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The Best Solar Covers For Your Swimming Pool

Solar pool covers are fast-becoming an indispensable item for pool owners, let's shed some light on their many benefits.

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Reviewed by
Robert Laswell
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A Solar or Isothermic Cover is a blanket that covers your swimming pool. These covers are made from a UV-stabilized form of polyethylene or polypropylene material and UV inhibitors that give it the appearance of bubble wrap. The bubbles or air pockets retain the sun’s rays while transferring heat into the pool water.

This is a surefire and eco-friendly way of maintaining pool temperature, conserving the daily temperature through the night so your swimming pool is warm day after day. Needless to say that one of their main benefits is reducing bills greatly, meaning less energy costs as opposed to operating an electric or gas heater for example.

Editor’s Picks

These are my top selections based on researching the available solar pool covers on the market:

Blue Wave NS520 14-Mil Solar Blanket 16-FT x 32-FT
Best Overall
Blue Wave NS520 14-Mil Solar Blanket 16-FT x 32-FT

Top of the line when it comes to solar pool covers. It’s clear color, durable material and innovative insulation mean almost unbeatable heat retention. This cover guarantees a swim in warm water for the entire summer season. Its 6-year warranty is also the longest on this list.

Intex Solar Cover for 9.5ft Diameter Easy Set and Frame Pools
Best Budget
Intex Solar Cover for 9.5ft Diameter Easy Set and Frame Pools

A great budget pool cover with some awesome features for its accessible price. It can cut water and chemical evaporation by 90%, increasing the water temperature up to 10 degrees and it’s also incredibly easy to use.

In The Swim 18 x 36 Foot Rectangle Pool Solar Blanket
Best Runner-UP
In The Swim 18 x 36 Foot Rectangle Pool Solar Blanket

Our runner up is an extra large cover equipped with high-tech heat capturing polymers that can raise the temperature of your pool up to 8-10° in consistent sunlight. Its higher than average price is compensated by a lengthy 7-year warranty that is the highest on our list.

How Are Solar Pool Covers Used?

Solar pool covers are simply placed over your pool or Jacuzzi. They have to be of similar dimensions of your pool and ideally a little larger so they can be placed more easily and cover all sides (though this isn’t strictly necessary, all it has to do is be in the pool and cover as much of it as possible).

It is still a good idea when it trimming the pool (easily done with scissors and a marker) to keep the sides of the cover in tune with the edges of the pool. This minimizes heat loss and can also avoid wrinkling.

To maximize solar energy retention, the solar pool cover should be applied whenever the pool is empty (of people not water). Some models are compatible with metal reel mechanisms that can be used to facilitate both putting the cover on and taking it off.

Pros And Cons Of Solar Pool Covers

Solar pool covers are an environmentally friendly way to retain or heat up your pool using only the sun’s energy while saving money by eliminating the need for electric or gas heaters. This and many other advantages are what solar pool covers offer, though like any product, they also have some drawbacks.

Pros:

  • Reduces pool heating costs (research has shown up to 70% in some cases) in an environmentally sound manner
  • They also reduce evaporation and leakage of precious chemicals in your pool (for example chlorine)
  • Solar pools act as a cover protecting your pool from leaves, insects and another annoying debris. This is an improvement on the maintenance side, as you will pass much less time skimming, cleaning, vacuuming and in worst case scenarios, unclogging your pool and its drains
  • Solar pool covers have been shown to protect against accidental pool falls especially where children are concerned
  • High quality solar pool covers not only retain heat as advertised but can really heat up your pool up to 15° Farenheit. This can extend your swimming season for weeks
  • Installation and placement of solar pool covers is incredibly easily and straightforward

Cons:

  • A high quality solar pool cover can be quite costly, especially larger models for larger or oddly shaped pools. Keep in mind that if it is used wisely, a solar pool cover can recoup a big chunk of your initial investment
  • Some pool owners find that having to continuously take pool covers on and off can be a bit of a hassle. Remember you are helping the environment and saving on heating bills though!

Which Side Goes Up?

With all solar pool covers the side that goes up is the smooth side, while the characteristic bubbles face the water, as the pockets of air present between each bubble are what traps the heat which is then dispersed in the pool.

How Fast Can A Solar Pool Cover Heat A Pool?

Though the effective heat retention offered by a solar pool cover is based on multiple factors, such as initial temperature of the water, temperature in general, weather (especially sun availability), wind etc. A decent solar pool cover can add anywhere from 5-15° degrees to your pool in a time period that is between 9-12 hours.

Obviously if the day is very sunny, the pool cover will absorb and transfer more heat in less time and in most cases will raise the temperature. Usage during the night will retain the temperature accumulated during the day.

The Best Solar Pool Covers Reviewed

Top 5 Solar Pool Covers In 2021

Many different factors can come into play when choosing a solar blanket, such as: Pool size, shape and type. As we will see better in detail, thickness and color also play a part, so we will review the best options taking into account all categories.

Intex Solar Cover for 9.5ft Diameter Easy Set and Frame Pools

  • Brand: Intex
  • A reusable carry bag
  • Enjoy warmer water and a longer swimming season
  • Suitable for 9.5′ diameter round pools
Intex Solar Cover for 9.5ft Diameter Easy Set and Frame Pools

This circular shaped solar blanket is the go-to model for Intex brand above-ground pools. It can be ordered in different sizes (this size happens to be one of the most popular). It is made of a very durable polyethylene fabric with 120 micron capacity sealed air pockets.

Just a reminder that microns are used to calculate heat dispersion. The more microns, the more your pool will be heated. This blanket reduces evaporation up to 95% and is perfect for a variety of climates. At around 70$ it is also considered to be exceedingly affordable when taking into account its superb build and effectiveness.

Pros:

  • Affordable and efficient
  • Durable polyethylene fabric
  • Reduces evaporation by 95%
  • Easy to store
  • Popular brand

Cons:

  • Cover cannot be trimmed

Crystal Blue 4X8RS-8 Box-CB Solar Pool Cover

  • Brand: Crystal Blue
  • Extends Swimming Season
  • Cuts Evaporation By Up To 90%
  • Increases Pool Water Temperature
Crystal Blue 4X8RS-8 Box-CB Solar Pool Cover

Probably the best budget option on this list. Crystal Blue delivers an all-purpose rectangular solar cover that can easily cut evaporation by 90% and increase water temperature up to 10 degrees. This solar pool cover can be trimmed and modified at your will. At only 20.28$ it is also by far the cheapest option on our list.

Pros:

  • Versatile shape that can be trimmed and modified
  • Cuts evaporation by 90%
  • Extremely affordable

Cons:

  • Poorer quality build
  • Not the best option for long-term use

Blue Wave BWC808 12-Year 24-ft Round Above Ground Pool Winter Cover

  • Brand: Blue Wave
  • Protects against sun, snow, ice and wind
  • 4 foot overlap to ensure there is no stretching or ripping
  • Cable & Winch Included
Blue Wave BWC808 12-Year 24-ft Round Above Ground Pool Winter Cover

What sets aside this model of solar pool blanket from others on this list is the fact it can be used all year round. An exceptional model for round the clock protection and maintaining of your pool. It protects against threats of all kind, including: Snow, wood, insects and wind (Heavy duty cable and winch tightener included).

Its 4 foot overlap ensures there is no stretching or ripping, adding extra peace of mind. As an autumn/winter oriented model it may not be the best option for summer though (also due to its darkness).

Pros:

  • Year long protection through all seasons
  • Holds up well against the pools chemicals
  • Heavy duty cable and winch tightener included

Cons:

  • Not easy to manage by hand
  • Not intended for summer use as much

Robelle 1836RS-8 Box Heavy-Duty Solar Cover

  • Brand: Robelle
  • Heavy-Duty 8 Mil Material
  • No Assembly Required
  • Collects Solar Energy & Transfers Heat Into Your Pool Water
Robelle 1836RS-8 Box Heavy-Duty Solar Cover

From Robelle comes a heavy-duty rectangular solar blanket that is both resistant and high-performing. Made of 8mm blue polymer that can retain heat, it is a perfect choice for a large, rectangular in-ground pool. It’s enlarged size (18 x 36 ft) means it can cover just about any size of pool and easily trimmable to accommodate any lesser pool size. It’s larger than usual size does mean the actual job of placing it over the pool would recommend at least two people.

Pros:

  • High performance, can retain up to 10°F on a hot day
  • Can be trimmed easily
  • Counters evaporation effectively

Cons:

  • Actually a bit lightweight for a “heavy-duty” model
  • May bunch up in sections

Blue Wave NS520 14-Mil Solar Blanket 16-FT x 32-FT

  • Brand: Blue Wave
  • Conserves energy
  • Minimizes heat loss
  • Superior durability
  • Reduce evaporation
Blue Wave NS520 14-Mil Solar Blanket 16-FT x 32-FT

This model is basically the top of the line when it comes to solar covers, especially designed for in-ground pools. Its clarity and composition is supreme and the blanket employs solar heating through its innovative insulating thermal bubbles and can add up to 15 degrees to your pool, working overtime during cold and cloudy days. The blanket prevents up to 95% of pool water and chemical evaporation and comes with a lengthy 6-month warranty. It also comes with a solar reel for installation.

Pros:

  • Superior durability
  • Thermal bubbles can add up to 15 degrees
  • Prevents 95% of pool water and chemical evaporation
  • Lengthy 6-year warranty
  • Comes with a handy solar reel for installation

Cons:

  • Can be slightly challenging to remove
  • Expensive

Pool Mate 1836RS-8SBD BOXPM Deluxe Solar Blanket for In-Ground Pools

  • Brand: Pool Mate
  • Style: Diamond Bubble
  • Aluminum heat shield
  • Heavy-duty material
  • Bubble side down
Pool Mate 1836RS-8SBD BOXPM Deluxe Solar Blanket for In-Ground Pools

Another great rectangular solar cover for in-ground pools, this model has a unique aluminum heat shield composition that traps ultraviolet heat rays while also being very resistant to them, avoiding long-term deterioration. This blanket’s special polymers boast a 15% higher heat retention than regular models and come with a 5-year warranty.

Pros:

  • High heat retention
  • Easy to clean
  • 5-year warranty

Cons:

  • Can present issues after long-term use

In The Swim 18 x 36 Foot Rectangle Pool Solar Blanket

  • Brand: In The Swim
  • Raises water temperature
  • Extends the swimming season
In The Swim 18 x 36 Foot Rectangle Pool Solar Blanket

Our runner-up is a solid solar pool cover in all senses. Made of durable and highly heat-resistant polymers. This cover can raise a pools water temperature up to 8-10° in approximately a week of consistent sunlight. Its durable polyethylene composition means it can withstand prolonged direct sunshine without suffering brittleness as occurs with cheaper models.

This solar pool cover extends your swimming season even beyond summer months by maintaining an agreeable and warm temperature throughout its usage. In The Swim also offers a purported 7-year limited warranty that is the highest on our list.

Pros:

  • Very durable
  • Extremely high heat conversion and retention
  • Can heat a pool by up to 10 degrees

Cons:

  • Warranty only covers certain types of damage

The Solar Pool Cover Buyer’s Guide

We’ve already gone through some valuable info regarding solar pool covers in our introduction, but there are some vital features that every prospective solar pool cover customer should know about.

Benefits

While keeping your pool at an adequate temperature without the use of generators or heaters is the primary function of a solar cover, it is not at all the only benefit it offers.

Water Evaporation Reduction

Anyone who knows even basic physics knows that if temperatures get hot (as they tend to do in places that have pools) water evaporates. Even in a mild climate, a pool can lose as much as 8 inches of water through evaporation in one summer! And that is without counting secondary water loss such as splashing, drainage, cleaning etc. Top of the line solar covers have been shown to cut water evaporation up to 95 percent!

Chemical Cost Reduction

All modern swimming pools contain an essential mixture of chemicals, such as chlorine, calcium and acidic regulators. Evaporation or loss of water means losing a percentage of costly chemicals as well. Solar covers have been shown to prevent up to 65 percent of chemical dissipation.

Keeping Debris Out

A primary use of any pool cover is to protect your pool from any possible refuse from the outside. This can range from foliage to twigs to pesky insects. Blockage from too much debris can pose a serious headache for pool owners as it means running the pumps higher, thus spending more money. An adequately sized pool cover can help prevent that.

Easiness to Install and Use

While automatic swimming pool covers may look fancy, an advantage of most solar covers is the straightforwardness of their use. Obviously you should go for a solar blanket similar to your pool size but most are easily cut to fit. Simply measure your pool, possibly invest in a slightly larger blanket of the same size and shape (a rectangular cover for a rectangular pool, an oval cover for an oval pool etc. it’s not rocket science) and then all you need is a pair of scissors to trim the cover to your liking. Remember always to completely cover the water surface to prevent any heat from escaping. All solar pool covers come with instructions on installation and placement, so covering your pool is easily a DIY affair.

More expensive models often come with a special solar cover reel, which can greatly hasten the process of putting on or taking of the actual cover. This device works almost exactly like a toilet roll holder. Simply place the reel at one end of the pool, and unravel the tarp over the water. Solar cover reels do not work with all types of blankets though, so be sure to check instructions or if your model already comes with one.

Price Accessibility

With all these pros already mentioned, it can be easy to overlook how accessible solar pool covers actually are. With a price range oscillating between 20$ for the cheapest options up to 450$ for the more expensive ones, you will be saving future money in any case for the reasons mentioned above. Many solar blankets also offer warranties of up to 8 years.

Different types of Solar Pool Covers

Regular covers

These are the standard solar pool covers described until now (and the only ones reviewed in this article. Covered in recognized “bubble wrap” polymers, the most important factor of a regular solar pool cover is its color, composition and thickness (which we will go through in detail).

Solar Rings

A smaller and even easier to use alternative to a regular solar blanket are solar rings (also called sun rings). Made of the same material, these are much smaller circular blankets that can be simply tossed in the pool. Their pros lie in their easiness (simply throw a few in the pool and they will work their magic) and aesthetic value for some (picture your pool covered in sun light absorbing lily pads). On the flip side, as they do not cover the entire pool and cannot be sealed, they deliver far less in terms of heat transfer and retention.

Liquid Solar Covers

Seemingly straight out of the space age, liquid solar covers are made up of a chemical composition that coats the water and boasts heat transfer and retention on par with a regular solar cover. The liquid is also completely safe to swim in, though it is only meant for chlorine free pools and has to be continually added over time.

Color

There is a bit of controversy when it comes to the color of solar pool covers but the rule of thumb is usually the clearer the better. Different colors include blue, black, silver and even gold. Clearer options will absorb the most heat, with a slight downside of burning more chlorine. Our top pick from Blue Wave in fact offers an interesting compromise, with a clear undercoating and dark air pockets, absorbing more heat while causing less damage to the chemicals in the pool.

Thickness

The thicker a solar pool cover, the more it retains heat. This usually also means the model is more expensive. A good measure is in between 8mm and 12mm (like most blankets on our list). Beware that choosing a model too thin can cause big problems, as they are usually cheaper models that will physically disintegrate at sweltering temperatures.

This means pieces of plastic floating in the water which can lead to an even worse consequence: Compromising of your pools filtration system. On the other hand a heavy blanket can be a hassle to continuously cover and uncover over your pool. Thickness is also a factor in customizing the solar covers length, as some models are not especially indicated for trimming.

Size

As we discussed, solar covers are the mark of a DIY pool accessory. Most covers are either rectangular or circular (as are more most pools). For bizarrely shaped pools (like say an oddly-shaped plaster pool) you might have to buy more than one cover to enclose its entirety. Not to worry though as we’ve said before, just measure the pool beforehand and invest in a slightly larger blanket, then get to work with those scissors.

Final Verdict

Solar covers are a great and cost-effective way to both protect your pool from unwanted objects, while simultaneously keeping your swimming pool water nice and warm during swimming season. Using only natural energy from the sun to heat your pool is not only eco-friendly but will do wonders for your pool heating costs.

Best solar pool cover reviewed: Blue Wave NS520 14-Mil Solar Blanket 16-FT x 32-FT

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FAQs

What are the main advantages of a solar pool cover?

Solar pool covers are a great way to retain a pools temperature both during the day and at night (as they store sunlight absorbed during the day). They are eco-friendly, economically accessible and easy to install.

What are some of the most important features to look out for in a solar pool cover?

The three main features to look out for are: Color, size and thickness with due attention given to their price.

Will solar pool covers increase the temperature of my pool?

While solar pool covers are great at retaining heat in a pool they do not heat a pool as much .Their best use is during the hottest parts of the day (if the pool is not being used) and before night as the blanket with absorb and retain heat, in effect keeping the water’s temperature stable until the following day.

What are some valid alternatives to solar pool covers?

Solar pool covers are not the only method to heat up or retain temperature in your pool. Popular alternatives both with their individual prose and cons include solar rings and liquid solar cover compositions.

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Author Bio

Robert is a renewable energy and sustainability specialist with 10+ years of experience in the solar and renewable energy space.

With experience in different organizations in the industry, he operates semprius as a passion project promoting sustainable renewable energy ideas and products.

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