Top 7 Solar Pool Covers for Your Money – Reviews and Buying Guide
It may be winter right now, but spring and summer are quickly approaching, and that means pools will be opening up soon. Unfortunately, pool maintenance is a major cost, and keeping pools heated is probably the single biggest ongoing expense when it comes pool ownership.
Fuel and heating elements for the water in a pool are prohibitively expensive, and it just gets worse the larger the pool is. This is one of the primary deterrents for pool ownership. Fortunately, now is a great time to start looking at purchasing a Solar Pool Cover to keep the heat in your pool and minimize your energy usage for the pool.
What is a Solar Pool Cover?
Solar Pool Covers are “blankets” or coverings that trap the heat from the sun inside the pool water. Obviously, the sun’s rays constantly barrage the pool, providing with heat and energy. Most pools are designed to take advantage of sunlight, simply by the very fact that people prefer playing in the water with the sun out.
Solar pool covers were designed to keep that heat energy in the water, instead of letting it dissipate into the air, and there are some pretty ingenious designs for these coverings. Using the science behind the Greenhouse Effect, these covers allow light through into the water which is converted to heat and trapped by the physical barrier of the cover.
Types of Solar Pool Covers
There are many different types of solar covers for pools that have been designed, but they all work by the same principles.
Bubble Pool Covers – These covers use air bubbles within a plastic sheet to allow light through and trap it as heat in the water. These bubble covers can reduce the energy requirements by upwards of 90% and can increase the temperature in the pool naturally by about 15 degrees F.
Solar Sun Rings – Sun Rings use a round sheet of vinyl that acts much the same way as the others. They prevent evaporation and trap heat beneath them, but they are much simpler. Instead of utilizing air pockets in the sheet, they are simply a plain, flat sheet that traps the heat beneath themselves.
Liquid Solar Covars – A liquid cover is a chemical treatment that sits on top of the water. Essentially, it creates a vapor barrier that prevents evaporation of the water beneath so that the heat must remain within the pool.
Solar Cover Buying Guide
There are many considerations to account for when searching for a solar pool cover. Depending on your needs and budget, different products will fit the bill best for you. Here are some of the most common considerations.
The material or type of solar cover is obviously vital. The different types mentioned above will affect your pool differently, so choose whichever one you think will be best. Perhaps you don’t need as much heating, but want to retain the temperature for long periods of time – then you may prefer a vinyl ring as opposed to the bubble cover.
You also may not want to buy additional chemical treatments for your pool. Either way, the type and material is one of the primary decisions for this process.
Obviously size is an important factor. The size of your pool will affect the price of the pool cover. However, you may decide not to cover the entire pool. Frankly, it is not as effective, but there is still a benefit to covering portions of the pool. If you decide that you only want to cover one area that gets less sunlight, then that will affect the size of your cover as well.
The color choices are much more than an aesthetic decision. You can get a clear cover that will direct as much sunlight and heat into the water as possible. Or you can select a silver or blue bubble model to reflect the heat back into the water primarily at night.
Additionally, solar rings come in an extensive array of color choices. You may also want to be able to look into your pool without removing the cover to see if it needs cleaning or treating. The clear one allows for the most visibility, while some other colors have translucent coloring that allows some clarity.
The price obviously changes with each different option, but the main determinants will be size, color, material, and brand. The different options range everywhere from as low as $20 to over $1,000. Obviously the cost is going to be a major factor, so choose something that is within your budget but that also optimizes the amount of heat you can trap within your pool.
Typically speaking, a thicker cover will retain more heat, by simple laws of physics. However, even a thin cover is better than nothing. The thickness of solar covers will range from as low as 8 millimeters (or about 0.3 inches) to up to nearly 20 millimeters thick (about 0.75 inches).
The thicker the cover, the more it will retain. However, the thickness will also affect the price substantially, so make sure to investigate which one will give you the best heating for the price.
A Review of Top 7 Solar Pool Covers
1. Intex Solar Cover for 12 ft. Diameter Easy Set and Frame Pools
This first product is one of the most convenient covers designed for pool heating. It’s made for a 12 foot diameter round pool, but can be used in any pool you want. It is crafted with air bubbles to help transmit heat into the pool and has been tested and proven to reduce evaporation by 95%. This product essentially eliminates the need for a water heater in your pool altogether.
In addition, it comes with some handy accessories, most notably the drain holes that allow water to drain back into the pool and a reusable storage bag to protect the cover when it’s not in use. This product is lightweight and well designed, making it an excellent choice for your home pool. The only downside is that it has been known to tear under pressure. You can find the Intex Solar Cover starting around $25, which makes it an incredibly affordable option for your home pool.
- Won’t fit larger pools
2. Intex Solar Cover for 18 ft. x 9 ft. Rectangular Frame Pools
If you have a rectangular pool, you may be interested in the 18×9 version of Intex’s bubble cover. This product is designed just the same as its counterpart but is shaped for a standard rectangular pool. It is extremely lightweight, coming in around 5.5 pounds, so it is easy to transport and put in place. The lightweight material is prone to damage, but fortunately it also comes with a carrying and storage case to protect it from the elements when not in use. It is extremely easy to store and makes a great addition to any pool.
This is also one of the best products for its value – it is under $40 but will reduce the gas usage of your pool significantly. For the budget shopper, Intex has some of the best products for the price, with many clear benefits.
3. In the Swim 8 Mil Swimming Pool Solar Blanket Cover 24 Feet Round
For those of you who have an irregularly shaped pool, you may get tired of hearing about all of the rectangular or circular covers. Fortunately, there are options tailored directly to these people. This product is crafted with air bubbles and reinforced seams to make it a sturdy and long lasting product, but more importantly, it is designed to be easily shaped or cut to size.
This allows the customer to use it for oval or kidney-shaped pools with ease.
Manufactured with the environment in mind, it is produced with very sturdy plastic that won’t degrade and is all natural. It preserves the heat in your pool excellently, and will save you loads of money on heating and chemical balancing in the pool.
On the other hand, it is a bit heavy because of the reinforced material, making it more difficult to maneuver. This cover runs around $75, but different sizes all have different prices. This is one of the best options for irregular pool shapes, without a doubt.
- Environmentally Friendly
4. Sun2Solar Clear 20 ft. x 40 ft. Rectangle Solar Cover 12 Mil/Heating Blanket
The Sun2Solar product is similar to the previously mentioned In the Swim cover. It is designed to be trimmable so that you can shape it to cover your pool regardless of shape. It uses the same technology and principles as the one before it. However, this is a less sturdy or reliable product than its companions. Designed to be a competitive option to the In the Swim product, it is rather bulky and and tends to break down relatively easily, which is less than ideal for an outdoor product.
While it does the job adequately, it is not the longest lasting product, nor is it the easiest to use because of its size and weight. Additionally, it is one of the more expensive products we’ve seen yet, coming in well over $100 for this model, and getting more expensive for subsequently larger sizes.
5. In the Swim 12 Mil 16×32 ft. Rectangle Swimming Pool Solar Blanket Cover
In the Swim has certainly shown to be a sturdy and affordable choice, and this next product lives up to that just as much as the previous one from their company had. The large rectangular pool blanket is a great accessory for any pool, because it is hard to find a household pool that meets this product’s size.
It is certainly a heavier choice compared to the companion product mentioned above, but that’s to be expected with the sheer size of it.
This cover has been produced in a wide array of colors to meet the aesthetic design of an individual house. The wide variety of choices allows you to customize this product greatly and cover and heat a pool of practically any size or shape. The large, 16×32 ft. rectangle runs just a little bit under $100.
- Color choices
6. Splash Pools Round Solar Pool Cover 15 ft.
Splash Pools is well known for their durable products, and this one is no exception. Another bubble cover, the 15 ft round cover is extremely sturdy and will survive for quite a while. It is manufactured exclusively for medium-sized above ground pools, which are still extremely common.
It is a lightweight option that is quite affordable and has shown a proven knack for saving energy and fuel, making it an excellent product for pool owners on a budget. What is perhaps most impressive is its surprising durability for how thin it actually is, making it a very sturdy but lightweight product.
The additional benefit of blocking out debris is particularly noticeable as this product is used with above-ground pools that are harder to clean as frequently.
Because of its thin design and simple nature, it is a fairly affordable product, running around $40 currently – making it a great choice for homeowners with above ground pools.
- Won’t fit larger pools
7. Blue Wave NS482 12-Mil Solar Blanket for Round Above-Ground Pools 18 ft.
Another choice for above ground pool owners, Blue Wave has released an 18 foot wide solar blanket. More simplistic in design, it lacks some of the visual appeal of other products, but is also a very sturdy and well-made item, making it a go-to choice for many homeowners.
Being significantly larger, this product is certainly heavier than the previous above ground option, coming in around 15 pounds while the other was only 7 or 8. It is difficult to find these in colors other than clear, but it will work wonders to provide heating and insulation, as well as protection from debris and evaporation for an above ground pool.
This product is certainly more of the baseline, standard product for large above ground pools, without as many frills. Because of this, it is modestly priced, though its sheer size does increase the cost somewhat. This product will run in the $75-$80 range, making it a solid option for large pool owners.
- Cost for size
- Ease of use
- Low variety
The top option that has gotten the most attention is certainly the Intex 12 ft. Easy Set and Frame pool cover, for obvious reasons. While there are many great options out there, the Easy Set and Frame is one of the best due its amenities and lightweight design, as well as its affordability.
With a price that’s hard to beat, none of the others can really compare much for a product of this size. Understandably, pool owners with larger pools won’t be able to use that exact product, but Intex has options for every size and shape just like the others, making this product line the best option we have encountered so far.
Why You Should Buy A Solar Pool Cover
We’ve discussed many of these benefits already, but there really is no reason not to buy a solar pool cover. First and foremost, it will save you money by reducing heating costs throughout the pool season. By increasing and maintaining the temperature of the pool up to 15 extra degrees, these products will significantly reduce the amount of fuel and energy needed to heat the pool.
Additionally, the prevention of evaporation helps save chemicals so that you don’t have to balance the pool nearly as frequently. These are all prevented by the one time expense of purchasing a pool cover. Finally, these covers are also useful in keeping debris out of the pool, which saves cleaning time and helps keep your pool looking pristine.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do they last?
Solar covers typically will last for several years if maintained properly. These products are designed to be used outdoors, and so are relatively rugged. Some of the products mentioned above actually come with warranties if they degrade prior to a certain time frame.
What colors are pool covers?
Pool covers come in many different colors, but most commonly they come in clear and translucent blue colors. These colors are the best for allowing light to travel into the pool and warm it up. You can also find them in different varieties if you’re interested in specific designs.
How do I determine the size I need?
Pool covers are designed for the nominal size of pools, in common sizes typically. Whatever your pool is stated as being, purchase a cover for that size. You can also measure the widest points of the pool and use that as a guide. When in doubt, purchase a size up as it will still fit.
How heavy are these covers?
These covers range in weight depending on size and material thickness. A larger one will inherently be heavier, but they are typically not very heavy, making them relatively maneuverable. Some are as lightweight as 5 or 6 pounds.
How do I install the cover?
These covers are installed manually and very easily. You unfold them, and lay them out so that they cover the entirety of the pool’s surface. There are additional accessories that you can purchase to make the process quicker and easier, especially since you are supposed to place the cover back on immediately after use, but if you can’t purchase one, they are very simply to lay over top of the pool by hand.
In the end, a solar pool cover makes too much sense not to buy. With options for every shape, size, and color, there is no reason not to purchase one for your pool as soon as possible. The benefits are obvious, with the potential to save hundreds of dollars annually on pool-related expenses, and to also reduce the amount of time you have to spend cleaning and heating up the pool. Buying a solar pool cover will save you tremendous time, energy, and hassle.
While all of the aforementioned products are great options, it is absolutely vital that you determine what is best for your pool and your price range. Remember, these products are here to save you money and hassle, so you want to find the best option for what you have and can afford. A heavier pool cover is not always better, especially if the task of opening and closing it before and after swimming each time is daunting to you.
The Intex Solar Cover for 12 ft. Diameter Easy Set and Frame Pools has come up time and again as the option of choice for pool owners with that size pool. The size, weight, and ease of use make it an excellent option for people who want something simple but effective. Intex has other options for different pool sizes that will serve you just as well as this one does.
In the Swim and Splash Pools are some of the more durable products on the market, so they are certainly fantastic options as well, particularly for longevity if you’re not interested in replacing or changing your product in the next few years. Just remember that these are a bit more cumbersome and difficult to work with due to the material’s weight.
Whichever you choose, it is obvious that buying a pool cover is an excellent choice. Even spending $150 for the most expensive cover on this list is not unreasonable, since you could possibly save that much just in the first year of use, depending on how much you would have heated the pool up.
You can find these pool covers at various pool and home stores, as well as online at Amazon and other retailers. If you are a pool owner, it just makes sense to go ahead and save your money by purchasing one of these covers.