best above ground pool heater

Best Above Ground Pool Heater to Buy in 2018

The need for a properly working pool heater won’t be appreciated in warm climates as people can comfortably use their pools year round even without heaters installed. For those living in colder climates with more pronounced seasonal changes, a heater is an absolute must. It’s the only way to extend the pool season and the poolside parties a bit longer.

A properly heated pool is akin to nirvana for those living in the colder regions. It’s always nice to soak up in the toasty waters of your own backyard pool surrounded by family and friends. It’s probably one of the best ways to melt away the stresses inevitable in our modern lifestyle. But to be able to enjoy this even when the weather is getting a bit colder, you’ll need to get your hands on a proper pool heater first.

Mind you, choosing the right one is not as easy as it sounds. Not all heaters are created equal. With the thousands of products available out there all claiming to be the most excellent above ground pool heater, the task could quickly become a headache.

But luckily for you, you’ve found this buying guide. We’ve actually created this guide to help buyers like you make up your mind. The products featured here are top rated and among the best in their respective category. Of course, we’ve introduced variety to this list to give you options depending on your needs. For instance, there are solar covers which traps the sun’s heat, there are heaters that use solar panels and, of course, we’ve also included a propane-powered heater for those who prefer one.

After reading this product roundup, you will hopefully be able to answer questions that have been bugging all pool owners such as “what is the best heater for an above ground pool?” or “who makes the best above ground pool heater?” and other similar questions. Naturally, we cannot recommend a product or a brand as the best for you because each pool owner has a different set of needs. Take a look at what we have to offer. Take a look at what we have to offer.

Blue Wave 

Cost-Effective Pick 

Keeping your pool warm and comfy need not be expensive 

blue wave ns105 8-mil solar blanket
  • Cover is affordable 
  • Uses only the sun 
  • A cost-effective product

Rated by Linton

SmartPool 

Top Overall Pick 

The perfect heater for any type of pool 

smartpool universal swimming solar heating system
  • Excellent water circulation 
  • Environmentally friendly 
  • Saves on electricity - uses solar power 

Rated by Linton

Hayward 

Best All-Weather Pick 

For those who don’t want the weather to spoil their pool fun 

hayward h100idp1 h-series
  • All-weather performance 
  • Energy efficient and budget friendly 
  • Easy to use 

Rated by Linton

SmartPool S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater

The movement of going green by opting for renewable sources of power has been gaining traction recently, thanks to the more public awareness of the devastating effects of fossil fuels. For those who want to be eco-friendly, we’ve included the SmartPool S120U Universal Sun Heater in our above ground pool heaters list.

This pool heater is pretty straightforward in its approach – it uses the sun’s heat to heat the pool water. The system is composed of black polyethylene panel that measures 2 by 20 feet, which is designed to effectively capture the sun’s heat. 

Pool water will then go through the panel via a series of tubes and will be returned to the pool after having absorbed heat from the sun. The system can raise pool temperature between 6 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not bad because it’s all thanks to the sun.

Installing the panel is very easy and can be a source of joy for those who have DIY projects. The panel is versatile and can be installed on the roof, rack, ground or fence. The heater uses the existing pool pump to move the water into the tubes so there are no additional expenses needed.

Speaking of savings, you’ll love to learn that you’ll be enjoying a heated pool without costing you an arm and a leg in power bills. The heater is admittedly much simple compared to gas, electric power ones – you won’t find any fancy led control panel for temperature control or a digital interface. But it does what its supposed to do which is bring up pool temperature a few degrees higher in the most cost-effective manner.

PROS

  • Very affordable
  • Uses renewable energy
  • Cost effective way to heat your pool 

CONS

  • Needs a lot of sunlight so it won’t be effective in winter

Blue Wave NS105 8-Mil Solar Blanket 

The Blue Wave NS105 8-Mil Solar Blanket for Round Above-Ground Pools but if you have a round above ground pool at just the right size, then its perfect for you. The cover has insulating thermal cells which are designed to trap heat.

In this manner, your pool will retain its warmth even on cool cloudy days so you’ll still be able to enjoy warm pool water all summer, which is probably why many buyers who have tried this blanket say that it’s one of the best pool heaters.

You can extend the pool season a bit longer by using this solar blanket without spending a dime on heater expense. It uses passive heating that can raise pool water temperature by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

The material used for the cover is opaque and blue in color which allows maximum sunlight to reach the pool’s water below. This heat is then trapped inside the pool due to the insulating thermal properties of its thermal bubbles. Since the pool is completely covered, water evaporation is reduced to a minimum which, in turn, retains the heat collected by the water.

You might argue that this product does not actually generate heat by itself to increase the pool’s temperature. However, it also undeniable that it uses a clever method of trapping the sun’s heat and retain it longer in the pool so we’ve decided to include this one in this pool heaters top list for 2018.

No need to worry about the sun destroying the blanket as it has been specifically designed to resist deterioration brought by years of direct exposure to sunlight. For you additional peace of mind, the pool cover also comes with a 3-year manufacturer warranty.

PROS

  • A cost-effective way to heat your pool
  • Cover is affordable
  • Uses only the sun

CONS

  • Performance in heating the pool depends on the sun’s power – won’t be effective during the winter season

Sun2Solar Clear 18-Foot Round Solar Cover 

The Sun2Solar Clear 18-Foot Round Solar Cover 16 Mil is another cover that relies on the power of the sun to keep your pool warm and comfy.

If you happen to look it up in any online retailer site, you’ll soon understand why we’ve also included this in our pool heaters guide; people just love its performance and gave it high ratings to show their satisfaction for the product.

Evaporation of the pool water is one of the major reasons for heat loss as it allows heat to be released back into the surroundings. 

But with the Sun2Solar cover, it won’t be happening as rampantly and the blanket actually prevents evaporate by up to 95 percent. Since evaporation is minimized, most of the pool water’s heat remains trapped and, by the time you decide to take a dip, it will still be comfortably warm for your enjoyment.

This is made possible due to those thousands of tiny bubbles on the cover. Since the cover is transparent, it allows UV rays from the sun to penetrate into the water eventually heating it up. However, the bubbles also act as a heat insulator effectively sealing the heat within the pool. Obviously, the cover works as it is featured in most above ground pool heater reviews.

The best part is that you are not spending on electricity to keep the pool water heated up. The sun is doing all the hard work for you. Even if you also use conventional pool heating that uses gas or electric, you’ll still be saving a lot on heating expenses since the cover will still act as an insulator trapping the water’s heat regardless of what type of heating you used to increase its temperature.

PROS

  • Cover’s tiny bubbles effective in trapping heat
  • Reduces heat loss via evaporation
  • Can be easily trimmed to fit your pool
  • Solar powered

CONS

  • Some customers have complained that it’s not as durable as they expected

Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heat System 

The company behind the Fafco Solar-Bear Economy Heating System has been in the solar panel manufacturing business since 1972. It's no wonder if by now, they’ve already achieved a certain level of mastery for their craft which makes this product qualified enough to be included in this best above ground pool heater list for 2018.

The Fafco Solar-Bear Economy package includes a 4 ft x 20 ft extra large solar collector, integral bypass valve, 2 6-foot long 1.5-inch hoses with 4 clamps and other necessary hardware. 

The system is designed to heat an 18 to 24-foot round pool by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Larger pools might need more than one panel to achieve the same performance but it’s best to contact your favorite retailer to get your pool officially measured.

One thing that distinguishes the Falco Solar Bear Economy heater is that it has a bypass valve which allows you to turn off the heater system once the level of heat is already to your liking. This is unlike other solar pool heaters where it will continue to heat the pool’s water as long as the pump is running and the only way to stop the temperature increase is to turn off the pump.

The system works best between 10 AM and 4 PM. The panel must be directly hit by sunlight which explains why the manufacturer recommends that the panel on the roof, on a rack or on the ground, provided that there are no trees or buildings nearby that may obstruct direct sunlight.

PROS

  • Capable of heating pool water up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Virtually maintenance-free

CONS

  • Installation can be a challenge
  • A bit bulky and takes a lot of space

GAME 4514 SolarPRO XD3 Dome Heater 

Design-wise, the GAME 4514 SolarPRO XD3 Dome Heater with Bypass Kit is a bit different from the usual. It’s compact and looks good with its minimal footprint so we’ve decided to include this model in the amazing above ground pool heaters list specifically for those homeowners who want their heaters unobtrusive.

Like all solar heaters, the GAME Dome Heater offer homeowners the option to enjoy a comfortably warm pool heated in an environmentally friendly manner. But this heater does it a bit differently – it’s a departure from the usually bulky solar panels of other heaters.

The heater is actually minuscule compared to the bulky panels of other heaters. It has a circular based around 23 cm in diameter which houses a coiled piping system within a transparent dome-shaped enclosure. The dome structure of the enclosure is actually critical to the design of this heater as it produces a greenhouse effect which enables the heater to increase the pool water’s temperature despite its small surface area.

The unit can heat the pool by up to 5 degrees in three to eight days depending on pool size. Obviously, there are some buyers who feel that it takes too long for it to sufficiently heat the pool. One possible solution to increase heating efficiency is for two or more units to be connected in a series.

PROS

  • Cool design
  • Minimal space requirement
  • Solar powered

CONS

  • Complaints about hose connection being too small and leaky
  • Takes a long time to heat up the pool

SmartPool Swimming Solar Pool Heating System 

The SmartPool Universal Swimming Solar Pool Heater has proven itself to countless buyers. Its solar panel collector is known for its optimum heat transference capability.

With a design that is compatible with any type of pool, it’s no wonder that many consider the system to be one of the best rated above ground pool heaters on the market.

The SmartPool Universal Swimming Pool Solar Heating System is designed for use with both in-ground and above ground pools

In addition, it is known to be compatible with all types of pumps so adding the heater into your existing pool system won’t be an issue especially since it is very easy to install.

It comes as two 2-foot x 20-foot panels that are both lightweight and durable. Made from black polyolefin, the panel efficiently transfers the sun’s heat to the pool water, thanks to its patented tube and direct flow water circulation designs.

One drawback is that the panel is a bit large. However, the panel can be conveniently installed on top of the roof so it will always have unobstructed exposure to the sun while, at the same time, not take up any space on the ground below leaving your pool area clutter-free. Its better than gas heaters.

If you’ve asked yourself "what is the best above ground pool solar heater?”, then SmartPool Universal Swimming solar pool heater is a safe bet or, at least, it’s one of the best in terms of functionality and versatility. Of course, the assumption is that you have all the space to install the panel which can be quite bulky.

PROS

  • The design is compatible with both in-ground and above ground pools
  • Excellent water circulation
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Easy to install
  • Saves on electricity - uses solar energy

CONS

  • Relatively large panels might be a problem for backyards with limited space

Hayward H100IDP1 H-Series 100,000 BTU 

If you are looking for the best rated above ground pool heaters that run on propane, we’ve got the right one for you. The Hayward H100IDP1 H-Series 100,000 BTU Above Ground Pool & Spa Heater, as its name suggests, is specifically designed for small above ground pools or spas.

The small pool recommendation for the Hayward H100ID1 H-Series Pool is because of its output which is clocked at 100,000 BTU which is ideal for residential use. This is actually considered a more budget-friendly option of the Hayward brand. 

For comparison, the popular Hayward Universal H-Series Natural Gas Low NOx is rated 250,000 BTU, which could really put a strain on your power budget.

This Hayward heater is built with safety, convenience and superior performance in mind. It features a reliable electronic ignition so anyone can easily start the equipment. The cabinet surface is also cool to the touch so you won’t hurt yourself by accidentally touching it. Meanwhile, there is a 120-volt electric cord for easy installation.

You can be assured of top heating performance all year round because this is a gas pool heater. This is made possible by its revolutionary induced draft technology which enables the heater to flawlessly operate under any type of weather so you, your family and friends can enjoy your pool any time.

PROS

  • All-weather performance
  • Energy efficient and budget friendly
  • Easy to use

CONS

  • There were reported issues on equipment longevity

Intex Solar Heater-Mat for Above Ground Pool

As expected from the leader in pool equipment, Intex already came up with a solar heater Mat that is specifically for use with any of the brand’s above ground pools.

The Intex Heater-Mat for Above Ground Swimming Pool, 47in X 47in might appear simple but it is very efficient, takes up very little space and, more importantly, very inexpensive that we have to include it in this pool heaters list for 2018 to give more options for readers.

Buyers might dismiss it for its small size but it’s actually a very energy efficient solar mat. For this reason, it is perfect for those working around a tight budget as well as for those who might not have that much space to spare in their backyards for a huge solar panel.

The mat works best for above ground pools with up to 8,000 gallons in water. It is designed to work with Intex pools so you can just hook it up with any filter pump with up to ½ HP or a pump flow rate that is less than 2,500 gals/hr. The mat is capable of increasing pool temperature up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

PROS

  • Ideal for smaller Intex pools
  • Ideal for small spaces
  • Very affordable
  • Eco-friendly
  • Works with Intex pools

CONS

  • Works only with Intex pools

Factors to Consider When Shopping for Pool Heaters

So you are now all fired up to go shopping for the perfect heater for your pool. Before you make a buying decision, please be reminded that you need to carefully weigh all your options and consider a few important factors before taking the plunge.

Fuel Type

Heaters can be classified by what type of fuel they consume to heat the water. There are solar-powered heaters which solely rely on the sun’s heat and, is therefore very cheap to operate. The downside is that they might not function efficiently in colder months.

sun2solar cover heating blanket

There are pool heaters that are natural gas or propane powered which can operate all-year round but will carry a certain amount of risk (gas leaks, for instance) and added fuel costs. And lastly, there are electric-powered heaters as well as a heat pump which are very convenient because you don’t have to worry about buying fuel and also suitable for winter use. But, as everyone knows, these heaters will jack up your monthly power bill.

Pool Size

The size of your swimming pool will affect, to a certain degree, the heater models that will suit your needs. All heater models have their limitations when it comes to heating performance. As you might have noticed, there are heaters that are marketed only form smaller pools because they are not powerful enough to heat up larger pools.

Be sure you choose a heater that is just right for your pool’s size and check out the manufacturer’s size chart for other models that might suit your needs better. Owners of larger pools might also want more energy efficient ways to heat up the pool water such as by using a heat exchanger.

Installation Requirements

Some pool heaters are simple enough that you can install them on your own as a DIY project. Others, however, are a bit complicated that they would require a professional to get the job done properly. Be sure to know these things beforehand and, more importantly, inquire if there are any additional installation fees involved. In case of heating above ground pools that use salt water, be sure to choose pool heaters that can withstand the corrosive properties of seawater.


Ultimately, choosing the right product for you will be a personal decision. It is necessary to make a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of equipment. For instance, a solar-powered heater will help you trim down your electric bill but it also makes your pool unusable when the weather gets really cold. On the other hand, a propane powered equipment is good for all-weather pool usage but you must also be prepared for the increased maintenance and fuel cost.

It is our wish that, even though you might not select the exact products offered in this list, this guide might somehow help you in your journey to finding the top above ground pool heater you’ve been looking for.