Last Updated: November 4, 2020
Swimming is relaxing and good exercise, but shutting down your pool for fall and winter can be a thankless chore. Did you know you can extend your swim time with a pool heater? Did you also know that there are pool heater options for above ground pools, too?
A lot of above ground pool owners are not aware they have a heater option. Some heaters can extend your swim time into 40-degree weather. That being said, if you happen to hop on to Amazon for a quick above ground pool heater search, you may be boggled by all the possibilities.
That is where we come in. We have taken the guesswork out of which above ground pool heater is the best option for you. We have reviewed the top 10 options and broken it down into ease of installation, effectiveness, affordability, and general details for your convenience. Plus, keep reading for our handy buyer’s guide.
A Quick Comparison Of Our Favorites
The 10 Best Above Ground Pool Heaters – 2021
1. Smartpool Sunheater Solar Pool Heater – Best Overall
Our overall best choice is this solar-powered pool heater by Smartpool. This little number will able to raise the temperature of your 10,000-gallon pool by up to 15 degrees in a week. For this option, you have a polypropylene heat collector and two 2 x 20-foot solar panels, which adds up to 80 square feet of solar power.
For easy installation and shipping, the panels come rolled up. They will need to be mounted to something, but the heating power is worth the extra effort involved. Rolling the solar panels makes for more efficient storage once the pool is closed up for the season. Weighing in at just under 30 pounds, the package contains most of what you need to install the system. For an above ground pool, this is hands-down the best solar pool heater available.
2. Kokido Pool Water Heater – Best Value
If cost is an issue, it shouldn’t mean your above ground pool has to be freezing. We found the Kokido pool heater that will be kind on your wallet. This above-ground heater is another solar option with a sleek dome shape.
As opposed to the solar panels, the dome acts as a greenhouse to trap the sun’s heat in its black coils. Your pool pump pushes the water through the coils, warming the water and sending it back to your pool. You can also angle this heater to the sun by adjusting the legs, and you can attach additional heaters if you want more warmth for the pool.
Though this is another eco-friendly and cost-efficient way to heat your pool, it doesn’t warm things up quite as fast as the first option above. You will have an easy time installing it, though. It comes with four hose fittings and stainless steel clamps.
At just over 14 pounds, another downside of this model is the storage can be somewhat bulky. However, you won’t have to worry about damaging the dome, as it comes with a protective cover for the offseason. If you are looking for a more cost-efficient option, this is the best above ground pool heater for the money.
3. FibroPool AboveGround Pool Heater – Premium Choice
Unlike out last choice, this pool heater is going to be harder on the wallet, yet it packs a punch. The FibroPool is our first choice that is not a solar-powered heater. That being said, as electric heaters go, this is an energy-efficient option. At 20,000 BTU, it can heat 18-foot round and 12 x 24-foot oval above ground pools with ease.
With this option, you will be able to swim in 40-degree weather while only spending approximately 0.16 cents per hour on electrical costs. The setup time is 30 minutes, which makes it a little more involved than other options. The metal casing and titanium heat exchanger is very durable. You also will have little to no maintenance.
One important aspect to highlight is you will need a GFCI outlet to plug this model in, yet it does have an 8-foot power cord for convenience. You can also control this heater by degree with an easy to use digital display. Though you will pay more for this model, it will keep your pool toasty.
4. FAFCO Solar Heater For Above Ground Pools
The FAFCO is the best solar powered option. It has a 4 x 20-foot solar panel with a 1.5-inch barb connector. Though the panels are big enough to support a lot of heat, it does come rolled in one section that makes it heavier (40 pounds) to work with.
One downside to this particular option is the fussiness of the panels themselves. Their top performance is calculated based on the unobstructed sun from 10 AM to 4 PM. You also need to angle the panels between ten and thirty degrees in a southerly direction. Depending on where your pool is, and the size of your yard, this can be difficult.
On the bright side, you can mount it on the ground, on a rack, or the roof. It can heat 10,000-gallon pools by up to a degree and a half per day if it’s in the optimal position. A few other considerations are you will need to purchase hoses and ground spikes. On the other hand, it has a durable UV stabilized polyethylene heat exchanger and an on-off option.
5. GAME Curve Solar Pool Heater
This curved pool heater works similarly to the dome shape except with this model it’s a curved rectangular shape. The GAME can be used for inground and above ground, though it is better for above ground pools in the area of 8,000 gallons. It’s important to note that this is not a fast option and heats the water about five-degrees every four days.
You will have an easy time installing this model though at 18 pounds, and won’t have to search for extra parts. This heater comes with threaded ports for different plumbing options. You can also adjust the legs for better sun exposure and there is no by-pass needed. What’s more, it’s made out of blown molded plastic for durability and maximum heat accumulation.
Keep in mind before purchasing that to use this without a bypass kit, you can only have a pump that runs on one and a half horsepower or less. Otherwise, you will need to purchase separately a kit. If you are looking to heat your pool, but don’t mind a gradual process, this is a good option.
6. Goplus Pool heater Above Ground
This is another domed shaped solar heater that is better used for above ground pools ten-feet in diameter or less. While this option will heat the water to one degree per day making this a gradual heater as well.
You will not have a difficult time installing this model though you do have to have a 1.5-inch hose. On the other hand, you can attach another Goplus heater if necessary. Adding a second heater is actually easier than adding the first one, so if you wish to spend the extra money, you won’t have trouble connecting.
As the model is plastic and around 11 pounds, it is not quite as durable as the other options. Keeping it safe during the offseason is easier with a protective cover, though.
7. sunCOIL-Solar Heater For Above Ground Pools
The number seven spot belongs to the sunCOIL pool heater. An energy-efficient solar-powered model, it is a cross between the curved panel and the dome-shaped option. Though you will not spend a lot on energy-costs for the sunCOIL, you will also not get a lot of heat into pools bigger than 8,000 gallons.
A couple of good features with this option are the included connection kit and a diverter valve. Plus, it does have foldable legs so you can get the best sun exposure, but the water is only going to heat about 5 degrees per week; and only if the week is sunny.
You can use this pool heater with latex-sided pools, though. The installation will take a bit longer than other models. Finally, if storage is an issue you won’t have a problem with this shape and size. It’s about 19 pounds and slim enough to be put away in slender spaces. That being said, it is not as durable as other options on the list.
8. XtremepowerUs Pool Solar Heating System
The XtremepowerUS is another option in the roll-out solar panel category. It is made out of durable polypropylene material and will require you to do little maintenance. The panels themselves come in 2 x 20-foot panels that are lightweight and flexible.
The catch with this option is a single panel is not going to make too much of a difference in your pool’s water temperature. To give you an idea, you need about four panels to heat a 10,000-gallon pool. This can be somewhat expensive, plus confusing to install.
If you are installing one panel, you won’t have too much of an issue, but connecting several becomes a problem. It’s important to remember that you will also need a diverter kit for any pumps over one and a half horsepower.
When it comes to durability, the flexibility of the panels makes them more prone to tears. You will also need some considerable storage space if you plan to use more than two panels. To that end, it is not recommended leaving these panels out through the colder months, but they can be mounted on the roof.
9. Blue Wave Solar Curve Solar Heater
Our next option is advertised to heat up to 30-foot pools or 12,000 gallons by a degree per day. You should be able to heat your pool by 40 percent per cycle. Unfortunately, this does fall short of the mark. Another curved shape solar panel does not heat pools larger than 8,000 gallons and the warm-up is around one-degree every two to three days.
While the installation is not too difficult, you will need to purchase a separate bypass kit. To give the model some creat, it does have a 1.5 and 1.75-inch nose fitting and two hoses included. You can adjust the legs for better sun exposure, which is actually very important to get any heat circulating through the pool.
The entire product is about 5 pounds so the durability is not there, and you can run into frequent issues with connections. Overall, you may have a better chance with some of the other options above.
10. Intex Above Ground Pool Water Heater
The last pool water heater on our list is the Intex model that is essentially a set of solar mats. While you do get the advantage of solar power, the mats themselves are not durable and are prone to bursting at the seams.
The heating ability is very low. If you need to heat a kiddie pool this may work well, but anything bigger and it’s not worth it. Besides that, the mats are all that comes with this model. You will have to purchase hoses, connectors, etc to properly set it up. That will drive the cost pretty high, plus make the installation process inconvenient and aggravating.
The main issue, as mentioned, before this option is that is can not handle the pressure of the water. Though solar technology might be good in theory, you do not have a chance to test it due to the weakness of the seams. This is why it’s at the bottom of the list. You are better off choosing any other option we have reviewed.
What Power Sources Are Available
When it comes to a power source for your above ground pool heater, you more or less have two options. You can either go with solar power or electric heaters. Solar power is obviously the more eco-friendly and cost-efficient option. Since there are no gasses released, and no combustion to produce the heat, your carbon footprint will be very low. You will also have zero in the way of energy costs.
On the other hand, electric powered pool heaters can be more powerful. They can heat the pool’s water to a higher temperature more quickly. You will have to pay a higher upfront cost if you want a well-performing model, however. You will also have an increase in your energy bills as well.
Just because a pool heater is electric doesn’t mean that you can’t find an energy-efficient option. Look at things like BTU and horsepower. Many options will come with an Energy Star certified stamp or other acknowledgment of cost-efficiency.
Things To Consider
Before rushing out to buy a heater so you can extend your swim time, you want to consider a couple of things. First, knowing your pool’s volume and size is important so you get a heater with the right amount of power.
You also want to consider how much warmth you need and how long you wish to swim. If you are okay with gradual heating over a week or two, you can go for a more inexpensive option. If you need to heat a frigid pool quickly and want to keep swimming well into the fall, you may want to consider either a more costly solar-powered option or an electric pool heater.
Tips When Buying
Now that you know you can heat the water of your otherwise frigid above ground pool, and you have considered what type of heater you want and need, there are a few other tips you should know before shopping.
First, when looking at solar-powered options, make sure you take a look at how many degrees the pool will be heated each day. If you are looking for the temperature to bat some particular degree, you can easily figure out how long this is going to take.
For an electric unit, check for horsepower and BTU. Both of these will help you figure out how much of an increase you are going to have to pay for your electric bill. Also, look at the parts that the model comes with and what else you might need. This is true for both solar and electric pool heaters.
If you find a well-working option at a low price, look at what might be missing from the model. Do you need a mounting kit, diverter valve, or connection kit? All of this can add up quickly and make installation a long and difficult journey to…swim.
Overall, unless you live in an area that is cool throughout the summer months, we recommend going with a solar-powered option. They are better for the environment, they are long-lasting, and you will save a considerable amount of energy costs. What you want to remember, however, is not all solar-powered water heaters are the same.
In our reviews above, we have three separate types of solar energy. Panels, curved boards, and dome shaped. Panels are going to be the most efficient and effective way of heating the water. The board and dome option is essentially heating the water under a piece of glass. On the other hand, solar panels generate heat to warm the water.
Solar panels are going to heat water quicker than their counterparts. If you want to feel a difference, and you have a larger above ground pool, consider going with panels that do not need to be adjusted to the sun’s location in the sky to achieve top performance.
After all is said and done, you can heat your above ground pool with little cost or maintenance involved. The best overall pick is the Smartpool WW5421P Sunheater Solar Pool Heater. This option will keep your pool’s water nice and warm throughout the fall.
If you need a more affordable option, the Kokido K835CBX/RV Keops Swimming Pool Water Heater is the best for the money. This pool heater will provide you with adequate warmth at a decent heating time. Plus, it won’t break the bank doing so.
We hope you have enjoyed these reviews on above ground water heaters. If you need more information on inground pool heaters, you can check out another article here to find the best heater for those needs.
Written by Shannon MacDevine
Featured image credit: Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System for Above-Ground Pools, Amazon
Table of Contents
- A Quick Comparison Of Our Favorites
- The 10 Best Above Ground Pool Heaters – 2021
- 1. Smartpool Sunheater Solar Pool Heater – Best Overall
- 2. Kokido Pool Water Heater – Best Value
- 3. FibroPool AboveGround Pool Heater – Premium Choice
- 4. FAFCO Solar Heater For Above Ground Pools
- 5. GAME Curve Solar Pool Heater
- 6. Goplus Pool heater Above Ground
- 7. sunCOIL-Solar Heater For Above Ground Pools
- 8. XtremepowerUs Pool Solar Heating System
- 9. Blue Wave Solar Curve Solar Heater
- 10. Intex Above Ground Pool Water Heater
- Buyer’s Guide