You can go solar by using a solar pool heater to save money on your electric bill while using clean, reliable energy. These are some of the best solar pool heaters to buy, including a full guide on how they work to help you make the best decision possible.
Best Solar Pool Heaters 2020: What Product is Best for You?
Sun is shining, the temperature is catching up, and so you get your swimming suit on, play some nice music by your pool, and get your whole paraphernalia going.
You soak your toes in the pool and realize that, after all, winter might not be completely gone because the water is still freezing.
You’ve considered extra means to heat your pool but you have no idea of how those systems work or what they cost.
You wonder what product is best, or how to choose the best one for you. Or perhaps, you already have a conventional gas or electric system to heat your pool. But the idea of paying for electricity or gas to heat it is not so nice.
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Well, no worries. Once again, the evergreen sun energy has got your back! Read on to get you excited about solar pool heaters and the chance of using your pool for longer without going broke or ruining the environment.
We introduce you to solar heaters for swimming pools.
What is a solar pool heater?
Just like solar PV panels, solar energy collectors are traditionally placed on your roof.
Solar pool heaters, in general, look like solar panels but include tubes inside through which pool water circulates to absorb solar heat.
Solar pool heaters use only solar heat to warm your pool water.
Having the sun involved already connects to using far less energy to heat the water if compared to electric or gas-powered systems.
Heating your pool water with solar energy is a money-saving and eco-friendly option.
The amount of money you’ll save from switching to a solar pool heating system depends on which heating source you currently use, your systems’ efficiency and upfront costs.
Elements of Solar Pool Heaters
Electric and gas-powered pool heaters require energy to make the elements of the system work. Pumps, filters and heating elements, they all need energy to be operated.
Solar pool heating systems use solar energy to power all those elements. This already links to money savings. The Department of Energy states that solar pool heating systems end-up paying for themselves over 1.5 to 7 years. These systems also allow to be coupled to gas or electric pool heaters.
This is particularly useful in places where the temperature can drop considerably and the solar heater itself might not be able to reach certain temperatures. Solar pool heaters can then be considered an option for pools that are used year-round.
For sure, solar pool heating will make you spend less money and energy to heat your pool.
To understand how a solar heating system for swimming pools work, first, you should know how these are composed.
You can get a hint from the figure above. Let us explain what the main elements are and what they do. First, let’s dig a little deeper about the core of the system.
1. Solar collectors
Solar collectors can be as simple or sophisticated as the application demands.
A simple black PVC pipe can make a solar collector. Only that it might not be as efficient in some places as more high-tech ones. Therefore, the solar collector type you need depends on the local climate and the intended use.
2. Glazed collectors
These type provides higher levels of heat. They operate more efficiently and require less space.
The top glazing ensures the solar heat reflected by the interior pipe gets trapped, making them more efficient than unglazed ones.
Given their high efficiency and configuration, they are perfectly suited to be used anywhere throughout the whole year. If you live in a place where it gets really cold in winter, they are your way to go.
3. Unglazed collectors
These are the simplest heat collectors and the most commonly used.
That black PVC pipe we mentioned before makes an unglazed collector. They are made of dark metals, plastic or heavy-duty rubber.
As expected, they do not have a glass covering on the collector box to trap the heat, which makes them simple and cheaper than glazed ones.
The absence of a heat-trapping cover means that some heat will be lost to the environment. Therefore, the maximum temperature you can reach with these collectors is lower than that for glazed solar heaters.
Since this type works well with small to moderate heating systems, they can be used as a pre-heating medium for conventional gas or electric pool heaters.
With these solar pool heater type, expect to have your pool 10 – 15 ºF warmer than with no heater.
In common home-pools applications, unglazed collectors are the popular choice. No surprise, given that they are cheaper, easier to install and perform sufficiently well for home applications. Unless you intend to warm a spa pool in winter or an indoor pool for year-round use, unglazed solar modules are your target.
The rest of the components of the system are:
- Filters: Nothing different from conventional filters function. They remove the debris off the water before it is pumped through the solar collectors.
- Pumps: In charge of moving the water through the system and back to the pool
- Flow control valves: In charge of diverting the pool water through the solar collectors. These can be manual or automatic.
See Related: Best Solar Panels to Buy
How solar pool heaters work
The heating process starts by pumping the pool water through the filter in the first place, followed by solar collectors.
If you look at the picture, you will notice a sensor and a flow control valve. The sensor measures the temperature difference between the collector and the pool water.
The valve directs the flow one way or the other.
Why do you want a sensor and a flow control valve in your system?
If the collector’s and the pool water temperatures are similar, then the filtered water does not need to pass through the collectors, and it is simply returned to the pool.
If the collector’s temperature is significantly higher than the pool temperature, then water is diverted through the collectors to be heated up.
In hotter climates, these solar pool heaters also act as cooling systems.
If the sun’s heat can be used to warm up the pool water, then, the night’s chill is used to cool the water down.
Things to consider when buying a solar pool heater
Before moving on to what product is best to ensure a warm swim, let’s first go over a few general things to consider before leaping a solar heating system for your pool
Heating a small pool in Florida will not be the same as heating a larger pool in Oregon, right?
Let’s break down the reasons behind this difference and a few others that equally affect your solar pool heater selection.
The size of your swimming pool
The size of your swimming pool tells you how much water it holds and the surface-to-volume ratio.
At the same time, it can give you a hint of the heater type you need. Do not expect to warm up a large and deep pool up to 80ºF with a single solar panel heater.
As a rule of thumb, the available surface area of your solar pool heaters should equal around 50% – 100% of that of your pool.
The number depends on the local climate of your area. In cloudier and cooler areas, like Oregon, that number should be higher.
Type of swimming pool
Is your pool in-ground or above ground? Bear in mind that above ground swimming pools lose heat much faster than in-ground swimming pools.
The majority of solar heating systems are suitable for both above ground and in-ground pools.
However, some models are just not able to heat large in-ground pools, especially if they are located in places with poor sunlight.
In this case, you should evaluate whether you want to connect multiple pool solar heaters to get all the heat you require, or just choose a more efficient solar heater for in-ground pools.
Heat loss in pools
The reason why this is so is that soil is a poor heat conductor. In this case, soil acts as an insulator for in-ground pools. This is true unless there is a cold groundwater stream flowing past your pool location.
If that is so, then your in-ground pool won’t be as well insulated.
Take a look at the mechanisms involved in an in-ground pool heat exchange in the following image.
Above ground, pools do not count on the soil-offered insulation. The air is a better heat conductor than soil, the reason why above ground pools cool down faster.
Also, given that larger heat loss for above ground pools, expect to require larger heating systems for those.
The desired temperature for your pool
The desired pool water temperature determines whether you can choose a simple solar pool cover or a more sophisticated solar heating system.
How much sunshine the collectors will get
Proper sun exposure, orientation, and tilt towards the sun will affect the performance of your solar pool heating system. Your solar collectors must be geographically oriented to maximize the amount of solar energy they will receive.
If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, the traditionally ideal orientation is south or up to 45º east or west of true south. See a guide of solar panel angle by zip code in the U.S.
Also, factors such as roof orientation, local landscape features that could shade your collectors or local weather conditions, can affect the solar collectors’ optimal orientation.
Available space for your collectors
If we talk about efficient space for pool heating systems, then your home’s roof is the best choice for it. Unless your home is far from your pool.
By placing the panels on your roof you won’t have to destine a portion of your backyard for pool heating purposes.
If your roof is packed with PV solar modules and there is no free space, find somewhere else with plenty of sunshine and space to locate your pool heating panels.
Just like in the case of solar PV system, the most efficient your solar collectors are, the less space you will require.
Common solar pool heating systems
Unglazed solar pool heaters are the most common option for home applications.
However, apart from glazed and unglazed collectors, solar pool covers pop as another passive heating medium.
Solar pool covers
Solar pool covers apart from keeping dirt and debris away from your pool can also heat the water.
Without a pool cover, your water naturally heats up, but that heat is also lost by water evaporation and radiation.
Solar pool covers capture the sun’s energy and transfer it directly into the water to keep it warm by avoiding evaporation.
They can make your pool around 10 – 15 ºF warmer, or even higher if the sun is on your side on that day. But do not to take this for granted
With covers, there is no need for hosing, pumps or valves whatsoever. Just place the cover atop the water and that’s it.
They are particularly useful in places with plenty of sunshine and where the pool water just needs a small kick to warm up.
They are also used as complement to solar pool heating systems, ensuring the water retains the heat gained by the solar collectors of the heating system.
Solar pool heating systems
If you like your pool warmer you will have to go for a solar pool heating system. These arrangements are a more sophisticated way to heat your pool. They usually involve a pump to make your water circulate through the collectors and back to the pool.
Efficient glazed pool heaters will require less space to reach higher temperatures than unglazed ones. Also, the more solar panels you add to your system, the warmer it will be and the longer you will be able to use it throughout the year.
Solar pool heaters can make pool water to reach well above 80 ºF during spring and fall.
With good weather and a well-structured system, expect your pool to be 8 – 12 ºF warmer than an unheated pool.
Best Solar Pool Heaters to Buy
After strolling over all this information, it is time to show you which are the best solar panels out there for solar pool heating.
Summary Table – Top Solar Pool Heaters
Here’s a list, with no particular order, that might guide you in the process of choosing what product is best for you. The list includes heating systems and heating pool covers for in-ground and above ground pools.
Listed as one of the best-reviewed on Amazon, is one of the most powerful and effective.
Great construction and materials quality. Its large surface area ensures to trap the most solar energy to ensure a nice and warm swim.
This affordable, high performance and easy to use alternative can raise your pool water temperature by 10 ºF or more.
Its installation flexibility allows it to be installed on the ground, a rack or a nearby roof. It is also quick and easy to install with no need for couplings or connectors. The package also includes a user manual.
- Measuring 4 ft x 20 ft, it is one of the widest and largest solar heaters on the market.
- The package includes 1 -1/2 barb connections, 12 mounting caps, 12 mounting bases, 6 mounting straps, 1 valve handle, and 20 rubber tube plugs.
- It maximizes its performance when tilted 10 -30º South and between 10 am – 4 pm, depending on the season.
- If aiming to be installed on the ground, it needs 1 – ½” I.D. flexible hose and ground spikes.
This Amazon’s bestseller pool cover has air bubbles that act as magnifying glasses. Bubbles collect and concentrate solar heat to passively warm up your pool.
Rather considered as a heat retention technology, it is not recommended to rely only on covers for heating, unless you are in a place with plenty of sunshine.
Available in 25 different shapes and sizes combinations for you to choose the one that fits your pool shape the best.
In case your pool is oddly shaped or does not fit any of the available sizes, get a pair of sharp scissors and trim it. This won’t affect the manufacturer’s warranty.
This cover also gives you the option of choosing between 2 different colors, blue or clear.
Once done with your pool day, cover it back up so the water retains the heat it gained during the day. You can also couple it with another active solar pool heater to get the most out of the sun heat in case the water is still cold for your taste.
- Available in different shapes and colors to choose from, rectangle or round, blue or clear colored.
- Minimize evaporation by 95%, saving water and heating needs
- With a thickness of 16 mil, it is one of the thickest pool covers out there, guaranteeing a larger lifespan.
- Essentially designed as inground pool covers, but also suitable for above ground pools.
This solar heating system shows good performance in both in-ground or above ground pools and promises to keep your water warm and ready for a splash.
The solar heating modules made of polypropylene will heat your water up to 10 ºF or more in a short time period.
It is lightweight, durable and easy to install and couple to your existing pool pump. No need to get a special one to make this system work.
No need for special connectors either. You can use the same type as other models use.
It will perfectly work mounted on the roof of your home, shed or cabaña, but it would also make it mounted on a rack or simply place on the ground.
- Features 80 sq.ft. of heat-trapping with a direct flow system, embodied by 2 panels measuring 4 ft wide x 20 ft long.
- The system comprises one header hole for each heating tube in the solar modules.
- USA made system covered by a 5-year limited warranty.
This solar panels heating system will heat your pool water in an eco-friendly way with low maintenance and within a short time frame.
It is one of the most popular solar pool heating systems used in commercial and private pools. It works for both in-ground or above ground.
Expect optimum performance for 24 ft. L x 12 ft. W oval pools, and 18 ft. diameter round pools.
Whereas most systems bring one large solar collector, this system comes with two heat-trapping sheets, made from high-grade materials that withstand all types of weather.
Forget about having to purchase extra pumps and filters, since this system perfectly pairs up with the existing pool system components.
It features easy and straightforward installation, adaptable to the poolside, rooftops or leaned at an angle against your home wall.
The system is also flexible to customize it according to your needs. If you want more heat, just get more solar modules and link them to the existing ones.
- Each roll is 2 ft. x 20 ft. long making up a heating surface area of 40 sq.ft. per roll.
- Place them at an optimal angle of 30º facing south and your pool water will start warming up within a few minutes.
- Made from high-grade, flexible, durable and lightweight black polypropylene. It withstands all types of weather.
This versatile solar pool heating system is one of the best on the market, and it is designed to excel in heating both in-ground and above ground pools.
Remarkable construction quality, high-end performance, and reliability. A versatile and economical alternative to warm up your pool.
It is compatible with the majority of pool pumps. Its design guarantees that you won’t have to get a specific pump to mount the heating system.
Engineered for an easy dummies-proof installation process and very easy to maintain.
Raising your water temperature 10 ºF or more will not be a problem.
It is a versatile system that can be placed on the ground, on your roof or a special rack. If you are going for the roof installation, it’d be good to count on a pair of extra hands.
Option to customize your purchase with hoses, diverter valve, as a roof and add-on kit or solar modules only.
- Featuring the Max-Flow design comes with optimum 2 in. OD headers to improve water circulation and avoid overcharging your pump.
- This heat-trapping system brings 2 collectors of 2 ft. x 20 ft. each, so you’ll count on a total of 80 sq.ft. to warm up your pool.
- The package includes all the needed accessories to set it up, including connectors for joining it to 1 – 1/2 in. and 1 – 1/4 in. flexible hoses.
- Compatible with in-ground and above ground pools.
An alternative for those with not enough space on the roof or just not feeling in the mood of climbing all the way up to set the heating system.
Just like other solar pool heaters, this heater uses panels and tubes to raise your pool temperature. Easy to install and to use, requiring minimal maintenance and cost-effectiveness.
The two threaded-elbow adapters ensure a temperature rise of 10 ºF in 12 hours, depending on your location. Expect maximum performance from 10 am to 4 pm.
The Smartpool system is of high-quality construction, made with industrial-grade polypropylene material to withstand the passage of time. It is composed of panels joined together to increase the heat collecting area.
The panels can be hung on fences, lay on the ground, placed on a roof, a rack or stand. These are not included in the package.
You can install this system yourself, no need for a pro to come and set it up for you unless you choose to mount it on the roof, where it will also need a stronger pump.
- 2 ft. W x 20 ft. L collector with a direct flow system, featuring one header hole for each heating tube.
- Includes four end caps, four stainless steel hose clamps, Teflon tape, rubber connector hose, and bonus Solar Pill.
- Made in the USA, guaranteeing longevity according to the high product standards.
- Product warranty covering for repairs or replacement of defective and malfunctioning parts and components.
- Weighing only 10 pounds makes it the lightest solar heater in the industry.
Solar pool heaters are a great way to save money on electricity and energy costs with clean, sustainable power. What option is best for you? Choose one that offers affordability and the best reliability.
Have any questions on the best solar heaters for your home and pool? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to help.
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