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HEATING YOUR POOL
SOLAR VS. HEAT PUMP
Pool expert Jamie Bramich explains everything you need to know about extending your swimming season and the pros and cons of solar pool heating versus a heat pump.
BY JAMIE BRAMICH

POOL HEATING: A HOT TOPIC

On the Gold Coast and in Queensland generally, we're gifted with some of the sunniest weather on the planet, which makes pool heating an optional extra. Pool heating is, however, increasingly popular and I'll explain why in this article. 

 

Your pool's water temperature is affected by numerous factors including depth, shading, overnight temperatures and rainfall. Pools that receive full sun for all or most of the day will heat up faster and retain heat better than those that are fully shaded or even partially shaded. We should also acknowledge that swimming comfort is affected by each swimmer's sensitivity to temperature. The temperature that’s just right for one person can be uncomfortably cool to another.

Most pool owners desire to maximise both their swimming season and swimming comfort, in which case heating is a great way to achieve both, especially now that heat pump technology has slashed operating costs.

 

LET'S LOOK AT YOUR OPTIONS!

SOLAR HEATING

Solar heating works by using an electric pump (usually additional to the pool's filtration system) to pump pool water through a solar collector mounted on the ground or nearby roof. The solar collector is made up of a series of tubes or panels that heat up from the sun and transfer that heat to the water before it's returned to the pool.

With the addition of a digital controller, you can set a target temperature which will trigger the solar heating pump to continue running until the desired temperature is achieved.

The biggest criticism of solar pool heating is that it tends to work best during the height of summer when heating is generally not required. Likewise, the ability of solar heating to significantly extend the swimming season is contingent on there being warm, sunny weather - again, when the pool is heating up naturally.

 

Affordability is often the strongest motivator. For an average pool (8m x 4m), you could expect to budget around $4,000-$5,000 for supply and installation, plus running costs of around $1.50 per day, depending on your electricity plan.

CONS

  • Not great in cloudy or cooler conditions

  • Slower heat up time

  • Requires the right location to ensure direct sunlight on solar collector

  • Solar collector requires a large surface area (80-100% of the pool surface area)

  • May compete with solar PV panels for best roof space

  • Often highly visible, which some clients find unattractive

  • Easily damaged by animals and storms

  • Leaks in the solar collector caused by animals or storms may damage metal roofs and guttering

  • Cannot guarantee a complete heating solution

  

PROS

  • Cheaper than a heat-pump to install and run

  • Simplistic design

  • Low maintenance

  • Small carbon footprint

With all pool heating, we recommend use of a pool blanket.

It can reduce heating costs by up to half, reduce evaporation and help to keep your pool clean.

 

We'd be pleased to talk with you about a traditional pool blanket or motorised integrated pool cover.

HEAT PUMP SYSTEM

A heat pump works like an air-conditioner in reverse. It starts by sucking in air from the environment which it circulates through an evaporator coil. Liquid refrigerant inside the coil absorbs the heat and passes it through a compressor that super-heats the gas before passing it through a heat exchange condenser. Here the heat is transferred to the pool water before it flows back into the pool and the process begins again.

A heat pump is an energy-efficient piece of technology and even more so in a location such as South-East Queensland where the ambient temperature averages 20-25 degrees Celsius during the swimming season.

Compared with conventional pool heating, a heat pump is around six times more efficient than electric element heating and typically less than a quarter the running cost of LPG gas.

 

A heat pump will also provide faster heating than solar and continue working in ambient air temperatures as low as negative-five degrees Celsius. Because it doesn't require sunshine to operate, a heat pump can therefore provide for a much longer swimming season. Another benefit is that there is no extensive pipework or panels. The entire heat pump system is contained wholly with the pump-house.

For an average pool (8m x 4m), the estimated cost of installing a heat pump would be around $5,000 (not dissimilar to solar heating), however, the daily running costs compared to solar can be up to double. For a pool with no pool cover and an eight-month swimming season, the annual operating cost will be approximately $880 to maintain the pool between 27-28 Celsius. With an overnight pool cover, the annual running cost will reduce to $165 for the same swim season and allow for a smaller heat pump that costs initially just $2000-$3000. In fact, you could leave the cover on your pool while it is not in use (usually around 22 hours a day) and swim comfortably all year for less than $1000 per annum!

PROS

  • Does not need sunshine to operate

  • Does not require panels or extensive pipework

  • Quicker heat up time

  • Much cheaper than gas or electric element heating

  • Well suited to the Gold Coast and South-east Queensland climate

  • Works great with solar power generation

  • Guaranteed solution for an extended swim season, including winter

CONS

  • More expensive to install and run than solar

  • Larger carbon footprint than solar

  

WHAT'S MY FINAL RECOMMENDATION?

GO WITH SOLAR HEATING...

  • If your home and/or landscape design provides a good location for a solar collector

  • If you're not bothered by a slower heat-up duration

  • If you're not trying to achieve a significantly extended swimming season

  • If lower operating costs are important 

GO WITH

A HEAT PUMP...

  • If you don't have enough room or the right spot for a solar collector

  • If you desire a quicker heat-up duration

  • If you want to significantly extend your swimming season

  • If you already have a solar power P.V. system attached to your home that's generating daytime solar power for use by your pool equipment

  

Contact us to talk about your pool heating requirements.

 

We can answer your questions and design a customised heating solution for your pool and location.

SPEAK TO THE GOLD COAST POOL EXPERT

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Telephone 0418-110-978