Automatic Pool Covers 101: How They Work, Pros/Cons & More

Written by Michael Dean
January 18, 2024

automatic pool cover

As a pool owner, you’re probably always looking for ways to make pool maintenance a little bit easier. One such way is to install an automatic pool cover. However, if you’ve never had one before, you may wonder how they work and whether or not they’re worth the steep price.

Keep reading to learn how automatic pool covers work, their pros and cons, and more!

Main Takeaways

  • Automatic pool covers are a great option if you have an inground pool and don’t want to hand-crank a manual cover.
  • Some advantages of automatic pool covers include: minimizing heat transfer, reducing evaporation, keeping the pool clean, and increased safety.
  • Some disadvantages of automatic pool covers include: restricted chemical movement, overheating, collecting rainwater, ongoing maintenance, and, of course, cost.

How Automatic Pool Covers Work

A good safety cover can keep debris out of your swimming pool, so you don’t have to clean it as much. But you can choose between automatic pool covers and manual pool covers, which use fabric and a hand crank. Automatic pool covers may not be a solution for everyone, but they are an ideal choice for many pool owners.

An automatic cover is worth considering if you don’t want to deal with hand-cranking a manual cover. Here are the basics of how automatic pool covers work.



  1. Pool cover frame and tracks
  2. Most automatic covers have a coping splice to attach to the pool edge
  3. Box to store the cover
  4. Riser mechanism to lift the box when rolling out or storing the cover
  5. Mounting brackets
  6. Drive mechanism
  7. Brackets
  8. Lid for the cover box

An automatic pool cover has a leading edge tube that connects to the leading edge of the cover. That side will match up with one side of the pool, and both sides will have tracks that run parallel. When you open or close the cover, the tracks will rotate in the proper direction to open or close the pool.

Although most are designed for inground pools, you can find different pool cover designs for various pool shapes and sizes. But as a general rule, I recommend using a manual cover if you have an above ground pool.


You can find an automatic pool cover that mounts inside the edge of the pool. That can be an excellent option if you don’t want the cover to be too obvious. The cover will sit just over the water when you close the pool.

You can also mount an automatic pool cover on the pool deck. If you don’t want the cover too close to the water, the pool deck is a good place for the cover. It will still cover the water, but it can extend past the edges of your pool. You can also look for an in-deck track system to hide the retractable cover.


Automatic pool covers have one of two types of mechanisms that make them work. One option is to use electricity and a remote control to open and close the pool.

But if you have frequent power outages or don’t want to worry about relying on electricity, you can get an automatic pool cover with a hydraulic system. The system will use liquid fluid power to move the cover.

Pros of Automatic Pool Covers

If you aren’t sure if you want an automatic pool cover, here are some of the main advantages of having one.

Minimizes Heat Transfer

An automatic pool cover can keep heat in your pool, which can help regulate the water temperature. This is especially useful at the beginning or end of a pool season when it’s not as hot. It’s also a good option for colder climates to help reduce heating costs.

The cover will be thick enough to trap in the heat when you close it. While some heat may still escape, you won’t have to worry about feeling too cold when you get in the pool. Solar pool covers are also popular options for trapping heat.

Reduces Evaporation

As the pool water goes through the water cycle like any other body of water, you can lose some of it to evaporation. Using an automatic pool cover can keep the water from rising, so its only option will be to fall back into the pool when completing the water cycle.

If your pool has a large surface area, this could save you a lot of water. You won’t have to worry about topping up the water and readjusting the chemicals as often.

Keeps the Pool Clean

When you use an automatic pool cover, you can close it to keep things like leaves or animals from getting into the water. Since debris can affect the pH level in your pool, a cover keeps your pool clean and the levels balanced.

Another plus to keeping debris out with a cover is that your pool will likely stay in better condition. Excess debris and unbalanced water can affect the interior of the pool (such as the plaster) and require more maintenance.

Increased Safety

While any type of pool cover can keep your pool clean, an automatic cover can also be an added safety feature.

Safety is essential around any pool, especially if you have children or live in a neighborhood where kids are nearby. According to the CDC, unintentional drowning is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. A pool cover shouldn’t be the only thing to prevent drowning, but it can reduce the risk if installed property.

Many automatic covers use a key or a code to open, so you can keep curious people from opening the cover.

Replaces a Fence or Enclosure

It is always important to have some kind of pool barrier, which may be a fence or some other type of enclosure, depending on your jurisdiction. Unfortunately, fences can be unsightly. The good news is, nowadays, a lot of jurisdictions have added automatic safety covers in their regulations, stating they are as effective as traditional fencing and can replace it.

Takes Strain Off Your Pool Filter

With an automatic pool cover, as mentioned, less debris will fall into your pool. And this means your pool pump and filter won’t need to work as hard to clean your pool of any unwanted contaminants. And since it takes the strain off your filtration system, this may extend the lifespan of your pool equipment as well!

Many Options

If you have a large or oddly shaped pool, you may wonder if you can use an automatic pool safety cover. Luckily, you can find covers in all shapes and sizes, so you can find one that works with your pool.

You can also choose the type of mechanism you want to power the cover. Whether you want a small electric cover or a large hydraulic one, you have multiple options.

Cons of Automatic Pool Covers

While automatic pool covers are great, they aren’t perfect. Before buying an automatic cover, you should consider the disadvantages as well as the advantages.

Restricts Chemical Movement

While water and heat can stay in the pool, so can chemicals. If you add a lot of chlorine to your pool, you may notice it sticks around longer when you use a pool cover. The high chlorine levels may even damage the metal in the pool cover mechanism.

However, you can mitigate this problem by adjusting how much chlorine you use. Then, you can still get enough chlorine to keep the water clean, but you can keep from overdoing it.

May Get Too Hot

A good automatic pool cover can keep the temperature high, but that can be a bad thing. If you have extremely high temperatures during the summer, you may find your pool is too warm.

Can Collect Rainwater

An automatic pool cover can keep rain from getting in your pool, but the water has to go somewhere. It may build up on the cover if you don’t have any way to drain the water. An automatic pool cover can handle a bit of weight, but too much rain could damage the cover. You may need to use a pool cover pump to remove excess water occasionally.

And during the winter, if you get a lot of snow, the snow can be too heavy. A lot of snow may tear the ropes on the cover or even affect the entire system. A good pool pillow can help solve problems with ice on your winter cover.


Of course, you also have to consider the cost of an automatic pool cover. Many covers cost over $10,000, and that’s in addition to the pool. If you already have a pool, adding a cover may not be that bad. But if you’re building a new pool, you may be unable to afford a cover. In that case, check out our guide to building your own pool cover.

You should consider whether the benefits make that extra cost worthwhile. Then, you can decide on the right automatic pool cover for your pool.

Ongoing Maintenance

If you’re trying to budget for an automatic pool cover, don’t forget about ongoing costs. You’ll want to have someone service your pool cover each year to ensure it works properly. If you have an issue, you may need to schedule an emergency repair.

You never know when the lock won’t want to open or the cover will get stuck. So, consider maintenance time and cost when getting an automatic pool cover.

You also want to make sure you do your own maintenance on it now and then, especially during the winter. For more tips, read my guide on how to cover your pool for winter.

Check out this video from my friend Craig Wooster for a quick synopsis of what to do (and not to do) with automatic pool covers. It’s a nice video summarization of what I explained above.

Are Automatic Pool Covers Worth It?

As you can see, an automatic pool cover has multiple pros and cons. For some people, the pros of an automatic pool cover are worth dealing with the cons. Other pool owners may feel the opposite.

You should consider an automatic pool cover if you have kids or pets and want to keep them safe. You can keep your family members from falling or getting into the pool without your permission by keeping the key away from them.

Furthermore, an automatic pool cover is also a great option if you don’t like cleaning your pool or hiring someone to do it. And if you don’t get super hot summers, you may enjoy the extra warmth an automatic pool cover can provide.

However, an automatic pool cover may make your water too hot if you get high summer temperatures. On the other hand, if you have extreme winters with a lot of snow, the snow could cause your cover to break.

And if you’re on a tight budget, you may find the extra cost isn’t worth it right now. Luckily, you can start with a manual pool cover and upgrade to an automatic cover when you have the extra funds.

Is an Automatic Pool Cover for You?

With around 10.4 million residential swimming pools in the United States, many homeowners probably know how much work pools require. But as you can see, one way to cut down on time spent on the pool is to add an automatic cover. Whether or not you get one is entirely up to your, your needs, your priorities, and, of course, your budget.

That’s it for automatic pool covers. Have more questions about this or other types of pool equipment? Feel free to shoot me a note.

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