Best Above Ground Pool Heater for Backyard Water Fun

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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A pool heater is important for any swimming pool because it raises the water temperature of your pool water to make it feel more comfortable despite what time of day it is because nobody wants to dive in a pool of cold water. A pool with no heater changes its temperature according to the weather, and even though pool heaters are quite costly, they are beneficial for users because they allow swimming for longer each day while adjusting temperatures to your liking.

With many options in the market, the most challenging decision is deciding which is the best one for your above-ground pool. We have listed the best above-ground pool heaters with their significant pros and cons, and it is inclusive of factors to consider before making your purchase.

1. SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heaters

SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater 2 by...
  • Simple DIY installation; for in ground or above ground pools
  • Installs on roof, rack, ground or fence
  • Patented web design for maximum exposure to sun's rays
  • Uses existing pool pump
  • Raises pool water temperature 6-10 degrees F

Sunheater S120U is a 2' x 20 solar-powered pool heater that features an efficient, safe, and cost-effective heating method for your above-ground swimming area. It can raise the pool's water temperature by 6-10F degrees and has been constructed with durable and sturdy materials that are anti-rust, anti-corrosive, and anti-scale (reversible).

These solar heaters are very simple to use and easy to install on a fence, rack, ground, and for both the inground pools and above ground pools, making them versatile. The solar pool heater features a patented web design that ensures maximum sun exposure, and you can also use your existing pool pump to achieve better efficiency.


  • Impressive flow rate
  • Easy to install for both in-ground pools and above ground pools
  • The heater can be mounted
  • It has a patented design that guarantees maximum sun exposure
  • It is cheap to run
  • You can use your existing pool pump to reduce any additional costs


  • It has additional installation costs
  • Takes some time before it heats up

2. Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System

Fafco, an above-ground solar pool heater, has been in the market for a long while and got the name Solar Bear for the effectiveness it delivers because it can keep your pool warm just like a bear. It works similar to solar panels and is made of high-quality material that is the U.V. protected polyethylene, and this guarantees it will last you for a long while. Also, for a better heat transfer, the above-ground pool solar heater comes with 2-inch extra-large headers and a small 1.5 inch-header for effective low circulation.

Fafco above ground solar heater is the best pool heater if you are looking for one that will value your money. It features a single extra-large solar collector with no couplings or collectors and an integral bypass valve that completes the system. Also, it comes with a complete and detailed instruction manual that will help you have an easy installation process. Fafco solar heating system is a suitable alternative for people who don't want the bulky solar panels that have to be installed in specific areas and angles.


  • Easy on and off feature
  • Guarantees excellent heat transfer and also keeps your pool water warm
  • It is the best above ground pool heater because it includes a rack
  • Made using tough and durable materials
  • Detailed instruction manual
  • Features a 3' 9-inch x 20-inch wide solar collector
  • Packs a long time warranty of 10 years


  • Takes a lot of time to heat your pool
  • It may not be the best option for a wide pool

3. Intex Solar Heater Mat for Above Ground Swimming Pool

Intex Solar Heater Mat for Above Ground Swimming Pool,...
  • Solar technology increases temperature of the pool water by...
  • Simple hook up, compatible with filter pump up to 1/2 HP or pump...
  • Suitable for above ground pools up to 8000 gal (30,280l)
  • Includes: 1 1/4 " (32mm) hose attachment points

Intex is among the top brands you can choose when deciding to get the best above-ground swimming pools, and this also counts for producing the ground pool heaters. The pool heater is eco-friendly and has been designed, and it connects directly to Intex pool pumps and is one of the most environmentally friendly heaters in the market because it has no gas emissions. The solar heating system can connect to filter pumps that have up to 0.5 horsepower, and as the above-ground swimming pool pushes the water through the mat, the sun rays are absorbed, and as a result, it raises the pool's temperature.

This solar pool heater can warm your water by five degrees, depending on the current weather conditions. This heater is recommended for above-ground pools with a heating capacity of up to 8,000 gallons of water. The solar heater is easy to use with no complicated controls because it has a simple hook-up that works effectively with filter pumps of up to 1.5 horsepower.


  • Easy to clean
  • High flow rate
  • Filter cartridges
  • It produces a good gallon draw in rate per hour


  • It has a short lifespan

4. Blue Wave Solar Blanket NS115

Blue Wave NS115 8-mil Solar Blanket for Round...
  • RETAINS HEAT - Insulating thermal cells trap heat and retain...
  • LONG-LASTING - Created with UV-protected polymer, our solar...
  • EXTENDS THE SEASON - This high-quality 8-mil solar blanket uses...
  • REDUCE EVAPORATION: Prevent up to 95% of pool water and chemical...
  • 3-YEAR WARRANTY - Your product comes with a 3-year manufacturer...

Blue Wave solar pool cover is a solar cover that features thermal bubbles that trap heat to ensure your pool temperature stays warm even on cold days. The solar heating system is made using UV-protected immaterial that will hold up for long periods against the damaging rays. It also has a blue color has allowed sunlight to penetrate the water and keep it warm easily.

Blue Wave solar cover is also great because it uses passive heating to raise water temperatures to 15 degrees and prevents water evaporation, ensuring you use less water when filling the pool up and ensuring your chemicals are more balanced.


  • Prevents chemical and pool water evaporation
  • Retains heat to provide warmth o a cold day
  • Heats the water up to 15 degrees F
  • The blue color allows the sunlight to penetrate properly
  • Raise water temperature with passive heat


  • Not ideal for large pools
  • The quality is not the best

5. Hayward W3H150FDN Natural Gas Pool and Spa Heater

Hayward W3H150FDN Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU...
  • BEST FOR: In-ground pools and spas with a surface area up to 400...
  • PREMIUM PERFORMANCE: The Hayward Universal H-Series 150,000 BTU...
  • CORROSION PROTECTION: The Universal H-Series boasts exceptional...
  • ENERGY SAVINGS: The efficient, industry-leading design reduces...
  • EASY-TO-USE: Intuitive front control panel provides easy...

Hayward W3H150FDN Natural Gas model and every other gas pool heater usually guarantee you maximum efficiency. It is the best gas pool heater for someone working with a budget, and it can be installed with electricity and water coming in from either side. It features a design that makes the heat pump easy to install for a professional with a flexible design that guarantees it will fit in most places, being only 21 inches wide.

Notably, Hayward company ensures their products do not harm the environment and has made sure this heat pump has low NOx emissions that meet air quality standards no matter your location. The Hayward Natural Gas pool heater also comes with a forced draft combustion system that ensures you achieve an even pool heat temperature despite outside weather conditions. The above-ground pool heat pump features a cupro-nickel heat exchanger that presents corrosion against poorly-maintained pool chemistry and salt water.


  • The model is available in different sizes, and you can use it with different pool sizes.
  • Easy professional installation
  • The heat pumps have accurate temperature controls
  • Maintains the pool water temperature setpoint using minimal fuel
  • Titanium heat exchanger that tolerates salty water and poor pool chemistry


  • The warranty claiming may be a difficult process

What to Consider Before Purchasing the Best Above Ground Pool Heater

1. Heating Capacity

The heating capacity is the maximum amount of heat an above-ground heater can generate and hold with measuring units in BTU (British Thermal Units). Different designs and types of heaters have different BTU's and the higher the BTU rate, the higher the rate the above-ground pool heater can heat your swimming pool. Above-ground pool heaters have lower BTUs than the inground pool water heaters, and this is because they are bigger than the above-ground pools. The size of the best above-ground pool heater should be able to comfortably serve the diameter capacity plus the total water capacity in your pool.

2. Efficiency and Maintenance

You can measure the deficiency by how your above-ground pool heater heats your water. A gas heater is considered better in terms of effectiveness and quickness, but it does not mean it what you need for your pool. Solar heaters may be as effective to your pool size, climate, and the type of pool you have in your backyard.

Also, the best above-ground pool heater for your needs should be easy to install and maintain according to your abilities and standards, as this will help improve efficiency with ease of installation and maintenance.

3. Size of Pool

The size of your pool should be able to determine the heater you decide to choose and cover all your heating pool needs. Different heaters serve different pool sizes and ensure you choose the right one for your above-ground pool. Notably, small above-ground pools usually need sun rings to maintain their warmth, while large pools may need something more effective. Generally, medium-sized heaters are more suitable for small pools, while large pool systems need a more powerful system, especially if they have a lot of depth.

The solar heating panels should be at least 50% the size of your pool for solar pool heating systems, but they should be at least 80% to heat your pool in a cool environment comfortably. On the other hand, gas heaters with a natural gas line ensure you check the BTU units because the higher, the better for a big pool size. Finally, for an above-ground electric pool heater, the size of the pool is less complicated, and you have to have information on the height and width of your pool water surface, the normal temperature of your area, and the average temperature in the coldest month. With these details, use the below formula to determine what heater size of an electric pool heat pump is appropriate for your pool.

{[length of pool x width of pool] x [average coldest month temperature – desired pool temperature] x 12}

4. Control Panel

Ensure you check what kind of control panel your choice of pool heater has. Some pool heaters usually feature a digital dashboard that makes controlling effortless easy for you to control. Additionally, some models might feature a temperature monitor to add to the digital panel that allows you to get the correct temperature for your pool easily.

5. Affordability

The best above-ground pool heater should be within your budget, and you should try to get the best features that also offer durability. For above-ground heaters, the higher the BTU rating, the higher the price goes up.

However, even though you are working on a budget, try to purchase a pool heater made of quality materials that will withstand your environment and last you a long while.

6. Environmental-friendliness

When it comes to heaters, some are electric pool heaters, while others have solar heaters and finally gas pool heaters. As far as environmental concerns, gas heaters are the only heaters that may be harmful to the environment because they produce emissions. However, the new gas heater models can manufacture the latest models with this consideration in mind and meet the emission standards.

Before making your purchase, ensure your choice of the best pool heaters has considered the environment to avoid polluting your environment during the swimming season.

7. Climate

Your climate is among the crucial factors when choosing a pool heater because different climates call for different pool heaters. People who live in higher temperatures may choose a solar blanket heater for their pool, while people who live in warmer areas may need a heater providing more heat to ensure their water is bearable.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the best heater for above-ground pools?

According to our ground pool heater reviews, the best above-ground pool heater is the SunHeater S120U, and we have stated some of the reasons it is the best above.

2. Are above-ground pool heaters worth it?

These pool heaters are pricier than some heaters in the market, and they can be quite expensive to run them. However, they heat your swimming pool water efficiently and quickly, making them a favorite for most pool owners, even for the extra cost. The above-ground heaters are more efficient because they don't need any sunlight or warm air to work effectively.

Also, different people have different answers to this question, but people in the northern climates especially, or mild climates may find them worth it to prolong their swimming sessions.

3. What is the most efficient way to heat a swimming pool?

If you are looking for the most energy-efficient way to heat your pool, you should consider getting a heat pump to help in heating during mild climates. On the other hand, solar water heaters have low operating costs making them cost-competitive with other pool water heaters. Also, gas heaters which use either propane or natural gas are efficient in heating pool water for a shorter period and are more suitable for more people who don't use their pools often. 

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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