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Solar Swimming Pool Heaters

Whether you have an in-ground or an above ground swimming pool, you can significantly reduce swimming pool heating costs by harnessing the power of the sun to help heat your pool and extend your swimming season by up to two months. Solar pool heaters are cost competitive with both gas and heat pump pool heaters, and they have very low annual operating costs. Actually, solar pool heating is the most cost-effective use of solar energy in many climates. Plus, pool solar heaters aren't as expensive as you might think. Let's take a closer look at how they work and see if a solar heater might be a good option for your pool.

HOW SOLAR POOL HEATERS WORK

Because swimming pools include a pump and related plumbing systems, adding a solar heater can be relatively simple. With a solar heating system, a pump filters the water and sends it through the solar panels, or solar collectors, where it is heated before it is returned to the pool. In hot climates, the solar panels can also be used to cool the pool during peak summer months by circulating the water through the panels at night.

If you add a solar heater, you may need a larger pump to pump the pool’s water through the solar panels. But, adding any heater, solar or otherwise, will require selecting an adequate pump.

There are two main types of pool solar panels: Unglazed are typically made of heavy rubber or plastic and are sufficient for use above freezing temperatures. Glazed solar panels contain copper tubing and an aluminum plate with tempered glass covering, and are more efficient than unglazed and can be used year-round.

BEFORE SELECTING A SOLAR POOL HEATER

A solar pool heating system typically last longer than gas and heat pump pool heaters. However, the actual cost and the time required to recoup your investment costs will depend on many factors. Therefore, before you install a solar pool heating system, you should:

Evaluate your site's solar resource

  • Determine the correct number of solar panels
  • Determine the correct orientation and tilt for the solar panels
  • Understand local codes and regulations

INSTALLING A SOLAR POOL HEATER

The proper installation of a solar pool heating system depends on many factors. As mentioned above, your location’s solar resources, climate, and local building codes all need to be taken into account.

Before you buy and install a solar pool heating system, you need to consider your site's solar resource. The efficiency and design of a solar pool heater depends on how much of the sun's energy reaches your panels. Basically, if your building site has areas of direct sunlight and generally faces south, it's a good candidate for a solar pool heating system.

A general rule of thumb when installing solar panels is to install enough panel surface area so that it is equal to at least one half of the pool’s surface area. When planning a solar heating installation, we recommend slightly more than is absolutely needed—we have found it is better to have a few more square feet of panels because you can’t really have too many, but you can certainly have too few. The extra panels will heat the water faster or, at least, more effectively on cloudy or overcast days.

In sunnier climates, this additional heating helps to significantly extend the swimming season. Even if you have less than an optimum location, you can compensate by increasing the ratio between the panel surface area and the pool surface area. Adding solar panel square footage will also lengthen your swimming season.

Solar panels can be mounted on roofs or anywhere near the pool that provides the proper exposure, orientation, and tilt toward the sun. As mentioned, the optimum panel orientation is to the south.

In addition to the number of panels, you need to judge if the solar panels can be located close enough to the pool so the water heated in the pump will return to the pool still warm. If the distance from the pool to the panels is significant, you might need to upgrade the pump size. Or if long runs of pipe to and from the panels can’t be avoided, the pipes should be insulated so that heat is not lost along the way.

COST AND MAINTENANCE

The cost of swimming pool solar panels varies depending on your geographic location, the size of your pool and its orientation. Generally, a system costs around $5 to $8 per square foot, and the payback period can run anywhere from a couple years up to seven years. Some states as well as the federal government may offer tax incentives for installing panels, up to a certain percentage of the initial cost.

Once installed, most homeowners tend to forget about their solar heating system. Your solar panels should require little maintenance if the pool's chemical balance and filtering system are checked regularly. Every few months you should conduct inspections of your panels to check for leaks. Another common problem is dirty panels. Dirt and dust build-up prevents the panels from absorbing heat and can cut efficiency by as much as 50 percent. Glazed panels may require even more frequent cleaning in dry climates where rainwater doesn't provide a natural rinse.

The average swimming pool solar panel will last between 15 and 20 years. Following the payback period, operational costs are almost non-existent and the panels are very low maintenance, though they should be shut off and drained during the winter to prevent damage from freezing.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SOLAR POOL COVERS

While solar panels allow you to save energy while heating your pool, as with any heat source, they work best when combined with a solar cover to help ensure that the heat doesn’t escape. It may also enable you to decrease the required panel area by using a pool cover. Anecdotally, not using a pool cover is like running your heater with the windows open in the winter.

In summary, solar pool heating is one of the most practical ways to heat your pool this swimming season. For a selection of solar pool heaters from leading solar pool heating manufacturers in the U.S., visit PcPools.com, or for expert advice on solar pool heaters call one of our trained customer service specialists at 877-727-6657.

 

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