Cold climates and swimming pools are a bad combination, especially if you live in a region with harsh and long winters. Even if you reside somewhere warm, there are still times when the water temperature can be too cold for your liking. If you’re one of those people who can’t live without a pool dip or someone who loves pool parties, you may have heard about pool heaters.

In this article, we will explore in detail what gas and electric pool heaters are and which one is better for your pool and climate. 

What is a Gas Pool Heater?

Gas pool heaters use propane or natural gas to begin the water heating process. The water drawn out of the pool is sent into a filter and then to the heater during the circulation process. The gas burns in the heater’s combustion chamber, transferring heat to the water as it makes its way back to the pool.

The main advantage of a gas pool heater is that it heats the water fast and will work regardless of the outside air temperature. It also needs less upfront cost but may command a heavier price tag in the long run due to the rising prices of propane or natural gas. 

Propane is considered safer than natural gas because it won’t ignite unless the air temperature reaches 290 degrees Fahrenheit (143 degrees Celsius). However, if the natural gas is not far away or you already use it at home, it makes more sense to heat your pool water with it than using propane.

It’s also important to note that gas pool heaters generally have a shorter lifespan. Some could break down in five years, while the average is around seven to 12 years, depending on the model and makeup.

That being said, gas pool heaters are your only option if you have a bigger pool or live in an area where temperatures drop to extra frigid levels. 

What is an Electric Pool Heater?

If the efficiency of a heater is more important to you, an electric-powered machine is your safest bet. It is more expensive to install, but all the energy is turned into heat, which cannot be said of gas pool heaters.  

However, electric pool heaters are best used for smaller structures such as spas, tubs, or indoor swimming pools. That’s because it takes more time for electric heaters to warm the water, which could inflate the electricity costs if used in a large swimming pool.

There is also what’s called an electric heat pump which, unlike an electric pool heater, does not use a heating element to warm up the water. Instead, it uses the outside air, making its operation considerably cheaper than a heater, be it gas or electric-powered.

But here’s the thing to remember if you’re interested in using an electric heat pump: It works well in warm weather with an air temperature of at least 50°F. Otherwise, its heating efficiency drops.

Pool Heater Installation

A huge part of the upfront cost is the installation. There is no dodging the bullet here because hiring professionals to do the job is highly recommended. After all, you’re dealing with flammable gasses or electricity here, and both can be highly dangerous if handled by untrained individuals.

As a rule of thumb, installing gas heaters cost less than electric heaters. Electric heaters are more intricate in nature and, therefore, require experienced installers to set up. However, while the latter costs more to install, the former is much more expensive to operate in the long run. Depending on many factors, it could cost an additional $200 to $400 a month to operate a gas heater, while an electric-powered heater needs an additional $50 to $100 on the electric bill.

Swimming Pool Heater

Best Pool Heaters To Choose

Selecting a water heater for your pool is no easy task, especially knowing you’d have to spend thousands of dollars for purchase and installation. That is why you have to opt for the best only. The pool heaters below are a great way to start your purchasing journey:

1. Hayward Universal H-Series Gas Heater

Ranging from 150,000 to 450,000 BTU, the Hayward Universal H-Series Gas Heaters should be at the top of anyone’s list. It uses propane to power the heater, which is considered safer than natural gas. Its ultra-efficient, innovative design drastically decreases pump operating time, saving hundreds of dollars annually.


  • Tolerates saltwater pools
  • Satisfies strict air quality regulations for nitrous oxide emissions, making it amazingly environment-friendly
  • Heats the pool quickly


  • Propane can be expensive and the unit isn’t cheap either.
  • Control panel quality is average

2. Ecosmart US SMART POOL Tankless Pool Heater

The Ecosmart US Smart Pool Heater had us at “tankless.” It doesn’t look like your garden variety pool heater, and sometimes, that’s good! This bizarre-looking heater may be used as an independent heater or a booster if you’re already using another heater. The specifications on this model say it can heat an 11,000-gallon pool or spa by 1 to 1.5 degrees, but in optimal conditions, it can even do better than that.


  • Way cheaper than gas heaters
  • Under optimal conditions, it exceeds the heating capabilities the product specifies.
  • Straightforward installation


  • Not designed to be weatherproof so it must be installed indoors
  • Needs three-phase breaker block

3. RayPak Electronic Ignition Natural Gas Pool Heater

The RayPak Electronic Ignition heater packs a powerful punch, enough to comfortably heat a 20,000-gallon pool in a couple of hours. The electronic ignition system also provides several advantages, namely less emission and more efficiency.


  • Features a cupro nickel heat exchanger which is much more resistant than copper
  • Heavy-duty materials
  • Easy controls


  • Expensive
  • No option to switch to propane

Gas or Electric Pool Heater: Final Thoughts

In choosing between a gas or electric pool heater, your pool’s size and location are pretty much the deciding factors. If you have a large pool or living somewhere bone-chilling, there is no other option but a gas pool heater. Otherwise, it would take forever to heat the pool water if you’re going electric. 

However, an electric pool heater makes sense if you have an indoor pool and spa or live somewhere warm (but evenings can get chilly occasionally). It is more environmentally-friendly and is cheaper to run.  If you need clarification about which type suits you best, talk to an experienced professional. Protection Status