Jumping headfirst into an icy cold pool is an exciting experience. But not one you want to repeat every time you’re keen for a dip.
Solar pool heaters harness the warmth of the sun to raise the temperature of your swimming pool naturally, so it’s perfect for a swim at any time of the day.
Read on, and I’ll run you through the best solar pool heaters on the market. Perfect if you want to extend your swimming season (and get more use out of your pool).
We hand-picked the following solar pool heaters 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.
Now solar pool heaters work a little differently to the solar products you’re probably used to.
Instead of pumping out electricity (sorry to say, those dreams of a solar-powered pool-side mini-fridge need to be put aside), solar heaters tap into the thermal energy of the sun.
Have you ever sprayed yourself with the warm water coiled in your garden hose? That’s the thermal process in action. Solar pool heaters work similarly, using the sun to heat the water, which is then transferred back into your pool.
If you’re looking for the most cost-effective way to heat a swimming pool, so you can swim more than a couple of months a year (without a massive electric or gas bill), you need a solar pool heater.
It doesn’t matter if you want to play host to an epic all-night pool party, or just crave a warm welcome as you force yourself out of bed for that early morning swim.
We humans are ingenious in the pool heaters we’ve developed. You’ve got a few different heating options to keep your pool at the perfect temperature…
Back in the day, every pool heater was fueled by gas, but as the price of propane and natural gas went up, demand for these bad boys went right back down.
Gas pool heaters pull water from your pool, running it through a series of copper coils. The gas is burnt which heats the water, and once it’s hot, the water gets pumped right back into your pool. The temperature will go up fast.
But there’s a price. Despite being cheap to install, it becomes costly to keep it running continuously. Gas pool heaters are really only an option if you are planning to heat your pool occasionally throughout the year.
Electric pool heaters are connected into the power of your home and provide one of the quickest ways to heat your swimming pool.
The system works using heated air. After the pump pulls the water from the pool, the heater uses an ongoing flow of hot air to warm the water, before sending it right back into your pool.
Again, keeping an electric pool heater running will create big spikes in your electric bill, and is really only a viable option if you’re planning to use it every now and then, or are heating a much smaller pool or indoor spa.
Finally, we hit my favorite option. Solar pool heaters. Despite working a little slower than gas or electric choices, you’re tapping into a free (and virtually inexhaustible) resource, the sun.
As the water is pumped from your pool, it threads through a series of tubes. The warmth of the sun’s rays heats the water naturally before it’s returned to your pool.
Of course, just how well a solar pool heater will depend on quite a few variables, like the size of your pool, the size of your heating unit, and probably most importantly, just how bright the sun is shining. But you’re not going to find a more eco-friendly option.
Of the three different choices for heating your pool, solar pool heaters are your best bet.
As an environmentally conscious solution it appeals to me, but even more appealing is the impact on my wallet. With solar pool heaters, you will not have skyrocketing costs on your gas and electric bills each month.
But not only that, solar pool heaters are quiet, ensuring you can enjoy a peaceful and relaxing swim, and they’re typically the type of pool heating system that requires the least maintenance.
If you’re looking for a way to keep your pool warm, that you can set and forget, solar is by far the best choice for you.
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 questions you should ask yourself when looking for the perfect solar pool heater for your swimming pool.
Solar pool heaters will work on any kind of swimming pool (yes both in-ground and above-ground setups), but the type of pool you have will impact their effectiveness.
Small, stand-alone solar heaters will work great on a smaller, above-ground swimming pool.
If you’re looking for a solar system for a bigger, in-ground swimming pool, you’re probably going to need a larger setup. Typically these get mounted on your roof, so you’re getting the maximum exposure to sunlight, without sacrificing space in your yard.
Much like pouring a hot glass of water into a cold bath and barely noticing a temperature change, solar pool heaters work on the same principle.
The size of your swimming pool plays a role in how well a solar heater will work.
- Small swimming pools are just fine with a small solar heater.
- Bigger swimming pools will need a bigger solar heater to warm it up.
The good news for using solar as a heating option, you can set up a series of solar pool heaters, connecting multiple devices to give you all the heat you could ever need.
Just how much heat a solar pool heater can generate is directly related to the size of the unit. Some of the more extensive options will boost water temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit in a single day, smaller models may take several days to achieve the same result.
What I want to make clear though, is that it’s not an instant process. Solar pool heaters require time to work (as well as sunlight). If you’re looking for a switch you can flick to instantly change the water temperature, a gas or electric heater may be a better option.
Where a solar heater really excels is consistent use. If you’ve got a family and want to enjoy perfect water temperatures every afternoon after school, install a solar heater. It’ll be working, day-in, day-out to keep your swimming pool ideal for day-to-day use.
When calculating the space you need for a solar pool heater, I’d like to share a rough rule of thumb. First, think about how big your swimming pool is.
You’re going to need a solar heater that’s about half the size of your pool.
Of course, a smaller above-ground pool will need much less than this, but for an in-ground pool, this ratio works. It’s also why so many people install solar pool heaters on their roof.
Big pools will need quite a bit of space for the solar heating system to work effectively, so make sure you consider where you’re planning to install it.
Solar pool systems range from very easy to install, to somewhat tricky.
Some models just need to be connected into your filter pump and stand freely next to your pool. You can have one of these installed in minutes.
Others require a more advanced approach, as you build frames to support all of the heating pipes, and affix the entire structure to your roof. While many pool owners are comfortable to do-it-yourself with the installation, some opt to have a pool technician install it.
Solar pool heaters are one of the best investments you can make in your swimming pool and will pay for themselves in just one season.
Remember, most swimming pools have a finite life (up to a maximum of about 15 years). Warming your pool will help you gain a few extra months of swimming each year, without sending your monthly gas or electric bills through the roof.
Opting to buy a solar pool heater is a smart move. After you dip your feet into your lovely and warm swimming pool, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
So far we’ve covered what a solar pool heater 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 jump straight in.
The Solar Heater Mat by Intex is one of the most user-friendly options if you want to test just how well solar technology can heat your pool.
Depending on the level of sun, and the size of your swimming pool, this model will raise your water temperatures anywhere from 5 to 9 degrees fahrenheit. And with a solar mat that’s only 47” x 47” it’s a cost-effective heating system that won’t waste a great deal of space.
Now, this is a smaller solar pool heater that’s recommended for pools up to 8,000 gallons, but what I love best about this product is you can pack it away once you’re done.
The only downside is the heat mat. Because it’s being folded it can distort and kink during use, and some people have found this may cause the mat to leak.
- Non-permanent solution you can pack away after use
- Very effective raising the temperature in smaller pools
- Fast installation and easy to set up
- May require a separate pump to avoid overloading the system
Designed by GAME, the contour solar pool heater is essentially a miniature greenhouse “dome” you can use to heat your swimming pool.
It’s also incredibly compact, taking up 28″ x 28″ which means you won’t have to sacrifice a large portion of your yard to long heating tubes.
Proven to heat swimming pools up to 10,000 gallons by 5 degrees Fahrenheit in just 7 days, this system has all the adaptors included to fit Intex and Best Way swimming pools.
The only downside is the included hoses, which are too short to position this anywhere but right next to your filter (or you could just buy your own extensions).
- Metal connectors are strong and durable for long-term use
- Streamlined design means you won’t sacrifice aesthetics in your yard
- Large tubes provide a steady flow of water through the device
- Legs of the heater are fragile and prone to breaking
If you’re looking for a solar pool heater for a larger swimming pool, you need to consider options like this model from XtremepowerUS.
Inside you’ll find two pieces each containing a 20-foot roll of black PVC piping, offering you 40 square feet of heating panels. Because of the size, this system is best installed on your roof so it can take full advantage of the sun.
Just be careful if you’re running a large pool with a pump over 1.5 HP, you’ll need to buy a diverter kit to avoid damaging the system.
- One of the most affordable solar pool heaters on the market for its size
- Metal connectors are strong and durable for long-term use
- Relatively quick to set up and start heating fast
- May need a diverter kit if you’re using a pump over 1.5 HP
If you’re looking for a large solar heating system that will keep your water temperature up, no matter what, the Smartpool S601P is the obvious choice.
Designed from heavy-duty polypropylene to ensure maximum durability, the 80 square feet of heating space is perfect for heating any swimming pool. Customers have seen temperature spikes of 6 to 10 degrees fahrenheit in a single day.
The downside is the lack of an installation kit (they will ask you to buy it extra), but personally, I see this as a positive. Instead of a standard kit with pieces you won’t ever use, you can source the connectors and hoses you need to fit your installation perfectly.
- Massive surface area to heat your pool fast
- Highly durable to withstand years on your roof
- Lack of instructions can make it challenging to install by yourself
Using a design optimized to capture the heat from the sun at any hour of the day, the GAME 4721 SolarPro Curve is an aesthetically pleasing option for a solar heater.
Constructed from a blow-molded plastic frame, the transparent cover helps lock in heat by deflecting even the strongest of wind from cooling the heating pipes.
In addition to being easy to install, the heater will boost water temperature by 5 degrees fahrenheit on pools up to 8,000 gallons in just 5 days.
The downside for this heater is the hoses. If you’re wanting to place this anywhere but right next to your pool’s filter, the included hoses are far too short.
- Comes with everything you need to connect it to your pool
- Ability to run a series of multiple units to generate more heat
- Fast installation and easy to set up
- Needs to be positioned very close to the filter pump
The solar heating collector from Doheny’s is ideal for medium-sized swimming pools, allowing you to keep the water at the perfect temperature for swimming.
Taking up 50 square feet of space (in two 2.5’ x 10’ panels), the brand has demonstrated results in heating pools 10 to 15 degrees fahrenheit with their system.
What I like most is the 5-year warranty offered, as it shows Doheny’s really stand behind the products they’re selling.
The only downside is the installation, as you will need to do-it-yourself for the most part, and also construct your own frame (if you’re planning to set it on the ground and not the roof).
- Option of mounting to your roof or a ground-mounted board
- Readily connects into your existing pool pump and filter
- Not a complete plug-and-play solution (you need to build your own frame)
It’s no good owning a swimming pool if it’s too cold to enjoy, and if you’re wanting a solar heater that simply works, get the Smartpool S601P solar heating system.
Of all the options in the list, it’s the most durable, will last far longer than any other solar heating setup you’re likely to find and will ensure your swimming pool is always perfect for a dip, no matter what the weather is doing outside. It’s a smart choice.
But I get that you may not have space (or the inclination) to opt for a big solution.
Heck, it may even be overkill for your pool. If that’s the case, don’t fret. Instead of going all out, get your hands on the GAME 4721 SolarPro Curve.
Not only is this solar heater ridiculously easy to setup and install because it connects right into your pump system, it’s highly portable so you can pack it away once the weather turns.
Buying a solar heater for your swimming pool is an investment in happiness. Because what good is a pool if it’s too damn cold to use?
Do yourself a favor, and buy a solar pool heater today.