Summer and swimming pools - sounds like a match made in heaven on a hot steamy day. But what about on those days when the weather is cooler than usual, or when the nighttime temperatures dip below optimal? Wouldn't it be nice to stretch that swimming pool season into the autumn? Many people choose to heat their swimming pool to maximize the time that they can enjoy it. Traditionally, pool owners have opted for natural gas, propane, LPG, fuel oil or electric heaters to get the job done, but these are not the most environmental or cost-friendly options out there. Why not consider solar heating for your swimming pool and take advantage of the sun's natural (and free!) rays to keep your pool comfortable when the mercury falls below comfortable?

Image credit: energy.gov

Image credit: energy.gov

If your pool is located such that the sun shines on it most of the day then you're already taking advantage of the sun for heating your pool. However, you may not realize just how much heat you lose through evaporation. The sunnier, the dryer, the windier the day, the more water you lose to evaporation and the more heat you lose in the process. According to energy.gov, about 70% of an outdoor pool's energy loss is through evaporation and therefore, pool covers are a very important way to minimize energy losses through evaporation (resulting in savings of up to 50-70% in pool heating costs). So how to strike the right balance? By choosing the right cover. A transparent cover will still allow most of the sun's rays through to heat your pool but will reduce evaporation in the process. A dark cover will not allow quite as much of the sun's rays through. No matter the one you choose, a pool cover is the first step to reducing heat loss through evaporation and to  keep hold of the day-time gains when temperatures fall at night.

Now, how to heat your pool? Solar powered pool heaters are simple and effective. They work by pumping pool water through tubes in a solar collector, which is positioned such that it maximizes the sun's heating potential, and then circulating the hot water back into the pool. Using the Sunmetrix Discover tool, you can determine the solar potential of your location, but chances are that if you can position a solar collector in an area with adequate sun (i.e. not too much shading), you will be able to reduce your heating costs with a solar heater for your pool. Most systems are comprised of a solar collector, a filter, a pump (some may work with your existing pump), and a flow control valve. They can be installed on a rooftop, or on the ground, alongside your pool for example, if you have an above-ground pool.

A solar thermal heating system for a pool generally costs between $2500-$4000 depending on your pool size, location and desired heating level. The payback period of your solar system as compared to other heating methods of course depends on the cost of those other heating methods in your location. Energy.gov estimates a payback period of 1.5 to 7 years depending on your location. A cost comparison done in Florida shows that the payback period for a solar-powered heating system that cost $3500 is roughly 1 to 1.5 years when compared to the cost of heating with natural gas, propane, LPG, fuel oil or electricity. If you would like to learn more about solar energy products for your pool or your garden, here is another useful resource you may want to check out at Solar Energy for Homes website.

A pool is a long term investment that you want to enjoy as much as possible. A solar heater is a logical, cost-effective way to heat your pool for maximum benefit. Here's to a longer, warmer pool season!