How Effective Are Solar Pool Covers?

Written by Michael Dean
September 21, 2023

sun shining on solar pool cover

Solar pool covers are a popular option for tons of swimming pool owners to retain heat – but are they actually effective? And can they save you money? That’s what I’m exploring today.

In this article, I examine several data studies to determine solar pool cover effectiveness, factors that determine effectiveness, lifespan, and whether they are really worth the purchase. Let’s get into it.

Main Takeaways

  • Solar pool covers act as an insulator, heating the pool water beneath.
  • Factors like weather, air temperature, cover thickness, and pool depth influence effectiveness.
  • Studies show that solar pool covers are 94.9% effective.

How Solar Pool Covers Work

Simply put, solar pool covers are essentially blankets for your pool that float on the surface of your pool. They’re made from a material similar to a very heavy-duty bubble wrap, allowing you to leave it floating on the surface of the water without mounting it. The inside of the cover has bubbles to insulate the water, while the outer layer is completely flat.

The solar pool cover allows sunlight to enter the pool and heat the water. The heated water is then trapped under the bubbles in the cover, resulting in no temperature loss and no evaporation. This is an eco-friendly way to heat your pool and save you money.

Effectiveness of Solar Pool Covers

The effectiveness of solar pool covers depends on several different factors. Generally, four factors will determine the effectiveness of the pool cover.


Weather is the most significant determining factor in the effectiveness of a solar pool cover. If you live in an area where the weather is typically cold and overcast, your solar pool cover won’t be as effective as if you lived in a hot, sunny area.

Air Temperature

Again, if the air temperature is cold, it will take your solar pool cover longer to heat the water than if it were warmer.

Cover Thickness and Color

The thickness of your solar pool cover is another important factor that affects the effectiveness of the heating. The thicker your cover, the more heat is trapped in the pool. Be sure to avoid darker colors when choosing a solar pool cover. The lighter colors provide more clarity, allowing more sunlight to enter your pool.

Pool Depth

The depth of your pool can determine how effective your solar pool cover will be. Deeper water takes longer to heat and will not generally retain the heat for as long. In contrast, shallow pools will heat up quicker with a solar pool cover.

Studies on Effectiveness

I have included two helpful case studies highlighting the effectiveness of solar pool covers concerning water evaporation and heat loss.

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering – California Polytechnic State University Case Study

The first study undertaken was by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at California Polytechnic State University in 2016. Their study aimed to test how effective solar pool covers were against water evaporation, one of the biggest causes of water temperature loss.


Cover TypeAverage Efficiency (%)
Liquid Evaporation Suppressant A14.4
Liquid Evaporation Suppressant B15.8
Solid Track Cover93.9
Foam Cover95.9
Bubble Cover94.9
Solar Disk50.1


The bubble cover is the solar pool cover this article focuses on. This study illustrates the effectiveness of the solar pool cover compared to the other available variants. According to The Reduce Swimming Pool Energy Costs! (RSPEC!) program, evaporation counts for at least 70% of heat loss in water temperature. By placing a solar pool cover on your indoor or outdoor pool, you can expect water loss to drop drastically. In fact, California Polytechnic State University studies suggest that by covering 70% of your water surface area, you can reduce evaporation by at least 55%.

Energy Smart Pools Program – Chesaning Union Middle School Case Study

A study was conducted by the Chesaning Union School as part of their ongoing energy conservation efforts. The school district looked to its large swimming pool to try to save money. The school installed a bubble solar pool cover to their pool, approximately 45′ x 75′ in size.

They observed a decrease in evaporation within eight months of using the solar pool covers. So their need to add more water to the pool was reduced by 65%. This is a clear example of how beneficial and effective a solar pool cover is, even on such a massive pool.

Reduced Energy Costs

Another way to tell if your solar pool cover is effective is to look at your energy costs. Heating a pool with electricity or gas can add up very quickly, especially if you have a large pool. By using a solar pool cover, your energy costs will be reduced by a large amount.

Several studies have provided data on reduced energy costs.

Case StudyAverage energy cost cuts (%)
Energy Saver50 – 70
Michigan Energy Office50
California Polytechnic State University30
RSPEC Program50 – 70
Chesaning Union Middle School55

As you can see, the consensus is that solar pool covers are effective heaters for your pool water.

How Long Do Solar Pool Covers Last?

The lifespan of solar pool covers is dependent on three factors, Chlorine levels, heat levels the cover is exposed to, and the number of microns in your cover. Typically higher-end solar covers last around 6 – 12 years if well maintained.

Chlorine: As the solar pool cover spends most of its time floating on top of the water, it is exposed to the chemicals in the water. The higher chlorine levels in your water can cause deterioration in the cover. By ensuring your pool chlorine and pH levels are balanced, you can prolong the lifespan of your cover.

Heat: If you live in a particularly hot and sunny area, the solar pool cover takes the brunt of the sunlight. Therefore, over time, the material deteriorates. To combat this, invest in solar covers that offer the best durability. Cheaper models will generally not be made of sturdy material and will not last as long.

Microns: Microns are a unit of measurement, which refers to the thickness of the bonded material layers between the bubbles. The higher the count of microns, the more durable your solar pool cover. For example, a 500-micron solar pool cover will last 6-8 years, whereas a 600-micron cover will last 10-12 years.

Are Solar Pool Covers Worth It?

There is no simple yes or no answer to this question. It all depends on your personal needs and what you want to gain from using a solar pool cover.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way of heating your pool, then no, they’re not worth it. Solar pool covers can be cumbersome to place on and off the pool. And they also require regular cleaning, which takes some effort with larger covers.

However, if you’re looking to reduce energy costs and be environmentally friendly, then yes, they are definitely worth it. The initial investment is quite expensive, but it will save you money in the long run because there are zero ongoing costs.

Need Some Maintenance Help?

Send me a message! I can answer any of your pool maintenance, equipment, or other questions.

Solar Pool Covers Can Retain Heat and Save You Money

As the world moves towards a “greener” future, it might be time to consider a solar pool cover for your pool. According to the studies provided above, they are 94.9% effective at heating your pool water, reducing energy costs, and saving you money.

If you’re interested in getting a solar cover, check out my top picks for the best solar pool cover and my guide on liquid solar covers. You can also read some of my other research below.

Questions? Let me know.

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