Harnessing the Sun's Power to Keep Your Pool Nice and Comfortable
Solar energy has intriguing potential, but let's face it - it hasn't exactly caught on among average homeowners. That said, the use of the sun's rays to heat residential swimming pools is one of the cooler (or should I say hotter) applications of solar energy. Beyond the obvious geek appeal, it's also a practical way to potentially save thousands per year on energy costs.
How do solar pool heaters work? It's surprisingly simple. In fact, the mechanism is straightforward enough that a lot of pool owners choose to build their own homemade solar pool heaters. It's certainly a lot easier - and safer - than building your own pool.
Who Should Use a Solar Swimming Pool Heater
The short answer to this question is that just about anyone who heats his or her pool can benefit from a solar heater. If you live in a warmer climate, a solar heater may be all you need to keep your pool comfortable even in the early morning. If live in a colder climate, you can use a solar system to "pre-heat" your water before sending it to a traditional electric or gas pool heater, keeping your energy costs as low as possible.
The only question is whether the cost of the system is justified by the savings you will achieve in the coming years. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that a $3,000-4,000 solar heater typically pays for itself in 1.5 - 7 years. Is that payoff worth the cost? The answer to that is up to you.
Besides the cost, the only other reason you might not want a solar pool heater is the setup. Some people may consider the long tubes and solar collectors an eyesore.
How it Works
Credit: energy.govWhen you think of solar energy, you think of solar panels trapping the sun's energy so it can be used just like traditional power sources. With solar pool heaters, the process is more ordinary. The sun simply heats the water directly. There's slightly more to it than that, but that's the main thrust.
The essential elements of a solar pool heating system are:
- Solar Collector
- Connective Tubes
Water is pumped through the filter and into the solar collectors, which are often mounted on a roof facing the sun. The collectors expose the water to the sun's rays, keeping it there long enough to warm it up by 5 degrees or more. If needed, the water can then be passed through a traditional heater to get to the desired temperature.
Fun in the Sun (and Energy Efficiency Too)
Solar pool heaters eco-friendly, economical, and just plain awesome. Unfortunately, they're also somewhat expensive, and may not fit into your backyard decor. A cheaper and less intrusive way to harness the sun's power is to use a solar pool cover to keep your pool as warm as possible when it's not in use.
The cost and hassle of maintaining a swimming pool are formidable, and pool owners are constantly looking for ways to reduce the burden. Given how swimming and sunshine go together, solar power is one of the best and most natural choices to heat your pool.