Solar Pool Heaters: A Complete Guide

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One of the most fun and relaxing things to do on a hot summer’s day is chill poolside. However, a pool that is too hot or too cold may make the experience less than enjoyable. Even more so, the astronomical costs to maintain a pool heater can also be stress-inducing.

If you are looking for a low maintenance and eco-friendly pool heater, then consider purchasing a solar pool heater. These devices will keep your pool an ideal temperature, require little to no maintenance, and utilize the sunlight for power.

In this article, we cover all things solar pool heaters, including what they are, cost, and a buyer’s guide. To find out more, read on.

Solar Pool Heater: What Is It?

As the name suggests, a solar pool heater uses solar energy generated from sunlight to heat pools. How it works is that it uses solar energy to pump water through the filter, solar collectors, and back into the pool. By the time the water reaches the pool again, it is warm.

Though filters are common to all pools, solar-heated pools use solar collectors. These devices warm the water before sending the newly warmed water back into the pool. Typically, solar collectors are placed on roofs, but they can be placed anywhere with enough sunlight.

At the same time, the collectors can cool water for hotter climates or during warmer months. How the collectors cool water is that the water is routed through the collectors at night, which then allows the water to cool back down.

In addition to the collectors, solar pool heating systems also include manual or automated sensors and control valves. These devices help to regulate the temperature of the pool. Whenever the pool reaches a sufficient temperature, water is diverted from the collectors but still go through the filters.

Types of Solar Heater Systems

There are two main types of solar heaters for solar pool heating systems:

  • Glazed Solar Collectors: Glazed solar collectors include a copper tubing and glass covering, which make the system more efficient and expensive. These systems will heat your pool, as well as heat all the water used indoors year-round.
  • Unglazed Solar Collectors: Unglazed solar collectors do not include the glass covering and instead use heavy-duty plastic or rubber. This technology is comparable to how a garden hose heats up the water inside. 

Sizing The System

Whenever you install a solar pool heating system, it is important to install the correct amount of solar collectors. Generally speaking, you should anticipate covering ¾ of the pool’s surface with solar collectors. For example, assume that your pool is 400 square feet. This pool needs 300 square feet of collectors.

There is a catch to this rule. If you want to use your pool all year, you will want to cover 100% of the pool’s surface with solar collectors. For example, a 400 square foot pool would need 400 square feet of collectors.

Cost

The cost of a solar pool heating system will depend largely on the size of your pool and number of collectors needed. With that being said, solar pool heaters and installation typically cost $3,000 to $4,000. Although this upfront cost is heftier than other pool heating options, the solar heaters will require little to no upkeep and no fuel, saving money later on.

On average, high-quality and properly installed solar heaters last up to 20 years. More so, the payback period is only 1.5 to 7 years, depending on a variety of factors. The following factors will help you determine the payback period for your pool and solar heater:

  • Pool size
  • Ideal pool temperature
  • Electricity cost
  • Sunlight exposure
  • Amount of shaded area
  • Solar collector orientation

Solar Pool Heater Buyer’s Guide

Since pool heaters are expensive upfront, it is important to select the best option for your needs. With there being so many options on the market, however, it can be difficult to find the best option for you. For this reason, we have created this buyer’s guide to help you select the best option for your needs.

Solar Pool Heater or Solar PV Panels?

Solar Heating OptionBest ForProsCons
Solar Pool HeaterPeople who only want to heat their poolLess expensive Requires less space Tailored for solar pool heatingOnly heats pool
Solar PV PanelsPeople who want to power more than the pool heater but have limited spaceRequires less space Will provide energy for multiple appliances, including pool heaterMore expensive than a solar pool heater
Solar Collectors And Solar PV PanelsPeople who want to go solar to heat pool, power appliances, and power home to maximize efficiencyHighly efficientExpensive Requires a lot of space

Depending on your preferences, budget, and sizing abilities, you may want to purchase a lone solar pool heater, solar PV panels, or both solar collectors and solar PV panels.

Overall, the most efficient option is purchasing both solar collectors and solar PV panels. This will be the most efficient option because it will both heat your pool and provide energy for other appliances in your home. This will result in the most savings. If you install a whole PV system, you will only need about 3 to 5 solar panels for adding an electric pool heater and pump.

If you have minimal space or a small budget, then you will need to determine which is best for your needs: a solar pool heater or solar PV panels. Each has their own benefits, but you want to select the option with the most cost savings for your exact needs.

Factors To Consider When Buying A Solar Pool Heater

When you are buying a solar pool heater, it is important to find a model that fits your preferences and needs exactly. To select the best model for you, you should consider 4 key factors. Here are 4 factors to consider when buying a solar pool heater: 

1.     Pool Size

The first factor to consider when buying a solar pool heater is the pool size. The pool size will determine the size of the system needed. Obviously, a larger pool will require a larger solar heater, while a smaller pool will require a smaller solar heater.

More so, the purpose of the pool may affect the quality of pool heater you decide on. For example, if you only want a pool heater for a backyard pool that sits under a tree, then you won’t require as efficient of a solar pool heater. In contrast, professional swimmers may want to purchase a more efficient heater to maximize their training.

2.     Cost

Another factor to consider when buying a solar pool heater is the cost of the system. Since solar pool heaters cost a bit of money upfront, it is best to choose a model that allows you to get the most bang for your buck.

Whenever you are selecting a solar pool heater, compare prices, and see which is best for your family. More so, the cost of your solar pool heater will depend on other factors such as hours of direct sunlight, local electricity rates, and size of your pool.

3.     Efficiency

You will also want to consider efficiency when selecting a solar pool heater. The efficiency will ensure that the system works correctly and maximizes the energy produced. The more efficient a model is, the more money you will save.

4.     Climate

Lastly, the fourth factor to consider when selecting a solar pool heater is the climate. The climate will determine factors such as the hours of sunlight exposure. If you live in an area with more sunlight exposure, you may need a less efficient system, while those who live in an area with less sunlight exposure may need a more efficient one.

Other Solar Gadgets For Your Pool

In addition to solar pool heaters, there are other solar pool gadgets to consider. These gadgets will make the pool more useable and eco-friendly. Here are some of the more popular solar pool gadgets:

  • Solar Pool Pumps: Solar pool pumps use solar energy to pump water through the filter. These devices can work either by powering an existing electric pump with a solar PV system or by installing a DIY solar pool pump kit.
  • Solar Pool Covers: Solar pool covers are a more cost-efficient way to heat your pool. These devices work by offering a translucent cover over the pool that warms the water while keeping it clean.
  • Solar Sun Rings: Solar sun rings float on the water’s surface, absorb sunlight, and heat the water. You will need multiple solar sun rings to heat the water.
  • Floating Solar Lights: Floating solar lights absorb sunlight energy during the day so they can provide you with floating light at night.

Final Thoughts

Solar pool heaters are a great way to keep your pool warm while minimizing maintenance and your carbon footprint. Although these options will have a large upfront cost, they are worth it since they are great for the environment and stretch your dollar for years to come. Simply remember to find the best model for your home and budget, and you are sure to find a solar pool heater right for you.

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