Swimming Pool Solar Heater | How To Choose The Best One

A swimming pool solar heater is an eco-friendly way to "Go-Green". Solar swimming pool heaters are also an excellent way to save on your energy and pool costs.

Most pool owners want to save a little on the energy cost of heating their pool.  They want to swim earlier and longer during the swimming season.  Solar heaters and panels and collectors are pretty straight forward.  Most solar heater panels are designed to harness the sun's energy and convert that energy into warm water for your pool.  The warm water enters your pool allowing you to swim a bit earlier and later during the swimming season. 

Swimming Pool Solar Heater

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How Does A Swimming Pool Solar Heater Work?

A swimming pool solar heater works by using your pool pump  or dedicated pump motor to pass your pool water through a series of solar collectors.  As the water goes through the collectors the water gets warm, and then returns the warm water back to the pool.  For the solar panels to properly heat the water you must have enough direct sunlight on the panels for a long enough period of time.  The less sun your solar panels get, the longer ti will take to heat your pool.  A good solar pool heater has: 

Swimming Pool Solar Panels/Collectors

The part that heats the water and is circulated

Water Filter

Removes debris before water is pumped through the panels


Circulates water through the filter, the panel, and then back to the pool

Flow control valve

Automatic or manual valve that diverts water through the pool solar panel.  Your pool water is pumped by the filter and goes through the solar panels where it's heated before returning back to your pool.

Benefits Of A Swimming Pool Solar Water Heater

As with everything in life, there are benefits and drawbacks.  The advantages of a swimming pool solar heater are:

  • Ability to extend the swimming season.  You can possibly swim from April through October, and maybe even early November.
  • Eco-friendly and renewable source of energy.
  • Very little maintenance required.
  • Quiet to operate.
  • High return on investment.  Solar panels can last up to 15 - 20 years with proper care.
  • Perfect for area that experience lots of sun.
  • Durable and reliable.

Disadvantages Of A Swimming Pool Solar Water Heater

And now for the flip side of solar pool heaters.

  • Panels on top of your house is not very attractive.
  • Initial cost can be higher compared to other forms of pool heating.
  • Might not have enough space for enough panels to properly heat your water.
  • Doesn't heat as fast as gas pool heaters.
  • Heat is subject to weather conditions.  Cloudy days will heat the water slower than warn sunny days.

To reach the heater's fullest potential, you'll need an area that's large enough and has the proper exposure to the sun for the solar collectors (panels).  If your roof is pitched, then the ideal direction for the solar panels is facing south.  You may need to add more panels if the situation arises or there is a variation to the angle of your roof.  You may also receive a tax credit for your inground or above ground swimming pool solar heater.  Check with your state's laws to see if you qualify.  A good set of pool solar panels should cost anywhere from $3000-$5000 to buy and install, depending on the make, model, and if you're going to install them yourself (DIY) or hire a contractor. 

Swimming Pool Solar Heater

Pool Solar Panels Installation Conditions

The number of pool solar panels required to properly heat your swimming pool solar heater will mostly depend on a few factors:

  • The surface area of your swimming pool
  • Water temperature you want to maintain
  • Shade area of the pool
  • Direction of the swimming pool solar heaters

A good rule of thumb: Whatever is the surface area of your pool, you'll need about 60% of that for swimming pool solar panels.


Say you have a pool that measures 20' X 35'. Multiply 20 X 35 and you'll have 700.  Your surface area is 700 sq. ft.  You multiply 700 x .6 (60%) and you get 420 sq.ft of panels.

In most swimming pools, your current filter pump is normally capable of circulating the warm water through the panels.  It should have enough HP to keep your water properly filtered.  You shouldn't need to change or buy a new filter, and that's always good news.


A good inground or above ground swimming pool heater should be automatic in heating your pool's water.  When your pool needs heat, the water goes from the filter to the solar panels to receive that heat.  When the correct temperature is reached, the heated water goes back into the pool.

A good swimming pool solar heater should heat the water before it gets to any gas heater.  If a gas heater is also being used, it should only work when it needs to make up any difference in the water temperature saving you the extra expense.

Operation and Maintenance

A good solar heater swimming pool should be simple to operate.  If you can flip a switch, you can do this.  At the beginning of the swimming season, just flip the switch or control to "Auto" or "On" and set the pool temperature to where you want.  At the end of the season, just turn it "Off".

If the solar panels don't drain the water back into the pool at the end of the season, simply uncap the lowest solar panel and allow to drain.  This is to prevent freezing and unnecessary expenses later down the road.

Keep your pool properly balanced using the best pool tips.  If you plan on adding many chemicals or shocking your pool, you'll need to turn off the water supply to your swimming pool solar water heater.  By not doing this may cause premature wear and corrosion of your swimming pool solar panels.

Limits On A Pool Solar Heater

If you live in a part of the country that has many winter months, or overcast and rainy days, your solar heater may not be able to properly heat your pool.  If you have a gas heater, you may need to break that out to make up the difference if you want to keep your pool temperature up.  A solar pool cover will also help with retaining residual heat inside your pool.  

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If you have an above ground swimming pool and want an above ground swimming pool solar heater, you're in luck.  There are many makes and models to meet your specific demands and needs. Just do your homework and ask the right questions.  Unlike an electric pool heater which can produce an endless stream of hot water, you may run out of warm water with a solar pool system.

More and more people are looking to a swimming pool solar heater option because they are much more energy efficient than other kinds of pool heaters.  They may also help save money in the long run by reducing your energy bills.  We have an unlimited source in the sun.  Why not use a swimming pool solar heater?

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