Even in South Florida where we swim outdoors year-round, pools need to be heated during winter so you can fully enjoy the water. Night-swimming, splashing with children, entertaining guests, appealing to renters and those sensitive to water temperature—these are all reasons to maintain an optimum water temperature of 84 degrees.
A pool heater will simply make your pool more comfortable, and you’ll want to run it from approximately November through March. (We always recommend connecting the pool heater to mobile devices so you can adjust the temperature easily.)
So, what is the best way to heat your South Florida pool? There are gas and electric heaters that do the job, and each has benefits. Let’s talk more about what type of heater will work best for your South Florida swimming pool.
Gas vs. Electric Heaters: What’s the Difference?
Gas heaters are powered by propane fuel that comes from a tank located on your property (usually buried). If you already use gas for cooking or heating your home, then no additional infrastructure is required. However, if your home or facility is completely electric, you’ll need to make arrangements for a propane tank to be installed on-site.
Gas can heat pools and spas very quickly. A spa usually reaches its optimum temperature in 20 to 30 minutes, and a pool takes just one hour to heat up to an ideal temperature of 84 degrees.
As for efficiency, a standard gas heater is 250 BTUs and the largest electric heat pump is 145 BTUs. At this rate, the electric heater will put out about one-third the amount of heat power, so it takes that much longer to heat your pool or spa with an electric pool heater. However, for electric heaters like the AquaCal SuperQuiet and HeatWave SuperQuiet (also an AqualCal product), we suggest maintaining a steady water temperature by using less power.
Once the pool is warmed up, an electric heat pump doesn’t have to work as hard as a gas pool heater to maintain the temperature. On average, you will lose 1 degree of heat per hour with a gas heater, and 1 degree of heat every three hours with electric heaters. So basically, an electric heater is three times as efficient.
Note: Some customers choose a gas heater for their spa and an electric heater for their pool. This works with two separate bodies of water and allows for heating both at the same time.
Comparing the Cost of Operating Gas and Electric Pool Heaters
Gas pool heaters cost less initially—they are generally priced 30% lower than brand-new electric heaters. Some electric heaters can cost twice as much as gas heaters. But the real financial consideration is how much you’ll spend to operate the heater on a monthly basis, year after year.
Figuring a propane price of $4 per gallon, you could spend $250 to $600 to fill a tank, depending on its size. During winter when your pool heater is in use, you might need to replace the propane tank once or twice a month. So, maintaining an 84-degree temperature with a gas heater in an average 15-by-30-foot pool could cost $500 or much more per month, depending on pool size.
Electric heaters are less expensive to run, costing an average of $80 to $120 per month for an average 15-by-30-foot pool. While you’ll pay more initially for an electric heater, you’ll realize a return on investment within the first year of use because operating it costs considerably less.
Servicing Your Pool Heater
Maintenance is another important consideration when choosing between a gas or electric pool heater. In our experience, electric heaters tend to be more reliable than gas heaters. The reason is, gas heaters include various safety switches and circuitry required by the safety code. Therefore, there are more parts inside gas heaters, and this naturally means a greater likelihood that a part (or several) could malfunction. With mechanics, simplicity usually equates to ease of maintenance. That’s where electric heaters have an advantage.
Pool heaters should be serviced before they are turned on for seasonal use in the fall. Service is especially important with our humid, coastal weather in South Florida, which can be tough on any mechanicals located outdoors. Preventive maintenance will increase the longevity of a gas or electric unit.
So, what type of heater is best for your South Florida pool: gas or electric? If you’re looking for a fast-acting heat source for a smaller amount of water like a spa, a gas heater makes sense. But for most South Florida swimming pools, the lower operating cost, better efficiency, and better maintenance records of electric pool heaters make them a better choice.
Regardless of your choice, today’s pool heaters are getting more efficient and are much quieter than those of even five years ago. With insulated compressors, even standing 10 feet away you will not hear the pool heater running. This is ideal for residences where heaters may be located close to bedrooms, and on commercial sites like resorts where guest comfort is a consideration.
Let’s talk more about the best way to heat your South Florida pool. Call us any time at (305) 901-1505, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.