A pool heater heats air or water to the desired temperature using gas or electricity, while a heat pump collects heat from the outside air and condenses it to create higher temperatures. This allows a heat pump to operate more efficiently over time with lower energy costs, but the initial costs of heat pump purchase and installation may be higher than a heater.
Pool heaters circulate water and use heating coils to raise the temperature by burning gas, typically propane or natural gas, or heating the coils with electricity. This makes them a good choice for users who live in areas where the temperature may not remain above freezing and also works well for those who only heat their pools during certain times of the year.
Heat pumps for pools typically cost more to install, but their decreased energy use means they use far less gas or electricity to power a pool over time. This results in savings on energy bills and makes the pumps an efficient choice for facilities where the pumps may run all year long. Heat pumps lose far more efficiency than pool heaters when outdoor air temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, making them more advantageous in warmer climates.