Solar pool covers absorb the sun’s heat and transfer it to the water to warm a pool 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. Solar pool covers, like hot tub covers, also prevent evaporation, lowering your water bill, too.
Solar pool covers keep dirt, debris, and insects out of the water. They also block UV radiation that can break down the pool’s chlorine into free chloramines that can irritate a swimmer’s eyes and skin.
Here are some picks for some of the best solar pool covers in a number of categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Sun2Solar Clear Rectangle Solar Cover | 1600 Series
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Intex Solar Cover for 12ft Diameter Easy Set Pools
- BEST ROUND: Sun2Solar Blue Round Solar Cover | 1600 Series
- BEST RECTANGULAR: Blue Wave NS410 12-mil Solar Blanket
- BEST OVAL: Sun2Solar Blue Oval Solar Cover | 1200 Series
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: in The Swim Round Basic Pool Solar Blanket Cover
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Blue Wave NS510 14-mil Solar Blanket, Clear
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Solar Pool Cover
The following are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a solar pool cover.
The size of the pool is a top consideration because a solar cover must fit correctly to work. 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 pool covers are made to fit round, rectangular, or oval-shaped pools. If the pool is a custom shape, users may want to buy a cover larger than the pool that 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, 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.
Another important factor is the thickness of the pool cover. Thicker 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 pool cover thicknesses range from 6 mils to 16 mils. On the down side, thicker pool covers can be heavier and harder to fold up.
Color is more than an aesthetic option for a solar pool cover. The color of a solar pool cover determines how it functions.
- Clear solar pool 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 do not block UV rays that break down chlorine.
- Clear top/dark bottom solar pool 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 pool covers block a large portion of UV radiation and absorb the sun’s heat well, warming the pool quickly.
- Translucent solar pool 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 pool 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 pool covers will be thinner than 10 mils. They’re typically clear and made of lightweight polyethylene. While they will heat the pool, you’ll need a chlorine stabilizer to reduce the production of chloramines.
- Medium UV resistance solar pool covers are the most common. They range from 10 mils to 14 mils thick and are typically translucent blue or grey. 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 previously mentioned shopping considerations as well as overall quality and value. Keep reading to discover some of the top options in a variety of categories.
This clear solar pool cover excels at collecting and retaining heat because it’s 16 mils thick and made of rigid polypropylene. Since it’s clear, sunlight can go all the way to the depths of the pool, so even the deep end is warm. The thickness means it’s resistant to tears and other damage, too.
The cover comes in a range of sizes—from 4 feet by 8 feet to 30 feet by 50 feet—so users can get an exact fit for their pool. If it’s not a perfect fit, this cover can be cut to fit because all sizes come with an extra 2 to 4 inches of material. Sun2Solar also carries square covers for smaller pools.
Intex’s solar pool cover is a translucent blue that blocks UV radiation. The cover is just 8 mils thick, so it’s easy to roll on and off the pool. But that thin material also means it’s easier to tear, so handle with care. Made of lightweight polyethylene and measuring 11.5 feet in diameter, it’s a good pick for above-ground pools that are 12 feet in diameter. It has a layer of air bubbles that helps absorb and retain heat from the sun. The cover has draining holes to keep water from accumulating on top. When cold weather comes, fold up the solar pool cover and stash it in the included storage bag so it stays clean until the next swimming season.
Sun2Solar’s pool cover fits round 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. 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 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.
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 do a superior job of absorbing, transferring and retaining heat.
Rectangular solar pool covers, like this Blue Wave product, aren’t just for rectangular pools. They’re a good pick for custom-shaped pools because they can be trimmed to fit more easily than round or oval covers. For custom pools, choose a cover that fits over the entire pool, then trim it to the right shape. This pool cover comes in eight sizes ranging from 12 by 20 feet to 24 by40 feet.
Oval pools aren’t as common as round or rectangular pools, so finding a solar cover that fits can be tough. Sun2Solar’s pool cover comes in 11 sizes, ranging from 10 feet by 15 feet to 20 feet by 44 feet, for a just-right fit. At 12 mils thick, this polypropylene solar pool cover absorbs and retains heat well during the day and insulates the pool at night.
Thick air bubbles and a deep blue translucent color prevent evaporation and reduce production of chloramines by blocking UV rays. The cover can be trimmed with a pair of scissors to make it fit around slides, ladders, swim-up bars, or any other custom features.
Lightweight solar pool covers are a good choice for pools that are only used once or twice per week, since there is less concern about tearing or ripping them. The In The Swim’s solar pool cover is just 8 mils thick, making it easy to roll, fold, and store in a compact space without damaging the air bubbles.
Made of polyethylene, this pool cover is a translucent dark blue that blocks UV radiation from reaching the pool water. The cover can raise the water temperature by 8 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit in just a week of sunlight. The cover also reduces water evaporation, chemical loss, and keeps debris out of the water. The cover is 24 feet in diameter, and it can be cut with a pair of scissors to fit smaller pools.
Blue Wave’s 14-mil-thick solar pool cover is a good choice for pools that get daily use. Made of sturdy polypropylene, this cover can stand up to getting rolled up and moved every day without getting torn.
This rectangular solar pool cover comes in six sizes ranging from 12 feet by 24 feet to 20 feet by 44 feet and has thick air bubbles that offer superior heat absorption, retention, and transfer. The cover can raise water temperature by up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit and reduce evaporation by up to 95 percent. The cover is clear, so it’s important to use a chlorine stabilizer to prevent chemical loss.
FAQs About Solar Pool Covers
Still have questions about how solar pool covers work? 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 it 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.