When the days start getting a little colder, I know too well the frantic search to keep your pool just a little warmer so you can swim a few more weeks before winter sets in.
Solar pool covers are the solution. Not only will they raise the water temperature of your pool (some by up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit), the cover protects your water from leaves and other debris. Allowing you to do what matters most, enjoy your pool with your family.
In this guide, I’ll explain what to look for when buying a solar pool cover, and reveal our picks for the best products on the market. It’s time to get your pool the perfect temperature for a swim.
We hand-picked the following solar pool covers based on their popularity, price-points and differentiating features.
A more complete review of each can be found later in this article, or you can just click here to jump straight to that section.
Solar pool covers are a protection for your swimming pool that utilizes the light from the sun to warm the water. The most popular type contains thousands of bubbles on a large sheet of plastic, the curves serve to amplify the rays of the sun, like a magnifying glass, and warm your pool.
There are a couple of different types of solar covers, but the most common is essentially a giant sheet of heavy-duty bubble wrap that you place over your pool when it’s not in use.
Not only does it stop leaves and other junk blowing in, but solar pool covers also work like the lid on a pot of water, creating a physical barrier against water and chemical evaporation, and will typically stop up to 95 percent of water loss during the hot summer months.
Swimming pool covers come in a variety of forms, each with their own unique features, build quality and vastly different price-points to boot.
Before we get to the different types of solar covers you can find, let’s quickly take a step back and look at why solar pool covers are the best.
A solar pool cover is actually a type of pool cover, with the 3 major types being:
Fully automated pool covers are the Rolls Royce of this category. Designed to fit rectangular pools only, a set of parallel tracks needs to be installed on either side of your pool for this product to work. This allows you to open and close the cover at the push of a button.
Despite being highly durable and a safe option (many states allow automatic pool covers instead of a designated pool fence), it’s also the most expensive option. You will need professional installation, with many products well above the $10,000 mark.
Next comes the thermal pool covers. Designed from a high-quality, multi-layered foam, thermal pool covers are your best choice at trapping the warmth of your pool inside. It’s effectively a layer of waterproof insulation you’re covering the pool with.
Despite being highly durable, thermal pool covers typically need to be professionally installed, but they also pose a risk. You see, they don’t heat your pool. If you’re running a separate pool heater, a thermal pool cover will help trap the heat in, but that’s it.
And finally.. Solar pool covers are the most affordable option for pool owners, but their best feature is that they don’t merely protect your pool from evaporation and chemical loss, they also heat the water.
The sunlight that passes through warms your swimming pool, ensuring it’s the perfect temperature for a swim, no matter what.
But there’s actually a few different types of solar pool cover and it’s important to know the differences in how they work.
Once again, there are 3 types to consider:
When referring to a solar pool cover, the “bubble” cover is usually what they’re talking about. They’re also advertised as solar blankets.
If you’re looking for the most affordable way to heat your swimming pool, and one that requires very little skill to install and use, this is the product for you.
The air bubbles in the pool cover magnify the light from the sun during the day and act as an insulator once night falls. These covers are designed to withstand the hard sunlight all summer while remaining light and easy to handle.
Using a chemical reaction, liquid solar covers are an additive you can pour into your pool to create a barrier for evaporation and heat gain.
It creates a microscopic film on the surface of your pool, which acts as both an insulator, and will heat a normal swimming pool approximately 6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Of course, it’s completely safe for both swimmers and your pool equipment, but it cannot be used in chlorine-based pools (the chemicals won’t work). A rather large downside. It also breaks down over time so you will need to continue adding the liquid concentrate to replenish the protective cover.
A smaller alternative to the bigger solar blanket, sun rings are smaller rings you can use to protect and heat your pool, which looks a little like a series of lily pads.
In addition to coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes (these are highly decorative), they’re also functional, with many models using magnets in the rim to ensure the rings stick together without any overlap.
Because the entire surface of the pool isn’t covered, they are not quite as effective as the other options, but they are much easier to remove if you want to vacuum or skim your pool.
Ultimately, it’s the bubble pool covers which are best. From here on out I will refer to these as “solar pool covers” as it’s also the industry term for these.
Solar pool covers are just so easy to use. You don’t need to continually add chemicals or top up your pool as it evaporates. And installation is as simple as unboxing your new cover and spreading it out over your pool.
Plus, it keeps your water toasty and warm, without any heating costs. If you’re looking for the best value for money heating product, that will work on any pool type, you need a solar pool cover. No other choice even comes close.
Knowing which type to look for will narrow down your options, but it doesn’t help you measure the nuances that make or break a product.
Let’s go over some of the main criteria you should apply to your decision making process when looking for the perfect solar pool cover for your swimming pool.
For a solar pool cover to be completely effective, it has to cover your entire pool. If there are gaps, that’s where water and heat will escape.
Before buying a solar pool cover, measure your pool and invest in a cover that’s a little larger than you need. Leaving a few inches either side helps you to “tuck in” the cover or secure it in place so it won’t blow away as soon as the wind picks up.
You don’t want a round cover for a square pool, and vice versa. Most solar pool covers come in two shapes, circular and rectangular. This ensures they fit the majority of pools.
But if you’ve got a weirdly shaped pool, that’s also fine. Just find a cover that will reach across the widest and longest points of your pool, mark the lines, and use a pair of sharp scissors to trim it down to the right size and shape.
Obviously, the thicker your pool cover is, the better insulator it will be. Most solar covers come in a range from 8 to 12mm and more, but as you get thicker, it also bumps up the price. Plus, thicker covers are heavier and more cumbersome to move around.
Most people opt for the middle ground, choosing a lightweight cover around the 12mm mark. The last thing you want is a solar cover that’s so difficult to use you leave it boxed up in your garage all summer.
Once you get into colors, there are primarily two options. Clear plastic and tinted solar pool covers. If your swimming pool is heating up too much, a darker tint can help keep it cooler.
Clear options will let more light through (and conversely heat the water more), but they aren’t as pretty on your pool. Choose the look you prefer, while considering just how much warmth you need to add to your water.
So far we’ve covered what a solar pool cover is, why you need one, the different types available, and what features to look out for.
In this section, we’ll be looking at specific products, each of which
Let’s get right into it.
Designed by Intex, this solar pool cover is cut to fit pools that are 18ft by 9ft and has a medium-level of blue tint.
Incredibly lightweight at just on 5.4 pounds, it comes with its own carry bag, so you’re able to store it easily when not in use. If you’re looking for one of the easiest options to keep your pool warmer, this is it. It even stays put when the wind picks up.
The only downside is the sizing isn’t exact, the correct measurements are 17’8″ by 8’4″ so keep this in mind if you’re planning to use this on anything but the Intex above-ground pools.
- Comes with straps to fit the Intex pool and hold it in place
- Easy to install and use even if you’re doing it yourself
- One of the most affordable options for a solar pool cover
- Comes quite a bit thinner than you would expect
The Sun2Solar range offers a wide variety of different sizes so you can select the solar pool cover that best fits your sizing needs.
In addition to the two different thicknesses (they offer an 800 and 1200 series), you’ve also got blue tinted and transparent options so you can get your pool looking exactly the way you want it.
What’s great about the Sun2Solar solar pool covers is they are usually a couple of inches oversize, and you can trim them to a perfect fit without affecting the warranty.
- Generous sizing that gives you a little extra buffer in the sizes
- A wide variety of options to find the perfect size, color, and thickness
- Heavier models that won’t blow away on windy days
- Limited warranty only covers seam separation and delamination
Designed by Intex as the ideal cover for their round, above-ground pools, you also get a convenient carry bag to store this cover when not in use.
Buyers have a choice of different sizes to fit 10 to 18-foot pools, all constructed from a tough PVC material that allows the heat to pass through effectively.
What I like best are the drainage holes to prevent water accumulation on the cover (to stop it sinking and eliminating the effectiveness), but like their other solar covers, the actual size of the product is a little smaller than advertised.
- Easy to fit and use even if you’re doing it yourself
- Pre-cut and designed to fit perfectly on above-ground pools
- Only a one-year limited warranty
Designed by Splash Pools, this is another solar pool cover specifically designed to accommodate round swimming pools, without the drainage holes present like the Intex model.
With options from 12 to 30 foot, these covers are made from a highly durable polymer plastic to ensure they stand up to the rigors of extended use.
What I like best about this cover is the performance, as it’s been shown to generate a 15-degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature.
The only downside is you need to take care when unboxing, as it comes taped up and you can damage the cover if you rip it off with too much force.
- No drainage holes to prevent dirt and debris being funneled into the pool
- One of the best performing solar pool covers
- Requires care to open to avoid damaging the product
Designed by In The Swim, this is an 8mm thick solar pool cover that comes standard with reinforced flat seams (to avoid damaging the bubbles when clamped onto your pool).
With only a single choice of color and size, it’s a good option if you’re looking for a solar cover that needs to be trimmed to fit a kidney, oval or irregularly sized pool.
What I like best is the sturdy feel, at 28 pounds it’s one of the heaviest solar covers on the market, and is a little more durable than some of the other options.
The only downside is you’ve not got a whole lot of choice for sizes to fit smaller round pools so you will need to cut it accordingly.
- Strong and durable construction to stand up to the elements
- No option for a clear color (to allow more heat through from the sun)
Designed by In The Swim, this is one of the thickest solar pool covers available, constructed from a UV-stabilized resin. You’ve got sizes from a small 12 x 20ft rectangle to larger 30 x 60ft rectangles so you can buy the perfect size for your swimming pool.
What I like best is the warranty, though it should be noted this is full up to only 2 years, and will not cover normal wear and tear. So, take care of it.
Because of the quality, this pool cover can be a little heavy if you’re trying to lay it out on a larger pool by yourself so you may need to enlist the help of your partner or one of your kids to spread it out effectively.
- The advertised sizes are exact, perfect if you’re planning to cut these down
- Thick and heavy so it will stay put on windy days
- No option for a clear color (to allow more heat through from the sun)
- You may struggle to lay this solar pool cover out by yourself
Overall, I’d have to say the best solar pool cover on the market is the Sun2Solar range. Not only do the different size choices give you the ability to use this cover on virtually any pool, but it’s also strong and durable to stand up to the harsh sun beating down on it all day. Plus, you can choose the pretty blue for better aesthetics, or go with the clear to better heat your pool. You won’t find a better option.
In close second is the In The Swim rectangular range. With the best performance in a category of products that typically only last a couple of seasons, the only drawbacks were the weight because I’ve not always got a second set of hands to help me lay this out. Oh, and the color choice, personally I prefer clear as I’m a sucker for a toasty warm pool.
Buying a solar pool cover is one of the most cost-effective decisions you’ll make for your swimming pool, keeping it warm while making it easy to maintain.
It’s time to see for yourself just how well these covers work. Buy yours today.