Pool Heat Pump Installation 101

pool heat pump

Everything You Need to Know About Heat Pumps for Pools

With cold winter months in Canada, adding a pool heat pump is the only way to lengthen your pool season. You’ve invested in having a pool installed, so why not enjoy it for as much of the year as possible?

Swimming pool water, left unheated, may be refreshing for some people but it’s a safe bet that most of us prefer the water to be kept at a comfortable temperature. Heat pumps for pools help to keep your pool water at a consistent temperature so you can enjoy it whatever the weather.

Read on for a comprehensive overview of pool heat pumps, including their installation and operating costs as well as pros and cons. 

What is a Pool Heat Pump?

Swimming pool heat pumps are machines that use the same kind of technology found in air conditioning units, except that they produce heat instead of cooling the air. 

Heat pumps work by extracting warm air from a place you don’t want it – in this case, the environment around your pool. Think of it like an air conditioner that works backwards. Instead of removing warm air from the immediate environment and pushing it outside, heat pumps for pools pull the warm air from the outside and use it to heat the pool.

Heat pumps have a fan that draws heat from outside air, which has been warmed by sunlight. The fan extracts the warm air and circulates it through an outer evaporator coil. The liquid refrigerant in the evaporator coil absorbs heat, and then transforms it into gas. 

The coil’s warm gas is then pumped into the compressor, which increases heat and creates very hot gas. This gas then flows through the heat exchanging condenser. The pool pump circulates swimming pool water from the pool. It then goes through a filter and heat pump water heater, thereby heating the pool water. 

What are the 3 Ways to Heat a Pool?

When considering how to heat your pool, you’ll have to think about the type of power you intend to use. There are 3 ways to heat a pool, each using a different power source and each with its own benefits.


Standard pool heat pumps are powered by electricity. While this type of heat pump tends to be expensive in the short run, they are energy-efficient and will last for a long time with routine maintenance. These types of heat pumps are good for more temperate climates such as we have here on Vancouver Island. 

Pool Boiler

The pool boiler functions in the same manner as the hot water tank in your home. The boiler’s combustion chamber heats water and sends it through the filter, then back to the original source. This type of pool heater is powered by natural gas or propane. If you live in a colder climate in Canada, a pool boiler would be your ideal choice. 

Solar Panels

Solar panels as pool heaters are becoming more popular as they are energy-efficient and cheaper to run. They can provide a reliable output if situated in a place that gets a lot of sun. Energy from the sun passes through the panels into a solar heat pump, which heats the pool water.

How Big Does a Pool Heat Pump Need to be?

When you are choosing a pool heat pump, the three main things you need to consider are its size, its efficiency and how much it costs to run. 

To make sure your heat pump is sized correctly for your pool, it’s a good idea to have a licensed technician perform a sizing analysis on your pool.


Heat pump size requirements are based not only on the surface area of the pool or spa in question but also on the temperature difference between the pool water and the air. Consider outside factors like wind, humidity, cooler nighttime temperatures and whatever else may affect the overall temperature of the water. 

Swimming pool heat pumps are rated according to their Btu (British thermal units) and their hp (horsepower), with standard sizes including 3.5hp/75,000 Btu, 5hp/100,000 Btu and 6hp/125,000 Btu.


For pool heat pumps, energy efficiency is measured by what’s called the coefficient of performance (COP). Higher COP numbers equal greater efficiency. 

COP numbers have a range of 3.0 to 7.0, which converts to 300% to 700% efficiency which, in turn, means that you get 3-7 units of heat for every unit of electricity used.


  • Solar heat pumps can cost between $3,000 to $4,000 for the unit or up to $9,000 for the unit and the installation. Since solar energy is naturally available (provided you live in a sunny area), the cost of operating a solar pool heat pump is next to nothing.
  • Gas-powered boilers can cost between $1,500 to $6,000 for the unit or up to $10,000 for the unit and the installation. You can expect a monthly operating cost of between $300 to $500, depending on the size of the unit, to cover the price of the natural gas or propane the heat pump uses.
  • Electric pumps can have the cheapest unit price, coming in at between $1,000 and $5,000 for the unit or up to $19,500 for the unit and the installation. You can expect a monthly operating cost of between $150 and $300, depending on the size of the unit, the time of year and the cost of the electricity.

Note that proper maintenance is required to ensure your pool heat pump is running efficiently and effectively. Make checking your pool heater part of your regular pool maintenance schedule.

Installing a Swimming Pool Heat Pump

It’s important to note that pool heater installation is not something you should attempt on your own. 

Do-it-yourself pool heat pump installation may void the manufacturer warranty, meaning that you will be liable for the cost of repair or replacement if your unit breaks or proves faulty. By hiring professional installers, you can keep that valuable warranty in place. 

Qualified pool heat pump technicians like those at South Island Mechanical will be able to ensure that your pool heat pump complies with the industry codes and operates correctly at maximum efficiency.

Thinking about getting a pool heat pump? Our technicians will guide you to the right choice and provide professional wiring and installation. South Island Mechanical services Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, offering an array of heating and cooling solutions for residential, commercial and marine settings.

Contact us today for your pool heat pump installation needs.