Propane pool heaters aren’t as common as electric and traditional gas heaters. However, they’re some of the most efficient machines on your pool’s equipment pad. It’s important to know how much propane the heater consumes to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth. Propane pool heaters need a steady supply of uninterrupted propane for the entire operation time.
A pool heater uses one gallon of propane each hour for every 100,000 BTUs. British Thermal Units determine how much heat it puts into the water. If you have a 400K BTU pool heater, it will need four gallons of propane for every hour of operation. This means it could cost up to $12/hour or more.
In this article, I’ll explain how much propane your pool heater needs, how long a standard propane tank will last, and whether or not they’re expensive.
How Much Propane Does Your Pool Heater Need?
Your propane pool heater needs one gallon of propane hourly if you have a 100K BTU heater. However, you’ll need up to four times that amount if you have a 400K BTU heater. Every hour consumes between one to four gallons of propane. Fortunately, you only need to run a pool heater in the morning or at night.
Pool heaters work by burning a fuel source (traditional gas, propane, or electricity). Propane heaters need a lot of propane for continuous operation. If your heater runs out of propane, you won’t have enough fuel to maintain the desired temperature.
The best way to know how much propane your pool heater needs is to refer to the manufacturer’s manual. All pool heaters have different heat efficiencies. An efficient heater will consume much less propane than an inefficient heater.
How Long Does a Propane Tank Last for a Pool Heater?
A propane tank lasts between 1 to 5 hours for a pool heater. Most pool heaters only need to run for a couple of hours at a time. You’ll likely need to replace or refill a standard five-gallon propane tank multiple times a week to maintain a propane pool heater. However, you might need to refill it more often if you have a connected spa.
Keep these things in mind:
- You can get permanent propane tanks that hold a lot more gallons. Permanent propane tanks can hold up to 1,500 gallons of propane, which is 300 times more than a standard tank. If you want to have a pool heater for many years to come, this is the most efficient option. Many places offer discounts for bulk purchases.
- Propane tanks last longer if the heater is in good condition. Make sure your pool heater is free of debris. Clean the igniter and make sure there aren’t any internal leaks. Secure the wire if they get loose, keep an eye on the user’s maintenance manual, and contact the manufacturer immediately if an error code shows up.
- Your pool heater won’t use as much propane during the summer. The sun’s heat elevates the pool’s temperature, which means you don’t have to use as much propane. Every degree costs a little bit of propane. If the pool is 20 to 30 degrees warmer in the summer, you won’t use very much propane.
Pool heaters last much longer when they have a steady flow of propane. A drained propane tank can interrupt the oxygen and propane heating, which slowly corrodes the internal components. Make sure there’s always enough propane onboard.
Are Propane Pool Heaters Expensive to Run?
Propane heaters are expensive to run because they often cost between $3 to $12 per hour, depending on the local cost of propane. However, they’re around the same cost as electrical and traditional gas-powered pool heaters. You can save money and reduce your heater’s propane usage by lowering the temperature.
Here are a few other ways to save money on your pool heater’s propane usage:
- Service the heater yearly to prevent corrosion and reduced heat efficiency. During my time in the industry, everyone who asked for an annual heater service never had expensive issues. The cost of the yearly service is much lower than replacing an expensive pool part, not to mention the labor and material costs.
- Place a solar cover on the pool to maintain as much heat as possible. Check out our list of the best solar covers for pools if you want to keep your pool clean and maintained. Solar covers retain plenty of heat while preventing chemical loss and evaporation.
- Get an efficient pool heater. Some pool heaters have low-efficiency ratings. If your pool heater is inefficient, it’ll consume tons of propane. I advise against getting a propane pool heater with an efficiency rating below 75%. They’re not worth the initial savings because they require so much propane.
The Hayward H-Series Propane Heater is a 150,000-BTU heater that only needs about 1.5 gallons of propane per hour. These heaters have an impressive 83% efficiency rating. This 150k BTU heater works for pools up to 15,000 gallons, but there are many variants that go up to 40,000 gallons.
How Long Does It Take to Heat a Pool With a Propane Heater?
It takes between 5 to 15 hours to heat a pool with a propane heater. Numerous factors influence how long it takes, including the outside temperature, the pool’s temperature, the heater’s set temperature, and whether or not you have a solar blanket. Liquid solar blankets and solar rings also help propane heaters.
These are the three most common reasons your propane heater is taking too long:
- It’s too cold outside, and you didn’t increase the thermostat enough.
- The pool heater won’t ignite because there’s not enough propane in the tank.
- The propane heater might be too small for the swimming pool.
The general rule of thumb is to get a pool heater with a BTU rating anywhere from 3 to 7 times to gallon total. For example, a 20,000-gallon pool can have a 60K BTU to 140K BTU heater. People with pool-spa combos and those who run the heater during the winter should opt for the higher end of the range.