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If you have a swimming pool that you would like to use even when the weather turns cooler, a pool heater can help significantly warm the water. While standard pool heaters cost a lot of money to run, solar pool heaters only have the upfront installation cost, allowing them to pay for themselves over time. Also, you don’t need a significant amount of sunlight to sufficiently heat the water. Pool heaters work well in virtually any area as long as the location receives six hours or more of sunlight per day.
The national average cost for installing a solar pool heater is between $3,000 to $7,000 on average, with most people paying $5,000 for a glazed solar-panel pool heater for a 12-foot x 24-foot in-ground pool. At the low end of the spectrum, the cost can be down to $2,000 for unglazed solar panels for a 10-foot x 20-foot in-ground pool mounted on a platform near the pool. At the high end, you might pay $10,000 or more for a high-temperature collector mounted on the house for a large pool measuring 18 feet x 36 feet.
|Solar Pool Heater Prices|
|National average cost||$5,000|
The cost of a solar pool heater ranges from $500 to $11,000, depending on the type. All solar pool heaters function in a similar fashion but are made from varying materials and come in a spectrum of sizes. There are four types of solar pool heaters available. Some types work better in certain pools than others, depending on the type of pool and material.
|Type||Average Cost (Installed)|
|Propylene Mats||$500 - $3,000|
|Unglazed Solar Panels||$1,500 - $4,000|
|Glazed Solar Panels||$3,000 - $8,500|
|High-Temperature Collectors||$9,000 - $11,000|
Propylene mats are the least expensive system with mats running from $500 for a small pool to $3,000 for a larger pool. It is sometimes called an unglazed solar heater and is made up of a fabric mat with coils running through it. In warm, sunny climates, such as California or Florida, the mat is a good choice. However, it is less effective at heating pools in more moderate climates.
Unglazed solar panels are simpler and less expensive than glazed solar panels. These panels are made with plastic or heavy-duty rubber mixed with UV light inhibitors to increase the life of the panel. They just do not have the same glazing or glass outer covering. Unglazed solar panels perform the same as glazed panels during the warm months, but the glass covering allows glazed panels to perform better during cold months. Expect to pay between $1,500 and $4,000 for these panels.
Glazed solar panels run from $3,000 for a small system to $8,500 for a large system. When you think of solar panels, you usually visualize a glazed system made with glass. This system is better suited for areas that need more heat or lack enough long, sunny days to generate an ample amount of solar heat. Glazed solar pool heaters consist of copper tubing outfitted on an aluminum plate and covered with iron-tempered glass. The design is more efficient at capturing solar heat in areas with cold weather than unglazed systems. A glazed solar pool heater is made to be used year-round.
Solar pool collectors cost from $9,000 to $11,000, depending on size and type. If you live in an area that does not see a lot of sun, you can still use a solar pool heater. However, you will likely need a system called a high-temperature collector, which uses mirrors to increase the amount of sunlight that heats the water. These collectors are designed to increase the heat of the water substantially, which is a huge perk in colder areas or locations that do not receive a great deal of sunlight.
Solar pool heater pumps range from $50 to $1,300, depending on size or style. Some solar pool heaters require a pump to circulate the warm water with the cooler water effectively. This pump can be powered by solar panels or by electricity. Often, you can use the pump that you already have. The dimensions of the pool will be used to determine the size of the pump needed, the number of gallons per minute needed to travel through the system, and the average feet of head in the system. To figure this out, determine the number of gallons of water in your pool. After you figure this out, you need to determine how many gallons per minute need to be pumped through your solar pool heating system. Horsepower (HP) denotes the pump's ability to pump 5,500 foot-pounds per second (745.7 watts). The more power the pump has, the greater the horsepower. A larger pump with more horsepower is often needed for a bigger pool to move the water effectively.
Choosing a pump with a variable flow rate could be a good idea so that you can dial in the flow rate depending on the number of panels in your system. After figuring gallons per minute, you next need to determine the average feet of head for the pump. This figure has to do with the amount of resistance working against your pump as it is pulling the water. These calculations take into account pipe lengths and any friction in the system.
|Pump Size||Gallons per Minute||Pump Cost (Materials Only)|
|0.5 HP||40||$50 - $400|
|1 HP||60||$150 - $600|
|1.5 HP||68||$200 - $700|
|2 HP||76||$500 - $750|
|2.5 HP||80||$600 - $800|
|3 HP||85||$700 - $1,300|
Pool heater costs range from $2,800 to $8,000, depending on the size and horsepower. Solar panels vary in size, but many are 4’ x 10’ or 4’ x 20’. The number of panels needed in a system depends on many factors, including the size of the pool, your climate, whether it is an in-ground pool or above-ground pool, and whether you use a pool cover. Here is a general example of the number of 4’ x 10’ glazed panels needed for an in-ground pool in a warm climate and their cost.
The solar pool heater’s collection area should always be positioned where it will receive maximum sunlight. Typical locations are a roof or nearby platform. In areas of the Northern Hemisphere, you will position the collector facing south to receive the most sunlight exposure. Depending on where you live, the collector might require tilting by as much as 45 degrees east or west. Usually, the degree is determined by your region’s latitude minus 10 to 15 degrees. When you have the heater professionally installed, the installer will make the necessary adjustments based on your location. They will determine the area that receives the most sunlight.
|Number of 4’ x 10’ Solar Panels||Pool Surface Area||Cost (Materials Only)|
|4||288 sq.ft.||$2,500 - $4,500|
|6||512 sq.ft.||$3,100 - $5,200|
|8||648 sq.ft.||$5,000 - $7,200|
|10||800 sq.ft.||$6,100 - $8,000|
If you purchase a pool heater, you can expect to pay around $500 for labor and installation. Solar pool heater installation for a large unit or one installed far from the pool can go up to $1,000 for labor and installation. If the pool is large and has an intricate system, the installation process can easily take up to two weeks and require multiple workers to complete the task.
Working with a professional when installing a solar pool heating system yields the best results. The entire process can take from a few hours to two days, depending on the size of the pool, system size and type, and distance between the pool and panels. To start, a professional helps choose and design the best system for your particular situation. They advise you about locations for the best sun exposure for the panels and calculate the size of the system. When it comes time to install the system, a professional has the knowledge and experience to do the job efficiently and correctly. A system that is installed correctly needs fewer repairs and lasts longer.
Every solar pool heater installation starts with an evaluation of your pool and area. A consultation about your needs and habits helps the installer better position and size the heater to your pool to get the best results. Finally, the panels or collector system are installed and placed on a roof or nearby platform. These are thoroughly secured and strapped down to make sure that they remain stable.
All tubing is then connected to the system and run to your pool, where the pump is installed just outside the pool. Two sets of plumbing are installed from the collector--one uses the pump and a filter to pull the water up to the collector, and the other sends the water straight back from the collector to the pool. Your installer hides or minimizes the appearance of these pipes or tubes. In some cases, they can be discreetly run beneath surfaces or attached to the side of the home.
Unlike most pool heaters, solar heaters consist of two pieces: a pump, which circulates the water, and the solar heater, made up of solar reflective material and tubing. The pump pushes the water to the tubing, which is either below solar glazed panels or fixed through an unglazed solar material. The water circulates slowly, warmed by the heater, then is pumped back to the pool. This process does not heat the pool quickly or all at once, but, over time, raises the temperature up to 7º on average.
Even the best solar pool heater might require pool solar panel repair. Common problems with a solar pool heater include panel leaks, plumbing repairs, panel replacements, valves, controllers, and sensor repairs that control automation. The repair cost varies based on the brand, the required part, size, and problem. Also, the extent of wear and damage impacts the cost because the part might be repairable or need to undergo complete replacement.
Solar water heaters have many benefits for the user. They use no electricity, gas, or propane to run, so they pay for themselves over a few years. They last up to 20 years and require little regular maintenance. They heat a pool up to 7º and can also cool down a too-hot pool at night by circulating the water through the cooled tubes. These heaters are expensive to purchase and must be installed in the correct location to ensure they get the proper amount of sunlight. They also need to be appropriately sized, about equal to the surface area of the pool, to ensure that they perform sufficiently. Solar panels take a long while to heat a pool initially. It could take a day or two in a warm climate and up to an entire week in a colder one. The time it takes depends on the amount of cloud cover and temperatures. Once the pool reaches a comfortable temperature, it is important to use a cover at night and when not in use to maintain the temperature.
The solar pool heater collector size depends on the size of your pool, the climate you are in, whether your pool is above-ground or in-ground, and whether you use a pool cover. A professional can help you determine the exact number of panels for your situation. Above-ground pools lose heat faster since they do not have the insulation of the soil and need more panels for the same surface area compared to an in-ground pool. Those living in a cooler northern climate need more panels to heat the same sized pool than those living in warmer southern climates.
A solar pool heater works better when it is the correct size for your pool. It will not work well to raise the temperature if it is too small and too large of a system would be a waste of money. For cooler climates, it is usually a good idea to have the surface area of the collectors be equal to the surface area of your pool. In a warmer climate, the collector area should be about half the size of the surface area of your pool. Pool covers will trap heat and reduce the number of needed panels.
A mathematical formula is used to determine the number of BTUs needed to heat your pool. It takes 10 BTUs every hour for each square foot of pool surface area for each degree you wish to raise the temperature of your pool. For example, if your pool is 20’ x 40’ and you wish to raise the temperature by five degrees, multiply 800 square feet times five. This equals 4,000. Now multiply this number by the 10 BTUs needed each hour, and you need 40,000 BTUs per hour.
Solar panels come with a BTU output rating. The sun generates close to 300 BTUs per square foot per hour. In optimal conditions, a solar panel only produces 50% to 75% efficiency. If you needed to collect 18,000 BTUs per hour and the solar panel is working at 50% efficiency, you would need at least 120 square feet of solar panel surface area. These numbers change based on each unique situation. The table below shows the square feet of solar panels needed if the panels function at 50 percent capacity.
|Pool Size||BTUs per Hour||Square Feet of Solar Panels|
While solar energy is green and does not rely on electricity or gas, it still varies in how efficiently it heats your pool. When assessing your heater’s efficiency, you must consider its position, how much sunlight your area gets, the pool size, and how warm you want your pool to be. For example, some systems like propylene mats are not very efficient in northern climates. For this reason, have a professional assess your needs before purchasing a system to select a pool heater that can efficiently heat your pool to the desired temperature.
Most solar pool heaters do not require much maintenance to keep them running properly. Glazed panels may need to be cleaned periodically in dry climates to remove any built-up debris. Otherwise, the main focus is on keeping the filter clean and the pump regularly inspected. Each system has its own maintenance needs, so consult the owner’s manual for your system to find out how often the pump and components should be inspected or serviced. The average cost for an inspection is $150.
The biggest difference between above-ground and in-ground pools is that in-ground pools have added insulation thanks to the dirt that surrounds them. The soil holds in the heat and does not let it escape as quickly. An above-ground pool loses heat through the top and sides. So, if you have an above-ground pool and an in-ground pool of the same size in the same climate, an above-ground pool will need a larger heating system. If you do have an above-ground pool, consider adding insulation to cut costs on the size of the solar heating system. Wrap the outside of the pool in foam insulation, which costs about $2.50 per foot for materials and installation. Also, be sure to use a pool cover at night and when not in use. Costs will be more to install a system to heat an above-ground pool since you will need to add extra panels. Keep in mind that needing more panels not only increases the costs but also increases the space needed on your property for the panels.
Heat pumps 1 are another popular way to heat a pool using the sun’s energy. As the sun warms the air, the pump draws in heat from the air and warms the pool. Both systems use some electricity to run their pumps 2 and circulate the water. The cost of electricity is negligible compared to the cost of heating a pool using gas or propane.
In most cases, heat pumps extend the time you use the pool by about 2 to 3 months a year. The main difference is that the solar heater runs almost constantly during the day to heat the water, while heat pumps are only used as needed. Therefore, they may take longer to warm a pool, but they can raise the temperature slightly more than a solar heater. Heat pumps cost around $2,250 - $7,000 on average and may be a more economical option for very large pools, while solar heaters may work better for moderately sized pools.
An electric pool heater is only practical for a small pool or for use in an area where the temperature is consistently over 55 degrees. An electric pool heater needs its own electrical circuit to provide enough energy. In an electric pool heating system, water is pumped through the system, heated by an element, and returned to the pool. In a solar heating unit, the water is pumped through solar panels that use the sun’s rays to heat the water. Electric units are relatively inexpensive compared to a solar heating system, but the cost to run them adds up quickly. Expect the cost for an electric pool heater to be between $1,250 and $5,500, including installation. Solar pool heating systems range in price from $2,000 to $9,000.
A solar pool cover has an average cost from $40 to $400 for an inexpensive cover. However, costs can go as high as $2,700 for a mesh cover and $3,700 for a solid pool cover, depending on size, brand, and quality. A retractable pool cover can cost around $10,000 for the cover and installation. A pool cover serves a multitude of purposes. Some are designed to help winterize the pool, others aid in keeping the water warm, and some keep dirt and debris out of the water.
The goal of a solar pool heater is to heat your pool for free using the sun’s rays. Ultimately, you have to factor in the cost of installing the solar pool heater. Once it is paid for, then you can start reaping the benefits of free heat. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, payback usually takes from ⅕ to 7 years, depending on your regional fuel costs.
Usually, it takes from six to ten panels to heat a pool, with the average being from seven to eight panels.
Solar pool heaters last from 10 to 15 years.
If you use your pool regularly and only need it warmed around 5º, then yes, it can save you a lot of money over a gas or propane 4 heater.
Depending on the heater type and pool size, the pool typically gets 5º to 7º warmer, on average.
Depending on the size of the panels and the pool, most heaters need to run for a few hours to sufficiently warm the pool.
The average cost to install a solar pool heater is around $5,000 including the solar pool heater unit.