There are a lot of covers you can choose from when deciding the best way to protect your swimming pool. Some of them are extra safe for children, others are super durable—all have their benefits. If you’re looking to keep your pool extra energy efficient and save yourself some money, a solar cover for your pool is a great option.
What is a solar cover?
Solar covers have many names: solar blanket, thermal blanket, solar cover, pool blanket—all of these refer to a cover that floats on the surface of your pool and magnifies the sun’s rays to warm the water while preventing evaporation.
What does it look like?
Solar blankets come in all shapes and sizes and can be cut to fit your pool. Some solar covers are clear, which comes with the added benefit of raising your pool temperature by up to 12 degrees. Conventional solar covers that are opaque or two-colored only reflect a portion of the sun’s rays. The clear versions magnifies and radiates more of the heat, increasing the water temperature.
A solar cover is made up of thousands of tiny air pockets, much like bubble wrap, that work to keep in the heat. The clear versions allow the sunlight to pass through the sheeting and heat the pool.
Solar blankets come in all sizes, thicknesses, and materials. Look for a brand that is made out of a UV resistant vinyl that won’t deteriorate in the sun.
What does it do?
The benefits of a solar cover are numerous, with some of the most popular including heat retention, evaporation minimization, and cutting down on the amount of chemicals used in the pool.
Solar covers work to raise the temperature by the pool up to 12 degrees because the tiny air pockets capture heat from the sun and transfer it to the pool water while also acting as insulators to prevent heat from escaping off of the surface of the water. Despite the fact that the surface area of a pool is large, not much sunlight that hits the pool is actually being converted into heat. A staggering 75% of a swimming pool’s heat loss is due to evaporation and the cover acts as a barrier between the water and air to keep it all in. You can reduce your swimming pool heating costs up to 70% using a solar cover because solar radiation is directly converted into usable heat and could potentially heat the water by 5 degrees for each 12 hours of coverage.
A pool solar cover is also very effective in indoor pools that can also lose heat through the cooler air. It’s doing most of its work overnight when the air is cooler than the water in the pool and without the aid of a solar blanket, would lose a significant amount during the night hours.
A solar cover on your pool keeps in heat as well as water by retaining as much as 95% of the original water. If you live in a particularly hot and dry climate, evaporation is increased with exposure to the surface of the pool. Covering that surface means that more water is reserved. This is an absolutely vital trait for pool owners who are in places that are experiencing a drought.
Reduced Chemical Depletion
Coupled with preventing evaporation, less water lost to the heat of the sun means that you will need to replenish your pool’s chemistry much less because a solar blanket can reduce a pool’s chemical consumption by 35%-60%. Being exposed to the sun without a cover means that the chemicals in the pool are broken down much more rapidly and will need to be replenished more often.
The reduction in chemical depletion means you are reducing your costs as a pool owner and can be considered a form of energy conservation. Covers also typically keep out dirt and debris which makes keeping your pool clean and the water chemistry balanced much easier.
How do I know what size to get?
Solar pool covers typically come in a wide array of sizes, assuming that you will cut it down to size to custom fit your pool. Simply match the dimensions to the widest and longest points of your pool and lay the solar cover onto the surface, let the packing wrinkles settle, and then trim the edges with a good pair of scissors to match the exact shape. You can also cut tabs that will fit into your skimmers. The more area that is covered, the better!
How do I take it on and off?
One of the few drawbacks of the solar cover is that it needs to be removed completely with each use and oftentimes, that’s done by hand. However, you can purchase an add-on system that will remove and replace the cover (with some help). There are some manual reel versions as well as some automatic systems available to the consumer.
If you don’t want a retraction system, just fold and unfold the cover per use being sure to not store in the sunlight when it’s not being used in the water. This sun will cause the cover to heat significantly, causing the plastic material to degrade rapidly.
How long does a solar cover last?
If cared for properly and not left out in the sun when not in use, most pool owners can get up to three years of use out of each cover. This is not a bad run considering how inexpensive a solar blanket is relative to a more permanent cover. Over time, you’ll notice your cover is deteriorating when it begins to flake and the bubbles begin to lose shape. Look for brands that sew their seams instead of heat-seal them, as heat-sealed seams can break down and separate with time.
When searching for a cover, keep in mind that the UV-resistant vinyl covers are most durable and many manufacturers offer up to a 3-year warranty.
What are the benefits/risks?
As we’ve noted, there are numerous benefits to the solar cover as it’s the cheapest and most effective solar-heating system for your pool that can extend your swim seasons and save you money. However, keep in mind that it’s not safe to have small children wandering around the pool as these covers can entangle anyone who many fall in. It’s also really important to remove the cover completely when swimming as someone swimming under the cover may get stuck and won’t be able to get the air they need. As long as it’s used appropriately and any children around it are properly supervised, there shouldn’t be any problems.
Inexpensive? Check. Saves you money? Check. If you’re in the market for a solar cover, I hope this guide of frequently asked questions help you to make up your mind. It really is a great way to optimize your water and make pool ownership that much more simple and enjoyable.