Solar Panels Around the Home: Can They Heat Your Pool?

March 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Solar Panels

If you have a swimming pool, you know that it takes energy to heat it to a comfortable temperature. To harness free thermal energy from the sun would seem an ideal, low-cost, environmentally friendly way to do it. But how hard is it to set up? The good news is that solar panels for heating water are somewhat inexpensive. Anyone with moderate handyman skills can even put them together on their own with an investment of less than $100 for materials and a day or two of their time. And the immediate payoff to the investment is the elimination of energy bills to keep your pool heated. But there are some considerations before you get started. Read further to make sure that this is the right investment for you.

The first thing that you have to consider before investing in solar panels is whether or not your system would get enough sunlight each day to make it viable. Solar panels made to heat pools act as simple passive collectors. Typically they are made with water-filled plastic coils situated between shatter-resistant glass panels. As water in the coils accumulates, the sun heats it, and then it can be pumped to the pool. If there is a lot of foliage in your yard and it is somewhat shaded, there might not be enough sunlight to heat passive coils. The optimal location for this kind of solar panel system would be a rooftop without obstruction facing south or west. That way the panels would receive complete exposure to sunlight during daytime hours.

The next consideration is the difference between your desired pool temperature and the outside air. If you live in a cold climate and want to keep your pool at 80 degrees in winter, you might be better off with a pool cover and top-end gas heating system. However, if you live in a warm climate and want to keep your pool at 80 degrees during mild winters with a low of about 50 degrees, this kind of solar panel system would work for you.

Once you decide to invest in solar panels and start to enjoy the benefits, there are still some things to keep in mind. Even after it’s up and running, you still need to utilize a solar blanket or cover if the air outside is colder than the water temperature in the pool. A good rule of thumb is to bring out the pool cover any time there is steam coming off the water surface. The cover will trap the heat in the water so that it isn’t lost into the outside air.

One last word of caution for consideration. If you’re thinking of using the pool’s solar panels for heating your home water system to save more money, think again. Pool water is conditioned with muriatic acid and chlorine, which are toxic in large quantities and not suited for drinking water.

Under the right circumstances, solar panels can be a great investment to heat your pool’s water at no ongoing cost. It is definitely looking into, as it contributes to a clean environment, is a great source of renewable energy, and saves money in energy bills.