Most cost effective pool heater for Northern Illinois


Bronze Supporter
Jun 4, 2016
We're looking to extend our pool season in Northern Illinois in the most cost effective way. We're researching many options and would love to hear your experiences with gas heaters, solar heaters, heat recovery heaters, other options...
Concerns are realistic difference in water temperature compared to cost effectiveness...bang for our buck. Right now the water is too cold to enjoy in May and September. June is ok depending on the amount of sun and use of the solar cover.

Pool Tool

Well-known member
May 15, 2014
Western Chicago Area, IL
Hello neighbor, I have a gas (propane) heater and it's obviously great to heat the pool but is a little pricey. Honestly, I can't tell how much since I don't pay that much attention. I use mine primarily to spot heat for a day or the weekends.

The first thing you'll want to answer is how do you see yourself using it? Are you going to maintain a constant temperature? or Spot heat for a day or the weekends?

If you have the sun and the space, solar is a very good investment from what I have seen. I think the rule of thumb is about 80% of your pool surface is needed in panels to really enjoy the benefit.


Gold Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Mar 20, 2013
Crystal Lake Illinois
I like my solar panels..used in conjunction with a solar blanket. I have a Maytronics Solara and sold locally by The Great Escape. It runs about 5 degrees warmer than it did before. The set up was easy and upfront costs the added bonus of not paying more in utilities..ect. If we upgrade at some point ..I think it will be to a heat pump. Adding the Electrical sounds far easier to me than adding gas lines..ect.


Active member
Apr 4, 2015
Western, WA
Here in Western WA, we don't get very hot summer air temps. 80 might be about the average 'high' for August - we're close to the ocean and that moderates the temp. I've used a natural gas heater for the last two seasons and it has transformed our pool usage (for the better)! Last year we actually first started swimming in the pool on March 31st because we could heat it up to a comfortable level. During the summer I would heat the pool to 78-80 degrees nearly daily as our kids used it daily. Without the heater the water would have been 67-69 degrees based on previous years experience. The difference in usability is 10 minutes of swimming then you're cold and want to get out vs. 2 hours of swimming and you only get out because you're worn out! From what I've heard, propane fuel is costly. I'm on natural gas and ran a 1" line to the heater. My monthly gas bill in the summer increased by maybe $40 to $60/month which for the use we got out of the pool was completely worth it.


TFP Expert
Apr 29, 2016
Quaker Hill, CT
All pool heaters will get the job done at the end of the day its a question of what you are looking for. No matter which heat system you use a solar cover for the pool is a MUST to keep heating costs down and comfortable swimming time high.

Solar heat - After the initial cost to by the system will provide slow but steady heat to your pool for the whole season for free. A big enough system that is in full sun should have your pool season extended a month on either end esp if you are diligent with your use of a solar cover. Downsides of solar are the size of the system and aesthetically some think they are ugly. Installation cost will often be much higher than the other two options but that cost can be quickly offset by the lack of utility bills to operate the system.

Heat pumps - Next to solar systems heat pumps are generally the least costly to run especially true if your electric rates are low. Like solar heat pumps are a slow and steady source of heat. A heat pump won't heat your pool overnight for use the next day but a properly sized heat pump will get your pool into the mid 80's and hold it there all season long without breaking a sweat. It will take 2-7 days to get the pool up to temp when starting from a cold temp. Downsides of a heat pump. As mentioned they are not an instant heat now option. They work best when the outside air temps are higher than 60F. So running them all night and when the days are cold doesn't do you much good. Cost of installation is higher than gas but generally cheaper than solar. Most people will have to run new wire out to the pool as the smallest heat pumps need their own 20amp 220v circuit. The big heat pumps need as much as 60 amp service.

Gas heaters - If you want lots of heat and you want it now gas is the way to go. If you have natural gas available to you this could be a cheaper option than a heat pump. If you only have propane this will be the most expensive option. A big gas heater can have your pool warm in a day. If you have money to burn gas heat can have you swimming all year long. Installation wise they also tend to be the cheapest of the three. Downsides of gas heat are the cost of the gas, especially if that is propane gas being burned. Overall they have poor thermal efficiency when compared to the the other two options (I have yet to see a residential gas heater that is a condensing unit which would change the efficiency argument but it also drastically increases the cost). The thermal efficiency issues make them a poor choice for maintaining a pool at temp for a long duration. Lastly gas heaters are the most prone to having issues with corrosion and leakage at the heat exchange. Gas exhaust is very acidic and corrosive when it condenses which over time will cause leaks in even the best of systems.

In summation no heater is perfect for every situation. You need to weigh the options and decided which is best for your budget and your expectations for use of your own pool. The heater that is great for some will not make others happy. Sometimes having more than one type of heater for the same pool is where you will end up. Like for me I installed a heat pump when I built the pool and it works great for how I use the pool. I got spoiled though and now I want more heat but don't want to pay for it so I am adding solar panels to supplement my heat pump. Hopefully this will help you choose a heater to fill your needs.

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