solar or gas for heating. your thoughts if you would

herculez

Member
Dec 13, 2017
5
West Hills, ca
Hey all,

So I'm on the fence as I want a solution to heat my pool. I'll probably go with a cover at some point as I dont' have one as of yet, but I'm wanting to install a heater.

I live in West Hills, Ca so during the summertime it get's nice and warm most of the time, the days in the winter are upwards to 70-80 with nice sun but at night it dips down to around 50-60 (all outside air) the pool is freezing currently, which is fine I'm not planning to get in it yet anyway.

So ideally i'm looking for what your experiences have been with Solar heating vs gas heaters. How well do they work, how often do you use them, how long do you have to preemptively get them turned up, how much is the costs?

Currently looking to have a solar heating solution in stalled for around 4400 and they guy is saying I can keep it anywhere from 78-86 for 8 out of the 12 months.

I actively wanna use the pool so I'd very much like to keep it warm enough to use 24/7 so I'm thinkin solar is the way to go given its set it and forget it ideal. In the winter months I plan to get a solar blanket probably in conjunction with the solar heater, though I get the feeling I may have a large spa at that point hahah

lemme know your thoughts!

THanks!
 

BasicTek

Bronze Supporter
Oct 9, 2016
875
Lake Mary, FL
I use solar and a bubble cover in Florida which is shows to be similar climate. I was just swimming in my 86 degree pool a couple weeks ago and expect a few other swim days even in January. I'd say 9 months of the year I keep the pool over 85 from December to February I need a few warm sunny days in a row to get there. They say it's no cost to use solar but I run my var speed pump longer and harder (1800 - 2000 for 7-8 hours) to circulate the water than I would need to if I didn't have solar (probably 1500 for 5-6 even less in the winter). So I don't consider that "free" but it is certainly lower cost than anything other than a cover. The cover is super important in the colder months, it's the night temps that will do you in, but with solar I didn't use my cover from March to late October this year.

If I could afford it I would like the control (gas heat gives you heat now and much more than solar), but for now I'm still paying off my solar....
 

herculez

Member
Dec 13, 2017
5
West Hills, ca
Thanks for the reply Basic, knowing what you know now would you say you'd rather have done gas instead simply for more reactive control? or are you pleased with the consistency of the solar?

The one i'm looking at comes with a control for the solar heater that hooks up to the VS pump and tells it when to turn on and how long/hard to be running to reach the desired temperature. So I'm assuming if it's consistently sunny out, keeping the pool at a certain temp shouldn't be too much of a problem.

I'm sure even in overcast days it'll still get a 'little' sun, much more diffused obviously but enough to keep the thing running at least half as good. Gas is the other option and probably has a 1 night turnaround for heating the pool up, but again, each use of that will probably run around 70-80 bucks in the gas bill to run for however many hours.

both have their pro's and con's i guess. But yeah, solar itself is almost zero cost, it's the necessities of it's workings that cost a bit more in the electric bill.
 

BasicTek

Bronze Supporter
Oct 9, 2016
875
Lake Mary, FL
Gas will allow you to raise the pool temp 10 maybe 15 in a single day (I heard properly sized a degree an hour) including at night, solar will not do that, probably 5 or so a day (when you need it in the cooler months, in the summer sun you would get more, but you don't need it then). So if I had the money to install gas, install a gas supply, and pay for continued gas fillups I would rather have gas, heat my pool when I want it hot, and leave it off otherwise. Solar might be a little higher initial investment (I never really priced out a gas supply) solar is more than a gas heater alone, but the costs to heat after that are much lower with solar (making it imo the economical choice).

To note for folks with a hot climate solar is usually enough, and I also want my pool at 88-90 optimally. If your target is lower solar may be fine for that.

I too have a controller, that's not the issue, it's just that solar can only heat you a limited amount per day.

EDIT One more thing to note, I was "sold" my solar system with the promise that if I oversized it would keep my pool near 90 for 10 months of the year. That is not true, maybe 7. The cover gets it close to 9 and the remaining 3 are hit or miss depending on how much sun and heat we string together in a row.
 

PoolGate

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 7, 2017
5,076
Damascus, MD
Pool Size
29000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Jandy Aquapure 1400
A lot depends on how warm you want your water. 86/87 is a little too cold for me. I usually heat to over 90. If it is hotter outside like during the heat of the summer, 86-88 is ok. But shoulder months and nighttime cooler temps I have to have the pool over 90. Solar just doesn't do that. I get 1+ degrees per hour with my gas heater. I am of the mind that if you want heat, get heat. Nothing beats gas for the end-product. I can fire it up in the morning and when I get home it is ready to swim nice and toasty warm. And I will also say that NOTHING beats sitting under a waterfall that is 10 degrees warmer than the surrounding water! Try that with solar!
 

ps0303

TFP Expert
In The Industry
Jul 6, 2011
4,049
FL
Solar is only going to maybe extend your season a month or two either side of the colder months. The best way to heat all year round or in the colder months only, gas is the only real way to go.
 

herculez

Member
Dec 13, 2017
5
West Hills, ca
Yeah, the gas idea is nice and when I'd plan to use it I'd just have to remember to turn it on. Though I don't feel like it's something you could just run continuously so it's always warm. I'm wanting to be able to use the pool almost everyday, all year round (well maybe not as much in the winter) mostly cause I love swimming.

I'll keep figuring and may go the solar round and see how much of a consistent daily temperature i can get. As well for the winter months maybe just do the solar cover idea from late Nov-Feb and then take it off for the rest of the year.

I'm also very comfortable in a cooler pool vs overly hot pool. I'm not looking for bathwater in any respect, so it may all workout fine.

I'll keep ya posted, the company I got quoted through told me they'd knock off 500 bucks if I made a decision before Jan 15th :D So I got that goin for me.

figuring solar will be 4400 to install then a 'little' bit more monthly on the electric bill vs dropping anywhere from 1500-3000 on a gas heater, then incurring much higher gas bills throughout the year.

If in the event, I can just get a gas heater down the road. no biggie. Though your warm waterfall idea does sound pretty amazing.

Thanks for the input!
 

dschlic1

Silver Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Oct 5, 2007
674
Valrico, FL
I am in west central Florida. I have solar heat on my pool and I use a pool cover. Our limit to pool usage during the winter has more to do with air temperature than water temperature. When the high is in the upper 50's, there is no way I am going swimming even though the water temperature is in the 80's!
 

txnole

LifeTime Supporter
Aug 18, 2014
544
Amelia Island, FL
We have solar - love it. Amelia Island is on the Atlantic Ocean at approximately Interstate 10 to give you some perspective on latitude/climate. We have gas for the hot tub only; I wouldn't use gas for the pool for the reason metnioned above -its best for quickly raising temperature, not for maintaining temperature. The cost of using gas for extending hours daily would just be prohibitive IMO. We have solar and love it. It does require a cover to be in place when overnight temps are in the 50s to maintain mid-80 pool temps. (Wife likes it at 87 degrees! :rolleyes:) I tell everyone get solar if you have the footprint to support it.

Another suggestion may be an electric heat pump. In many areas, the heat pump is the most efficient, cost effective year-round heater. Others may be able to give you additional informatin on sizing / specs.
 

mas985

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
May 3, 2007
13,825
Pleasanton, CA
Pool Size
20000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
We have solar and gas but use the gas only for the spa. With just solar can usually swim most days May - Sept and a few days in Apr & Oct. But usually, when the air is cold, nobody really wants to swim much anyway so the gas heater does not get used for the pool. Plus that is our rainy season as well so not much interest in swimming in the cold AND rain. Not to mention it would cost a fortune to heat the pool. As you probably know already, NG is not cheap in CA. Electricity is worse so forget about a HP.

But if you are set on NG heater, get solar as well. For the months that you can use solar, it will pay for itself in a couple of years with the gas $$ savings. And you might just find yourself not all that interested in swimming the other months.
 

CaptainUnderpants

Bronze Supporter
Aug 14, 2017
40
Long Beach, CA
I live in Long Beach, CA, so similar weather to you, however, you may get a little more sun, not being near the beach. I have a spa, and the most panels I could add on my roof was at 50 percent coverage (solar panel sqft / pool surface area sqft)

For me the proper order of adding items to heat the pool:
1) Solar cover
2) Gas heater
3) Solar Panels

If you DON'T have a spa and can get 100% coverage you may decide to go in this order

1) Solar cover
2) Solar panels
3) Heater if necessary.

As many have stated here, solar panels only extend your season. For me the pool is swimable with little gas, except for Dec, Jan & Feb. And the panels make the pool more inviting during all other months. The problem is that the sun is very low in winter months and while my solar panels do operate from about 9:30am to about 4pm right now. They don't generate enough heat to have swimable water IMO (80+). But neither do I have full coverage and I think some of the people in Florida who generate better results are in much warmer climates where the sun is a lot stronger being farther south.

What is your exact coverage that the installer is proposing. If you can get 100 percent, then you might have a fighting chance at making the pool near swimable during Dec, Jan & Feb.
 

Swampwoman

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Apr 27, 2012
3,835
Grand Rapids, MI
Though I don't feel like it's something you could just run continuously so it's always warm
My situation is completely different but I did want to address ways to do the above with gas ;)

I'm in Michigan and run my pool through the winter in an air dome in order to do physio/swimming every morning. Up until deep freeze, eg zero temps, I can simply run the heater overnight for about 7 hrs to get up to 95. Covered, the pool temp will drop about .3 degrees an hour. The air inside the vinyl dome stays roughly 20-30 degrees warmer than the outside air. In zero/-zero temps, eg right now, I'm running it 10 hrs.

Its not cheap, but its actually cheaper than physiotherapy, at least at my rates for natural gas in Michigan. Eg. Most shoulder months I use $300/mo., in Jan. maybe $450-$500 tops ( and here, physiotherapy costs $200 per session...a personal trainer costs another $100 a week ;)

If solar would work here, and/or if I were in your climate, the way I'd manage it would be to run solar all day, keep pool covered, the schedule the heater to run up a few hours as needed prior to a swim, at considerably lower cost than what I spend now.

A properly sized gas heater will get you a degree an hour. So if your pool is about 24,000 gallons, you'd need about 200k btu per hour to get a degree. In terms of cost, that's 2 CCf or therms per hour, so in my case $1.50 a degree.

Either way, solar is a great way to start, because it pays for itself. But if you find out your NG rates, you can also predict and consider if the extra degrees when you want them, eg winter, make sense for you.

My environment is harsh and crazy to operate in, but I honestly feel its been worth the investment so far, just on the "keeping walking" front (knee problems, age, and avoiding replacements until I'm a bit older ;) The social aspect of being able to swim in winter is just icing on the cake. The health and fitness benefits are great, especially if you're restricted from weight-bearing exercise on land, as I am.