Pros: No pilot light, stainless combustion chamber, Plastic shell, digital temp
I'm self employed during the summer with a swimming pool cleaning and repair service. I take care of about 35 pools a week on a weekly basis. The 4 most popular heaters around here (E.TN) are Sta-rite, Hayward, Raypak and Laars. The heater I always recommend is the Sta-Rite. I have less trouble out of this heater than all the rest. The primary difference is that the others have metal cases that start to rust after about 5 years. Also, the burner assemblies usually rust out after 8-10 years. The Sta-Rite has its burner assembly sealed inside a stainless steel drum with an electric blower for the exaust. The outer case is made of heavy plastic so there's no rust. It has an electronic ignition so there's not a pilot light that can blow out when the wind picks up during a storm. It has a digital readout where you can set the temperature(similar to a digital thermostat in a house). If you get one of the other heaters, make sure to get the electronic ignition or you will be relighting the pilot light every time it storms. Hayward has a new heater out with a similar combustion chamber, but the case is still made of metal. The only problems I run across with the Sta-Rite is after sitting still all winter the fan blower motor wants to stick. You sometimes have to get a screwdriver and spin the fan blades before turning the power on. This only happens when its been sitting all winter without running.