Solar pool covers are easy, energy-efficient ways to raise the temperature in your swimming space and save money on chemicals by preventing evaporation. With the best solar pool cover for your needs, you have an effective way of extending the swimming season, saving money on the pool, and preventing leaves and dirt from building up in the pool.
Best for Rectangular Pools
The Magni-Clear comes in a rectangular form, with an ultra-clear material that maximizes the sunlight that can enter into your pool. The Magni-Clear can raise your temperature up to 15 degrees, which can extend the swimming season a month past what it normally is! It has UV protection to prevent damage from the sun while delivering powerful solar technology. It has an extra thick material, which keeps it from moving but will make it a bit harder to maneuver than some of the other options.
Best for Oval Pools
The MidWest canvas cover is an oval design that has diamond shaped bubbles to maximize the amount of heated air pockets that are placed directly into the water. It has a thick design to prevent up to 95% of evaporation, maximizing the effectiveness of the solar cover.
Best for Round Pools
The Sun2Solar brand is one of the better brands in solar pool coverage, and they’re round pool cover is my pick for circular pools. The tiny air bubbles and ultra-thick material make the cover durable and help heat your pool even on cloudy days. The perfect amount of heat retention, and a solid cover that prevents dirt and debris from gathering in your pool. A bit clunky to put on and off, but worth it for the protection!
Best for Large Pools
If you have a larger pool, you may not be able to find a perfect solar cover, or you might have to layer bubble covers in an odd way. A way to get around this is to leverage SSR solar sun rings to fill the entire pool. Alternatively, if you’ve got a pool that receives a lot of shade during the day, it may not get enough sun to justify the purchase of an entire solar cover. A handful of solar sun rings–especially these, which come with anchors to keep them in place–can help you target those sunny spots without overspending.
Solar pool covers are effective ways of raising the temperature and lowering the chemical cost of your pool. There are a few different types of pool covers–solar bubble covers, sun rings, and liquid covers–but they all work by creating a barrier between the surface of the water and the sun.
The barrier prevents excessive evaporation of water, which lowers the cost of chemicals over time by ensuring that you add less water and need less chemicals to bring the new water up to the desired safe swimming levels. The prevention of evaporation also helps the pool maintain its heat.
Additionally, the barrier allows sunlight to pass through, and generally heats up through the sunlight to heat the pool further. Solar bubble covers (the most common type of solar pool cover) contain little pockets of air that heat through the sunlight and transfer the heat directly into the water. A solar cover is a cheaper way of raising the temperature of your pool and lowering chemical costs both in the short term and long term compared to outdoor pool heaters. An outdoor pool heater costs more money to purchase than the solar cover, and it requires added energy costs to heat your pool in the spring and fall. A solar cover, by contrast, is a cheap way to cover and heat your pool, and it harnesses and converts the heat and energy of the sun which saves you money in the long run. Solar covers don’t raise your electricity bill!
The bubble pool cover, also known as a “solar blanket,” is the most common and popular type of solar cover that you can get for your pool. It looks like a combination of a large tarp and bubble wrap. The bubble pool cover is a large sheet that is full of tiny little air bubbles, which are placed face down into the pool. The air bubbles help the solar cover float, and also heat up through the sun and transfer the heat into the pool water.
Solar rings are inflatable covers that float on top of the pool and work like bubble pool covers, except you have a number of them floating around and they don’t cover the whole pool. While a bubble pool cover has a bit of an oven effect, trapping heat and preventing evaporation, solar sun rings magnify and heat the pool but don’t prevent evaporation or trap heat at the same levels that the bubble pool cover will. Because the rings don’t completely cover the pool surface like the bubble cover does, they’re a great option if you want a quick way to gain a bit of temperature and prevent chemical loss without putting a whole tarp over your pool.
If bubble covers sound too difficult and solar rings don’t sound effective enough, then the newest solar pool cover tech might be right for you. Liquid solar covers are a solution that you pour into the pool, where it spreads as a film over the surface of the water. It doesn’t retain and trap heat, but it does create a layer that prevents a normal amount of evaporation and so helps your pool maintain its heat and chemical levels. The formula will remain active for about a month before you’ll need to replace, so it does have some ongoing costs built in. But the evaporation prevention is not as effective as the tarp and it also doesn’t prevent debris and dirt from blowing into your pool. So the liquid formula is great if you don’t want to mess with heavy tarps or inflatable rings, but it has some drawbacks.
Pools with solar covers on top of them can be up to 10 degrees warmer than pools without a solar cover. Solar covers prevent heat from evaporating off the top, and also trap and retain the sun’s heat to slowly raise the temperature of the pool. Placing a solar cover on top of your pool is a bit like putting a lid on a pot–the temperature will remain more constant, steadily raising to a nice simmer. Factors that affect the actual temperature variance that a solar cover brings are the intensity of the sun’s UV rays, the amount of cloud cover, and the shading of your pool. If you have trees around the pool or other structures blocking the amount of direct sunlight, then the solar cover will be less effective at gathering heat, but will still help prevent evaporation. If the sun’s rays have to force themselves through cloud cover, or the sun doesn’t hit at the high point of UV intensity (around 11 am to 3 pm usually), then the cover will gain less heat. The table below is from Energy.gov and shows the savings if you heat your pool with a heat pump. Heat pumps are one of the most energy efficient ways to heat a pool; if you have another type of heater the savings are likely larger. The savings of having a solar cover are staggering, saving you 80% or more per month.
Most of the bubble covers listed here will reduce evaporation by up to 95% by trapping the evaporating water under the cover, heating it, and returning it to your pool. The reduced evaporation is great for the environment, because you’re using less water to refill the pool, and it’s also great for your chemical consumption, because it limits the added chemicals to balance your pool’s levels.
There are few things worse than splashing around the clear pool on a hot summer day and encountering a half-dead, floating bug right next to your face. It’s uncomfortable, and embarrassing when guests come over! Your filter and chemicals work overtime to neutralize bugs, dirt, and leaves that fly into your pool every single day. With a solar cover, these bugs and leaves get trapped on top of the cover and never enter your water. The result is a cleaner pool, a longer lasting filter, and less dirt floating around the bottom.
A solar cover can reduce chemical consumption by up to about 40%, through a variety of factors. First, by reducing evaporation, you won’t have to add new water to your pool as much as before, which reduces the chemicals used to bring up the fresh water to the requisite pH and chlorine levels required for a safe swimming pool. Or, if you have a saltwater pool, you won’t use as much salt to bring up the salt levels. Also, by keeping your pool warmer, you prevent the strain and reduction of chemicals through lower temperatures. A hotter pool more easily mixes the chemicals and retains their potency.
Solar covers work by magnifying sunlight and heat and preventing evaporation to trap and retain heat over time. The effectiveness of a solar cover is therefore directly related to how much of the pool it covers. Most solar bubble covers can be cut and trimmed to fit the exact size of your pool, making them an effective way to cover a pool, regardless of size, as long as you buy a big enough cover.
Solar rings are inflatable and need to be bought in bunches to get enough coverage to raise the temperature. The pieces will have gaps between them when you set them up and use them. Liquid solar covers will spread evenly over a pool of any size, as long as you buy enough solution.
Remember that there are more factors than pool size–if half of the pool is shaded during peak sun, you may not need to buy a huge solar bubble cover to cover the entire pool. A handful of solar rings may do the trick to cover the sunny spots.
For both chlorine and saltwater pools, bubble solar covers and solar rings are effective and safe. Because the solar cover literally just ramps up the amount and intensity of sunlight that heats the pool, bubble covers are safe with whatever type of pool you happen to have.
Some liquid pool covers will specify that they only work with chlorine or saltwater pools, but for the most part, most liquid pool covers are also safe in either chlorine or saltwater pools. Liquid covers form around the surface, and then break off when you swim, and then reform once the water stabilizes again. It’s a special formula of molecules that remains at the surface of the pool and reforms whenever it is broken.
In this post I’ve got recommendations for oval, rectangle, and circular pool shapes. Realistically though, because solar bubble covers are meant to be cut down to the size of the pool, you can buy whatever shape you want as long as you buy a big enough cover to cover the total size of the pool. Try not to overbuy, however, because extra square feet can be expensive if you don’t need it.
Solar rings are a great way of protecting and heating your pool in certain areas, or covering oddly shaped or really large pools. Also remember that the shape of the pool is affected by shade–you won’t get much out of a cover that sits in the shade. It won’t properly heat, even though it can prevent minimal evaporation and prevent dust from flying into the pool.
Liquid covers are great for any shape of pool because you simply pour them in and then they spread out evenly with a thin layer of molecules.
Solar covers are generally relatively thin so that the sunlight can easily pass through. They are typically between 8 mil (mil = thousands of an inch) to 16 mil, thin enough to allow sunlight through but thick enough to be durable. Thicker covers are heavier and less likely to get blown away, but also more difficult to maneuver and roll off and on the pool. Obviously, liquid solar covers don’t have material; they’re a chemical formula that is simply poured into the pool to create a thin film on top of the water to prevent evaporation.
The thickness of solar covers range from around 8 mil (mil = thousands of an inch) to 16 mil. Thicker covers are better at retaining heat and aren’t as easily blown off the pool by strong winds. However, they are more difficult to roll on and off the pool, especially on large pools.
Your pool cover will sit over your pool more often than it isn’t there, so make sure you pick a design and color that you’re happy with. You’ll see your pool cover every day, and in the winter months, the pool cover is all you’ll see of the pool. A nice clear color can be great for the summer, but honestly I like the blue color more for the winter because it makes it feel like the pool is kind of locked away for the off season.
All three of the bubble covers listed here come in nice clear or blue colors that will look great. Also, even if the cover remains effective over the years, UV damage can leave sun spots on the cover or make a clear cover look a bit cloudy and off-putting. You may have to replace your cover every few years to maintain a fresh look, if design and color are really important to you.
A warranty is more than just peace of mind in the integrity of the product, it is proof that the manufacturer has tested and believes in their product. Manufacturers don’t make money if people are cashing in on warranties constantly to replace products, so warranties represent the lower end of product malfunctions. If a company offers a 1 or 2 year warranty, it means that a very low percentage of products experience problems within that 1-2 year mark. You can trust that the product will last at least that long. A 4-5 year warranty is an even greater vote of confidence.
Remember also that the warranty represents that standard use time, and that if a pool cover lasts for 3 years and you save 40% on chemicals, it may actually pay for itself over that time. Replacing a bubble solar cover every few years might actually be the same amount as paying more for chemicals.
You may not know the big-name brands in the solar cover game, and that’s okay. Sun2Solar, MidWest Canvas, and Magni-Clear are all great options that are recommended here. You’ll always get what you pay for with a solar cover–keep in mind that more expensive solar covers may last longer and give you better heating and less evaporation.
An inexpensive solar cover can actually cost you more than it’s worth with added chemical costs. Investing in a solar cover is an investment in the longevity of your pool and the integrity of the water. Solar rings are more gimmicky with the inflation and will cost you the most money relative to coverage, but they’re also easy to use and can be used for specific sunny spots without covering a whole pool.
Solar blankets are the cheapest relative to coverage, but have to be put on and taken off every time you want to swim. Liquid solar covers need to be replenished every month, and so are more expensive, but make up for it with the ease of use. No putting on or taking off liquid.
Lighter solar bubble covers are easier to maneuver for taking them on and off as you swim and heat your pool. But if the cover is too light, it can blow away easily, forcing you to readjust it when a gust of wind hits your backyard. If your backyard is relatively sheltered with trees and fences and doesn’t get gusts of wind, then the lighter the cover the better. If it’s an open yard and you live in a spot that gets winds, you may need a heavier cover.
Ultra-clear design maximizes the amount of sunlight streaming into your pool.
Diamond-shaped air pockets give you more heating per square inch than other types of solar covers.
Blue and clear color options to maximize either temperature or aesthetics.
A better way to heat large pools that can’t be covered with a single bubble solar cover.
Great for rectangular pools, the Magni-Clear boasts the clearest pool cover design that will help sunlight dive into your pool without evaporating out. UV protection and a 6-year warranty ensure that you get your money’s worth from the long-lasting cover. The super-clear design means that you get a greater temperature raise from the Magni-Clear, up to 15 degrees instead of the 10 that you might expect from other covers.
If you’ve got an oval pool, check out the MidWest canvas solar cover, which comes with a diamond bubble design to maximize the amount of the heat-increasing air pockets that are placed directly into the water. At 16 mil, the cover is also on the thicker end of the spectrum. I’ve found that the material is not quite as clear as the Magni-Clear, so expect a little less sun penetration, but the diamond bubble design give you more air pockets per square inch than the standard circular bubbles, so it makes up for the temperature difference that way.
For round pools, the Sun2Solar cover gives you great coverage and a heavy duty cover. It can be difficult to maneuver, at 16 mm and heavier than the other covers, so you may need help rolling and unrolling the cover. The additional thickness helps retain heat and prevent evaporation better than thinner covers. Two color options allow you to customize your solar experience–grab the clear for the most temperature, or the blue for a clean-looking aesthetic even during gray winter months.
If you have a super large pool or simply a pool that experiences a lot of shade in certain areas, solar sun rings might be the perfect product for heating your pool and preventing evaporation. These SSR rings have anchors so you can keep them in place in the sunny areas without them floating whimsically around the pool.
Installation for solar rings and liquid covers is very simple. Solar rings are inflated (if they need to be) and placed on top of the pool. If they come with an anchor, adjust the length to fit the place in the pool, and then plop them down where you want them. For liquid covers, follow the directions on the bottle about how much to pour in relative to the volume or size of the pool.
Bubble covers can be installed with a roller that is placed next to the pool, or can be rolled out by hand to cover the pool. When placing a bubble cover, first spread it out over the pool, then use a sharpie to mark the underside where it needs to be cut. Cut along the markings to fit it your pool size, maximizing evaporation and heat protection. If the cover hangs over the sides or lifts up at the edges, you’ll lose heat out the gaps in the cover, so you want a tight fit.
Solar blankets are placed over the top of the pool to increase heat, prevent heat loss during the night, and prevent dirt and debris from blowing into the pool when not in use. To install the solar blanket, simply unroll it over the top and cut it to fit.
You won’t want loose edges or parts of the blanket that can get blown up in the wind or lose heat. Definitely, definitely remove the solar blanket before swimming. A solar blanket should not be slightly unrolled when swimming, it needs to be completely removed to prevent a safety hazard.
Depending on the size of the pool, you may need two people to help remove the solar blanket off the top of the pool. Have the two people stand at corners on one edge of the pool, and begin rolling in unison. Don’t move toward the opposite end of the pool, simply stand in one spot with your partner and pull the blanket toward you, rolling as you go. This is the easiest way to remove the blanket without moving and risking someone falling in.
Solar blankets should be cleaned from time to time. The bottom will get a build-up of chemicals from the pool that should be washed off, and the top will collect the dirt, leaves, and bugs that would’ve otherwise gotten into your pool. Because solar blankets are large, they are difficult to clean in a backyard, especially without attracting more and more dirt to them as you go.
The easiest way to clean a solar blanket is to prop it up, perhaps using the diving board if the blanket is too big, and spray it off with a hose. The fresh water and pressure should wash away chemicals on the bottom and dirt on the top.
Any excess water on the solar blanket will turn gross and create mold, which you want to avoid, so the key to storing a solar blanket is to properly clean it with a hose and then dry it with a towel. Leave the blanket outside in the sun for a day on each side to let any excess water evaporate before rolling up or folding the blanket and placing in storage. Make sure that the blanket is completely dry before you store it!
Just like the fine people who made the Magni-Clear will tell you, a clear solar pool cover will allow heat in sunlight to travel through the solar cover and become trapped in the pool. A black solar cover will absorb the heat without really heating the pool water. You’ll end up with a very hot tarp over the top of your pool, and cool, shaded pool water. A silver or white-ish pool cover will reflect a lot of the heat–which again, will not really heat your pool water. You should be looking for something clear or blue-ish, allowing heat to travel into and through the solar cover, heating both the bubbles that heat the water and heating the water itself.
Also remember that the pool cover will spend a good deal of time covering your pool, and you don’t want an ugly color taking up space in your backyard. While a clear cover is ultimately best for temperature, you may sacrifice a few degrees to get a cover that goes better with the design of your yard!
The bubbles go down into the water to help it float and deliver heated air pockets to raise the temperature. The flat side goes up.
Liquid solar covers are completely safe, using harmless chemicals that shouldn’t even hurt a pet that drinks from the water. You don’t actually use many chemicals, and the chemicals simply create a thin layer of molecules that prevents evaporation. It’s no different than using chemicals to regulate the pH and chlorine or saltwater content of the pool.
If not properly cleaned every so often, a solar pool cover can create excess heat and conditions for algae growth. However, since the solar cover also helps maintain the pool’s chemicals, it generally helps prevent algae growth instead of causing or contributing to it.
Solar pool covers can blow off in high gusts of winds, but usually this only happens if it isn’t cut or fitted properly to the pool. You can always get a heavier solar cover if you anticipate this being a problem, like if you have an exposed backyard. But if cut and fitted properly around the edges of the pool, there shouldn’t be a large gap for the wind to whip it up.