Millions of homeowners around the world have a pool (whether above- or in-ground), and each of them knows exactly how expensive and time-consuming it can be to maintain one. To keep your pool clean enough for swimming, you need to keep the water filtered and circulated, and the appropriate chemicals distributed evenly throughout. To do so, you need a pool pump and filtration system which meets the demands of your particular pool (taking into consideration its volume, optimum flow rate, and feet of resistance).
Typically, pool owners run their grid-powered pool pumps overnight, since it’s during the night that electricity costs tend to be lowest. Still, whether costs are lower then or not, running a full recycle and filter of your pool’s water every night (as is recommended) is quickly going to add up, leading to an additional year-end electricity bill anywhere in the region of $500-$1,000.
Of course, no one’s suggesting you stop pumping and filtering your pool to save on your electricity bills. What we do recommend, is that you consider investing in a renewable energy alternative: namely, a solar pool pump. In this article, we’ll take a look at the best solar pool pumps that the market has to offer, but we’ll focus a little more on information you’ll need to know and consider, if you’re looking to make the switch to off-grid, solar energy.
The main difference, of course, is that whilst conventional pool pumps run on electricity syphoned from the grid, solar pool pumps take all of their energy directly from sunlight, feeding this directly to the attached pool pump (or, if you prefer, to the pump via batteries, allowing you to store solar energy to be dispersed throughout the day and/or night). Solar pool pumps are generally quite expensive to install. A full package (solar panels, pump, pump controller, filter, DC combiner box, DC/AC isolations switches) can cost anywhere in the region of $3,000-$5,000 to install; a significant investment, to be sure, though made much more manageable by the (up to 30% of the cost) federal tax credit which the United States’ government offers on renewable energy products.
However, solar (or photovoltaic) systems are designed with a long life expectancy, and can often run quite happily, without requiring much maintenance, for fifteen to twenty years or more. When you take into consideration that the average annual running costs of a grid-linked pump might be $750, then it’s easy to see that a solar pool pump system can pay for itself in just 5 years, after which point you’re effectively making money (not to mention you’re helping the environment in a big way!).
We’ll take a closer look at the considerations you’ll need to make when looking to invest in a solar pool pump in the Buyer’s Guide section of this article. First, let’s look at what solar pool pump systems the market actually has to offer the everyday pool owner.
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Best Solar Pool Pumps Reviewed
Now that we’ve had a quick look at our top picks from the market, let’s take a more in-depth, pros and cons look at a few more products.
PWS 48V 0.75HP Solar Powered Swimming Pool Pump
- Brand: PWS (Pump With Solar)
- Suitable for salt water
- Water shortage sensers
- MPPT controller
Here’s a pretty good-looking and affordable solar pump from PWS, with a maximum flow rate of 75GPM and a maximum head of 49ft. This pump requires only 500W to operate because it’s only got 0.75HP. Combining this pump with around four or five good size solar panels should do the trick. The PWS pump also comes with an MPPT controller which (as we discussed above in ‘Best Budget’) helps regulate the health and efficiency of your solar powered pool pump, whilst giving you live readings, too.
- Comes with an MPPT controller
- Solar panels not included
- 0.75HP is pretty weak in comparison with rest of the market (1HP is standard)
1.2HP 900W 72V Solar Swimming Pool Pump w/ Controller
- Brand: Unknown
- Suitable for both in-ground and above-ground pools
- Durable construction
- Removable filter
- External MPPT controller
- Transparent twist on cover
This solar pump is our best budget pump, and yet despite its affordability, is actually stronger than the next most affordable (see the PWS model above), boasting 1.2 horsepower and 900W. As such, it can handle maximum flow rate’s of 88GPM, and max. head/pressure of 62feet. It also comes with an MPPT controller, which does exactly the same as the model above. Thus, at a more affordable price, and with more power, too, we highly recommend you take a look at this product (especially if budget is of primary concern).
- Powerful given the price
- Affordable (‘Best Budget’)
- Comes with an MPPT controller
- Can only handle pool water of max 35 degrees (Celsius)
- 900W requires a lot of solar panels to power
- Unbranded means we don’t know how reliable the manufacturer is
Sunray 0.5HP Solar Pool Pump Brush-Type 72v Motor
Sunray are a really great American brand who you can trust to deliver quality products. They’re also one of our favourite brands because on their site you can quickly and easily purchase either individual solar pool pumps, pumps with solar panels, or complete packages (coming with absolutely everything you need to build your photovoltaic pool pumps solar system. Their products have long life expectancy too.
This particular pump is one of their more affordable pumps, with just 0.5HP (so better suited to small pools) and a 72V motor. It’s operational with 10-30 feet of head, and a 25-85GPM flowrate. Only thing with this one is that it’s affordability comes from the fact that it uses a brush-type motor, which typically require a great deal of maintenance, and may end up offsetting what you’ve saved on opting for it over a brushless type.
- Quality American brand
- Great for small pools
- Option to buy solar panels and complete package
- Fairly weak motor
- Brush-type motor requires frequent maintenance
Sunray 2HP 180V Solar Pool Pump Brushless Motor
Let’s stick with reliable American manufacturers Sunray for a second, and take a look at their powerful 2 horsepower, 180V brushless motor pool pump. This pump, though more expensive than brush-type motor pumps, and some of the other pumps on the market, is super high quality.
Running optimally with pools of 20-75 feet of head, and requiring flow rates of 40-120 GPM, the 2HP is well-suited to meet the demands of most American pools, and as such is a great all-rounder choice, especially suitable if you’re unsure exactly what kind of pump you need – this one really covers all the bases.
Sun Pumps 115GPM 240V 60FT Head Solar Pool Pump
- Brand: Sun Pumps
When it comes to power, and when it comes to pool size, we say: look no further! The 240V solar powered pool pump from Sun Pumps is good for up to 60ft of Head, and 115GPM: perfect for pools up to 35,000 gallons in volume (though will happily pump smaller pools in less time, or for more recycles in a day).
With a brushless motor, too, this series of pumps from Sun Pumps can be bought in the ‘regular’ style (with 2″ outlets) or in the ‘high volume’ style (with 2.5″ outlets – thus maximising the speed and efficiency of your pool pump, whilst cutting energy costs considerably.
- Most powerful pump on the market
- Option to buy ‘regular’ or ‘high volume’ version
- Brushless motor
- Pumps up to 35,000 gallon pools
- Solar panels not included
- Pump controller not included
How Do Solar Pool Pumps Work?
Maintaining a pool with a solar pool pump can cut costs in the long run, but there’s no denying that the initial investment is steep. Those pool owners serious about making a positive impact on the environment, whilst elevating their renewable approach to pool maintenance, would do well to learn the ins and outs of solar pool pumps. Even if you’re already familiar with the basic mechanical principles behind water pumping, it’s worthwhile to learn how a solar array can power a pump day and night.
Whilst solar pool pumps have been optimised to operate alongside a solar array, their mechanics are essentially the same as those in conventional, grid-linked pumps, so let’s start with the pump itself. A pool pump consists of an electric motor, an impeller (encased in the pump housing), a strainer basket, and two pipes: an intake pipe and an outflow pipe. You’ll find that there are two primary types of motors on the solar pool pump market: brush-type motors and brushless motors. This refers to whether metal ‘brushes’ are required in the operation of the motors or not – if you can, we recommend opting for ‘brushless’ motors, since these require far less maintenance (and are less prone to breaking) than brush-type motors.
In the day-to-day operation of your pool pump the motor, powered by your solar set-up, spins rapidly in order to turn the impeller. The speed of the impeller’s rotation creates a vacuum, which in turn pulls (or sucks) pool water into the pump housing via the intake pipe. The water coming into the pump housing first passes through a filter basket, designed to remove any large debris (like leaves, bugs, and sticks) from the water. (Of course, with a solar pool skimmer there will be remarkably less debris for your pump to filter in the first place.) Next, the filtered water meets the impeller, which drives it up and out of the pump via the outflow pipe. From there, your piping can be connected either directly back to the pool’s inlets, or through a pool heater and/or chlorinator before heading to the inlets.
In short, the job of your pool pump is to keep the pool water moving, filtered, and recycled, so as to keep it healthy and stop it from stagnating and forming algae.
Finally, let’s take a look at the solar panels behind the pool pump motor. With your pool pump installed in your pool, you’ll need to provide it with the electricity it needs to run. Solar panels, arrayed poolside and directed toward the sun year-round, harvest the energy of the sun, converting it into electricity, and then storing this electricity in a battery. The battery then feeds electricity to the solar pool pump as and when it is needed (whether you prefer to run your pump overnight or during the day).
Solar panels are frames comprised of many individual solar cells. These cells are made up of polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon film, which – when exposed to direct sunlight – reacts chemically and physically (in a process known as the ‘photovoltaic effect’) to produce volts of electricity. These volts are pushed through a transducer built-into each panel to amplify them, before they are collected for storage in the attached battery.
A last note: since the amount of energy produced by solar power fluctuates throughout the day with the strength of the sun, and throughout the year with the changing seasons, it’s important to have a solar charge controller (preferably an MPPT controller) installed between your solar panels and pump. A charge controller maximises the production of energy and regulates the voltage/current from the panels so as to optimise the performance of the pump.
Pros and Cons of Solar Pool Pumps
A solar pool pump is a significant investment, and as such we think it’s important that you take some time to assess both the positives and negatives associated with the technology. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of solar pool pumps.
- Free electricity. Solar power is a renewable energy source – it takes the energy inherent in nature and converts it into consumable electricity. What this means to the average consumer is that they can, with a solar array, enjoy a sustainable and entirely free source of electricity with which to power their appliances (in this case, their pool pump).
- Green electricity. The world’s temperature is steadily rising, its resources dwindling, its liveable land quickly becoming occupied and overpopulated; we are in a climate crisis. Cheery news? No, but true all the same. One thing which we can do to slow the rate of negative change is to reduce our carbon footprint. Replacing conventional power sources with solar power is a great place to start.
- Powerful. Solar power (or renewable power generally) does not mean less power. In fact, solar power can sometimes outperform conventional energy sources, especially in areas of long, hard sunlight. Whether you’ve got a gigantic pool, or a dainty one, solar power is an equally good option for powering your pump.
- Reliable. Solar technology is generally built to last, and the same applies to solar pool pumps. We recommend opting for a brushless motored pump in order to maximise your set-up’s lifespan, but either way you can be sure that your solar panels themselves might last for 10-15 years without requiring maintenance. Solar pool pumps, moreover, are a speciality product and as such have been designed with care and precision.
- No solar panels. Unfortunately, none of the solar pool pumps on our list come with solar panels included, meaning that on top of the money you spend on them in the first place, you’ll also have to fork out for the additional expense of solar panels.
- Brush-type motors prone to breaking. We have recommended several times now to opt for brushless motors wherever you can, but the fact remains: you may be left with no choice but to buy a brush-type motor. Brush-type motors are more fragile, and are therefore more prone to breaking and requiring maintenance, adding to your overall costs.
- Light dependent. This one’s obvious: solar power requires solar power (AKA sunlight). In order to make the most of your solar array, it will have to receive adequate sunlight on a daily basis, and whilst the best (monocrystalline) panels can still generate electricity in low light, there’s simply no substitute for direct sunlight. If you live in a low light area, or an area which is often overcast, you will struggle to achieve the necessary sunlight exposure required for your solar pool pump to work.
- Expensive. Pool pumps are expensive as a given, but unfortunately solar pool pumps are just that bit more expensive even still. Nonetheless, we still genuinely recommend solar pool pumps as a viable alternative to non-solar. Why? Because with average electricity costs for non-solar pumps coming in at $750 per year, and solar costs coming in at $0, you’ll soon pay off that solar pump (after about 2-3 years).
If you’re thinking about making the switch to renewable energy, and pumping your pool with solar power, then here are some of the key things you need to be thinking about.
The first, and most important thing you need to calculate before looking for a solar pool pump is the actual volume of your pool (in gallons). Knowing this is the first step toward working out which pump is going to be up to the task of keeping your pool clean and healthy.
To work out your pool’s volume, there are a few different calculations you can make, depending upon the shape of your pool (circular, oval, rectangular). First thing’s first though, you’ve got to work out the average depth of your pool (in feet). To do so, add the deepest measurement of your pool to the shallowest measurement, and then divide the answer by two – the resulting number is the average depth of your pool in feet.
- To calculate the gallon volume of your circular pool, use this formula: (diameter in feet) x (diameter in feet) x (average depth in feet) x 5.9 = volume in gallons.
- To calculate the gallon volume of your oval pool, use this formula: (length in feet) x (width in feet) x (average depth in feet) x 6.7 = volume in gallons
- To calculate the gallon volume of your rectangular (or square) pool, use this formula: (length in feet) x (width in feet) x (average depth in feet) x 7.5 = volume in gallons
Keep your calculated volume in gallons handy, as we’re going to need it to work out other crucial elements such as optimum flow rate and feet of resistance.
Optimum Flow Rate
When buying solar pool pumps, you’ll see that each has a different maximum flow rate, measured in GPM – gallons (pumped) per minute. Each pool, depending upon its total volume, and the number of full water recycles per day you want the pump to make, will require a different GPM from any potential pump. So, let’s now work out what the optimum flow rate (or GPM) is for your pool.
First, let’s calculate the minimum GPM your pool will require. To do so, follow the below formula:
- (Pool volume) x (Number of desired turnovers per day – usually 1 or 2) = Total gallons per day
- (Total gallons per day) ÷ (Average hours sunlight your solar panels will receive per day) = Total gallons per hour
- (Total gallons per hour) ÷ (60 minutes an hour) = Total gallons per minute (GPM)
And there you have your minimum required GPM. To find out your optimum required GPM, we need to average this figure out against the maximum GPM your solar pump will deliver you.
Most pumps on the market will state their maximum GPM’s, but the number also relies on the size and lengths of the pipes used for intake into the pump/filter. On average, a 1.5″ pipe has a maximum flow rate of 42 GPM, whereas a 2″ pipe would take on average 73 GPM. For example, if you use two 2″ pipes on your intake, then your pump’s maximum flow rate would be 146 GPM.
To work out the optimum flow rate for your pool, add your minimum and maximum GPM flow rates together, and divide the resulting number by 2, thus determining your optimum flow rate.
For example, if your pool has a total volume of 16,000 gallons and requires one full recycle a day, and your panels receive 10 hours of sunlight per day, then your minimum required flow rate would be 27 GPM. If your pump and the pipes you use have a maximum flow rate of, say, 60 GPM, then you would add 27 GPM and 60 GPM together (87) and divide the number by two (giving you 43.5). Thus, your pool’s optimum flow rate would be 43.5 GPM.
Feet of Resistance/Total Head
The last important calculation you need to make is to determine your pool’s total feet of head (otherwise known as feet of resistance). Once you’ve worked this out, you’ll be much better equipped to determine which solar pool pump system is going to work best for you, since you’ll know what kind of horsepower (HP) you’ll require, and whether the particular pool pump you’re eyeing has enough Feet of Head to meet your requirements.
To calculate your pool’s feet of resistance, you must perform a few calculations (as above).
- (Pressure reading (PSI) into the filter tank) x 2.31 – make note of the result
- (Suction line reading (PSI) from the vacuum) x 1.13 – make note of the result
- Add together both results to find your pool’s feet of head/feet of resistance
For example, with a PSI of 10, then 10 x 2.31 = 23.1. With a suction line reading of 5 PSI, then 5 x 1.13 = 5.65. Thus, by adding the two together we get 28.75 feet of resistance.
You’ll need this number, along with your pool’s total volume and optimum flow rate, to work out which solar pool pump is going to work best for you. In other words, you can work out what kind of horsepower you’re likely to need from any given pool pump, thus narrowing your search.
Brush or Brushless Pool Pump Motor
Pool pump motors with brushes require near constant maintenance, the cost of which can eventually negate the money you save by going solar. As such, we highly recommend that you only shop for a ‘brushless motor’ solar pool pump system.
Whilst you can buy complete solar pool pump packages, ready for you to install straight out of the box (and thus including solar panels), many solar pool pumps don’t come with panels, leaving you – the pool owner – to determine which solar panels are going to be best for your particular pump. Not an easy task, when you’re new to the renewable energy game.
However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are lots of trustworthy solar panel manufacturers these days (many based in the US or UK), whose websites explain clearly the specifications of each panel – making your job easier. Essentially there are four things you want to consider.
- Monocrystalline technology: monocrystalline cells are the most advanced solar power cells available to the average consumer, and are designed so as to work well even in low-light conditions. Polycrystalline are their cheaper cousins, and are not recommended for use with a pool pump.
- Wattage: by working out the calculations above, you’ll have likely found a few pumps that suit your pool. What you want to do now is to find out the required wattage of the pump (let’s say it’s 500W) and then the average wattage output of the solar panels you’re looking at. Let’s say the solar panels are 165W, well, then you can quickly work out that you’re going to need 4 of these (4 x 165= 660W) to safely cover the requirements of your pool pump.
- Solar-direct or solar-combo: You have options, when setting up your solar pool pump. You can choose either to wire your solar panels directly to the pump itself (thus utilising it only when the panels are under sunlight/enough light to generate electricity), or you can wire your solar panels to a battery, and the battery to the pump, thus storing the electricity generated during the day, to be used by the pump overnight. Either is fine, though the battery option is likely preferable in areas of low light or temperamental weather.
- Positioning of panels: Last, but not least, you’ve got to think about where to position your solar panels. It may seem obvious, but the goal here is really to ensure that your solar panels are exposed to as much direct sunlight as possible. Typically, this means setting them up south-facing, and tilted at a 45 degree angle. It also means ensuring that no trees, shrubs, telephone poles (etc.) are going to cast a shadow over your panels at any point during the day. And lastly, of course, you’ll have to position the panels close enough to your solar pool pump to ensure that they can be correctly and safely wired.
Of course, budget is an important consideration to make, when thinking of investing in renewable energy. Whilst it’s come a long way in recent years, it’s still got a long way to go before it’s affordable enough to replace our everyday means of consuming electricity. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean it can’t be the right choice for your bank account in the long run. Generally speaking, a complete solar pool pump and solar panel set up is going to cost you somewhere in the range of $3,000-$5,000, but these systems are built to last, and could go for as long as 10-15 years without requiring anything more than general year-to-year maintenance. Add to this the green energy federal tax credit incentives put in place by many world governments (a federal tax credit can help you recoup up to 30% of the pool pump’s cost) and you may be looking at a $4,000 kit now only costing you $2,800. Compare the cost of this $2,800 kit which lasts 10 years with the cost of running a grid-linked electrical pool pump for the same amount of time (10 years x roughly $750 per year = $7,500) and it becomes clear that, in the long run, a solar pool pump is inarguably the cheaper alternative. It’s well worth checking out the United States’ federal tax credit if you’re serious about getting into the renewable energy game.
Having considered all factors – from budget, to versatility, easy-of-installation, power, and whether or not the pump is available as part of a package – we’ve come to the conclusion that the very best solar pool pump on the market is is undoubtedly the Sunray 2HP 180V Solar Pool Pump. Running optimally with pools of 20-75 feet of head, and requiring flow rates of 40-120 GPM, the 2HP is well-suited to meet the demands of most average American pools, and can be installed right out of the box.
Check out our updated Pinterest board with the best solar pool pumps:
Yes, most kits are designed for you to be able to install them on your own. Moreover, solar panels are fairly easy to install generally speaking, since once they’ve been positioned, all you need to do is wire them into something for them to start generating.
No, solar pool pumps can perform a variety of tasks (especially useful during a power outage), including powering water features and fountains, circulating water for aqua culture, pond aeration, or even to irrigate a small farm.
This depends on the watts your pool pump requires to run. You’ll find most large solar panels put out somewhere in the region of 100-200 watts per hour. For example, to run a 500 watt solar powered pool pump, you’d need at least three, and as many as five such panels.
Whilst conventional pool pumps tend to last around 3-5 years before requiring replacing or heavy-duty maintenance, thankfully you can expect your solar powered pool pump to last anywhere between 10 and 15 years before requiring the same.
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