Why a Heat Pump is better than Solar Pool Heating

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Pool water temperatures can drop substantially after a few days of cloudy weather which can deter the toughest of kids. 90% of swimming pools that are not heated are only used for 3 months of the year, from December - February! In this article, I am going to provide my professional opinion as to why I think a Heat Pump is better than Solar Pool Heating!

The main and only reason to heat your pool is to enjoy it all (nearly) year round. Old school heating methods (Electric kettle style) were very expensive and ineffective, fast forward to 2020 and Heat pumps are by far the most economical options to heat nearly any pool. With even further technology advances you could connect a heat pump to a solar electricity installation on your roof to virtually cost you $0! So while the sun is shining on your roof, your pool is powered and heated all day long.

Solar pool heating comes in a close second to heat pumps, While relatively expensive to install, over the life of the system it can be cost effective. Solar systems use strips or panels of collector tubes, which are mounted on your roof, with your pool water pumped through it continually (as a slow rate). It can still heat your pool water if it is cloudy, though not to usual desired temperatures as full sun would. If there's consecutive cloudy days, your temps will plummet. It is important to note that an additional “Solar Pool Pump” is also required to operate the solar heating system, this is an additional electricity cost.

How do swimming pool heat pumps work?

Heat pumps are not actually solar powered, but the way they operate is by drawing the heat and humidity in the air, just like a reverse cycle air conditioner. As most heat pumps can create 5 times as much heat as the energy it consumes, it is a much more efficient method than pumping water around your roof. Heat pumps can also be installed on the ground and require little space, perfect for that small yard or plunge pool set up.

A heated pool -

  • Extends the swim season
  • Is more enjoyable to swim in
  • Can be used for exercise or therapy
  • Warm waters are stress reducing
  • Great for muscles and joints
  • Increases property value
  • Social aspect for outdoor entertaining
  • Feature of the house

 

This method of renewable heat transfer is proven to be the most efficient form of pool heating. They produce best in class efficiency to keep your pool warm for when you need it, making your garden the oasis that you dream of.

I personally think for the investment that is heating a pool, you want to have peace of mind that when your heating system is on (Heat Pump) that your pool is guaranteed to reach your desired heating temperature.

Too often I have customers converting from Solar Pool Heating to a heat pump as they are heavily dependent on the weather, and are sick of having whinging kids that “the pool isn't warm enough to swim” - even after 7 days of the solar system working and a few $$ the kids won't swim…

Heat pumps work, every time, and with technology these days they truly are the most efficient way to heat a pool.  

Why a Heat Pump is better than Solar Pool Heating

 

There are a number of factors that come into play when tossing up your heater options and It depends on where you live and what your needs are.

The common questions to ask are:

  • How often do you swim, daily/weekly?
  • What is the volume of water in my pool?
  • What is the ambient outdoor temperature?
  • How often do you use your pool in autumn/spring/winter?
  • Is the pool affected by shade, sun and wind?

 

There’s no right or wrong answers to these questions. It can depend on the size of the pool, your budget and your preferred energy source.

By far the cheapest way would be a pool cover, these are a small initial investment, $0 ongoing cost, just a bit of effort to roll back and forth over the pool when not in use, and of course it won’t hit that warm 28 degrees in winter…

How much does it cost to run a pool heat pump?

Heat pumps can cost from $150 - $650 per year to run depending on your application, you can also further reduce these costs by using solar power from energy sourced from the sun, virtually costing you $0 to heat the pool.

Inverter Heat pumps cost up to 85% less than other heating methods saving up to $5000 per year to achieve the same (if not better!) result.

What size heat pump do I need for my pool?

Heat pumps are sized for each application, there is not a one size fits all heat pump, with the various factors outlined above, these play a role in the COP required. COP stands for coefficient of performance, it’s a measurement of efficiency for heating and cooling machines which is measured by the total energy output (kW) that is leaving the unit in forms of heating or cooling over the total energy input (kW) that is entering the unit in forms of electricity. The higher COP is the more efficient a unit is, we are proud to say that our units are remarkable for their high COPs of 8 to 10 on average.

Are pool heat pumps worth it?

The short answer is yes! You will get far more use from your pool, when it's heated! As previously mentioned, electric heat pumps are a more efficient use of electricity as it transfers the warmth of the air into the water. Coming at a lower annual cost than gas heaters, this inherently makes electric heat pumps popular for those pool users wanting to use their swimming oasis year-round.

How long does it take to heat a pool with a heat pump?

Time to heat a pool relies on the size of the unit and the heating efficiency, the bigger the heater (kW), the faster it will heat the pool. We always recommend sizing UP in heat pumps, as they will be more efficient running at half capacity (especially inverters) than a smaller one running at full capacity. A correctly sized heater should have your pool to its desired temperature in 10 hours or less at the coldest time of your desired heating season.

How long does a pool heat pump last?

Most quality brands will have 2 - 5 years depending on the model and specifications. We would avoid any heaters with 12 months warranty, these are known to be “cheaper” units commonly found on eBay and marketplace sites. There is very little parts or after sales support for these units. If you are prepared to make the investment, ensure you pick a quality brand. Our recommendation is Madimack and I will expand on this further below.

What happens when the heat pump reaches the desired swimming temperature?

Heat pumps have built in thermostats that monitor the pool's temperature, when the swimming temperature is reached the heat pump is throttled off automatically, it comes back in operation only if the pool temperature is dropped by 1 degrees less than the set temperature. All inverter heat pumps with this technology allows it to drop to a lower speed and higher efficiency.

What is the coldest temperature at which a heat pump can be operated?

Heat pumps can commonly operate down to 0 degrees, with some able to go much lower to -10 degrees, this again is the Madimack range of heat pumps. Within these cold temperatures you will find “defrosting” which is a process to protect the heater from freezing over in very low temperatures. This is an automatic process where a reversible valve releases the heated refrigerant at the compressor back to the condenser to stop it frosting.

Is it important to have a pool cover?

All pools will vary in temperatures throughout the year, mainly at night as the ambient temperature also falls. Ideally, all pools should be covered, not only to hold heat within the water, but also to stop evaporation and waste of water (refilling the pool) and they help keep debris out of the pool when you're not using it.

https://www.mrpoolman.com.au/collections/pool-covers

Another pro to a pool cover is that by utilising a cover when the pool is not in use it will drastically reduce the size of the heat pump required, and further reduce operating costs due to the heat retained in the water from the use of a blanket.

https://www.mrpoolman.com.au/products/daisy-525-titanium-pool-cover

The table shows the different heater sizes and the approximate amount of time they must run per day and on a monthly basis with and without a cover. It is best to keep it below 12 hours per day to use the natural energy of the higher daytime ambient temperature. Utilising a cover for non bathing periods will greatly retain the heat in the pool!

You can understand the pros of a cover further here on this helpful blog - https://www.mrpoolman.com.au/blogs/news/pool-covers-guide

How do I choose a heat pump?

Our team of pool technicians will be happy to guide you through step by step sizing and application questions to ensure the correct heater is recommended for your pool, weather locations and swimming conditions.

Please fill in our contact us form to get the ball rolling towards heating your pool today!

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Now, Mr Pool Man’s pick of all the brands, (Astral, Zodiac, Waterco and Rheem) is Madimack, and below I will expand on why we love the range of Madimack heaters and which may be best for your application.

Madimack Heat Pumps

Madimack heat pumps are designed for Australian conditions by taking advantage of the mild climate and high humidity. Its important to note that Madimack heat pumps can both heat and cool pools if required and ideal swimming temperatures are estimated to be between 26 and 28 degrees.

The core Madimack heaters are the Elite and Summer ECO range, Elite units come with 4 years warranty, while the Summer Eco comes with 2 years. In addition to that Elite units are more efficient and have more capacities than the summer Eco. The Elite unit is quitter and fits in your pool environment better than a summer Eco.

The reason why we highly recommend a Madimack unit for pool heating needs is the competitive price, designed and manufactured according to strict quality standards, Full inverter technology for both fans and compressor, include a titanium heat exchanger with a 25-year guarantee combined with a corrosion resistant evaporator coil for the most durable heat exchanger combination in the industry, automatic defrost feature, and built in Wi-Fi control for all our units. In addition, Madimack heat pumps are lightweight, compact and very easy to install, making them ideal for new pools or enhancing the one you already have.

Madimack Elite Silent Series -

The Elite Silent Series comprises of all the best you can ask for in a pool heater. Utilising the newest inverter technology, it creates world class efficiencies and runs quieter than any other unit with its patented back discharge design. This unit stands high above the rest and looks amazing next to your designer pool. With unit size achieving a massive 28kW in single phase you can be sure to heat your pool all-year round. The Elite Silent is our premium model with slightly higher efficiencies and better looks.

Madimack Summer Eco Series -

Built with efficiency and simplicity in mind the quiet, long lasting and easy to use Summer Eco is perfect for energy conscious minds. With low energy and night time mode, it means efficiency can be increased by up to 20%, and with WiFi as standard you can change your pool temperature and timers from wherever you are. State of the art anticorrosion ABS casing means you can be sure your pool stays warm season after season no matter where you live.

These recommended units are all capable of achieving a 28 degree water temperature in the coldest of chosen months and do not run excessively long hours. (above approx 10hrs/day). All Madimack units are backed by extensive warranty.

Below is an example diagram of where the heat pump should be installed in most pool equipment applications. Apart from the heater, all you will need additional is PVC PN9 pipe and a number of 3 way valves depending on your installation configuration, these can be found here -

Finally, Madimack Heat pumps are known for their long lifetime and this is shown by the extensive 25-year warranty on the heat exchanger, and extensive warranty on all parts.

I touch on a number of heater brands in this other helpful blog, but Madimack are by far the best on the market in our opinion! - https://www.mrpoolman.com.au/blogs/news/best-swimming-pool-heaters

Madimack heat pumps also require very little maintenance throughout its lifetime. Once the unit is set up correctly, all that is required is ensuring the area around the unit is cleared from debris regularly with good airflow maintained.

Post author:

Tom Hintze

Head of eCommerce & Operations at Mr Pool Man,
Co-Founder at Water TechniX

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