Solar pool covers absorb the sun’s heat and transfer it to the water, warming either aboveground or inground pools to a comfortable temperature for swimming. Made of vinyl, polyethylene, or polypropylene, the best solar pool covers also insulate the pool when the sun goes down.
A solar pool cover can lower the cost of heating a pool by as much as 70 percent because the pool heater won’t have to run as much to maintain the set pool temperature. Solar pool and hot tub covers prevent evaporation, effectively lowering your water bill. They keep dirt, debris, and insects out of the water. Pool covers also block UV radiation that breaks down the pool chemicals, producing free chloramines, which can irritate a swimmer’s eyes and skin.
Here are some picks for some of the best solar pool cover options in a range of categories:
- BEST OVERALL: Sun2Solar Clear Rectangle Solar Cover
- RUNNER UP: Blue Wave NS410 12-mil Solar Blanket
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Intex Recreation Solar Cover
- BEST FOR ROUND POOLS: Sun2Solar Blue 16-Foot Round Solar Cover
- BEST FOR OVAL POOLS: Doheny’s Clear-Tek Micro-Bubble Solar Covers
- BEST FOR SQUARE POOLS: Sun2Solar 8-Foot-by-8-Foot Square Clear Solar Cover
- LIGHTWEIGHT PICK: Poolcenter Round Basic Pool Solar Blanket Cover
- HEAVY DUTY PICK: Sun2Solar Clear 24-Foot Round Solar Cover
- BEST FOR ABOVEGROUND POOLS: Intex Solar Cover
- BEST POOL COVER HOLDER: Solar-EZ Inc. Solar Saddle Pool Solar Cover Holder
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Solar Pool Cover
These solar blankets can be used on a range of different pools, including both aboveground and inground swimming pools of varying sizes and shapes. Following are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a solar pool cover, including the pool dimensions, material, thickness, and color.
Swimming pool size is a top consideration since a proper fit allows for optimal function. To get the best heat transfer from the sun, the cover should be large enough to sit on the surface of the water. The shape of the pool is important, too.
Solar covers are made to fit a variety of swimming pools, so users can look for an oval solar cover, a cover for their rectangular pool, or even a compact solar blanket made to fit square pools. If the pool is a custom shape, users may want to buy a cover larger than the pool, so the cover can be trimmed to fit.
Solar pool covers are usually made of vinyl, polyethylene, or polypropylene.
- Vinyl is durable and resistant to tears and sun damage. Vinyl covers are a good option for pool users who want to be able to remove a cover quickly without having to be too careful to not tear it.
- Polyethylene is more lightweight. Covers made of polyethylene are affordable and effective at heat transfer. They can be prone to tearing, though, especially if the cover has a thickness of 12 mils or less.
- Polypropylene is thicker than polyethylene and less flexible. Covers made of polypropylene are durable and block a lot of UV radiation, but they can be more difficult to roll and fold.
Thicker solar pool covers absorb more heat from the sun, and they are also more resistant to rips, tears, and sun damage. Solar pool cover thickness is measured in mils. One mil is equal to 0.0001 inches. Common cover thicknesses range from 6 mils to 16 mils. Due to their thickness, these pool covers can be heavier and harder to fold up.
Color is more than just an aesthetic choice for a solar pool cover. The color of a solar pool cover also determines how it functions.
- Clear solar covers allow a lot of pool-warming sunlight to pass through to the water. They retain heat well and are a great insulator at night, but they do not block UV rays that break down chlorine.
- Clear-top/dark solar covers absorb the sun’s heat and transfer it to the water while blocking some UV rays. This helps slow the production of skin-irritating chloramines.
- Dark solar covers block a large portion of UV radiation and absorb the sun’s heat well, warming the pool quickly.
- Translucent solar covers work like a clear solar pool cover, but they block more UV radiation from reaching the pool water and heat the water faster.
The best solar pool covers have a side covered with small air bubbles and resemble a giant sheet of bubble wrap. These air bubbles trap heat from the sun and radiate it into the water. When the sun goes down, the bubbles also act as insulators to prevent heat loss.
Solar covers that do not have air bubbles can still trap and transfer heat, but they’re not as efficient. The thicker the air bubbles, the more tear-resistant the pool cover is. Thicker air bubbles also do a better job of insulating the pool at night.
A solar pool cover’s UV resistance depends on its material, color, and the thickness of the air bubbles.
- Low UV resistance solar covers are thinner than 10 mils. They’re typically clear and made of lightweight polyethylene. While they will heat the pool, they’ll require a chlorine stabilizer to reduce the production of chloramines.
- Medium UV resistance solar covers are the most common. They range from 10 mils to 14 mils thick and are typically translucent blue or gray. They’re usually made of polyethylene or polypropylene.
- High UV resistance solar pool covers fall into two categories: bubbles or no bubbles.
- Covers with bubbles are typically 14 to 16 mils thick and translucent or clear on top with a dark-colored underside. They are usually made of vinyl or polypropylene.
- Covers without bubbles are thin, vinyl, and dark-colored to absorb heat from the sun. They block a lot of UV radiation but are not as effective at transferring heat to the pool water.
Our Top Picks
The following recommendations take into account the above shopping considerations as well as overall quality and value. Keep reading to discover some of the top options to warm up aboveground or inground pools.
This clear solar cover excels at collecting and retaining heat because it is 16 mils thick and made of rigid polypropylene. Because it is clear, sunlight can go all the way to the depths of the pool, so even the deep end is warm. The thickness will resist tears and other damage, too.
If it’s not a perfect fit, this cover can be cut to fit, as it comes with an extra 2 to 4 inches of material.
Blue Wave’s 12-mil-thick polypropylene solar pool is durable enough to resist tears and other damage. Its translucent blue color blocks UV radiation, and a thick layer of air bubbles does a superior job of absorbing, transferring, and retaining heat.
Rectangular solar covers like this one aren’t just for rectangular swimming pools. They’re a good pick for custom-shaped pools as well, because they can be trimmed to fit more easily than round or oval covers. So long as the cover fits over the entire pool, you can trim it to the right shape.
This affordable solar pool cover is a good choice for easy set and framed aboveground pools, though it will fit any circular pool with a diameter of 16 feet.
The cover’s thick air bubbles help the absorption and transfer of heat from the sun into the water, raising the temperature of the pool water slowly throughout the day. The cover also has a moderate level of UV resistance, helping to prevent evaporation during the day, and it aids heat retention at night by insulating the pool against cooler nighttime temperatures.
Sun2Solar’s pool cover fits round swimming pools from 10 feet to 33 feet in diameter. Made of 16-mil-thick polypropylene, this cover has a thick layer of air bubbles that do a superior job of collecting, transferring, and retaining heat. The cover also insulates the pool at night and reduces evaporation during the day.
The blue translucent color lets in a lot of sunlight while blocking some UV radiation, reducing the production of skin-irritating chloramines that can make a dip in the pool unpleasant. Since this round solar pool cover is thick, it’s a little more difficult to roll, fold, and store. But the increased durability and heat absorption make it worth the trouble.
Covering oval pools can be tricky. Because they aren’t as common as round or rectangular pools, it can be difficult to find a solar pool cover of the appropriate size and shape. That’s where Doheny’s specially designed solar cover comes in.
This is a good option for oval pool owners not only because it’s specially designed to fit oval-shaped pool, but also because of its effectiveness. The micro air bubbles on this solar blanket almost double the normal number of bubbles on a standard pool cover, resulting in an increased ability to absorb and transfer solar energy.
This cover doesn’t just help to heat up the pool, either. It also insulates the water at night or on overcast days to increase heat retention.
An ideal option for square-shaped pools, spas, or hot tubs, the 8-foot by 8-foot solar pool cover from Sun2Solar goes a long way to prevent pool water from losing heat during the night. It’s a particularly good choice for pools or spas that get daily use, because the cover’s robust, 16-mil-thick polypropylene can withstand the stress and strain of being rolled up and moved frequently, without getting ripped or torn.
Lightweight solar covers are a good choice for pools that are used only once or twice per week. This option from Poolcenter is just 8 mils thick, making it easy to roll, fold, and store. Meanwhile, thanks to its dark blue polyethylene construction, this solar blanket blocks UV radiation from reaching the water, even while it raises the water temperature by as much as 10 degrees over the course of a week. The cover can also reduce water evaporation and chemical loss, while blocking out debris and helping to keep the pool water clean. Note that Poolcenter’s cover measures 24 feet in diameter but can be cut to fit smaller installations.
Improve heat retention—without worrying about rips, tears, or piercing—with this 16-mil-thick solar pool cover made of durable polypropylene. Besides insulation, heat absorption, and heat transfer, Sun2Solar’s cover also offers easy installation. If the pool is a slightly different shape—or if a pool ladder, diving board, or slide needs to be accommodated—then the pool cover can be trimmed with a pair of scissors for a custom fit that does not detract from the solar blanket’s quality.
Made of lightweight polyethylene and measuring 9.5 feet in diameter, this cover is a good pick for aboveground pools that are 12 feet in diameter. The cover’s layer of air bubbles helps absorb and retain heat from the sun, while drainage holes prevent water from accumulating on top. All the while, the solar blanket’s translucent blue color works to block UV radiation.
At just 8 mils thick, this cover is easy to roll on and off the pool, but the thinness of the material also means it may be easier to tear, so handle with care.
For safety reasons, solar pool covers need to be completely removed from the pool before use. However, when the solar blanket is removed, it’s typically placed on the ground, where it can collect grass, dirt, and debris that can make its way into the pool water when the cover goes back on. This simple system is designed to prevent that from happening by mounting directly to the top rails of an aboveground pool, providing a place to keep the pool cover that’s off the ground.
The kit includes everything needed for installation, including five broad hooks into which the cover can be rolled. These hooks hold the cover in place and out of the way until swimmers leave the pool, at which point it’s simple to grab the cover (from inside or outside the pool) and pull it back over the surface of the water.
The Advantages of Using a Solar Pool Cover
The main purpose of a solar pool blanket is to help the pool water gradually increase in temperature over the day and keep the pool protected at night for better heat retention when the sun is down. While these solar pool covers may not have the same heat-production potential as an electric or gas pool heater, they are much more affordable.
However, the initial cost isn’t the only way they can help the user save money. Solar pool blankets also reduce the amount of water that evaporates from the surface of the pool throughout the day and night. This helps to prevent the breakdown of chlorine into harmful free chloramines, reducing the amount of chlorine required throughout the swimming season.
- A solar blanket helps to increase the temperature and heat retention of the water by absorbing and magnifying the sun’s rays.
- These solar pool covers are more affordable than investing in a pool heater.
- The evaporation of pool water and subsequent increase of chloramines is slowed with a solar blanket.
FAQs About Solar Pool Covers
Still have questions about how a solar blanket works? Here are some common questions and their answers.
Q. When should a solar pool cover be used?
Use the solar pool cover any time the pool is not being used or cleaned. At night, the pool cover can help to prevent the loss of heat from the water.
Q. Can the pool filter be run with the cover on?
Solar pool covers don’t impact the way the pool pump or filter functions, so they can be run with the cover on.
Q. Can a solar cover be put on right after adding chemicals?
It’s a good idea to wait at least 1 hour after adding chemicals before putting the solar cover back on the pool. This ensures the chemicals are adequately mixed throughout the pool water and won’t damage the cover.
Q. How should a solar cover be removed?
The easiest way to remove a solar pool cover is to roll it up. Some pools have rollers on the side to remove the cover without damaging it.
Q. How is a solar cover cleaned?
Solar pool covers can be cleaned with a soft brush and rinsed with a hose.
Q. How should a solar cover be stored?
Roll up the solar pool cover and fold it at least twice so the cover can fit into a protective bag, like a contractor’s garbage bag. Store the bag in a cool, dark location like a shed or a garage.
Keep the pool water protected from evaporation and the premature breakdown of chloramines with a solar pool cover that doesn’t rely on electricity or gas to heat the pool. Instead, use a solar blanket to sit on top of the water to collect the energy from the sun and transfer the heat into the pool water. This has the added effect of helping the pool water retain heat during the night, so the pool heater doesn’t need to turn on and waste gas or electricity to help maintain the temperature.
These simple pool accessories are an affordable alternative to pool heaters, or they can be used in conjunction with pool heaters for better heat production in colder climates. Just make sure to choose the right size and shape to fit the pool.