Solar Pool Heaters: What are they?

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What’s a solar pool heater?

Like the name suggests, solar pool heaters keep your swimming pool warm and comfortable through the use of solar energy. They’re an environmentally-friendly alternative to typical gas-powered pool heaters, and won’t cost you any more.

How do they work?

Pool water is pumped through a filter into a solar hot water collector. Solar hot water collectors are thin, flat boxes that are usually mounted on the roof. Thin pipes of water run through each collector. The collectors are positioned facing the sun, and use the sun’s rays to heat the water running inside. Unlike solar panels, which convert the sun’s energy into electricity, solar pool heaters use the heat of the sun directly. If you live in a climate with very hot weather, the solar collectors can actually be used to cool down water when that’s necessary, by running the system at night.

solar pool heater

Solar diagram of solar pool heater, U.S. Department of Energy

Some systems include sensors and valves to help automatically send water through the collector when it’s hot enough. If the pool and the collectors are around the same temperature, the filtered water won’t be sent through the collector, but will just go back into the pool.

What are different types of solar collectors?

There are several different types of collectors, and the right type for you depends on your climate and how often you’re planning to use your pool in colder weather. Unglazed collector systems are less expensive because they don’t have glass coverings, and instead use cheaper rubber or plastic parts. They can work if you don’t plan to use your pool in temperatures below freezing. If you want to use your solar pool heater in cold weather, you’ll want to get a glazed collector system instead. These capture heat more effectively, and can be used all year in most locations.

How much do solar pool heaters cost?

The cost will vary depending on the type of system you want and your location, but may range between $3000-$4000, including installation.

Where can I learn more?

The U.S. Department of Energy has great resources, including how to evaluate the potential for a solar pool heater at your home, how to choose the correct system size, compare costs, and check on local laws and regulations.

Image: Solar Energy DiagramFAFCO