Pool Accessories

The Complete Solar Pool Covers Guide

Solar Blanket Covers and Solar Reels for Pools

By Allen Hayward

Ice cold water in a swimming pool may be ideal for people who like to live adventurously. For the rest of us, a heated swimming pool is more ideal. But the only thing that’s probably stopping you from getting one is the expense. After all, things like gas heaters and electric heaters are expensive. That is why a more affordable alternative is a solar pool cover.

A solar pool cover uses the power of the sun to increase the temperature of the pool water, whether you have an above ground or inground swimming pool. Meanwhile, the cover prevents water from being lost, and it reduces the need for chemicals in some cases. But the energy savings will surely be the biggest benefit.

Anyone who’s owned a swimming pool has used a pool cover before. So, you already know it keeps out debris and dirt particles from getting into the pool. The difference here is the solar cover heats the pool in addition to covering it. The solar technology of the cover is designed to harness the sun’s energy and deliver its warmth to the water underneath the cover. If you live in a hot place like Florida, then you will benefit immensely from a solar cover. But in other places, a solar cover may not heat your pool water as well as a gas heater or electric heater.

The Science of Heating Water in a Pool

BTU is a unit of measurement which stands for “British Thermal Unit.” It measures how much heat is needed to produce a temperature increase of 1°F in 1 lb. of water. This is equivalent to the amount of energy which comes from a single lit match. In other words, a lit match produces enough energy to increase the temperature of 1 lb. of water by 1°F. When we’re talking about heating pool water, this would equal 1 BTU.

Most people will keep their pool water temperature at around 80°F. The reason it doesn’t stay at this temperature is because of water evaporation. If 1°F of water were to evaporate from the pool, it takes as much as 1,048 BTUs along with it. That’s a lot of heat for such a small amount of water gone.

Therefore, your objective is to replace the heat and water that the evaporation took away. This can be both costly and timely to have to deal with. First, you need to understand the amount of water you’re likely going to lose on a regular basis because of evaporation.

In most cases, you will lose a lot more than just 1 lb. of water. According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, uncovered swimming pools in their region tend to lose anywhere from 4 to 6 feet of water annually because of evaporation.

How Solar Pool Covers Help

At this point, you should now understand that losing water in your swimming pool from evaporation will cause it to lose heat too. So, it doesn’t matter if you purchase a pool heater and thermostat because it won’t make a difference if there is evaporation. That is why you must focus on keeping water in your swimming pool.

Evaporation isn’t the only way you lose water in your pool. All the splashing that people do in the pool causes water loss too. In both cases, you must replace the water that’s been lost. After you do that, you need to heat the water to bring the warmth back to the pool. Rather than spend a lot of money on a heater, you can use a solar pool cover to get the same benefit at a fraction of the cost.

When you put a solar pool cover over the water of your swimming pool, it is like putting a giant magnifying glass over it. All the heat and energy of the sun’s rays pass through the cover and creates a warming effect in the water. In addition, the cover helps trap the heat underneath it in the water. This greatly reduces the chance of evaporation occurring.

Not all solar pool covers are the same. There are different types of covers out there which work differently and cause different effects. That is why when you go pool cover shopping, you need to know which one is best for your swimming pool. It must also accommodate the type of lifestyle you lead.

Solar Blanket

Solar blankets have been around for a little while. They look like giant pieces of bubble wrap which cover your swimming pool. Just make sure you don’t pop the bubbles, though. There are several different thickness levels and sizes available for these solar blankets. To choose the right size and thickness for your swimming pool, you need to take measurements of the width and length of the pool.

Solar blankets tend to be affordable on average, but you have the option to purchase a better-quality solar blanket for a little more money. And don’t worry if you purchase a solar blanket that is too big for your pool because you can trim it shorter if you want. This can also help if you have a custom size pool.

The Way a Solar Blanket is Used

When you take a solar blanket out of its packaging for the first time, you may be confused by what to do with it. Just take it to your swimming pool area and unfold it near the water. With the bubble side of the blanket facing down, spread the blanket over the water of the pool. The purpose of the bubbles is to help the cover float on the water. Meanwhile, the sun’s rays transfer heat through the bubbles and into the water underneath. That is how the water heats up.

There is nothing to plug in or anything. You just remove the blanket from its packaging, unfold the blanket, and then spread it out over the pool. If you find there is too much blanket material that extends beyond the pool, then simply trim it with scissors.

Here is a tip. Try to leave about 2 to 3 inches of extra flap near your skimmer. That way, you can tuck the flap underneath its edges. By doing this, you can actually push the debris and dirt particles into the skimmer when you go to take off the blanket.

When you are not using the pool, you should leave the solar blanket on it. This is especially important during the daytime because you’ll want the blanket to absorb as much of the sun’s rays as possible. Keep the blanket on at night too because it will prevent evaporation.

Don’t worry about running the pump and keeping the solar blanket on the water at the same time. It is safe to do.

If you plan on using the pool multiple times throughout the same day, you don’t need to keep putting the cover back on. Just put the cover on once you’re finally done for the day.

Taking Off a Solar Blanket from a Pool

If you like to swim regularly and you have a big pool, it can become a hassle to always have to take off a huge solar blanket. Some people deal with this by cutting separate panels out of the blanket and just place the pieces on the pool. This allows them to easily take each piece off the pool when they’re ready to swim. But if cutting up the blanket doesn’t appeal to you, then a solar cover reel is a great alternative.

Whether you have an above ground or inground swimming pool, you can position the solar cover reel on the front or back end of it. Then take the solar blanket and attach one end of that to the solar cover reel. The reel will wind up the blanket for you. This eliminates so much hassle from having to take off the blanket manually.

You can find wheels on some versions of solar blanket reels. The wheels make it easier to move the reel after the cover is rolled up. Other types of solar blanket reels include mounting hardware instead of wheels. This hardware lets you install the reel in one permanent location. When choosing one of these solar blanket reels, consider the amount of space that your pool area has.

If you choose not to get a reel, then you’ll have to manually pull off the cover. Start by pulling the cover 4 feet outward. Take the section that is sticking out and fold it in half. Pull out another section, but 2 feet outward this time. Fold this section and then pull out 2 feet of the next section. Continue this trend and keep folding the sections back and forth. This is known as an accordion fold. As you’re doing the folding, each section can be rinsed before it is folded. This helps keep everything clean.

Remember to take off the solar blanket before getting into the swimming pool. This goes for anyone else too, such as pets or children. You can’t just get lazy and remove some of the blankets because someone might get stuck under it in the water. If you want to maintain safety in your pool, then remove the entire blanket.

Solar Blanket Storage

When the summer season ends, and you’re no longer going to swim in your pool, you need to put the safety pool cover over it. First, take the solar blanket off the pool and clean it thoroughly. Make sure it dries out completely too. Otherwise, mold will form on the blanket after you put it in storage.

The cleaning process is quite simple. Find a grassy or soft area on the ground and place the solar blanket on it. Don’t use a hard surface like concrete because the bubbles of the blanket will get damaged. Spread the blanket out on the soft surface so that it is flat. Now you’ll need either a soft scrub brush or push broom as your main cleaning tool. Use clean water to soak the bristles and blanket of the tool. Start scrubbing the cover with the tool, removing all the debris buildup, dirt, algae, and other nasty things on there. Rinse the blanket and then dry it off. You can either hang the blanket outside or blast it with a leaf blower to dry it off.

Be sure not to let the solar cover dry on the grass of your lawn because the magnifying effect of the bubbles will cause your grass to burn.

At this point, your solar blanket should now be dry. You can reel it up with a pool cover reel for storage purposes. There may be a storage cover included with the reel that can offer ultraviolet and weather-resistant protection to your blanket. That way, the blanket can be stored indoors or outdoors. And even if your reel doesn’t have a cover included, you can just purchase one separately for it.

If the blanket is being folded, you can put it in a container and then seal it with a strong lid. This will ensure that pests don’t get into it. The container can be stored in a cool place after that. Make sure this is a place with no direct sunlight because sun exposure can cause the cover to shrink in storage. It will also prevent any deterioration occurring on the plastic container.

The Advantages of a Solar Blanket

You already know that a solar blanket can warm your swimming pool. There are also other benefits it provides too, especially where saving money is concerned. Let’s go over the main benefits now.

Cuts Down Evaporation

There is a 95% reduction in evaporation when a solar blanket is on your pool.

Traps Heat

When the sun goes down and the coolness of the night approaches, your pool starts to lose the heat that it previously gained from the sun. If you keep the solar blanket covering the water, it will help trap some of the heat and prevent it from escaping. Also, if you happen to be using a pool heater in conjunction with a solar blanket, it won’t take much power for the heater to keep the temperature warm for the pool.

Filters Debris and Insects

Solar blankets can serve as a filter for your pool as well. Outside elements like twigs, insects, and leaves won’t be able to get into the water if a solar blanket is covering it. Instead, this debris will pile up on the blanket. To remove the debris, scoop it out with a hand skimmer.

If you can successfully prevent debris from entering the water, you won’t have to set your pump on the highest setting to clear it all out. This will save you a lot of money on electricity.

Spend Less on Chemicals

You already know that water evaporation takes heat and water from your pool. However, there is something else that is removed too… chemicals. When you treat your water with chemicals, and then the water evaporates, the chemicals go along with it.

A solar blanket can help you keep anywhere from 35% to 60% of the chemicals in the water. This will reduce your chemical expenses by about 50% annually. These savings are worth more than the price you pay for the solar blanket.

Solar Rings

Some people don’t like the inconvenience of handling a solar blanket. Putting on the blanket, removing the blanket, and storing the blanket can be a lot of work. If you feel this way, try using solar rings on your pool instead. You may find solar rings to be quite decorative for your pool because of their unique patterns and printed pictures. You’ll typically see pictures of palm trees and flowers on the rings.

You must purchase each solar ring separately. The cost of one solar ring is about $30 on average. If you want to purchase a set of solar rings, you’re looking at the cost of between $140 and $160 on average. The cost depends on the quantity of the rings in the set. Some have more rings than others. Big pools need more rings, so you’ll need to do some math to determine how many rings you’ll need for your pool.

Solar Rings: How they’re Used

Solar rings don’t have air bubbles as solar blankets do. Instead, you need to inflate the solar rings prior to putting them on your pool water. You will slightly inflate the inside area and then firmly inflate the outer area. It is like how a balloon is blown up. Once you’re done inflating the solar rings, put them on the pool water.

Around the outer portion of the solar rings, there are magnets which attach them to other rings on the pool. This shrinks the gaps between the rings and prevents overlapping, so less water is shown.

Don’t expect every centimeter of the water to be covered, though. Rings and squares will always leave gaps, whether they’re attached by magnets or not. For this reason, they’re not as good at trapping heat in the water as solar blankets are. They also cannot stop evaporation as much as solar blankets can. On the upside, you can keep the pump running as the solar rings float on the water.

Taking Off the Solar Rings

Solar rings don’t have air bubbles as solar blankets do. Instead, you need to inflate the solar rings prior to putting them on your pool water. You will slightly inflate the inside area and then firmly inflate the outer area. It is like how a balloon is blown up. Once you’re done inflating the solar rings, put them on the pool water.

Around the outer portion of the solar rings, there are magnets which attach them to other rings on the pool. This shrinks the gaps between the rings and prevents overlapping, so less water is shown.

Don’t expect every centimeter of the water to be covered, though. Rings and squares will always leave gaps, whether they’re attached by magnets or not. For this reason, they’re not as good at trapping heat in the water as solar blankets are. They also cannot stop evaporation as much as solar blankets can.On the upside, you can keep the pump running as the solar rings float on the water.

Solar Ring Storage

When you temporarily remove the solar rings to swim in the pool, you can stack the rings on top of each other next to the pool. Try to put them somewhere that is protected from the winds. Otherwise, the rings may get blown around if the winds are too heavy. Look for loops around the outer portion of your rings because you can use these loops to hang them up somewhere.

When summer ends, and you need to store the solar rings for a longer time, the first thing you do is clean them. Remove debris from them with a brush or push broom. After you’ve done that, you can deflate the rings safely. There won’t be any chance of debris getting trapped inside the wrinkles and folds of the deflated rings.

The rings must be dried entirely before deflating them. This can be done easily by hand. If you try using a leaf blower, that’ll just create an artificial wind which blows the rings back into the swimming pool, or someplace even farther away. Leaf blowers are better for cleaning and drying pool decks.

Now that you’ve dried and deflated the solar rings, you can place them in their proper storage bags for safekeeping. Some rings come with storage bags but if yours don’t, just use a plastic container which has a firm lid. Store the container someplace dry and cold.

As always, don’t put the container somewhere that is exposed to direct sunlight. Avoid rough surfaces too.

Advantages of a Solar Ring

Solar rings have similar benefits to those of solar blankets. However, solar rings are easier to install and take off the water. More importantly, solar rings do not endanger the lives of anyone else who happens to swim or fall in the water. For instance, if a child were to jump in the water while the solar rings are on it, they would simply break apart. The child won’t get caught underneath the water like they would with a blanket.

Here are some other advantages:

Less Chance of Evaporation

You’ll see a 50% reduction in evaporation when you use solar rings on your pool water. This is not as much as a solar blanket, but you’ll still save a lot of money and heat.

Traps Heat

Solar rings don’t cover all the water, but they do cover a lot of it. This helps keep some of the heat in the water after dark.

Filters Out Debris and Insects

The solar rings will filter some of the debris and insects from getting into the water. But since there are still gaps between the rings, they won’t block all the debris and insects. When you see debris in the rings, scoop it out quickly so that it doesn’t fall into the water. If you do this, the pump and vacuum will have less work to do.

Save Money on Chemicals

You won’t use as many chemicals when you’re using solar rings. This will save you some money on having to purchase new chemicals. Although, the amount of savings won’t be as much as a solar blanket would give you.

Please note that solar covers are like solar mats because you don’t need to inflate them and they’re both flat. They also offer the same benefits, and caring and using them is virtually the same too.

Liquid Solar Cover

The idea of pouring a liquid solar cover into your pool water and warming it up that way might seem like science fiction to you. But it is actually a reality.

Liquid solar covers do exist. Their aliphatic alcohols produce a monolayer film which forms on the water. In other words, the liquid solar cover causes a thick fatty alcohol layer to lie on top of the water. This slows down the evaporation process or stops it entirely. If there is no evaporation, then there is no lost heat. Therefore, you continue to have a warmer pool with a liquid solar cover.

The cost of a liquid solar cover is anywhere from $10 to $30 on average. Some liquid covers cost more money, especially if you purchase multiple containers of it at once.

Liquid Solar Cover: How to Use

Liquid solar covers are either sold in bottles or dispersal packets. These packets have a fish shape to them. To open the dispersal packet, you just lightly cut it open and pour it into the pool water. Follow the directions of the packet and use the required number of packets to accommodate your pool size.

If you have liquid solar cover in a bottle, you need to measure it based on your pool’s volume. Then pour in the proper amount of the liquid.

If you can’t figure out your pool’s volume on your own, there is a pool calculator available that you can use.

You should put enough liquid in the pool to be good for one month. Look at the instructions that came with the product to know what the manufacturer recommends. If there is ever heavy rain or dry conditions in your environment, then your pool will likely need more liquid solar cover. The pump can stay on when a liquid solar cover is in the water.

Liquid Solar Cover: Can it be Removed?

You can’t just pick up the liquid solar cover and toss it aside. It is mixed in with the pool water, so the only way you can remove it is by draining the pool water and replacing it with new water.

On the other hand, there is an easier trick to removing a liquid solar cover. Just don’t add any more of the liquid to the pool. Over a certain time period, the existing chemicals in the water will dissolve on their own. It all depends on the amount of liquid solar cover in the pool and the size of the pool itself.

You should add a liquid solar cover to your pool regularly. Make it part of your normal pool maintenance routine.

Advantages of a Liquid Solar Cover

Liquid solar cover is not a toxic chemical. You can add it to your pool and still keep everyone safe who decides to go in the water. You won’t experience skin irritation unless you have a rare sensitivity in your skin. No residue will be left behind either.

If you have a pet who likes to drink water from the pool, the liquid solar cover in it won’t hurt your dog if they only take a sip here and there. But don’t let them drink too much of it or they might get sick.

Let’s look at some advantages of the liquid solar cover.

Less Evaporation

See a 15% reduction in water evaporation.

Keep the Heat

Liquid solar covers have 75% the effectiveness of solar blankets when it comes to keeping heat in the water. The best thing about a liquid solar cover is that it will contain to heat the pool at nighttime. It doesn’t need the sun for that.

Filters Out Debris and Bugs?

Unfortunately, a liquid solar cover cannot filter out debris and bugs for obvious reasons. Solar rings and solar blankets are certainly better at filtering than a liquid cover is. If you choose to heat your pool water with a liquid solar cover, then you must use a vacuum and skimmer regularly to keep your pool clean.

Cheaper Chemicals? Nope.

Liquid solar covers are comprised of chemicals. For this reason, you’ll be paying much more in chemical costs if you use liquid solar covers.

Extra Tips

You now understand how solar cover functions and operates. You know why it can benefit anyone with a pool. Let’s examine some more tips.

Keep the filter running when the day is at its hottest. This helps prevent lost heat due to evaporation.

Take off the solar rings and blanket. Shock the pool with chlorine after that.

Install a windbreak to surround the pool. This reduces even more evaporation from happening.

High wind speeds near the water cause additional evaporation. You can help block winds with things like privacy screens, patio furniture, plants, and a pool cage.

Only turn on water features when you’re near the pool. Things like waterfalls increase evaporation because of the additional surface area created.

No matter which type of solar pool cover you choose, it will trap more water and heat in your swimming pool versus not having one at all. Choose any solar pool cover that you want for your particular pool. If you already have a heater for the pool, you can still use a solar pool cover for it too.

Overall, you’ll save money because you won’t have to spend as much money on power, chemicals, and more water. Therefore, a solar pool cover is a great investment that will give you several years.


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