Turn on the Heat: Solar Heating for Your Pool

Turn on the Heat: Solar Heating for Your Pool

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The Secrets of Solar Heating

In  a country where the sun shines long and hot, it makes sense to exploit the natural heat of the sun, not only to heat the water in our homes, but also the water in our swimming pools. Solar heating is no secret, it’s just that many people don’t realize how easy it is to install, and just how effective it is.
Solar collectors have been manufactured since the 1970s, but in recent years they have been perfected and they now offer an excellent opportunity for pool owners to extend their swimming season by as much as four months. By installing solar panels you can heat the water in your pool to a comfortable level for swimming when it would normally be too cold to swim. This not only enables you to spend countless extra hours enjoying the pool, but it will also maximise your pool investment return and immediately increase the value of your property.
Once the installation cost has been covered, a solar heating system uses the free energy of the sun and costs very little to maintain. The environmental aspects are also important as solar heating systems are clean and non-polluting.

Types of Solar Heating for Swimming Pools

There are various types of solar heating systems, the most effective using inert black plastic polymers that cannot be corroded by pool chemicals or eroded by the water (see installation example below). Designs with individual tubes allow the roof to breathe and dry out. Individual tube designs also reduce wind load, reducing the need for a complicated mounting system.
Solar panels may be configured in different ways, but the most common method is to install a continuous row without any breaks. If there is a skylight or a change in the level of the roof, your supplier will be forced to break the layout, but the panels are then linked by pipes.
As a rule solar heating units are incorporated into an existing filter circuit. The pool pump operates the solar unit at the same time. For this reason, the maximum number of panels which can be used will depend on the size and power of the pump; it must be able to supply a proper flow, and if it can’t, you will have to buy a more powerful pump.
Since the heat of the water depends on the amount and intensity of the sunshine, you will obviously have cooler water in cold, rainy weather.
The size of the area to be covered by solar panels will depend on numerous environmental and physical factors. These include the length of time the swimming season can reasonably be extended in your area; where the individual pool is located; whether the area itself is shaded; the surface area of the water to be heated; whether wind is a problem; as well as the pool temperature required. The direction and angle at which the panels are to be mounted will also make a difference.
For optimum efficiency, solar panels should face north. If this is not possible, additional panels may be required. A roof with a very high pitch will also require more panels, as will a pool which is frequently shaded.
Your solar heating contractor will usually determine how many panels are required for optimum performance. However, here is a useful formula that involves multiplying the surface area of the pool by 40 percent and then dividing this by the surface area of one panel. This calculation is based on ideal conditions in a reasonably hot-climate area with panels mounted on a roof with a minimum 15 degree pitch and fully exposed to the sun at all times. Just be warned that waterfalls, fountains and cascading features will all affect the efficiency of any solar heating system and advises that a pool blanket is used to retain the heat generated.

Solar Heating Pool Blankets

A solar heating expert explains how pool blankets work: “A solar pool blanket saves energy costs by limiting heat loss by up to 90 percent. It also reduces evaporation cutting water consumption and saving on chemical costs.”
The neatest and most practical type of blanket rolls up neatly on one side of the pool.
There is no doubt that having a warm pool is one of the best investments you can make to enjoy family time in the safety of your own home, so be sure you use a reputable and reliable installer who sources a similarly reputable and reliable product.

How to Assess if a Solar Heating Company is Reputable

For starters you should always ask for references, and you should also ask the right questions. For instance:
  • Does the manufacturer (of blankets, solar heating systems, or anything related to solar heating) provide a full panel and/or labor warranty?
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • Has the manufacturer or installer been in business longer than the warranty period? (There’s no point in having a warranty if the company is a fly-by-night.)
  • Will all mounting hardware be under the collector and to visible? (Some systems can be quite ugly.)
  • Are collectors manufactured in a a range of sizes?
  • Does the design ensure an even flow of water?
  • Does the design feature individual riser tubes that allow for expansion and contraction?
  • Does the design prevent leaking?
  • Will the collector harness both direct and indirect radiation from the sun?
  • Will the collector resist wind loads up to 300 kilometers an hour?
  • Can the collector be repaired easily without being removed?

A Solar Heating Installation for a Swimming Pool

Here is a team doing an installation on a fairly steep tiled roof.

1 Safely positioned on the roof, a trained Solar Specifics installation team manoeuvres the panels into place. 2 With the first panel in place, holes are drilled in the roof capping so that each solar panel can be secured. On some tiled roofs it is possible to push a tile upwards and to secure the panels to the battens on which the tiles are mounted.
3 Working on steep roofs can be hazardous and so it is essential that installers have experience and are properly supervised. It is necessary to run extension cables to the pitch of the roof so power tools can be used. 4 Different roofs require different specifications. The method used to secure the panels on this tiled roof involves drilling into the capping so that plugs and bolts can be mounted.
5 Once the bolts are in place, plastic coated wire is used to tie the panel to the bolts. 6 The panels are placed neatly alongside one another and secured in the centre of each one. Generally panels should not be more than 15 m above the pump or 30 m away from the pump unless special allowance is made for this.
7 The pipes top and bottom of the panels are connected as each one is secured. 8 The final step is to connect the pump to the solar system.
9 Once all the solar panels have been installed, additional pipes are run from the roof to the pool pump.