Throughout Australia, commercial pool owners are realising that the pools at hotels, resorts, councils and swim schools could, and should, be used for more months of the year.


During the warm days of spring and autumn, for example, customers still want to spend time in the pool. Unfortunately, when the nights grow cooler, the pool won't maintain comfortable swimming temperatures without supplemental heating.


Luckily, there are several excellent commercial pool heating options available.


Gas heating - Gas heaters are fast and reliable, making them a popular choice for pools and spas. These heaters burn either natural gas or propane in a combustion chamber, quickly warming the water and returning it to the pool or spa. Unlike heat pumps and solar pool heaters, a correctly sized gas heater can reach and maintain any desired temperature regardless of the weather or climate.


 This means a cold pool can reach a comfortable 28° to 30°C in one day, even in the middle of winter. During the warmest months of the year, gas heaters are relatively inexpensive to operate. They work quickly and efficiently, requiring less operation time and reducing wear and tear on the system. During the coldest months, a gas heater works best for pools used for shorter periods of time. Pools used for entertaining, for example, can be heated on short notice and used at any time of year.


Electric heat pumps - Electric heat pumps are an excellent option for pools used most or all of the year. Sometimes referred to as a 'solar heat pump', eco-friendly electric heat pumps capture heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the pool water. Like an air conditioner in reverse, a heat pump draws in large quantities of sun-warmed air and circulates it through an evaporator air coil. The liquid refrigerant in the air coil absorbs warmth from the air and transforms it into gas. This warmed gas is intensified in the compressor and pumped into a heat exchanger that, in turn, transfers the heat to the cooler pool water.


Because electric heat pumps don't generate their own heat, the amount of energy produced is larger than the energy used. As a result, heat pumps are less expensive to operate than gas pool heaters, even when electricity is a higher-priced power source. With no flames, no emissions and low energy use, electric heat pumps are a safe, reliable and environmentally-friendly pool heating choice.


A heat pump's efficiency will vary with the air temperature. Higher efficiency is gained in more temperate climates but heat pumps are capable of maintaining pool temperatures year-round in nearly all areas of Australia. Even greater energy efficiency can be achieved by scheduling operation during off-peak electricity hours. This is easily achieved through the use of digital or smart meters, giving heat pumps the potential to operate with the lowest costs for extended season or year-round heating.


Solar pool heating - Clean, safe, quiet, free... solar pool heating is the most cost-effective use of solar energy in many climates and the most cost-effective way to heat your pool. A solar pool heating system is good for your budget and the environment, eliminating the need for fossil fuels to warm your pool.


Solar pool heating works simply, safely and naturally by collecting energy from the sun to warm your pool. A series of collectors, usually UV stabilised polypropylene panels, are installed in a sunny location. This is usually a roof but panels can also be ground-mounted on racks. The panels are connected to a pump that draws water from the swimming pool and pushes it through the panels where it absorbs heat from the sun. The warmer water is returned to the pool and the cycle continues until the water reaches the temperature desired by the pool operator.


The number of solar panels required depends on many factors including the size of the pool, the amount of available sunlight, local wind conditions and whether a pool blanket will be used to conserve heat. A reputable solar company will offer a free, no-obligation analysis to determine the location requirements. If an existing gas or electric heater is in place, this analysis should include a report showing potential energy savings, return on investment figures and environmental savings.


Operating costs for solar are quite low. The only additional expense is the pump used to push water through the system. This makes solar pool heating a low-maintenance, low-cost solution with the ability to provide up to nine months of warm swimming. Solar also provides protection from increases in fuel or electricity costs for years to come. With no moving parts, a long life expectancy and long warranty periods, solar pool heating is a simple solution that works well for many commercial pool operators.


Combination pool heating - A solar/gas or a solar/heat pump combination is often favoured by commercial pool operators looking for the high energy savings of solar along with constant, year-round pool temperatures.


The solar system provides a substantial amount of free heat for several months of the year (thermostatically controlled to provide just the right temperature in the summer), as the coldest months are topped off and maintained by gas or heat pump system.


If a commercial pool operator is already using a gas heater or heat pump and is looking for greater energy savings, a solar system can still be installed.


An important component of the combination solar/gas or solar/heat pump installation is the system controller. This device controls the operation of both heaters to ensure the maximum energy savings are drawn from the solar system whilst still allowing the pool to run at the operator's desired temperature.


Where to from here?


Contact a reputable heating supplier/installer who can offer customer satisfaction with the right heating system (or combination) to suit the application and back that up with a strong warranty and after-sales service.

As appeared in Resort News Magazine, November 2013

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