Swimming Pool Blog
Rob Cox, March 19, 2012
Swimming Pool Heat Pump Installation
You may have heard that pool heat pumps operate for pennies per day - that's true! But did you know that they're also very simple to install.
In this blog post, we'll discuss the finer points of pool heat pump installation, with the hope that you will find it easy enough to tackle as a DIY pool heating project.
I'm going to recommend that you buy the heat pump online, place it and plumb it, and then call in an electrician to finish up.
Pool Heat Pump Installation Materials List
- Pool heat pump
- Sturdy mounting base
- PVC plumbing supplies
1. Shopping for a new swimming pool heat pump
Sizing your heat pump to your pool is the first consideration. Pool heat pumps are rated in BTU's of heater output. The larger this number, the more heat you will get from a pool heat pump. For aboveground pools, or inground pools under 12,000 gallons, you will look for something in the 50K to 75K size, with K standing for thousands. Inground pools up to 20,000 gals should look at heat pumps in the 100K range. For larger pools, our heat pumps max out at 156K, which should handle a pool of 40K gallons. For really large pools, you can install heat pumps in tandem, connecting 2, 3, 4 or more pool heat pumps together.
There are a few bells and whistles that you can consider in the selection of a pool heat pump, some models offer these as standard equipment:
- Chillers have the ability to cool the pool water, by reversing their process, if the the pool becomes unbearably hot in the summer.
- Self-Diagnosis, Self-Defrosting units can operate in outside temps as low as 38 degrees.
- Titanium or Cupro-Nickel heat exchangers ensure long life and optimum heat transfer.
- Full digital display, keypad lockout, integration with pool controllers.
2. Sturdy base to mount the pool heat pump
First things first. After the truck drops off the heater in your driveway - you need a safe way to transport it to the pool filter area. A dolly, with straps and large wheels will do, and another person to help you guide it. Be gentle when manuevering it into position, a few bumps and knocks won't hurt it, but don't let it fall over.
You can buy a reinforced plastic platform at most home stores, they are used for home heat pumps or heating/cooling units. You can also pour a concrete pad inside of a square constructed of wooden 2x4's. Use some thin steel rebar, or wire mesh, for added strength. Another easy alternative is to use 4 - 2'x2' concrete pavers.
Whichever method you use, be sure to level the ground first, and lay down a layer of bluestone gravel first. If your land is sloping, consider the need for reinforcement or retaining walls. Pool heat pumps are very heavy (300-500lbs) and need a stable, level surface.
When installing your heat pump, be sure to choose an area that has at last 18" of clearance on all sides and is not close to plants or bushes. Areas next to the house should be protected from direct roof run-off.
3. PVC pipe and fittings
Most, but not all new pool heat pumps come with quick disconnect unions, which gives an easy way to drain a heat pump for winterizing. Aside from that, you will need some other things to plumb a new heat pump. Each system layout will be different, but typically, you may need couplings, 45's and/or 90's, and a bit of pipe.
You will also need a hacksaw to cut the return line, and some pvc glue and primer to put it all together. All of these items can be picked up at a local home or hardware store, or you can visit our pool plumbing page. It may be easier, however, to get your new heat pump placed or mounted first, and then make a list of the fitting types and sizes needed to connect the heater.
4. Call the Electrician
Maybe you'll get lucky and you have the required amount of voltage at your pool equipment subpanel to add the 30-60 amp breaker. If not, you'll need to 'heavy-up' your electrical service. Worst case, it involves running a new dedicated circuit from the home breaker panel, to a small sub-panel, within 3ft of the heat pump.
Depending on the length of the run, and the rate of your electrician, a new line can cost $500-$900. If you already have a 100amp sub-panel however, and are only using a small percentage of this amperage to power your pool pump, pool lights and outlets - you may be able to have the electrician simply add a breaker to the existing panel, which would be much cheaper.