looking down at a home pool with black solar hot water panels on the roof

A pool can feel luxurious during the sweltering summer months. But, it can feel equally rejuvenating during the winter if it is adequately heated. However, the cost of heating a pool can be pretty high. The sun can only do so much when the temperature drops below freezing.

There are two factors to consider here—first, the cost of heating your pool, and second, how to reduce the amount of heat lost and thus, how much it needs.

Think about it. If the pool needs less energy to maintain a comfortable temperature after the initial heat-up period, it will cost less. 

Each pool environment is unique, so different pool heating techniques will result in varying savings per environment.

In general, you can end up paying between $300 and $1,000 if your pool isn’t heated sufficiently with these solutions:

Solar Sun Rings 

Sun rings are a passive solar pool heating device made of two sheets of heavy UV-resistant vinyl.

The upper layer is designed to hold insulated air which is then transferred to the lower one. This layer absorbs 50% of the sunlight and converts it to heat, which warms up the pool water.

Solar sun rings in use as a pool heating mechanism

At night, this warmth acts as an insulating blanket that retains heat generated from the presence of the sun during the day.

Solar sun rings have six magnets that improve water clarity and reduce hardness. In addition, this device is compatible with automatic pool cleaners.

The rings separate from the raft they are on if they get caught. Once the water in your pool reaches the perfect temperature, you can turn the rings over to stop the evaporation process without heating it further. 

However, if you experience frequent rains where you live or your pool is indoors, solar sun rings will not be as effective in heating the water because they need direct sunlight to heat up. 

Heat Pumps

Pool heat pumps are considered to be some of the most cost-effective pool heating solutions you can get. They draw in heat from the elements to heat water and can cost as low as $1 to run per day.

The best thing about them is that most can run between -10°C and 45°C, making them ideal for a range of climates. 

A standalone heat pump unit

Heat pumps work by drawing swimming pool water through a filter and a heater. A fan in the heater takes in air from the outside and directs it through an outer air coil. This way, the air is turned into a gas which transfers its heat into the water.

Even though pool heat pumps need electricity to power up the compressor, the usage is negligible compared to the benefits it offers. 

Solid Panels 

Solid or monolithic panels work at noon when the sun is directly overhead. If the sunlight hits them at an angle, performance is reduced, but they can sufficiently heat your pool.

Solid panels are installed on roofs and are made of solid sheets. Three to five straps secure each so they don’t blow off during windy weather. 

These panels do have one drawback, though.

looking down at a home pool with black solar hot water panels on the roof
Different from solar electric panels, these solar pool heating panels heat the water that transfers the sun’s heat through the black pipes, offering a truly sustainable way to heat the water (during the day of course).

They are connected with metal clamps and rubber hoses which may not be able to hold up well under the sun. The clamps must be tightened regularly or may blow off easily. If you fail to invest in their maintenance, you may end up spending more than you are trying to save. 

Tube Panels 

Individual tube panels are a bit more expensive than the solid variety, but they have several benefits that the latter does not offer.

For instance, they can withstand strong winds, whether strapped down or not. Penetrations are only present on the bottom and the top header, and the clamps holding them in place can be slid along the length to ensure they only penetrate the truss underneath. 

If properly installed, individual tube panels can remain on your roof leak and damage-free for years—the panel clamps don’t have to be tightened regularly. They utilize propylene clamps that don’t need to be adjusted throughout the system’s lifetime.

Some tube panels also boast low back pressures, which reduce energy bills and increase the pool pump’s lifespan. Depending on the brand you choose, you can install these tube panels on your roof, porch or even on the ground near your pool. 

All of the solar pool heaters mentioned above are categorized as glazed or non-glazed as per the climate for which they are made. For instance, if you live in a state where temperatures remain moderate such as Florida, you should consider non-glazed options which are also more affordable.

Polymer glazed pool heating solutions are best for colder climates. While they are a bit more expensive than their glazed counterparts, they can pay for themselves in the long run. 

Tips on Reducing Energy Use for Pool Heating 

Follow these tips for the best ways to ensure sufficient pool heating without increasing your energy bill.

Insulate the Pool 

The first thing you should do before getting a new pool installed is to choose insulation, especially if you live in a cold climate.

Rigid panel insulation under and around a pool can save you a lot of money in the long run. Whether you are in a tropical climate or a frigid one, this insulation option can reduce the heat that the pool water may lose as it remains exposed to the elements.

A diagram demonstrating how insulation works for pool heating

Optimize Pool Mechanics 

An un-optimized or basic pool can increase your energy bill. However, if the components are well thought out, you won’t have to do much to reduce it.

For example, have extra valves fitted into the pool. That way, you can get additional elements such as a pool heating system, solar panels, or a heat pump installed easily. 

Clean the Filter Regularly 

Your pump and filter must work double-time if the filter is clogged with debris, ending up using more energy which translates to more costs. Besides cleaning out the filters, modernize the whole filtration system. Newer systems do not require much backwashing compared to older models, which means you won’t have to refill the pool later. It also reduces demand for the pool heater and extends its life. 

Choose a Strategic Location for the Pool 

If you want to ensure your pool water heats up and remains at a comfortable temperature long after the pool heating unit is turned off, make sure to choose the site strategically.

The pool should be located right underneath the sun for passive solar heat gain, especially if you experience cold fronts regularly. 

If the temperatures rarely drop to single digits, on the other hand, make sure the pool is installed in a shady area.

High winds can make your pool water cold fast by creating ripples or small waves, which increase the surface area of pool water, exposing it more to the elements. With time, the heated water turns cold fast and speeds up water loss due to evaporation. 

So in case you live in a state which experiences both sweltering summers and chilly winters, make sure the pool gets sufficient sun and can also be shielded from the wind during a storm. This placement will increase solar gains and reduce energy bills simultaneously. 

Choose Pool Color Wisely 

Black can get hot fast, while white can reflect heat to remain cool, so most pool heating tiles are white. So if you live in areas known for hot summers (such as Florida, New Mexico, and Texas), your pool design shouldn’t be based on aesthetics.

The pool tiles should be white to save money on your energy bills. Similarly, if you live in a city known for its harsh winters, black tiles can be a wise economical decision. 

Use Cost-Efficient Sources of Heat 

Solar energy is a suitable and cost-effective alternative if you are on a tight budget and cannot afford expensive pool heating solutions. This type of energy is free, but your pool’s location will affect its energy-saving ability. 

The only downside is that if clouds obscure the sun, the solar gains will also diminish. However, if the sun shines brightly most months, a solar heating system and a heat backup system can be an economical combination. 

Invest in Variable Speed Motors 

Unlike single motor speed pumps that can only function at max flow rates, the variable variety can slow down water flow and increase your savings at the same time. The latter uses 50% to 75% less energy than the former for the same results.

Single-speed motors lose efficiency since they need additional electricity to activate the rotor. On the other hand, variable-speed motors are known as ‘permanent magnet motors’, which maintain a consistent flow rate that draws less power. 

Use Automatic Pool Cleaners 

Automatic pool cleaners do more than just keep your pool looking pristine. These can also reduce overall energy loss.

Make sure your pool cleaners are programmed to run three to four hours daily during the summer and two to three hours during the winter for maximum gains. If you don’t have an automatic system, start it 15 minutes before the filter pump comes to a stop or 15 minutes after it starts running.

Additionally, increase the pool sweeping time by half-hour increments until the water sparkles during stormy or dusty weather conditions. Finally, don’t hesitate to scoop out dead leaves with a skimmer. By optimizing pool operations this way, you can reduce energy use and ensure your pool remains at a comfortable temperature. 

Install Windbreakers 

Even a slow breeze can cool your pool down to frigid temperatures in less than half an hour. If that happens, your heating system will have to work more than it should to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Prevent that from happening by installing windbreakers near your pool.

They should be tall and sturdy enough to withstand and block strong winds and reduce air turbulence over the surface of the water.

Popular options include fences, screens, and tall bushes, which should not be trimmed excessively. Windbreakers can also reduce evaporation rates for heated water, so the temperature remains constant. 

Invest In Automatic Pool Covers

If left uncovered, your pool’s water temperature could drop by several degrees. So if you want to ensure your early morning dips are refreshing and comfortable, invest in a pool cover.

Automatic pool covers can prevent heat loss by blocking cool air, so the water maintains a consistent and comfortable temperature. Once the heater has done its job, and you don’t want to go in for a dip immediately, cover it till you need it.

Pool covers can reduce 70% of heat loss by reducing evaporation. Just seal the pool when it is not in use for maximum gains.

Final Word – Invest In Pool Heating Solutions to Save Energy 

You cannot swim laps in a Jacuzzi, but you cannot swim in cold pool water either. So get the best of both worlds by investing in pool heating systems that will ensure a comfortable swim and save you money in the long run.

This list is far from exhaustive. A professional installer can help you narrow down your choice to a brand that can suit your needs and budget. 

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