A solar pool heater uses energy from the sun to heat your pool – which of course is free and environmentally friendly.
It has other advantages too:
Can be installed by pool owner – Solar heating kits are available that suit both above ground pools and in ground pools and are easy to install. There is no need for qualified gas contractors or electricians. The main issue is the installation of the solar collectors which can be on a roof or on a frame angled towards the sun.
Little maintenance – Once installed the system requires little maintenance which compares favorably to gas and electric heaters.
Long lasting – A solar pool heater will last a long time and hence maximize the return on your investment. 15 year guarantees are available.
However there are a number of disadvantages to consider:
Needs large area for solar collectors – As a rough guide the area of the solar collectors will be need to be 50-100% of the surface area of the pool. Even with a small pool this can be a significant space requirement and may spoil the appearance of the pool surroundings.
Not as powerful as gas heater or heat pump – Even in ideal conditions the heat output from a solar pool heater will not match those of gas pool heaters and electric heat pumps. Solar heaters are not able to raise the water temperature as much as gas or electric heaters and may take several days to achieve the sort of temperature raise other types of heater could achieve in a few hours (so a pool cover is essential). Solar heating will still work on overcast days but the output will not be as high as on a sunny day.
Dependent on Local Conditions – The effectiveness of a solar pool heating system will depend on average temperature for the location, wind factors, the angle and orientation of the collectors and the solar exposure. To work at their best the solar collectors need to be facing south and not be shaded by trees or anything else at any time of day.
Can be expensive – The cost of buying a solar pool heater system depends on the area of solar collectors you need. For an in ground pool it can work out more than the cost of a gas heater.
What is available? -If you have an above ground pool you can buy small space saving devices and ground standing solar panels which you position in a sunny spot and pump the pool water through them. In the right location they can be effective but if you have a larger pool you need much larger panels which will ideally be roof fitted. You can buy a base system and then add-on extra panels as required for the size of your pool.
Whether a solar pool heater will work for you really depends on your location and how long you want your swimming season to be. If you can locate the solar collectors to get best results and are not looking to extend your season into the colder months then a solar pool heater is well worth considering. You might also consider a solar heater in addition to another form of heating so that you can make use of the free heating when it is available and back up with a gas heater or heat pump when it is not.