Comparing pool heaters: gas vs solar vs heat pumps

Comparing pool heaters: gas vs solar vs heat pumps

In the game of pool heating, there are only three competitors: electric heat pumps, gas heaters and solar pool heaters. Here, we’ll pit them against each other to see which is the best option for you.

Fortunately, it’s simple to work out which pool heater will suit your home. They each work differently and have unique benefits, which makes it easier to work out your winning option.

One important thing to remember is that cost is only one factor; it’s how your household uses your pool that should also motivate your decision.

Table of Contents

A quick snapshot of each type of pool heating.

Before we start, let’s have a quick look at the three options.

Electric heat pump: An electric heat pump uses heat from the air to warm the water it funnels from the pool and back in again. Units are usually installed next to the filtration system and come in a variety of sizes and capacities to match your pool size.

Solar pool heating: Just like a regular solar system, solar pool heating uses the sun’s energy to warm pool water that flows up and through black collector mats installed on the roof. Solar has small ongoing costs but more limitations.

Gas pool heaters: Much like heating your house water using gas, gas pool heaters use LPG to heat copper coils that your pool water runs through. Gas heats on-demand, making it the fastest pool heater but not the most cost-effective.

Each unit is installed in one day and will be ready to start heating your pool immediately.

Comparing initial and long-term costs.

There isn’t an enormous or obvious difference in initial cost between heating options. It’s really the ongoing costs that matter because there’s a big difference between paying a few dollars a month and hundreds a month.

Remember ongoing costs will change depending on electricity and gas prices, and initial prices will vary by the size of your pool. Let’s take a look:

Type of pool heater

Approx. cost to buy

Approx. annual running costs

Year-round heating

Energy efficient

Good for all locations


$2500 – $6000

$0 to $2 per day (depending on electricity costs)



No – needs plenty of continual sunshine

Electric heat pump

$3000 – $5000+

$500 – $800




Gas heat pump


$600 – $2000




You’ll also need to pay installation costs, which you’ll be quoted when you speak to a pool heating expert. Typically you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars, and slightly more for solar since it’s manpower-intensive to mount on your roof.

Since the initial costs are competitive, choosing a pool heater involves looking at two factors:

  1. Ongoing costs
  2. How you want to use your pool

In the table, we’ve highlighted which systems will give you year-round heating. This helps you eliminate a particular pool heater if it doesn’t match your needs. But, remember there might be other factors at play; for instance, you might decide solar heating is fine but your home gets too much shade to give you the results you want.

Comparing by what outcome you want.

Let’s look a little deeper into the way you want to use your pool and how it dictates which pool heater trumps the other.

Take a look at this table:

What you want

Solar pool heating

Electric heat pump

Gas heat pump

Year-round swimming




Extra weeks added to the swim season




Fast heating time




Low operating costs




In a stand-off, an electric heat pump wins because it ticks the boxes for each scenario, giving you lots of flexibility in how you want to use it. By comparison, solar will only provide you with limited heating ability because its power depends on the amount of sunshine it receives.

Running costs vs personal usage

Solar pool heating may have the lowest running costs but it also offers the lowest value for your pool. It will add a few weeks to the beginning and end of summer, but little else. If you want more months of pool time, or even to swim year-round, you’ll need to look at an electric heat pump or a gas heater.

And, even though electricity costs are variable, there are ways to offset your power usage through solar panels, as well as shopping around for better deals. Gas is more like petrol prices, which are dictated by supply and can’t be bartered.

We’ve already seen gas prices go up over the past 12 months and it’s expected to rise another 12% to 18% across the country by mid-2023. Volatile gas prices are one of the reasons we recommend electric heat pumps over gas.

Time to heat your pool

Let’s look at how much time it takes to heat an average 32 cubic metre pool to reach 28 degrees using each of the three heaters:

  • Solar pool heater: 24 – 96 hours
  • Electric heat pump: 12 – 48 hours
  • Gas heat pump: 4 – 12 hours

Electric heat pumps land in the happy median, taking only a day to bring your pool up to temperature. Gas heat pumps may do it faster, but you’ll pay more for the speed. Solar pool heaters can warm the water up to 10 degrees at a stretch, but can be limited the volume of solar energy.

The final verdict

When you’re comparing pool heaters, you’ll need to use this formula:

Personal usage vs. ongoing cost

How do you want to use your pool, and how much will it cost you per year to achieve it?

If you want to see what your options are, you can call our team anytime for a hand. We can explain the options and costs, and what would suit your lifestyle, location and pool size.

Lastly, you’ll drastically improve the cost-efficiency of your pool heater – whichever one you choose – by adding a pool cover, which can save up to 70% heat loss.


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