New Heater needed - looking for recommendations on pump vs. gas heater, and brands

Dave the Wave

Member
Aug 26, 2021
5
Michigan
We moved into our house close to three years ago and I have handled all of the pool chemistry and maintenance since day 1 using the TFP Pool Math app (which is amazing BTW).

The heater is a Pentair Sta-Rite SR333NA. I have no idea how old it is, but it appears to be quite old. It has just started leaking water and it shorts out the GFCI when it is on. I have turned the heater off, and I am now looking to replace the heater.

Simply put, I do not trust the local pool companies. If I call them up for help with a new heater then I'll speak to someone who has worked there for a year or two at most, and they will simply try to sell me whatever they have in stock. This is particularly true since it is nearing the end of pool season here in Michigan. I intend to install the heater myself, although I would be open to having it professionally installed if the heater is so heavy that I can't physically maneuver the thing on my own. The pool plumbing is not super accessible.

We intend to own the house and the pool for another 10-15 years or more, and I would like to replace the heater with a quality heater and brand that will last as long as you can reasonably get out of a pool heater.

I am hoping to get some recommendations on the best heater type (heat pump vs. gas heater), and also on brands and models that I should be looking at (and also maybe ones to avoid). The idea of a heat pump is appealing to me since they seem to have lower operating costs and apparently last longer. But I don't know if that is a feasible option since I am in Michigan. It does get pretty hot here in the summer, although the summers are short and we are only in the pool from Memorial Day to about Labor Day.

The simple solution seems to be to replace the current heater with another Pentair Sta-Rite, although maybe upgrade it to the "heavy duty" version with a nickel liner. But locating one may be a challenge due to Covid, and if there are better options out there then I may be interested in upgrading the heater.

Any suggestions that you can provide on the heater type and brand are really appreciated.

Thanks!
 

cowboycasey

Gold Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 3, 2013
8,648
Southern OK
Pool Size
15000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
CircuPool SJ-40
get the biggest one, the 400k, and I would stay with Pentair.. Also no need for a nickel one if you keep your PH in check and also install a heater bypass...

If it was me I would wait till next year to buy a new one... hopefully they will have more stock and the extra covid cost will be gone also.. :)
 

Dave the Wave

Member
Aug 26, 2021
5
Michigan
Thanks for the input. Do you know anything about Pentair's different models? Sta-Rite vs. MasterTemp? I can't find much information online about the differences, so I will probably call their customer service and see if that gets me anywhere.

I am somewhat inclined to let the current situation ride out and buy a new heater over the winter or in the spring. My only hesitation is I don't have a bypass for the current heater (I didn't install the plumbing) and I am hoping the leaking heater doesn't quickly start leaking so bad that it gets to the point of draining the pool while I am sleeping or at work. Maybe I should just put in a bypass for now to avoid that potential problem, and then deal with the heater over winter so I am not rushed or dealing with Covid supply issues.
 

Poolbreh

In The Industry
Jul 31, 2021
272
San Diego
I would recommend 400btu MasterTemp, it’s basically the maxe therm, it will line up with all the fittings(pvc, gas) and if you have a union on your gas line installation would be a breeze. You should check specs on your gas line. Going from a 333,000 btu-400,000 btu.
 

Dave the Wave

Member
Aug 26, 2021
5
Michigan
Thanks, I will check on that union, and on the BTU upgrade recommendation.

I spoke briefly with a customer service person at Pentair, and he said the Sta-Rite/Maxe Therm and the MasterTemp models are essentially the same thing, just in a different housing. I can reconfigure the plumbing and gas fittings if necessary for the new heater, but that would be awesome if I don't have to do that. I will look for both Maxe Therm and MasterTemp heaters as I start pricing things out. Depending on the price and availability I see, I may just put in the heater bypass for now and then deal with the new heater in the spring.
 
Last edited:

BowserB

Silver Supporter
Jul 29, 2018
648
"Old" Katy, TX
Pool Size
15000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
I don't know about where you are, but here in Texas gas heat is always cheaper. I've heard conflicting advice on heater bypass. I'm no expert, but one pool builder/repair guy told me that unless you can flush the heater with fresh water and then leave it dry when it's bypassed, you leave the same water in the heater anyway, plus it sits still and stagnates. Like I said, I'm not that knowledgeable, but when I'm asking someone to take my money, and he says "I'd rather not," I'm inclined to listen.
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
29,167
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
I've heard conflicting advice on heater bypass. I'm no expert, but one pool builder/repair guy told me that unless you can flush the heater with fresh water and then leave it dry when it's bypassed, you leave the same water in the heater anyway, plus it sits still and stagnates. Like I said, I'm not that knowledgeable, but when I'm asking someone to take my money, and he says "I'd rather not," I'm inclined to listen.

You and your "advisor" are not understanding the rationale for the heater bypass as explained in Heater Bypass - Further Reading

Sooner or later your water chemistry may be questionable or unknown. The heater heat exchanger is the most sensitive part of your plumbing to poor water chemistry damaging it. If you don;t have a heater bypass then all you can do is hope for the best with no damage. If you have a heater bypass you turn the valve and your heater is protected while you fix your water chemistry.

Sooner or later your heater will spring a leak. If it is big leak then you need to shutdown your entire pool until you can get it repaired. If you have a heater bypass you turn the valve and take the heater out of the water loop until you get it repaired and can still use your pool.

Having a heater bypass does not hurt anything in normal operation of the heater. But when you have a problem those who have it find it very handy.

You can decide who you are inclined to listen to.

As far as @Dave the Wave....
  • You already learned the Sta Rite and MasterTemp are the same heaters in different packaging
  • Understand what the warranty will be on the heater if you DIY the installation
  • If you don't want the Pentair heater then your alternative is a Raypak 400K BTU gas heater
    • The Pentair is a forced draft heater using a blower motor. IT is a more complex design to fit in a smaller space. The blower is noisy and the parts to repair are expensive.
    • The Rapak is a natural draft heater. It is a simpler design with a taller cabinet. You do not have expensive blower, air flow switch, and electronic controls in it.
  • Do you have any automation on your pool?
  • Do you control the heater directly on the heater control panel?

 

Dave the Wave

Member
Aug 26, 2021
5
Michigan
I don't have any pool automation, and I control the heater directly on the heater's panel.

I suppose if a gas heater is cheaper than a heat pump in the Texas heat, then there is no way it would be cheaper in Michigan. That's fine with me. The heat pump sounded like it had some appealing advantages (longer life and potentially lower operating costs) so I felt obligated to consider it as an option. But I'm now content to rule that one out. Also I suspect I would have some substantial electrical wiring costs associated with installing a heat pump, whereas going with a gas heater would be straightforward (going with the Pentair models should be completely plug-and-play even).

Thanks a lot for linking to the heater bypass and also the Pentair MasterTemp pages. I intend to plumb in the heater bypass for the reasons you provided above, but my pool plumbing is in a fairly tight space and so I need to determine if I have enough room. I will take a good look at that this weekend.

Thanks for everyone's help and input, it is really appreciated!!!
 
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