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Solar pool heater buying guide

Solar pool heater buying guide

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

Guide written by:

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

54 guides

If you want to extend swimming season, you'll have to heat your pool. Solar energy is cheap and inexhaustible, making it an excellent solution for pool heating. But how do solar pool heaters work? What type of solar heater should you pick and what size do you need? Read on to find the perfect solar pool heater.

Important features

  • Pros and cons
  • Operation and limitations
  • Types of solar pool heaters
  • Heating power and placement
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A solar pool heater can be used to increase the temperature of your pool by a few precious degrees at the start or end of summer. But it's important to choose the right heater to match the size of your pool and your own needs.

Solar panels are suitable for all types of pool including large ones. However, they do require a lot of sun exposure. Solar mats are very easy to install but have limited heating power (up to 5 cubic metres on average).

Solar domes are just as easy to install and offer more heating power (around 15 cubic metres).

It goes without saying that your solar heater needs to receive as much sun exposure as possible in order to function properly. It's also important to size your heater to your pool and your desired temperature.

Solar pool heaters use the energy from the sun to heat up your pool. These devices do not use any electricity and are therefore very environmentally friendly. The energy they produce is cost-free, inexhaustible and can be used to increase the temperature of your pool by as much as five or six degrees depending on the type of panel used and the amount of sun exposure.

Solar heaters are straightforward and cost-effective systems. Despite a high initial investment, they will last for many years. Another bonus: solar heating can be used with any type of swimming pool whether you have an in-ground or above-ground pool.

It's worth noting, however, that solar heating cannot be used to increase the temperature of your water quickly. Furthermore, you do need to have enough space to set up the solar panels. Once your pool has reached the desired temperature, you will have to keep it that way.

This means using a pool cover (also known as a solar or bubble cover) to create a layer of insulation over the surface of the water to prevent heat loss. This type of cover has the added bonus of helping to prevent algae.

The water in a swimming pool moves in a hydraulic circuit powered by the filter pump. In a solar heating system, it is this movement that sends the water towards the heater whether you install panels, a heating mat or a solar dome.

As the water travels through the system, it is filtered then heated using the calories stored in the solar panels. The water is then sent back through the pool through the inlet nozzles. Solar pool heaters are easy enough to install, especially if you opt for a solar mat or dome. It can be a good idea to add a temperature sensor to the system.

This means that once your set temperature has been reached, the water will automatically stop circulating through the solar heater. In doing so, your pool water will never get too warm which will help to prevent algae and bacteria growth.

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Swimming pools

There are three basic types of solar pool heater:

  • solar panels;
  • solar mats;
  • solar domes.

Solar panels

Solar panels can be installed on the ground or on a roof. If you choose to install on a roof, you can use the roof of your house, an outbuilding or even your shed (provided it is big enough).

Solar panels set up on the ground are both easier to install and to adjust. However, they do take up a fair amount of room. If you want to install on top of your house, you will of course have to consider the direction of your roof. No matter where you decide to install the panels, they will need as much sun exposure as possible. If you don't have enough exposure, you will have to invest in more solar panels to make up the difference which will of course mean more costs.

Provided they receive enough sun exposure, solar panels will usually be able to generate enough energy to heat any size of pool, even large pools. Please note that you may require planning permission to install solar panels on the roof of your home which will not be the case if you install on the ground.

Solar heating mats

Solar mats, also known as above ground solar pool heaters, are basically flexible solar panels that are designed to be rolled out. They are easy to install on any flat surface whether you want to set up on the roof on the ground. Theoretically, solar matting can even be walked on.

As solar mats do produce a limited amount of energy (up to 5 cubic metres on average), they are best suited to small pools. That said, it is possible to connect several solar mats together.

Solar domes

Solar domes or pods are made up of a long pipe that curls around itself like a snake. This inner mechanism is hidden by a transparent and shatterproof polycarbonate dome.

This dome shape allows the device to capture the sun's rays from all angles, heating up the water contained in the pipe via a kind of greenhouse effect. Solar domes can heat up to about 15 cubic metres of water making them best suited for small to medium-sized pools. Just like with a solar mat, it is possible to connect several solar domes together to heat a larger volume of water.

Sizing a solar pool heater

When it comes to sizing a solar pool heater your choice will come down to a number of factors:

  • the type of solar panel chosen;
  • the amount of sun exposure;
  • the size of the pool and your desired temperature.

Generally speaking, the size of your solar panels will need to be at least 30 to 50% of the total pool area. Of course, this percentage will be considerably higher if you're hoping to heat a pool in the north of the country. Solar panels should be set at an incline of about 30° to make the most of the summer sun.

Where to install your solar panels

It is imperative to choose the right position for your solar panels to allow the system to run as efficiently as possible. You will of course have to pick a flat surface with a lot of sun exposure. Ensure your panels are south to south-west-facing so that they are exposed to at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

It is also essential that your solar heat be as close as possible to the pool in order to avoid heat loss. If the water has to travel a long way through pipes, it will most certainly lose a few calories along the way.

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Solar pool heaters

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Guide written by:

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford, 54 guides

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

From a background in waste transportation, I became a farmer specialising in organic gardening. A graduate of Horticultural Production, I tried for several years as a young farmer to settle in the beautiful region of Oxfordshire.   After many disappointments, I finally started a small-business in home services, specifically in gardening, assisted by my loving, dear husband. Passionate about nature and wild edible plants, I am very attentive to ecological solutions and respectful of our environment in all aspects of my daily life.   From the vegetable garden to the flower beds, from seed to harvest, I have all kinds of advice up my sleeve. Do not hesitate to ask me your questions.

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