Solar Pool Cover Buying Guide

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Solar Pool Cover

Solar swimming pool heaters use light, specifically sunlight, to heat pools to a comfortable temperature. They are by far the most energy-efficient way to heat a swimming pool, and their operating costs rival gas and heat pump pool heaters. Solar swimming pool heaters use a solar collector, which is a device through which pool water is circulated and ultimately heated by the sun; a filter, to keep water clean by removing dirt and debris; a pump, to circulate water through the filter and collector; and a flow control valve to streamline water flow and divert pool water through the collector. The result is a solar heating system that is both energy saving and cost-effective.

Outdoor, in-ground swimming pools absorb up to 85 percent of direct solar energy from the water's surface. During the daylight hours, heat retention is not an issue. However, when not in direct sunlight, they can lose a large amount of energy and warmth in cooler air. A solar pool cover optimizes solar energy absorption significantly, and conserves heat by sealing it in the water. It can raise the temperature of a pool as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit within a week's time. According to ENERGY STAR, covering a pool when it is not being used is the most effective way to save on heating costs. 

Types of Solar Pool Covers

Even a sheet of heavy plastic helps to capture the heat of direct sunlight on an outdoor pool, but solar pool covers have air chambers that magnify solar energy before emitting it to cooler water below. Solar covers are passive devices that capture energy by being positioned in sunlight. Then, they help insulate the surface of the pool with trapped air to minimize heat loss after the sun goes down. Traditional pool covers are made of vinyl, but there are other options as well. Rather than thinking of a pool cover as an added cost, think of it as an investment. After all, some cost as little as $100, and those pay for themselves in just a single season with all of the heat they trap.

Bubble Covers

Solar pool covers, also called bubble covers or solar blankets, are the least expensive and easiest to handle for pool owners. The air bubbles that cover the surface of most solar pool covers absorb the sun's warmth and transfer it to the cooler pool surface. The cover seals in the heat, preventing it from escaping back into the air. This process is most effective when the sun is shining directly on the water. During the night, bubbles act as insulators to hold in heat, but a solar cover does allow some warmth to escape due to basic physics. The outside of the cover becomes cooler than the inside and reverses the thermal collection process.

Bubble covers are ultraviolet-ray-resistant, which means they are better able to withstand damage from ultraviolet ray radiation. Nevertheless, they rarely last longer than five or six years because the sun does cause them to deteriorate.

Bubble covers are lighter in weight than protective pool covers designed to keep out people and animals. Solar pool covers are available in different grades of polyethylene or polypropylene materials, ranging in thickness from 8 gauge to 16 gauge. Thicker covers are marginally more effective in retaining heat than thinner ones, and they stay in place better during windy conditions, but they are more cumbersome to maneuver. Covers made of 16-gauge polypropylene are more expensive than those of 12-, 10-, or 8-gauge materials.

Solar pool covers do more than just trap the sun's heat in a swimming pool. They keep out leaves, dust, and other debris that blows into an uncovered pool, and thus reduce the frequency of skimming and vacuuming chores. They minimize water evaporation and conserve water so that pool owners do not have to add water as often. Bubble covers also help owners conserve sanitizing chemicals, which slows their dissipation. Some experts estimate total dollar savings of using a pool cover to be 50 percent of total overall operation and maintenance costs. Plus, there are clear and even ultra-clear models that make it so that you can still see the pool underneath the cover.

One popular brand of in-ground swimming pool covers is 7-Year, which makes 15 sizes and can fit to almost any pool size.

 

Fitting a Bubble Cover

The key to an efficient solar pool cover is a good fit from wall to wall so that the cover seals in warmth. When purchasing a solar blanket, measure the pool from side to side and end to end at the widest points, including steps and seating. This is the minimum size to order.

When the cover arrives, place it bubble side down, on top of the pool and let it relax for 24 hours or more. The sun helps the cover open and smooth folds from packing. Then, use a sharp pair of scissors or utility knife to trim the cover to fit the pool or spa. It is helpful to have a helper who can hold the cover in place while cutting and check to make sure it does not shift.

Using the pool edge as a cutting guide, trim the cover to fit. Ideally, this allows a few extra inches all around so that the cover edge curls up slightly at the edge of the pool to make a good seal when in use. Trimming may not be necessary for standard sized, rectangular pools.

 

Pros of Bubble Solar Pool Covers

Cons of Bubble Solar Pool Covers

Lightweight

Does not keep falling objects and pets out

Raises water temperature in sunlight

Loses warmth at night

Can be trimmed to fit non-rectangular pools

Awkward to trim large pieces

Treated to be UV resistant

Prolonged sun exposure causes deterioration

Prevents evaporation and slows chemical dissipation

Blocks UV rays that kill algae


Solar Ring Pool Covers

Solar rings are small spheres that enhance solar collection in the pool without full coverage. The rings attach to create a raft on the pool surface via magnets positioned within each unit. Triangles of uncovered space at the junctures of rings admit unfiltered sunlight that helps prevent undesirable algae growth.

Solar rings come in multi packs, and most individual components measure five feet in diameter. The following chart shows how many to buy according to the size of the pool or spa.
 

Pool Shape/Size

Number of Rings

Round/12-foot

3

Round/15-foot

5

Round/18-foot

7

Round/21-foot

9

Round/24-foot

10

Round/28-foot

14

Oval or rectangle/16 feet by 32 feet

10

Oval or rectangle/18 feet by 36 feet

14

Oval or rectangle/20 feet by 40 feet

14


Pool owners can easily remove a few rings at a time for certain purposes, such as skimming and vacuuming. If a pet falls into the pool, the rings break apart rather than wrapping and potentially entrapping it the way a bubble cover is apt to do. Solar rings are easier for one person to replace when finished swimming because each component is more manageable than an entire solar blanket. They effectively raise the water temperature in direct sunlight.

Although solar rings are no more durable than a bubble cover, pool owners can replace just a few at a time as they wear out rather than having to replace the entire bubble cover. Another advantage is that, due to the uncovered junctures, they are easier to see through than tinted solar pool blankets. If any foreign object falls into the water, pool owners are better able to see them.

 

Pros of Solar Ring Pool Covers

Cons of Solar Ring Pool Covers

Easy for one person to install

Cannot be trimmed to fit odd-shaped pools

Raise water temperature efficiently in sunlight

Leave uncovered spaces where heat escapes at night

As durable as bubble covers

Cannot be rolled up when not in use

Let UV rays into pool to kill algae

Doesn't efficiently conserve water or sanitizers due to open areas


Tinted or Clear Solar Pool Cover?

While solar rings come in decorative print patterns, most bubble covers are available in clear, blue, or blue and silver variations. Pool owners and manufacturers debate the virtues of each style of bubble solar cover. Proponents of clear solar pool covers believe that clear plastic directs more heat deep into the water. Blue bubble cover manufacturers stress that colored plastic absorbs heat more efficiently. Advocates of bubble covers with a silver underside say that it reflects heat back into the water at night. The advantages of each cover color are summarized below.

Clear Solar Pool Cover

Blue Solar Pool Cover

Blue and Silver Solar Pool Cover

Treated to block UV rays

Treated to block UV rays

Treated to block UV rays

Deeply heats pool with solar energy

Heats pool surface with solar energy

Heats pool surface with solar energy

Lasts 5 to 10 years

Lasts 5 to 6 years

Lasts 5 to 6 years

Allows visibility into pool

Limits visibility into pool

Blocks most visibility into pool

Lets some heat out at night or in cloudy or cool weather

Lets some heat out at night or in cloudy or cool weather

Silver underlayer designed to keep more heat in the pool


No obvious favorite stands out among pool owners in regard to the color of bubble covers. Some people make their final decision based on aesthetic criteria. Some like the classic swimming pool look that a blue cover imparts while others prefer the appearance of a clear cover.
 

Swimming Pool Cover Accessories

Owners of spas and smaller swimming pools can easily fold up their solar covers when not in use and store them in a bag or in a location that is shaded from the sun. Protecting the cover from direct UV radiation is key to keeping it in good condition.

Purchasing a pool cover reel system for removing and storing larger, heavier gauge bubble covers means that owners are more likely to use the cover as intended. The prospect of manipulating a heavy, wet cover daily by hand is daunting to many, whereas an easy removal system makes the process quicker and more convenient.

Some manual reels designed for above-ground pools mount right onto the edge of the pool and have a handle that winds the cover at surface level. Reel systems for larger, in-ground swimming pools are mounted on wheeled legs. Owners can move them out of the way when the pool is in use. Unreeling and replacing the cover on the pool ideally takes two people, one on either side of the deck to do the job most efficiently.

 

How to Find Solar Pool Covers on eBay

eBay is a great place to learn more about solar pool covers and find the right one to purchase. The first step is using eBay's search tool, located at the top of any page, and typing a keyword phrase, such as "solar pool covers," into the box. 

Emailing sellers with questions is easy. Checking the approval rating of a particular seller takes just minutes.

When shopping for pool cover reels, finding an item for local pickup can eliminate shipping hassles. Buyers can shop by location and some local sellers offer item pickup.
 

Conclusion

Buying a pool cover is a wise decision for a spa or pool owner since, in time, it helps save money as well as energy. Shopping for lightweight, efficient solar pool covers on eBay can help buyers save time and cash.

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