Your pool is the best part of summer, and now you can use it sooner and longer each season. Here are three ways to use the sun to warm your pool water.
Solar pool heaters. Solar pool heaters are the most energy-efficient heating system for your pool. For many people, the environmental consideration alone makes solar heating desirable. The efficiency of the system is variable, however. You must have an area for your solar panels that has southern exposure for at least six hours per day. It must be unobstructed by trees or buildings.
The general rule of thumb is the surface area of your solar panels should equal 50-100% of the surface area of your pool. This can be less if you live in a warmer part of the country or if you purchase a high-efficiency system. Most people prefer to have the solar panels placed on a roof where they are safe from accidental damage, but they can be placed on the ground as long as exposure to the sun remains. Check with local building codes and covenants for any restrictions.
The solar pool heater works by diverting the water as it leaves the filter and sends it into the solar panels. As the water moves through the panels, it is heated by the sun and then returned to the pool. The warmed water will extend the swimming season by allowing you to comfortably use your pool early in the season, and it also extends the season in the fall. While the cost of installing the solar system is higher than the cost of a gas or electric heater, there is almost no cost to running the system, so the systems are actually very comparable.
Solar pool covers. Solar pool covers are an affordable way to extend your swimming season. A solar pool cover lies on top of the water and acts as a physical barrier to prevent the evaporation of water and chemicals in the water, as well as holds in the heat. Most solar pool covers have a smooth surface on one side. On the other side is a series of “bubbles,” similar to bubble wrap. These bubbles collect the heat of the sun during the day and help to raise the temperature of the water by up to 15 degrees. The bubbles also act to keep the water temperature steady during the night when the air temperature drops.
There are several things to consider when purchasing your solar cover. You will need to remove the cover completely when using the pool. This can be done manually, as in you pull the cover off the water and roll it or fold it and store on the pool deck or, in the case of an above ground pool, on the lawn. When you are finished swimming, you then re-cover the pool.
The other option is to purchase a reel that your cover can be rolled up on. In the case of the in-ground pool, the reels are made to fit under the diving board, or it can be wheeled out of the way. If your pool is an above ground pool, the reel attaches to the rail, or you have the option of a series of brackets that attach to the outside of the pool rail and the cover is simply pulled over the side.
The reels come in the manual version or they can be plugged into a regular outlet and the cover is then rolled up with a push of a button. The thickness of the vinyl or plastic is also a consideration. The thicker the material, the stronger it will be and the more effective, but the cost will also increase. There are warranties for the covers also.
Solar pool chemicals. Liquid solar covers are the newest way to heat your pool water. The liquid is basically a molecule-thick layer of alcohol that floats on top of the water and prevents evaporation, which is the main cause of heat loss. The amount you need for your pool is determined by the size of the pool. You simply pour the liquid into the pool once a month. The liquid will float to the top and bind together, forming the blanket.
The solar pool chemicals have been designed with safety for swimmers and equipment in mind. Very little of the solar pool chemicals will enter your filtration system, and it poses no harm. The main concern is swimmer safety. The solar pool chemicals have been FDA- and EPA-approved for use in swimming pools, and the chemicals are biodegradable. When swimmers enter the pool, the solar layer will mix with the water, becoming very dilute. The solution will then float back to the top and re-form the blanket when the water is still.
The more time we can spend in our pools, the better. These solar solutions will allow you to enjoy your pool even more. Happy summer!