Heat Pump Technology for Swimming Pools

by Rob Cox, April 07, 2010

pool heater pumps

Pool Heat pumps - what are they exactly? A pool heat pump operates in the same way as a household heat pump, in that it absorbs the heat from the surrounding air, and through a process of heat transfer, puts that heat into your pool water.


Air Conditioners, by contrast, evaporate a refridgerant, which super cools inside of coils. Something of a reverse heat pump.  But air conditioners cannot heat - pool heat pumps heat the pool water, and if need be in the hottest part of the summer, some models can also be reversed to cool the pool.

Pool Heat pumps extract heat from the air, compressing the air to warm it up even more, and transfer the heat from the air into your pool water. During the pool season, outside air temperature is usually higher than the pool water temperature, and this is when heat pumps are at their very, ultra-efficient best. 

The main drawback to a heat pump is that they don't work very well when there is little outside heat in the air. At temperatures below 50 degrees, there's not much heat to suck out of the air, although they will continue to operate at lower efficiency. This may be why heat pump use is dominant in Florida, and other southern states. Pool Heat pumps can be a good "shoulder season" pool heater for most of the country. In the mid-atlantic area, heat pumps are used, and they can add an extra 3 months to the season. So even if you don't live in Florida or Texas, a pool heat pump can be a viable alternative to gas or solar heat.

Installing a heat pump, outside of having it wired up by an electrician, is usually simpler than a gas heater install. Near the ground unioned connections keep pipes out of the way. Just set it on a suitable flat and level base and plumb it in. Most heat pumps are digitally controlled and interface with most pool controller systems. Some can even become your pool controller. 

Benefits of heating your pool with a heat pump include:

  • Low operating cost, typically $20-$40 per month electrical cost.
  • No carbon monoxide or nitrous oxide emissions.
  • Can not only heat your pool, but cool your pool.
  • Low maintenance and Long warranties.

On the flip side, there are some disadvantages to pool heat pumps over gas pool heaters. These include:

  • Lower efficiency, heating ability during winter months.
  • Higher initial cost, almost double the cost of a gas pool heater.
  • 30 amp circuit may require an electrical upgrade to the pool sub panel.
  • Slower heating, about half as fast as a gas heater. Not for "On-Demand" heating.

With the recent explosion in demand for "green pool products" with less of an impact on the environment, pool heat pump purchases are on the rise. According to the US Energy Information Administration, sales of heat pumps surged in 2008 by 40%. Sales of heat pumps took a slight dip during the crunch of '09, but are expected to rebound this year.

With over 10 manufacturers of pool heat pumps introducing new models this year, it's something of a gold rush in the pool industry. The same can be said for eco-friendly pool pumps that computer control their energy consumption. Supply is rushing to catch up with demand for green pool products. Products that either save water, save electricity, reduce emissions or safer around kids. 


Heat Pump Technology for Swimming Pools