by Myles McMorrow, April 8, 2009
There are many types of pool covers on the market and each has a different purpose for your pool. There are year round and seasonal covers as well as covers that help heat the pool and stop evaporation. Some are safer than others. I always recommend the safety covers because of their strength - most can hold the weight of a car, so you never have to worry about kids being around them. Let's take a look at the different types of winter covers and how they stack up against each other.
Mesh safety covers
Mesh safety covers are made out of a nylon mesh material and are anchored to the concrete or wood deck. They can be used with above ground pools if a complete deck surrounds the pool. The threaded mesh cover anchors are made of solid brass. Drill a 3/4" hole in the deck, and tamp it in with a hammer. A spring connected to straps around the pool cover's edge gives the tension - like a trampoline.
When a mesh covered pool is winterized the water level is lowered 18 inches from the cover. The mesh material will allow water to pass through it, keeping the cover free of water while slowly replacing the water removed. The cover can support thousands of pounds on it making these the safest type of pool covers on the market, and a necessity in northern areas with a heavy snow load. Common name brands are Loop-Loc, Meyco, Cantar and Rayner. Long lasting and durable, mesh safety covers can easily last over 10 years before the sun breaks down the fabric.
Mesh safety covers offer the most attractive option as well. All manufacturers can custom make a cover to fit every curve and cove of your pool shape.
Solid safety covers
Solid safety covers are similar to the mesh pool covers, but do not allow the water from rain and snow melt to drain through. To achieve the name "safety cover", these covers are sold with an automatic pool cover pump. Just connect a garden hose and place the cover pump in the center of the pool cover, and it will pump off rain and snow melt down to 1/8" depth. Remaining water usually evaporates fairly quickly. Solid safety pool covers do have an option for a drain panel in the center of the cover. The opinion of this author, however, is that this defeats the purpose of a solid pool cover, that is, keeping pollutants, contaminants, pollen, algae, etc. - out of the pool.
Common name brands are Loop-Loc, Meyco, Anchor, Cantar. Strong and attractive, the pvc reinforced vinyl material will outlast the mesh polypropylene in it's UV resistance. These solid safety pool covers should last 12-15 years.
Solid non-safety pool covers
Solid Covers are made of a dipped polypropylene material, and they simply float on the surface of your pool. Heavy weights are used around the edge of the pool to hold the cover down. Most people use water bags. A water bag is a plastic tube that is filled with water to ensure that the wind will not blow the cover away or rain water will not sink the cover. Other options include AquaBloks, heavy planters, cinder blocks or pieces of lumber. I've even seen car rims and tires used! I'm sure I must have been in Woodbridge at the time.
The above ground solid pool covers are held in place with a tension cable with a crank winch that tightens a cable under the top rails of the pool holding the cover secure. Additional holding power can be achieved using cover clips, which clip the pool cover to the top rail of the pool. Some pool owners (probably in Woodbridge) use recycled milk jugs, half filled with gravel. Hang these on the cable to keep the pool cover tight.
Both of these types of solid covers are "high maintenance" and require a cover pump to remove rain water and snow melt. The down side of just laying on the pool is they make a basin that will catch leaves. Above ground pools typically use an air pillow under the cover, which helps to "pool" the rain water, and help some of the leaves to blow off. If not cleaned on a regular basis, a solid pool cover will be a big messy swamp in the spring.
Solid tarp pool covers are definately not safe. If someone falls on top they will go under the water and the cover will force all the air around you out. You basically get shrink wrapped in the cover under water. It is always recommended that you have a fence around the pool if using one of these solid pool covers. These covers will last 2-3 years, possibly longer if well taken care of (and you're lucky)
Automatic pool covers are safety covers, when they are kept pumped off. Most of the time they are built into the pool but can be retrofitted onto an existing pool. They fit into a track on the sides of a pool and at one end of the pool there is a basin with a long tube that rolls the cover up as it opens. These covers are typically used year round for safety and can be used to winterize the pool. Automatic covers require a cover pump for rain and snow melt,
An automatic cover can help save you money in the long run. They do this by stopping evaporation of the pool water and keeping the pool chemicals in the pool water. They also will help retain heat in the pool water by trapping it in the pool. Your pool will lose 70% of its heat from the pool surface, so there could be a payback on the installation of an auto cover. These covers will last about 10 years, but can be renovated for less than 1/2 the cost of new installation.
Solar pool covers
Solar pool covers do little to heat your pool, but they do a great job at keeping the heat in your pool - saving you money on heating it. You will get a few degrees of heat from the sun using a solar blanket, maybe as much as 10 degrees, but may not be able to extend the pool season. These covers are essentially thick bubble wrap type material. They float on the pool and are cut on site to fit the shape of the pool.
These covers are not safety covers and may not be good to use if you have children. One downside of these covers are that they stop the skimmers from removing leaves off the surface of the pool . This results in the leaves entering the pool when you remove the cover. To make solar blankets easier to remove, a reel at one end of the pool can be used. The life of solar pool covers are about 2-3 years.
Whatever cover you are looking at buying, we always recommend keeping safety in mind. Some pool covers are safe, and some are not!