I have recently setup a couple of pools with heat pumps and have some first hand knowledge and opinions on the differences that I see versus using propane, natural gas and solar. I was a bit skeptical about how it would work until I started running the numbers on the efficiency of heat pumps. I would never claim that it is the right solution for everyone, but if you do the math and understand how they work, they can extend the pool season by a large amount for little operating costs.
First the math, based on my calculations I could expect a coefficient of performance (COP) up to about 16 to 1 versus using conventional methods. Obviously the cost of fuel varies so doing an apples to apples comparison is quite difficult if not impossible, but I do have some numbers based on experience. When I run my heat pump with a 13,000 gallon pool capacity in the middle of the day when it is warmest, I see about 1 degree temperature rise per hour when it is 75 degrees or warmer outside. If I run the heater for 8 hours a day during the warmest parts, it consumes around $4 per day. So 8 degrees per day for $4 using the smallest pool heat pump available.
The magic of heat pumps is you are not using electricity to heat the water, you are using electricity to move the heat from the air into the water. When running the heat pump it blows out cold air like an arctic wind, heat moves from the air to the water, cold moves from the water to the air. This is how you can get up to 16 times the multiplier for efficiency. If the daily temperature drops significantly below your desired end temperature all bets are off.
Understanding how they work and when they work best (HINT: Middle of the day when its warmest outside) makes this a good way to heat that water and provide a longer season to enjoy your pool.
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