If you’re thinking of getting a solar pool heating system installed for your swimming pool, you’ll be glad to know that it’s one of the most popular swimming pool heating systems among Australians.
However, prior to embarking on this project, you need to have all the essential information about solar pool heaters first, including the pros and cons of solar pool heating systems and the different types of solar pool heater systems. This can help you make an informed decision in the end.
To help you get started, here are six things you need to know about solar pool heating.
1. The process of solar pool heating
Solar collectors are typically mounted on a rooftop to assimilate solar power or heat from the sun. Sometimes a little rack is used instead, and is placed in an area where there is the greatest concentration of sunlight. Pool water is constantly pumped over the solar collectors via small tubes and returns to the pool as heated water. During particularly hot days, you will find that your solar heater can actually increase your pool temperature by as much as 2 to 10 degrees.
Remember, the pump still requires minimal electricity to run (below 1 kilowatt per hour). Else, you can be assured of the fact that your pool heating system is using 100% solar energy.
2. The benefits of solar pool heating
If you’re into sustainability, solar pool heating is a clean and eco-friendly mechanism for heating pool water as it makes use of naturally occurring solar energy – renewable and free – to generate heat. As such, it is a highly cost-effective means to heat water, helping you save a lot on your monthly energy bills. This is why solar pool heaters remain popular in Australia and are increasingly being adopted elsewhere.
Innovations in swimming pool solar heating technology have also led to the development of automated systems that allow you to specify temperature settings and schedule the use of your solar pool heater. This helps not only to save on utility bills but also ensures less energy wastage.
Installing pool solar panels or any other type of solar heating system is also affordable (somewhere between $3,000 and $6,000), considering how much you’ll be saving in the long run.
With proper use, solar pool heating systems are relatively low-maintenance. They are also durable – you can depend on them to work efficiently for 10 years or more without the need for repair or replacement work.
Solar pool heating systems also offer these benefits:
- You can use your swimming pool for longer than usual.
- You can work on improving your health and fitness.
- You can benefit from the therapeutic effects of warm water.
- You can relax and de-stress right in the comfort of your home.
3. The downsides of solar pool heating
To ensure that solar pool heaters generate sufficient levels of heat to warm pool water for the greater part of the year, they should be placed in areas that receive plenty of sunlight. In Sydney or elsewhere in New South Wales where the winter average temperatures range between 8.8°C and 17°C, and you get about 110 clear days in a year (or nearly four months of summer), it’s easier to maximise the benefits of having a solar pool heating system.
Conversely, if you live somewhere rainy, stormy, cloudy or windy, like Hobart in Western Tasmania, which gets 180 days of rainfall on average, you may need to use another system (a gas or heat pump) alongside your solar pool heater. You can use the gas or heat pump on rainy or cold weather days, and the solar pool heater during summer. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use your pool as much. During cloudy weather, you might need to wait for the solar collectors to have the maximum amount (about four to six hours) of direct sun exposure before you can try using your pool heater.
Solar collectors also need to be strategically placed to efficiently heat a pool. This means you can’t put them just anywhere as they work well only in spots where they are guaranteed to have maximum sun exposure (preferably in the southern section of your rooftop). In case you don’t have the optimal space required for a solar pool heater, you may need to have more solar collectors installed to adequately heat your pool.
You also need to check and clean your pool filters regularly to ensure the water gets heated as needed. If the pool isn’t getting warm anymore or is taking longer to heat, you need to check if filter cleaning or replacement is necessary.
4. Various types of solar pool heating systems
If you’re ready to get your solar pool heating system installed, it might help to know that there are also different types of solar pool heating systems. Knowing the differences of one solar pool heater from another can help you distinguish which specific type will work best to address your requirements.
- Thermal solar collectors: These are solar collectors or solar panels typically placed on the rooftop of a house. There are also instances when these are positioned close to the pool. Thermal solar collectors made from rubber or plastic matting are more affordable. However, these would only work well in a warm, sunny climate. Glazed solar collectors made of tempered glass, aluminium and copper are more expensive. These work well in colder environments as they are more effective in collecting heat, even in cloudy areas.
- Evacuated tube collectors: This type of system is pricier than thermal solar collectors (up to 20 to 100 per cent more). However, it’s also very efficient and works exceedingly well even in cold weather or places with limited sun exposure. The system works by trapping heat in the vacuum between the small glass tubes placed within the bigger glass tubes. The heat is then transferred to a heat exchanger connected to a water box. This is where the water from the pool heats up before it goes back from whence it came.
- Solar pool covers: A solar pool cover will work perfectly well for those who prefer to cover their pool when it’s not in use. Aside from ensuring leaves, dirt and debris don’t get trapped in the pool, a solar pool cover works to trap heat, reduce humidity and prevent water loss or evaporation. A solar pool cover can raise pool temperature by as much as 12 degrees through the use of tiny air pockets that trap heat from the sun and then transfer it to the pool water. The same mechanisms work to prevent heat loss from the surface of the water. Typically priced at around $1,500 to $3,000, solar pool covers help save water and reduce the need to clean and use chemicals on your pool.
5. Selection criteria
After familiarising yourself with solar pool heating and the various types of pool solar systems to choose from, you can move on to other considerations that can influence your final choice.
- Pool size: You need to know how big your pool is like the size of the solar collector you’ll get depends on it. The solar collector must cover about 80 to 100 per cent of your pool size (in square metres) to ensure efficient water heating.
- Orientation of the collector: As mentioned previously, the ideal setup is to have your collector placed in an area where it can get maximum sun exposure. As a rule of thumb, ensure the solar collector is not in any way placed next to a tree or tall structure that can block the sunlight at certain times of the day.
If you have the means, we’d advise you to use a dark-coloured (heat-absorbing) pool cover in combination with the system you want to keep the water warmer for longer. So, even if your solar heat collectors are still busy absorbing sunlight, you can already start swimming in pleasantly warm water.
6. Solar pool heating installation
Now that you’re all set and decided on getting a solar pool heater, you need to do one more important thing: Find a licensed professional to do the installation work. You may contact your pool builder for advice. Since solar heating systems require proper installation and involve a substantial investment, be sure to find the right company that’ll help you with your solar pool heating needs.
Check for customer reviews. This can help you gain insights into how your prospective installation partners work. If there is a comment thread about your prospective installer, probe or ask questions to help you gauge the quality of their service.
Choose a well-established company with an excellent track record and that offers extended warranties (usually 10 years or more). Once you agree to partner up with a company, read the fine print. Make sure you get a comprehensive warranty for your peace of mind.
But if you haven’t decided yet on the course to take, and need further advice in choosing the best solar pool heating system for your needs, talk to us at Local Pools & Spas.