Finding the Best Solar Pool Heater of 2020 (Reviews, Buyers’ Guide, & The Bottom Line)

Nobody wants to suffer through getting in an ice-cold pool, but the cost of heating one can be extraordinarily high and harmful to the environment. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can warm your pool, save money, and protect your surroundings with a solar energy heater. (1)

However, with so many different types and styles of heaters on the market, picking the best solar pool heater for you can get tricky, with hundreds of low-quality options available online fighting for your attention. So, we’ve compiled our top 11 “can’t-miss” solar pool heaters to buy for the year to aid your search, help you go green, and get your pool feeling nice and toasty.

Quick Comparison of Our Top 11 Solar Pool Heaters (For Those in a Rush)

Don’t have enough time to read our in-depth reviews, but still want to know what’s right for you? We’ve got a quick comparison of our top picks below:

  1. Solar Pool Supply DIY Heater (Best Overall): This solar pool heater is our best overall option, thanks to the tube-and-web design, durable material, and meticulous manufacturing process.
  2. SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater (Budget Pick): We’ve named this one our budget pick, with its low price, high quality, and headers that help your pool pump work more efficiently.
  3. Fafco Solar Bear Economy System (Best Above-Ground): This model earned its label as the top above-ground solar pool heater because of the large polyethylene panel, complete kit with set-up materials, and material whetted by pool water.
  4. SunQuest 2-2’ x 12’: This heater includes more than thirty installation pieces, a Max-flow header design, and a quick set-up.
  5. Smartpool S601P: Complete with a tube-on-web design, wind slits, and flexible threaded headers, this pool heater excels at being innovative.
  6. Sun2Solar Solar Cover: With a sturdy rectangular cover with bubbles to trap and keep the sun’s heat, this one is our first pool cover option.
  7. Sun2Solar Pool Cover: This effective cover features bubbles to help heat retention and to prevent evaporation.
  8. Intex 18-foot Cover: With a stand-out bubble design, and you can leave it on year-round in warmer climates.
  9. Intex 15-foot Cover: This round cover has holes to allow rainwater in and protects your pool against falling debris.
  10. Intex 9.5-foot Cover: While this may be our smallest option, it still includes the bubble design for heat retention and evaporation prevention.
  11. Doheny’s Space Saving Solar Heating Collector: Made for above-ground pools, this product comes with a mounting kit and measures five feet by ten feet.

Solar Pool Heater Reviews

solar pool heater reviews

Investing in a solar pool heater is not a small purchase. So, to help protect your investment, give you further insight, and make your search easier – our experts have rounded up our top 11 models to buy this year in our solar pool heater reviews.

1. SOLARPOOLSUPPLY DIY Solar Pool Heater System Kit (Best Overall)

Our top pick comes from Solar Pool Supply. The panels have a unique, high-quality design that ensures long-lasting performance. While other systems may quickly wear out in the continual expansion and contraction as the panels heat and cool, these have an innovative tube-and-web design. This flexibility allows the polypropylene to expand and contract without putting any strain on panels.

My last solar pool heater only lasted a couple of months, and I can attest to the importance of durable and flexible materials. As an added measure for longevity, Solar Pool Supply uses pre-compounded polypropylene in these panels. The company claims that this manufacturing process separates its solar panels from cheaper options, creating UV light resistance.

Because of the quality material and the 40 inspections each panel receives in the manufacturing process, Solar Pool Supply claims that their boards will last for up to 20 years on your roof, withstanding all types of weather.

This solar pool heater is our best overall option because of the quality design, materials, and manufacturing process. If you are looking for a long-lasting solar pool heater, this purchase could make you feel satisfied, relaxed, and confident that your investment reduces energy costs.

2. SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater with Couplers (Budget Pick)

If you’re looking for a quality product that doesn’t break the bank, the SunQuest solar pool heater could be an excellent option for you. With its affordable price and ease of use, this pool heater is our budget pick.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a solar heating system, and the SunQuest heater is a prime example of that. You can use it with any pool, whether above or below ground, and it works well with the pool pump you already have. There’s no need to change your whole pool system to add a solar heater.

If you’re worried about losing quality by going with a lower price (I know that’s one thing I’m cautious of!), SunQuest ensures their panels are professional-grade quality.

Another perk of this heater is that it comes with 2-inch OD headers that help improve the water circulation and reduce back pressure on the pool pump. You can also attach the panels to your roof or lay them on the ground, whichever works best for your home.

3. Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System (Best Above-Ground)

Fafco has been operating for over fifty years, and the company claims to be the premier company in the field. Thanks to their decades of experience, their products can be affordable, quality options for your pool.

This particular heating system is our top above-ground solar pool heater because of the impressive construction, durability, and accommodating features for your above-ground pool.

The 4-feet by 20-feet panel has polyethylene that is resistant to the UV rays from the sun. The system also comes with two-inch headers that can help your pool’s circulation and ensure maximum heat transfer. The other key factor of the panel’s construction is the integral bypass valve that allows you to turn the heater on and off as desired.

Due to the quality polyethylene material and the panel surface that has been whetted by pool water, Fafco claims that this panel is durable and can last for ten years.

You can place these solar heaters on the side of your pool, angled 10 to 30 degrees to the South. Another option is to put them on the ground, a rack by the pool, or a roof. The complete package comes with barb connections, mounting caps, bases, straps, a valve handle, and rubber plugs for easy installation.

4. SunQuest 2-2’ x 12’

Just like our previous SunQuest pool heater, this option can work for any style of pool. The company promises superior quality and reliability so you can enjoy a swim from spring to fall.

The main difference between this pool heater and the previous SunQuest model is that this slightly larger option comes with more tools to anchor the panels. Instead of just connectors and headers, this solar heater includes over thirty pieces for roof installation and a diverter.

Another great feature is the Max-flow design with larger headers, so your pump works with less backpressure. Plus, SunQuest claims that you can install the heaters in just thirty minutes so you can take advantage of the heating system as soon as possible.

5. Smartpool S601P

Our next solar panel heating option comes from the Smartpool brand. This company has been producing pool heaters for the last two decades, giving them authority and experience.

Like the Solar Pool Supply option, these panels use a tube-on-web design, exposing more surface area to the sun’s rays. The material also has thin slits to let the wind pass through without damaging the panels. Another exciting feature is the flexible threaded headers, which allow you to place the panels on above-ground pools or roofs.

In addition to those quality features, these Smartpool panels have headers with reinforced fiberglass to provide extra durability. The internal baffles also let the water go through both sides of the collector, absorbing even more heat.

I love getting my pool as warm as possible, and if that describes you too, then this Smartpool panel may be an excellent product for your home. With 80 square feet of solar panels, Smartpool claims it can heat your pool up to 15 degrees warmer.

6. Sun2Solar 16’ x 12’ Solar Cover

So far, all of our solar pool heating options have been solar panels. However, they aren’t the only choice available for effective heating using the sun’s energy. Pool covers, like this one from Sun2Solar, don’t actively heat the water. Instead, they help prevent evaporation and maintain the temperature of the water.

This particular solar cover is for in-ground and above-ground pools measuring 16 feet by 32 feet. Sun2Solar states that if your pool is smaller than those dimensions, you can trim the material to create the perfect fit. 

For the cover to work effectively, you need to place it with the bubble side down in the water. The bubbles trap heat from the sun and keep it in the water.

While this pool heating system does not work like your typical pool heaters, it is incredibly green, since it doesn’t use electricity or fossil fuels. If you keep it on when you are not using the pool, the cover will be quite effective at retaining the existing heat and trapping more from the sun.

The only potential downside is the material wearing out and pieces falling into your pool. However, the cover does come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which ensures durability.

7. Sun2Solar 24’ Round Solar Cover

Here we have another solar cover from Sun2Solar. Our last option was a large, rectangular shape, while this one is for round pools measuring 24 feet in diameter.

Like its rectangle counterpart, this solar cover has hundreds of bubbles that face down in the water. Their job is to catch the sun’s UV rays and transfer that free heat to your pool water.

By catching and trapping the heat, the company claims that the bubbles also prevent up to 95% of evaporation. Pools generally lose a lot of their natural heat through evaporation, so a pool cover like this one helps reduce natural heat loss.

You can place the cover on the pool at night to prevent the water temperature from dropping too low, or you can keep it on all day when you’re not swimming to help catch more heat.

If your pool is less than 24 feet across, Sun2Solar claims that you can cut the material to fit the swimming pool without it affecting the manufacturer’s warranty. To do so, just spread the cover out entirely over the water and use a marker to draw the area’s correct size. Then remove the covering and start cutting.

8. Intex 18’ Round Solar Cover

Another great brand for solar covers is Intex. This particular option is one of their larger products, measuring 18 feet in diameter. If you have a slightly larger pool, you can still use this cover and just let it float on the surface. For smaller swimming pools, you can cut the material or opt for a smaller size.

One of these pool covers’ great features is that you can leave them all year round in warmer areas. Even if you don’t use your pool during the winter months, this cover can act as a tarp in the winter. However, if the temperatures reach close to freezing, you will need to take it off and replace it with a regular tarp.

As an added plus, you can leave this cover on your pool while you run the filter. Moving the water helps increase the pool temperature and distribute the heat that the material is trapping.

9. Intex 15’ Round Solar Cover

If 18 feet is much too large for your pool, try the 15 foot Intex solar cover. It is just as effective at trapping the sun’s heat with the air bubbles and preventing evaporation.

Like the other Intex cover, it has tiny holes throughout to allow rainwater to trickle in the pool slowly, so the liquid doesn’t collect on the top. If you’re worried about the cover sinking to the bottom of the pool during heavy rainfall, don’t fret! The holes help prevent that, and the cover will stay in place through the storm.

This one to two-inch cover also helps protect your pool from any falling debris, like leaves, sticks, and even bugs. Despite the thickness, it is still flexible and buoyant.

A great perk to the solar pool covers is that you can use them with solar collectors. By combining an option like the Intex 15-foot round cover with one of the aforementioned solar collectors, you can maximize the solar heat intake and preservation.

10. Intex 9.5’ Round Solar Cover

Our final solar cover also comes from Intex, and it is one of our most affordable options on this list. It measures 9.5 feet in diameter and comes with a reusable carry bag (like all the other Intex pool cover options).

Intex promises that its air bubble design will help retain the sun’s heat and prevent up to 95% of water evaporation.

If you are wondering how to put the cover on and remove it quickly, a simple cover reel could do the trick. However, that purchase is separate from the pool heater.

A possible disadvantage to the Intex pool covers is that they may wear out after one or two years if you use them consistently. The constant direct sunlight may wear out the material sooner than you would like.

11. Doheny’s 5’ x 10’ Space Saving Solar Heating Collector

This solar pool heating system is for above ground pools. Ideally, you would mount it on the side of the pool over plywood, but you can also put it on a nearby roof. Each kit includes straps, mounting brackets, and screws.

While this 5′ by 10′ solar panel could be an excellent option for smaller pools and spaces, keep in mind that it will not work with every type of pump. If you have a 1HP or larger pump, you will need an additional bypass kit.

Nevertheless, Doheny’s claims that each panel can increase your pool’s temperature by 10 degrees in one week. This panel could be a great option if you are looking to heat your smaller pool.

Buyers’ Guide (How to Buy the Best Pool Solar Heater for You)

Now that you’ve looked at all those diverse, quality options, how will you know which one will work best for your pool? Numerous factors play into your decision, so let’s look at them individually to help you make the best choice.

1. Measure Your Pool’s Dimensions

The most crucial factor to consider when buying a solar pool heater is your pool’s size. Of course, the larger the pool, the more solar collectors you will need. While the options above may seem large, you will need to buy multiple collectors if you have a more spacious pool.

If you don’t already know the pool’s size, get outside and measure the length and width. If you have a round area, measure the diameter and use that to find the surface area. For pools with unique shapes, estimate the size by finding the approximate length and width.

There is no simple answer to determining how many solar collectors you need because the size, shape, and location all play into it. For a rough estimate – and I mean rough! – measure the surface area of the pool (length times the width).

You will want the collector area to be the same as the pool surface area. The more sun you get, especially if you live in Florida, the less collection area you will need compared to the pool size. (2)

2. Know What Type of Solar Pool Heater You Need

Every pool is different, so it’s crucial you select the make sure you get the proper type of solar pool heater. (3) While some heaters may work on various pools, they may not be as effective as a heater designed for a specific style.

Below-Ground Solar Pool Heater

Below-ground solar pool heaters are typically solar panels that you place on the roof. Since there is no pool wall to tilt the panels up against, the roof is the only option besides placing the boards on the ground.

Since you may need multiple panels to heat your pool, you may not want to take up precious lawn space with large black stips of polyethylene. Instead, look for solar panels that can attach easily to your roof.

Above-Ground Solar Pool Heater

You can use solar panels that attach to the roof or lean against the pool’s sides for above-ground pools. However, when brands advertise that the heater is for above-ground pools, they usually refer to the fact that you can prop the panels against the pool and save space.

Solar Pool Cover

The solar pool covers can work for both in-ground and above-ground pools as long as they are the correct size. However, they often come in a circular shape, limiting their use since they won’t cover the whole surface of rectangular or oblong pools. Some brands, though, do advertise that you can trim the cover to fit your pool size.

If you are looking to buy a solar heater for your round pool, keep in mind how each method works. The panels collect heat from the sun and pass it to the pool water, while the covers help retain heat from the sun in the pool and prevent evaporation, according to the Florida Energy Center. (4)

3. Find the Best Deal for You

Money plays a vital role in any purchasing decision, but especially with solar pool heating. A lot of the solar pool heaters on the market can cost up to a couple of thousand dollars, and if that price is within your budget, fantastic! There are numerous, high-quality heating systems in the price range available.

However, if you are looking for something more cost-effective, there are still multiple options. Just make sure that your final product includes all the things you need, like a warranty and affordable shipping.

Warranty

In our reviews of solar pool heaters above, we mentioned that some of them have warranties. If you are looking for a long-lasting heater – and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want a product to last for years – consider what type of guarantee the company provides.

I made the mistake of getting a super cheap solar pool heater without a warranty, and it fell apart within a few months. It was very frustrating and a waste of money. Even if a company claims that their product will last for five to ten years, it is always a good idea to find a business that backs that claim with a warranty.

Shipping

Have you ever looked at the price of an object and thought it affordable, only to be shocked when you see the total cost with shipping? We’ve all been there.

Considering the shipping costs may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t forget that solar pool heaters can be quite large and heavy. When buying a solar pool heater, look for models that offer minimal or free shipping costs to help recoup your investment. Be wary of purchasing directly from manufacturers because often their shipping costs are much higher.

Limited-Time Deals

Another way to save some money is by looking for limited-time deals on solar pool heaters.

Great deals don’t last forever, especially with the top solar pool heaters, so it’s important to act quickly, with confidence, and capitalize when the time is right.

Final Price

After you’ve included a warranty and shipping prices, then apply any discounts possible and check the final price – your next question is likely, “Is it within my budget?” You don’t want to break the bank buying a solar pool heater, although they do end up saving you money in the long run.

Take some time to consider all the pricing points and look for the best deal for your family.

FAQ

If you are new to solar heating or pool heaters in general, I’m sure you have multiple questions.

Here are the three main questions that I had when I wanted to buy my first solar pool heater. Now that I have experience with a couple of different products and have done extensive research let me answer these questions for you.

Is solar pool heating worth it?

According to Solar Power Genie, two main factors determine if solar pool heating is worth it. (5) The first one, of course, is where you live. If you live in a colder area that doesn’t receive much sun, solar collectors won’t be a practical option.

Also, the efficiency of the heater determines whether or not it is a worthwhile investment for you. According to Solar Direct, each solar panel has a BTU per square foot. (6) You will want about 1,000 BTUs per square foot for an effective heating system. The higher the BTU, the more efficient the system is.

Regarding the question of whether solar pool heating is worth it, the bottom line is yes. If you live in an area with ample sunshine and invest in a high BTU product, solar power could be a fantastic option for your home.

How many solar panels do you need to heat a pool?

As previously mentioned, the size and number of solar panels or solar collectors needed to heat a pool depend on multiple factors.

First, the size of the pool plays a large part. It would be best to determine the depth, width, and length to understand how much water you will be heating. If you have a freeform swimming pool, figuring out the dimension can be difficult. As long as you have an estimate, it will help.

If you are placing your solar collectors on the roof, you need to consider which direction it faces. For example, if you put them on an east-facing area, then the collectors will only receive direct sunlight during the morning.

The shade covering the pool also affects how many solar collectors you will need. The more shade there is, the colder the water temperature.

Of course, one of the largest factors in determining how many solar panels you need is where you live. Each region has a different summer length and cloud cover, which are both vital to consider.

It may seem tricky to determine the correct number of solar collectors that you need with so many factors. However, you can use this tool from HotSpot Energy to help you estimate the square footage necessary. (7)

What is the Best Solar Pool Heater?

The top solar pool heater to buy this year according to our experts’ research is the Solar Pool Supply DIY Kit.

While each pool is different, from its size, make, and orientation or the water – this kit stands heads and shoulders above the rest and earns our best overall rating.

Nevertheless, going with any of our top highly-reviewed choices is a recipe for success.

The Bottom Line: How to Buy the Top Solar Pool Heater for You

Finding the top solar pool heater model for you ultimately comes down to what will work best for your home and pool. A simple pool cover may be all you need, or maybe the combination of solar panels and a pool cover is the way to go. Either way, I’m sure you can find the perfect solar pool heater for you from our above list, here at Your Energy Blog.

If you’re unsure which one to choose, go with our best overall option, the Solar Pool Supply DIY kit. You can’t go wrong with the careful manufacturing process, long-lasting material, and the innovative tube-and-web design.

References

  1. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/solar-swimming-pool-heaters
  2. http://floridaenergycenter.org/en/consumer/solar_hot_water/pools/q_and_a/index.htm#:~:text=Heating%20a%20swimming%20pool%20requires,required%20for%20typical%20residential%20pools 
  3. https://modernize.com/home-ideas/34548/above-ground-vs-inground-pool-heaters 
  4. http://floridaenergycenter.org/en/consumer/solar_hot_water/pools/q_and_a/index.htm#Cover 
  5. https://solarpowergenie.com/why-solar-pool-heating-is-worth-it/#:~:text=Solar%20Heaters%20Can%20Increase%20the%20Time%20You%20Use%20the%20Pool&text=It%20takes%20a%20lot%20of,consistency%20in%20temperature%20year%2Dround. 
  6. https://www.solardirect.com/archives/pool_heaters/pool_heating_faq/ph-faq.htm#:~:text=Pool%20Heaters-,Energy%20Rating%20%26%20Efficiency,is%20900%20to%201000%20BTU’s. 
  7. https://www.hotspotenergy.com/solar-pool-heaters/calc.php

The post Finding the Best Solar Pool Heater of 2020 (Reviews, Buyers’ Guide, & The Bottom Line) first appeared on Your Energy Blog.

John Bays

John Bays

29 years old from NY, a Green tech lover!
John Bays
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