8 Best Above Ground Pool Heaters: Review & Buying Guide

The need for a properly working pool heater or heat pump 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 pool heat pump is an absolute must. Heating your pool is the only way to extend the swimming 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 search and get your hands on a proper above ground pool heater first.

Top 3 Heating Solutions

Top Choice
SunHeater Pool Heating System Two 2’ x 20’ Panels – Solar Heater for Inground and Aboveground...
Blue Wave NS445 12-mil Solar Blanket for Rectangular In-Ground Pools, 20-ft x 44-ft, Blue
EcoSmart SMART POOL 27 Electric Tankless Pool Heater, 27kW, 240 Volt, 112.5 Amps with Self...
Top overall pick
Cost-effective pick
Best all-weather pick
Power Source
Power plug
Top Choice
SunHeater Pool Heating System Two 2’ x 20’ Panels – Solar Heater for Inground and Aboveground...
Top overall pick
Power Source
More Info
Blue Wave NS445 12-mil Solar Blanket for Rectangular In-Ground Pools, 20-ft x 44-ft, Blue
Cost-effective pick
Power Source
More Info
EcoSmart SMART POOL 27 Electric Tankless Pool Heater, 27kW, 240 Volt, 112.5 Amps with Self...
Best all-weather pick
Power Source
Power plug
More Info

Remember, choosing the right one is not as easy as it sounds. Not all above ground pool 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 guide. We’ve actually created this guide to help buyers like you make a decision. 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 greatest heater or heat pump for the best above ground swimming 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.

SmartPool S220 Universal Solar Pool Heater

The movement of going green by opting for renewable sources of electricity 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 S220 Universal Sun Heater in our above ground pool heaters list.

This solar 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 that measures 2 by 20 feet, which is designed to effectively capture the sun’s heat.

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SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater 2 by 20-Feet, Black
  • 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

Pool water will then go through the photovoltaic cells via a series of tubes and will be returned to the pool after having absorbed heat from the sun. The pool pump heater 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 photovoltaic cell is versatile and can be installed on the roof, rack, ground or fence. The above ground pool 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 warm pool without costing you an arm and a leg in utility bills. The pool heater is admittedly much simple compared to gas heater, electric powered ones – you won’t find any fancy led panelboard 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.

  • Has an affordable price
  • Uses renewable energy
  • Cost-effective way to heat your pool
  • Needs a lot of sunlight so it won’t be effective in cloudy weather

Blue Wave NS445 12-Mil Solar Blanket

The Blue Wave NS445 12-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 solar heating 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 solar heater blanket say that it’s one of the best pool water heaters.

Blue Wave NS445 12-mil Solar Blanket for Rectangular In-Ground Pools, 20-ft x 44-ft, Blue
  • UV-RESISTANT - Built for the outdoors, this Rectangular 12-mil Solar Blanket for In-Ground Swimming Pools can withstand...
  • INNOVATIVE HEAT SOURCE - Our technology employs insulating thermal bubbles that trap heat from the sun. These innovative...
  • EXTENDS THE SEASON - This thick 12-mil blanket uses passive solar heating to increase your swimming pool’s temperature...

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

The material used for this product 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 want to argue that this product does not actually generate heat by itself to increase the pool’s temperature. However, it also undeniable that this solar pool heater 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 above ground heaters top list for 2021.

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 your additional peace of mind, the solar pool cover also comes with a 3-year manufacturer warranty.

  • A cost-effective way to heat your pool
  • It's Affordable
  • It's a solar heater so it only uses only the sun
  • Performance in heating the pool depends on the sun’s light energy – 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 excellent product that relies on sun energy to keep your pool warm and comfy.

If you happen to search it up in any online retailer site, you’ll soon understand why we’ve also included this in our 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.

Sun2Solar Clear 18-Foot Round Solar Cover | 1600 Series | Heat Retaining Blanket for In-Ground and...
  • SAVE ON HEATING COSTS - Sun2Solar clear solar blankets are made from a film of thousands of tiny bubbles, which work...
  • MINIMIZE WATER EVAPORATION - The use of a solar cover helps in preventing up to 95% of pool water evaporation. When not...
  • HEAT RETENTION - After everyone has called it a day with wrinkled fingers from too much fun in the sun, make sure to...

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 warm. The sun is doing all the hard work for you. Even if you also use conventional water heating like using gas heater or electric heater, 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 kind of heating you used to increase its temperature.

  • Cover’s tiny bubbles effective in trapping heat
  • Reduces heat loss via evaporation even during the day
  • Can be easily trimmed to fit your pool
  • Solar powered
  • Some customers have complained that it’s not as durable as they expected

Blue Wave NS6022 SolarPRO XD3 Dome Above Ground Pool Heater

Design-wise, the 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 pool heaters list specifically for those homeowners who want it unobtrusive.

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

Blue Wave NS6022 SolarPro XD3 Solar Dome Heater for Above Ground Pools
  • 60 ft. of hose for maximum solar heat transfer
  • Connects to 1.25", 1.5" and Intex hoses
  • Space saving footprint

The pool 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 pool heater as it produces a greenhouse effect which enables the heater to increase the pool water’s temperature despite its limited surface area.

The unit can get the pool heat up 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 much time 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.

  • Cool design and parts
  • Minimal space requirement
  • Solar powered
  • Complaints about hose connection being too small and leaky
  • Takes more than a day to heat up the pool

Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heat System

The company behind the Fafco Economy Heating System has been in the solar panel manufacturing business since 1972 and every customer loved their products.

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 2021.

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.

Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System for Above-Ground Pools - with LiquidHeat Solar Blanket
  • FAFCO is the world's largest manufacturer of solar heating panels for swimming pools since 1995
  • Made in the USA for quality you can count on
  • Compatible with your existing pool pump

The system is designed to heat an 18 to 24-foot round pool by as much as 10 °F. A large pool 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 this Economy pool heater is that it has unique parts like the 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 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 solar unit must be directly hit by sunlight which explains why the manufacturer recommends that the panel must be on the roof, on a rack or on the ground, provided that there are no trees or buildings nearby that may obstruct direct sunlight.

  • Capable of heating pool water up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Virtually maintenance-free
  • Installation can be a challenge
  • A bit bulky and takes a lot of space

SmartPool S240U Swimming Solar Heating System

The SmartPool S240U Universal Swimming Solar Pool Heater has proven itself to countless buyers. Its solar collector is known for its optimum heat transference capability.

With a design that is compatible with any kind of pool, it’s no wonder that every customer considers the system to be one of the best rated above ground pool water heaters on the market.

The SmartPool Swimming Pool Solar Heating System is intended for use with both in-ground and above ground pools and you can get it at a reasonable price.

SunHeater Pool Heating System Two 2’ x 20’ Panels – Solar Heater for Inground and Aboveground...
  • SOLAR POOL HEATER – The SunHeater Solar Pool Heating System allows you to capture free heat from the sun’s rays to...
  • EXTENDS POOL SEASON – Your pool’s pump pushes the water through the panel’s many tubes where it’s warmed by the...
  • EASY TO INSTALL – This pool solar heater uses your existing filtration system and has 4 end caps, 2 elbows for flex...

In addition, it is known to be compatible with all types of pumps so adding the pool 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, it 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, it 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. It's better than gas heaters.

If you’ve asked yourself "what is the best above ground pool solar heater?”, then SmartPool 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 panels which can be quite bulky.

  • Solar pool heater design is compatible with both in-ground model and above ground type of pools
  • Excellent water circulation
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Easy to install
  • Saves on electricity - uses solar energy
  • Relatively large panels might be a problem for backyards with limited space

EcoSmart SMART POOL 18

If you are looking for the best-rated pool heaters that run on electricity, we’ve got the right one for you. The EcoSmart SMART POOL Above Ground Pool Heater that works on a power plug, as its name suggests, is specifically created for small above ground pools or spas.

The small pool recommendation for the EcoSmart SMART POOL heater is because of its power input which is clocked at 18kW which is ideal for residential use. This is actually considered a more budget-friendly option of the EcoSmart brand.

EcoSmart SMART POOL 27 Electric Tankless Pool Heater, 27kW, 240 Volt, 112.5 Amps with Self...
  • Flow Activation
  • Eco smart Pool Heaters are compact and easy to install for a new or existing pool
  • Set your temperature digitally to increments of 1-Degree. Set it and forget it.

For comparison, the popular EcoSmart SMART POOL 27 is rated 27kW, which could really put a strain on your electricity budget.

This pool heater is built with safety, convenience and superior performance in mind. It features a reliable electronic heater 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 excellent heating performance all year round because this is a electric pool heater. This is made possible by its revolutionary induced draft technology which enables the pool heater to flawlessly operate under any climate so you, your family and friends can enjoy your pool any time.

  • All-weather performance
  • Energy efficient and budget friendly
  • Runs on electricity
  • Easy to use
  • There were reported issues with customer service quality

Intex Eco-Friendly Solar Heating 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 2021 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 unit.

The mat works best for above ground pools with up to 8,000 gallons in water. This kind of heater is designed to work with pool products from Intex 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.

  • Ideal for smaller pools
  • Ideal for small spaces
  • Has an affordable price
  • Eco-friendly
  • 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 above ground pool heater for your pool to make it usable during cold months.

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 and buying any available pool on the market.

Fuel Type

Heaters for your pool can be classified by what kind of fuel they consume to heat the water. There are solar 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 heaters available that works with natural gas or propane 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 electricity bill.

Pool Size

The size of your swimming pool will affect, to a certain degree, the heater models that will suit your needs. All pool heater models have their limitations when it comes to heating performance. As you might have noticed, some are marketed only from smaller pools because they are not powerful enough to heat larger ones or increase the water temperature efficiently.

Be sure you choose a heater or a pool heat pump that is just right for your swimming pool’s size and take a look at the manufacturer’s size chart for other models that might suit your needs better. Owners of a larger pool 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 a product 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 pool equipment and pump available.

For instance, a solar-powered pool heater will help you trim down your electric bill but it also makes your pool unusable when the climate gets really cold. On the other hand, propane-powered equipment or heat pumps are good for all-season 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 article, this guide might somehow help you in your journey to finding the perfect above ground pool heater you’ve been looking for.

Links, prices, and images fetched from Amazon API. Last updated on 2022-05-02 at 01:16.