Swimming Pool Blog
by Rob Cox, October 24, 2011
Solar Pool Heaters DeMystified
OK, so maybe there's not really any mystique about solar pool heaters ~ or is there? ...Certainly there is to some of you, those who have thought what it must be like to harness the heat from the sun and put it into your pool.
Free is a nice price for solar pool heat, and if you've ever had to pay for gas to heat your swimming pool, you know that it can cost hundreds per month.
Solar pool heating is very simple. It grew out of the old farmer's trick of heating water in a black hose or black pipe. Some of the earliest solar pool heaters I ever saw were just coils of black poly pipe laying up on the roof.
If you've ever turned on a spigot on a garden hose laying out in the sun, then you understand the idea behind a solar pool heater. Pump water through a black rubber or plastic mat, and the cool water will absorb the heat and bring it back to the pool.
Q: How much sun do I need to use solar pool heating?
A: The more the better! Try for at least 4 hours direct sun on the solar panels. 6 would be better and 8 hours per day optimum. It's unusual to have a location that will get 8 hours of uninterrupted (by trees) sunshine. Where possible, to compensate for less than full sun, add more solar panels. The modular nature of solar pool heater panels allows you to easily add more panels, even on opposite sides of the roof or pool.
Q: Do I need to put them on my roof?
A: Not if you don't want to. It's normally done just for inground pools, anyway. A southern exposure is best for mounting your solar panels. As is a 45 degree angle towards the sun. If your roof happens to have these characteristics, it would be the logical choice. Many people feel solar panels on the roof are not attractive, but I think it makes quite a statement, and makes a nice conversation piece, besides looking quite lovely. But seriously, if you don't want them on the roof, you can mount them on a rack, or attach a rack to the backside of your fence, on the outside (where you don't have to look at them ;-).
Q: Can I install a solar pool heater myself?
A: If you own a screwdriver, and know how to use it, consider yourself qualified. Solar pool heaters are incredibly easy to install and are the perfect job for any DIY pool owner. The panels are lightweight, the hardware is simple and the instructions are easy to understand. Enersol solar panels include a DVD, along with complete instructions and a toll-free help line if you get stuck.
Q: Are solar pool panels difficult to install?
A: Simple to install, just roll out and connect the solar pool panels together and secure them to roof or rack (or lay them on the ground for aboveground pool installs). Then connect the pool return line to a pipe or hose leading to the panel(s), and connect a pipe coming back. If you opted for the solar controller (a good choice), then just mount the box on the wall, install the temperature sensors and the automatic valve turner, and you're done.
Q. Why are there in ground and above ground solar pool heaters?
A: As there is for most pool equipment, solar pool heaters are sold for above ground pools and also for in ground pools. In theory, either could be used. The main difference to install a solar system on the roof, you need an in ground pool pump, one that has enough vertical lifting power to pump the water up to the roof. Another large difference is the price point, above ground solar pool heaters are made to meet a lower price point and are usually made from polypropylene, instead of the more expensive neoprene like rubber made by Enersol.
Q: How much heat can I expect from a solar pool heater?
A: That, my friend - depends on how much sun your panels receive, and how much square footage of panels you install. Using a pool cover or solar blanket can keep the pool much warmer, especially at night. Rainy weather will limit the amount of heat transfer, although solar pool heaters will still produce heat on overcast days. Solar pool heaters will deliver a temperature rise of 15-25 degrees of to a pool, depending on how big and effective it is. I have seen solar heaters used to heat a spa up to 105 degrees! I've also seen very small systems added very cheaply that will add 5-10 degrees to the water.