Unless you live in a place with warm temperatures year-round, you will have a pool season shortened by low temperatures. The best way to combat the weather and expand the season is to use a pool heater.
There are many heaters options on the market, and one of the more energy-efficient options is solar pool heaters. For non-solar options, check out my guide on the best pool heaters. Alright, let’s dive into my top picks.
Solar Pool Heaters: My Top Picks
Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System
⭐ Best for Inground Pools
We chose the Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System as the best option for inground pools. It uses polypropylene materials and features 80 square feet of panels. Each panel array is four feet wide by 20 feet long.
You can mount this on a roof, but the installation kit comes separately. The heater does come with four rubber connectors and hose clamps. I found that this heater is not the easiest to install, but if you follow the instructions, you should be fine.
It promises to increase your pool temperature by 6 to 10 degrees. I found that it does an excellent job at heating, and it will often increase water temperatures by much more than 10 degrees. It all depends on your location and how much sun the heater gets each day.
- Keep your pool warm with a polypropylene heat collector. Direct Flow System - One Header Hole for Each Heating Tube
- Solar heater features 80 square feet of solar panels
- Pool accessory is perfect for heating any in-ground swimming pool
- Panel array measures 4 feet wide x 20 feet long. Raises Pool Water Temperature 6-10°F (4-6°C)
- Installation kit required (Sold Separately)
- Two panels
- 4 feet by 20 feet
- Roof mountable
- For pumps up to 1.5 HP
- Excels at heating water more than the guaranteed temperature
- Accessories readily available
- It May be vulnerable to leaks
- Cannot handle the full flow from the pump
Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System
⭐ Best for Above Ground Pools
The best heater for above ground pools, in my opinion, is the Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System. A standout feature of this heater is the various mounting options. You can mount it on a roof, but you can also use a rack or lay it out on the ground.
Don’t worry about durability, either. This is a tough product that isn’t going to easily break down or suffer damage. It should last multiple seasons.
You get a 4-foot by 20-foot panel that comes with one bypass valve, one 1/2 inch barb connection, six mounting straps, 12 mounting bases, 12 mounting caps, and 20 rubber tube plugs. You’ll also get an instruction manual. The materials used to make the panel is U.V. stabilized polyethylene.
It features extra-large tubes to allow for your full pump strength to run through it. You’ll get the optimal performance if your heater gets full sun for at least eight hours daily. The heater provides an increase in water temperature of 5 to 10 degrees. Check out my article on heating your above ground pool for more options.
- V. protected material
- 4-foot by 20-foot panel
- Includes installation kit
- Extra-large tubes
- Multiple installation options
- 10-year warranty
- Can support stronger pumps
- Versatile installation
- Excellent durability and construction
- Rack for mounting sold separately
- Hard to make warranty claims
XtremepowerUS Inground/Above Ground Solar Panel Heating System
⭐ Best Roof Installed Solar Panel Heating System
The XtremepowerUS Inground/Above Ground Swimming Pool Solar Panel Heating System is my pick for the best roof-installed solar panel heating system because it is easy to install. The product uses polypropylene and has a panel tube construction.
You’ll get two 2-foot by 20-foot panels. They can handle up to 1.5 HP pumps. You will need a diverter if you have a larger pump to avoid damage to the heater tubes. I found the heater does not have U.V. protection, so it breaks down in the intense sun if you live in an extreme environment.
It should raise your water temperature to 10 degrees but results will vary. It depends on how much sun your panel can get each day as to how much it can raise the water temperature.
- XtremepowerUS Panels are built from extremely high-grade materials that are proven to last in all types of weather
- Pools pump and filter system circulates pool water through the SOLAR PANELS when it is heated & then returned to your pool. Once installed, these...
- System is designed to be used on above-ground or in-ground pools. Each kit is made of - 2' x 20'ft panels. Each panel is made of lightweight,...
- Quantity of these solar panels needed is dependent on the pool size and the location, which may estimate by some websites.
- Diverter kit may be required for pumps 1.5hp and greater. Sold separately under item number B01FNE41HA, panels are Hand cut and may not be identical...
- 2-2-foot by 20-foot panels
- For pumps up to 1.5 HP
- Easy installation
- Simple to roll up and store
- Quality issues with unevenness
- May not fare well in extreme climates
SunHeater Pool Heating System
⭐ Best Board Mounting Option
The SunHeater Pool Heating System is my choice for the best board mounting option. It gives you some flexibility if you don’t have roof space or don’t want to mount your heater on the roof. It also allows you to ensure you get the best possible sun exposure.
You’ll get two 2-foot by 20-foot panels made of polypropylene. Coming with the panels are six stainless steel hose clamps, two elbows, one roll of Teflon tape, four end caps, and rubber connector hoses. It’s a universal system, which means it should work with almost every pool setup.
This heater uses a tube-web-tube design, which makes it unique. The design style helps to increase the amount of heat it can capture and provides flexibility that keeps the panels from breaking down over the season. It also adds durability with its fiberglass-reinforced over-molded header.
The range of how much heat you’ll get from this system is pretty large. It could be anywhere from 6 degrees to 20 degrees that it increases your water temperatures.
- SOLAR POOL HEATER – The SunHeater Solar Pool Heating System allows you to capture free heat from the sun’s rays to effectively raise your pool...
- EXTENDS POOL SEASON – Your pool’s pump pushes the water through the panel’s many tubes where it’s warmed by the sun and then returned into the...
- EASY TO INSTALL – This pool solar heater uses your existing filtration system and has 4 end caps, 2 elbows for flex hose connection, 6 stainless...
- TUBE ON WEB DESIGN – The tube-web-tube design allows the SunHeater to capture the most sun possible, maximizing square footage. It offers rigid...
- DIMENSIONS – The SunHeater Solar Pool Heater includes two 2’ x 20’ panels, made of durable polypropylene. It’s a universal system that works...
- 2 2-foot by 20-foot panels
- Includes installation supplies
- Tube-web-tube design
- Fiberglass reinforced over-molded header
- Universal compatibility
- Exceeds expectations on increasing water temperature
- Doesn’t get brittle in intense sun
- Includes ample installation supplies
- Susceptible to pinhole leaks
GAME 4721-BB SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater
⭐ Best Curved Option
If you want something a little different, take a look at my pick for the best curved pool heater. The GAME 4721-BB SolarPro Curve Solar Pool Heater is a one-panel heater that sits on built-in legs. Its curved design allows it to maximize the heat it can collect.
It also features a transparent cover that locks in the heat and minimizes heat loss. The heater is 27.56 inches by 44.88 inches, so it is a space-saving option.
The heater allows for versatility in plumbing and is compatible with most pumps. You can adjust it as needed for maximum sun exposure using the legs.
You should note this is for gradual heating only. You’ll see about a 5-degree increase in water temperature.
- SOLAR POOL HEATER: The GAME SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater has been designed for above-ground and most inground pools. It increases the pool...
- DURABLE CONSTRUCTION: We’ve designed this above-ground solar pool heater with high-quality materials that will hold up against frequent exposure to...
- UNIQUE CURVED SHAPE: The GAME solar pool heater has been engineered with a unique curved shape that maximizes heat collection. The treaded ports have...
- ADJUSTABLE LEGS: This solar heater is compatible with Intex, Bestways, and most above and inground pools. The adjustable and foldable legs allow the...
- THE PERFECT GRADUAL HEATER: This solar pool heater is not intended to be a miracle-cure heater. It’s designed to extend your pool season by...
- Curved design
- Clear cover
- Adjustable legs
- 56 inches by 44.88 inches
- One panel
- Hoses included
- Very easy to install
- Large tubes for more water flow
- Doesn’t take up much space
- Requires full sun most of the day to provide heat
- The legs aren’t as robust as the rest of the unit
GAME 4714 SolarPRO Contour Solar Pool Heater for Intex
⭐ Best Compact Solar Pool Heater
The GAME 4714 SolarPRO Contour Solar Pool Heater for Intex is my pick for the best compact solar pool heater. It’s a self-contained unit that sits on adjustable legs. It has a unique dome shape, which uses the greenhouse effect to raise the heat containment. It offers an increase in water temperatures of five degrees.
It is easy to install because you will sit it near your pool and only need to connect the hoses to your system. However, you should keep in mind that you want it to be in a very sunny area. If the heater does not have sun exposure for most of the day, it will likely not produce results.
The unit is relatively durable. You shouldn’t have issues with the legs breaking. They adjust quickly as needed. It is also effortless to move around if you want to maintain sun exposure.
- For pools up to 10,000 gallons, Solar Dome Heater creates "Green House" effect to increase heat transfer;No electric or gas connections
- Water Capacity 1.5 gallon. Heats 5 degrees Fahrenheit in 6 days.
- 1.5 HP Pump, upto 19 GPM flow rate
- Injection molded, foldable legs
- Adapters for Intex & Best way pools included
- Dome shape
- Adjustable legs
- Includes hoses
- Easy to install
- Durable design
- Included hoses are short
- Must have full sun most of the day for heating effects
Sun2Solar Blue Solar Cover
⭐ Best Solar Cover
The last pick on my list is not a typical solar pool heater, but it does produce similar results. The best solar cover choice is the Sun2Solar Blue Solar Cover. It is a rectangular cover featuring air bubbles that trap the heat.
The cover will also help to keep heat in your pool when the sun goes down. It can prevent the loss of up to 10 degrees overnight.
Using a cover also helps to prevent the evaporation of water and chemicals. Plus, it keeps debris out. Together these benefits reduce your pool maintenance.
The cover measures 4 feet by 8 feet. You can trim this to fit your pool using any basic scissors. Put the bubble side down for maximum heat.
You should note that pool covers generally last about two years. That’s the industry average. This pool cover tends to only last one season, especially in areas with intense sun. If you think a cover is a better fit for you, read my guide on the best solar pool covers or a liquid solar cover might be a good option for you.
- ATTRACTIVE BLUE DESIGN - Sun2Solar solar blankets are made from a film of thousands of tiny bubbles, which work together to collect and retain heat...
- MINIMIZE WATER EVAPORATION - The use of a solar cover helps in preventing up to 95% of pool water evaporation. When not enjoying a refreshing swim,...
- JUMP INTO WARMTH - Show friends and family your bravery by jumping in without the standard toe dip. Enter the swimming pool confidently knowing the...
- HEAT RETENTION - After everyone has called it a day with wrinkled fingers from too much fun in the sun, make sure to place this solar cover back atop...
- TRIM TO FIT - Your pool may be uniquely shaped and getting the right fit is as easy as finding a marker and sharp pair of scissors. Have the bubbles...
- 4-foot x 8-foot rectangle
- Heat-retention bubbles
- Easy to size to your pool
- Simple to use
- Keep pool clean and warm
- Bubbles may separate from the cover over time
Recap: The Best Solar Pool Heaters
- Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System: Best for Inground Pools
- Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System: Best for Above Ground Pools
- XtremepowerUS Inground/Above Ground Solar Panel Heating System: Best Roof Installed Solar Panel Heating System
- SunHeater Pool Heating System: Best Board Mounting Option
- GAME 4721-BB SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater: Best Curved Option
- GAME 4714 SolarPRO Contour Solar Pool Heater for Intex: Best Compact Solar Pool Heater
- Sun2Solar Blue Solar Cover: Best Solar Cover
My Research Criteria
Below is the criteria I used to make my choices for my list of best solar pool heaters. It mainly consisted of four major factors:
- Climate needs
- Heating strength
When it comes to size, you need to match your pool heater to the size of your pool. You may need to buy multiple panels if you have a larger pool. However, keep in mind that this will increase the amount of space you need for installation. For most solar panel installations, I recommend getting a solar collector set that is roughly 60-70% of your pool’s surface area, which should keep everything fairly well heated. If you don’t know the size of your pool, use my pool volume calculator.
Also keep in mind that inground pools and above ground pools typically use two separate types of solar collectors. For above ground pools, it is pretty easy to stash your solar panels right next to your pool wall. However, for inground pools, that’s not typically an option because of how much it obstructs your pool deck, so a better option is away from the pool or on your roof.
Climate needs refer to how much sun you get. Some of the heaters on my list do better with less sun than others. I have a few that require a full day of sun to increase your water temperature even minimally, so keep that in mind as you shop. Make sure the installation option you choose will allow you to take full advantage of the sun, whether that’s on the roof or mounted on a board next to your pool.
Durability is essential because you want to get the best possible heater for your money. Solar pool heaters will often have a short life span because of the intensity of heat and the sun rays they are subject to every day during the season. However, the best solar pool heaters will have U.V. protection and other design features to help make them stronger and handle extreme conditions.
Heating Strength & Performance
Heating strength is crucial to choosing the right solar heater. Solar pool heater performance is measured in British thermal unit per square foot per day, or Btu/ft² per day. But for the purposes of your research, just look for how quickly the system can heat up a certain square footage of a pool and do the math for your own setup. For some people, an increase of five degrees is enough, and I have some heaters on my list that average that. However, I also catered to those of you who need more heat with heaters that can increase temperatures up to 20 degrees.
Everyone’s needs are a bit different when buying a solar pool heater. You should always look for the heater that you can install in the way you want and that can handle the size of your pool. Don’t forget to also consider the overall heating strength, durability, and any special features the heater has. Also, you will need to learn how solar heaters work before your purchase one.
If you want a full in depth analysis of the cost of this kind of equipment, you can check out my article which has the full cost breakdown of solar pool heaters.
Questions? Drop me a line and we’ll be happy to help in any way I can!
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