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Solar Pool Heating Technology

Diagram of solar panels connected to plumbing and pool

Solar Pool Heating is one of the simplest yet the most cost-effective use of solar energy in many climates. Water is pumped from the pool to the solar collectors where the water is heated by the sun. The warm water is then pumped back into the swimming pool allowing you to enjoy your pool for many months, and in some areas all year long.

Most solar pool heating systems use the following components:

  • SOLAR COLLECTORS — the device through which pool water is circulated to be heated by the sun
  • POOL FILTER — removes debris before water is pumped through the collectors
  • POOL PUMP — circulates water through the filter and collector and back to the pool
  • CONTROL VALVE — automatic or manual device that diverts pool water through the solar collector


Solar Pool Heater Plumbing, Filter, Pump, valvesSome systems include sensors and an automatic or manual valve to divert water through the collector(s) when the collector temperature is sufficiently greater than the pool temperature. When the collector temperature is similar to the pool temperature, filtered water simply bypasses the collector(s) and is returned to the pool.


Solar Pool Heater System Types

Different solar pool collectors are made of different materials and can be divided into two main categories: glazed and unglazed. The type you'll need depends on your climate and how you intend to use the collector. If you'll only be using your pool when temperatures are above freezing, then you'll probably only need an unglazed collector system.

Unglazed Solar Pool Heating Collectors:

Solar Pool Heating PanelsBecause of their inexpensive parts and simple design, unglazed collectors are far less expensive than glazed collectors. Unglazed collectors don't include a glass covering (glazing). They are generally made of heavy-duty rubber or plastic treated with an ultraviolet (UV) light inhibitor to extend the life of the panels. VORTEX™ panels are made of commercial-grade polypropylene heavy-duty plastic. These unglazed systems can even work for indoor pools in cold climates if the system is designed to drain back to the pool when not in use. Even if you have to shut the system down during cold weather, unglazed collectors are more cost effective than installing a more expensive glazed collector system. » Vortex Solar Pool Heater - Unglazed Collectors 

Glazed Solar Pool and Water Heating Collectors

Solar Water and Pool Heating PanelGlazed collector systems are generally made of copper tubing on an aluminum plate with an iron-tempered glass covering, which increases their cost. 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. Please contact us for more information on glazed solar collectors.

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

Selecting a Solar Pool Heater

If you'll only be using your pool when temperatures are above freezing, then you'll probably only need unglazed collectors. An unglazed solar pool heating system usually costs between $3,000 and $4,000 to buy and install. This provides a payback of between 1.5 and 7 years, depending on your local fuel costs. They also typically last longer than gas and heat pump pool heaters. Your actual cost and payback depend on many factors. Therefore, before you purchase and install a solar pool heating system, you should do the following:

  • Evaluate your site's solar resource
  • Determine the correct system size
  • Determine the system's efficiency
  • Compare system costs
  • Investigate local codes, covenants, and regulations
  • Contact us for additional information/assistance

» VORTEX Sizing Guide: Determine size needed for your specific location

Installation and Maintenance

The proper installation of a solar pool heating system depends on many factors. These factors include solar resource, climate, local building code requirements, and safety issues. » See System Sizing.

After installation, properly maintaining the system will keep it running smoothly for 10–20 years. Consult the Owner's Manual for maintenance requirements. The collector should require little maintenance if the pool's chemical balance and filtering system are checked regularly. Glazed collectors may need to be cleaned in dry climates where rainwater doesn't provide a natural rinse.

Solar Pool Heater Benefits

  • Can extend swimming season up to 12 months depending on location. Click here to determine the potential swimming season in your area.
  • Average temperature increase 15 - 20º
  • Have no operating costs
  • No pollution, no fuel needed
  • Usually last 20+ years
  • Have a 10 Year warranty
  • Quick and easy installation - average 6 - 8 hours
  • Minimal maintenance required
  • Withstand hurricane force winds when the proper strappings and mounts are used.
  • Systems continue to function in overcast skies but during active rain time the heat will diminish. Once the rain subsides the system can quickly recover temperature

A properly sized solar system will effectively raise temperatures well into the 80°F range. In addition to raising the water temperature, your swimming season can be extended in cooler climates by as much as 100 percent, and performs year round in warmer climates. There may be short periods during inclement weather when the pool water becomes cooler; however, a little sunny weather will return the pool back to a comfortable temperature. Solar pool heating systems are best suited for recreational pools, but can be easily designed for commercial and industrial applications. » System Sizing.

» Compare solar pool heaters to other types of heaters