How Effective Are Solar Pool Heaters?

Written by Michael Dean
April 12, 2024

solar pool heater and checkmark

Over the years, more pool owners have started to look at more energy-efficient alternatives to pool equipment. One popular way to save energy is to use a solar pool heater. But how effective are solar pool heaters at keeping water warm compared to other heating systems?

I have compiled everything you need to know about the effectiveness of solar pool heaters, what they can or can’t do, and if they’re worth buying.

Main Takeaways

  • The efficiency of solar pool heaters depends on several different factors, including the size and location of the pool, the climate, and the size of the solar pool heater.
  • Solar pool heaters can increase water temperatures by 7 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Using pool covers in conjunction with solar heaters increases the effectiveness of solar heaters.

How Effective Are Solar Pool Heaters at Heating Your Pool?

The effectiveness of solar pool heaters depends on several different factors. These factors are as follows:

  • Size of pool
  • Location of the pool
  • Climate or weather in the area
  • Size of the chosen solar pool heater, such as the surface area covered
  • How much you are willing to spend on the installation

Solar pool heaters are an effective method of heating your pool water. The pool water is pumped into the solar panel collectors and warmed by the sun’s rays. Once sufficiently warmed, the water is circulated back into the pool water, which, as you can imagine, takes a good amount of plumbing. This cycle repeats itself throughout the day, gradually heating the pool water. While it may not heat the pool instantly, the build-up of heated water effectively keeps the water warm. You can easily expect an increase in pool temperature of 7 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

To really maximize the efficiency of solar pool heaters, use solar-based pool covers like solar blankets, rings, or liquid covers. Combine these covers with your solar heater, and you will be hard-pressed to doubt the efficiency of solar pool heaters.

How Does That Effectiveness Compare to Other Types of Pool Heaters?

In this section, I will compare the efficiency of solar pool heaters compared to electric and gas heaters.

Electric Heaters

An electrical pool heat pump setup is similar to an air conditioning unit. The heater uses a combination of both air and electricity to heat the water.

While some solar pool heaters can be as efficient as electrical heaters in some aspects, there are definitely areas that they fall short on. Most notably, solar heaters rely on sunlight, so cloudy days can really make it difficult to heat the pool as efficiently as an electrical heater can.

Electric heaters can heat the entire pool in a maximum of 7 hours, whereas solar heaters can take an entire day or more. To retain the heat for as long as possible, invest in a pool blanket or solar pool cover to trap the heat throughout the night.

While solar heaters are efficient at warming your pool water, they do not provide a constant temperature like some electrical heaters can. These small differences are what you would need to take into account to truly determine if a solar heater is for you.

Gas Heaters

Gas heaters are another type of pool heater that is often compared to solar heaters. Unlike solar or electric heaters, gas heaters can rapidly heat water. However, this comes at a high cost because gas heaters can be quite expensive to run. For this reason, most pool owners will use gas heating for smaller bodies of water such as hot tubs or spas. While the gas heater may be faster at heating, sustaining that heat for larger recreational pools is expensive. Thus, solar heaters could be considered more efficient at heating water simply because of the cost.

What Solar Pool Heaters Can’t Do (And Who Shouldn’t Get One)

There are many things solar pool heaters can do, like heating water using only the sun’s rays. But on the other hand, there are some things they cannot do that may be worthwhile to look at.

They Don’t Work on Not Sunny Days

When researching solar pool heaters, the most important thing to realize is that they rely solely on the sun’s rays, specifically direct sunlight. This means that the solar heater will not work on cloudy, misty, or foggy days. So, if you live in an area that doesn’t have many days of sunlight, investing in one will likely be a waste of your money. Similarly, your solar heater will not work if it is in a shaded area covered by trees.

They Don’t Work If You Don’t Have Roof or Garden Space

Because solar heaters require direct sunlight to heat pool water, the panels need to be placed on a roof or somewhere that gets as much sun exposure as possible. If you have limited roof or garden space, consider another type of pool heater.

They Don’t Work at Nighttime

Solar pool heaters cannot heat pool water throughout the evening when the sun goes down. Therefore, this may not be an option for people who prefer to swim in the evenings.

They Can’t Maintain a Constant Temperature

Unlike other pool heaters, you cannot set your solar heater to heat a certain temperature each day; the temperature can vary between 7 and 14 degrees.

They Can’t Heat Water Quickly

Solar pool heaters can take up to 2 days to heat the water. If you want a heater that will work rapidly, I recommend investing in a gas pool heater instead.

Is Solar Pool Heating Worth It?

There is no correct answer to this question, as it all comes down to personal opinion and what you want to get out of investing in a solar pool heater. If you’re looking for a greener alternative to pool heating, it is definitely worth it. And if you’re looking for a more cost-effective heater, the solar option is worth it. Although installation costs are high, they pay off in the long run since there are minimal ongoing costs. If you want a complete cost analysis, visit my article for the full cost breakdown of solar pool heaters.

However, on the other hand, solar pool heating wouldn’t be worth it if you live in a cloudy climate or are looking for a pool at constant warm temperatures.

To answer the question of whether solar pool heating is worth it or not really boils down to your own personal pool needs.

Do Solar Pool Heaters Work in the Winter?

There are many advantages to owning a solar pool heater, but one of the biggest drawbacks is that they, unfortunately, will not work correctly in colder winter weather. Fortunately, I have tips on how to prepare your pool for the colder months. They also will not efficiently heat the pool when there is cloud cover, rain, mist, or snow.

Need to Install a Pool Heater?

I partner with HomeAdvisor to help you find the best swimming pool heater installers in your area. Compare quotes for free from fully vetted pool heater professionals.

Is the Solar Heater for You?

Solar pool heaters are a cost-effective and environmentally friendly method to heat your pool water. However, they are not for everyone. There are several factors to consider before investing in a solar pool heater, and it is imperative to compare them to other pool heating options to truly make the best decision.

Scroll to Top