Best Solar Pool Heater – Top 5 picks reviewed in 2018

Best Solar Pool Heater – Top 5 picks reviewed in 2018 August 8, 2018Leave a comment

When you think of solar products, you may be forgiven for thinking purely in terms of the solar panel arrays that you have on your roof and not near your pool. These are typically designed to collect sunlight in order to generate an electric current that can then be subsequently used to power your various appliances and electrical items. Solar Pool heaters are a specific category of solar products, designed to only heat the water in your pool so you’ll never have to worry about swimming in cold water. Below you can see an image of one of the best solar pool heaters doing its job, we’ll explain more in-depth in our comprehensive solar pool heater review.

Best Solar Pool Heater by Mage Solar

Solar pool heater basics

Why should you get a solar pool heater?

By using a solar panel array, the average homeowner can save themselves a large amount of energy and thereby spend less money on their bills each month, a solar pool heater is designed specially to utilize the solar power in a very smart way and heat the pool water without losing any bit of solar power. There are more benefits besides this too though: they can also sell energy back to the grid, they can reduce their carbon footprint and very often they will also benefit from tax breaks and other financial incentives. If you want your swimming pool to enjoy the full solar experience we advise you to check out also some other complementary accessories like the swimming pool solar covers and blankets or the solar pool filters.

When you take all of this into account, switching to solar is a very compelling proposition indeed.

But did you know that this is just one kind of solar panel? There is another kind, which is the kind used to power solar pool heaters. In this post, we will explore what a solar pool heater is, how it works and who it might benefit.

How to install a Solar Pool Heater?

The only downside of geothermal energy when compared to other green energy sources such as solar pool heaters then is that you are required to dig up a lot of land in your garden in order to insert the pipes. However, it’s worth noting that there are plenty of Earth moving companies that can do this for you and then level off your garden as good as new. If you’re installing a swimming pool anyway then already you’re going to need a lot of digging up, so this is as good a time as any to install your heating.

But of course, it’s not for everyone. Not everyone can afford the significant up-front cost of installing a geothermal heat pump and even those who will need to consider whether or not they have enough land mass in order to sustain this. Of course, it takes a while for the water to be heated passively, which means it needs to go very deep and which means it needs to be spread out over a large area. This is why many people will still opt for a solar pool heater – which is a more affordable option.

What is a solar pool heater?

Solar pool heaters are, of course, a solar panel that is designed specifically to control the temperature of the water in your pool. Unlike a typical solar panel array, generator or battery then, it has one specific purpose and cannot be used to power your fridge or your laptop!

That’s because solar pool heating uses an entirely different mechanism.

A regular solar panel is what we call photovoltaic. This means that it works by using light (hence ‘photo’), which specifically will excite the electrons in the panel. These electrons have been arranged in such a way that when light hits them, it will ‘excite’ them and cause them to move in a line. This is what we call a current.

Photovoltaic panels will then be run into an inverter, which will make sure that they’re able to power your various appliances. And if you have some form of battery or generator, that energy can be stored for later use. If not, then the energy will often be sold back to the grid.

With solar pool heater panels on the other hand, the energy that you collect from the sun comes in the form of heat. This can also be referred to as ‘solar thermal’.

Solar thermal panels don’t involve electricity at all. Rather, they are made up from lots of tiny little tubes that are arranged in order to funnel water around the surface of the panel. Here, they are then able to soak up the heat from the sun, which is then filtered back into the pool in order to heat it back up.

Of course, your pool is a natural solar heater in a way: it naturally collects heat from the sun and the hotter the day, the warmer your pool is likely to be. The problem is that the body of water in your pool is too large and too spread out and it is being constantly cooled by the air and the wind around it. On the other hand, solar thermal panels will rest on your roof where they can soak up the maximum sun and each small amount of water will be heated at a time. What’s more, is that because they are encased, they won’t get passively cooled until they’re back in the water.

Best Solar Heater Reviews

Fafco Bear solar powered pool heater

Product Review

Hopefully, Fafco Solar Bear, which is one of the top swimming pool heaters on Amazon, will not prove a faff, nor a fiasco, in order to install!

As it happens, we needed have worried. This option for any above ground solar pool heater is very quick to install and can be used in any home. It’s a single strip of solar panel material that can be placed on the ground next to your pool. It works well and because there are no couplings or connectors it is very easy to use.

Overall Rating: 4/5
  • No installation
  • Large
  • Very effective
  • Too large for some homes

SunQuest Solar heaters for above ground pools

Product Review

If you’re looking for the best solar heater for above ground pool, then the SunQuest Solar Pool Heating Panels are a great choice. These are premium heating panels that are arranged and assembled like any photovoltaic array on your rooftop. From there, they can begin raising the temperature of your above ground pool in under an hour. They can be installed yourself and they’re very efficient.

Overall Rating: 4/5
  • Very efficient
  • Large surface area maximizes benefits
  • Good for above and below ground pools
  • Easy to install
  • Requires a lot of space
  • Designed for smaller pools

Natural Current Savior 2 solar pool heaters for inground pools

Product Review

Natural current makes a fantastic floating solar pool heater, which in turn is a great alternative to your regular roof-mounted pool. This works best for above ground pools but will work also great as an inground solar pool heating system.

Floating solar heaters are fantastic because they are so easy to use: just turn them on and drop them into the pool tog et started. This one is a well-made product that is a joy to use.

Overall Rating: 3/5
  • Very easy to set up
  • Affordable
  • Best for above ground heaters
  • Not as suited for larger pools
  • Not as powerful as some other options

Smartpool ARC Solar pool heating panels

Product Review

This is a solar pool heating panel that can easily be placed next to your pool or mounted to the side. This makes it suitable as both an above ground solar pool heater and an in-ground heater. The ‘arc’ in the name refers to a curved, arch-shaped design which can help the unit to collect even more sun and be even more efficient. It’s small, easy to install and comes with a year warranty.

Overall Rating: 3/5
  • Small and compact
  • Easy to install
  • Suitable for any type of pool
  • Not as powerful as some models

Smartpool Sunheater swimming pool solar panels

Product Review

Another option from Smartpool. This is your traditional solar collector pool heating system that utilizes panels and tubes to guarantee you a nice swimming experience. It’s relatively simple to install (compared to other solar panel arrays) and can raise your pool’s temperature by as much as 10 degrees in just 12 hours.

Overall Rating: 3/5
  • Easy to set up (relatively)
  • Powerful
  • Not the most attractive model
  • Not as easy to install as the Fafco

Can You Use Solar Pool Heaters for Other Things?

Can You Use a Solar Pool Heater for Other Things

A solar pool heater is primarily intended for heating your swimming pool. That said, solar thermal energy can be used in a number of ways to heat any body of water. This makes it potentially useful around the home for helping you to save energy in other ways too. That means helping you to save energy when cooking or when washing, and more.

And you can get even more from this if you combine a solar heater with the right practices. For instance:

Share Showers and Baths before swimming in the solar heated pool water

One option to save money on your water bill and energy bill is to shower together before going in the pool. This is a great excuse for couples to be more intimate and can benefit your relationship too, so there’s really no downside. As for others, sharing bath water doesn’t have to be the same as sharing a bath: if you have kids for instance then you can let them use the same bath water by taking it in turns. You may just have to top up a little hot water after the first child has been in to avoid an unpleasant experience and enjoy swimming later.

Wash Up Correctly before swimming in your above the ground pool

If you’ve ever been corrected on how you wash up dishes, then you’ll know that your strategy here can affect the outcome and make your crockery more or less dirty at the end. However, what you may not have realized is that the way you wash up can also impact on the amount of solar heated water you use and on the long term it’s going to keep your swimming pool clean. Want to avoid having to drain the water and refill the pool halfway through right?

The efficiency of Your Pool Heating Systems

Another consideration is how efficient your plumbing is and how well it’s running. Having your pool heating system and filters looked at by a plumber from time to time can not only help you ensure you’ll be swimming in a cleaner water, but it will also help you save money and create less waste in the process.

Do all this and use a solar heater for your pool or your boiler and you will save a huge amount of heat and water.

Best Solar Pool Heater Comparison Chart

Fafco Solar Bear EconomyAbove-Ground Pool Solar Heater$$$$
SunQuest Mounting KitIn-Ground Pool Solar System$$$
Natural Current SaviorFloating Solar Pool Heater$$$$$
SmartPool S204Solar Arc Pool Heaters$$$
SmartPool SunHeaterSolar Heating System$$


In-ground pool solar heaters Alternatives reviewed

in-ground solar pool heater alternative

While solar thermal panels are a great option as a swimming pool heater, they are only one of the solutions available to you.

Another option is to choose a geothermal heat pump. This is once again a green source of heat energy specifically, that is suitable to use for heating your pool.

The idea of geothermal energy is that you are harvesting the heat energy from deep below the Earth’s crust instead of taking advantage of solar power for pool heating. Our planet is of course constantly being subjected to the sun’s rays meaning that it’s constantly being basked in light and heat.

The alternative of swimming pool solar heating panels is to use heat from deeper under the Earth’s crust where the ground is shielded by lots and lots of earth on top.

By placing pipes deep underground instead of solar heaters around your pool, you are placing them at a point where the soils surrounding your pool is very hot and this heat energy can warm up the swimming water that you run through them.


Solar pool heater review Conclusions

So, there you go, you’ve seen how to choose the best swimming pool solar panels for inground pools and above ground swimming pools. You’ve learned how solar pool heaters works, you’ve seen other uses for it and you’ve read about some alternative ways to save energy and money.

No more excuses! Let’s take action!

Updated August 24, 2018

David West

David West

About The Author

David is a tech journalist who has previously worked for several tech sites. He loves tinkering with technology and in his spare time he likes working on electronic engineering projects.

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