by Myles McMorrow, September 12, 2009
Solar is the free way to heat your pool and save lots of money. Sure, you have to pay for the solar heater, cover, or liquid blanket , but with the money saved you will recoup that in no time. There is no slowing down seen in the production and use of solar powered products. The pool industry has always been very friendly in the use of solar pool products.
In the heyday of the 80's, Solar Rebates offered by the US government exploded the solar energy market. Solar Rebates still exist, but the larger money is available today is for energy efficient motors and pumps. See our blog on Saving $$$ at the pump.
Solar blankets have been around for many years, they lay on your pool, floating on the water and do two things very well:
1. Solar Blankets stop heat loss from the surface of your pool where you lose 90% of heat loss occurs.
2. Solar Blankets allow the sun to heat your pool more effectively by "prism-ing" the light through the heater air bubbles of the blanket.
Solar Blankets will save a lot of money if you have a gas heater on your pool by stopping the heat loss from the surface of the pool. Using a solar blanket can reduce heat loss by as much as 80%.
Solar pool covers come in many styles and materials. In general, the thicker they are, the more durable they will be. The clear solar blanket has been said to allow more sun light to penetrate to the floor of the pool heating up the water more uniformly. Using a solar reel with the blanket makes removal and re-installation much easier, but if your blanket is rectangular or oval, and you have enough deck space, it's not too hard to just accordian fold the cover on deck.
To care for your solar blanket, protect it from the sun and harsh water chemistry. When rolled up, use a solar blanket cover to keep the sun's damaging UV rays from breaking down the material. If you aren't using the blanket during the winter, or for any extended period, protect it from sun, rain and cold temperatures, and store indoors. The worst thing you can do is shock the pool or bring the chlorine level up very high while using the solar cover. I have seen blankets deteriorate in only one season from this. Don't use a solar blanket when the chlorine level is over 1-2ppm, and it will last much longer. Very low pH levels can also be destructive to solar pool covers.
Solar Sun Rings
These Solar Sun Rings are a passive solar swimming pool heating device made from two sheets of heavyweight U.V. resistant vinyl. The upper clear layer holds insulating air and focuses sunlight on the blue colored lower layer. You would really be amazed at the thickness and hefty weight of Solar Sun Rings. The blue layer absorbs about 50% of the sunlight and converts it to heat. The balance of the sunlight is allowed to pass through for deep water heating. Solar Sun Rings are patented, and have been independently tested to show a heat transfer of up to 21,000 BTU's.
Solar Sun Rings have magnets on the edge, which draws and holds together adjoining rings. People tend to like these because they are easier to remove from the pool than a big solar blanket, no reel required and they provide more heat than standard solar blankets. Although heavier and longer lasting than standard solar blankets, Solar Sun Rings are also succeptible to damage from low pH or high Chlorine levels.
Liquid Solar Heaters
The sun of course heats the pool, but also evaporates your pool water, and this is the biggest form of heat loss. A clear liquid, just drop it in the pool, and liquid solar blanket forms an invisible layer on the surface of your pool. The molecular adhesion of the product creates a barrier to heat loss and evaporation.
This product is nontoxic and biodegradable. In fact part of the liquid is extracted from the palm tree. Liquid Solar Blanket does two things for your pool. The first is it will slow down the evaporation of the water. The second benefit is a byproduct of the first, it slows down the heat loss, keeping the pool warmer. These two benefits will help save you on heater bills as well as water bills.
Liquid Solar Blanket is cheap and easy to use. Just drop in the fish and activate the micro processor controlled pumping system. This will release just droplets of the liquid every so often, keeping a steady dosage in the water. The product is also available in the form of a pill, known as the Solar Pill. With these, you just poke a hole with the included push pin, and drop the ball in the skimmer. Or, you can also buy the liquid in bottles, to be poured in every few days, or for larger pools, dispensed with a small pump directly into the return plumbing line.
Solar Pool Heaters
Solar Pool Heaters when used with a cover and a computerized controller can save you hundreds of dollars a year over a gas heater.
As mentioned before, the best thing about solar heating is that it is free heat. After the initial investment, there will be no additional cost for your heat. You will not get the response you will get from a gas heater, but solar pool heaters will raise the water temperature comfortable for swimming and more. The response you get from your pool solar heater will depend on your geographical area, the weather, the location of the panels, whether the pool is covered and the system you choose.
According to the United States Dept. of Energy, solar pool heating is the most cost effective use of solar energy. Many states and utilities offer rebates on solar pool heaters them too. Even if you need a gas heater for your hot tub, running the water through a solar system first will save you lots by preheating the water first saving gas. You cannot go wrong with this free source of heat. They work best on the roof of your house facing a southern direction.
The cost of a solar system roughly depends on your pool size, how many gallons need heating. Aboveground systems can cost as little as $120 for the GAME solar pool heater, up to $2K for a full blown Enersol system with controller for an larger inground pool.
Remember Malibu lights? Gone, out of business. Killed by solar lights, the line was recently retired. Solar pool lights, pathway lights, garden lights, accent lighting require no buried wires, or electricity, just stick them in a sunny location. Not very powerful, to be sure, the lighting obtained from most solar lights is not very bright, nor is it a very warm color. Nonetheless, they are an popular accessory around the pool and garden, due to their low cost, attractive designs and easy installation.
Solar Pool Pumps
That's right, with PhotoVoltaic cells, or PV cells, mounted nearby, you can soak up enough watts to power a 3 hp pump. If you have extra panels, you can store the excess power into batteries, or even sell it back to the utility company.
Useful in agri-business, developing areas of the world, as well as remote wilderness getaways, solar powered pumping of water is not new. What is new is using the technology to run fountains, waterfalls, filtering systems or your own lazy river. Poolcenter will soon have the pump, controller and panels available in kit form, for under $5,000. Now, 5K may seem expensive, however, in most cases, payback is less than 5 years.
In California, and other energy concious states, hefty rebates of up to 30% of cost, and waiver of sales tax, as well as other encouragement - is available to people who want to reduce their demand on the grid. Many utilities want more customers who can produce their own electricity, and many have meters that will actually run backwards if you produce more power than you consume.