Jumping into the pool and cooling off on a hot day is always a fun experience. However, this might not be the case during the fall and spring season when the colder winds start blowing at you. To counteract this, most homeowners will install a gas pool heater to help increase the temperature of their pool water. However, this will also translate to paying very high gas bills due to the extra consumption of gas. Electric heaters also have the same problem with high monthly bills.
A more economical and eco-friendly solution to this is to install a solar pool heater. Some of the best solar pool heaters include brands from FAFCO, Smartpool, Sun2Solar, Sungrabber, and many more. These devices harvest solar energy to convert it into a source of heat to increase the pool water temperature in an environmentally friendly way.
However, with so many solar pool heaters out there claiming to be the best, it might be a little complicated to figure out which is the best solar pool heater for you. In today’s guide, you’ll find many valuable tips and answers to a few frequently asked questions to help you as well as a list of the top 10 best solar pool heaters to help you find one that meets your needs.
Buyer’s Guide – 5 Key Factors to Consider when Choosing the Best Solar Pool Heater
Square Footage Coverage
One of the first features that you need to look into is the square footage coverage your preferred solar panel system has. This is important for many reasons. First, you need to know the amount of open surface area you have to support the solar heater.
Typical area sizes of heaters are between 40 and 80 sq ft per product, but this will also depend on the number of solar panels you’re planning to get. Based on this number, you need to make sure that you have the available space next to your ground pool to install the solar heater.
Many solar pool panels are also suitable for installations on the roof, especially those that have a flexible and lightweight design to make them easy to install on complicated roof surfaces. The installation process of the solar heater should be easy enough for DIY projects, but you can always turn to a professional if you feel uncomfortable on the rooftop.
Even more important than just the available space on the roof or in the ground, you must also keep in mind that the amount of heat provided by the solar collector to raise the pool temperature is dictated by the square feet of the heating collector and the solar radiation available in the area.
Most brands provide an average value of heat generated in British Thermal Units (BTUs). This number will reflect the amount of heat your ground pool is receiving per day. Typically, 80,000 BTUs should be enough to provide a good heating rating for 24 feet pools. However, if you want to add more heat to your water, you can simply just add on more solar heaters.
A good general rule of thumb to follow is to add the square footage in a solar panel array that represents at least 50% of the surface area of your entire ground pool.
The second aspect to consider is the estimated temperature rise that your solar panels will be able to provide.
The best solar heater is designed to provide a specific increase in pool temperature when compared to a ground swimming pool without any solar-powered heaters. The dimensions of the pool will affect the size of the required solar panel system. A much larger solar panel array could be unviable economically while a solar array that’s’ too short will not provide the desired temperature level.
This is why most manufacturers will specify the number of solar collectors required for a specific pool size in order to provide an average temperature increase that’s within the range of 5-15 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range will also be dependent on the manufacturer, weather conditions, and the pool size.
The best solar pool heater will often come with multiple mounting options. Manufacturers may offer a product that can be adjusted for a single or for multiple mounting types. There are three main mountain types for a solar pool heater.
The first one is simply flat. This type of design is applicable for a solar heater mat like the FAFCO Solar where you can simply roll out the heater and lay it on the ground next to the pool. However, this mounting type does not provide maximum efficiency as the tilt angle is always zero.
The next option is a racking system that lets you place the panels on a mounting racking. The tilt angle of the array can be adjusted according to where the sun is shining in order to achieve a higher level of efficiency and heat transfer. ‘
Finally, the last mounting option for a pool solar panel is the rooftop. This option may require a longer installation process but it is probably the best solar pool heater mounting option as it provides maximum optimization of space and heat absorption.
Pool Type and Limitations
There are two types of pools: above ground and in-ground.
Solar heaters are often designed to fit a specific type of pool. Solar heaters for in-ground pools may not be able to be used for above ground type and vice versa. However, there are also a few brands that offer certain types of pool heaters that can be used for both options.
An additional detail that you need to pay attention to to pool panels is the specific water pressure they’re designed to withstand. If you have a pool pump that exceeds the allowed horsepower capacity of the solar heater, then you need to install a bypass valve to reduce water pressure. Otherwise, you might risk damaging the heater and void the warranty.
Finally, the last detail that you must look further into is the product warranty. Some product warranties can go from 2 to 10 years with a significant difference to the price. Therefore, you need to strike a good balance between the price and warranty value provided by the manufacturer.
Tips to Taking Care of Your Solar Powered Pool Heater
Solar-powered heating systems are designed to ensure raining and strong winds, however, there are a few steps you can take to take care of your investment and make sure they last longer.
Winterize Your Pool Heater
One of the biggest mistakes you could make to harm your solar heater is to leave it exposed during winter. These products are typically made of polypropylene (plastic) materials that have been tested to endure heat and specific water pressures. But the one thing they’re not made for is to withstand damage caused by freezing water.
To winterize your solar collector, you need to disconnect the pump, unmount the heater, and fully drain it before storing it in a safe conditioned space that’s above 40 degrees F for winter.
Install a Bypass Valve
Water pressure is another limitation for almost every solar-powered heater out there and the best way to control direct flow and water pressure is to install a bypass valve. This needs to be kept in mind, especially when the pool pump is above the maximum horsepower allowed.
Install a Solar Pool Cover
One of the simplest ways to protect your solar collector is to add a solar cover or blanket to your pool. This will keep the heat generated during cold nights or windy days.
Clean the Filter Periodically
This is an important step to make sure no object that enters your pool reaches the solar collector. This can be prevented by frequently cleaning the filter and changing it if necessary.
A solar collector is designed to transfer heat to water that flows through them. Therefore, the system should be cool to the touch. After winterizing and starting the swimming season again, test them during the first week of the season. If they feel unusually warm to the touch, it’s recommended for you to call your installer.
Top 10 Best Solar Pool Heaters in 2021
1. Fafco Solar Bear Solar Pool Heater
- 80,000 BTUs generated by day
- Solar collector size: 4 ft. x 20 ft.
- Temperature Increase: Additional 7 – 10 degrees Fahrenheit
Fafco is one of the very first American companies that ventured into the development of solar water heating systems. The company has successfully developed copolymer blend materials and collector panel designs to put it as one of the largest solar pool heating systems distributors in the US.
In today’s review, we will be evaluating their solar bear pool heating design that’s specifically made for above-ground pools. The system consists of a 4 ft. x 20 ft. large solar collector with 1-½” barb connections. The barb connections can be laid down on the ground next to your pool to help you reduce the size of the hose needed. The FAFCO Solar Bear solar system can even be installed on a mounting rack with a tilt angle between 20-45 degrees while facing South to optimize its heating efficiency.
This above-ground solar pool heater can produce up to 80,000 BTUs of heat per day, which is more than enough to heat a 24 ft. round pool 7 – 10 degrees warmer than their ambient temperature value. Other than that, the Fafco Solar Bear solar pool heater kit even comes with an integral bypass valve, mounting base, cap straps, and rubber tube plugs. Installation is extremely easy and will only require about 30 minutes to set up.
- Designed for above-ground pools
- Mounting racking can be tilted between 20 – 45 degrees
- 10-year warranty
2. XtremepowerUS Solar Pool Heater
- Solar Heating Collector Size: 2 ft x 20 ft
- Dimensions: 240 x 28 x 3 inches
- Temperature Increase: Additional 10 – 15 degrees F
Xtremepower US is an amazing pool heater alternative to help you stay warm, especially during the spring and autumn seasons. Designed to fit both inground or above ground pools, this solar heater for pools features a 2 feet x 20 feet long solar heater that’s made out of a lightweight, flexible black polypropylene heat collector.
The collector even comes in a tube construction to create a larger surface area for optimum heat transfer through the pipes to your swimming pool. This solar pool heater is able to raise the water temperature up to 10 – 15 degrees Fahrenheit (depending on location solar irradiance values) and works perfectly with most pool pumps.
Other than that, the Xtremepower solar heater for the pool is also constructed with high-grade materials to resist harsh weather conditions. Moreover, the solar pool heating system includes a round 1.5” header manifold that’s attached with a rubber coupling.
The solar pool heating system is suitable for above-ground pools that are below 18 feet (round case) and up to 250 sq. gt. (oval case). You can even choose to add another solar heater mat to increase the capacities obtained.
- Made from lightweight and durable polypropylene materials
- Suitable for 18 feet round pools and 250 sq. ft. oval pools
- Optimized heating transfer
3. Smartpool S601P Solar Pool Heater
- Heating Panel Size: 4 feet wide x 20 feet long
- Panel Area: 80 square feet
- Temperature Increase: Additional 6 – 10 degrees F
The Smartpool S601P solar pool heater is designed for an inground pool that’s also suitable for above-ground pools. The solar panel heating system uses a direct flow system of water through your pre-installed pool pump to transfer water through the solar collectors to get heated up to 6-10 degrees warmer than its regular temperature value.
The Smartpool S601P SunHeater solar heating system collector is 4 feet wide and 20 feet long and can be placed right next to your pool or on top of your roof. The design of the solar heater panels is carefully measured to include multiple features that make this stand out among the rest.
One of the features includes a fiberglass reinforced over-molded header which provides superior durability to last you a long time. The design of each tube has also been measured to increase the total surface area that receives solar radiation and increase temperature values as much as possible.
However, do keep in mind that in order to install the Smartpool S601P SunHeater, you’re going to also need an additional SK21 system kit that’s available for purchase separately.
- Fiberglass reinforced over-molded header
- Maximized heating tubes with a large area
- Wind vents included to maintain heating panel integrity
4. GAME 4714 SolarPRO
- Up to 19 gallons per minute direct flow rate
- Dimensions: 27.6 x 5.9 x 44.9 inches
- Temperature: up to 5 degrees F for a 10,000-gallon pool
The GAME 4714 SolarPro is a ball-shaped solar powered pool heater that makes for a unique and innovative solution to heat up your swimming pool water during the spring and fall seasons. The solar pool heating system has been designed for both above-ground and inground pools and it’s made with high-quality materials to allow maximum sun exposure without causing any damage to the product.
Additionally, this solar heating system even features several other amazing features to stand out from the crowd. First, this solar pool heater has a completely curved design for better heat collection compared to flat-type products. The Solarpro Contour solar pool heating panel is also integrated with adjustable and foldable legs for you to set the collector at the optimum angle to maximize heat transfer to your swimming pool.
Other than that, the SolarPro ground pool solar heater is able to gradually raise the temperature of the water by 5 degrees Fahrenheit in 7 days for an estimated 10,000-gallon swimming pool, which is more than enough to extend your swimming during the fall and spring seasons. This product has even been specifically designed for above-ground pools from Intex or as a solar heater for inground pools from Bestway.
- No bypass valve required for pool pumps up to 1.5HP
- Ball-shaped solar collector
- Adjustable legs included
5. Blue Wave NS6028
- Increased heat absorption up to 40% per cycle
- 51-feet long and 1.2-inch solar coils
- Temperature: up to 5 degrees F
The Blue Wave solar pool heater is one of the few best above-ground pool heaters that’s designed with a curved shape to maximize heat absorption capacity by 40% per cycle. Featuring 51-ft long and 1.2-inch solar coils inside the product, this small solar pool heater is able to increase water temperature by 5 degrees Fahrenheit in only 5 days.
In fact, this solar pool heater can be paired with more SolarPro curve heaters to warm up the swimming pool water much faster. It’s important to note that the Blue Wave has established that the SolarPro Curve can be used as a pool heating equipment for scenarios where the installation requires a maximum water pump power rating of 1.0HP. Keep in mind that using pool pumps with a bigger capacity without the use of a GAME bypass kit will void its 1-year warranty.
The solar pool heater also comes with adjustable legs that can be set to tilt at an angle up to 30 degrees to ensure solar heating optimization.
- Curved shape pool solar panel
- Adjustable tilt angle up to 30 degrees
- Suitable for above-ground pools
6. SmartPool S220
- Solar collector area: 40 square feet
- Dimensions: 2 feet width x 20 feet long
- Temperature: up to 10 degrees F
Another best solar pool heater alternative by SmartPool is the S220P solar panel heating system that’s suitable for above-ground pools. This model is designed with a 2 feet wide x 20 feet long heater mat that covers a 40 square feet area to provide sufficient heat for 12-18 feet round pools or 12-24 feet oval pools.
The pool receives warm water exiting the heating collector that’s made out of polypropylene material that is not susceptible to rust, corrosion, or scale – ensuring long-term performance. These above-ground pool solar pool heaters have the capability of heating the swimming pool water by 6 – 10 degrees Fahrenheit when properly sized and can even be installed up to 30 feet away from the swimming pools.
Moreover, the heating collector is also very easy to install, needing only to connect the panel to the swimming pool through a hose that will pass through a swimming pool pump and filter before reaching the collectors. If you’re in need of an affordable solar pool heater that delivers good performance, then the SmartPool S220 might just be some of the best pool heating systems for you.
- Polypropylene material protects against corrosion
- Can be installed up to 30 feet away from the existing pool
- 5-year warranty
7. Sun2Solar Ground Mounted Heating
- Solar heating mat area: 40 square feet
- Dimensions: 2 feet width x 20 feet long
- Temperature: Raises temperature by 6 – 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal values
The Sun2Solar solar heating system is the perfect choice to help you increase the temperature of cold swimming pool water. This solar pool heater mat is 2 feet wide and 20 feet long to allow water to flow directly through the hot tubes. This optimized design ensures maximum heat absorption that results in a 6 – 10 degrees Fahrenheit rise in temperature values compared to the cool water entering the panel system.
The Sun2Solar pool heaters also feature a panel array system to act as the perfect rooftop solar pool heater since it can easily be installed on the roof thanks to its lightweight construction and flexibility. Also, the solar pool heating panels will even protect your roof from rain and solar radiation by taking the heat out from your roof and not trapping moisture inside. Furthermore, the Sun2Solar solar pool heaters can be used as a solar heating system for in-ground pools as well as above ground pools.
- Lightweight and flexible design
- Made with black polyolefin
- 5-year warranty
8. Doheny’s 5’ x 10’ (Two 2.5 x 10 Panels)
- Two 2.5 feet x 10 feet solar panels
- Total 50 square feet area
- Temperature: up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit
The Doheny’s polypropylene swimming pool solar heating system is a simple yet effective choice to warm up your pool water during the colder seasons. This product integrates two 2.5 feet x 10 feet solar panels that add up to 50 square feet area of heat radiation extraction for your swimming pool. These solar panels are also easy to install to work for above-ground pools and in-ground pools.
Moreover, by properly sizing the solar pool heater, you can expect to obtain up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit addition in water temperature for your swimming pool. This swimming pool solar panel heating system even comes with a 5-year warranty to prove the company’s confidence in the quality of their product. The brand also offers a choice to install the solar-powered pool heater in a sloped mounting racking kit structure that comes with straps, brackets, and screws needed for installation. A diverter valve is also included as part of the solar panels kit.
- Mounting kit included
- Diverter valve included
- 5-year warranty
9. 1-2’X20’ Sungrabber
Sungrabber is an American company that’s focused on providing solar-based technology solutions for swimming pools and water heating for any house. This company’s solar pool heaters have been designed specifically for above-ground pools and are able to raise the temperature of your pool by 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit during the swimming season of the year.
Each Sungrabber pool heating system comes with two 2 feet wide x 20 feet long solar collectors that are suitable to heat round pools up to 24 feet (using a single solar panel) or 28 feet (using both solar panels). If you plan on using more solar pool heaters, then you’ll be able to increase the temperature levels above 10 degrees easily and faster.
One unique feature of the Sungrabber solar pool heater is that it comes with a 10-year warranty, which is amazing since the product can be purchased at a very reasonable price.
- 10-year warranty
- Suitable for above ground pool
- Flexible and lightweight swimming pool solar panel
10. 28”x20” Solar Energy Swimming Pool Heater
- Solar Collector Area: 40 square feet
- Dimensions: 24-inch (width) x 20 feet (length)
- Temperature: between 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit
This is one of the best solar pool heating systems that’s designed with a 24-inch wide and 20-feet length to provide a total 40 square feet area of solar panels to raise the temperature of your pool.
This solar pool heater can be used for both in-ground and above ground swimming pools. Moreover, the water passes through the solar collector efficiently and is able to increase pool temperature values up to 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on solar irradiance in the location.
The product is also designed to work well with most ground swimming pool pumps and is easy to install on the roof. When sizing the number of solar panel heaters needed, do keep in mind to get a solar pool heater panel area of approximately 50-60% of your entire ground pool surface area. Each solar pool heater box includes 1 solar panel set with combination hose adapters and O rings required for installation.
- Suitable for inground and above ground swimming pool
- Hose adapters and O-rings included for easy installation
- Roof-type solar pool heater
There is no denying that solar-powered heaters are one of the best investments for pool owners. Not only do they keep your pool nice and warm when the sun is out, but they’re easy to install and super eco-friendly as well. These sorts of technologies are absolutely fantastic in places that are often sunny to act as a great supplement to reduce your heating cost.
We hope today’s list of the best pool solar panels have given you enough options to consider to decide which is the best pool water heater system to keep your pool warm on colder days. Do make sure to go take into consideration their individual key features to better determine whether they will make the best choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What are solar-powered pool heaters?
Solar water heaters are undoubtedly the most inexpensive pool heating mechanisms available on the market and they work well with any other heat pump. The only difference is that these heating solar systems will only work at full capacity when it is hot out, otherwise, you will notice a drop in their efficiency when it’s overcast.
There are types of heaters that collect solar power to warm your pool water. But this works differently from technologies that pump the pool water through the filter situated on top of the solar panels.
There are also many solar-powered pool heaters known as PV solar panels with pipes circulating throughout the bottom of the pool to keep your water warm. There are also many panels that include flow controlling valves with automatic sensors to provide owners feasibility and flexibility.
Once you set the desired temperature you want to heat your pool, dedicated sensors will detect the water temperature coming out of your heater and compare it to your desired set temperature. If the water is colder than the desired temperature, the device will divert the pool water towards the solar collectors to warm it up.
If the pool water is too hot, the flow controlling valve will stop the hot water from entering the pool.
Q2. What are the benefits of solar-powered pool heaters?
Solar power heaters come with plenty of benefits which include:
- Longer swimming sessions as average pool owners can use the pool for up to 4 to 5 months per year. The water may be too cold and unbearable for the rest of the time.
- Proper warm and heated water for your pool even in the early winter months
- Saves energy while using solar energy to power which in turn helps you save fuel cost and reduce pollution
- Eco-friendly and helps you save the environment by reducing global warming
- Low maintenance and silent operation
Q3. Solar or electric heater?
Deciding on solar power or an electric heater is completely up to you but an electric heater does come with some disadvantages including taking up a ton of energy from your electricity which could eventually be very costly. Most owners opt for a solar pool heater as it only runs on solar energy, hence is relatively inexpensive and environmentally friendly.
Q4. What solar power heater size do I need?
When buying a solar power heater, you need to consider the size and dimensions of the heater as well as the space around your pool. If you have a large pool, you should opt for a bigger pool heater and if your pool is smaller, you can go for a more compact heater.
A pool heater that’s too big for your pool can be a waste of money and space whereas one that’s too small will not work sufficiently and provide enough heated water.
Q5. How do I install a complete solar power heater?
It is actually quite simple to install the solar power heater. First, you’ll need to set up the sun collectors in a perfect place where they can collect sufficient heat from the sun. Once you’re done with that, you can begin to set up the filtration system which will control the water flow and temperature of the pool water. You should also set up the pipes and hoses inside the pool to direct heated water directly into the pool.
Q6. How to install panels on the roof?
The best place to mount your panels is on the roof as they are then able to collect most sun rays to turn it into heating energy. Here are a few techniques and key features to installing solar pool heating panels on your house roof:
You need to consider whether your panels are receiving proper exposure to sun rays. If they don’t, the heater won’t work as well so the perfect position to install them is on the southeastern side of the roof as the sun is at the peak of emitting its heat and rays at that time.
Once you’ve selected the perfect side of the roof, you’ll need to measure the roof and get a heater that’s according to your roof size. If you order a large heating system that does not fit your roof, then you may have just wasted your time and money.
Check Permit and Confirmation
Some heaters are heavy and may require proper authority and permission to install such a piece of heavy equipment on your roof. This is necessary as it can be dangerous if your roof is made from light materials that cannot hold off such heavy machinery.
Install Heater Box
This acts as a casing for your heating system which will mainly include the complete set of installation instructions and a utility box with all the screws, clamps, brackets, and spacers required.
You can get normal PVC pipes for your heating system as they’re generally the best and cheapest option for this situation.