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What Are The 7 Best Solar Cover Reels?

Despite your love affair with your solar pool cover, you’ve probably daydreamed about ripping it apart or balling it up in your garage when using it with your pool.

The good news is, solar cover reels offer an easy and convenient way to use solar covers that won’t drive you nuts, so you can continue to warm your pool.

Our Picks For Best Solar Cover Reels

We looked high and low for the best solar pool cover reels across numerous categories, narrowing it down to just a select few.

Best Overall (Recommended)

VINGLI Pool Cover Reel Set 18 Feet...
VINGLI Pool Cover Reel Set 18 Feet...
  • NOTE:Item ship in more than one box and may arrive...
  • DURABLE, MAINTENANCE-FREE, RUST-FREE CONSTRUCTION....
  • FIT IN ALL SHAPE POOL: Adjustment for width. This...

Best On A Budget

HydroTools by Swimline In-Ground...
HydroTools by Swimline In-Ground...
  • In-ground pool cover reel system
  • Includes straps and hardware to attach to the...
  • Poles sold separately

Best For Large Pools

NSdirect Pool Cover Reel, 22.5 Feet...
NSdirect Pool Cover Reel, 22.5 Feet...
  • 22.5 feet long, light, durable, maintenance-free,...
  • Fits in-ground pools 5' ft - 22.5' ft wide.Solar...
  • Easy for one person to operate, allows a 2 man job...
Nova Microdermabrasion Swimming...
Nova Microdermabrasion Swimming...
  • 【Durable & Adjustable】Made of polishing...
  • 【User-friendly Design】Features a hand crank on...
  • 【Stable & Portable】 2 wheels for easy moving....

Best For Small Pools

Viewee 14 FT Pool Cover Reel Set,...
Viewee 14 FT Pool Cover Reel Set,...
  • 3 Advantages of Viewee Professional Custom Tube -...
  • Powerful Load Bearing- Tires & Bracket - Viewee...
  • Eco-Friendly Qualified Turntable - The material of...

Best For Above Ground Pools

HydroTools by Swimline Above-Ground...
HydroTools by Swimline Above-Ground...
  • Above-ground pool cover reel system
  • Includes straps and hardware to attach to the...
  • This item fits perfectly with Swimline pole item...
SunHeater SPAGCR13T Stainless Steel...
SunHeater SPAGCR13T Stainless Steel...
  • POOL SOLAR BLANKET REEL SYSTEM – The Sunheater...
  • FOR ABOVEGROUND POOLS – This solar cover reel...
  • EASY TO USE POOL REEL SYSTEM – The simple pin...

Best For Intex Pools

Intex Solar Cover Reel, for 9ft -...
Intex Solar Cover Reel, for 9ft -...
  • Keep your pool water warmer with this...
  • All the benefits of covering your above ground...
  • Easy to install and use.

What Is A Solar Cover Reel?

A solar cover reel is used with a solar blanket (not solar sun rings or liquid solar blankets), allowing you to store and deploy it without arduously lugging, folding, or balling it up in the back of your shed until next season.

Picture your toilet paper roll… except if for some reason you needed to put the toilet paper back on the roll periodically. Wait, nevermind. That doesn’t work at all.

It’s essentially a giant spool that you position at one end of your swimming pool, consisting of a long metal pole, supported between two vertical end bars.

The pole has some dangly straps hanging down that allow you to clip the edge of the pool cover for easier rolling and to keep it in place. One end of the reel also has some kind of wheel or crank that you’ll use to actually wind up the cover in an efficient and not-migraine-inducing way.

Some models even have wheels to help you move the whole thing around, making it easier to reposition, move out of sight, or store your solar cover reel away for the long winter months.

Note: If you don’t already have a solar cover, you’ll almost certainly need to purchase this separately as they don’t often come bundled with a solar reel. See our recommendation below.

Blue Wave NS520 14-Mil Solar...
Blue Wave NS520 14-Mil Solar...
  • Conserves energy – this 14-mil blanket covers...
  • Minimizes heat loss: our insulating thermal...
  • Superior durability - this Rectangular 14-mil...
Pool Mate 1836RS-8SBD BOXPM Deluxe...
Pool Mate 1836RS-8SBD BOXPM Deluxe...

Types Of Solar Cover Reels

Two main types of solar cover reel exist, so it’s important to know what they are and how they differ.

Manual Solar Cover Reels

VINGLI Pool Cover Reel Set 18 Feet...
VINGLI Pool Cover Reel Set 18 Feet...
  • NOTE:Item ship in more than one box and may arrive...
  • DURABLE, MAINTENANCE-FREE, RUST-FREE CONSTRUCTION....
  • FIT IN ALL SHAPE POOL: Adjustment for width. This...

Manual solar cover reels are the most common type of reel on the market, and they function just as their name suggests.

By hand.

The wheel or crank on the side of the contraption is forcefully turned to roll or unroll the solar cover whenever in use.

These are also unsurprisingly the cheaper types of solar cover reels you can buy for your above ground or inground swimming pool.

Automatic Solar Cover Reels

Automatic solar cover reels turn an otherwise manual reel into an electric-powered, automated reel system.

The hand-crank is replaced with an electric motor that activates rotation in both directions with the press of a button.

These tend to be a little slower than doing it by hand, but it’s infinitely more satisfying to use.

Are Solar Pool Cover Reels Worth It?

Solar cover reels are worth their weight in gold, but everything has its pros and cons when it comes to pool equipment, and solar cover reels are certainly no exception to that rule.

So let’s break it all down.

Pros:

  • Speeds up the process of putting on/taking off the cover
  • Easy to install (cover easily attaches with straps)
  • Very easy to use (just turn it… duh!)
  • Works with both inground and above ground pools
  • Works with regular pool covers (but not safety covers)
  • Promotes more frequent use of your solar cover
  • Easier to store for long periods with a reel cover
  • Not all that expensive for the added convenience

Cons

  • Not compatible with freeform shaped pools
  • Above ground pools require a special fitting
  • Replacing your solar blanket is more of a hassle
  • Not the most aesthetically pleasing device
  • Automated reels require additional wiring
  • May still require a pool cover pump (for water buildup)

What You Need To Consider

Now let’s talk about the most important aspects and features to consider when it comes to choosing a solar cover reel for your swimming pool.

Do You Need Wheels?

Solar cover reels usually come with a set of wheels, but it’s not always a given.

If you do want something more maneuverable, so you can roll to reposition or move it out of sight when the pool is in use, you’ll want one with wheels.

They come in either plastic or rubber variants:

  • Plastic wheels are cheaper and more likely to degrade over time. If your reel is sitting out in the elements, the wheels may crack after a season or two, making moving your reel practically impossible. Reels with plastic wheels are going to be less expensive, but it’s something to take into consideration before buying.
  • Rubber tires are the more premium option. These are going to be similar to bike tires and will last a lot longer than the plastic alternative. Maneuvering reels with rubber tires is easier on wet surfaces (like your pool deck) and will withstand the elements over time.

Of course, you don’t need wheels for your solar cover reel. If you prefer to have something more permanent in place, that’s fine too.

Does The Build Material Matter?

Pretty much all reels you find are going to be made from aluminum or stainless steel. Both materials are durable, rust and corrosion-resistant, and can withstand sun and rain very well. 

Stainless steel reels tend to be sturdier, heavier, and less likely to bow in the middle, especially if you have a wider pool. Aluminum models will be less expensive, lighter-weight, and more likely to sag a bit in the center.

If you have a smaller-width pool and are on a budget, the aluminum version may suit your needs just fine.

Besides, if you use a solar reel case when storing your solar cover reel, you should see a decent product lifespan regardless of which way you go.

Novinex Swimming Pool Solar Reel...
Novinex Swimming Pool Solar Reel...
  • EASY TO INSTALL: Ground Swimming Pool Reel Cover...
  • ANY SIZE: Pool Cover Blanket For Reel Can Be Cut...
  • FULL PROTECTION: Ground Poly Tarp Pool Cover for...
Blue Wave 20-ft Solar Reel and...
Blue Wave 20-ft Solar Reel and...
  • Constructed of waterproof woven polyethylene
  • Protects reel and blanket from the elements
  • Heavy duty zipper closure

Do The Type Of Straps Matter?

Solar pool cover reels usually come with two types of fasteners that actually connect your pool cover to the reel itself.

These are either embedded straps or hook-and-loop straps:

  • Embedded straps connect directly to the reel by drilling and screwing them in place. Typically, they are much more secure than other kinds of connections because they are embedded directly into the reel by means of grooves in the metal.
  • Hook-and-loop straps use Velcro instead, looping around the reel and eliminating the need for drilling any holes. This makes assembly a breeze but may not hold up with long term use.

So, if you have a large pool with a heavy cover, the hook-and-loops straps may not cut it and you may want to spring for the embedded-style straps.

Pool Ruler Solar Cover Reel...
Pool Ruler Solar Cover Reel...
  • COMPLETE KIT: Includes 8 each of Straps (6ft long...
  • 1 YEAR GUARANTEE: We got tired of straps breaking...
  • UNIVERSAL FIT: Works on pool covers from 10ft to...

Does It Work With Thicker Solar Covers?

‘Mil’ is the term used to denote the thickness of the plastic of your pool cover. Thicker plastic and higher mil mean better protection for your pool and a more durable cover in the long run.

If you have a very thick solar cover, you’re going to need a reel that can accommodate its thickness and extra weight.

This is an important consideration when looking to purchase a solar cover reel. Not all reels will give a mil size accommodation in their specs, so it’s a good question to ask of manufacturers before you buy.

Does It Work With Your Solar Cover Size?

It’s important to get a reel that’s compatible with the size of your solar cover and ultimately the size of your pool.

If you can’t find a reel that perfectly matches, it’s better to err on the side of slightly too wide as opposed to slightly too narrow – otherwise you’ll need to cut down your cover and leave more of your pool water exposed.

Fortunately, you should have no trouble finding reels in various sizes, from small 16ft or 18ft reels all the way up to the longer 24ft or 26ft variants.

These sizes will be clearly stated on the product listing or box, so just double check it matches up with your cover if you already have one.

Some cover reels also allow for adjustable width between a specific range (using telescopic tubes), meaning you can have a custom setting for your pool without having to worry about missing a few inches.

Do You Have An Above Ground Pool?

Most solar cover reels you come across will be designed for inground swimming pools, so they aren’t tall enough to overlook the walls of an above ground pool – unless you have a flush pool deck, of course.

Otherwise, you need to get a reel that can be installed on the edges (or walls) of an above ground swimming pool – or even a semi above ground pool, for that matter.

This is typically done in the middle of the pool, so the cover can roll out in both directions. The pole/roller is then lifted out of the reel system and put to one side while the pool is in use.

Also be aware that you may have to buy the reel system and roller separately, as the roller has to be a specific width, whereas the sides should fit almost any above ground pool.

HydroTools by Swimline Above-Ground...
HydroTools by Swimline Above-Ground...
  • Above-ground pool cover reel system
  • Includes straps and hardware to attach to the...
  • This item fits perfectly with Swimline pole item...
SunHeater SPAGCR13T Stainless Steel...
SunHeater SPAGCR13T Stainless Steel...
  • POOL SOLAR BLANKET REEL SYSTEM – The Sunheater...
  • FOR ABOVEGROUND POOLS – This solar cover reel...
  • EASY TO USE POOL REEL SYSTEM – The simple pin...

Are You Better Off Building Your Own?

If money is tight and you’re looking for the cheapest possible option, you might consider going the DIY route instead.

It’s very possible to build your own pool cover and reel with a few basic, easy to acquire items, along with a hacksaw and electric drill.

It likely won’t be as sturdy or durable as some of the products we’ve reviewed in this article, but it should last at least one or two seasons if done right, hopefully giving you enough time to save up for a commercial reel.

How To Install A Solar Cover Reel

So you’ve picked out your ideal solar cover reel and need to know how to get this thing ready for action.

Let’s do a quick rundown.

Assemble The Reel

Solar cover reels typically come flat-packed, so you will need to whip out the instruction manual and piece it all together.

The process varies from product to product, especially if you’re installing on an above ground pool, but it shouldn’t take you more than an hour if you’ve ever bought and assembled something from IKEA.

Once it’s fully assembled, you’ll want to have it in position (by your pool) so you can attach the solar cover.

Attach Your Cover

Again, the instructions provided with your solar reel will go into more detail on how to attach your solar cover to the reel.

This process also varies depending on the type of straps being used, but is fairly straightforward in all cases, especially for inground pools.

In general, your solar cover will be placed on your pool while being attached to the roller, allowing you to properly measure the strap distances and ensure it all fits well before doing any drilling or piercing the cover.

Crank It!

With everything in place, all that’s left to do is crank the reel and make sure it retracts your cover evenly, as well as distributes it evenly on the way out.

You may need to adjust your crank speed to avoid any creasing or folding, and it’s not uncommon for thinner covers to need a little extra guidance with your other hand to retract neatly.

Our Top Pick

VINGLI Pool Cover Reel Set 18 Feet...
VINGLI Pool Cover Reel Set 18 Feet...
  • NOTE:Item ship in more than one box and may arrive...
  • DURABLE, MAINTENANCE-FREE, RUST-FREE CONSTRUCTION....
  • FIT IN ALL SHAPE POOL: Adjustment for width. This...

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