to have your water temp raised by 6-10 degrees, but it does take some time in the beginning.
#8. Goplus Solar Dome Swimming Pool Heater
Here’s a little something different in a solar heater. The Goplus Solar Dome works just like solar panels in that it absorbs the sun’s rays, but the way it does it is unique.
The dome-shaped lens of this heater acts like a magnifying glass to maximize the efficiency of the heat from the sun. It’s then captured by black coils that circulate the pool water through them.
It’s a large enough size that it can absorb a lot of heat, but small enough to be kind of out of the way.
#9. Hayward Propane Pool and Spa Heater
- The Hayward Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU Propane Heater delivers premium heating performance for years of reliable, long-lasting comfort
The next reliable Hayward product is their propane heater. Just like its counterpart, this heater is constructed from durable materials that last for years, and boast low NOx emissions for environmental safety.
These heaters are extremely easy to set up and use, and are some of the most efficient on the market. You’ll also get super-fast heating and high performance for the life of the product.
#10. EcoSmart Electric Tankless Pool Heater
The EcoSmart Electric Tankless Pool Heater is unique in that it uses the latest flow sensor technology instead of pressure switch activation. This prolongs the life of the unit because it’s less likely to burn the elements out.
This heater is also compact and easy to install. You’re also able to easily control it with a digital temp panel in 1° increments.
For added technology, use it with the Eco smart remote control.
This product comes with a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Can you put a heater on an above ground pool?
Lots of new pool owners assume that having an above ground pool means they’ll have to forego luxuries like heating. But that’s just not true.
All the options we gave you here will work for above ground pools. In fact you have pretty much the same types of options for both above ground and inground pools.
Types of Pool Heaters
As you can see from our list, you have quite a few choices when it comes to heating your above ground pool. But all of those fit into three basic categories: solar, electric, or gas.
Each one accomplishes the same task but in completely different ways. And some are more efficient and effective than others.
Gas Pool Heaters
Gas heaters run on either natural gas or propane. These heat water up with copper coils that circulate it and return it to the pool.
These are a little pricier than other types of heaters and are kind of expensive to run. But they heat the water so quickly and efficiently that many people find them worth the extra cost.
These are some of the most efficient types of pool heaters because they don’t rely on warm air or sunlight to work properly. So for pool owners who live in colder climates, these are your best bet.
Solar Pool Heaters
Solar pool heaters collect heat from the sun and disperse that into your water. And there are several types of solar heaters available.
Solar panels are probably the most common and familiar. These are those big glass-looking panels you might see mounted either on frames or rooftops.
There are some other similar types of systems, such as solar domes or mats. But these all work by absorbing the heat from the sun and then transferring that heat to the water through the pool’s circulation system.
Another type of solar heater is a solar blanket or cover. These usually look like giant sheets of bubble wrap that you put over your pool when it’s not in use.
These also absorb the heat from the sun. But instead of working through the pool’s pump system, they just transfer that heat directly to the water underneath.
Same thing goes for similar products like sun rings. These work like covers or blankets but come in small circles that you can distribute on the surface.
Electric Pool Heaters
Electric pool heaters pull heat from the air and “circulates this air through an outer evaporator air coil.” From there, it is transformed into a warm gas and that warmth is increased inside the coil system.
Then, “the gas and pool water is pumped through the heat exchanger, the hot gas transfers its heat to the water.”
These types of heaters are very reliable but can be pretty costly to run.
Reasons Why You Need an Above Ground Pool Heater
The truth is, most people don’t necessarily need a pool heater, but the comfortable swimming conditions they provide is certainly preferable. After all, when you purchased your pool, you probably hoped to get as much enjoyment out of it as possible, right?
Of course, the exceptions to this are pools in colder climates, like some northern areas. If you have a pool where you don’t have many days of warm swimming weather, you might fall into the category of actually needing a pool heater.
Either way though, jumping into a pool that doesn’t make your toes curl and chill bumps pop out on your skin is usually the way to go.
So, what are some reasons you might need a pool heater?
Extended Pool Season
With a pool heater, you’ll get to use your pool longer than most people. Pools without heaters may be closing down for the winter long before the temps outside dip to colder weather.
Relaxed Muscles and Joints
Aside from pure enjoyment, heated pools also have a few health benefits. One of those is that it relaxes muscles and soothes achy joints.
Swimming in warm water is known to help relieve stress and depression by relaxing your body and mind.
7 Things to Consider in the Best Above Ground Pool Heater
When you’re choosing your own pool heater, there are several factors you may want to consider.
One of the things that make a pool heater great is how efficiently it heats your water. Gas heaters are usually the quickest and most effective, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what you need.
For your climate, pool size, and type of pool, a solar blanket may be just as efficient in meeting your heating needs.
A good quality pool heater will be made out of quality materials made to last and withstand your particular environment.
3. Size of Pool
The size of pool you have will make a difference in the type of heater that will work best for you. For example, very small pools may only require sun rings to stay toasty warm, while a very large pool might need something better.
Gas heaters are the only pool heaters that can sometimes be harmful to the environment because of their emissions. However, most newer models are made with this in mind and meet emissions standards in even the strictest of states.
5. Ease of Installation and Maintenance
The right pool heater for you will be easy to install and maintain according to your own standards and abilities.
Affordability means something different for everyone. But keep in mind the cost of the unit is not all that you need to consider.
Also take into account the cost to maintain it and how often it will have to be replaced.
Again, your climate is one of the most important factors in choosing a pool heater.
For example, pool owners in Florida might like using a solar blanket to take the edge off the water temp. But pools in Maine often require something more just to keep the water bearable.
FAQs for the Best Above Ground Pool Heater
What is the best way to heat an above ground pool?
As you can see from this article, there’s more than one way to heat a pool and the best way depends on your specific wants and needs.
For example, for someone with a small pool in Florida, solar rings might be the best way to heat their pool. But for someone in, say, New York, the best way might be using a gas heater.
Overall, solar heaters are the most environmentally-friendly, while gas is probably the heftiest in terms of providing plenty of heat fast.
Are above ground pool heaters worth it?
This probably depends on who you ask, but most people think they’re worth it. This is especially true for people in northern climates or even milder climates who just want to prolong swim season.
Do solar heaters work for above ground pools?
Solar heaters absolutely work for above ground pools just as well as they do for inground pools.
How can I heat my pool cheaply?
Probably the cheapest way to heat any pool is with a solar blanket. These are usually very expensive and come in many shapes and sizes. Most can even be trimmed to fit different pools.
How long does it take to heat a pool 10 degrees?
How quickly you can heat your pool by 10° depends on how big your pool is and what type of heater you have. But here’s a great way to calculate it from INYO Pools:
FORMULA: Determine the time required to increase water temperature by 1 degree F
# of gallons in pool X 8.34 = ___________ lbs. of water
______ pounds of water / BTU Size = The hours it takes to raise the water temperature by 1 degree F
You have a 20,000-gallon pool and use a 125,000 BTU heater. Your water is currently 70 degrees F but you would like it to be a minimum of 80 degrees F. How long will it take before the pool water reaches 80 degrees F?
20,000 x 8.34= 166,800 lbs
166,800/125,000= 1.33 hrs to increase 1 degree
80-70= 10 degree difference
10 x 1.33= 13.34 hours of heating before the pool reaches 80 degrees F.
What size above ground pool heater do I need?
This is a good question because it’s super important. The right size pool heater will ensure that it’s heating at it’s best and not using resources you don’t need.
And the best thing is, most manufacturers take the guesswork out of it for you. All you need to do is check the specs for the models you’re looking at to make sure they’re compatible with your pool size.
But here are some good examples:
For a pool up to 10,000 gallons, you’ll need a 50,000-65,000 BTU heater.
For a 20,000 gallon pool, you’ll need 85,000-125,000 BTUs.
For both of these, stick to the lower end if you plan to only swim in the summer, and to the higher end to extend your swimming season.
How long can above ground pool heaters last?
How long your pool heater lasts depends on the type of heater, how well you maintain it, and how often it’s used.
A good electric or gas heater can last up to 10 years. A solar panel heater can last even longer, up to 15 years. And a solar heating blanket has a lifespan of only about 3 years.
A good swimming pool heater can bring you a lot more enjoyment in your pool. It can make the conditions more comfortable, contribute to your health, and prolong your swimming season.
Just keep in mind your particular needs when shopping for one and have it professionally installed if you feel you need to. But don’t tell your neighbors unless you’re ready for your backyard to become the go-to swimming hole!