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Frequently Asked Questions

For in-ground solar pool heaters, choose a topic below:

Why Heat My Pool?
Choosing the Right Type of heating System
How does Solar Work?
How will Solar Perform?
Cost of Operation
Types of Solar Pool Heaters
What Size do I Need?
What do Systems look like?
I know the Size, What is the Cost?
Can I Install it myself?
Energy Rating & Efficiency
Longevity and Maintenance
Brand Comparison

Why Heat My Pool?

You bought your pool for a number of reasons like family fun, exercise, entertaining and possibly even therapeutic reasons.  However you've probably found that without heating your pool it's often too cold to enjoy. Heating your pool will allow you to enjoy it all season, perhaps all year round, thereby increasing the return on your sizable investment.

Choosing the Right Type of Heating System

There are three basic types of pool heating systems: Solar, Electric Heat Pump, and Gas (Natural or Lp/Propane).  The best system for your pool is determined by numerous factors including your needs, desires, budget and physical layout of the pool and house. The answers to many of these questions are discussed in detail in the section Pool Heating Options & FAQ.

How Does Solar Work?

Solar Heaters utilize the sun's free heat and do not have an operating cost.  Your existing pool pump circulates the water through the heater, usually located on the roof, and warms the pool. The pump timer is set to operate during sunlight hours, usually 9am to 5pm.

An Automatic Control and Valve are sometimes used to regulate temperature, usually in northern climates.  Commercial pools and some larger residential pools may need a booster pump.

How will Solar Perform?

Solar Pool Heaters are best for recreational pool use and are recommended for those who are comfortable with pool temperatures ranging from the mid 70's to the high 80's.  Solar works year round in southern climates such as Florida. In other climates the season is extended in addition to warming the water (see the Solar Insolation Chart to determine the potential swimming season  in your area).  There may be periods during inclement weather that the pool is too cool to use; however, several sunny days will bring the pool back to a comfortable temperature. Proper sizing is critical for good performance. If you desire a particular temperature regardless of the outside weather conditions or you must swim for therapy, consider a Heat Pump Pool Heater. If you only use the pool occasionally, or are only heating a hot tub, consider a Gas Pool Heater.

Cost of Operation

Solar is an alternative energy source, and has no cost of operation. The pool pump must run for the solar heater to function, and may increase your electric bill by $30 to $75 per year depending on your normal filtering time.

Types of Solar Pool Collectors
  • Unglazed
  • Glazed

Commercial solar pool collectors are made of different materials. Your climate should determine what type will best suit your needs. If you'll only be using your pool when temperatures are above freezing, then you'll probably only need an unglazed collector system. Unglazed collectors don't include a glazing (a glass covering). They are generally made of heavy-duty rubber or plastic treated with an ultraviolet (UV) light inhibitor to extend the life of the panels.

Because of their inexpensive parts and simple design,
unglazed collectors are less expensive than glazed
and more cost effective.

In this website we feature Vortex Unglazed Solar Pool Heating Systems because of their cost effective and superior design over other unglazed panels.

Vortex Unglazed Solar Pool Heating Panels:

Vortex Panel

  • Commercial-grade Polypropylene Plastic
  • Increase temperature up to 20 degrees
  • 10 Year Full Replacement Warranty
  • For in-ground or above-ground pools
  • Can be installed on roof or ground
  • Sizes in feet: 4 x 8 - 4 x 10 - 4 x 12 and custom lengths



Glazed Collectors
Glazed collector systems are generally made of copper tubing on an aluminum plate with an iron-tempered glass covering, which increases their cost considerably. In colder weather, glazed collector systems—with heat exchangers and transfer fluids—capture solar heat more efficiently than unglazed systems. Therefore, they can be used year-round in many climates. Glazed collectors also can be used to heat domestic hot water year-round.

Both glazed and unglazed collector systems should include freeze protection if they'll be used in colder conditions.

What size do I need?

Generally you will need a system equal to 50 to 100% of the pool surface. Solar panels are available in 4x8, 4x10, 4x12 and custom sizes. They are generally placed in a row on one or several roofs.  A typical 7 4x12 panel system would require a space of 12.5 ft by 30.75 ft. 

To determine the size required for your pool, use the Panel Calculator.

Each pool & home is unique.  The size of the heater is based on several factors, including:  the size & shape of the pool; pool shading (i.e. trees, screen enclosure); geographic location; swimming season and pool temperature desired; windy conditions; and direction of the roof (south, east, west or flat). The size of the heater will determine the temperature, swimming season, and length of time to heat the pool. It is very important to properly size the heater for good performance.

Keep in mind that a Thermal Pool Cover is recommended for all heating systems. Heating a pool without a cover is like heating a house without a roof...the heat just goes right out the top. Without a pool cover, the cost of operating a Heat Pump or Gas Heater is doubled, and a Solar Heater's effectiveness is dramatically decreased.  For convenience a roller may be added to ease placement and removal of the cover.  If a pool cover is not be used, the size of the heater must be increased by 75% - 100%. Pool covers range in cost from $60 to $130 for residential pools; rollers start at $185.

What do Systems look like?

System design varies slightly from house to house. They can be installed on most roof types or on ground mounted racks. Click here to view photographs of systems installed by other homeowners. Below is a typical system diagram.  For more details refer to the Vortex Install Manual.

System 3 Diagram

I know the size, what is the cost?

System cost start from $552 and up depending on the size. Once you know the size, refer to our shopping cart to determine the system cost.

plumbingCan I Install it Myself?

Solar Heaters can be installed easily by most anyone. It requires only simple hand tools and a drill. The typical installation takes from 1 to 2 days. Download the VORTEX Manual for more information.

Energy Rating and Efficiency

Solar panels are rated by FSEC (Florida Solar Energy Center) in BTU's per Sq. Ft. The higher the BTU, the more heat output. The average output is 900 to 1000 BTU's. This equates to a 3 to 7% difference between different brands. To determine the best value, divide the total cost by the total Sq. Ft. of panel. The lower the cost per Sq. Ft., the better the value.

Longevity and Maintenance

A quality Solar Heater will typically last 10 to 20 years. They are very low maintenance. Most systems have a 10 year warranty on the panels.

Brand Comparison

Solar Pool Collectors are so similar in performance and function that the BTU rating should not be used to compare one product to another. If you have the same size and number of collector panels on any given pool, they will perform almost identically, relative to heating the pool. Collectors should only be compared to each other on the basis of:

1. Weight or material content / Our collector panels are 25-40% heavier than the industry average. This makes them more durable and gives them the greatest life expectancy.

2. Method of connection between headers or manifolds and the water flow section or absorber board. The two best methods are sonic welding and the unique patented process used in our panel. Other less effective methods include thermal welding and injection molding.

3. Replacement versus repair type warranty. Most warranties call for the repair or replacement of a defective collector panel at the option of the dealer or manufacturer. Solar Direct replaces all defective panels and will make no attempt at repair for a full 10 years. Repair warranties can be for longer time periods such as 12-15 years, but replacement is always the best option.


Please visit DSIRE Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency