This isn’t just a celebrity trend, though you can buy ready-made solar pool kits to that are easy to install in the off-grid shop starting at $220 (J125) – whereas you’ll have to dish out around 700 on ebay, and for US customers kits start at around $600 going up to $1,175.00. You’ll need to provide the PVC piping, diverter valve and a support or rack system for some of these.
It’s even possible to build your own from a discarded radiator and a can of black paint.
Heating an average pool for the swimming season uses about the same amount of energy as most homes require per year. The costs go beyond just monthly heating bills when you consider greenhouse gas emissions involved so a solar pool heater pays for itself quickly.
Solar blankets (pool covers) are the cheapest way to reduce heat loss and save energy.
A solar pool heating system will cost between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on size, model specifications and options for example, if you want automatic controls, etc. You can apply for government funding follow links to the appropriate pages for grants in the US, Canada and the UK (as part of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme).
As with most solar power, the closer you are to the equator, the more energy you’ll get out of your system.
Opinion is split about whether you should go it yourself or find a solar pool heating dealer to help you out. It is possible to DIY your solar pool heater, but a bit of advice is never going to hurt. There are lots of people out there who’ve already built their own solar pool heaters ranging from custom-built metal heat exchangers to just a length of hosepipe mounted on the slope. For the latter, simpler approach check out Rob A’s attempt.
It’s important to assess what size of installation you’re going to need regardless of the method. Typically, your solar collector should be at least half the square footage of your pool surface area. Have your collectors facing the sun. If you live in a more northern area, you will have one setting for your summer swimming fun. Those who live in warmer climes will need to adjust their solar panels with the seasonally moving sunlight.
Your solar pool heater simply plugs into the existing filtration unit. You can choose the option of an automatic system which will have a controller and sensors to open and close a valve, deciding whether to send water back into the pool or through the collectors.
In many areas, especially where there is limited sun, solar pool heating is one of the most practical applications of solar energy. People around the world are catching onto this even in Canada, solar pool heaters make up more than 10% of the pool heating market.
No matter what, your solar pool heater will save on your pool heating costs. In warmer areas, especially, it is inadvisable to heat with gas. Over a 15-year period, you could spend five times as much on heating with gas as you would with a solar pool heater.
Even if you ‘hybridize’ your solar heater with gas, it will still save you money.
Here are some more solar pool heating benefits (adapted from a Canadian guide to solar pool heating) – just think of how much more beneficial solar will be in Texas or Florida!
In most areas of Canada (and the northern United States), a solar heater used in combination with a solar pool cover can add 2-4 weeks to the beginning and end of the swimming season.
Solar equipment often lasts longer than gas or electric heaters. With proper yearly maintenance, you can expect fuel heaters to last 7-10 years. Most gas heaters have a two-year warranty, and well-made heat pumps carry a two-year warranty with five-year warranty on the compressors. Solar panels have a minimum 10-year warranty and generally last 15-20 years or longer. And while gas and electric heaters require servicing by a technician every year, a solar heater requires very little servicing at all, bringing costs down further.
Good news for DIY-ers
At the recent International Building Show in Orlando, Fla, Fafco – a Chico, Calif.-based company that specializes in solar pool heaters – introduced a new do-it-yourself solar hot water system. The new system can be installed by two non-professionals in half a day, the company claims, and the whole thing weighs just 62 pounds.
You screw onto the roof a black polymer panel, made of hundreds of tiny tubes. When the system is installed, water in these tubes is heated by the sun, and that heat is transferred to water that goes into your water tank.
The system costs about $1,800 and supplies half the hot water needs of a two- to three-person household – but you can use it to heat your pool as well.
Compared to other systems, the Fafco model will pay for itself in less than three years, though the downside is that although a traditional system made of copper lasts more than 20 years, this system will last 12-15 years.
For more information, go to www.hot2o.com or call (800) 994-7652.