Frank Disher, owner of Poolwerx in North Richland Hills, Texas, says he sees a lot of misinformation going around about heat pumps.
Many online forums on heat pumps and the cost of operating them contain factually inaccurate information, he says, adding that this has led to the myth that heat pumps are not a good option for pools and cost a lot to operate.
“Pool professionals need to be careful who they take advice from regarding this topic,” Disher says. He has offered heat pumps to all of his customers over the last several years because he believes in their efficiency. “Investigate in your area what heat pumps will do. Good representatives from manufacturers are going to tell pool guys if they will not work for their clients. I haven’t seen [manufacturers] trying to push heat pumps beyond what the actual equipment can do.”
Dennis Olmerez, president of Florida Pool Heating in Coral Springs, appreciates heat pumps for his local market and installs them all the time. “Thirty years ago, heat pumps were lousy,” he says. “Gas heaters were just a tick better and solar was what pool heating was all about. Today, solar pool heating is the same technology it was then, gas has improved a bit, but heat pumps have completely changed. They’ve evolved with technology. They last longer, are more reliable and cost maybe one-fifth of what they did 30 years ago.”
Hua Zhang, product manager of heating products for Hayward, says heat pumps generally cost more upfront than gas or propane but typically have a much lower annual operating cost because of their higher efficiency.
However, Zhang says, while heat pumps tend to last longer compared with gas or propane heaters, heat pumps take longer. Customers who want to heat their pool in a few hours are not the target heat-pump demographic, he says. If they are willing to plan ahead and let the heat pump run for a couple days before opening their pool for the season and they want a low energy-cost option for heat maintenance across a long period of time, a heat pump is their best investment.
“Heat pumps can be a great option for those who live in areas where natural gas or propane is not available,” says Jake Mendez, associate product manager of heat pumps for Pentair, “or if you live in regions with high fuel [rates] or low electricity costs.” Mendez adds that heat pumps are environmentally friendly because they operate on electricity as opposed to fossil fuels.
While heat pumps can operate in a wide range of climates and conditions, Mendez says environmental factors do play a role in their effectiveness. He says they perform best in regions with moderate to warm climates and moderate to high levels of humidity. Most pool heat pumps in the market today work efficiently as long as the outside temperature remains above 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Other times, a combination effort works best for the homeowner.
“If you want to use your pool when it’s very cold outside but don’t want the cost of always heating with a fuel gas heater, you could consider dual heat options,” says Geoffrey Pelsise, U.S. sales director for Nirvana, a pool heat pump manufacturer in Quebec, Canada. Pelsise often teaches pool professionals about the effectiveness of having a heat pump for most of the year and pairing it with a small gas heater when it’s too cold for the heat pump. He also recommends this type of dual heat option for homes where the electricity or breaker panel doesn’t have enough space for an adequately sized heat pump, allowing the consumer to still utilize the efficiency and cost savings of a heat pump most of the year.
If the customer already has their own solar energy panels for creating electricity, Pelsise says, a heat pump is the perfect pairing. “It is an incredible cost savings when you provide your own source of electricity to run your heat pump,” he says, adding that it could cost nothing extra to run the heat pump, depending on how much solar energy is produced. For a pool company, heat pumps offer a great profit margin. “This piece of equipment can bring in $1,000 to $2,000 of profit [for each unit sold],” Pelsise says. Some electrical companies and government entities are now offering rebates on heat pumping solutions, which help bring the initial cost in line with a gas or propane heater. Ultimately, for an average pool buyer, the pros of a heat pump can out-weigh any cons if it’s the right fit for that customer.