How Effective Are Solar Pool Covers?

Leaving your pool vacant during the chilly winter months can feel like a waste after all the time and money you spent getting it set up and maintained. One simple cost-effective way of lengthening your swimming season is to use a solar pool cover.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about solar pool covers, including how they work, their effectiveness, their lifespan, and whether they are really worth the purchase.


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 up the water. The heated water is then trapped under the bubbles in the cover, resulting in no loss of temperature 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

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 has been 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 into 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 that highlight the effectiveness of solar pool covers with reference to 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.

Results:

Cover Type Average Efficiency (%)
Liquid Evaporation Suppressant A 14.4
Liquid Evaporation Suppressant B 15.8
Solid Track Cover 93.9
Foam Cover 95.9
Bubble Cover 94.9
Solar Disk 50.1

TABLE 1: EVAPORATION REDUCTION EFFICIENCIES OF POOL COVERS

The bubble cover is the solar pool cover this article focuses on. This study illustrates how effective the solar pool cover is 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 just 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.

Within 8 months of using the solar pool covers, they observed a decrease in evaporation. 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 of telling if your solar pool cover is actually 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 Study Average energy cost cuts (%)
Energy Saver 50 – 70
Michigan Energy Office 50
California Polytechnic State University 30
RSPEC Program 50 – 70
Chesaning Union Middle School 55

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 making sure 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.

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Bottom Line

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 and 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 guides below.

Questions? Let me know.

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