Heating Options

pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
163
Northern Illinois
We have a 27' above ground pool (approximately 20k gallons) and are contemplating buying a heater for this year. I've been doing some research but am unsure what would be the best option for us. Here is some info on our situation:

1. The pool is used a lot during the summer. My wife is a teacher so her and the kids use it almost every day from June through August. Ideally we're looking to maintain a more consistent temp in the mid 80s. We also like to swim in the evening/night on weekends during summer. Extending the swimming season isn't a major factor as we are pretty busy when school is in session.

2. We use a solar cover whenever the pool isn't being used. Pool is in full sun from 9AM to approximately 5PM during the summer.

3. The pool is approximately 80' from the natural gas meter. We have electric run to the pool for the pump (one of those three prong twist plug ins) and then a double outlet for extras. I have no idea on how many amps. I checked out the circuit breaker box but it doesn't look like everything is labeled correctly.

4. We contemplated solar panels at one time but we don't have any spare ground space. The house is approximately 50' from the pool and is a two story. To be honest I'm not sure about them on the roof as I believe they need to be drained/serviced for winter and the roof is too steep for me to go up on.

5. I checked our electric bill and we pay approximately $0.10642 per kWh (including tax - ComEd). I couldn't find a recent natural gas bill (Nicor) bill but the website says $0.27 per therm (not sure if this includes tax).

6. We live in the suburbs of Chicago.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions/advice!
 

cowboycasey

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Jul 3, 2013
5,834
Southern OK
Does the plug look like the image below, if so that is a 30amp plug... so with that info you need to make a decision and find out how much the cost would be to run electrical or gas to your pool pad..

With electric 100 amp service you could automate everything, connect your pump and heater, lights, whatever you needed..

with gas, it would still require electrical to be run and a gas line..

It all depends on costs :)

851890000454lg.jpg
 

pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
163
Northern Illinois
Thanks cowboycasey. I'm pretty sure the plug looks like that (I'll check tonight and take pictures). I'm pretty sure it was a couple hundred dollars to run electric initially but I have no idea how much it would be to run gas....and ballpark ideas on how much it would be to run gas 80'?
 

Pool Tool

Well-known member
May 15, 2014
761
Western Chicago Area, IL
If you don't have space or are otherwise against solar panels on the roof (albeit sounds like for a good reason), a natural gas heater is probably your best bet. Pros - immediate warm up and it can run anytime; Cons - purchase and operating costs can be high depending on usage. Heat pumps are an option too, but are reliant on warm ambient temps. They are also better at keeping water warm vs. warming it up. You are already using the cover which will help to hold the heat considerably. You should buy the biggest heater you can afford - it will use more gas but will run shorter durations. The only caveat would be your gas equipment and paying for an upgrade.

I recently installed a Raypak 399K Digital Heater and am very happy with it. You may need to swap your gas equipment, but that can be done. I believe Pauls234, also a Chicago area resident, has the same heater. I ordered mine online and self-installed. I use propane, but natural gas assuming a 400K btu heater should cost you about:
- 1 Therm = 100,000 btus
- 400,000 btu per hour heater / 100,000 btus per therm = 4 therms per hour
- 4 therms per hour * $0.27 per therm = $1.08 per hour to run the heater.
- This is just the gas cost, which is typically only 75% of your bill. Delivery charges, taxes, etc.
- Total cost per hour => $1.08 / .75 = $1.44 per hour

- 20000 gallons * 8.34 lbs/gallon = 166,800 lbs of water
- 1 btu raises 1 lb of water 1 deg F
- Heater Input = 400,000 btus * .85 (85% heater efficiency) = 340,000 btus into pool
- 340,000 / 166,800 = ~2 deg F per hour
- This omits other losses due to evaporation, loss thru walls, etc. but is pretty close.

Looks like it will cost you around $1.50 to raise your pool temperature 2 degs F.
 

pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
163
Northern Illinois
Thanks Pool Tool! How difficult was it to install? I don't mind the manual labor but always get nervous when it comes to electric and gas. For instance, when we had the electric installed I dug the trench. But I had an electrician do the actual electric work because of the danger involved.
 

pooldv

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Aug 10, 2012
25,412
FL panhandle
If you are only looking to pick up 3-5 degrees during summer and keep it there then solar is your lowest energy cost option. But, Hayward recently released a small heat pump that is cheap (ish) and only needs a 20a breaker. It is a little undersized for what you are doing but I think the benefits for your situation will outweigh the occasional potential for it not being able to fully heat the pool. It will certainly give you more and warmer swim days overall.

Hayward Heat Pump HP50HA | Hayward HP50HA
 

Pool Tool

Well-known member
May 15, 2014
761
Western Chicago Area, IL
I was replacing an old heater so I only had to reconnect existing electric and reconfigure the piping, all of which was pretty easy. Unfortunately, with most heaters the cost of buying them from a pool company is double what you can buy them online for. Most companies do significantly reduce or void the warranty if not installed by a professional though. You could hire a pool tech just to install and try to buy it yourself. I see benefits from both sides of the fence, but I wanted to save as much as possible and frankly the year warranty wasn't of that much value to me due to our shortened swim season.

Heat pumps are enticing, but we tend to warm for the weekends and an occasional weekday. For you and everyday swimming the heat pump may be a good option.
 

pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
163
Northern Illinois
Thanks all! I'm starting to think the heat pump might be better for a number of reasons:

- Wouldn't have to have gas run (which looks like may cost over $1k just by itself).
- Cost to run seems be less than gas.
- Since we are looking to maintain a consistent temp and not just use it to warm on weekends and/or extend swimming season.

The Hayward HP50HA looks enticing but I'm a little worried it might be undersized for 20,000 gallons.
 

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pooldv

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Aug 10, 2012
25,412
FL panhandle
Yep, you are going to need 240v service for a heat pump. 20a for the one I mentioned earlier and 40-50a for the rest.
 

Pauls234

LifeTime Supporter
Jul 4, 2012
476
Chicago, IL
Pool Tool is right, I bought the exact same heater (in part due to his enthusiastic comments - thanks!), though the natural gas version and it was a real game changer for us! The great thing about the larger size is it is basically heat on demand. Even in my large pool (21K gallons) I get about 2 degrees per hour and with the solar cover the temps hold pretty well overnight, so doesn't take much time to heat back up the next day. My wife (and she claims the kids) prefer the temp more like 88, which is actually pretty comfortable as long as it isn't one of those really hot days. The water is just so easy to get in and out of, no getting used to it, or an initial chill or anything. We got so much more enjoyment out of the pool this year and even swam on Columbus Day!

I can't recall my heat costs, but they did not strike me as outrageous, less than the average cost in say December. The pool was not used every day, probably more like 4 days a week.

In terms of the install cost including a long run from gas meter to the pool, I want to say it was around $700. That was for gas line run, connection to the heater as well as plumbing the heater into the pump and filter system. The guy had a machine that just made a very thin cut in the yard while pushing the line through however many feet deep - that part took only 20 minutes and does not leave a big trench, so savings for digging the trench on my own would have been minimal.

I did have to have Nicor upgrade my meter service to handle the extra BTUs, they wanted to charge me $100 or so. I told them I was also considering an electric heat pump and would they wave that fee given the much larger quantity of gas I would surely be purchasing from them in the coming years and they did.

Pool Tool's comments on online pricing are dead on - got mine from pool supply world for about $2000.
 
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