There’s no denying that clean, clear water at the perfect temperature is the best way to enjoy your pool. Water that is too cold makes it hard to relax, so investing in a pool heater is a great way to enjoy your water at the ideal temperature. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a pool heater, though, and one of the biggest is: How long do pool heaters last? 

When investing in your pool, making the best decision for your circumstances is important. Learning about the different types of pool heaters and life expectancies and how to prolong the life of your heater will help you choose the right heater for your swimming pool. 

What Kinds of Pool Heaters Are There?

Whether searching for inground or above-ground pool heaters, you will quickly realize there are a few different types from which to choose. Understanding how they work and the pros and cons of gas, electric, and solar-powered pool heaters will help you determine the best type. 


Gas heaters typically burn natural gas or propane within a combustion chamber. Copper coils are heated, and as water circulates through, it is warmed and returned to the pool. Gas heaters heat pool water more quickly than solar or electric heaters, and because they do not rely upon sun or air temperature, they work well for pool owners in colder or less sunny climates. 

When looking at a gas pool heater, you can expect considerably lower installation costs than other types, but they also tend to have the shortest lifespan of the three. The average lifespan of a gas pool heater is 7-12 years, though there are obviously outliers that fail sooner or that last longer. 

They are also usually the most pricey and complicated to repair and maintain. In addition, since gas and propane cost more than electricity, gas heaters tend to have higher operating costs. 


Electric heat pumps pull heat from the air to warm pool water. They depend on the ambient air temperature and need at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit to heat the water effectively. However, some electric heaters utilize newer technology to heat water even in lower outdoor air temperatures. 

Electric pool heaters have a moderate lifespan, up to 15-20 years. The maintenance of these heaters is also intermediate, but it’s reasonable for the average pool owner to handle essential servicing. Electric heaters are pricier to install but have lower operating costs than gas heaters due to using the surrounding air and being more energy efficient.


Solar pool heaters are solar panels that absorb the sun’s warmth and energy. As the pool water circulates through the panels, the heat transfers. 

Solar heaters require significant sunshine and a significant amount of space to work effectively. They often need a surface area that is half as much surface as the actual pool, or sometimes more.

While they are expensive to install, they are free to run. They also have low maintenance requirements and rarely need repairs. Solar panels generally have the longest lifespan, with some equipment lasting up to 20 or even 30 years. 

Solar energy is free, but you’ll pay to run the pump required to push the water through the solar panels. In addition, you’ll need to consider any permits or inspections necessary for installing the panels. 

Heating Your Pool With AC

There is another way to heat your pool if you don’t have the traditional heaters mentioned above. For pool owners who have an AC unit for their house and a heat exchanger, using AC to heat your pool can be a cost-effective option.

To learn more about the equipment needed and the steps required to heat your pool with AC, refer to our article Why Does Using AC to Heat the Pool Make Sense?

What Factors Impact a Heater’s Life Expectancy? 

Various factors can affect the life expectancy of a pool heater, and understandably, most are related to proper pool maintenance. Here’s what to consider.

Water Chemistry 

You should be checking and balancing your pool chemicals regularly. Ensuring everything is balanced correctly, especially calcium and alkalinity, is essential. 

Too much calcium in pool water may cause plaque, negatively affecting water movement. The wrong amount of acidity in your water, or a shortage of calcium, can lead to rust when the alkalinity is not regulated correctly.

Heater Maintenance 

While you follow your pool heater’s maintenance guide for routine maintenance, the general recommendation is to plan it once a year, though twice a year may be beneficial. During maintenance, you should thoroughly examine the heater, and the equipment will be cleaned and calibrated. You should also check the equipment for overall performance and safety. 

Power Issues 

One of the biggest factors that can affect an electric pool heater’s life span is the power source. Electric pool heaters must be connected to the electrical line correctly. However, interruptions or power surges can affect your heater even if everything is correct. In addition, fluctuations in power can lead to premature aging of it. 

What Are the Signs Your Heater Needs Replacing?

Pool heaters will incur natural wear and tear, but, of course, there are outside forces that can cause damage. If you notice major irreparable issues with your heater, replace it. 

Keep an eye out for these signs:

  • You hear noises like screeching, whistling, or rumbling 
  • It has been inhabited or affected by rodents that have chewed wiring or clogged essential pipes or valves with debris and droppings
  • It has significant rust and corrosion inside (this can become a fire hazard) 
  • You fail to get hot water even when it appears to be functioning correctly 
  • There is a leakage of fluids from the pool heater 

What Can You Do to Extend the Lifespan of a Pool Heater? 

Every pool heater has an average expected lifespan. You can help ensure it gets there or even beyond by performing maintenance and repairs as needed. Below is a list of solutions.


The first thing you should always do if you think something is wrong with your pool heater is to troubleshoot. Check the shut-off valve. Has the breaker tripped, or does it not have fuel? 

Next, ensure that the thermostat is set higher than the current pool temperature and that the heater is actually turned on. Finally, verify that the heater is the correct size for your pool and pump. 

Another easy way to help protect your pool heater is to keep an eye on water flow. If your pump is not working, you have a dirty filter, clogged skimmer, or other issues; insufficient water flow means the pressure switch cannot close to trigger your pool heater. Also, slowed or stopped water flow or air in the lines can sometimes damage internal elements. 


If troubleshooting doesn’t find a simple solution to your problem, your pool heater may need repairs. First, it’s important to remember that if your heater is still under warranty, doing the repairs yourself could void the warranty. However, if the warranty is no longer in effect, it may be more cost-efficient to make the repairs yourself. 

Some parts are easy to replace, and the average pool owner should be able to handle them. If you are looking at damaged wires or issues with gas valves, it’s imperative to find a qualified professional. 

These are the items to keep an eye on:

  • Switches/Electrical Parts: Pool heaters contain an array of switches and electrical components which can be damaged from regular use or power surges. Use a multimeter testing tool or jumping wire to locate faulty switches. Commonly replaced switches include flow or pressure switches, thermostats, on/off switches, and high limit switches, though the various switches have a lifespan of 3-7 years. 
  • Gaskets and O-Rings: As they warp and crack with age, you may notice leaks around your pool heater. To prolong their lifespan, coat them with pool lubricant at least once a year. Consider doing this as part of your pre-winter maintenance routine. They have a lifespan of 1-3 years, so keeping extras on hand is a good idea. 
  • Heat Exchanger: With a life expectancy of 5-10 years, this part most often fails from freeze damage or unbalanced total alkalinity or pH. This is generally the most expensive part to replace, so it may be worth looking into a new pool heater instead. 
  • Bypass Valves: The internal bypass valve is designed to provide optimal flow rates, but corrosion or material breakdown can cause it to fail, which alters water flow and can reduce heat gain. This can make the pool heater inefficient or cause excessive and lasting damage. They have a life expectancy of 7-12 years, so if a readjustment does not fix the problem, you may need to replace the bypass valve.
  • Manifold or Header: Freeze damage is a common culprit for the manifold or header to fail and may be caused if the heater is not properly drained and winterized. Cracks in the header will be evident by major leaks when you reopen the pool. Because this is not normal wear and tear or usage, the life expectancy varies depending on climate, conditions, and care. 
  • Burner Parts: You should check all burner parts for loose connections or cracks. You can replace or repair them as needed. If the pilot orifice becomes clogged from dust, bugs, rust, or other debris, a quick cleaning will often help. Check the thermopile with a multimeter if a millivolt heater’s pilot light does not stay lit. It needs to be replaced when the reading is low or there is no output. Burner parts average 5-10 years. 

The Key to a Long-Lasting Pool Heater Is Regular Maintenance and Awareness of Its Parts

Pool heaters can be great investments to help you enjoy your pool, but knowing which type to use and how to maintain them is vital for choosing the right one. When it comes to taking care of your heater, it goes hand in hand with taking care of your entire pool. 

Regular maintenance and cleaning of your pool make it easier to keep everything else running smoothly. Having superior pool tools, like our lifetime warranty pool skimmer, will help make the maintenance routine easier. From replacing a pool liner to killing pool algae, we are here with tips and tricks to make pool ownership easier and more enjoyable, so if you have questions about our products or pool care, contact ProTuff today. Disclaimer: Pool ownership and maintenance is very complicated, and we know every situation is unique. While we’ve done our best to cover the best practices here, we encourage you to reach out to ProTuff directly at with any specific questions you may have.

How Long Do Pool Heaters Last?
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