Solar Heating

How to use free energy from the sun to heat your swimming pool

By Colleen Simmons

The vast majority of us spend the greater part of winter anticipating the warmer temperatures of summer—and all the outdoor activities that come along with them. As a pool owner you especially crave the infinite summer. While year-round warmth is not truly attainable, there are ways for you to get closer to that goal and extend the swimming season as long as possible through the use of solar heating.

What is solar heating?

A solar heating system harnesses the power of the sun to increase and maintain the temperature of pool water. Heat is collected through an array of solar panels installed in an area that receives consistent sunlight. There are several varieties of solar heating systems currently on the market, with minor differences between each. However, they all achieve the same outcome—a warm, enjoyable pool temperature.

Pool water is automatically pushed through the existing plumbing and filtered by your pool’s pump and is redirected to travel through black solar collector panels. These panels absorb heat-energy from the sun and transfers it to the water before it flows back into your pool through the return line. On a sunny day, solar pool heating can typically raise your pool water temperature roughly 10 degrees higher than a non-heated pool.

Since most systems are effectively installed on rooftops, a clip design system offers you the most versatility as it allows for custom sizing that can easily navigate around roof vents and/or skylight windows. Additionally, the use of breathable rubber panelling allows moisture from your roof to escape to prevent undesirable rotting.

The benefits of solar heating

In a recovering economy, everyone is clipping coupons and looking for ways to save money. Given our massive consumption of energy, heating systems should be amongst the first to undergo some cost-cutting changes. Many pool owners use natural gas heaters, which are frequently operated to provide ‘spot heating.’ This method involves heating the pool for only short periods of time (e.g. a weekend) as opposed to consistently. This method can be costly, not only due to the rising cost of fuel, but also because of how quickly your pool loses heat, whereby spot heating is required more often.

Solar pool heating operates similarly to a standard heater’s ‘maintenance mode,’ which means that it constantly provides heat to maintain your desired pool water temperature. Since its primary fuel is the sun, a solar heating system allows you to extend your swimming season up to four weeks, without the added costs of using a standard heating method for a longer period of time.

Additionally, solar heating systems do not emit pollution, are a source of renewable energy and require little maintenance. These innovations have also catapulted several Canadian government-funded rebate programs such as the EcoEnergy for Buildings and Houses and EcoEnergy for Renewable Heat incentives (www.ecoenergy.gc.ca), which offer varying financial rebates—depending on the size and performance of your pool—and if you decide to install a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approved solar pool heating system.

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