No, you don’t have to buy additional an additional pump as most pool solar heaters on our list are compatible with your old pump. However, do a final check before buying, if your pool solar heating system requires an extra pump or not.
Updated Dec 7, 2022
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Make your pools warm and enjoyable in an energy-efficient way.
We love the summer splash of our pools, mainly due to the fun and refreshingly cool water. However, come winter we all refrain from even going anywhere near a pool due to the icy cold water. But, it doesn’t have to be the same this winter. Solar pool heaters not only bring back the fun you have in the pool during the winters but they are environmentally friendly as well.
Finding out the best solar pool heater is a tricky job as the market is flooded with a variety of these pool heaters. Don’t worry as we’ve got you covered. We have collected the best pool heaters available in the market and briefly defined their specifications. You can take a quick look at the list below and find out which one is the right solar pool heater for you, so you can bring the pool season back. (Alternatively, why not make your own?)
Best Overall: SOLARPOOLSUPPLY Industrial Grade DIY Solar Pool Heater
SOLARPOOLSUPPLY has truly built a marvelous product. This solar pool heater has everything that you’d expect from pool heaters. Its main features include a 12-year warranty, high build-quality, DIY installation, compatibility with any pool type and any pool size, and most importantly, a modern water flow system for optimum water supply through your existing pump. It is highly energy-efficient making it an environmentally friendly product.
Best Value: Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System
An effective pool heater for above-ground pools, Fafco Solar Bear pool heaters is very economical. With its wide solar collector, it excels in heating performance and can be easily mounted on the ground, rack, or a nearby roof. For these reasons, it is the best value-for-money product on the list.
It is a common but honest mistake to think that since solar heaters for pools look similar to photovoltaic (PV) rooftop solar panels, they use the same technology. Both technologies use solar radiation or solar power to work, but they do it in very different ways. Here we will explain how a solar pool heater works.
Solar pool heating systems are comprised of several devices:
Most swimming pools already have a filtering system and powerful pumps set in place, making it easy and cheaper to install solar pool heating systems. These pumps take water from one end of the pool and send it to your solar panel heater. With the filter set in place, you can be at ease that the water will be clean and it will not fill the inside of the collector with leaves or any other plant litter falling into your pool.
The solar panel heater or solar collector is the main device in the solar pool heating system and the responsible for heating the pool water. From a distance it looks relatively similar to PV solar panels but up-close you can see that it is made of strings of tubes that go from one end to the other, these arrays of heating tube solar heater tubes capture solar power to heat the pool water.
When cold water is sent to the pool solar panels, it goes through the low end of these tubes, absorbing the heat generated by the sun’s rays as it goes up. After the water completes the whole journey within the collector, it leaves at a much higher water temperature and goes to the next step, which is the flow control valve.
The flow control valve sets the right speed for your water to go back into the pool at a higher water temperature. This device is very useful when the pool water pump exceeds the 45 – 55 g.p.m. optimal water flow rate for solar pool heaters. You can increase the pool temperature by opening the valve into a direct flow system to your collector or reduce it by decreasing the flow of water.
The efficiency of the solar heater depends on how and where you install the solar collector. You should install it oriented south at the best angle to fully receive the solar power. The radiation levels at your location will also affect the amount of heat the solar heater produces.
There are several aspects to consider when choosing your solar pool heater. Here we will talk about some of the most important things to consider when choosing a solar pool heater, this way you can pick the best solar water heating system to suit your needs.
Above ground swimming pools and in ground pools tend to use different solar collectors. The above ground pool solar panel heater can be easily installed next to your pool or even next to the pump, while this is not the case for in ground swimming pool solar collectors.
The above ground swimming pools tend to have some unused space around the pool that is perfect for installing several above ground pool solar collectors right next to the walls of the pool. In some cases, you can even install these above ground pool solar heater systems between pool ladders, especially since you can move the collector with the adjustable and foldable legs. This is not the case for in ground swimming pools.
Owners of in ground swimming pools usually want to be able to walk all the way around their pools without any interference. This is why inground pools tend to have solar collectors installed at the roof that get heat from solar radiation in order to make in ground pools warm.
You should consider the number of solar thermal collectors concerning the surface area of your pool, the performance of the solar collectors, and the temperatures at your location. For most swimming pools, installing a solar collector array equal to 60% – 75% of the pool’s surface area is more than enough. You might also want to couple your pool heating solar system with a solar cover or collection of sun rings, which are excellent pool accessories which ensure your pool can retain heat.
The price for solar heaters for pools might go from $3,500 to $8,000 depending on the size you need. If you live in a colder state or have a large pool you might want to install a larger solar pool heater. To reduce the cost of your solar heating system, you might want to invest in a pool solar cover, since the solar cover it is highly efficient in helping the pool retain heat and avoids pool water evaporation as well.
The performance of a solar pool heater is measured in British thermal unit per square foot per day (Btu/ft² per day). When choosing a solar pool heater, you might want to go for the high-performance models, since this way you can install a smaller area to efficiently heat your pool. Some solar pool heaters might vary their performance depending if they use steel with iron tempered glass covering or polypropylene heat collectors.
You might want to turn your pool into a smart pool by acquiring a temperature sensor and an automatic valve that automatically sets the right temperature for your pool. The temperature sensor measures the pool water temperature and when it reaches the right water temperature, the valve automatically diverts the water back into the pool instead of the collectors.
While some inground pools heaters require professional installers and do not have an installation kit, most in ground pool and above ground pools solar heaters are easy to install as long as you have the proper tools or the installation kit and the right instructions. With this step-by-step solar pool heater installation guide, you will be able to install any in ground pool or above ground solar pool heater on your own.
The first step when installing a solar pool heater is to properly install the solar collectors. They should be set in the right direction to ensure they absorb as much solar energy as possible and properly fixed to secure them.
The solar thermal collectors should be geographically oriented south since this ensures they receive higher solar energy and maximizes heat collection. If you do not have enough roof space on the south, the second best option is for the collectors to face west and east with a 40º tilt or as close to it as possible (although this will depend on the roof pitch of your house), this will still produce a good amount of heat. We recommend you ensure that no trees are shading the collectors to get the best possible efficiency.
Most swimming pools require a solar collectors array with an area equal to 60% – 75% of the surface area of the pool, especially when the solar pool heating panels face west. If you use the pool year-round or install the collectors in another direction, you should get an array with the same area as your pool.
The next step is mounting a framework to sit and secure each solar panel heater in place. Some homeowners use an eagle claw flashed mount to fix the PVC pipe of the collector, which is a cheaper and just as effective method for fixing solar collectors. You should install the collectors as close as possible to the pool to reduce heat losses when transporting water.
After installing every solar panel heater, you have to plug them together. If you install them next to each other it will be fairly easy to plug the output of one collector into the input of the next one, reducing the number of pipes that you need for the installation.
After the solar collectors, the next step to install solar pool heaters is installing the flow control valve that sets the right water flow going through your collectors to ensure the best heat production. Here you will learn how to install this valve.
First, you have to pick the right place for your flow control valve. Ideally, you can place the flow control valve somewhere in the direct route from the pool pump to the collectors, this way when installing the pipes you will ensure the shortest route.
The best option is to install two types of valves. The first one is a solar valve manifold or industry-standard T-valve that goes before the collectors, this determines how much water goes from the pump into the collectors and how much goes back to the pool. You can additionally add a check valve ensuring the water flows from the collectors into the pool and not the other way around.
After determining the type of valves and their location, it is time to put them in place. The installation should be relatively easy and give you enough free space to install the plumbing. To be practical , you might want to install the check valve at the same time as plumbing.
After the solar collectors and the flow valve are in place, it is time to install the plumbing. This should be an easy process and the last step in the guide to install your solar heater.
You should define the shortest route going from the pool to the pump, to the flow valve, into the collectors, and back to the pool, whithout endangering any local landscape features. After choosing the route, measure the distance to know what pipe length and type of pipe connectors you will need.
Choosing the right pipe depends on your existing pool pump and the pool size. When everything else is ready, you just need to install the pipes and secure them in place. Ensure you make the right connections and everything is airtight. After the pipes, you should be ready to enjoy your pool solar heater.
With everything set in place, you only need to set the desired flow from the T-valve and start pumping. After some time the pool will be at the desired temperature and you will be able to start enjoying some fun pool time even on days with low temperatures. To retain heat at your pool, you could also install a solar cover for when the pool is not being used.
Aside from the best solar pool heaters, there are other types of swimming pool heating methods available. Here we compare and discuss the most efficient options to heat your pool.
The gas swimming pool heater burns natural gas or propane to heat the water in swimming pools. Gas pool heaters are slightly cheaper, but considering their gas consumption heating costs end up being much more expensive in the long run. These heaters consume annually $2,000 to $3,600 to heat the pool depending on your location, while solar pool heaters do the same process by only using solar power.
The heat pump for swimming pools is another cheap option that ends up being more expensive in the long run. This pool heater uses electricity to function, capturing the outside heat and warming water that circulates back to the pool. Using this pump pool heater costs on average $1,040 – $1,845 annually in electricity and requires that outside temperatures remain above 45ºF – 50ºF, making it less efficient than the best solar pool heaters.
To enjoy a good time at the pool, outside temperatures should be hot or at least the water should be set at the right temperature. The best pool temperature for adults ranges from 83ºF to 88ºF while children prefer a pool warm with temperatures of 90ºF to 93ºF, but beware, because the pool’s chemical balance might change for temperatures much greater than 82ºF. When exercising, the desired temperature for water at pools is 77ºF to 82ºF.
Depending on the amount of solar heat you get in your region, a pool solar heater might get your pool to a temperature from 78ºF to 85ºF, making it ideal for adults, teenagers, and some children. Since the cost for a solar pool heater ranges from $3,500 to $8,000, considering the savings you get on heating when compared to gas, heat, or electric pumps, the solar heating system has a payback period of 1 – 2 years.
You might also want to increase efficiency of your solar pool heater with a solar pool cover. Using a pool cover will preserve the heat at your pool, making it easier for the solar pool heater to increase again the temperature when you want to enjoy a pool time again.
Now that we have identified the best from the lot, let’s take a deeper quick look at the entire list to find out if we can find the one that suits your pool needs.
SunQuest Solar panels are designed for both In-ground and Above-ground swimming pools. They are specifically designed to allow better water circulation and less back pressure on your pump. This is a great solar pool heater as not only is it compatible with your existing pool pump but also increases the pool water temperature by up to 10 degrees. It also has energy-efficient solar panels that collect maximum solar energy which can be used as pool cover as well.
SunHeater pool heaters are very user-friendly to install and operate. This solar pool heater is developed for an in-ground as well as an above-ground swimming pool. The solar panels can be installed anywhere including your house roof, rack, ground, and fence so that they can collect the maximum energy from the sun. It uses an existing pool pump to operate and it has a special web design for maximum exposure to sun rays.
SOLARPOOLSUPPLY has developed several solar pool heating systems, but it is surely the best pool heating system for your swimming pool. First off, it includes a 12-year warranty including freeze protection so you don’t have to worry in case your solar pool heater malfunctions without a reason. Secondly, it has industrial-grade durability which is not very common in various pool heating systems. It features an impressive system that eliminates the need for troubling rubber hoses and metal clamps that require regular rooftop maintenance and replacement.
Fafco solar pool heater is an economical and effective pool heater. It comes in a package that includes Package includes 3′ 9″ x 20′ Wide Solar Collector with 1-1/2″ barb connections, 12 mounting caps, 12 mounting bases, 6 mounting straps, 1 valve handle, and 20 rubber tubes plugs. This package ensures that you have a decent collector system included in the overall solar heating system. It can be mounted easily on the ground, rack, or a nearby roof.
Doheny’s solar pool heating system is probably the most popular solar system in the market. It’s easy to install with no gas or electric connections. Multiple collectors can be connected in series to increase heating efficiency. A bypass valve is required for hooking up two or more heaters or pools that have a 1 HP or larger pump. It comes with multiple installation kits for roofs and racks to make the pool heater installation a DIY process. This “dome” solar pool heater fits best with round pools. Solar panels are offered in various size configurations so that not only you can use them for collecting solar energy through heat absorption, but also using solar panels as pool covers for your on-ground pools.
Here’s another SunHeater heating system on our list. It is yet another great solar pool heater for your above-ground pool. It comes with a special tube-on-web design that allows the solar panels to produce maximum solar energy. These solar panels cover a large surface area on top of your above-ground pool. Not many solar heating systems allow solar panels to be used as cover panels for your swimming pool.
GAME has designed and developed this unique and highly durable solar pool heater for its loyal customers. It’s yet another product for above-ground pool owners. It has a unique curve design which is uncommon among various solar heaters. Its design engineers claim that this design allows the surface area of the solar panels to capture optimum solar energy. It comes with adjustable legs, however, you can’t use this solar panel array as pool covers.
Kokido Solar pool heater is one of the most economical pool heaters on our list. It is designed for your above-ground swimming pool. It is environmentally friendly and super user-friendly. It saves you from an extensive pool heater installation process. It can work with your old pool pumps thanks to its highly efficient water filter.
Here’s yet another SOLARPOOLSUPPLY ‘s great product. This solar pool heater comes with a ton of features. It is manufactured from high-grade materials proven to last in all types of weather and withstand the harsh conditions of a rooftop for up to 15-20 years. Its solar panels MUST be installed vertically for optimal performance and drainage making it energy efficient. This feature hinders these panels to be used as pool covers as they cant cover a large surface area. This solar pool heater comes with a 5-year full and 10-year limited warranty.
So far scrolling down in this list, you must have realized that SOLARPOOLSUPPLY are are serious solar pool heaters suppliers. This their third product that has earned its place in our list of top solar pool heaters. This specific solar pool heater is also as effective and efficient as its siblings in its family of great solar pool heaters. It has a premium quality and is manufactured to last longer than its counterparts. It has a unique design that allows the panels to work as great solar thermal collectors. You can place these panels in any way but the most efficient one will be the vertical placement.
SmartPool solar pool heater works with both in-ground and above-ground pools. It is probably the most expensive solar pool heater on our list. It keeps your pool warm with a polypropylene heat collector. It uses a check valve in its direct flow system to ensure maximum flow of pool water. This solar pool heater features 80 square feet of solar panels which work as great solar thermal collectors for heating your pool water. It contains a flow control valve so that the piping system can heat the maximum pool water. Enter your zip code at their online shop and get one delivered right to your doorstep.
SunQuest panels are designed for both In-ground and Above-ground swimming pools. These panels, in decent area size, are highly effective collectors to capture energy from the sun. The piping system quickly pumps the pool water.
Design is one of the elements that define the performance of the pool heaters. They act as solar thermal collectors to catch energy from the sun to heat up your pool water. Some panels are most efficient in their performance than others therefore look for better solar panels while pool heaters.
While most pool heaters come with a DIY kit so that you can install the pool heater yourself. However, in the case of few other models, you have to purchase a separate installation kit and pay extra money. Also, some pool heaters have a universal installation feature, meaning you can install them anywhere. Others are less customized and can only be installed in specific places to get more light from the sun.
Warranty is something that is least provided by most suppliers. It is vital to ensure that you don’t face any unwanted problems with your defective product. You can contact the company to replace it. Therefore, you must look for a warranty before buying a pool heater.
When buying a solar pool heater, you have to keep several key things in mind. Not all products are made for similar swimming pool owners. These solar heaters have to offer different features to their diverse range of users. Some people just want a solar heating system that can heat their water without incurring extra heating costs. Others want more advanced and universal multi-ground solar pool heaters. They want a solar pool heater that not only acts as a water heater to heat the water but also performs as a department of energy for the entire system. You have to decide where you place yourself in these types of pool owners. Know what your requirement is so that you don’t have to face even one problem after buying your water heating system.
Various pool heaters in the market are designed for a diverse range of customers. Not all people live in similar climate conditions and nor do they have the same pool sizes and conditions. However, there is one solar pool heating system, in particular, that can fulfill the needs of the majority of buyers in the market and that is SOLARPOOLSUPPLY Industrial Grade DIY Solar Pool Heater. Its panels are designed to collect maximum energy from the sun and effectively heat your pool water. It is compatible with your old pump, therefore, you would not have to buy a new one. Its quality is also really good and it comes with a 12-year warranty. What more can you expect from a pool heater?
Most solar pool heaters that work with both in-ground and above-ground pools have a decent filter that you don’t have to change very often. If a product is designed for heating small area pools, then it would require a filter change earlier than other universal solar pool heaters.
Solar pool heaters are very economical and there are relatively no operating costs connected with them. They use solar panels as energy collectors from the sun for heating your pool water. The only cost you have to incur is when you enter your zip code and get one delivered to your doorstep.
In-ground pools are usually cover a larger area than above-ground pools. Therefore the solar pool heater performs at a lower rate. The pool pumps have to push and heat extra pool water as well. The water filter also runs out of its useful life earlier. On the contract, the above-ground solar pool heating system has to worry about heating less pool water due to the small surface area of the pool. The solar panel that works as an energy collector gets heat from the sun and transfer it into pool water quickly through a flow control valve.
No, you don’t have to buy additional an additional pump as most pool solar heaters on our list are compatible with your old pump. However, do a final check before buying, if your pool solar heating system requires an extra pump or not.
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