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Pool Cover Options for Maintenance and Safety July 29, 2011 01:56 PM

Swimming pool owners and users hear the phrase "pool cover" and probably have one or two product images in mind.  Despite this common conception there are actually many different types of pool covers, each with its own set of advantages, disadvantages, and unique purpose.  This article details each type of cover and discusses the differences between them where appropriate. 

Winter Pool Covers

Winter pool covers are designed to protect in ground or above ground swimming pools from the winter elements.  They are especially helpful in regions where the climate necessitates closing down the pool for the winter.  Their essential function is keeping debris out of the pool during the non-swimming season.  Keeping the water clean by blocking out things like small animals, leaves, dirt, and precipitation reduces destructive algae and bacteria buildup.  This facilitates a smooth, easy pool opening in the spring and elongates the life of pool liners (or other surface materials).  It also relieves potential pressure caused by debris-related clogs in the pump, filter, or associated piping.  Though they provide some safety against unwanted pool entry, a winter cover cannot be relied on as a safety measure.

Winter covers are typically made of a woven polyethylene material.  The Arctic Armor winter covers sold by PcPools are no different, but they are more tightly woven as well as coated, which along with heat-sealed seams enables them to withstand winter’s worst.  Their coating includes a U.V. protectant to diminish wear from the sun and prevent algae growth.

Winter covers are typically installed in the fall and removed in the spring.  A cover for an above ground pool can be secured to the pool wall through a variety of methods.  All winter covers for above ground pools sold by PcPools come with a heavy duty vinyl coated cable and tightener that anchors to the cover through rip-proof metal grommets.  In ground winter covers come with loops and corner grommets for water bags and tie downs.  Accessories that help secure winter covers are water tubes for in ground pools and wall bags, cover clips, and cover seals for above ground pools.

Solar Pool Covers

Solar pool covers are designed to warm the temperature of the pool water as well as retain existing heat.  They sit on top of the water’s surface and primarily function in two ways: they maintain existing heat by insulating the water and provide additional heat by absorbing the sun’s thermal energy and transferring it into the water.  Solar covers provide an ancillary benefit by trapping debris on the surface.  This makes maintenance easier.  Solar covers do not, however, provide safety benefits.  Even a small amount of weight can easily displace the cover.

Solar covers look like bubble wrap but they are made of significantly stronger, more durable material.  Small and medium sized covers are lightweight and can often be removed/put-on by one person.  Moving larger covers necessitates multiple people or a solar reel.  Using a solar cover effectively means soaking it in chemicals, so they tend to break down faster than other types of pool covers.   Higher gauge covers last longer and are typically worth the moderate extra investment. 

Many in ground pool owners use them in conjunction with safety covers to boost heat-retention and safety.  Read more about the advantages of solar pool covers here.

Safety Pool Covers

Designed to save lives, safety covers are the strongest form of pool cover available. They are the only form of cover that when installed will support a person who falls or steps into the pool.  In a way, safety pool covers act as a "horizontal fence" by keeping anything or anyone from entering the pool. All safety covers must meet the requirements set forth by the American Society for Testing and Materials—meaning the cover must be able to support the weight of a small child or animal. Arctic Armor safety covers significantly exceed the minimum standard with a break strength of over 4,000 pounds! That’s enough to keep a 2012 Toyota Camry—which weighs 3,190 pounds—from sinking to the bottom!              
 
The two main types of safety covers are "mesh" and "solid", and both are available in a variety of colors and styles. To read about the differences between mesh and solid pool covers, click here. Safety covers are mounted to the ground surrounding an in ground pool by bronze anchors and spring-loaded grommets. A properly installed cover surrounds the entire pool and lies flat along the pool deck.  Because they require mounting on a permanent and stable deck, safety pool covers cannot be used with above ground pools. 
 
For those that are searching for the best covers that the industry has to offer, automatic safety covers are aimed at consumers willing to pay a little more to maximize safety and minimize maintenance. Automatic safety covers allow users to cover and uncover there in ground pools with the push of a button.  A standard safety pool cover normally requires two adults to install and remove, but automatic safety pool covers allow anyone to cover their pool with the push of a button or turn of a crank.

Safety Pool Nets

Pool safety nets are the equivalent of a safety cover for an above ground pool but they are less effective.  Safety covers cannot be used on above ground pools due to risks of collapsing the pool.  To combat this problem, some homeowners build decks around their above ground pools and mount safety covers on the deck.  This provides added protection but is not a feasible option for many above ground pool users.   Here is where a safety net can be helpful.

Although unable to provide the same level of protection as a safety cover, a safety net is strong enough to keep toddlers, infants, or pets from accidentally falling into the pool.  They can also catch larger items such as tree branches, potentially protecting a pool liner from rips and tears.

Although a safety net will not keep debris, dirt, or small leaves out, they are easy to put on/take off and are significantly less expensive.  Many above ground pool owners believe the safety and peace of mind are worth it.  The bottom line is that they offer a cost-effective way to help protect your loved ones from accidents.

Leaf Nets

Leaf nets are best thought of as an inexpensive accessory to other pool covers.  They are lightweight covers made of an open weave material that fits over a winter cover, solar cover, or safety cover to help remove any debris that accumulates on the cover.  Placing a leaf net over the other covers enables pool owners to quickly discard debris such as wet, heavy, saturated leaves and twigs by temporarily removing the leaf net and shaking it off.  Leaf nets can be used in any season and are a big plus if a pool is surrounded by trees or is located in another high-debris production location. 

Leaf nets should be considered for more than their ability to ease pool maintenance burdens.  They can also prolong the life of a pool owner’s other covers.  Helping separate debris and water inhibits bacteria production which lessens the wear and tear on other pool covers enabling them to remain effective for additional seasons.

 

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