Solar pool covers, which are also called solar blankets, are used to reduce the amount of heat lost from pool water, to reduce the evaporation of pool water, and to reduce the need for frequent chemical additions to water. They can also be used to improve the efficiency of solar pool heaters, but they do have some drawbacks!
Solar pool blankets are made from a plastic polymer that is designed to collect the sun's heat and transfer that heat to the surface water of the pool. The plastic polymer is chemical resistant so chlorine and other chemicals present in the pool water will not quickly degrade the plastic.
Polyethylene is the most common manufacturing material. High-grade covers will be made with 400 to 500 micron plastic. Covers that cost more tend to be made with plastics that have a more efficient thermal construction.
Regular pool covers are simply used to protect the pool from falling debris. The plastic, while thick, is not designed to collect and transfer heat so heat and water loss from evaporation are not affected or minimized.
Most solar covers will look like bubble wrap used to protect packages when shipped. The bubble face downward in the water and when the sun heats the surface of the plastic, the bubble collect and store heat that can be transferred to the water.
When using energy to heat pool water, protecting that heat is essential to minimizing your heating costs. If the air temperature outside of the pool is less than the heated water temperature, pool heaters will have to constantly work to maintain the desired heat.
Unprotected pool water is also susceptible to evaporation. A solar pool cover can reduce evaporation by 30%A to 50%. When evaporation is reduced, upkeep costs associated with refilling the water is also reduced.
As water evaporates and the sun's UV rays hit pool waters, the chemical concentration in the pool tends to degrade quickly. A certain chemical level is required to keep algae from forming in the water and other bacteria from flourishing. Solar covers reduce chemical consumption by up to 65% over uncovered pools.
In areas where the swimming season is limited by short summers, a pool solar cover can . As the sun's heat is collected, the waters remain warm allowing swimmers to swim for longer when compared to unprotected pools or pools covered with traditional covers.
Pool solar covers cost more than traditional pool covers, but the cost is quickly recovered unlike other forms of solar energy. Within one swimming season, the reduction in water and chemical usage in the pool will account for the additional cost.
Solar pool blankets, as they are also called, can also replace a more expensive pool heating system, which will also reduce the cost of pool upkeep.
There are some limitations to using a solar pool cover. One is that they can be awkward to handle, just like regular pool covers. Depending on the size of your pool, and your own physical fitness, they may require more than one person to put them on the pool and take them off again.
Another is that parents of small children feel more concerned when a pool is covered, as a child could fall in and not be seen, and be unable to come up for air.
Some pool solar covers do not maintain well and may disintegrate in the sun. They may be difficult to clean. All in all though, the benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks because of the huge energy savings you receive, and the extension of your swimming pool enjoyment even into the cooler months!
Some people who live alone, are elderly, or who have small children have tried solar pool rings, which are inflatable plastic rings that are joined together with magnets, that heat your pool with solar energy.
Some people love these, and others find them to be less effective, and to have many limitations. Some of the complaints about solar rings are that they don't last very long, and that debris gets stuck in between the rings, which makes it hard to keep the pool clean. You can learn more about these at our solar pool heater page.
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