Swimming pools are a great place to spend some time after a long day’s work. They are also a great place to exercise and to burn some calories. At other times, pools are a good place to socialize as well. However, when one thinks of a swimming pool, they imagine a relaxing, comfortable experience, and having bone-chilling water is not something that one would really enjoy. This is why pool heaters are important. In this article, we shall be taking a closer look at pool heaters, and help you find the best solar pool heater for your swimming pool!
Over the years, solar pool heaters have become quite popular and hundreds of brands make their own solar pool heaters now. Each of them helps you heat your pool, but how do you differentiate between them and know which is the best such heater for your swimming pool? As you read this article in detail, you will find out how to pick the best one for your needs with the help of our Buyer’s Guide.
While a solar pool heater is a great way to heat up your pool, it is not the only way in which that can be done. We shall also discuss some other kinds of heaters without getting into vivid details. We shall also look at what ideal temperatures for a swimming pool are, as well as at how to determine how big a heater you need.
Swimming in a pool that has warm water offers you many benefits. In fact, most regulatory authorities advise against swimming in cold-water pools because that is not good for your breathing and your heart as well. Warm water pools, on the other hand, have only benefits to offer.
Owning a swimming pool is quite an investment. Maintaining a pool is an even bigger challenge. This is why all pool-owners need to read this article so that they understand why getting a solar pool heater is great for their swimming pool, as well as for the comfort of the swimmers.
8 Best Solar Pool Heater in 2021
Let us now take a closer look at everything that you need to know about swimming pool heaters:
What is the Ideal Swimming Pool Temperature?
Considering that you are using the pool for actual swimming and not just chilling around, there is actually a specified set of temperature-related guidelines that you need to follow. There are some general guidelines and then there are some age-specific guidelines that need to be followed when it comes to setting an ‘ideal’ swimming pool temperature:
1. General Swimming Pool Temperatures
As per Mayo Clinic, a pool temperature ranging between 83°F and 88°F is ideal for swimmers. If you are looking for temperature details in Celcius, you might want to keep your pool temperatures ranging between 28 C to 31 C.
2. Swimming Pool Temperatures for Senior Citizens
Senior citizens usually need warmer waters. Something between 86 F to 88 F is generally well suited. For those undergoing hydrotherapy, the temperature varies between 91 F to 95 F.
United States Water Fitness Association points out that when it comes to people with arthritis, temperatures should ideally be kept at 83 F. It can be a little warmer, but going colder than that would mean subjecting the swimmers to health risks.
3. Swimming Pool Temperatures for Competitive Swimmers
If you are looking for pool temperatures for competitive events, the International Swimming Federation and the Red Cross have declared that the temperature of the pool needs to be between 77 F to 82 F, which is somewhere between 25 C to 28 C.
4. Swimming Pool Temperatures for Kids
Younger swimmers generally prefer warmer waters. Data from United States Water Fitness Association (USWFA) states that very young (preschool) swimmers require water temperatures between 88 F to 94 F. 3-5-year-olds require a temperature ranging between 86 F to 90 F. For 6 to 13-year-olds, the temperature needs to be between 84 F to 86 F.
Swimming Pool Heaters: Why Do You Need Them?
Water in a swimming pool does not remain at a constant temperature at all times. While warm water is still safer to swim in, having a pool full of bone-chilling cold water is not an ideal condition for swimmers and has adverse effects on their cardiovascular system.
Especially when it comes to the winter months, water in some places can go to temperatures that are unfit for swimming. This extends the swimming season for your pool, and if you own a private pool, you can take a dip in these warm waters even in the coldest of months and enjoy some quality time with your friends and family.
Besides, when you swim in cold water, your body heat is being drained much faster compared to standing in cold air. Your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure all go out of control and it also increases the chances of drowning because your body isn’t functioning in the usual, normal way.
Swimming in cold water causes cold shock and hypothermia, a condition where you are losing heat faster than gaining it. This is bad for you and can even prove fatal at times. This is one of the biggest reasons why a pool heater is essential for every swimming pool, particularly during the colder months.
Besides, warmer waters make swimming easier and a more pleasurable experience. If you are a pool owner, make sure you are using a good quality pool heater so that those swimming in your pool are comfortable in all seasons.
However, when it comes to choosing a pool heater, there are more options than just a solar pool heater. While this article primarily focuses on solar pool heaters, it is also important to know what are the other options out there:
Different Types of Swimming Pool Heaters
These are the three main types of pool heaters that you can purchase to keep your pool waters warm –
1. Gas Pool Heaters
Gas pool heaters run on gas and used to be among the most common types of pool heaters back in the day when propane was cheaper. How these heaters work is that they run your pool water through a series of copper coils and re-release it into the pool. These heated copper coils heat the water that passes through them. Setting up these heaters is quite easy too. However, their biggest drawback is perhaps the fact that it takes forever to heat the water using these heaters.
- Easy to set up
- Simple mechanism
- Expensive to run and maintain
- Not environment friendly
- Take a long time to heat water
2. Electric Pool Heaters
If you are looking for pool heaters that are quicker compared to gas pool heaters, electric heaters are the way to go. They aren’t as expensive to maintain when compared to gas heaters, and can also warm up your water very quickly. Instead of heating using coils, the water is heated using hot air in this case. There’s a pump that draws water from the pool into the heater, and hot air is constantly being blown onto it, which heats up the water.
However, the problem here is that the cost of running this solar heating system is too high in terms of electricity bills – as you need to keep these running for long hours. When you turn the heater off, the water will start cooling out pretty quickly.
- Simple and easy to operate
- Can cool the water very quickly
- Consumes a lot of electricity, and therefore are expensive to operate
3. Solar Pool Heaters
And now that you know about Gas Heaters and Electric Heaters, it is time to start discussing our topic at hand – Solar Pool Heaters. These heaters, as the name indicates, are solar-powered. This straight-up makes them the most environment-friendly option that we have got here.
These heaters are a little slower to operate when you compare them with electric heaters, but the fact that makes them really attractive is that they cost $0 in operation as they neither work on gas nor on electricity, but are powered by the energy of the sun. While regular heaters have a lifespan of about 5 to 7 years, these solar-powered heaters can easily last you about 15 years without much of a problem. You also get long warranty periods in most of these heaters.
- Environment Friendly
- Save a lot of electricity cost
- Very long lifespan
- Overcast days might be a problem
- Expensive initial cost
Different Types of Solar Pool Heaters
Now that you know which are the three main types of heaters, let us focus on solar pool heaters and take a closer look at the various options you have when it comes to buying this kind of pool heater.
1. Solar Heating Mats
These solar heating mats are a great option for you if you are looking forward to buying a solar pool heater for above-ground pools as they can heat up a small pool, but not something that is large and deep. These are basically a set of tubes that water passes through while they get heated by the sunlight.
Furthermore, chances are that having just one solar heating mat won’t suffice and you will need multiple of these in order to heat up an above-ground pool. The benefit that you get when you use these solar mats, however, is that you can use them almost anywhere and in any way. The size advantage is a major plus here. Intex Solar Heater Mat is one of the best options out there if a pool heating mat is what you are planning on buying.
Furthermore, since they don’t really work with solar panels or other such technologies and simply rely on heating the water using the natural heat of the sunlight, they are very cheap and inexpensive, costing you somewhere between $50 to $150 at the most. Some are even available under $50.
- Inexpensive to purchase and no operational cost
- Can be set up in any way you want them to
- Easy to store
- A good option to heat above-ground pools
- Not suitable for regular in-ground pools
- One mat won’t do. You will need multiple solar mats to heat up even a small above-ground pool
2. Solar Tube Heaters
This kind of solar pool heater makes use of a series of tubes as well as vacuum systems to heat up the water. Every tube in this heater carries two layers of glass inside them, with a vacuum present between these two layers. The function of the tubes is to absorb the sunlight and the heat, and the vacuum traps this heat and conserves it inside the tubes.
Since water is circulating within these tubes, the trapped heat is transferred onto the flowing water which gets heated when it passes through the tubes. Unlike solar mats, these are much faster and efficient when it comes to heating swimming pools, and can even heat regular in-ground swimming pools.
Another major difference between solar tube heaters and solar mats is that these heaters are a little more expensive when compared to the mats. Solar tube heaters generally cost you anywhere between $700 to $1000 and you need multiple units for a bigger pool. However, you can use these in cold climates because the heat that is trapped in the vacuum can be used to heat the water at any time, which is a big advantage.
- Fast and efficient heating of pools
- Great for regular in-ground pools too
- No additional cost of operation
- Installation can be a little tough and often requires professional help
3. Solar Covers
Solar covers aren’t really the most effective way of heating your pool water, but if your water is already hot and you want to prevent a loss of heat, using these covers is actually a good idea. Solar covers are generally used along with solar heaters and not in isolation, but can be used in isolation if you are living in a place where weather is generally moderate to hot in the daytime and you want your pool to retain that heat.
There are two kinds of solar covers that you can make use of – either solar blankets or solar rings. Solar blankets are covers that cover up the entire pool at once. Solar rings can cover smaller areas of the pool and you need multiple rings to cover up one pool. However, solar rings are much cheaper in comparison.
- A good way to retain heat
- A great companion accessory to a solar heater
- Not an actual heater, can only retain heat
4. Roof-Mounted Solar Pool Heaters
So when we talk about ‘solar pool heaters’, this is what we mean most of the time. These are, as the name indicates, placed onto a roof and then connected to a pump system. There’s a series of pipes and hoses that are needed and the water circulates through the whole system and when it is heated up, it comes back into the pool.
This kind of solar heating system can heat up the water really quickly. However, the biggest problem here is that of the cost. It can get really expensive to purchase and set up a roof-mounted solar pool heater. Besides the cost, the whole process can also be quite exhausting and would almost certainly require professional help because there are a number of hoses and pipes involved.
The whole process can run into thousands of dollars – but then the biggest benefit of them all is that you don’t really need anything else for the next 15-20 years! There’s no operational cost too, as the heating is done for free via the solar energy of the sun. SunQuest 10-2X12 Solar Swimming Pool Heater Complete System with Roof Kits is perhaps the best option out there for you if you are planning on buying this kind of pool solar heater.
- Last you for a much longer time
- Heat the water really quickly
- Can also be used to cool the water in warmer conditions
- Generally offers a much longer warranty period too
- Very expensive
Benefits of Using Solar Pool Heaters
There are a large number of benefits of using solar pool heating systems. The biggest being the fact that it is free to operate and has no costs of electricity or gas associated with it, but then there are more benefits too. Here’s a closer look at all the benefits that using solar pool heaters offers you:
1. Harnessing Free Solar Energy
First up, the biggest and the most obvious of the lot. Using a solar pool heater might seem expensive when you first get it, but over the years that you would be using it, you would realize that you have saved way too much on the cost of electricity and gas, that you would otherwise have had to pay had you been using a gas pool heater or an electric heater.
An electric heater requires electricity to operate while a gas pool heater needs gas. A solar pool heater, on the other hand, is totally free of any of these supplemental needs and functions solely on natural sunlight, which is free!
2. Minimal Operational Costs
When it comes to the maintenance of a heater, you will notice that other kinds of heaters require a lot of maintenance and often require to change some of their parts or get them serviced from time to time. A solar pool heater is immune to this to a very large extent.
You don’t really have to pay a ton of money to upgrade your heater and you get a good performance from it as well, without having to spend a lot on operational costs.
3. Long-Lasting Heaters
Another huge benefit of getting a solar pool heater as opposed to any other type of heater is that these heaters tend to last you for much longer. When you buy a solar pool heater, you are basically planning for the next 20 to 25 years in advance.
Some of these heaters have an average minimum lifespan of about 15 years, after which they can still last you for another 5-6 years with some maintenance. This specifically applies to roof-mounted solar pool heaters.
4. Environment-Friendly Products
What separates a solar pool heater from various other similar heaters is the fact that this kind of heater does not damage the environment at all! These heaters do not consume gas or electricity and work solely on the solar energy harnessed from the sun.
Furthermore, using this kind of solar heating system also does not generate any byproduct such as toxic smoke that is often generated when you consume gas. A solar pool heater is 100% environmentally safe to use! XtremePowerUS makes one of the best such options for those looking for a solar panel powered pool heating system.
5. Compatible with Above-Ground and In-Ground Pools
Solar pool heaters and more specifically the roof-mounted solar pool heaters are compatible with above-ground as well as in-ground pools. No matter if it is an Intex pool that you are using in your backyard or a proper full-sized swimming pool, these heaters can heat both of them without any problem. For an in-ground pool, you might need a heater that is a little larger while the above-ground pools would be heated using a smaller heater too. Smart Pool S601 Pool Solar Heaters is a really good option for people looking for solar pool heating systems for above-ground pools.
6. Can Be Attached Anywhere
The versatility of attachment is another plus point for solar pool heaters. These heaters can be placed practically anywhere – you can put them on a rooftop, or you can have them placed next to your pool in a stack. Wherever there is sunlight, a solar heater can be placed. Some solar heaters such as a pool blanket are actually to be tossed on top of the pool which makes using them even easier! Lastly, in the summertime, you can just detach them and keep them wherever you want because most of these heaters don’t take too much space as well.
Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Solar Pool Heaters
There are just so many options out there when it comes to solar pool heaters that one is bound to get confused! This holds particularly true if you are a first-time pool owner. The sheer number of options out there is bound to confuse you, which is why we have prepared this buyer’s guide which will help you prepare a checklist of some things that you must keep in mind when confirming which pool heater you are going to buy. Here’s a closer look at these factors that you must consider:
1. Size and Coverage
First up, you need to know the size and coverage. That is the size of the pool and the coverage offered by the heater. Not every solar pool heater can cover a large pool. In some cases, if you have a large pool, you might need to buy two or three of them too. It is always best recommended to know the exact length, breadth, and depth of your pool before buying the heater.
When buying a solar heating system, also make sure that you are checking out its coverage capacity so that you know if your heater can cover up your entire pool or if you need multiple such heaters. Getting a bigger-sized solar pool heater is recommended if you have a bigger pool. SunHeater Pool Heating System is an ideal option for covering a really big pool
2. Temperature Rise
Check with the manufacturer about how much heat can the heater generate in a day’s time. There are some heaters that can help you raise the temperature by 10F in a short while, while smaller heaters may take days to reach the same temperature levels. When buying a new solar pool heater, ensure that it can heat up the pool significantly else it will not be of much use to you.
Generally, the bigger the heater, the more heat can it provide to the water. However, it is best advised to check with the manufacturer about the details of the daily temperature rise so that you know what is it exactly what you are getting.
3. Heater Type
You need to know which type of heater is going to suit your needs the best. This needs to be understood in order to know whether it is compatible with your pool. If you have a small or above-ground pool, you need a small heater. If you live in a place that is naturally quite hot and gets cold only for a few months, you may need a different kind of heater. If the weather is moderate all around the year, you might just be able to get along with a solar blanket instead of a heater.
It is based on a number of other factors on this list that you will choose your heater type and decide whether it is a good fit for you.
4. In-Ground Pool or Above-Ground Pool
Another thing that has to be taken into consideration is whether your pool is an in-ground pool or an above-ground pool. In the case of an above-ground pool, you will, in most likelihood, not need anything that is too big or too complex. A simpler setup would do the trick because the water content is generally much lesser compared to water in a regular-sized pool.
However, when it comes to a regular-sized pool, you will need a bigger heating device – often multiple solar pool heaters connected together to ensure that the water is heating up well. The kind of pool you have has a major role to play in the kind of heater you are going to buy. GAME 4721-BB SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater is a good option for both, in-ground as well as above-ground pools.
5. The Climate Around You
Where you live has a big role to play in what kind of a heater you are going to use. If you are living in an area that is prone to cold weather, you will probably need a stronger heater compared to what you would otherwise be used if you were living in a warmer region. Similarly, for those living in a warmer region, a less intense heater might do the trick for you because your water might not get cold as frequently as in places with a colder climate.
Besides that, if you are living in a place that is prone to rain, you might want to check out using a solar blanket or a solar pool cover in order to keep the temperatures maintained as well as to protect your pool from dirt and impurities that rain and storms might bring along.
6. Easy Installation
Ease of installation needs to be something that every heater needs to have! If you are buying a solar heating system which is in any way quite expensive, and you end up paying another $100-$200 for installation, what’s even the point! Solar panels need to be mounted on your roof and it is no easy task.
Make sure that the heater you are buying is either very easy to install or comes with a detailed installation guide, or comes with technician support billed in the price of the heater.
While durability is something that you must consider for any product that you are buying, it holds special significance here as a solar pool heating system has water flowing through it at all times which could cause significant wear and tear. It is even more significant for those using a gas-based or an electric-based heater.
Know that when you are investing thousands of dollars into buying a roof-mounted solar pool heater, you are expecting it to last you for at least the next decade or 15 years so it really needs to be sturdy and durable enough. For anyone who wants something really durable, Solar Energy Swimming Pool Heater Panel is just the right option!
When you are buying something that costs as much as a roof-mounted solar pool heater does, you want to make sure that it remains as protected as possible. A long warranty period has got you covered in that sense nad it ensures that even if something goes amiss, you don’t have to pay the cost of repairs.
Talking of the cost of repairs, the cost of the product itself is one of the biggest factors that one has to consider before they buy a solar pool heater. A good roof-mounted solar pool heater will certainly cost you north of $1000. This is indeed very expensive.
If you want to buy the best solar pool heaters you will have to pay a higher price for it too. It is recommended to set a budget before you head out shopping. It is also advised to check Amazon as you are certain to get better discounts there than in stores.
Solar Pool Heaters: How Do They Work?
Now that you know everything about what a solar pool heater is and what are the things that you need to consider before you make the purchase, you also need to know how these heaters work. Let us take a closer look at the functioning of solar pool heaters:
So what we need to talk about first is that any solar heater has two parts to it – first up, there’s the solar panel which is the ‘collector’ of sunlight and then there’s the pump via which the water flows in and out of the solar heating system. For the purpose of this section, we are assuming that your heater is a roof-mounted solar pool heater.
The collector portion, which is where the solar panels are located, is usually placed in an area that has direct access to sunlight. This is why most people tend to place it on higher ground or on the roof-top, where the most amount of direct sunlight can be absorbed by the panels. These solar panels carry a number of smaller tubes from where the water passes and is heated up.
The cold water of the pool is then drawn in via the pump and sent to the solar panels via a network of pipes. This water often goes through a system called a bypass valve which slows down the flow in order for water to get properly heated as it crosses the solar panels. The best solar pool heaters generally feature a large number of panels with a large number of tubes. The more area your solar panels cover, the better the heating will be.
There’s a pipe located on the other side of the solar panels which allows the heated water to flow back into the pool. As more cold water passes through the panels and more hot water is sent into the pool, the overall temperature of the pool begins to rise. Solar pool heating systems aren’t really that complex if you look at the overall system.
Once the water reaches a comfortable temperature you can turn off the pumps and all the water in the solar panels will be drained out to the pool after that. You can turn on the pump once again once you feel that the water is heading towards the colder side.
Top Accessories for Solar Pool Heaters
Getting a good quality solar pool heater is just the first step. There are a number of accessories that are also needed along with the heater. While your pool will heat up perfectly well even if you do not use these accessories, using them will indeed enhance your swimming experience:
1. Programmable Timers
A timer is a very small instrument but can be of great use to swimming pool owners. Instead of having to manually turn on and off the heating mechanism and the pumps, you can simply get a mechanical/programmable timer and have the timings adjusted.
For instance, if you know that the pool starts to get cold in the evening and you are going to use it at a certain time in the night, it is best to have it automatically heated about 30 minutes before you take the plunge. The timer will control the flow of water.
A thermostat-based system is also very beneficial because it will automatically cut off the pump’s intake of water once the water reaches a specific temperature. Once a minimum threshold is crossed, the pump will automatically turn on so that the water does not get colder than a specified minimum. Thermostat systems help you maintain a temperature that is comfortable for the swimmers at all times.
3. A High-Quality Pump
While all solar heaters need a pump to function, most people tend to connect the pool’s built-in pumping system to the solar pool heater instead of providing a dedicated pump to it. The backpressure caused by the heating can cause your pump to malfunction and if the pool pump is compromised, tasks such as filtration of the water will be directly impacted. Hence, getting a dedicated pump is recommended with a long-term vision in mind.
4. Mounting Kits
Given that there are often solar panels involved with solar pumps, and these panels are mounted on the roof, you need a dedicated roof-mounting installation kit. In most cases, these will be included along with the pool heater itself. However, there are some heaters that do not provide an installation kit in the package to reduce the prices. In those cases, you will need to buy it separately so that your solar panels can be mounted to your roof. For those looking for an ideal installation kit for their roof-mounted heaters, check out SmartPool WWSK21 SunHeater Systems Kit.
5. Thermal Pool Covers
Solar pool heaters can heat your pool, but then when it comes to heat retention, you need a solar blanket or a thermal pool cover which will make sure that the heat remains trapped inside. One of the biggest reasons for heat loss in swimming pools is evaporation. Using a pool cover, you can make sure that the water does not evaporate away.
Pros and Cons of Solar Heaters
While we have covered the pros and cons of solar pool heaters all over the article, here is a closer look at them put together for your ease of understanding:
A solar pool heater heats up your water for free! There’s no additional cost of operation involved (except the cost of running the pump, which is quite negligible to be fair). The heating isn’t done via the use of gas or electricity, such as is the case with an old-school gas pool heater or an electric pool heater. A solar heater does not run on gas or electricity and is therefore going to save you more than what you spend on it in the long run.
Another huge pro of getting a solar heater is that it will last you for much longer compared to a gas-based heater or an electric pool heater. The best solar pool heaters tend to last for 10 to 15 years without any problems! These heaters also have a much longer warranty period compared to regular heaters, which is another major benefit of using a solar pool heater.
Solar pool heating systems are a great way to heat above-ground pools as well as in-ground pools. No matter what kind of a pool set up you have, there is certainly a solar heater out there for you. Above-ground pools can be heated using a small heater, but in-ground pools would generally require a larger solar pool heating system.
Lastly, thanks to the use of solar panels and no extra electricity or gas being consumed, solar pool heating systems are among the best and the most environment-friendly ways to heat up your water. This is something that really means a lot to a large number of people as the world turns environmentally conscious. The sun’s energy is being harnessed to heat your water here without any dangerous byproducts coming out of it.
This kind of solar pool heating setup can be very expensive. People end up spending thousands of dollars on them and then there’s also the cost of maintenance that comes up every few years.
Another major problem with using solar pool heaters is that they can often be very complex to set up and install. Roof-mounted heaters are arguably the best solar heating options out there for swimming pools. These require the setting up of solar panels on a roof which can be quite a complex task even when done with professional help.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Pool Heaters
Here are the answers to some of the most common and frequently asked questions about these solar heaters:
Where to buy pool heaters from?
All the best pool heaters can be purchased on Amazon. These are delivered to your doorstep and you also get great discounts on them. However, there’s always the option of going to an actual, physical store and buying the kind of heater that you believe is the best fit for your pool. A lot of people prefer this older, traditional way as well, as they get to check out the heater in real-time before making the purchase.
How long would a roof-mounted solar pool heater last me?
A roof-mounted solar pool heating system is as good as the solar panels on it are. These solar panels generally last you about 15 years on average. However, sometimes the tubes inside these solar panels can get damaged due to excess heat, which you can repair from time to time and it will last you really long.
What kind of heater is best suited for an above-ground pool?
The best solar pool heater for above-ground pools is a roof-mounted heater because it can catch the most amount of heat using solar panels. However, you might also want to check out solar tube heaters if you are looking forward to cutting the costs. These use tubes instead of solar panels to keep your above-ground pools warm.
We hope that by the time you have reached this section, you now know everything that there is to know about a solar pool heater. We have tried to cover various aspects of these heaters – including how they function and how to choose the best solar pool heater for all your needs. If there still are any more questions that you want to ask us about these heaters, feel free to let us know in the comments or send us a mail and we shall get back to you as soon as we can!