The heating systems for swimming pools employing the use of solar energy are an innovative technology where heat transfer is used as the principle of operation.

To accomplish this, designers use a set of collectors (also called panels) made of a very resistant and dark-colored material to capture heat more efficiently from the sun. 

For its operation, the pool pump pushes water through the solar collectors, to be heated by the sun. This allows the temperature of the water to rise as it flows through it and when coming out of the collectors, the water passes through a set of pipes that eventually returns it back to the pool.

Therefore, this system not only provides comfort, but also saves money by avoiding electricity consumption at expensive utility rates. Besides, it also allows you to extend the swimming season so that you can fully enjoy your pool.

Basically, a solar heating system is an ecological and cost-effective way to enjoy your pool. Thus, due to its attractive benefits it is necessary to know more about this technology. Let’s take a look at the top 10 best solar heaters as they are presented below.

10 Best-selling Solar Pool Heaters

1. Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System

Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System

The Smartpool S601P solar heating system for in-ground pools is made with a polypropylene collector which is a thermoplastic polymer that is used due to its high resistance to chemical solvents, frequent exposure to sunlight and other effects of the environment. This material is generally used for pools maintenance.

Another interesting property of this material consists in its high degree of radiation heat absorption of the solar rays. Combined together with the mechanical energy of the existing water pump, it is able to increase the water temperature in a range between 6 to 10 ° F.

Each sets of S601P panels has 4 feet wide by 20 feet long. Therefore, a minimum area of 80 square feet is required for installation. The solar pool heater can be installed at ground, ceiling or fence level.

The amount of S601P units recommended to heat your pool’s water will depend on the size of the pool, as well as other factors. The product manufacturer’s guide recommends the following for three standard pool sizes: 

  • Pool size 15×30’: Use 2 sets 
  • Pool size 16×36’: Use 3 sets 
  • Pool size 20×40’: Use 4 sets

In every case, it is recommended to use an additional SK21 in-ground installation kit. Moreover, an extra kit consisting of a set of plumbing fixtures is required for the installation of this system to install up to 4 boxes of the S601P modules. While its installation can be a bit complicated compared to other systems on the market, it has a good design and durable construction. 

In general, it can be said that it has a direct flow design, that consist in using a traditional solar collector panel system to provide constant heat, which is why it is considered one of the best solar pool heaters.

2. XtremepowerUS Inground/Above Ground Swimming Pool Solar Panel

XtremepowerUS Inground/Above Ground Swimming Pool Solar Panel Heating System

The XtremepowerUS system is designed to be used on both above-ground or in-ground pools. Moreover, each kit is made of 2×20 feet panels constructed with long narrow tubes that create a larger surface area that optimizes heat transfer from the sun to your pool. 

It can be installed on the roof of your house, shed or cabin, mounted to a rack or simply placed on the ground. 

The panels are built of lightweight, flexible, durable black polypropylene that is proven to withstand all types of weathers. Once installed, these panels are cost-effective, produce no greenhouse gases, and need low to none maintenance.

The product works with most pool pumps (diverter kit may be required for pumps 1.5hp and greater that is sold separately), and has a quickly connected design for easy assembly that can be installed by yourself or have it done by a professional installer. Depending on pool size and location, the water temperature can be raised between 10 and 15 °F.

3. SUNHEATER 2' X 10' Solar Heating Universal System

SUNHEATER 2' X 10' Solar Heating Universal System

The solar heating system model S120U of SunHeater is a product manufactured in the United States, it is considered universal because it adapts to any standard pool installation. Intended for both above-ground and in-ground swimming pools, with the ability to raise the water temperature up to additional 10 °F.

Its operation consists of heating the water as it moves through the tubes in the solar collectors, for this, the tubes are designed as a mesh that traps sun heat. Therefore, the S120U universal heating system has a panel or collector whose size is 2X20 feet, requiring a minimum installation area of 40 square feet.

This product has other important features such as: lightweight (weighs only 17.5 pounds which facilitates its installation), resistance to external agents (made of polypropylene), and resistance to oxidation, corrosion or peeling. It also has a one year warranty.

4. Goplus Solar Dome Swimming Pool Heater Above Ground

Goplus Solar Dome Swimming Pool Heater Above Ground

The Goplus Solar Dome heats your pool in an environmentally friendly way, since no electricity or gas connections are needed.

Solar energy is magnified through the clear lens of the heater and captured by black coiled hoses (which absorb more solar heat than other colors) that carry pool water. Additionally, the pool heater is designed with polypropylene materials that allow GoPlus Solar Dome to work efficiently. 

The solar pool water heated by the dome is circulated back to your pool by your pump and filter system saving space and aesthetically pleasing when compared to typical solar panels. In such a way it can increase water temperature up to 5°F on a sunny day with proper configuration (number of domes needed according to the size of the pool).

This dome measures just over 22 inches across and weighs only 11 pounds, whereby, to protect the dome when not in use, a protective cover is included. The connection is made by 1 1/4 inches hoses on each end, making it easy to hook more than one dome up together, but to use more than three, it recommends using a T-bypass system to reduce pressure.

5. SunQuest Solar Pool Heater with Diverter And Roof/Rack Mounting Kit

2-2'X20' SunQuest Solar Pool Heater with Diverter And Roof/Rack Mounting Kit

SunQuest solar panels are designed for both in-ground and above-ground swimming pools and are compatible with already existing pool pumps, and there is no need to purchase a separate one for this heater. 

Also is max-flow designed with 2″ OD headers for better water circulation and less back pressure on your pump (come standard with connectors to attach to 1-1/2″ & 1-1/4″ flexible hose),  each kit is made of  2 x 20 feet panels and weight 44 pounds.

This system is an easy do-it-yourself installation (includes an instruction manual), it can be installed in just 30 minutes. These panels are professional grade quality made with high-quality materials and superior technology, which makes this heater durable and reliable.

The heater is a onetime purchase that will keep your pool nice and warm throughout the season, it can raise your pool temperature up to 10 degrees in less than an hour and it is also environment-friendly and saves on pool heating costs.

Most users were quite satisfied with the performance of this solar heating unit and have praised its easy installation process. While it’s a premium product and takes a lot of space, it provides incredible value for money.

6. GAME 4721-BB SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater

GAME 4721-BB SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater, Made for Intex & Bestway Above-Ground and Inground Pools, Includes Intex Adapters, 2 Hoses & Clamps

The solar heater for swimming pools (above-ground and in-ground) model 4721-BB manufactured by GAME (Great American Merchandise and Events), has a curved design to maximize the capture of heat from the sun even as it changes position.

The curve is made of a very strong molded plastic frame with a transparent cover that blocks the heat and deflects the winds that cause the blockage. Also, it has adjustable and folding legs that allow it to be placed in the most ideal position for maximum sun exposure.

This heater is made with high-quality materials that resist frequent sun exposure. However, it is not intended to extend the heating season of your pool, as the water temperature gradually increases.

Specifically, the solar collectors allow to increase the temperature of the pool by 5°F for 4 days, this for a 8,000-gallon pool. However, by connecting several units more heat can be obtained. If the pool has a pump larger than 1.5 HP, then a bypass kit is needed.

In general, this solar collector differs from others due to its unique design, as it has a series of physical characteristics that allow portability, avoid heat loss by convection and allow the best use of solar energy due to the installation angle.

7. Kokido Keops Solar Dome Above Ground Swimming Pool Water Heater

Kokido Keops Solar Dome Above Ground Swimming Pool Water Heater

This heater captures and transmits the sun’s energy to warm up your pool making it an environmentally friendly heating source of energy. The Keops Solar Dome works for above-ground pools up to 12 feet deep. 

The Dome works by connecting between your filter pump and pool return, it is compatible with most above ground pools and includes 4-foot hoses, fittings, and stainless steel clamps. This heater has an integrated rack that helps set up an optimal angle for the heater to receive maximum sun exposure and can be attached with additional heaters for larger swimming pools.

The product manufacturer’s guide recommends the following quantity of Kokido Keops Solar Dome units for some pool sizes (rectangular, round or oval shape): 

  • Pool size at 8 or 10 feet: Use 1 unit, 
  • Pool size at 12, 15, 16 or 18 feet: Use 2 units.
  • Pool size at 24 (oval), 18 or 32 feet: Use 3 units.

With 23.62 inches wide and weighing 14.42 pounds, you can place it wherever it’s needed without trouble. It can also be stored away securely when it isn’t needed because includes a protective cover for storage purpose when not in use.

Keep in mind that this product is manufactured and marketed by the Kokido company based in China and offers no warranty for manufacturing or operating defects.

8. Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System for Above-Ground Pools

Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System for Above-Ground Pools

The Fafco Solar Bear heating system for above-ground pools is composed of a single collector that measures 4 by 20 feet and is one of the largest and widest solar heaters on the market. 

Has been designed to maximize its exposure to the sun to obtain greater performance. Besides, the polyethylene material of the collector provides strength and durability.  

If space is not an important factor, this system is ideal, since it is considered quite simple and quick to install. The heater comes with 1-1 / 2 “pin connections, 12 mounting caps, 12 mounting bases, 6 mounting straps, 1 bypass valve handle, and 20 rubber tube caps. 

An additional fact, the optimum heating is performed more effectively when the collector is tilted between 10 to 30 degrees south and with direct sun exposure from 10 am to 4 pm.  Keep in mind that the collector must be placed towards South.

In general, the Solar Bear heater from Fafco can be large but it is one of the most popular since it offers good performance every day and has a durable construction. Finally, it also has a very attractive 10-year warranty capable of solving any manufacturing or use problem.

9. sunCOIL - Solar Heater for Above Ground Pools with Free Diverter Valve Kit

sunCOIL - Solar Heater for Above Ground Pools with Free Diverter Valve Kit

This heater is a lightweight and compact alternative and will take up minimal space in the backyard. With proper installation, it should enable you to raise the temperature of the water by at least 10°F without harming the environment. While its construction quality is quite sturdy and durable, the manufacturer provides a 5 years warranty.

SunCoil is ideal for above ground pools and soft-sided Intex style pools, for larger pools or more heat, more than one unit may easily be installed. The Black Coil help absorbs the sun’s heat energy to transfer to your pool water, and the folding legs allow you to angle the heater toward the sun for best heating results.

A free connection kit helps you to control water flow through the dome. And it’s included diverter valve kit sends water away from the dome during pool vacuuming (controls proper water flow through the dome and allows water to bypass dome during pool vacuuming). 

The SunCoil solar heater measures 29 by 29 inches, and it is 9 inches thick. Finally, it only weighs 19 pounds, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting it into place.

10. SunQuest 6-2X12 Solar Swimming Pool Heater Complete System

SunQuest 6-2X12 Solar Swimming Pool Heater Complete System with Roof Kits

SunQuest solar heaters are designed for above-ground and in-ground pools with 6 collector panels whose size is 2 by 12 feet each. Therefore, in order to install the complete kit, you would need a minimum area of ​​144 square feet. If space is limited you could use less panels to fit the available area, however, heating performance would not be the same.

The kit includes everything you need to properly install the panel system. They come standard with 1-1/2 ” and 1-1/4″ flexible hose connectors. Besides, they are also compatible with connectors for 1-1/2 ” rigid pipes and in the case of 2″ PVC rigid pipe an optional connection kit called SQ-PIPE2K is available.

Considering thus a design that takes advantage of the maximum flow with terminal connections (heads) of 2 “of external diameter for better water circulation and less back pressure in the pump.

The problem of space is compensated with greater heat transfer capacity of the product that provides better performance and reliability, allowing raising the temperature of the pool water to 10 ° F in a short time.

In general, the SunQuest product has many properties as to provide good performance to heat the pool water; however, it is more expensive compared to other similar products, so it should be assessed if the investment is justifiable if your pool is small. 

Finally there are three models of SunQuest collectors of the following measures: 2×20 ’, 2×12’ and 2×10 ’, which can be installed in multiple serial configurations, depending on the size of the pool.

Which Key Factors Should I Consider When choosing Solar Pool Heaters?

Choosing the optimal heating equipment for a home pool involves sizing the capacity of the system according to the size of the pool and according to its shape and depth (in general the relevant parameter is the volume of water to be heated). Also the climatic conditions such as average temperature, solar irradiance, and wind speeds play an important role. 

All these factors are needed to determine which type of solar heater will be more effective to achieve the desired effect without oversizing the purchase and increasing the required budget over necessary.

Therefore, to make it easier for buyers to determine the best solar heater option, the most important factors to consider in the selection process are presented below:

Collector Type

Basically there are two types of design of heat collectors for swimming pools, that although they have the same principle of operation, they differ in size, capacity and installation. Now, both types are described.

  • Panel Collector: This collector has a flat and extended structure that can be placed on a surface (ceiling, platform, floor, etc.). It takes more space than other types of collectors but has a greater heat transfer capacity that allows it to increase the temperature faster and a higher. Its main disadvantage is the size it occupies, the skills necessary for its installation (in cases requiring an expert to do so), and its portability. 
  • Spiral Collector or Coil: This type of collector consists of a spiral heat transfer hose enclosed in a transparent cover that helps to accumulate solar heat (greenhouse effect) and minimize the counterproductive effect of wind (due the convection effect).

In general, the rate of heat transfer is smaller since the surface exposed to the solar radiation is lower, making its efficiency inferior to the panels. Nevertheless, the installation process much easier, is highly portable, occupies less space and does not affect the aesthetics of the garden. Some heaters have telescopic legs, which are adjustable to different sizes to tilt and guide them in the best way to take advantage of the sun’s rays.

Sizing

Depending on the type of solar heating system, the sizing can be done as follows:

  • For Panel Type Collectors: The sizing can be done through websites such as Hotspot Energy where physical and geographical data can be entered. Some parameters that you will need are the size and shape of the pool, the area, the orientation and inclination of the roof or installation site, and an estimated percentage of shade.

Using these parameters, the area of ​​the necessary collector is obtained, this determines the number of panels that must be connected in series to obtain the desired effect.

Another simpler way to calculate the amount of panels that a specific manufacturer would need (only for rectangular pools) is through the following formula:

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Where “X” is the number of solar panels and “Fd”is a derating factor related to the percentage of square footage in relation between the pool and the panel (minimum 50%, ideally 65%).

  • For Coil Type Collectors: The sizing cannot be carried out by means of web calculators or formulas but by the manufacturer’s recommendations that are generally tabulated in the product guide.

Depending on the size and shape of the pool, the guide will provide the suggested amount of collectors needed to achieve the optimum heating level. An example of such a recommendation for the Kokido Keops Solar Dome product is presented in the following table.

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Figure 2. Pool sizing table for Kobido Keops. Source: Wish

Installation

Installation can prove to be a hassle. If the process of setting up the solar heater is not easy, you would probably require an expert to help you, which is usually quite expensive and represents an additional cost. 

There are, however, many above-ground pool heaters which are quite simple and easy to install. Thus, this is an important factor to consider when you are out there shopping for the best heater.

If the priority is an easy installation, then it is best to choose a spiral, compact and portable type heater so as not to have additional problems with this issue, nor with additional materials or special tools.

Warranty

If you are spending a lot of money on buying a solar-powered heater, you must also consider what kind of warranty it is offering. Some of the products reviewed, offer limited guarantees between 1 and 10 years on manufacturing defects with discounts from the first year of use for defects in materials or operation.

Conclusions

As evidenced by solar pool heaters, they are an innovative technology that increasingly brings more benefits to users, finding technologies with a greater performance every time.

But still, solar heaters have features that make them stand against other electric or gas heaters such as reliability, ease of use, low operating and maintenance costs, versatility, and green oriented designs.

In general, these solar heating systems are an intelligent, functional, ecological and economical way of heating all types of swimming pool systems in the home or business. As mentioned they are easy to install and use, they are considered maintenance-free, and do not require additional energy such as; gas, gasoline or electricity.

So, if you took the time to read this guide, you will have more accurate and relevant information when making a decision. Keep in mind that the choice of a solar pool heater will depend on many factors such as: sizing, price, installation, and warranty.