The Best Solar Pool Heater for Your Above or In-Ground Pool – Reviews and Ratings of Solar Powered Pool Heating Systems

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As summertime approaches, we start thinking about our pools. Getting the chemicals in, making them clean and safe to use once again.

But as you check the equipment, you might discover some things have hit that point of disrepair and you’ve got to replace them. Or you just plain need a new heater that will save you some money and effort.

That’s where the best solar pool heater will come in handy.

But even if you know quite a bit about solar-powered items, pool solar panels might still be a mystery. I know they were for me before I started researching the topic.

If you’re either new to solar pool heating or just need to replace yours, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m going to break down what all of this means – including how they work and how to choose the right ones – and then provide you with a roundup of the best solar pool heating options around.

Quick-Find Best Solar Pool Heater List

Image Product
  • Perfect for above ground pools
  • Heats efficiently
  • Raises temperature up to 10 degrees
  • Perfect for above ground pools
  • Heats efficiently
  • Raises temperature up to 10 degrees
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  • High quality setup
  • Easy roof installation
  • Great durability
  • High quality setup
  • Easy roof installation
  • Great durability
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  • Very fast installation
  • Compatible with almost all pool systems
  • Works for above and in ground pools
  • Very fast installation
  • Compatible with almost all pool systems
  • Works for above and in ground pools
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  • Versatile
  • High quality materials
  • Durable and lightweight
  • Versatile
  • High quality materials
  • Durable and lightweight
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  • Traps heat in the pool
  • Low maintenance, low cost option
  • Best for warm climates
  • Traps heat in the pool
  • Low maintenance, low cost option
  • Best for warm climates
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  • Takes up very little space
  • Great for smaller pools
  • Increase temperature by 10 degrees
  • Takes up very little space
  • Great for smaller pools
  • Increase temperature by 10 degrees
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How Does Solar Power Work?

In general terms,  solar power systems work through the use of stored energy that’s collected from sunlight. Solar panels are made up of a series of photovoltaic cells that grab that sunlight and convert it into usable energy. This energy is then sent through whatever system the solar panels are hooked up to and is used to power appliances and electronics.

Residential inground swimming pool in backyard with waterfall and hot tub best solar pool heater

What Do Solar Pool Heating Systems Involve?

Not every system is the same, but most will include the following components.

  • Solar collector – the device/system through which the pool water is circulated for heating by sunlight
  • Filter – removes any debris from the water before sending it through the collector
  • Water pump – the part of the system that circulates the water through the collector and filter and then back into the pool
  • Flow control valve – either a manual or automatic device that diverts the pool water into the solar collector

How Does a Solar Pool Heater Work?

Now that you know what makes up a solar pool heating system, you can better understand the process of how they work. There are three basic steps to the process.

Circulation

First, the pool water is pumped through the filter that removes the debris and junk from the water. Then it is sent into the solar collector(s).

Heating

In the solar collector(s), the pool water is heated up.

Return

After the water is heated, it is sent back into the pool.

Some systems have sensors and an automatic or manual valve that diverts the water through the solar collector(s) when the collector’s temperature is warmer than the pool temperature. This keeps the heat going, without overusing the system.

Types of Solar Collectors

There are two basic types of solar collectors – glazed and unglazed.

Unglazed collectors are for climates above freezing, while glazed collectors work in cooler climates. The glazed controllers are more expensive to manufacture and therefore will cost you more to install.

If you’re using a glazed collector, your system will generally be made of copper tubing with an aluminum plate. There will also be an iron-tempered glass covering. (These components, by the way, are what raises the costs of the glazed versus unglazed solar collectors.)

Unglazed collectors are made of much less expensive materials, such a plastic.

How Well Do These Things Work?

When you have the right system in place for your climate and pool type, you can use solar-powered heaters to raise the temperature of your pool water between 15 and 30-degrees Fahrenheit.

For most pools in the summer, this is sufficient for making the water swimmable.

Happy children in the swimming pool. Funny kids playing outdoors. Summer vacation concept best solar pool heater

How We Chose our Top Rated Pool Heaters

To decide which pool solar panels to recommend, we dug through dozens of online reviews from both professional pool people, pro reviewers, and real-life consumers who have put each solar pool heater to the test.

We came up with a list of about 30 different options to sort through. The solar panels for swimming pools reviews offered little insight into anything because basic dimensions and benefits, so we had to look through real-life reviews to understand which ones work the best.

We knocked out any that had low reviews, consistent problems complained of, and any that just didn’t fit the bill otherwise. This left us with the options below.

Reviews of the Best Solar Pool Heaters

We found several options that we can recommend as the best solar pool heater systems for most mild to hot climates.

#1. Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System for Above-Ground Pools (EDITOR’S CHOICE)

Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System for Above-Ground Pools review

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Fafco Solar Bear economy heating system is designed for above ground pools, and is designed to lay out on the ground near the pool, on a rack, or on the roof – additional tubing required. These have been around since the 1970s, so you know they’ve been tested and proven.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 4 x 20 feet
  • Temperature raised: 10 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Time to heat pool: 6 hours daily
  • Included: 1 solar collector, 2 6-foot hoses, 4 clamps, integral bypass valve, hardware
  • Weight: 40 pounds

The solar collector – which looks like a long, rubbery black mat – is 4 feet wide and 20 feet long. This provides you with 80 square feet. Generally speaking, this means you can heat approximately 80 square feet of pool with this without an additional kit.

The Fafco Solar Bear is designed for ideal placement with a tilt of 10 to 30 degrees to the South, with unobstructed sunlight between 10am and 4pm – i.e. for 6 hours a day. The system comes with extra-large 2-inch headers to speed up pool water circulation and excellent solar heat transfer.

The system needs no couplings or connectors and is made of incredibly durable polyethylene that lasts for years.

The system comes with everything you need to get set up for your above ground pool, including two 6-feet hoses and an integral bypass valve and four clamps to connect the system to your existing pool filtration system.

This system from Fafco comes with a 10-year warranty.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

#2. Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System for In-Ground Pool – Best In-Ground Pool Heater

Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System for In Ground Pool review

Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

Offering 80 square feet of solar panels, the Smartpool S601P SunHeater is a fantastic option for average-sized and larger pools. They’re specifically great for rooftop solar pool heater setups.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 4 x 20 feet
  • Temperature raised: 6 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Time to heat pool: 3 days
  • Included: 1 solar collector
  • Weight: 19.4 pounds

This polypropylene heat collector has a direct flow system with one header hole for each heating tube.

It offers 80-square feet of panel – which provides heat for about 80-square feet of pool and is best affixed to the rooftop. Like the photo above, you can add more for larger pools.

It comes highly rated by multiple reviewers and real-life users and has earned the number one ranking for a variety of folks as the best overall solar powered pool heating system.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

#3. Sunquest Solar Pool Heater with Coupler and Mounting Kit – Best Solar Pool Heater Kit

SunQuest Solar Pool Heater review

Overall Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars

The SunQuest Solar Pool Heater is a fast and easy system to install – should take only 30 minutes to DIY. So, for the folks who’ve planning to do it on their own, this is one of the best do-it-yourself options available.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 2 x 20 feet (x2)
  • Temperature raised: 10 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Time to heat pool: 3 days
  • Included: connectors and mounting kit for roof
  • Weight: 43 pounds

The SunQuest covers 80 square feet of pool surface with its two panels that easily and quickly mount on the roof.

The system is compatible with just about any existing pool pump and filtration system and uses a max-flow 2-inch OD header for better water circulation and less back pressure for your pump.

The kit comes complete with the standard connectors you need, and the mounting rack required for placement on the roof.

And bonus: this system works for either in-ground or above-ground pools.

The rack is versatile enough that you can position the panels alongside the pool for easy setup and break down at either end of the season – also perfect for folks who live in hurricane territory – or goes up on the roof without hassle.

SunQuest is a well-known company that provides high-quality products made with superior technology and highly-rated materials.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

#4. Xtremepower Us In-Ground/Above Ground Pool Solar Panel Heating System – Best Rooftop Solar Pool Heater

XtremepowerUS Inground Above Ground Swimming Pool Solar Panel Heating System review

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Another great option for either your in-ground or above-ground pools is the XtremepowerUS solar panel heating system. It’s a lower-cost kit, but gets the job done, providing approximately 80-square-feet of solar power heat for your pool.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 28-inches by 20 feet
  • Temperature raised: 10 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Time to heat pool: 3 days
  • Included: 1 solar collector
  • Weight: 15 pounds

The XtremepowerUS panels are built out of high-grade materials to last through all types of weather, meaning there’s very little need for repair and maintenance over the years.

Simply remove them each season when the pool closes down for the year, and store away for the next year.

The system is designed for use with either above ground pools or in-ground pools, in just about any mild to hot climate. They’re durable, lightweight, and easy to install.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

#5. Sun2Solar Blue Solar Cover: Best Floating Solar Heater

Sun2Solar Blue Square Solar Cover review

Overall Rating: 3.6 out of 5 stars

The Sun2Solar Blue solar cover is a type of solar heating blanket for your pool. It’s 33 feet by 33 feet square, and floats on the surface, drawing in sun. It pretty much looks like a giant blanket of bubble wrap – in blue or clear – floating on your in-ground pool.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 33 x 33 feet
  • Temperature raised: 6 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Time to heat pool: a week
  • Included: solar pool cover
  • Weight: unknown

You place the solar blanket from Sun2Solar on your pool as if it were a standard floating pool cover, reaching wall to wall, bubbles down. The cover warms the water through a few different means.

  1. Trapping heat as any cover does
  2. Drawing in solar heat through the technology
  3. Retaining heat by preventing evaporation and keeping water covered overnight

It certainly isn’t the standard pool heater, even for a solar heater, but it’s highly rated by real-life consumers for a reason: it works.

Note: This cover is primarily recommended for moderately warm to hot climates, not cold weather climates with low sunlight.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

#6. Kokido Keops Solar Dome – Best Small Space Solar Pool Heater

Kokido Keops Solar Dome Above Ground Swimming Pool Water Heater review

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

If you have limited space around the pool or don’t want to mess with a rooftop installation, you’ll want to consider the Kokido Keops Solar Dome. This unique solar-powered pool heater uses the technology of standard solar power in a compact format.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 23.6 x 11.4 x 23.6 inches
  • Temperature raised: 10 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Time to heat pool: 3 days
  • Included: protective cover for storage, 4-foot hoses, fittings, stainless steel clamps
  • Weight: 14.9 pounds

This lightweight, energy efficient solar powered option is great for saving space in your backyard while still providing that extra 10-degrees Fahrenheit that other systems offer. It’s compatible with most above-ground pool filtration and pump systems.

If you have a larger pool, you can pair a couple of these together to heat a large square footage.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

The Benefits of Solar Power for Pools

Solar-powered appliances have a number of benefits over standard energy using objects. A few of the main ones include the below concepts.

Eco-Friendly

As you probably know, anything that’s strictly solar-powered – i.e. not using electricity from a powerplant in any form – is an eco-friendly solution.

Solar power draws energy from the sunlight and converts that into usable energy. Sunlight is abundant and nearly unending, so we don’t have to worry about using too much of it.

Money Saving

After the initial cost of the parts of your pool heater, you’ll save on the on-going costs of heating your pool. Since the sun is your fuel source, instead of gas, electricity, or some other non-renewable resource, you don’t pay again, except for maintenance costs for your system.

And when you consider the costs of gas heating, that’s a pretty significant savings each year.

The Cost of Installation for a Solar Water Heater for Pool

Before you consider the price of installation itself, you’ll have to compare the prices of the various systems that could work for your pool. The price range goes from the low-end simple system at $80 to upward of $3000 or more for a really high-quality, high-powered system.

As for the other side of costs, if you’re wondering how much does a solar pool heater cost to install, you’ll need to consider two different types of installation for your answer. You can either install the heater yourself – if it’s a smaller system – or you may need to hire someone.

DIY Installation

Installing your solar pool heating won’t cost you anything apart from the components of the system and the time it will require for you to do it.

If it’s a smaller system, that shouldn’t be too long, but you’ll want to review the components of the system first to have a better understanding on what it will entail.

Paying Someone Else

If you have a more significant heating system that needs to go in, you’re more likely to need to hire someone else to do the installation. Make sure you look for a contractor who understands both pools and solar power, or you may not have the most cost-effective results.

Some systems are fairly inexpensive, running you anywhere from a $100 to several hundred dollars. Some systems, however, will cost up to $4000 to buy and install. Depending on your particular situation, the contractor you use, and the type of system you purchase, you may find that the installation fee is fairly significant.

Before investing in a system, make sure you’ll either be able to install it yourself or get several estimates from local contractors so that you know your true cost.

How Long Do Solar Pool Heaters Take to Heat Up the Pool?

In short, it will take a few days to get your pool up to a comfortable swimmable temperature via solar heating.

A standard 100-square-foot pool will take approximately three days to reach a temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit. This is considered the high end of the ideal temperature for swimming pools for professional standards.

Of course, this will vary somewhat depending on a few factors. For starters, using a pool cover will speed up this process. If you use a cover each day that the heat is on, you’ll retain more of the heat in the water than if you leave it open-air.

The climate in which you live will also affect exactly how long the heating process will take. The cooler the air temperature, the longer the pool will take to heat up. This is due to the fact that solar power is variable on temperature and sunlight levels.

The type of heater you use will also determine the amount of time it will take to heat the pool, as some are more efficient than others.

Finally, the insulation – or lack thereof – on your pool will affect this length of time in which the pool water rises to a comfortable 77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Much Sunlight Do You Need?

And, speaking of that solar power, you’re likely wondering how much sunlight is required to heat a pool via active or passive solar pool heater. The answer, again, varies.

The primary variables on this answer are the wattage of the solar panels you’re using to heat your pool combined with the heat of the air temperature/direct sunlight that’s naturally warming the water, and the size of your pool.

Some experts recommend 1-square foot of solar panel per 1-square foot of pool.

What Happens When it’s Not Sunny Out?

Thankfully, solar power isn’t reliant upon only bright, direct sunlight.

Daylight – those lovely Ultraviolet rays – are one of the sources of power for solar energy, along with other forms of light waves sent down to the planet through the layers of clouds.

So that means, even on cloudy days, you will have solar energy penetrating those panels and creating energy.

Think about the day at the beach when you forget sunblock because, well, there are clouds everywhere.

You get “more” sunburnt on those days than sunny ones.

The reason?

You got burnt because you forgot the sunblock. The sun is still shining up there, producing those UV rays and heat.

When a Solar Heating System Makes Sense

Solar heating for your pool is going to make the most sense for situations where there are long sunny days in summer, not a lot of shade blocking the solar panels from getting hit with that glorious sunlight, and in climates where you need the pool water to only heat up between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

When a Solar Heating System Doesn’t Make Sense

More significant heating needs – such as cold climate areas like Alaska and Norway – aren’t going to benefit from solar-powered pool heaters as much or as easily as a sunny Florida or Arizona.

If you need to raise your pool temperature significantly – especially if you’re wanting wintertime heat – you probably want to go with a different form of power for your heating system.

What to Look for in a Good Solar Powered Pool Heater

There are several factors that will help you understand which solar pool heating system you should purchase and install.

Pool Size

One significant factor in your decision is the size and shape of your pool. Some solar-powered pool heaters will work well for high volumes of water, while others are better for small pools with limited water flow. Make sure the heater is rated for the volume of your pool.

Pool Type

There are several types of pools and therefore several types of pool heaters. Keep in mind that you should be looking to match your needs based on the type of pool you have. For example, you need the best solar heater for above ground pool or solar pool heaters for inground pools, depending.

Many heaters crossover and work for either, though, so verify the type of heater before purchasing.

Power

Different pool solar panels will offer different power. Each system or panel should indicate the power they provide, along with the size pool they will work for.

Price

A huge factor in determining which system is best for you is going to be the budget. Do some research and look at various options so that you understand what your budget is, and then select those squarely within that range. Remember to include any installation costs or other extras in mind as you plan.

Ease of Install

As noted elsewhere, you’ll either be able to install the solar heating system yourself or you’ll have to hire someone to do it for you. Carefully consider the options as you decide on one system over another. If you’re good with your hands or having someone else install the system is cost-prohibitive, be sure that the reviews for the system you choose reveal that people can easily do-it themselves.

Solar Resource

This refers to the amount of solar energy your pool site receives. Solar pool heating systems use both diffuse solar radiation and direct solar heating to crank those temperatures up. That means the more sunlight – the hot, burning sunlight versus more overcast daylight – the more heat.

You may need to have your contractor consult a solar site analysis for you to estimate this need.

Desired Pool Temperature

Some solar-powered heaters are significantly stronger than others. Some are designed for use in places like Florida – where the season is long, but the sun is hot – and others are more powerful and good for cooler climates.

Your desired pool temperature factors into these differences because those who just need a little boost in warmth to hit that 82 degrees don’t need hardier systems that produce more heat, while Minnesota pool owners will need more solar power to get that water up to just 77 degrees.

Use of Pool Covers

If you’re planning to use a pool cover to help retain the heat in your pool, you have more options than if you plan to keep things open-air during the swimming season. Keep this in mind as you consider things like how hot and how quickly the various heaters will get the pool water.

Solar Water Panels Heating Solar water heating systems use solar panels best solar pool heater web

Finding the Best Solar Powered Pool Heater

Generally speaking, the options I’ve listed are solar-powered choices that you can easily install yourself.

Some are for rooftop installation, some pack away easily in off-season months, and others work for year-round use in warm climates.

Be sure to read the reviews thoroughly and look at the additional parts needed before purchase to make sure you’re getting what you truly need.

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