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Swimming season is finally here. The sun, the heat, it all makes you want to get jump right in. But unless the pool is heated, the water will feel cold even in the summer, depending on your location. Unless you’re in Texas or Arizona, you’ll need a pool heater to get your pool above 65-70 degrees to avoid hypothermia. However, conventional electric and gas heaters are quite expensive in terms of energy bills. With a solar pool cover you can reduce these bills and warm up your pool water in an eco-friendly way.
Solar pool covers are rapidly becoming the go-to solution for warming pools by harnessing solar radiation. Not only are they cheaper than conventional heaters, but they can also help you reduce heat loss, keep out debris and cut down on pool maintenance. However, selecting the right cover for your pool depends on several factors, such as size and price.
In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know about solar pool covers and provide our top picks in the market for you to consider.
What is a Solar Pool Cover?
Essentially, solar pool covers are lightweight UV-resistant plastic sheets used to warm the water by sunlight absorption and convection. Along with heating your pool, it also reduces evaporation, especially during hot summers, to save water.
The solar covers use the greenhouse effect to raise the temperature of the pool. It is called ‘solar’ but it’s not the photovoltaic technology you would find in solar panels. Although both technologies use the power of the sun and provide an eco-friendly and cheap solution to provide energy. In case you want to know more about the benefits of photovoltaic panels, read our writing about how much you can save on solar panels.
How Does It Work?
A solar cover creates a barrier between the pool water’s surface and the air above it. The material traps UV rays that heat the water by 5-10 degrees and prevent water vapor and chemicals from escaping. The material also stores air bubbles that work as insulation to keep the pool heated longer. So, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on conventional pool heaters.
Types of Solar Covers
Here are three types of solar pool covers you should know about:
1. Solar Sun Rings
These are the cheapest solar covers available in the market and can work on any pool type. They’re made up of UV-resistant vinyl that is connected through magnets to keep them in one place.
2. Solar Blankets
Also known as bubble wrap solar covers, these blankets absorb and trap solar radiation with their thermal bubbles while retaining moisture on the surface to reduce evaporation further. They come in different thicknesses, so you’ll have to choose wisely. Thicker covers retain heat better, but they’re difficult to cut. So, unless you find one that perfectly fits your pool, you’ll have to make a trade-off.
3. Liquid Solar Cover
These are chemical additives that when added to your pool create an absorption surface layer for heat retention. However, they’re not suitable for chlorinated pools. So, you’ll need to buy pills or dispensers regularly. The biggest benefit they offer is convenience since you don’t have to spend time and energy placing or removing covers. They also don’t harm the pool filters and swimmers.
Benefits of a Solar Pool Cover
Let’s check out the biggest benefits of using a solar panel:
1. It Reduces Energy Consumption
According to studies, a gas heater typically uses around 4-5 gallons per hour to heat a pool. Similarly, an electric pump uses close to 5 kWh of electricity. Regardless of the energy source, you’re probably paying a hefty bill with either option. In contrast, a solar pool cover uses free solar radiation, which means you can reduce or eliminate heating bills.
2. It Almost Eliminates Evaporation
Without a pool cover, your swimming pool can lose up to two inches of water per week. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you do the math, it easily falls between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons of water every year. That’s a lot of water unnecessarily wasted. Solar covers almost eliminate evaporation which can save you a lot of replacement money every year.
3. It Minimizes Algae and Debris Accumulation
Pool covers create a barrier that not only keeps air out but also pesky debris and algae spores that make your pool dirty and call for untimely maintenance.
4. It Minimizes Chemical Loss
Depending on the heat and weather conditions, pool chemicals can also easily evaporate, especially when diluted in water. A pool cover can help you save chemical costs up to 60%.
Factors to Consider Before Buying a Solar Pool Cover
If you’re drawn by the benefits solar pool covers offer and want to get your hands on one, here are some factors you need to consider before heading into the market:
Pool Shape and Type
Most solar covers aren’t one-size-fits-all. You need to consider your pool type (above ground or inground) along with the shape (round, rectangle, oval, or custom). This will help you select the correct mounting.
Thicker solar covers contain more layers of UV plastic material than their thinner counterparts. Even though they add more weight and are difficult to place and remove, they are more suitable for colder regions such as the Midwest and some Northern states. Thinner covers are relatively cheaper but are more prone to damages, so they have a shorter lifespan.
When it comes to colors, you can find a variety of different options. If you paid attention in science class, you’d remember that darker colors absorb UV rays better. This is why you should opt for dark blue or gray pool covers. Transparent ones work too; however, since they accumulate debris, they’re not too visually pleasing.
Value is not just about the cost. Some inexpensive pool covers even work better than their premium counterparts, so make sure to find one that perfectly suits your needs. For instance, liquid covers are suitable for regular swimmers. Blankets are more suited for seasonal ones.
The Best Solar Pool Covers in the Market – Our Top 7 Picks
To save your time, money, and research effort, we have compiled a list of our top 5 picks of the best solar pool covers using the factors above. Let’s check them out so you can decide which one suits your pool best:
The Midwest Canvas Solar Cover is one of the best-selling options in the market for rectangular swimming pools. The 14 x 28-foot full-size cover is 12mm thick and features hundreds of circle-shaped heat-absorbing pockets that trap UV rays and minimize water evaporation. Midwest strategically used bright colors, hence the harmful rays don’t penetrate the pool’s bottom.
- Can last for years thanks to its highly durable material.
- Can be trimmed to fit your pool with a pair of scissors.
- Up to 95% water evaporation prevention.
- Difficult to fold.
The Blue Wave 8-Mil Solar Blanket is ideal for round pools up to 33 ft in diameter. It is made from high-quality UV-resistant polymer and contains many small thermal bubbles that can raise water temperature by up to 15 degrees. It is only 8-mil thick, which makes it suitable to place and remove. Many users were pleasantly surprised by its long lifespan, which makes it a valuable option to last several seasons.
- Retains heat up to 15 degrees.
- Prevents evaporation up to 80%.
- Easier to fold due to lower thickness.
- Prone to wear and tear due to lower thickness
Intex Solar Cover is among the most versatile options above ground swimming pools. It is available for round pools up to 12 ft in diameter and rectangular pools 18 x 9 ft in terms of covered area. The most outstanding feature of this product is the 160 microns in the thermal bubbles that always keep the pool water warm. It also comes with a carrying bag which makes storage convenient and only weighs 5 pounds. Lastly, Intex claims that the blanket can minimize evaporation by 95%, especially due to the drain holes that prevent surface water accumulation.
- Highly affordable.
- Easily floats on the pool surface.
- Rolls up easily for convenient storage.
- Comes in fixed sizes, meaning it’s not trimmable.
The Robelle 1832RS-8 Box Solar Cover is a heavy-duty, higher-end option for inground pools. It is available in dark blue color, which traps heat better and transfers it consistently across the pool. It doesn’t require any assemble but putting the cover on or removing it typically requires two people. The cover comprises thermal bubbles made of heavy-duty 8-mil thick UV resistant material that can last for up to 3 years.
- 18 x 32 ft in size which makes it suitable for large pools.
- Prevents evaporation by over 85%.
- The dark blue color maximizes solar heat retention.
- More expensive than other options.
- Difficult handling.
If you’re in the market for the first time looking for the most affordable solar pool cover, look no further than the Thermo-Tex Swimming Pool Cover. Made from durable UV-resistant materials, it offers a cost-effective solution to pool heating. It is also incredibly lightweight which makes folding and unfolding easier. It is compatible with rectangular swimming pools only and you can easily trim it to fit perfectly.
- Great value for money.
- Reduces evaporation effectively.
- High-quality construction.
- 3-year warranty.
- Not compatible with oval or round pools.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following are some frequently asked questions about solar pool covers:
1. How fast does a solar cover heat a pool?
How fast a solar pool cover heats a pool depends on several factors, such as the intensity of the UV rays, season, and type of pool cover, etc. Typically, a solar cover raises the temperature of a pool by 5-10 degrees in 4-6 hours.
2. Can you run a pool pump with a solar cover on it?
Yes, you can a pool pump with a solar cover on it. Not only is it perfectly safe, but also recommended, especially in cold weather so the water can conserve heat through continuous circulation for 5-12 hours.
3. How to use a solar pool cover?
To use a solar pool cover, you need to follow the instructions in the manual and place it correctly on the pool. If it doesn’t fit perfectly, you can grab a pair of scissors and make adjustments accordingly.
4. Can you run a pool heater with a solar cover on it?
Yes, you can run any gas or electric heater with the solar cover, especially if you want to heat the water more. Using a solar cover first can help you reduce the energy requirement and thus, reduce your heating bill.
5. How long does a solar pool cover last?
Most solar panels typically last for 3-4 years, depending on the type and brand you opt for. However, most manufacturers recommend replacing them after 2 years.
6. How to remove solar cover from above-ground pools?
The best way to remove a solar cover from above-ground pools is by using the fan-fold technique. This involves pulling several meters of the pool cover off the surface and folding it until it becomes a stack ready to be stored.
7. What color solar pool cover works best?
Dark colors, such as dark blue and gray, do the best job of retaining heat in the pool due to better heat absorption and convection. Lighter colors not only reflect heat but also show dirt accumulating on the covers.
A solar pool cover is a smart solution for natural heat retention, preventing evaporation, and reducing energy bills. During the swimming season, homes generally don’t require a pool heater due to favorable weather conditions. By opting for a solar cover, you can harness sunlight to bring your pool to just the right pool temperature. Now that you understand the factors to consider before choosing a pool cover, it’s time to take measurements and choose the best one from our top picks based on your preferences and budget.
We recently wrote about another cool way to save energy and money with direct sunlight, namely to build a thermosiphon solar water heater, which is a relatively simple device that can produce warm water without producing electricity.