best solar pool heater

There are times when you want a refreshing dip to escape the heat, but you don’t always want your pool to be cold. A good quality solar pool heater can help you to make use of your swimming pool across several seasons, using only the power of the sun. If you’re in the market for a solar pool heater – you’re in the right place. We’ve reviewed some of the best solar pool heaters available.

We chose the Game SolarPRO Curved Solar Pool Heater as best overall because it’s compact, foldable, and durable, as well as easy to install. However, we think that all the products we looked at are excellent heaters that are worthy of your consideration. All require little to zero maintenance and no ongoing operating costs after installation – that’s the beauty of solar, after all. 

We’ve looked at the ease of installation, durability, versatility, and price to curate this list of the best solar pool heaters, including models best suited to particular needs, such as above-ground vs. in-ground pools, or different systems, including roof-mounted and dome-shaped.

GAME SolarPRO Curved Solar Pool Heater
  • Adjustable and foldable design
  • High-quality, durable materials
  • Suitable for all types of pools
  • Takes a few days to warm a pool

7 best solar pool heaters reviewed

Most solar pool heaters work by having a collector that heats a reservoir of water and then sends it back to the pool, to provide the ideal temperature for swimming. These are eco-friendly and low-maintenance systems that heat even large pools, and are compatible with your existing pumps.

Read on for our reviews of the most cost-effective, energy-efficient, and best solar pool heaters.

1. Best overall: Game SolarPRO Curved Solar Pool Heater

This curved pool heater is one of the best solar pool heaters available, and comes with two adjustable legs, giving you the flexibility to place it in the sun so that it gets the maximum amount of solar energy. This is particularly handy if your pool receives partial shade, as you can adjust the legs to capture the maximum amount of direct sun.

Compatible with all standard above-ground pumps, you can likely connect it to your existing water pump to circulate water through this heater’s built-in tubes, where the water is warmed and sent back to the pool. With a compact and flexible design, the Game SolarPro is well built and durable, so will stand up to all kinds of weather and conditions without deteriorating.

It’s small and compact, but still manages to get the job done! This solar pool heater has the capacity to warm a 8,000 gallon pool by five degrees in four days. This does mean that you’ll need to wait a few days for the heater to have its full effect, though you can increase this capacity by connecting several such heaters.

What we like:

  • Adjustable and foldable: This heater can easily be adjusted, making it easy to move and capture the maximum amount of sunlight, so you’ll be able to warm your pool all day even as the sun moves.
  • Durable: With a strong construction and high-quality materials, Game SolarPRO’s pool heater is robust enough to stand up to all weathers and conditions, so you can leave it outside year-round without worrying about it getting damaged.
  • Versatile: This model is suitable for above-ground, in-ground, as well as indoor and outdoor pools: whatever your needs, you can use it to warm your pool.

What we don’t like:

  • Slow to get going: Even the best solar pool heaters have their limitations – and with a smaller capacity than some other models, this heater may take a few days to warm your pool. However, once running, it should keep your pool warm enough to swim comfortably.

Although you may need to wait four days or even longer for the Game SolarPRO to fully heat your pool, once you get it running it can continue to heat your pool year-round (and you can add extra heaters to speed things up too).

Made of durable and high-quality materials, this solar heater is built to last and will continue to perform well through all seasons, year after year.

2. Best for above-ground pools: Fafco Solar Bear Above-Ground Pool Heater

Fafco has been in the solar pool heater business since 1995 and is well-known for manufacturing large, high-quality solar systems that can warm your pool year-round, making it one of the best solar pool heaters for use even in winter. Its products are made in the USA, so not only can you be assured of the quality, but they involve less greenhouse gas emissions to get to your door.

Perfect for above-ground pools, the Fafco Solar Bear Economy Pool Heater has a panel design and is capable of heating large pools in a short amount of time. The heater produces 80,000 BTUs a day, which it uses to heat water in the system’s multiple in-built channels, before returning the warm water to the pool. It is powerful enough to heat 18 to 24-foot above-ground pools using the energy generated from eight hours of sun.

This heater is made of UV-stabilized polyethylene which is durable enough to stand up to years of outdoor use. It also offers flexible installation options: mount the panels on your roof or the ground rack, whatever is best suited to the space you have available.

What we like:

  • Fast and powerful: You can heat up to a 24-foot pool in just six to eight hours of sun with this single solar pool heater, so it’s all you need to keep your pool warm enough for swimming in almost any season.
  • Two mounting options: You can choose to install the panel on your roof or the ground rack, giving you plenty of options to find an ideal spot that gets maximum sun without getting in your way.
  • Durable: Made from UV-stabilized polyethylene, this panel is highly robust, so won’t crack or split even when left in direct sunlight day after day.
  • Made in the USA: Local production helps to ensure high standards of quality, as well as involving less carbon miles and being an environmentally-friendly option.

What we don’t like:

  • Large and heavy: The panel is relatively large, so you’ll need plenty of space to accommodate this heater. Though you can choose to install it on the ground or your roof, giving you different options to help make sure they’re out of your way.

This flat plate solar heater is larger and heavier than many of the alternatives, so is not very portable, once installed it is difficult to move. However, it is well-made, powerful, and packed with features, perfect for people who want to heat their pool cheaply, quickly, and efficiently.

3. Best for in-ground pools: SmartPool Inground Pool Solar Heating System

This offering from Smart Pool is one of the best solar pool heaters for above-ground pools, an excellent option for warming in the colder months. The 8 square foot panels mean it can filter and heat large in-ground pools up to 130 square feet by up to 15 degrees in the right conditions.

Compatible with most pool pumps, this heater is made with a durable construction from premium, high-quality polypropylene, so will last for years. The panel has a large footprint of four by 20 foot, but you can mount it on the ground rack or your roof, so you’ll be able to choose the best option for your space and needs.

More expensive than smaller pool heaters, but much more powerful, this product offers excellent value for money.

Some users report that this complicated system can be tricky to set up, but there’s a separate installation kit that makes this a breeze to install. However, it’s important to be aware that the installation kit is not included, so you’ll have to buy it separately.

What we like:

  • Large capacity: This solar pool heater can efficiently heat large volumes of water by up to 15 degrees, so suitable for larger, in-ground pools.
  • Good value for money: Although more expensive than some alternatives, this product is still relatively affordable, especially considering the heater’s power and capacity.
  • Versatile: You can choose to mount this panel heater on your roof or the ground, so you’ll be able to find the ideal spot with the maximum amount of sun.

What we don’t like:

  • Difficult to install: Beginners may find this system tricky to set up, so you may need to call in expert help, or purchase the installation kit, as this is not included.

This solar pool heater is ideal for in-ground pools with an impressive heating capacity that can warm up a large pool. Durable and versatile, you can install on your roof or on the ground rack, depending on your needs.

4. Best budget option: SunHeater Universal Solar Pool Heater

This SunHeater pool heater is the best solar pool heater on our list for those working with a tight budget. It’s an excellent, versatile, and affordable solar heater that is compatible with both in-ground and above-ground pools. Although it’s available at an affordable price, this heater can raise the water temperature by up to 10 degrees, if there’s enough sunlight.

Not only is this solar heater pocket-friendly, but it is made of durable, high-quality polypropylene, and can be easily installed just about anywhere, including on a rack, the roof, the ground, or on a fence.

The only downside is this product has a smaller surface area than most of its competitors, so may take longer to warm up your pool.

What we like:

  • Affordable: The SunHeater S120U comes with a low price, offering excellent value for money.
  • Multiple installation options: You can choose to install this panel heater on your roof or mount it on the ground, a rack, or the fence, allowing you to find the perfect spot.
  • Durable: This solar pool heater is made of high-quality polypropylene, making it robust enough to stand up to all conditions, so will last for years of outdoor use.

What we don’t like:

  • Less efficient: Because of this product’s small surface area compared to some other pool heaters, it will take longer to heat up your pool.

Despite its smaller surface area and relatively small capacity, with the affordable price, you could connect several of these heaters to warm a larger volume of water.

5. Best roof-mounted option: XtremepowerUS Swimming Pool Solar Panel Heating System

This roof-mounted pool solar panel is easy to install, versatile, and a budget-friendly choice. Compatible with both in-ground and above-ground pools, the Xtremepower panel is made from high-grade materials and will work with any pool pump up to 1.5hp.

The panel’s large surface area allows it to absorb a large amount of sunlight and heat a large swimming pool efficiently, raising the water temperature by up to 10 degrees.

However, if your existing pool pump is more than 1.5hp, you’ll need to buy a separate diverter kit. Additionally, a number of online users complain that this panel is difficult to install, and the separate installation kit that would have made this process easier is currently unavailable.

What we like:

  • Large surface area: With a large area for capturing and storing the sun’s thermal energy, this panel can efficiently heat your pool water and raise the water temperature in a shorter amount of time.
  • Will work with your existing pool pump: You can connect the system to any pool pump, as long as it’s not more than 1.5hp, so you won’t need to invest in any additional equipment.
  • Affordable: Despite being efficient and effective, this panel is relatively low-priced, offering excellent value for money.

What we don’t like:

  • Tricky to install: With complex installation required solar pool beginners may be better going for a product that is easier to install, and not risk damaging the equipment or setting it up incorrectly.

Although this is our pick for the best roof-mounted solar pool heater, this product is versatile enough to be mounted nearly anywhere, including on a mounting rack or the ground.

6. Best simple solution: Sun2Solar Solar Cover for Inground Pools

For an effortless way to heat your pool, check out this solar pool cover from Sun2Solar. This product comes with no tricky installation required: simply open the blanket, lay it on your pool, and cut off the excess so it fits perfectly.

In this way, it fits pools of all shapes and sizes up to 14’ x 28’, you’ll just need a pair of scissors! The cover is made up of air bubbles which collect and store the sun’s heat to warm your pool on chilly days, or keep it warm overnight.

Although this type of pool heater isn’t as effective as solar panel heaters, it can heat your pool by 10 degrees on sunny days. It also works best if you angle the cover towards the sun so the bubbles trap the most heat.

What we like:

  • Can cut to fit any size: Installing this solar blanket is super simple, all you need to do is cut it fit your pool size with a pair of scissors.
  • Relatively effective: Compared to other solar blankets, this product is capable of efficiently heating your pool up to 10 degrees given enough sun.
  • Reduces evaporation: Not only will this pool cover warm your pool with the thermal energy of the sun, it also prevents evaporation, helping to conserve water.

What we don’t like:

  • Fragile: This flexible solar cover can become brittle, especially after a year or two of use, and could be prone to tears and breakages, so you’ll need to be careful when handling it.

This solar blanket from Sun2Solar is a simple, easy-to-install solution that will do a decent job of heating your pool given enough direct sunlight.

7. Best dome heater option: Kokido Keops Solar Dome Above Ground Swimming Pool Water Heater

This Kokido heater’s dome design allows it to heat a decent amount of water with a compact footprint. This heater has a built-in rack that allows you to set it up at the best angle to get the maximum sun exposure and therefore heat your pool more efficiently.

The heater is compatible with both 1.25-inch and 1.5-inch flexible pool hoses, making it easy to connect to your existing pool pump. At 22 inches in diameter and around 12 inches tall, the heater won’t take up too much space, so you can sit it next to your pool without it getting in the way, even if you have a small or crowded yard.

Compatible with most above-ground pools, the kit includes not only the dome heater, but also two four-foot hoses, fittings, and stainless steel clamps. It also comes with a protective cover so you can safely store this heater when you’re not using it without it gathering dust or dirt.

One heater is recommended to heat around 2600 gallons of water, so will heat an average above-ground pool in around four days. You can also use this heater for in-ground pools, but you may need additional heaters, as these kinds of pools tend to be larger in volume.

What we like:

  • Portable: You can easily move the solar pool heater, so you can change its position to capture the most direct sun, shift it out of the way, or store it when not in use.
  • Compact: With a small footprint, this solar pool heater won’t take up too much space in your yard, or in the closet when storing it over winter.
  • Versatile: This heater is compatible with 1.25-inch and 1.5-inch hoses, making it easy to connect to your existing pool pump.

What we don’t like:

  • Hoses may crack or leak: Negative reviews mention that the hoses are fragile and some people say they break easily.

Some online reviewers complain that the hoses are not very robust, and some have experienced cracks and leaks in the hoses. However, users say that the dome heater itself is high-quality and durable, so in a worst-case scenario you could buy replacement hoses.

Additionally, this product comes with a 30-day manufacturer warranty, so if it arrives with any defects or issues, you’ll have a month to have it replaced at no cost.

Everything you need to know about solar pool heaters before buying one

Solar pool heaters are an eco-friendly, affordable, and easy way to keep your pool warm, extending the number of swimmable months throughout the year. However, it’s not just as simple as typing “solar pool heater” into Amazon and placing your order: there’s a wide range of such heaters available which work in different ways, each offering its own features and benefits.

In this section, we’ll cover the basics you should know about these products, the different types of solar pool heaters, and what to look for in order to buy the perfect item to meet your needs.

Why buy a solar pool heater?

Having your own pool is a dream for many homeowners, but it also involves a lot of maintenance. Depending on where you live, unless you have a pool heater, you may only be able to use your pool for a couple of months a year. This isn’t great, considering the investment and ongoing maintenance – so you might not end up getting much use for your money. 

An electric or gas heater is one way to keep your pool water warm, but it’s not the most budget-friendly option out there. It usually involves ongoing maintenance, and relies on non-renewable fossil fuels which are bad news for the environment. Not to mention that these are expensive, especially in the context of rising energy costs.

solar water heater panels installed on a roof above the pool

Unlike other types of pool heaters, solar models require little ongoing maintenance and no running costs after your initial investment. If you want to use your swimming pool in all seasons, enhance your home’s curb appeal, and reduce your carbon footprint while saving money, a solar pool heater is for you!

Do solar pool heaters really work?

The best solar pool heaters work by connecting to your pool’s pump and taking in a flow of water, heating this water through built-in tubes, and then returning it to the pool. 

They do this using only the energy of the sun, often with a ground- or roof-mounted panel, using the thermal energy of the sun through a cover that sits on top of the water, or sometimes by heating the water as it runs through tubes or pipes. The only downside is that they are dependent on the weather, so they’ll work much more quickly when it’s sunny, and are not as efficient on overcast days.

Let’s take a look at how these devices work, their components, and what goes on inside them when they’re heating your pool water.

Solar pool heater system components

Generally speaking, the best solar pool heaters on the market will be made up of three main components:

  • Collector: This component collects the water and distributes it throughout the system to heat it using thermal energy.
  • Filter: The filter removes impurities and debris from the water before it is pumped back into the pool.
  • Pump: A pump is a vital component of any solar pool heating system, as it’s responsible for circulating the water through the collector and filter and ultimately back to the pool.
solar pool heater components
Source: Energy Saver

Pool heaters need a large pump, and the bigger the pool, the bigger the pump required. In most cases, your current pump that you use to filter your pool water will do, but if it’s too small, you may need to buy an additional or a larger one to run your heater.

You also need enough sunlight and space to install the solar system, whether it is in the form of a panel, dome, or pool cover. Some can be mounted on the roof, on the ground, or put directly on the pool water.

These eco-friendly systems have simple mechanics: the water travels through your existing pump to a set of pipes to a collector, which heats the water and circulates it back to the pool. The pool temperature will then increase until it’s comfortable for a swim.

Types of collectors

There are a few different types of solar collectors, though they work in essentially the same way, using the sun’s energy to heat the water that is distributed through the system.

The two most common types of solar collectors are:

Unglazed collectors
unglazed solar collector
Source: EPA

Solar or unglazed collectors have fairly simple mechanics: they may be something as basic as a black PVC pipe. For this reason, they are generally more affordable, so better for buyers on a tight budget. 

Made from durable, UV-resistant rubber or plastic, they don’t come with a glass coating or any glazing and are able to heat a pool when temperatures are above freezing. These types of collectors are also compatible with indoor pools.

Glazed collectors

Glazed collectors feature an aluminum plate or copper tubes that come with a special glass coating, so are best for heating pool water no matter how cold it is, but also more expensive. A glazed collector is typically more efficient and so takes up less space than an unglazed one, and is ideal for people living in climates with below-freezing weather for several months of the year.

Flat vs evacuated tube collectors

Along with being either glazed or unglazed, collectors can also come in a flat form or an evacuated tube system. Flat collectors look like solar panels, which are installed flat on your roof or mounted on a rack, often with powerful insulation below the panels.

Evacuated collectors work in the same way as flat collectors but typically have more complex mechanics, typically with a set of tubes, and may include a water tank that stores heated water. Evacuated tube collectors are considerably more expensive than flat roof collectors because they can produce a higher output at cold temperatures, even below freezing.

An additional benefit of evacuated tube collectors is that you can be replace one tube if necessary without changing the entire system.

When buying a pool solar heater, pay attention to the type of collector it has. The best option for you will depend on a number of factors, such as the size of your pool, how often you’ll use the heater, the climate in your area, and your budget.

How solar pool heaters work

Most solar pool heaters are easy to install and use: you generally don’t need a separate pump to run the heater. Your existing pump should suffice, as long as it’s large enough to circulate all of your pool’s water through the collector and filter.

Always check your existing pump’s output and capacity before choosing a solar heater to make sure that it’s compatible.

In simple terms, here’s how a solar pool heater works:

  1. Using the power of your pool’s pump, the water flows into an intake valve connected to the solar pool heater, such as a panel installed on your roof.
  2. The water reaches the solar collector, and travels through the tubes, to reach the top of the panel.
  3. As the water travels up, it’s heated by the thermal energy from the sun which is stored in the black pads right underneath the panel.
  4. The heated water then travels down through the pipes to the pool.
  5. This continues until the whole pool reaches your preferred temperature.

How to choose the right solar pool heater for your pool

Now that you understand the components of solar heating systems and how they work, the next step is to think about your pool size, individual needs, and buy a system that fits your requirements and budget.

Let’s take a look at key factors to consider that will help you choose the right solar pool heater.

Different types of solar pool heaters

The first thing you’ll need to decide is what type of solar pool heater is right for you. These systems come in a range of types, the most common being:

Heating panels

solar pool heating panels

The most popular solar pool heating systems, these panels can be installed on your roof or mounted on the ground. They collect the sun’s heat and use this thermal energy to heat the pool water, which is pumped to the collector and then back to the pool, raising the pool’s temperature, usually by between five and 15 degrees.

Solar blankets

best solar pool covers

Also known as bubble covers, these are plastic covers with hundreds of air bubbles that lie on top of the pool water that can be cut to match the size of your pool. The air in the bubbles absorbs the sun’s energy, and then uses this stored heat to keep your pool warm while also preventing evaporation. This can make your pool up to 15 degrees warmer on a sunny day, but will have a minimal effect in cool or overcast conditions.

Dome heaters

dome solar pool heater

Dome heaters typically have a more simple design, usually running the pool water through a series of plastic tubes, where it absorbs the thermal energy of the sun. The tubes are arranged in a dome shape for the maximum amount of sun exposure for the minimum footprint. 

Most dome solar pool heaters will raise the water temperature by between five and eight degrees, depending on the capacity of the heater and the size of your pool.

Consider the size of your pool

How big your pool is will be one of the biggest determining factors when choosing a solar heater. Obviously, a larger pool will need a more powerful heater capable of processing a higher volume of water in order to effectively raise the water temperature.

Most products will tell you the volume of water they’re capable of processing in the specifications, so be sure to compare this to your pool’s volume.

For a square or rectangular pool, you can calculate the water volume using the following formula:

(pool length x width x average depth, in feet) x 7.48 = total volume in gallons

If your pool is deeper at one end than the other, you’ll need to use the average depth, which is the average of the depth at the shallow end and deep end (minimum depth + maximum depth /2).

So, if your pool is four feet at the shallow end and eight feet at the opposite end, the average depth is six feet. Therefore, if your pool is 16 by 32 feet, the volume is:

(16x32x6) x 7.48 = 22,979 gallons

If you have a round above-ground pool, the formula works using the your pool’s radius, that is distance from the center to the outside.

In this case, the volume is calculated using:

(π x (radius in feet²) x depth in feet) x 7.48 = total volume in gallons

Therefore, say you have a pool that is four feet deep with a five-foot radius, the volume will be:

3.14x 5² x 4 x 7.48 = 2,349 gallons

Where do you want to mount your solar pool heater?

Another important point to think about is where you want to install it. Your major options will be on your roof, on a mounting rack next to the pool, or placed directly on the ground.

The amount of space you have in your yard, and on your roof for that matter, may determine where you can place your solar pool heater and therefore the kind of model that is viable. Remember that the efficiency of solar systems depends completely on how much sunlight, so try to choose a location that receives as much direct sun as possible.

In the same way, think about the amount of space available in your preferred mounting location, and choose a product that fits within these dimensions.

What’s the climate like where you live?

Finally, the climate and conditions where you live can make a big difference. Some solar pool heaters are only designed to raise the temperature of your pool slightly on sunny days, while others can make a bigger temperature difference and even operate in freezing conditions.

outdoor pool covered with solar blanket

For example, if you live in Florida and want to make your pool around five degrees warmer, and keep it warm overnight, a simple solar blanket will do the trick. However, if you’re in a colder region and you’d like to use your pool throughout fall and spring, you may need a more powerful solar panel heater with a glazed collector.

What’s the best solar pool heater for an above ground pool?

There isn’t a single best solution when it comes to solar pool heaters: the right choice for you will depend on factors like where you live, what kind of pool you have, where you want to install the heater, and your budget. 

Above-ground pools tend to be smaller in volume compared to the in-ground variety, so a panel heater, dome heater, or solar blanket could be most suitable, depending on your specific pool and your individual needs.

Solar heating panels like the XtremepowerUS Swimming Pool Solar Panel Heating System are generally more powerful and efficient, allowing you to heat more water more quickly, but they also tend to be more expensive. Dome heaters like the Kokido Keops Solar Dome Pool Heater and solar blankets such as the Sun2Solar Solar Cover are usually more affordable, but aren’t up to raise the water temperature of your pool as effectively, especially in cooler climates.

They’re also less versatile, with dome heaters needing to be mounted on the ground, and removing solar pool covers every time you want to go for a swim can be a hassle. Ultimately, the right choice for you will depend on your pool and your needs, which we’ll look at next.

Final thoughts

The best solar pool heater for you will depend on your own pool, yard, and roof space, as well as your own needs and preferences. Having said that, we recommend the Game SolarPRO Curved Solar Pool Heater as the best overall solution, as it’s efficient, affordable, durable, and compact, making it ideal for most above-ground pools.

If you’re looking to heat your in-ground pool, take a look at the SmartPool Inground Pool Solar Heating System or for a more simple option, the SunHeater Universal Solar Pool Heater is excellent for those on a budget.

For more excellent eco-friendly, solar products for your yard, take a look at these solar greenhouse fans, solar rope lights, and solar deck lights.

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