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Location matters when choosing pool heaters

By Marcelle Dibrell

Location, Location, Location! When it comes to selecting a pool heater, one of the biggest considerations is location.

Choosing the right heater can be difficult because not all pool heaters are suitable for all pools, and the physical location of the pool and heater is an important factor in the selection process. For example, consumers today are becoming increasingly conscious of energy usage, and there are heater types that have higher efficiencies than others. But the efficiency level is also dependent of where in the country the heater is located.

The US Department of Energy says that heat pumps typically have much lower annual operating costs because of their higher efficiencies. With an endorsement like that, many pool owners shopping for a pool heater will elect to go with a heat pump, but depending on the homeowner’s geographic location, this may not necessarily be a good fit. According to the DOE, heat pumps work well when the ambient temperature is higher than 45 °F to 50 °F. Many heat pump owners in the North Eastern United States report the pumps generally work well during the traditional swim season (Memorial Day to Labor Day). However, when the weather is cooler, these same consumers say they don’t do much to extend the swimming season on either end.

Similarly, the heat pump’s immediate position also matters. If the heat pump is placed in a shady corner, it may not be able to draw as much warmth from the surrounding air.

While some models have an automatic defrost feature that allow them to operate at lower temperatures, heat pumps are best suited for warmer climates.

The DOE also says pool owners can significantly reduce pool heating costs with a solar heater, and that solar pool heating is the most cost-effective use of solar energy in many climates. But solar pool heating also requires site considerations because this kind of heating depends on the site’s solar resource. The surface area of the solar collector should equal 50%–100% of the surface area of the pool. However, in cooler and cloudier areas, it may be necessary to increase the ratio between the collector area and the pool surface area. With a solar pool heater, the bigger concern is that the site has a large enough unshaded area that generally faces south.

Gas-fired pool heaters remain the most popular for most pool owners in the country, but even this traditional heater type is becoming subject to geographic concerns. In September 2019, Berkeley, California became the first city to ban natural gas lines in all new buildings, and since then dozens of California cities followed suite or are considering it. On the other coast, Brookline, Massachusetts, passed a similar ordinance.

It appears, then, when it comes to nearly all heater types, location matters, and must be among the first factors considered when choosing a heater type.

There is a large range of options when it comes pool and spa heaters and they all have different and distinct requirements for installation, sizing, maintenance and placement. The articles included in this special issue of Service Industry News will explore topics unique to each type of heater.

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