DIY Solar Pool Heater

With these simple directions, you can build swimming pool heaters in less than one hour. 

How to Install a Solar Heater on an Above Ground Swimming Pool

Do you have an above-ground swimming pool? Do you typically find the water to be too cool or chilly because of the seasonal changes or the time of day you use the pool? If so, you should consider installing a solar heater onto your pool. It will keep the pool water warm throughout the day, so it will be comfortable when you get into it.

You don’t need a pool technician or contractor to install a solar pool heater. Just learn a couple of necessary steps to get started. Let’s review those steps below.

Step #1

Gather the following items:

  • Piece of plywood (4×4)
  • Vinyl irrigation hose (0.5” wide and 200’ long)
  • Black paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Zip ties
  • Valves
  • Y Adapters 

All of these tools shouldn’t cost you more than $50 total. You can find them at any reputable home improvement store.

Step #2

Paint the plywood black with the brush. Wrap and coil the hose onto the plywood surface tightly. Secure the hose to the plywood by placing a zip tie around it every 12 inches. You can drill holes in the wood and put the zip ties through the holes as you loop them over the hose. That should make it easier to secure the hose onto the surface of the plywood correctly. 

Your 200-foot hose won’t cover the entire plywood surface. That is okay. If you see kinks in the edges or corners, work them out before proceeding. 

Step #3

Let the board lie outside underneath direct sun exposure. Get a temperature reading of the plywood board in the middle of the afternoon. The surface will probably be around 130°F. Now you have a solar heater that is ready to heat your pool water. 

Use the Y adapters and valves so that the pool water flows into the heater and back out into the pool again. Your pool filter pump can create the pressure needed to allow the water to flow naturally. 

After the afternoon temperatures dwindle and the sunlight goes away, close the valves to stop the water flow from circulating through the heater. 

How to Setup the Valves and Adapters

The top should have a 1.5-inch “Y” adapter. One side should have a 0.5 to 1.5-inch threaded adapter, with a 0.5-inch male-to-male threaded nipple to a 0.5-inch ball valve and a 0.5-inch threaded-to-ribbed adapter. The vinyl hose slides onto the ribbed adapter. Two hose clamps can be used on every hose fitting so that leakage does not occur.

Before you glue anything, make sure you sand the surfaces until they’re smooth. Avoid gluing the threaded areas because you won’t be able to tighten the threads later if you do. It is better to use Pipe Dope or Plumbers Grease as a thread sealant after tightening the threads.

Use a 1.5-inch ball valve as the middle valve. Glue it to each side of a 1.50-inch PVC. If you close the valve a little bit, some of the water will get pushed out of the “Y” adapter and reach the solar heater panel.

When you set up the bottom assembly, it is the same process as the top. You use a ribbed 0.50-inch threaded adapter to a 0.50-inch threaded ball valve, and on to a threaded 0.5-inch nipple, and on to a 1.50-inch smooth adapter, and finally to a smooth 1.50-inch “Y” adapter. The water flows through the 1.50-inch PVC pipe and out the 1.50-inch ball valve, pulling water away from the solar heater panel and into the pool. 

You won’t want the pool water to flow to the solar heater continuously. A swimming pool contains hundreds of gallons of water. It would take forever to pass all those gallons of water through your makeshift solar heater within the same day. All you need is about 10 gallons of pool water to pass through the heater. Once the heated water mixes with the cooler water in the pool, all the water will become warmer. 

Keep your water pump on from 12 Noon until 6 PM. If you set the timer for 6 PM, the pump will shut off and turn back on at 30-minute intervals. That way, the water will have time to heat up in the solar panel and transfer back into the pool again.  

You can expect the heater operational temperature to be around 99°F. That will make the pool water at roughly 84 to 86°F if there is shade outside.

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