Pool Heater Repair: DIY or Find Pool Pump Repair Near Me?
You just jumped into your pool for an early morning swim on a brisk morning – only to emerge gasping and shivering because you plunged into the icy water. This can only mean one thing: Your pool heater is on the fritz.
Your pool heater is an appliance designed to be out in the elements. But like all things electrical or mechanical, it may break down or need a bit of maintenance to keep it running properly. Even if you’re handy around appliances, it might be best to work with a pool repair professional to handle this repair – it can be complicated and time-consuming, and the experts can tackle it more efficiently.
Will My Pool Heater Normally Require Much Maintenance?
The good news is that pool heaters don’t typically require much work for upkeep. Generally, all you need is one yearly inspection to make sure your pool heater is working efficiently. Today’s pool heaters are high-tech appliances built from rugged, corrosion-free materials and coated with a long-lasting finish designed to keep maintenance to a minimum.
Did You Know?
With proper use and care – including the annual inspection – your pool heater should have a fairly long lifespan. A product life of 10, 15, even 20 years is not uncommon. Most pool heater failure is brought about by an external cause, not normal usage.
To get the most life out of your pool heater, keep these pointers in mind:
- Keep your heater clean and as dry as possible, but don’t cover around the heater because that traps moisture.
- Trim back foliage around and above the heater to reduce debris and moisture.
- Sweep under the burner tray, and clean any leaves off the heat exchanger.
- Use mint sachets or mothballs to drive away rodents, particularly during the winter, to prevent nesting animals from removing insulation and chewing on wires.
- Use an off-season pool heater cover when you close your pool to ward off wintertime damage from elements and pests.
What Are My Pool Heater Repair Options?
Despite the hardy construction of your pool heater and your best efforts to protect it, there may be times it needs more maintenance than a simple inspection. But if your pool heater is not working, you first need to figure out what is broken.
Your pool heater is likely the most complex piece of pool equipment you own. Unless you’re an electrician or otherwise skilled in repairing pool heaters, you should leave these repairs to a competent professional.
Here are some common issues that pool owners encounter with their pool heaters:
- The pilot won’t light. This could have nothing to do with the heater itself. There could be low gas pressure, poor ventilation, inadequate air supply, or another problem with the gas line. Insufficient gas supply is often to blame. The first step is easy – and sounds silly, but many pool owners get tripped up by this: Check that the gas is turned on; if you use propane, make sure the tank has fuel. Then look for settled water flooding the equipment – this is a particular problem if you run sprinklers or rainwater tends to run off your roof near your pool heater. If you’ve checked off these simple steps, check that the heater pilot tubing is intact and not clogged and that the pilot orifice isn’t clogged with rust or small bugs.
- The pilot lights but doesn’t stay lit. If your heater pilot won’t stay lit, it might be a bad thermocouple. Dust build-up can collect on the thermocouple and block the sensitive sensor. Clean the thermocouple, and then try to relight the pilot. If the light continues to go out, you probably need to replace the thermocouple. Or you might even need to replace the entire pilot assembly.
- The pool heater won’t ignite. First, check that your heater is turned on and the gas valve is in the “on” position, and be sure that the thermostat is set to a higher temperature than the current water temperature. Again, these are simple but often-overlooked “fixes.” Clicking or sparking sounds are signs that it’s trying but can’t light the burner tray. The diagnosis for this could be pretty complicated because there are many reasons for this.
- The heater won’t reach the desired temperature. The thermostat may be set too low – hopefully, this is as simple as rechecking your thermostat settings and dialing it to a higher temperature. Or maybe the ambient temperature is just too cold to keep the warmth in your pool water – in which case, try a solar pool cover to slow the heat loss. Other technical reasons could be that your heater is too small, has an insufficient gas supply, or that your temperature sensor is faulty or incorrectly installed. Faulty exhaust could cause the heater to overheat, or a malfunctioning upper limit switch could be erroneously assuming it’s overheating and automatically shut off the heater.
- The heater cycles on and off. First, test your pool water chemistry: Chemical imbalance is one of the main causes of equipment failure, particularly of pool heaters. A dirty filter can also cause heater failure, preventing the heater from firing and/or causing it to shut off too soon. Inspect the various components for damage and deterioration – if the pressure sensor, thermal regulator, heat exchanger, or upper limit switch is faulty, corroded, or defective, you’ll need replacement parts. Cycling on and off could also be a sign of a bad electrical connection or power supply to your pool heater, which can be dangerous, so you’ll want to make sure to investigate this.
A pool heater that’s too small won’t adequately heat your pool, making it a waste of time and money. Be sure to consult your local pool professional for a heater recommendation based on the size and depth of your pool.
If your pool heater conks out, complicated and expensive repairs – like replacing the heat exchanger or the pilot/gas valve – sometimes make it more cost-effective to buy a whole new pool heater. If you opt for a new pool heater, it’s best to hire a skilled pool technician to install your replacement. If yours is natural gas-powered, you’ll also want to bring in a professional gas contractor to install the connection.