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LP Gas Pool Heaters – FAQs and Tips

Should I Consider a Propane Pool Heater for my Pool?

If you live in the Northeast it might be hard to believe this but Summer is almost here. More than ever, if you have a pool you might be considered heating that pool after the chilly May we are having. This blog will explain how pool heating with propane works and gives a rough estimate on how much propane you might burn to heat that pool. Often it’s very costly to run natural gas lines to the pool area as the majority of pools are in the backyard and a great distance from the street connection. Propane is a preferred choice for pool heating.

What size Tank do I need?

For a standard size pool (21,000 gallons) most pool heaters are 300,000 – 400,000 BTU . Because of this you will need at least a 200 gallons of propane to satisfy the amount of pressure to run these heaters. This can be accomplished a few ways. One way is with 2-100 above ground gallons tanks, this is probably the most common application for pool heat. Another option is 1- 250 above ground gallon horizontal tank. Another option would be to install a 500 gallon or 1000 gallon underground tank. This option is much more costly, but is less of an eye sore. If you intend to heat your pool regularly this might be the most expensive option upfront but could actually save you money in the long run.

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How much will I use?

A common call after a homeowner runs their pool heater for the first time is, “I think my tanks are leaking, please come out and check.” More often than not, there is no leak and homeowners are shocked at how propane they burned for heating the pool. If you are planning on heating your pool, please know ahead of time it will consume a decent of propane in a relatively short amount of time. Let me explain.

The average pool heater burns about 1 gallon per hour per 100,000 BTUs. Like I mentioned earlier, propane heaters are generally 400,000 BTU’s. Therefore, you will be burn approximately 4 gallons of propane per hour. So how many hours will the heater run for?

By definition The British thermal unit (BTU or Btu) is the amount of work needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.  A typical pool is 21,000 gallons. A gallon of water = 8.34 lbs. So you will need 175,100 BTU’s to raise the temperature 1 degree. Pool heaters can be anywhere from 80% to 95% efficient. If we use 80% efficient pool heater as the average, your 400,000 btu heater will actually output 320,000 BTU’s per hour.

Enough math, what’s the simple answer already. If you run your 400,000 BTU heater for one hour you will raise the temperature approx 1.828 degrees. So it will take 4 gallons of propane will raise your pool 1.82 degrees. If you live in the northeast and your pool is 60° and your kids only want to swim in 80°water, you are looking at approx 10-12 hours of running the heater. The cost per gallon of propane for pool heat is approximately $2.50. So the bottom line, its going to cost you about $100 to have the pool party in May.

This is an extreme example. Generally you will not be attempting to raise the pool 20 degrees. While it is not cheap to heat the pool it does have its benefits. Often pool owners can extend their pool season by 2 months with a pool heater. You an open in May and close in October. Having a solar cover will greatly offset these cost because it help maintain the waters temperature and allow to the starting temperature to be greater to begin with and will help keep the heat in overnight.

Cost to hook up?

The hook up costs/fees with vary with what size tank size application. If you go with two 100 gallon above ground tanks or one 250 gallon above ground thank they will be need to be at least 10 feet way from an exterior source of ignition i.e your pool heater itself. So there is be some work for the propane company to run the lines and set the tanks. A ball park figure for basic installation 10ft away from the tanks is $350-$500. In addition, there may be an annual tank rental fee. Some companies might sell the tanks outright and you could expect the costs for tanks and installation to be roughly $2,000 and up.

large propane tanksThe other option is to install an in ground tank. This option would cost substantially more but if you don’t mind paying the cost to heat the pool you also might not mind the cost of burying a tank. The cost for 500 gallon in ground tank ball park is $3,500-$5,000. There are limitations where in ground tanks can be installed. Because pools are most often in the back yard you need to be mind of staying 10feet of the property line, and 10 feet from any source of ignition. Other factors include keeping the tank out of tree roots systems and making sure the tank is in a location that your propane company can reach it with their delivery hose. Most delivery hoses are 135-150 ft long. While it might cost more upfront, you will be able to buy propane in a greater quantity so your price per gallon will be reduced. Because most of the purchase will be made in the non-peak demand period for propane the prices are generally at the lowest rates of the year when you be ordering propane deliveries.

In conclusion

Heating your pool is not a monumental task but not simple either. With the right heater and good propane company it can be set up relatively stress free for you. While it might seem a little pricey to heat the pool you will be able to spend more time with your family enjoying your pool. With what entertainment cost these days the price is actually in line with other actives. You would spend more money taking your family out to the movies or out to eat you would spend the same amount for 2 hours family activity, versus the hours of hanging out in and around the pool.

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