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How Much Does It Cost to Install a Solar Pool Heater?

Low
$2,000
Average Cost
$5,000
High
$10,000
(glazed solar heater for a 12-foot x 24-foot in-ground pool mounted on the house)

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Here's what happens next

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Solar Pool Heater?

Low
$2,000
Average Cost
$5,000
High
$10,000
(glazed solar heater for a 12-foot x 24-foot in-ground pool mounted on the house)

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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. 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.

Several costs are associated with installing a solar pool heater, depending on what type of heater, its placement, and the size of your pool. Most people pay between $3,000 and $7,000 on average, with most homeowners spending $5,000 on glazed solar-panel pool heaters for a 12-foot x 24-foot in-ground pool installed on the house. The cost can be as low as $2,000 for unglazed solar panels for a 10-foot x 20-foot in-ground pool mounted 1 on a platform near the pool. A high-temperature collector mounted on the house for a large pool measuring 18-feet x 36-feet will cost $10,000 or more.

Solar Pool Heater Installation Cost

Solar Pool Heater Prices
National average cost$5,000
Average range$3,000 - $7,000
Minimum cost$2,000
Maximum cost$10,000


Updated: What's new?

Solar Pool Heater Installation Cost by Project Range

Low
$2,000
Small, non-glazed solar heater for an above-ground pool mounted on the pool’s side
Average Cost
$5,000
Glazed solar heater for a 12-foot x 24-foot in-ground pool mounted on the house
High
$10,000
High-temperature solar heating system for a 36-foot in-ground pool mounted on the house

Solar Pool Heater Costs by Type

While they function more or less the same way, three types of solar pool heaters are available. Each type may work better in one area, and the costs vary widely.

Solar Pool Heater Installation Cost

Solar Pool Heater Installation Cost


TypeAverage Costs
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

Propylene mats are the least expensive system. 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. These mats have starting costs of around $500 for a small pool but can go as high as $3,000 for larger pools.

Unglazed Pool Solar Panels

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

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. They have much higher starting costs, at around $3,000 for smaller systems, and up to $8,500 for larger systems.

Solar Pool Collectors

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 are the most expensive systems, with starting costs around $9,000 on average.

Solar Pool Heater Cost by Pump Size

Some solar pool heaters require the use of a pump 2. 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.

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.

Solar Pool Heater Cost

Solar Pool Heater Cost


Pump SizeGallons per MinutePump Cost
0.5 HP*40$50 to $400
1 HP60$150 to $600
1.5 HP68$200 to $700
2 HP76$500 to $750
2.5 HP80$600 to $800
3 HP85$700 to $1,300


*HP means horsepower, which is the unit for pump sizes that equals 550 foot-pounds per second (745.7 watts).

Solar Pool Heater Prices by Collector Size

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.

Solar Pool Heater Prices

Solar Pool Heater Prices


Number of 4’ x 10’ Solar PanelsPool Surface AreaCost
4288 sq.ft.$2,500 - $4,500
6512 sq.ft.$3,100 - $5,200
8648 sq.ft.$5,000 - $7,200
10800 sq.ft.$6,100 - $8,000


Cost to Install Solar Pool Heater

Working with a professional when installing a solar pool heating system yields the best results. A professional helps choose and design the best system for your particular situation. They also advise you about locations for the best sun exposure for the panels and calculate the size of the system. Once 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.

If you purchase a heater and have it installed from the same company, the installation cost is usually rolled into the price of the heater. If you buy the system separately, expect to pay around $500 for labor and installation of the system out of the $5,000 for glazed solar-panel pool heaters for a 12-foot x 24-foot in-ground pool. If your system is very large or installed far from the pool, installation costs can be much higher, up to around $1,000 for extremely large, intricate systems that take two days and multiple workers to install.

Solar Pool Heater Installation

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.

Your panels or collector system are installed first and are placed on a roof or nearby platform. These are thoroughly secured and strapped down to make sure that they remain stable. The tubing is then connected to the system and run to your pool, where the pump 2 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.

The entire process takes anywhere from a few hours to two days, depending on the size of your pool, system type and size, and distance between the panels and pool.

How Do Solar Pool Heaters Work?

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.

Sizing a Solar Pool Heater

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.

Solar Pool Heater BTU

To determine the number of BTUs needed to heat your pool, a mathematical formula is used. 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 BTU’s 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.

Solar Pool Heater BTU

Solar Pool Heater BTU


Pool SizeBTUs per HourSquare Feet of Solar Panels
108 sq.ft.9,00060
216 sq.ft.18,000120
432 sq.ft.36,000240
648 sq.ft.54,000360
756 sq.ft.63,000420


*Sq.ft. of solar panels needed when solar panels work at 50% efficiency.

Solar Pool Heater Efficiency

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.

Where to Place a Solar Pool Heater's Collecting Area

You can place the solar pool heater’s collection area in many locations, but ultimately, you need to position it to get the maximum amount of sunlight. This spot may be on your roof or a nearby platform.

In most areas in the Northern Hemisphere, you need to position it due south to get the most sunlight. However, depending on your location and tilt, this position can be off by as much as 45º east or west.

The tilt or angle of the collector also needs to be positioned for your area. In most cases, this equals your latitude, minus 10º to 15º. When you have the heater installed, your installer should make these adjustments based on your property’s location and the area that gets the most sun.

Solar Water Heater Pros and Cons

Solar water heaters have many benefits for the user. They use no electricity, gas, or propane 3 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.

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.

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 Pool Heater for Above-Ground Pools vs Solar Pool Heater for In-Ground Pools

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.


Modern house with swimming pool and a solar pool heater on the roof


Solar Pool Heater vs Heat Pump

Heat pumps 4 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.

Solar vs Electric Pool Heater

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.

Solar Pool Heater Maintenance

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.

Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Pool Cover Installation Cost

A solar pool cover 5 warms your pool even more, allowing you to use a smaller solar heater. Solar pool covers cost around $100 to $200 on average, or you can have a retractable option installed for closer to $10,000.

Additional Costs and Considerations

  • If you live in a climate where you swim year-round, a solar water heater helps make the water comfortable on cooler days. However, it will not warm the water sufficiently for use in a cold climate.
  • As long as your building site has unshaded areas and faces south, you can use a solar pool heating system even if you do not live in a warm, sunny climate. Because the system uses direct and diffuse solar radiation, any sunlight will be sufficient.
  • Choose an installation company that has experience with the type of heater you are considering.
  • In most areas, you need a permit to install a solar energy system on your property. Check local building codes and regulations before you begin.
  • Most solar pool heating systems need a pump 2 to operate. Keep in mind that this uses electricity and increases your bill unless you have a home that runs entirely on solar power. Then, you can use solar panels to power your pump.
  • A solar sun ring provides additional heat to your pool. If you live in a very hot climate, it may be all that you need. A solar sun ring is made of two layers of UV-resistant vinyl 6 and floats on the surface of the swimming pool. The clear upper layer directs the sun rays to the second blue layer. This layer absorbs the sunlight and converts it to heat. You can place multiple solar rings on the surface of your pool. These cost between $45 and $70 each.

FAQs

  • Is solar pool heating worth it?

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 3 heater.

  • How warm does a solar heated pool get?

Depending on the heater type and pool size, the pool typically gets 5º to 7º warmer, on average.

  • How long does it take to heat a pool with solar panels?

Depending on the size of the panels and the pool, most heaters need to run for a few hours to sufficiently warm the pool.

  • How much does it cost to install a solar pool heater?

The average cost to install a solar pool heater is around $5,000.

Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Mounted: A support on which something is attached or hung
glossary term picture Pump 2 Pump: A device used to move air, liquid, or gas by mechanical means
glossary term picture Propane 3 Propane: A hydrocarbon gas used as a common fuel source
4 Heat pumps: A device used to heat or cool the air in a home by moving hot and cold air to where it is needed. The unit pulls hot air from inside the home in the summer and directs it outdoors, leaving the inside air cool, and pulls heat from outdoors in the winter and directs it into the home, thereby warming it
glossary term picture Solar Blanket 5 Solar pool cover: Protective outdoor pool cover used to trap the sun's heat, thereby helping to keep pool water warm
glossary term picture Vinyl 6 Vinyl: A synthetic plastic made from ethylene and chlorine. Vinyl has many applications in the construction industry and it is widely used in sidings, window frames, roofing and gutters, among others

Cost to install a solar pool heater varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Updated:
The information provided by our cost guides comes from a great variety of sources, including specialized publications and websites, cost studies, U.S. associations, reports from the U.S. government, contractors and subcontractors, material suppliers, material price services, and other vendor websites. For more information, read our Methodology and sources.
Backyard with swimming pool and a solar pool heater on the roof
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Cost to install a solar pool heater varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

The information provided by our cost guides comes from a great variety of sources, including specialized publications and websites, cost studies, U.S. associations, reports from the U.S. government, contractors and subcontractors, material suppliers, material price services, and other vendor websites. For more information, read our Methodology and sources.