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Thread: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

  1. #1

    Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    Close to making a decision for the new pool - now comes a PB saying go with a heat pump and not a propane heater.

    3 previous quotes all tout propane (a bit pricey but better for our cold climes) but the new PB says propane will cost up to 600 a month for the heater (x 4 months = ) Being in the colder climate, I think the heat pump would not really be efficient as we want to bring the temp up rather quickly and then just maintain it at around 80degrees throughout the summer - does not seem too difficult.

    Please share your thoughts/experiences! Thanks!
    21x40 - 24000 gal Kidney w/swimout, bench, Aqua Comfort Heat Pump, AquaRite Plus SWG, LED, White plaster/blue tiling, Cartridge Filter, 1hp pump, Polaris 380

  2. #2
    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    You have two different requirements. You want to bring the temp up rather quickly which says large propane heater, and then you want to maintain that temp throughout the summer which says heat pump. In a perfect world you'd have both. The propane heater to bring the temp up quickly and the heat pump to keep it there. If it were me, I'd go with the heat pump and adjust the time to bring the temp up. Since you're going to be keeping it up I'd just plan on starting the heat pump a few days early.

    Another scenario would be to go with the propane heater and add solar heat to maintain the temp once the heater got it there. On the days the solar couldn't keep the temp up you could fire up the heater to assist.
    Dave J. TFP Moderator
    24' x 52" Round AGP. 1.5hp Dynamo pump. 24" Pentair Sand Dollar Filter. 45MHP2(3GPD) Stenner Peristaltic Pump
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    You can stop SLAMing your pool when you pass the OCLT (You lose 1ppm or less FC overnight, & You have .5ppm CC's or less) & your water is clear.

  3. #3
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    I am North-east of you, and have propane, which is great for getting up to temperature quickly, so I can start swimming by Memorial Day, or the 1st of June (depending on the weather) instead of the 1st of July. I spend from $400 to $900 each year, depending on the summer weather (just $400 last summer). About 1/3 of the bill is spent in the 1st 24 hours, and, most years, very little heating is needed in July and Aug. I do not use the thermostat - just turn it on when I need it, to keep costs to a mininum. I keep the pool from 77-80 degrees, which would probably be considered cool to the Southerners, but not for us, and use a solar blanket nightly. Once September hits, I only heat on weekends, and generally don't use it much past mid-month, as it gets windy, and school and other interests kick in. We find this to be money well-spent, as it almost doubles our pool season.
    In our area, where electricity is quite expensive, I note that the heat pumps seem to be used only by above-grounds, but I don't have any experience with them. I know that they take longer to heat up initially, but as Bama Rambler says, you could always start a few days earlier. Another consideration is that the heat pump purchase price is almost three times that of a propane heater.

    I note that a lot of people in my area use solar to maintain the temperature during the summer, but I don't find it necessary, and don't want to deal with the extra maintenance of all those panels.
    18X36' 25000 gal Jacuzzi vinyl Inground Pool (1985) with resin sidewalls, newer Jacuzzi 1 hp two-speed pump and sand filter. Raypak propane heater, Rainbow 320 chlorinator (mostly use bleach).
    Softtub 220 portable hot tub.

  4. #4
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    I'm in central Massachusetts so i know a little about the subject

    When I built my pool, I got a heat pump since I didnt have natural gas on my street. I knew propane would cost an arm and a leg to use for my primary heating, but I knew I wanted to heat the pool so i got the HP. At first I thought I could use it to extend the pool seasaon on either end. i was wrong! It will not do much for you until later in May. By the end of august/labor day, it wont do much either. The nights on either end of the swim season get too cool. Even though you get warm days in May and September, even October, the hours in the day where it's warm enough to really transfer heat isnt enough to do much good.
    At the begining of the season when the water is still 45 50 degrees, sometimes the HP wont run. It has to do with refrigerant pressure, water temp, etc. I wont explain it unless someone wants me to, but suffice it to say the water needs to hit the upper 50's before it will really run.
    Once it starts, you have to run it 24/7 for about 3-4 days to get the water to 80-82, then thru the rest of May into June, it needs to run about 5 hours a day to maintain the 82 degrees. This time of year, its not going to warm it much beyond the 82 unless you run closer to 8-10 hours. Theres still not enough heat in the air yet.
    Now, tradtional swim season from Memeorial day thru Labor day, they work great. You can keep the pool around 82-83 with about 3-4 hours a day run time. By the end of June, it may only run 2 hours or so, or not at all to keep a 83 degree pool. However, when we get those odd summer days where the temps never get out of the ow 60's and it rains all day, you might as well turn it off. At that point all it does is spin the electric meter.

    All that said, thats why i installed a 400k LP heater this spring. I really got tired of having poor heat in the pool in early may, and those nice weekends we get in September and even early october were wasted since the HP didnt work well in those times.

    I havent really fired up the propane yet since its been a cold, wet spring so far, but this weekend i'm going to burn some gas and get the pool to 80 so i can fire up the SWCG. I'm tired of pouring bleach and the longer range forecast looks like we might have turned the corner.
    If you do the HP, just be prepared for a few frustrations. They wont work up here like advertised down south.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

  5. #5
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    Please allow me an opportunity to correct some information. The operating range of a heat pump will depend on the manufacturer of the heat pump. Some systems DO operate when air temperature falls below 50 degrees.

    edited:[In order to heat down into the 30's, you would need to look for units that offer a "Heat and Cool" option. The best source for reliable information on heat pumps is, http://www.ahridirectory.org/ahridirect ... earch.aspx
    This allows the frost, or ice build up on the evaporator coil, to defrost, allowing the heat pump to continue into cooler temperatures.] end edit.

    Heat Pumps generally operate within the normal Northeastern swim season, Memorial Day to Labor Day. However, we realize that there are some limitations, and that occasionally, a cold front may drop the temps way below acceptable temps, but these would also be days that you may not be using the pool anyway.

    Normal considerations for pool heating are: pool volume (weight of the water), desired water temperature, pool location (indoor or outdoor), and covered or uncovered. These parameters allows you calculate the BTU's needed. From there, any heater can be used to determine run times, or cost comparisons.

    Since you're able to get more BTUs out of a gas heater, it will heat up water faster than a heat pump. Both will reduce in efficiency when it gets cold out. Remember, all gas heaters start out at 70 - 90% efficiency, at best. Heat Pumps are in the 400 - 650% range.

    As already mentioned, a gas heater will heat up the water quicker, but a heat pump will maintain it much more cost effectively. It's a matter of how you will be using your pool. If you only intend on heating the water up on weekends or on-demand, a gas heater is the way to go. However, if you're planning on wanting to use the pool whenever you're in the mood, maintaining water temperature is the main function of a heat pump.

    Edited to remove specific references of AquaCal.
    Sean Assam - Sean@teamhorner.com
    Commercial Products Sales Manager
    AquaCal Heat Pumps www.aquacal.com
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  6. #6
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    My neighbor has an Aquacal. He has the same experience with his as I do with a different brand.
    All I can offer is my experience, and my friends experiences (I have friends with an Aquacal, Aqua Comfort, a Heat Siphon, and a Jandy). They all work about the same up here. Work great late may to labor day. Before and after that, not so much. Do you own DD.

    I have no agenda. I dont sell heat pumps or gas heaters. Just relaying my experiences. I like my heat pump, but realize there are sale pitches and real world experiences in the new england area.

    FWIW, in Massachusetts, a heat pump and an NG heater will run about the same to operate, give or take. I wouldn't even consider a heat pump up here if I had access to natural gas.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

  7. #7
    Member Johnl's Avatar
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    Your best investment will be a solar cover to keep the warmth in the pool and reduce your heating costs. I have an AquaCal heat pump and have been pretty happy with it. It won't heat as fast as a propane heater, but I also don't pay anywhere near $400 a season to run it.
    Good luck.
    23K Gunite IG Pool
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    Hayward Star-Clear Plus Cartridge Filter C17502
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    Polaris 360

  8. #8

    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    Thank you all so much! Truly appreciate it. We're looking at a heat pump with the defrost control for colder climates. We figured it would cost about 3K just to get a propane tank, have it hooked up etc and then filled up (500 gal tank). If the heat pump works more efficiently to keep the water temp consistent, then we're going that way. I guess that we can wait a few days for the temps to come up with the heat pump and electric is cheap where we live... Now like bk406 said, i'd go with nat gass but we also don't have access to it. My head spins with all the DD we've been doing and you all at TFP have been a wealth of "real world" dd for us - so thanks very much!
    21x40 - 24000 gal Kidney w/swimout, bench, Aqua Comfort Heat Pump, AquaRite Plus SWG, LED, White plaster/blue tiling, Cartridge Filter, 1hp pump, Polaris 380

  9. #9
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    I live in Eastern CT in a rural area. I heat my pool and spa with a Central Boiler outdoor wood furnace. My pool has been open since April 15th this year. It takes work and a fair amount of wood, but it;s basically free to heat my pool. Some nights last summer for fun I ran the entire pool to 90+ degrees for a night time party for my son's 21st birthday.

    It was a hassle to get worked out- my pool is 26K gallons and I could not get any real help from the dealer or Mfg.

    Anyway it works and I can keep heat flowing most nights no problem.

    B
    25k 20x40 Gunite w/ integrated Spa & Caribbean Blue Plaster, Curved Bluestone Coping, Deck Jets
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  10. #10

    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    Quote Originally Posted by Poolsean
    Heat Pumps generally operate within the normal Northeastern swim season, Memorial Day to Labor Day. However, we realize that there are some limitations, and that occasionally, a cold front may drop the temps way below acceptable temps, but these would also be days that you may not be using the pool anyway.
    Normal considerations for pool heating are: pool volume (weight of the water), desired water temperature, pool location (indoor or outdoor), and covered or uncovered. These parameters allows you calculate the BTU's needed. From there, any heater can be used to determine run times, or cost comparisons.

    Since you're able to get more BTUs out of a gas heater, it will heat up water faster than a heat pump. Both will reduce in efficiency when it gets cold out. Remember, all gas heaters start out at 70 - 90% efficiency, at best. Heat Pumps are in the 400 - 650% range.

    As already mentioned, a gas heater will heat up the water quicker, but a heat pump will maintain it much more cost effectively. It's a matter of how you will be using your pool. If you only intend on heating the water up on weekends or on-demand, a gas heater is the way to go. However, if you're planning on wanting to use the pool whenever you're in the mood, maintaining water temperature is the main function of a heat pump.
    Sean, what is your take on heating a spa with heat pump? I intend to leave the pump on to keep the pool at 80-something, but the spa is a case where when I want to use it I'd want it to get to 102-104 degrees fairly quickly and maintain it while we're in there (even with the air jet blower on).
    24k gallon inground with 500 gallon spa, 580sqft Jandy cartridge filter, Jandy ePump 2HP variable speed pump, Jandy 1400 SWG AquaCal Heat Pump, Diamondbrite Aqua Quartz plaster

  11. #11
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    You can heat a spa with a heat pump just fine, it just takes longer than it would with a typical gas heater.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    TFP Admin. Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  12. #12
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    You can heat a spa with a heat pump just fine, it just takes longer than it would with a typical gas heater.
    Depends on where you live. Florida sure. New England, I'd have serious doubts. Maybe in the middle of july on a 90 degree day at noon. Any other imte, not so much.
    gsxkken, where do you live?
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

  13. #13
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    You can figure that a 100,000 BTU heat pump puts out about a third of a 400,000 BTU gas heater (75% efficiency = 300,000 BTUs), so it will take about 3 times longer (on average).
    But as BK406 said, it depends on where you are, and which months you're looking to get 102 degrees? ... and if you use a solar or spa cover.
    Sean Assam - Sean@teamhorner.com
    Commercial Products Sales Manager
    AquaCal Heat Pumps www.aquacal.com
    AutoPilot Salt Chlorine Generators www.autopilot.com

  14. #14
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    Just a little bump here with some more information.

    I ran my propane heater on saturday to get the temp up to 75 degrees so i could start my SWCG since I was/am really tired of pouring bleach. The weekend was ok, not hot, about 65 for a high and I had the solar cover on. I ran the heater 3.5 hours to get 11 degrees in the pool, so about 3 degrees an hour. If you work out all the numbers, my 400k heater is around 87% efficient. Not bad,really.

    So, yesterday morning the pool temp was down to 70. I decided to turn on the heat pump. It was about 64 yesterday with a 50/50 mix of sun and clouds. The heat pump was turned on at 7 am with a air temp of 50 degrees, By 1 pm, I had put 4 degrees in the pool and it shut off since I set it for 74.
    This morning, the temp was 70.4. I have had the solor cover on since saturday, BTW. The heat pump again started at 7 am. However, today was cloudy all day with misty rain. The high got to about 62, but just for a bit. mostly in the 50's. When I got home, the heat pump was still running; the pool was 73.4. It put 3 lousy degrees in the pool today. I figured it was around 63% efficient today. I used around 7 bucks worth of electricity today to get 3 degrees! Thats around $2 per 100k BTU.

    So you see, in this part of the world, if you want to heat your pool this time of year, a heat pump will not cut it. Now, who wants to swim on a day like this. But, frioday is suposed to be fairly sunny and close to 70. My son would go in, and me as well, if i could get the pool to 85. Think I can do that with a heat pump? Thats why I maintian that in this part of the country, a heat pump works wel during swim season, but it wont extend it by much, if any, on either end.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

  15. #15
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    Quote Originally Posted by bk406
    I figured it was around 63% efficient today. I used around 7 bucks worth of electricity today to get 3 degrees! Thats around $2 per 100k BTU.
    Which would have heated a spa to something like 140 degrees, so the spa would have been great, even if the pool wasn't.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    TFP Admin. Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  16. #16
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    Re: Heat Pump or Propane for New England

    A 600 gallon spa raised from 70 to 104 would have taken 4+ hours. Sure, it will do it, but who on gods green earth wants to wait 4 hours to heat their spa. With gas, i can come home, relax, eat dinner, kick on the spa, and in 25 minutes go from 70 to 104 degrees with about 5 bucks worth of gas, ($2.50 if you have natural gas). A heat pump would cost around $3.60 with my rates. Thats why I maintain you can heat just as cheaply, at least around here, with natural gas as you can a heat pump. Obviously propane is higher, but i would prefer the convenience of gas.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

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