Everyone loves enjoying their pool during the summertime. But when the warm weather disappears and the leaves begin to change, many pool owners struggle to determine how best to manage their pool during the cold winter season.
Winterizing your pool often involves torn pool covers and structural damage from ice and snow accumulation. But it doesn’t have to. Savvy pool owners can save themselves from the typical winter horror stories with a straightforward solution, using a pool air pillow with your winter cover.
What is a Pool Pillow, and What Does It Do?
A pool pillow is merely a tiny, inflatable vinyl pillow placed in the center of your pool between the winter cover and the water. The concept is straightforward, but it’s an effective method for winter pool cover maintenance. They can be used on both above ground pools and inground pools.
The pool air pillow floats in the center of a covered pool during the offseason. It acts as an ice compensator, managing the effects of rain, snow, and ice accumulation during the winter.
Placing an inflated pool pillow under the cover creates a void on the surface of the water. As ice, rain, and snow accumulate, pressure will increase, and ice will expand toward the space created between the pool air pillow and the pool cover.
A pool pillow also prevents rain, leaves, and snow from accumulating in the center of the pool. Instead, debris gathers at the pool’s outer edges where you can easily reach and remove unwanted objects.
Pool pillows should not inflate fully. Some capacity must be left to allow for compression when the device absorbs the expansion of ice.
Usually, ice would expand outward without the presence of the air pillow. Expanding places increasing pressure on the pool cover, pool walls, and your pool supplies and equipment. The expansion can eventually result in severe structural damage to your cover, liner, and walls.
How to Use a Pool Air Pillow
Integrating a pool pillow into your winterization plan is as straightforward as the product. Follow these steps to use your pool air pillow correctly.
- First, locate the small red valve on the top of your pool pillow. Push the valve in with your finger to expose the opening. Then use a simple air pump to inflate the device. Alternatively, you can also use a hairdryer on the ‘cool’ setting or a shop vac on reverse to blow up the pillow.
- Only blow enough air into the pool pillow to inflate it up to 60-80% capacity. After inflation, it should still feel quite soft. If you blew up the device entirely, there would be no room for compression. Place duct tape over the air valve to prevent the pillow from deflating over the winter. Larger pools may require multiple pillows for adequate protection.
- Your air pillow will have grommets that allow string ties. Tie a strong, thin rope to your pool pillow using these grommets. Velcro is another way to secure the cushion in the center of the pool. Attach one piece of velcro to the device and the other directly to the pool cover center. This method keeps the parts together without risking string breaking.
- Place the pillow in the center of the pool. You can use the string to maneuver the pad into the correct location. If you are using multiple pillows, tie them to each other as well.
- Secure the pillow in place by tying the attached strings’ ends to opposite edges of the pool. The tension in the lines will keep the cushion in place. But do not link the ropes too tightly. Tight strings may tear the pillow or break, allowing the device to float freely.
- After the pool air pillow is secured, pull your winter cover out. Use multiple people to keep the pool cover above the pad to achieve the correct positioning.
- Secure the cover as usual. Ensure that the pool pillow is still in the correct position after you have laid down the surface.
- If the pool pillow has shifted, use a pole to move the pad back to the center under the pool cover. Be careful. A sharp stick could puncture your pillow and pool cover.
Tips for Buying the Right Pool Air Pillow
Be sure to use a specialized pool air pillow for winterizing. Makeshift substitutes such as floating flamingos or exercise balls will not work correctly.
These DIY alternatives may help, but they do not have the appropriate design for the job.
One of the most important aspects of a suitable pool pillow is the design. The pad must stay inflated and endure the entire offseason, so durability is of the utmost importance.
The best pool air pillows consist of heavy-duty vinyl material that resists puncture. A cushion made of soft material would puncture, deflate, and close the space between the device and pool cover. Look for a company that offers a warranty against product failure.
Here is an option from In the Swim that should be a good fit for most inground and above ground pools.
- Measures: 4 x 4 Feet
- Heavy-duty 16 gauge vinyl pillow may be round or square
- Air pillow absorbs freezing water as it expands
- Relieves above ground pool walls from stress of ice expansion
- Helps reduce the build-up of rain, leaves or snow on your winter cover
And another one from Pool Pillow Pal.
- Easily center and connect the air pillow to the winter cover, without any ropes or ties
- Consists of 2 specially designed peel-and-stick flexible patches
- Attach one patch to your air pillow and the other to your winter cover the connect them together
- Keeps the air pillow centered and helps float the winter cover onto your pool
- Eliminates the frustration of tying the pillow into the pool, no ropes needed
Pool pillows come in several different sizes. The best size pool pillow for you will depend on the size and shape of your pool. Some large pools may even require multiple pillows, especially in cold areas where they are susceptible to ice.
However, many pool owners only need to purchase one. 4′ x 8′ is the most common pool pillow size. This size is large enough for pools up to 12′ x 18′. If you have a pool more prominent than that size, you may want to look into more extensive options or even using several standard pillows to spread the load across the surface.
Size is essential because the purpose of a pool pillow requires a space between the water surface and pool cover. Small pads will not create enough space in a broader pool to compensate for enough ice to avoid damage.
If you have a small pool, a 4′ x 5′ pillow may provide enough space to compensate for a reduced surface area.
Importance of Pool Pillow Positioning
Positioning your pool pillow as central to the middle of your pool as you can is critical for success. Securing the pool pillow in a central location is the best way to ensure an even snow and ice distribution. This distribution is vital for protecting your pool liner and walls all winter.
A centralized pool pillow also keeps debris from accumulating in the middle of the pool cover. Pool owners have all experienced the difficulty of cleaning up excess waste we can’t reach or the frustration of water accumulation weighing down and tearing your pool cover, and the disappointing look of a sagging pool cover.
With a pool pillow, leaves and water will fall to the pool’s outer edges, making clean up easy. Underneath the surface, a correctly positioned pad prevents the occurrence of big chunks of ice, as a central location keeps frozen water broken up.
There are several options for keeping the pool pillow secured in the middle of your pool for the entire winter season. You can anchor the pad in the water, use velcro, or tie the device in place. If the pillow shifts after you put on the pool cover, use a pole to guide it to a different location.
Do You Need a Pool Pillow?
If you need to close your pool in the winter due to the temperature, chances are relatively high that a pool air pillow is a smart investment for you.
Pool owners in warmer climates may get away without using these simple devices, but a small cold snap is all it takes to regret the decision not to use one. I highly recommend pool pillows to anyone living in a climate that experiences freezing temperatures.
Chilly temps mean the potential for snow and ice. Frozen water can wreak havoc on a swimming pool, damage filtration systems, rip liners, and destroy pool frames.
A pool pillow is a simple and inexpensive insurance that can help protect your pool from those troublesome winter ailments. Even if you do not experience freezing temperatures during the winter, a pool pillow can also help you limit water and debris accumulation in the center of your pool.
Ultimately, if there is even a small chance that your pool could freeze during the winter, you won’t regret protecting it with a pool pillow. If you find yourself in the middle of a heavy snowfall, you probably will want to manually remove snow from your cover too. Here is my guide on how to remove snow on your pool cover, and how to remove water on your pool cover for more.
Need Some Maintenance Help?
We partner with HomeAdvisor to help you find the best swimming pool maintenance and cleaning services in your area. Compare quotes for free from fully vetted pool professionals.
The Bottom Line
Closing your swimming pool and getting ready for winter is never fun. Adequate preparation, including a pool closing kit, is essential for ensuring that your pool will be ready for you to enjoy again when warm weather returns. But sometimes, protecting your pool from the elements can be frustrating.
Colder temperatures can cause the water in your pool to freeze, creating expanding ice, which places additional pressure on your pool’s walls and causes structural damage. A pool pillow creates a space between the water’s surface and the pool cover, acting as an ice compensator.
With a pool air pillow, ice can expand toward the pad where no damage can occur. Pillows also help with the upkeep of pool covers by preventing the accumulation of debris in the center. They may be deceptively simple, but pool pillows can play a significant role in protecting your pool from everything winter can throw at it.
Questions about pool pillows? Leave me a message, happy to help.
As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Participation in these programs helps us keep the lights on at PoolResearch.com and in no way impacts our research process or editorial opinions.