Solar pool covers are quite common, the most common types look like bubble wrap, with many tiny bubbles across the surface. They’re relatively inexpensive, and a popular way to increase a pool’s temperature. Solar covers are designed to increase the temperature of a pool in two ways. First, the bubbles absorb warmth from the sun and transfer that energy to the water below. A well-functioning solar cover can increase a pool’s temperature by up to 15 degrees.
The second way solar covers heat your pool is by keeping water from evaporating. Approximately 70% of heat loss in your pool happens through evaporation, so this is important. By preventing heat loss through evaporation, you not only maintain a warmer pool, but you also will use less water in your pool each year. Uncovered, water can evaporate very quickly. Most pools lose somewhere between 2mm and 2 inches of water per week depending on your climate. This can add up to hundreds of gallons per week.
If you’re planning on swimming in your pool for a few hours every day, you can expect to lose up to dozens of gallons while your pool is uncovered. If you’re swimming for exercise and you want to reduce evaporation, you’ll find that swimming at night is an even better water-saver since your pool won’t lose that much heat when the temperatures are cooler at night.
Solar pool covers do have some downsides, too. Most are relatively disposable, for a lack of a better term, and will only last a few years before needing to be replaced. Solar covers, due to their minimal thickness, also don’t do a great job retaining heat at night if the temperature dips. Further, they can also be a safety issue, especially if you have children or pets that can fall into them and get tangled up.
If you have consistent problems with maintaining a warm enough temperature or the water level in your pools, there’s no question that a solar cover is a great option to help you reduce your costs and time spent maintaining your pool.
What about solar blankets?
A solar blanket, or thermal pool blanket, is a more expensive, thicker insulator used to help retain heat in a pool. Due to their heft, they will last longer than a standard solar cover, but they also are harder to maneuver and require a roller to put on and take off. These covers will not convert the sun’s warmth into energy, but a well-fitted thermal blanket can reduce heat loss by 75% and evaporation can be almost completely eliminated – we’re talking over 90%! That’s a big deal, especially if you have a heated pool. In cooler climates, that can really add up, and help extend your pool season.
Aside from the cost, there are a few other cons to solar blankets. One downside is they take up a lot of space, which can be a deal breaker for people working with a smaller yard. They also require a professional fitting, which can also drive up your total cost of ownership. Another big issue for some pool owners is that a thermal blanket doesn’t actually heat the pool like a solar cover, it merely retains heat. So, if you don’t have a heater, it might not be a great solution.
Are liquid solar covers effective?
First, you might be asking yourself, “What is a liquid solar cover?” A liquid solar cover is an alcohol-based chemical used to slow the evaporation of your pool’s water. At the molecular level, the chemical mix in a liquid solar cover creates a barrier on the water’s surface to trap in heat. But how well do they work?
Like a solar blanket, a liquid solar cover will not add heat to your pool from the sun, it simply works to maintain warmth by reducing evaporation. In the right conditions, however, liquid solar covers can be quite effective at maintaining your heat and reducing evaporation. And while they require scheduled use, they’re less cumbersome to deal with than putting on a solar cover or thermal blanket.
However, one big drawback of liquid solar covers is trying to use the product in a windy area. If your water is choppy from constant wind, you won’t get good coverage and the effectiveness of the product will be reduced significantly. Also, if you don’t keep up with regular applications, it simply won’t work – which isn’t true for a physical solar cover. Also, a physical cover comes with the added benefit of keeping debris out of your pool – if that’s an important consideration for you.
So, are solar covers worth it?
Outside of the benefits outlined above, there are even some others to consider. Such as the fact that solar covers reduce chlorine consumption. Chlorine decays faster when exposed to UV rays, you may discover that you must apply more chlorine to disinfect your pool, especially during warmer months. You won’t have to worry about this if you get a UV-resistant cover. Even better, if you have a chlorinator, it won’t consume a lot of electricity. You’ll spend less time pouring liquid chlorine into the pool if you use it, and you’ll also spend less money on it.
Every year, extreme summer heat evaporates millions of gallons of water from swimming pools. This necessitates more water usage and increases the cost of chemicals and drives up energy costs for people with heated pools. We’ve also noted several of the drawbacks, particularly when it comes to the initial cost for the most popular options. That said, it’s important to consider the lifetime ROI of adding a solar cover, as there are substantial savings once you get past the initial cost of these products. In many cases, when you do the math it makes a lot of sense to go ahead and purchase a solar cover, solar blanket, or begin using a liquid solar cover.
If you found this article on solar covers helpful, please come back regularly for more information to help you make educated decisions on your swimming pool. Also, if you’re in the market for pool handrails, ladders, pool slides, swim-up bars, and accessibility products please follow the links to check out our American-made pool accessories.