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Thread: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

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    Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    Hello everyone,

    I am hoping for some input from the community on the best way to heat our pool. It is a 18 x 36, approximately 27,000 gallon pool on the Southcoast, MA, near Cape Cod, but not on it. My wife and I would like to heat the pool to 85 degrees from late May/June through the middle of September. During the middle of the summer the pool gets at least 8 hours of sunlight, and will usually be above 85 just with the judicial use of a solar cover. When not in use we always have a solar cover on the pool. I was pretty set on installing a 140k BTU heat pump and started talking to my uncle who is an electrician about wiring and he said that the pool expert where he works recommends a propane heater. I am hoping you guys could give me some feedback on which you think is the best choice.

    Initial cost is not a big factor to us, however monthly operating costs are and I feel this is where the heat pump will most likely win out. We use the pool mostly after work on weekdays and on weekend during the summer, so no real set schedule such as weekends only for swimming. If we were to install the heat pump I would need to pour a pad, hook up the pipes and most likely have an electrician run a new power line. For the propane heater we would need to pour a pad, install/buy a tank, hookup the pipes and propane. Propane prices around us average $3/gal. and electricity is $0.11199/kWh delivered. I have done the math and from what other people report, I think the heat pump should have a lower monthly operating cost if we set it to 85 and forget it per se. The propane I would have to manage when it runs and how much and try to keep the water as comfortable as possible. Please let me know if I am way off base here.

    I have read just about every thread in this section on heat pumps and there is still no clear cut winner vs a gas heater for my situation. I appreciate any and all insight, criticism etc.

    Thanks for your time!
    Bill
    Last edited by x Wild Bill x; 05-12-2016 at 02:05 PM. Reason: Edited kWh charge

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    Administrator Leebo's Avatar
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    Re: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    For starters, WELCOME TO TFP!

    We too were in a position like yourself and found that Natural Gas was not an option. We also found ourself surrounded by large trees making solar not an option. That put us looking at a propane heater vs. a heat pump like yourself. In the end we opted for the heat pump as propane simply didn't seem to work out for us. Last year we kept the water between 85 and 88 and only saw about a $100-$150 increase per month. It was common to see a degree per hour increase during the warmer summer months. This year however with external temps hovering around 75 we have been lucky to see 1/2 a degree increase per hour.

    I do however have these two comments for you.......First off, I would look into Solar. This technology really does work well in many climates and is the cheapest form of heating your pool you will find. Second off, invest in a good solar cover and use it nightly. If you leave your pool uncovered you will see a large drop in water temps each night. This will result in wasting money reheating the water to where you started at the day before.

    Hope I was able to help you out slightly! Welcome once again!!!

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    Re: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    Hi Leebo,

    Thank you very much for the welcome and the tips. While this is my first post, I have lurked quite a bit before joining and have already learned a lot from this great site!

    We have looked into solar and the front of our house faces South and at this point in time, it is not something we would like to do for heating our pool. In the future we may put solar on the roof to generate electricity and this would also help offset the cost of running a heat pump. We do use a solar cover 24/7 when not in the pool and it certainly helps keep the heat in and reduce the need for chlorine. Last year I saw 90 degrees on the pool thermometer! Although I'm sure that was the surface layer temperature I was still shocked. Also, thank you for sharing your operating cost and experience with a heat pump.

    Also, I forgot to mention in the first post is we do not have access to natural gas, or we would certainly go that route!

    Thanks,
    Bill

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    JayG's Avatar
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    Re: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    We opted to ditch our propane heater and go with a 140k BTU heat pump. We are in downstate NY, so a similar climate to costal MA. We turned on the heat pump 2 days ago and was able to bring 35K gallon pool from 56F to 78F despite air temps in the low 60s to low 70s. We do have a solar cover on during this time. We are pleasantly surprised with how well it works.
    Jay--Metro NYC
    35K gal, in-ground, free-form, pebble finish, 2 skimmers, 3 returns, autofill. No spa, no features. Partial shade.
    Pentair C&C cartridge filter (400 sq in), Pentair VS pump, Pentair 140 btu heat pump, Triton Plus Robo-cleaner; Stenner with 55 gal bleach cistern. TFT 100 test kit.

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    Administrator Leebo's Avatar
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    Re: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    Well I would like to update my post with the clear downfall of a Heat Pump........

    This weekend a cold front moved in and took the average air temps from mid 70's down into the mid 50's. We went from a low of about 50 down to a low of around 30. All this killed the water temp's. Before the cold front we had the water at 80 and climbing. We had put the solar cover on before the cold front came in and left it on until today when I removed it to clean the pool up some. The temp dropped from 80 down to below 70 with no hope of running the Heat Pump until the air temps increase some. As long as the temps are below 50 the heat pump will keep itself turned off in order to prevent damaging itself. With propane you at least would be able to keep the pool heated during times like this.......with a rather large cost.

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    Re: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    There are heat pumps that will operate with temps down to about 40 (well that's at least what the spec sheet for my heat pump says it will do I haven't proven it yet). They tend to be much more expensive with that option. That being said though Like Leebo said a big draw back of heat pumps is that they need warm ambient air temps to work efficiently. As for cost even though propane has been very cheap this year (1.19 / gal delivered in January) a heat pump will be much less per month to run.
    Chuck-
    15x30 Above ground, Pentair Superflo VS, 19" sand filter, TF-100 test kit
    Aqua Comfort ACT750 heat pump / 6x20 ground mount solar panel / DIY automation

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    Re: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    Jay and Leebo, thanks for the feedback and information on running your heat pump. You and the other posters bring up a good point about the ambient temperatures and heating the pool with a heat pump. But this is also why I think a heat pump will work well for us is because we aren't usually early season swimmers and are okay with not really using the pool till the first or second week of June. Even if we have a dismal and cold spring like this year I hope ambient temperatures will be high enough then for a heat pump to work well.

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    Re: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    Wanted to give everyone an update. I placed the order for the heat pump last week, we are going with the Aquacal Super Quiet 225 model from Pool Heat Pumps. It should be delivered in another week or two. In the mean time I am working on pouring the slab and have ordered all the plumbing parts I can't source locally ( Jandy 3 way never lube valve and spring less check valve). No set deadline on when the heater will be functional, but we are having our daughter's first birthday party on July 9th so I better have it running by then! haha.

    I will be sure to let everyone know how the install goes and post some pictures.

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    Re: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    Sorry for not updating this thread earlier, but the heater is installed and has been running great since the beginning of July. The timing was perfect for our daughter's first birthday party on July 9th. When the heater was first turned on on the 6th the water temp was 78*, it heated the pool to 85* in one day. We were glad to have a warm pool for her birthday also because the 9th was an unseasonably cool 72* air temp, but the warm pool didn't deter the kids or adults. Here are a few pictures of how I plumbed the system, I wanted to be able to disconnect the heater completely as well as isolate it from the filter/pump in case it ever needs to removed for service. Although you can see it in the pictures, there is a check valve between the chlorinator and heater although we never use the chlorinator unless we are on vacation. Also, I was happy that the heater and associated plumbing only added 1.5psi to our total operating pressure which was initially 12psi.




    Pool area, excuse the mess.


    Thanks again to everyone that weighed in with their opinions and ideas, we really appreciate it!

    -Bill
    18 x 36 In ground vinyl pool 8' deep end
    Hayward EC65 DE Filter
    Aquacal SQ225

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    Re: Heat Pump vs Propane Heater in New England

    Bill - I live just west of Boston and want some form of heat for my inground pool (~19' x 39'). How has your sq225 heat pump served you? My goal is a warm pool (around 80-82 degrees water temp) between Memorial and Labor Day. Swim time is after work during the week and on weekends. If I can swim well into September, even better.

    Where did you buy your heat pump? I wasn't expecting on spending $4k, but if that's the proper solution for what I'm trying accomplish then I guess I'll scrape up the funds.

    Thanks!

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