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The Full Cost of a Solar Pool Heater

House with solar panels heating the pool

Do you want a heated pool without the high utility bills? Are you looking for affordable alternatives to keeping your pool water steaming? Well, solar energy is probably the answer for you.

In this post we’ll cover the solar pool heater cost, and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about solar pool heating. Keep reading to find out the cost of your average solar pool heater, how it works, the pros, cons and whether it’s the right option for you.

Important note: The heaters you use for your pool are not the same as the solar panels you use for your home electricity. They're very different and serve different purposes.

How Much Does a Solar Pool Heater Cost?

house with pool and solar panels

The installation of a solar pool heater does require an investment before you can take advantage of your new hot water. This is the money needed to outfit your home with the special panels required to heat your pool. Because without these panels, you’re just hoping the sun's light shining upon your pool will do the job.

The average solar heating system falls between $2000 and $4000 and this cost greatly depends on the type of panels you choose to install. Keep reading for a better idea of factors that influence your costs.

What are the Different Panel Types For Solar Pool Heaters?

There are two main types of solar heating panels. The cost of both types of heaters varies considerably. However, the installation is roughly the same. The two types of solar panels are:

Glazed Solar Panels

Glazed panels consist of two layers of heat tempered glass that’s housed in a solid aluminum frame. These panels serve as the more effective option when compared to the propylene mats in collecting solar heat. They’re also more durable.

There’s a series of copper pipes running through the glass layers which allows pool water to travel through and get heated. Glazed solar panels heat pool water with little energy loss which ultimately gets you warmer water, faster. However, they come with a slightly higher price tag.

Propylene Mats

Propylene mats are cheaper than glazed solar panels. However, they’re not as effective or efficient.

The mats are stretched tight on the rooftop with the help of two PVC pipes holding it together. Your cold water flows into one of the PVC pipes, then down through the thin veins running between the hot propylene mats and out the PVC pipe at the other end which returns the warm water to your pool. This process continues happening over and over resulting in your pool gradually heating.

How Much Does it Cost to Install?

There’s a number of factors on which installation cost depends. The size of your pool, solar heating unit purchased and manpower required to install a system.

Since different companies install the solar pool heating systems, we can’t give you a hard number here. The best advice for pricing out the installation cost of your pool heater is to call around and get at least 5 quotes. Then use the one with the best combination of pricing, customer service, and reviews.

It may cost more if there’s additional work required such as a very large pool, sharp angled roof, or other unique circumstances. But this information should be gathered by the businesses when they’re building your quote.

Additional Cost of Solar Pool Heater

Another aspect of solar heaters is that you need electricity to pump water into rooftop solar pool heater. This means your utility bill will rise if your home is not already fully solar powered.

I know you’re thinking, what’s the point then? Well, the rise in your electricity is far less than it would cost to heat your pool with gas. With solar you pay the one time installation cost and then the cost of running a pump is the only expense for the next 20 years (or however long your pool heating system is warrantied for). With a gas heater, you’re paying an installation cost and $300-$500 / month in heating bills...forever.

How Quickly Does Solar Energy Heat Up Your Pool?

If you live in a fairly sunny region with clear skies, then your pool should be comfortably warm within a day or so. Solar pool heaters are the slowest of all heating devices. However, they do save you lots of money and they’re only slow getting your pool up to temperature. Once your pools warm, they maintain that temperature easily. An average pool heater tends to heat your pool at a steady rate of around 5-7 degrees in a day.

That said pool heating depends on other factors as well; the chief factor being the size of your pool. It also depends upon the sun exposure on your rooftop solar panels. The heating rate can fluctuate daily as it relies completely on the sun. It also depends on the outside temperature.

In cold areas, the heat transfer can be too small to provide a comfortable swim. So if you live in a place where it's cold most of the year and the sun doesn’t shine often, then a solar pool heater probably isn’t the best option. The important takeaway is that you need full sun if you want your solar pool heater to work effectively.

How Hot Can Your Pool Get With Solar Heaters?

floating thermometer in pool

The shortest answer to this question is that a solar heater can raise your pool temperature by a few degrees each day. Solar pool heaters rely on the sun for energy. So if there is no sun, then you can’t expect the pool water to be comfortable.

In fact, in some cases the pool water might become colder than the temperature outside. This is because of loss of heat transfer while pumping water through solar panels.

A rule of thumb for heating your pool water with solar is that it raises the temperature a few degrees higher than the current outdoor temperature. The beauty is that you might not feel like swimming on days when the sun isn’t out or it’s freezing outside. But if you use a solar pool cover in addition to your heater, you’ll preserve the heat in your pool for longer and capture more of the sun's heat on your pool.

How Does Solar Pool Cover Work?

A solar cover is essentially a solar blanket that goes over your pool. It’s a large sheet of plastic that mimics bubble wrap and comes in a variety of thicknesses, sizes and colors. They help to preserve the temperature of your pool by preventing evaporation and helps to keep your pool clean. It's a well-known fact that 75% of pool heat loss is due to evaporation. Essentially, you can reduce 70% of heating costs by using a solar pool cover.

Combine the solar pool cover with the solar pool heater on your roof and you’ll have an efficient system with the benefit of keeping leaves and other debris out of your pool.

How Much Does it Cost to Heat a Pool during winters?

Your solar water heater might prove to be useless if you don’t live in a sunny area such as California, Arizona or Florida for example. However, sun is not the only factor that decides how hot your pool gets.

Outside temperature plays a major role in the temperature of your pool water. If you live in an area that isn’t sunny, but is warm, then you might still get positive results.

But in general, if it's cold outside and the sun isn’t shining, a solar pool heater isn’t going to work for you.

The Cons of Solar Pool Heaters

There’s factors beyond cost that may render a solar pool heater the wrong choice for your home...

Time Intensive

Solar Pool Heaters can take a long time to heat up your pool. The exact time taken depends greatly on the pool size and temperature outside though. These heaters are probably not for you if you are looking for fast heating options. Solar pool heaters can take a whole day to heat up your pool by 5-7 degrees even with consistent sunshine.

And the chances of consistent sunlight marginally diminish during winters when you actually want to take a swim in a heated pool.

Needs Sunshine

The catch with solar pool heaters is that they require bright sunny days to work. But the temperature on these days is high enough that you might not require a heated pool. Warm water is a blessing on days when the sun is not out and it's cold outside. But without steady sunlight, solar pool heaters have no way to transfer heat energy to you pool water.

Solar Pump

Your pool water is not heated for ‘free’ without a solar pump in place. You require electricity to pump the water to the solar panels. This can add on to your energy bills. But as we said earlier, the rise in utilities is minimal, especially when compared with other pool heating options.

Solar Pool Heater Advantages

Solar pool heaters come with a variety of pros that offset the disadvantages by a large margin. Here are some of the more obvious ones:

Easy maintenance

There’s very few parts in a solar pool heating system. Hence, it requires little to no maintenance for many years.

Adequate Heating

If you live somewhere with lots of sunlight then solar pool heaters have no issues raising the temperature of your pool. And when you couple the heater with a solar pool cover, you’re in good shape to have a warm swim whenever you want.

Use Automatic Diverter Valves

With a little extra investment you can get an automatic diverter valve that automatically senses the pool temperature and diverts water to the solar panels. This means the system can be automated to keep you pool consistently at a certain temperature range.

Should You Invest in A Solar Pool Heater?

A solar pool heater is a cost effective option if you live in an area with a warm climate and plenty of sunshine. However, you should also consider how long your winters are and whether or not you have the space on your roof before going with a solar pool heater.

Solar heaters might cost slightly more up front by way of unit price and installation. However, the benefits in terms of long term cost effectiveness are worth it. Your pool heating costs will be minimal when compared to a gas pool heater and they’ll stay that way for the life of your solar system.

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