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Harnessing the Power Of The Sun: A Guide To Saving Time And Money On Your Pool

If you already have a swimming pool, you know how much heating it can increase your utility bill, but it many areas of the country some level of heating is necessary to maximize the pool’s functionality. So, what do you do? Do you let expensive equipment sit idle to save on utility bills, or spend more money with your local gas or energy company to maximize enjoyment of the equipment you already have?
How about neither? You can get your money’s worth year after year – without ratcheting up your utility bills – with help from the sun. By combining a solar heater and solar cover, you can extend your swimming season by up to two months at a fraction of the cost.
In many areas of the country solar pool heating is one of the most practical applications of solar energy, but regardless of where you live, a solar pool cover or pool heater will save you money on pool heating costs. Whether it’s a solar pool cover on top of the water or solar panels off to the side, harnessing the power of the sun to help heat your pool can be an incredibly effective and much cheaper way to heat your pool this swimming season.
Consider this: over a 15 year period, you could spend five times as much on heating with gas as you would with a solar pool heater. This is because solar energy uses the sun’s rays to produce heat (or electricity), so there are no costs after the initial purchase. Granted, a gas or electric heater provides additional flexibility that solar heating may not, but consider the following about each option.
Solar Pool Cover
Buying a solar cover should be a no brainer for any pool owner. They are cheap to buy, easy to use, and very effective. They work by laying on the surface of your pool to absorb thermal energy from the sun’s rays and then maintaining it in the pool by trapping the heat under the cover. The result is a warmer pool, energy conservation, and lower operating costs. Think about it like this: you wouldn’t heat your house with the windows open, so why do the same with your pool?
Solar covers also reduce water evaporation – by far the number one source of overall energy loss in swimming pools – and consequently, help decrease the amount of chemicals required. Therefore, a solar cover is a good option whether your pool is outside or inside. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, covering a swimming pool when it’s not in use is the single most efficient means of reducing evaporation and conserving overall energy costs.
Finally, not only do solar covers retain your pool’s heat and limit evaporation, but they also cut down on cleaning time by keeping dirt, leaves, and other debris out of your pool. A solar cover is a must.
Solar Heater
While some people choose to only purchase a solar cover, it is most effective at limiting heat loss versus actually heating up the water. Therefore, it works best in combination with another heating source: a pool heater.
Gas heaters work very well, but the operating costs can really add up. Many potential buyers are excited by the flexibility and low initial cost a gas heater offers, but fail to consider the cost of using the heater over the life of the pool. This is where solar heaters come in: when given a few hours of sun per day, a solar heater will quickly and efficiently heat your entire pool without long-term costs. It’s also an excellent way to reduce your pool’s carbon footprint.
Using the existing pump that circulates water through your filter, a solar heater diverts pool water so that it flows to and through the solar collector, also known as a "solar panel". These panels must be placed in an area which gets 4-6 hours of sun per day, which is most often a nearby roof. While passing through the solar collector, the water is warmed by the sun, and then returned directly back into the pool. This works to expose all of your pool water to the sun instead of just the volume near the surface. The result is a dramatically warmer pool that can be comfortably used in the morning or at night, as well as much earlier and later in the swim season. As with any heat source, it works best when combined with a solar cover.
Pairing with Gas or Electric Heater
If you already have an electric or gas heater for your pool, solar may still be an excellent cost-saving option for you. Try "hybrid heating" – use a solar heating system as the main source of heat and your existing gas pool heater as a backup when necessary. This "best of both worlds" scenario will give you the flexibility of increasing the heat in your pool during hours of low-light with the addition of cost-savings during the day.
In summary, solar energy heats your pool to warm temperatures, is environmentally friendly, is free, and increases your swim season by 1-2 months. Solar pool heaters and covers are an easy, safe, "green", and cost-effective way to heat your pool.