Solar Pool Heater Cost Breakdown

Written by Michael Dean
August 29, 2023

solar pool heater and cost analysis

Solar pool heaters can be a great way to heat your pool water without raising your energy bills. They can extend your swimming season, allowing you to enjoy your pool longer. But, like any home improvement project, there are costs to installing a solar pool heating system.

In this article, I will break down the costs of a solar pool heater, so that you see the upfront and ongoing expenses of this type of heater.


Main Takeaways

  • Solar pool heaters are an environmentally-friendly investment.
  • The upfront cost of a solar pool heater, including installation, can range from $3,000 to $7,000 for an inground pool or $1,000 to $2,500 for above ground pools.
  • Solar pool heaters have very little ongoing costs and can save you money on your energy bills and pay for themselves over time.

Average Upfront Costs for Solar Pool Heaters

The upfront cost for a solar pool heater is between $1,500 and $5,000 on average, but it will vary depending on the size and type of heater you choose.

Size is the most significant factor that will affect the cost of your pool heater. Solar pool heaters are available in various sizes to fit any pool size. You’ll need a larger and more expensive heating system if you have a large pool.

Other determining factors are your pool type and what kind of solar panels you want.

Above Ground Pools

Heating above ground pools is much less expensive. For smaller above ground pools, you can definitely find solar heaters for less than $1,000. But for medium to large above ground pools, the average cost lies somewhere between $1,000 and $2,500

Inground Pools

Solar pool heaters for inground pools tend to be more expensive as they tend to be larger and involve more complicated plumbing. The average cost of a solar pool heater for an inground pool is between $2,500 and $8,000. That said, there are some good budget options.

Glazed Solar Panels

The type of solar panel you choose will also affect the upfront cost. Glazed solar panels are more expensive than unglazed solar panels but are also more efficient. Glazed solar panels have a glass coating that helps to reflect sunlight and trap heat. This makes them more effective at heating your pool than unglazed solar panels.

If you choose to purchase glazed solar panels, you can expect to pay between $3,000 and $8,500, depending on the size of your pool.

Unglazed Solar Panels

Most solar pool heaters on the market are unglazed, and these solar panels are the more affordable option. Unglazed solar panels are made of black rubber or plastic and are less durable than their glazed counterparts. These solar panels also have a shorter lifespan, typically lasting between 5 and 7 years. Expect to pay between $200 to $4,000.

Polypropylene Solar Heaters

Wondering why there is such a massive price range for unglazed solar collectors? Well, thin polypropylene collectors are the cheapest option, and they can cost less than 50% as much as other options. These panels tend to be less efficient and are not as durable, but they have a much more accessible price point.

Installation Costs of Solar Pool Heaters

The installation cost of a solar pool heater will depend on the size and type of your pool and the type of solar pool heater you choose.

Pool Size

The size of your pool will also affect the installation of your solar pool heater. A solar pool heater for a small pool will be less expensive to install than for a larger pool.

On average, you can expect to pay between $500 and $1,500 to install a solar heater for a small pool and between $1,500 and $2,000 for a medium-sized pool. The costs can go up to $2,000 and $2,500 for a large pool.

Average Solar Pool Heater System Price By Size

The size of your solar pool heating system also plays a big part in the price of your solar pool heating system. Different climates and pools require more surface area to heat pools efficiently. In general, I recommend your solar collector surface area equal 50-100% of the surface area of your pool. So, if your pool has a surface area of 400 square feet, you should have between 200 and 400 square feet of solar collectors.

Solar panels come in three main thermal collector sizes: 4’x8′, 4’x10′, and 4’x20′.

Here are some of the average sizes for solar heating systems and the average cost for each size.

Pool Size (Square Feet)50% Solar Collector Coverage Cost75% Solar Collector Coverage Cost100% Solar Collector Coverage Cost
24′ diameter pool
452 square feet
226 square feet
Cost: $320-$2,000
339 square feet
Cost: $420-$3,000
452 square feet
Cost: $550-$3,500
16’x32′ rectangle pool
512 sq feet
256 square feet
Cost: $400-$2,500
384 square feet
Cost: 580-$3.500
512 square feet
Cost: $780-$4,500
20’x40′ rectangle pool
800 sq feet
400 square feet
Cost: $600-$3,700
600 square feet
Cost: $900-$5,000
800 square feet
Cost: $1200-$7,500

Pool Type

If you have an inground pool, the cost to install a solar pool heater will be higher than if you have an above ground pool. This is because inground pools require more plumbing and electrical work to install the solar pool heater. Solar heaters for above ground pools are not generally required to be mounted on the roof, so they can just sit propped up in an open area of your yard while in use.

On average, installing a solar heater for an inground pool will cost between $1,000 and $2,000 and between $500 and $1,000 for an above ground pool.

Operating Costs for Solar Pool Heaters

Solar pool heaters have little to no ongoing costs since they rely on free solar energy. However, although it costs nothing to run, you may come across a couple of other costs.

Electricity Cost for Filtration System

If you have a regular filtration system, you can continue to use it with your solar pool heater. There’s no need to buy a separate filtration system for your solar pool heater. The only additional cost you’ll incur is the cost of electricity to run your filtration system. The cost of electricity will vary depending on the size of your pool and the type of filtration system you have.

Winterization

If you live in an area with cold winters, you’ll need to winterize your solar pool heater. Winterization is the process of preparing your solar pool heater for the winter months. Winterization typically costs between $100 and $200.

Maintenance and Repairs Cost

Like any gas or electric heater, solar pool heaters must be properly maintained to function at their best and provide years of trouble-free service. The good news is that solar pool heaters are generally low maintenance, and the only ongoing costs you can expect are periodic cleaning and checking of the system.

Repairs and Replacement Costs

Although solar pool heaters require menial maintenance, they can still sometimes break down or need repairs like other mechanical systems. The most common issue is that solar collectors can become damaged, which will reduce their efficiency. Solar panel replacement can be expensive but still cheaper than replacing an entire gas or electric pool heater.

Other Repair Costs

Other potential repairs include leaky pipes or connections, which a qualified pool technician can easily fix. Overall, the costs of maintaining and repairing a solar pool heater are much lower than those of other pool heaters. Expect to pay between $100 to $700 to fix issues with your solar pool heater.

Need Some Maintenance Help?

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

Solar Pool Heater Cost Compared To Other Heating Options

Solar pool heaters are the most expensive pool heating option when it comes to upfront costs. Gas and electric heaters cost less to purchase initially. However, these options have ongoing costs as you have to pay for power and resources to keep them running. On the other hand, solar pool heaters are free to run and require very few, if any, ongoing costs.

Gas Heater vs. Solar Heater

Gas heaters don’t cost as much as solar heaters to initially purchase. Many units can cost well under $1,000, and while installation can be pricy, buying and installing a new gas heater still costs much less than the average solar heating system at around $1,200-$6,200. Keep in mind that gas heaters can be pretty expensive to run, depending on your region and the affordability of natural gas.

Electric Heat Pump vs. Solar Heater

Electric heat pumps cost a bit more than gas heaters but are still cheaper than solar heaters. You can expect to pay between $1,800-$6,700 for the unit. While installing them may be pretty easy in some cases, if you don’t have experience installing appliances, you may need to hire a professional, which may cost an additional $500. Electric heat pumps are more energy efficient than gas heaters, but they still will eat into your power bill, which will cost you more in the long run.

Solar Pool Cover vs. Solar Heater

Using a solar pool cover on its own can only go so far. Solar covers are designed to retain the heat in your pool water and, in some cases, raise the temperature by a couple of degrees, but they are not an effective option for warming up a pool quickly. However, using a solar cover along with another heating source is a great way to warm your pool faster and retain the water temperature. A good quality pool cover will only cost you between $50-$200, and you can easily install it yourself.

Average Cost Of Solar Pool Heaters By Brand

Here is the average cost of some of the market’s most popular solar pool heaters.

Intex Solar Heating Mat (Small Above Ground Pools Only)

Price: $29 per mat

This is a great affordable solar pool heating system if you have a small above ground pool and want to heat it by 3-5 degrees. Keep in mind that most pool owners opt to use more than one solar heating mat, so you have to purchase 3-4 of these for the best results in your above ground pool.

GAME SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater

Price: $359 per panel

This unique design maximizes the amount of sunlight absorbed by the panel. This is an excellent option for an above ground pool, but it can also be used for inground pools. That said, don’t expect an inground pool to warm by more than a few degrees with this solar heater. Keep in mind this price is only for one solar collector. If you have a larger pool, you will need multiple collectors.

Smart Pool Inground Pool Solar Heating System

Price: $425

This is your best option if you are looking for an affordable roof-mounted inground pool heater. The Smart Pool Solar Heating System will heat your pool by more than 10 degrees in some cases! With sustained sunlight, this solar heater will keep your pool water warm and extend your swimming season.

Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System

Price: $360

This is a good quality solar pool heater that can be used for either inground or above ground pools. It is durable, easy to set up, and will warm your pool water by 5-10 degrees. The Fafco Solar Bear is good quality for the money, so get ready for warm and comfortable pool water.

XtremepowerUS Swimming Pool Solar Panel Heating System

$99 for two panels

This pool heater is unique because it is sold in increments of 2 panels. So, you can purchase as many panels as necessary depending on your needs and your pool’s size. XtremepowerUS’s solar heater is a great option for inground or above ground pool owners who want a good quality heater that can heat their pool by up to 10 degrees.

How To Determine How Much Coverage You Need

As I mentioned above, to effectively heat your pool, you’ll need solar panels that are around 50-100% of the surface area of your pool. You’ll need to consider a couple of factors when determining how many solar collectors to install.

Climate

The climate of your region obviously plays a huge role in how much power you need to heat your pool water. If you want to extend your pool season by two months and heat your water by up to 10 degrees, you should consider at least getting 60-75% of your pool surface area in solar panels. But if your region only gets slightly colder in the winter, you may not need to get as many solar panels.

Solar Pool Cover

Solar pool covers are a great tool for warming your water. These blankets sit on top of the water and insulate the warmth to prevent heat from escaping and water from evaporating. Using a pool cover alongside solar collectors can increase the effectiveness of your system and reduce the number of solar collectors you’ll need.

How Many Months Do You Plan To Use Your Pool

The amount of time you plan to extend your pool season also contributes to how many solar collectors you will need. If you only want to extend your swimming season by a month or two, you won’t need to warm the water too much, so 50-60% of your pool surface area in solar panel coverage should do the trick. But if you want to use the pool year-round, you will need up to 100% or more coverage, depending on how cold your region gets.

Are Solar Pool Heaters Worth It?

Solar pool heaters are a great way to save money on energy costs. The upfront cost of a solar heating system can be higher than a traditional gas or electric pool heater, but the ongoing costs are much lower. In fact, solar pool heaters generally cost pool owners exactly $0 a month in the long run.

It can certainly help raise your pool temperature to the desired level if you live in a mild climate, especially paired with a solar pool cover. However, solar water heaters are less effective than electric or gas pool heaters. So, I recommend going with gas or electric if you live in colder weather or don’t have great sun exposure. Solar panels are also environmentally friendly and can help you reduce your carbon footprint (find out how a solar pool heater works before purchasing one as well). If you’re interested in a solar model, check out my research on the best solar pool heating system. And if solar heating isn’t your style, feel free to check out my recommendations on the best swimming pool heaters.

If you have more questions, feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help!

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