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Do Swimming Pool Solar Covers Really Work?

If you are considering the purchase of a swimming pool heating system and have done any research online, you have probably come across advertisements and information about swimming pool solar covers. All Swimming Pool Heat Pump dealers almost always recommend solar covers to their customers because they provide a lot of value to swimming pool owners. Let’s discuss the basics of solar covers and benefit they can offer.

What is a solar cover?

A solar cover, also referred to as a solar blanket, is a large sheet of plastic that looks like bubble wrap and lies on top of your swimming pool. You have many options when purchasing a solar cover, as many colors, thicknesses, and sizes are available.

How does a solar cover work?

75% of a swimming pool’s heat loss is due to evaporation. A solar cover minimizes heat loss from evaporation by acting as a barrier between swimming pool water and the air. Specifically, you can reduce your swimming pool heating costs by up to 70% by using a solar cover.

How do I shape a solar cover?

Match the dimensions of your solar cover with the widest and longest points of your swimming pool. Lay the solar cover onto the surface of the swimming pool and simply trim the edges of it with a pair of scissors to match the shape of your swimming pool.

How much does a solar cover cost?

As with any product, prices of solar covers vary greatly. The price of a solar cover depends on the size of the swimming pool and the thickness color of the solar cover. Most solar covers are available for between $50 and $300.

How long does a solar cover last?

Over time, your solar cover will slowly deteriorate. You will need to replace your solar cover when it begins to flake and when bubbles begin to fall off of it. Most solar covers last for up to three years, though many people replace them more frequently.

Utilizing a solar cover and taking advantage of the return lines in your pool is another way of prevent evaporation as well as distributing the warm water throughout all your pool and quick more efficiently.
There is new technology in the market now called liquid blankets, that are supposed to do the same job as the solar cover but in a non-hazardous form, this is fairly new in the business. We will have another blog about these covers when more information is available.

Considering the lifespan, price, and effectiveness of solar covers, we at AquaCal think they are valuable investments. Still, some swimming pool owners prefer not to use them. What are your thoughts on solar covers? Let us know by leaving us a comment!

This Post Has 86 Comments

  1. I’ve been buying solar blankets for thirty years. I’ve tried the cheapest and the most expensive. I’ve not had one last more than three years, all from In The Swim. Because of the warranty I lived with the short life. I got a free blanket for every one I purchased. However, now In The Swim is not honoring warranties, claiming the pool owner did something wrong. I’m not sure if the manufacturer is encouraging this behavior or the store. They won’t give the manufacturer’s name and contact information so I’m stuck. Solar blankets have been junk for decades. When will a company design one that lasts more than ten months? That’s correct, ten months. Five months each swimming season for two seasons. That’s all I get out of a solar blanket. Ridiculous.

  2. I have a 17′ round above ground pool. I was gifted a 16′ round solar cover. So basically the solar cover floats on top and there is some space around the ring of the pool that is not covered. Will it still be a benefit to have the cover on, or will I lose all of my heart and chemicals out of the exposed sections?

    Good Morning Justin,
    Hope you are doing well. A partial cover is better than no cover at all. The 16 foot cover will reduce the surface area where heat can escape and where pool chemicals can be exposed to sunlight. This will not be as effective as a full cover, but will provide benefits.
    Robert Brown
    AquaCal Tech Support

    1. Good Afternoon,
      Hope you are doing well. Solar covers are not meant to create or transfer heat. They are used to slow down heat loss caused by evaporation.
      You will still lose heat, but not nearly as much as an uncovered pool.
      Robert Brown
      AquaCal Tech Support

  3. I’ve been trying to find relative comparisons between Solar covers and Thermal blankets. I haven’t been able to find any studies that compare the pros/cons of each as it relates to attaining a desired water temperature and keeping it at that level and total cost of each (cost of cover, energy used by heat pump) assuming a heat pump is used.
    Generally speaking, Solar covers allow solar energy to be absorbed providing some heating and it also retains the energy (heat) whereas Thermal blankets don’t do much absorption of energy but apparently do a better job retaining heat. Assuming a pool heater (heat pump) is installed, what are the net results of one compared to the other (will the total energy used by the heat pump be lower (kicks on less frequently or not as long when it does start up) with a Thermal blanket or a Solar cover)? Thermal blankets are more costly but apparently last much longer than Solar covers (in AZ, a Solar cover lasts no more than one year before they start breaking down).
    Getting tired of buying a new Solar cover every year and considering investing in a Thermal blanket instead.

    1. I think it is important to point out that both are very effective at retaining heat in a swimming pool.
      Key differences are that a solar blanket allows solar energy to enter the pool and then assists in retaining that heat.
      A thermal blanket does not allow for that “free” energy to enter the pool but does assist in keeping heat in the pool.
      The greatest heat loss of a heated swimming pool is from evaporation from the surface of the pool.
      Both blankets are very effective at minimizing that most significant heat loss mode.
      While the thermal blanket helps with radiant heat loss from the surface of the pool that savings are likely balanced by the solar cover with its ability to allow
      solar energy into the pool…as long as the sun shines anyway.
      Based on our experience, we would doubt the energy expense would be dramatically different from either product.
      Solar blankets are easier to handle and cost less.
      A roller is surely needed for a thermal cover due to weight.
      The thermal cover will last longer than the solar cover but it cost considerably more.
      So, the decision lies with convenience and cost. Your call.

  4. I just recently bought a solar blanket as well as a solar heating system , I am happy with the combo so far , being only a month and mid summer i assume the real test will be in September and early spring. I recently had my gas heater burn out the exchanger and couldnt see the cost of a new one at this time. One thing i experienced is that when the sun shines its great and inexpensive but for an on demand heating source i can beat gas, there sure are some interesting do it yourself solar heaters on line and admit i just made a radiator out of 1/2 copper and is the size of my bbq grid using a drill pump and garden hose i can get the temp up 8 degrees in half a propane tank no problem combined with the sun and solar system and blanket i saved over 3 thousand CDN to heat a 30 by 40 in ground kidney shaped with 4 foot shallow and 10 foot deep end. In Ontario Canada our season is short and might as well use every bit of it for enjoyment

  5. I have a commercial pool 115K gallons, average depth 6.5′, 36’x75′
    I am in Southeastern N.C. on the coast. How will a solar cover help me? Not a heated pool.

    1. A solar cover would work for you the same way it works for all other pools-Prevents heat loss thru evaporation

  6. I live in an area of Portugal where winter temperatures do not usually fall below 0 Centigrade. We had a pool installed this summer and have a solar cover. The cover has proved great at maintaining the temperature. We also have a heat pump which we have rarely used – it may come into its own now that temperatures are dropping. My question is this – can I keep the solar cover on during the winter? I have been led to believe that I should take it off and store it but am wondering what harm it can do to leave it in place.

  7. We have had a pool for30 years and have always had a solar cover. Together with solar panels we can swim most of the year. If it is 40 degrees out I don’t know anyone who is going to jump in. Problem is we can’t find one that last more than 2 years. We have gone from cheap to expensive. 2 years and they fall apart

  8. No it doesn’t work. I had to break down and but the real deal. Costed me upwards of 4000.00 for the unit, installation 1000.00 for the line to be dug into the ground, and 1000.00 for the fuse box /breaker to be added.

  9. I have an 18 X 33 foot above ground pool that we just installed. I would like to know if the cover has to go over the whole thing or if it only covers 16 X 32 would it still work?

    1. Hi Robin,
      Ideally you would want to cover the entire surface of the pool, but leaving 1′ to 2′ of pool surface exposed will work better than no cover at all. If you have any questions please call us at 727-823-5642.

  10. How do I run the pump while the blanket is on at night time? Can I use an automatic vacuum? Can I not use the automatic vacuum and just use the skimmer? wouldn’t the suction of the skimmer get stuck by the blanket?

    1. Hi Iris,

      Usually you want to run the pump during the daytime because that is when the pool is used the most. It will help with circulation of the water and stir up the dirt so the filter can do its job. The cleaner will travel under the cover with no problem. The cover floats on the top while the cleaner stays under the cover. the skimmer doesn’t have enough suction to pull the cover into the skimmer box if your pool hydraulics are correct.

  11. Eric did anyone reply to your questions? I had the same questions. Also, I want to ask if it is possible with irregular shaped pool to do an automatic solar cover reel?

    1. Hi Brad,

      Yes, you can use a solar cover with a pool cleaner. It is more difficult to use an automatic solar cover reel with an irregular shaped pool. The reel needs to be set up at the widest part of the pool to make it easier.

  12. I have one on an outdoor pool thats 10 mtr * 4.8 mtrs.

    Any day the sun is out (regardless of air temp) the top 60-100 mm of water will heat up significantly. If your aim is to heat up your pool you need to turn the pump on for 15-30 mins every 3-4 hours e.g. at 12 PM, again at 3 or 4 PM and then the usual cleaning cycle at 7PM.
    This agitates the water and mixes the hot water into the bottom of the pool. It also brings cooler water to the surface to heat during the next 4 hour cycle.
    Over the course of a week during the summer my pool (which is reasonably big) heats up 5-6 degrees.

  13. Can you use a solar cover with a pool cleaner? How far does it need to be away from the skimmer box? If my cover was trimmed to fit an irregular pool will it be harder to roll up on a solar cover reel?

  14. Three questions:

    1) how far away from the skimmer box should the cover be?
    2) can you have the cover on and use the Polaris pool cleaner at the same time ?
    3) how does trimming the cover effect rolling it up with a solar cover reel? I have a odd shaped pool 38″ long but it’s part 16″, part 14″, part 22″ wide

  15. We have an indoor water well from Endless Pools. We want to heat the room in the winter but keep the pool water cold and prevent heat loss from the air in the room to the water. Will a solar cover do this?

  16. I just got a 10ft above ground pool with the inflatable ring that floats to the top when full and I am also going to get the cover to keep out dust and bugs etc. My question is being that this pool has no solar heating other than direct heat from the sun is it worth getting a solar cover? will the lid/cover that sits on top of the pool stop the evaporation and keep some of the heat in?

  17. I have a 16 foot diameter, round, above ground intex pool heated by the sun only, which is too cold to swim in mornings, but lovely for the children by 4pm. (Spring time here in Rotorua, New Zealand.) Recently I purchased a huge amount of solar bubble blanket from the owner of a very large rectangular pool. I was thinking of doubling it over and cutting it to shape, taping it together, then cutting it into 4 quarters for easier moving. My thought is that with the double thickness, it will more effectively hold the heat in, and possibly also help with solar heating? Would this be correct? or am I better to just leave it single thickness?

    1. Good afternoon Lisa-

      A thicker mil blanket is more effective at retaining heat so we're sure there would be added retention just not sure how much. Since you have the extra material you could experiment and find out. Let us know what the results are, we would love to hear it!

  18. I just purchased and put in use a solar pool blanket and would like to share the results. I purchased a CLEAR 12mil solar cover from Doheny, $120. I did so because I just completed my pool build and it is starting to get cold here in New Orleans. Temp of the pool was dropping between 3 – 4 degrees overnight when lows dropped into the 60s.

    The results have exceeded my expectations. In 36 hours my pool has gained 4 degrees, rising from 74 to 80 degrees. The weather has been steady over the past week, clear and sunny, 80s during the day and 60s at night, so there has been no influence other than the cover.

    Overnight it has lost only 2 degrees this morning, dropping only 2 degrees. The temp difference between the water under the blanket and the top of the blanket exposed to air is 4 degrees, showing how well it is insulating.

    My pool is a lagoon variable shape, 28' x 12. I simply bought oversized and laid it right across overlapping the edges. I will later trim it but will keep it rising over the edge because we have a lot of cypress trees dropping their needles in December and I want to be able to blow off the cover with my leave blower before removing it for use.

    The cover is not light, but manageable with one person. I havent figured out how I will store it when not in use, but I think I will end up folding it and place it to the side of the pool. The folded up shape is about 3' x 3 x 4

    Luckily I am in the south, and I am installing 2 solar pool panels which should get my water up into the mid 80s Im hoping all the way through December. Hoping that I might only to be shut out of the pool for one month in January.

    Hope this helps anyone considering one, but I am very happy.

    1. Just to note…..the pool was dropping approx 3 – 4 degrees lower each nigh, and NOT recovering more than 1 or 2 degrees during the day therefore it was a continuing heat loss each day. The heat gain was only after I added the blanket.

    1. Good afternoon Rebecca-

      The material the solar cover is made from makes the difference on the cover, the color should not make an impact.

      Thank you!

  19. Should the solar cover be floating on the water, with no water on top of it? My pool is not staying as warm as it should at night with the cover in place. Sometimes with the pool pumps running the Water goes on top of the solar blanket so it is submerged by an inch or two. Is it improper use to have some water on top of the solar blanket?

    1. Good morning Holly-

      The solar cover should be floating and should cover most of the water surface. Windy conditions and air temperature affect the heat retention, where are you located?

  20. This might sound like a stupid question but i want to make sure i have the solar cover on properly. The bubbles are supposed to go down, against the water, right? I have been using mine that way and the temp isnt really going up in my 24 ft. above ground pool, but it is staying at a regular temp of about 80 even with cool nights. Just want to make sure I put it on right. Thank you!

    1. Not a stupid question at all! In fact, it is a question we receive very frequently. Yes, the bubbles on your cover should be down. Feel free to ask any further questions you may have!

  21. We have a new patio pool, 11X17 in size. We purchased the aqua cal heater/chiller SQ120r. Meant for pools around 25000 gallons, it's way more than needed for our little 9000 gallon pool, but we bought up because of the small difference in purchase price and thought efficiency. Wow, we were blown away! Besides the water, the aqua cal is the best part of our new pool. It can raise or lower the temp in our little pool by 5 degrees in 20 minutes! We'll use our pool 365 days a year! That said, as winter comes, we'd like to hold as much heat as possible. Can you recommend the solar cover that we can trim? Our pool is free form. We considered the solar rings, but the reviews are less than positive. Thanks!

    1. Good afternoon DJM-

      We are so happy to hear about your satisfaction with your heat pump! Here is to many more months of swimming and enjoyment! You can purchase a solar cover at any pool supply outlet, they come in various sizes and can be cut to fit your pool. That being said, you might want to check out the AquaBlanket by Lo-Chlor, instead of a physical cover it is a liquid that can help maintain water temperature and prevent evaporation, you can check it out here, please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions or need any assistance with your system.

      1. Thanks for the advice. We are just starting to use the cover and seem to be retaining temps within a few degrees as we try and maintain the amazing results we are getting with the aquacal – New question, now that temps are falling below 50, any suggestions on how we can extend the heating without having the condensation freeze the unit? Note: we are already heating during the day and not at night. I assume you can not cover the unit itself. With appreciation-

    1. Good morning Mrs. Smith-

      Solar covers are great to use year round. During the swimming pool season they are great to have to prevent water and chlorine evaporation due to the sun's rays. There are other products on the market that do the same job without the hassle of the solar covers, check out this product, it does the same job without the cover!

  22. Solar blankets work great for the money! They do help prevent evaporation & heat loss overnight, but clearly not receiving any solar heat gain overnight(they'd be lunar blankets if meant only for night use, right?), but if left on for a few hours it will raise the water temp several degrees, if left on a longer time it will raise more. Water near the bottom may still be cold, but running the filter pump will mix it together & thevtemo will level off. The plastic is much heavier than regular packing bubble wrap & if left on in very hot weather can raise the water temp dangerously high & can burn grass & melt itself in full sun, so place a cover over it when off the pool. The pump should not be used with cover in place, but I've done it, with intake on the wall it is not as likely to get drawn against it, but since it's has a grid cover it won't suck in, if you use a surface skimmer it will likely be drawn against it. That said, I've still done it and watched it to save time.. There is a learning curve, and sometimes its ,difficult to get on & off alone(we have a 24' blanket) & to store out of the sun, but its effective as well as cost effective!! So "Yes!" Use it at night to prevent evaporation & heat loss, use it in the daylight to raise the degrees some, dont operate filter pump with blanket in place if using a surface skimmer, maybe with supervision if not. Keep out of the sun when not being used on the pool..
    Enjoy swimming in your warm pool!

    1. Good morning,

      As long as the pool is not being used we recommend you keep the cover on the pool at all times. However, during the day is the ideal time to have your solar cover on, it helps heat the pool water as well as preventing water evaporation.

      Thank you for your comment!

  23. We have an above ground pool (the big-bag-of-water type). It is heated solely by the sun. We use a solar pool cover at night. On a clear sunny day with no wind which will heat the water faster, leaving the cover on or removing it?

    1. Good afternoon Terry-

      If the pool is not being used we highly recommend you leave your cover on, it will not only continue to heat up your pool but also prevent water evaporation from the sun!

    1. Good morning Tilly-

      Thank you for your comment. Solar covers typically tend to be way thicker than regular bubble wrap, they are also made of material that is resistant to the powerful sun rays that would destroy bubble wrap as well.

      Hope this helps, please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions or comments!

  24. In a round pool where the solar blanket will not be anchored, is there a problem with it being sucked into the filter?

    1. God morning-

      Securing your cover to the outside of your above ground pool would probably be the best idea, you do not want the cover to clog your pool system.

      Thank you for your question!

    2. It may become suctioned against a surface skimmer if you use one, but less likely with a through the wall filter intake that has a grid cover, but could still obstruct it . it is not recommended that it be in place while filter pump operates on any shape pool

    1. Good morning Michelle-

      A solar cover would not only be perfect for preventing heat loss during the night time, it is also a wonderful way of preventing water evaporation during those hot sunny days! So yes, it would be a great idea to have a solar blanket for your pool in your location.

      Thank you,

  25. I ruined my gas pool heater last winter by not having a professional close the pool so this summer no heater. I was thinking about trying a solar blanket. Does anyone know if it also prevents water evaporation? Thanks!

    1. Good morning Mary-

      One of the benefits of a solar blanket, besides providing free heat from the sun, is the fact that they reduce evaporation during the summer months.

      Please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help or if you have any further questions.

  26. We have used a solar cover for 5 years. It has raised our water temp significantly if left on for a few days. We have went up almost 10 degrees in a matter of days. We have a 24 ft round radiant pool. We have looked into getting a heater other than the solar cover just to not have to deal with the cover, but aren't sold that it is worth the extra money because the solar cover does so well. I recommend the covers to people! The only thing I don't like about the cover is the leaves, and crap that sits on top and comes off into the water when removing it, but I just throw wanda the wale in and she takes care of that:)

    1. Sheryl-

      Thank you for your feedback. You are correct, solar pool covers are very convenient and do help heat up your swimming pool water with the correct conditions. There are other "liquid covers" now available in the market that can also do the trick, check out the "AquaBlanket"
      We hope this helps!

    2. I have the same 24′ radiant pool and although we’re only starting our second season, my experience is the same.. solar blanket is great. In our climate though (MD) we did decide this year to buy a heater because my family wont get in the pool unless it’s ridiculously warm in my opinion! 🙂

      1. Hello, I moved to Maryland and have a 40ft. Pool with a 8ft deep end. I’d be happy just with 75 degrees just in the summer. Could a solar panel cover work without a pool heater for that? Thanks Marylander for a reply!

        1. Hi John,
          Hope you are doing well. I think a solar cover by itself may be able to give you a swim worthy temperature during the mid June to mid August time depending on how much sun exposure you get during the season. However, solar covers are not actually designed to generate heat. They are used to keep heat in that comes from other sources such as sunlight, gas heating & of swimming pool heat pumps. So while a cover will retain heat put in by the sun, you will usually need some other source to of heat to have a dependable swim worthy pool.

    1. We have used a solar cover for about 5 years and never had a problem with the algea. We have always had crystal clear water. We keep it on day and night when it needs it.

  27. It will not really do much to raise the temp. If it's really sunny it may increase the temp. by 1 or 2 degrees. They are meant to keep the heat in once your pool is warm. Your pool loses up to 3 degrees during the night and a solar cover will actually prevent this from happening. Do keep your cover on all day when not in use because it will prevent heat loss and increase the water temp. a bit. They work great when you know what to expect.

      1. Exactly..I love mine, its great for the money too Anthony doesn't seem to have a clue how they work or how well… They will help with both heat loss & evaporation, but will also raise temps significantly on a sunny day, I've had my pool thermometer read well over 100°F in a hot spell in the low to mid 90°s, as much as +5°to 9°F. gain. Nice for night swimming here on the east coast…

        1. Don’t be so harsh. It depends on the style of cover. If you have a clear cover with built-in lenses (the little dots), then you should get some radiation heating from the sunlight. However if it is a solid cover, then that is made solely for keeping internal heat in.

  28. Does the solar blanket warm the water with the sun or does it just hold the heat in? I just opened my pool of course the water is cold if we have some sunny days will the solar cover help warm it?

  29. We have a new swin/spa. We are using our solar blanket at night. The pool water was 30 degrees warmer than the air temp. I'm sold. They definetly are worth the money.

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