Pool owners can get away from the heat of summer with the cool waters of their pool. Unfortunately, they may spend quite a bit of money attempting to maintain a good swimming temperature during the cooler months; however, you can cut costs quickly by investing in a renewable energy heating source, such as solar pool heaters. These can be a reliable source that can help you enjoy pool season a bit longer.
Here, we will answer some of the most common questions about solar-powered pool heaters, as well as explore some of the best options available.
What is a Solar-Powered Pool Heater & How Does it Work?
A solar pool heater is a competitive way to heat your pool that circulates and heats pool water using the power of the sun. For the most part, these systems come with four components: a solar collector to move the water, a filter to remove debris as the pool water circulates, an automatic or manual flow-control valve to direct water flow, and a pump to keep the water moving from the pool to the collector and back again. During summer months or in hot climates, the heater can help keep the waters cool by keeping the water moving throughout the night. Since the sun isn’t providing heat, the water stays cooler longer.
Benefits of Solar Pool Heaters
There are several options available that can help you to heat your pool; however, there are some unique benefits that you can enjoy when you opt for a solar pool heater.
- Lengthen the pool season to 5-6 months
- Heat your pool without the use of gas or oil to save money
- Envionmentally-friendly with no toxic emissions
- Little-to-no maintenance required for upkeep
The 10 Best Solar Pool Heaters
1. Black Outdoor Solar Dome Swimming Pool Water Heater
- Environmentally friendly, gas- and electricity-free
- Save space compared to other solar pool heaters
- Does not require an installation kit
- Includes a protective cover for dome
- Functional for above and inground pools
The Black Outdoor Solar Dome Pool Heater comes equipped with two hoses, a protective cover, and a water heater. Designed for use in above and in-ground pools, this solar panel heater is small and compact, allowing you to readily store it away whenever you’re not using your swimming pool. It functions using the Greenhouse Effect.
The clear lens magnifies the solar rays, pulling the heat inside to warm up the water. Using the black coiled hoses, the water is carried through the system and cycled back into the pool, where you can enjoy the warmth without the price associated with other solar pool heaters.
This product features a compact design that is appealing and useful, allowing you to easily set it up and break it down for the swimming season. In comparison to a traditional solar panel, the dome offers a clean and smooth look that can fit into any environment. Whether you’re looking for an excellent solar powered pool heater above ground or in-ground, you can enjoy the versatility offered by the Black Outdoor Solar Dome.
- Above and in-ground friendly
- Can mount on the roof or rack
- Compatible with most existing pool pumps
- Raises pool temperature to 10 degrees
- MAX-FLOW design
The SunQuest solar pool heating system provides a simple and reliable way to keep your pool water at the right temperature from early spring to late fall. This high-performance system uses professional-quality materials and designs to promote superior water circulation. The full system comes with a one-panel kit, including the connectors for a 1-1/2 inch to 1-1/4 inch hole, as well as an instruction manual and two 2×12 foot SunQuestSolar Panels. You can choose to mount the heater somewhere, such as the roof or a rack, or to simply set it next to the pool on the ground.
Installing this system is a breeze. It takes 30 minutes to get set up and you’re ready to enjoy the pool. Whether you need a solar pool heater above ground or in it, the SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater provides a consistent way to keep your pool water at a comfortable temperature. The MAX-FLOW design allows the system to provide the maximum flow rate possible, which is calculated by dividing the pool’s volume in gallons by 360 minutes. This allows the solar pool heater to raise the water’s temperature faster than lower flow rates would. It’s important to note that this also leads to higher energy costs.
- Manufactured with patented “over-molding” technique
- Lifetime warranty with freeze protection
- Life expectancy of 15-20 years
- Strapless mounting
- Patented clamping system
The SwimJoy DIY Kit by Solar Pool Supply is an industrial-grade kit that allows you to set up your pool heater on your own with ease. These heaters are designed to be sleek, take up little space, and stay strong against storm winds and freezing temperatures. These solar pool heaters are designed with multiple patented designs.
It is constructed with an “over-molding” process that molds the headers and riser tubes together to prevent cracking. The low head-loss riser tubes reduce pressures, boost efficiency, and prevents clogging. The DIY kit removes the need to deal with hoses and clamps by connecting the panels together. It’s also easier to conduct maintenance and make replacements as needed.
Innovative and attractive, the Solar Pool Supply SwimJoy DIY Kit is designed to boost your savings in several areas: energy, maintenance, and operational length. It is even certified by several organizations, including the National Sanitation Foundation for safety and performance, the International Organization for Standardization for quality and environmental health, and the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation for safety, durability, and performance. It’s hard to beat the SwimJoy DIY Kit in terms of cost, performance, and reliability.
- Weather- and storm-proof
- The life expectancy of 15-20 years
- High-performance tube-and-web design
- Constructed with precompounded polypropylene
- Replaces any solar pool heater panel
The Solar Pool Supply's universal panel replacement uses a tube-and-web design to extend the panel’s life expectancy to between 15 and 20 years. This same design encourages normal contraction and expansion of the system, which amplifies the performance of the pool heater. It offers a balanced flow and prevents hot-spots by using a metered manifold. This product is not an entire solar-powered pool heater system. Instead, you can use it to upgrade your existing panels or simply as a replacement when the time comes to maintain your solar panels.
These replacement panels are created using precompounded polypropylene, which is treated to keep the materials from degrading due to UV exposure. It uses special additives to improve the product’s durability. Other panels typically only offer 1-2 years of life, a solid 13-17 years fewer than the Solar Pool Supply’s replacement panel. While the solar panel is a universal replacement option, you will need to make certain that your heater contains either a round 2.375″ O.D. or 2″ I.D. header manifold, as well as that it has attachments with a rubber coupling. These panels don’t have to be installed on a roof. Instead, they simply need to be installed onto an angled and sturdy surface that faces the sun.
- Flexible mounting capabilities
- Uses a tilted system
- Short payback period
- UV-stabilized materials for maximum life expectancy
- Installation kit required
The Solar Cub Pool Heating System by FAFCO is designed using patented designs that can produce some of the greatest heating results in the thermal pool heating industry. Using a specially developed panel, the Solar Cub Pool Heating System is manufactured using polyolefin, which is a highly durable material that is UV-stabilized to ensure that it can retain its capabilities through years of use in the hot sun. While many solar panels for pool heaters tend to last just a few years, the ones produced by FAFCO can expect anywhere from 15-20 years before they need to be replaced. For maximum performance, the collector will need to be tilted 10-30 degrees to the South during peak sunlight hours.
FAFCO has been producing these products for over half a century,, which has given them ample time to perfect their products. Compared to gas, oil, or electric-powered pool heating systems, you can enjoy one of the shortest payback periods offered by solar pool heaters, which also means it provides the highest return on your investment. In addition, this system requires almost no maintenance and can be placed anywhere that you like, whether you’d like to mount it on your roof or keep it close to the pool. Keep in mind that this particular system requires an installation kit.
- Panel array is 4×20 feet
- Ideal for above ground pools
- Manufactured with polypropylene
- Boosts water temperatures up to 15 degrees
- Installs with existing filtration system
SunHeater products have been produced in the United States for over 20 years. This trusted brand has provided pool owners with eco-friendly pool heaters that can deliver as promised. With a five-year warranty, the solar pool heater above ground system is designed to function perfectly for pools up to 24 feet around, as well as those that are oval-shaped at a 15-foot by 30-foot size. Alternatively, you can get the same system for pools up to 31 feet around or oval-shaped at 18-feet by 36-feet. Each option comes with 2-foot by 20-foot durable solar panels.
The solar panels used for the SunHeater Solar Pool Heater for above ground pools are covered by patented fiberglass reinforced over-molded header to bolster the durability of your pool heater. It contains an internal baffle that diverts the water through both sides of the collector for maximum heating potential, which can also shorten the amount of time it takes to heat your pool water thoroughly. The panel’s wind vents protect it against high winds while the threaded headers bring flexibility to the panel’s connective capabilities. In addition, the SunHeater mounting system uses a channel that allows vertical or horizontal mounting, whether you’d like to place it on a fence, roof, or the ground.
- Direct Flow System
- Raises water temperatures 6-10 degrees
- 80 sq. feet of solar panels
- Can be mounted on the roof
- Designed specifically for inground pools
The SmartPool S601P Heating System is manufactured by SunHeater, who has produced a variety of high-quality sun pool heaters over the years. The system is made in the United States with a five-year limited warranty. It comes with two 2-foot by 20-feet solar panels made using polypropylene for maximum durability. Installation of the S601P heating system is a breeze, allowing you to easily set the system up and get your pool water warm enough for the whole family.
The S601P solar heating system uses a Direct Flow System to heat your water. Simply put, this means that each heating tube contains a single header hole to circulate the water. This is effective, though it does require a more powerful pump to circulate the water efficiently.
While this particular solar pool heater is meant mainly for use in an in-ground pool, you can use it for an above-ground one if you have the correct piping. When purchasing this pool heating system with the intention to mount it on your roof, you will need an SK21 System Kit, which can be adjusted for up to four of the SmartPool S601P solar panels, though you can also add additional panels to heat your pool more efficiently, as well as to accommodate larger pools.
- Available in four sizes to fit any pool
- Connect multiple connectors to boost efficiency
- Functions with saltwater systems
- Raises temperature by 7 to 10 degrees
- Easy to install
With Doheny's Solar Heating Systems , you can heat your above-ground pool up to 10 degrees while enjoying long-term savings. The systems come complete with a 2.5-foot by 10-foot solar collector, allowing you to easily store it in tighter spaces. The collector has 40 mm connections to hook up to a 1.5-inch PVC pipe or hose. It does require a high-powered pump to circulate the pool water effectively. Doheny’s Solar Heating Systems for Above Ground Swimming Pools are manufactured with a lightweight polypropylene to provide optimal durability. Among the more budget-friendly solar pool heating options, this system requires very little maintenance to keep it functioning perfectly.
If you plan to mount your system, you will need to purchase the separate mounting kits. These come with everything you need to attach your solar heater to a sloped surface, such as your roof or a ramp, including several straps, stainless steel mounting brackets, and stainless steel screws. The mounting kit comes with a five-year warranty that applies to the solar panels as well. With a five-year warranty, you have plenty of time to find out how well the system works and its durability without a concern. The heating systems created by Doheny are reliable, consistent, and typically return their investment within just a few years.
- Takes up little space
- Compatible with most pool pumps
- Roof- and rack-mountable
- Comes with a five-strap mounting kit
- Comes with an extension kit
The Sunkeeper Solar Heater is a do-it-yourself system designed to provide everything you could possibly need to get your pool heated using solar energy. The Sunkeeper Solar Heater kit comes with a panel kit with all the parts needed to connect panels, a mounting kit, an add-on kit for additional solar panels, and two 2-foot by 10-foot solar panels.
As with any solar pool heaters, your pool size will dictate the number of extra panels you may or may not need to heat your pool effectively and efficiently. You will need a minimum of 3/4 HP pump, so it won’t work with seasonal soft-side pools like Coleman or Bestway. Because it uses the existing pump to your pool, the kit doesn’t come with a hose to connect the pool and panel together.
The system provides very easy-to-follow instructions so that you can have your system installed and running in 30 minutes. The mounting kit is flexible enough to allow you to install the panels anywhere you get the most sun, whether that’s in the grass near the pool, on the roof of your home, or on a rack in another location. The system uses a diverter switch that you can easily turn on and off.
- Ideal for in- and above-ground pools
- Uses MAX-FLOW design
- Easy to install DIY kit
- Large set to provide all you need
- Compatible with existing pool pumps
The SunQuest swimming pool heater allows you to choose between four and 18 panels in your kit, so you can find something to accommodate any pool regardless of its size and depth. Each panel is two-feet by 12-feet. Thanks to its durable and professional-grade quality, these panels rival even systems that can run you upwards of thousands of dollars.
One key advantage offered by the SunQuest solar heating systems is the ability to buy one large set and receive everything you need to get started right away. All you need is a flexible 1.5-inch to 1.25-inch hose that can circulate water from the pool to the panels to warm your pool up to 10 degrees. Some reviewers have reported up to 15 degrees on particularly sunny days.
How Fast Will a Solar-Powered Pool Heater Heat My Pool?
The speed at which your heater will boost the temperature of your pool water will depend on the pool’s size and how many solar panels you are using for it. The best time to use your heater is during peak sunlight hours of the day, which for many regions is between noon and 4 in the afternoon. Some models can retain heat even without the sun due to the materials and other factors involved.
What Cons Are Associated With Solar Pool Heaters?
The biggest con about using thermal-powered pool heaters is that they are dependent entirely on the weather. Without access to the shining sun, the heater can heat the water. These types of pool heaters can be less efficient than other options because of this fact. In addition, the initial cost can be a challenge to overcome for some pool owners; however, the money is quickly made back over a couple of years and you’re left with no monthly expenses associated with your heater. Upon initial installation, this type of heater can take several days to heat the pool completely, though once it reaches the heightened temperature, it easily maintains it for you.
What Are The Pros Of Using Solar Powered Pool Heaters?
While it can be a hefty investment at the beginning, many homeowners who invest in solar-powered pool heaters make their investments back in under seven years. Ultimately the amount of time it can take to break even will depend on the cost of fuel and how much you’d spend on it to heat your pool. When properly installed, your heater should function perfectly for between 10 and 20 years. With no operational costs to maintain your pool’s temperature, you can enjoy more money for other things. In addition, using a solar pool heating system is more convenient and eco-friendly. You shouldn’t have to buy a new pump or filter, as many solar-powered pool heaters are compatible with most existing options.
How can I Select a Solar Pool Heater That Best Suits My Needs?
There are many factors to consider when searching for a solar-powered pool heater that can accommodate all your needs, such as the size of your pool, the materials used to produce the heater, and your budgetary requirements. It’s vital that you select the right solar pool heating system. The ideal system for you will be able to meet your various needs.
Pool Heater Size
The size of the pool heating system you’ll require is determined through a number of factors, including:
- Whether you use a pool cover
- Swimming season length
- Solar resources available
- Preferred water temperature
- Average temperatures for your region
- Collector’s efficiency, orientation, and tilt
A properly sized solar pool heater will allow you to maintain the right temperature throughout the pool. Many climates will allow you to cut down on the size by using a pool cover. Luckily, many solar-powered pool heating systems can easily handle additional panels to help you heat your pool more thoroughly or efficiently. Be sure to measure your pool by height, length, and width to ensure that you buy a system that can handle every drop of pool water. For instance, a two-panel solar heater may be perfect for your small above-ground pool. However, it would be far less effective in an in-ground pool.
The ideal material for your solar pool heater will depend on your region, as well as how you plan to use the collector. For instance, if you intend to use it during temperatures above freezing, you can typically get away with a simple, unglazed collector system. These are typically produced with heavy-duty plastic or rubber and treated with a UV light inhibitor, which lends it greater durability. However, if you want to use your heating system year-round or in colder conditions, you’ll want to look for a glazed collector system, which is made of copper tubing atop an aluminum plate. It features a glass covering to capture heat more efficiently.
Efficiency and Cost Comparisons
It can be an expensive investment, albeit with a variety of hefty benefits. Comparing the efficiency and potential costs of the systems you are interested in can help you enjoy a greater experience. To determine a solar pool heater’s efficiency, you’ll need to find out the collector’s thermal performance rating, which is calculated based on the British thermal unit per square foot per day. A higher number means greater efficiency in collecting solar energy.
Compare different systems’ costs by multiplying the thermal performance rating with the number of collectors you’ll need for your pool. Divide by the total cost of the installed system to determine the pool heating system costs. While it may seem like a lot of math, it is worth doing to be sure that you are investing wisely.
There are a variety of pricing factors that come into play when you select your solar pool heater. While there is the obvious initial cost of the heater itself, there are other fees to take into account. Since these use the power of the sun to heat your pool, you don’t have to worry about the cost of gas or electricity. However, you do need to consider the cost of upkeep, such as replacing panels as they wear out or fixing the pumps as needed. Luckily, those are fairly small and infrequent costs to consider. The upfront cost of the heater can vary from as little as a few hundred to upwards of several thousands of dollars.
The right solar pool heating system can make a world of difference in the quality of your swimming time. Whether you’d prefer to install the heater on your own or with the assistance of a professional, it’s important that you take the time to consider your requirements and options. The benefits offered by solar-powered pool heaters can off-set the overall expense quite quickly, particularly if you purchase a heater that provides a speedy return on your investment. Don’t hesitate to cut costs on your pool expenses while supporting the environment with an eco-friendly pool heating system.