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SolarTown Learning

Swimming Pools Right for Solar Energy

Category: Solar Pool

Heat and Filter your Pool Using Solar Energy

Solar is the wave of the future for home pool systems-good news for you and for the planet. Swimming pools use a substantial amount of energy compared to other systems in your home. One utility district in California estimates that over the course of an average summer, a typical pool will consume the same amount of energy as an average home uses in three months. Using non-renewable energy, such as that from natural gas or coal-fired power plants, can cost you upwards of $2,000 every year.

Generally you can use solar in three main pool systems: solar water pool heater for heating pool water, solar pool pumps for operating pool pumps, and solar pool showers for warming water for an outdoor shower. These devices not only save you enormous amounts of energy, but also are easier to maintain than traditional systems. Traditional water heaters that run on gas, for instance, must be serviced every year, but solar water heaters do not require extensive maintenance.

Solar systems are much quieter than traditional systems because there are no moving parts in solar water heating systems. And you can extend your pool-use season by two to four weeks by providing warm water for longer at little expense. They also run even when there are power outages.

Outfitting a Pool with Solar Energy

Pool Water Heating

The most efficient way to reduce your energy costs to heat your swimming pool is to install a swimming pool cover. Installing a swimming pool cover may cut your energy costs by 50%-70%.  Seventy percent of the energy lost from your pool is through evaporation. As water evaporates, it takes a disproportionate amount of energy with it-1.048 Btus (British thermal units) of energy more than it requires to heat the same amount of water. So keeping the water in your pool is important if you want to cut the amount of energy you're wasting.

Even after you have installed your swimming pool cover, you may still need to heat your pool, and a very good choice is a solar pool system. The principles of solar water heating are quite simple. Have you ever turned on an outdoor hose in the summer and been surprised by hot water streaming from the nozzle? A solar water heating system works in a similar fashion. The water in your pool is pumped through a filter and then through solar collectors which are installed where they will receive the most sun. The main components of any solar water heating system are: solar collectors to capture solar energy, a circulation system, and an optional back-up heating system.

Solar collectors can be made from heavy-duty rubber, pre-treated plastic (especially suited for warmer climates), or copper tubing mounted on an aluminum plate and covered with iron-tempered glazing-all of which readily absorb solar heat. Although glazed collectors are more efficient, unglazed systems contain inexpensive parts and are therefore much less costly. If you live in an area that experiences colder weather or you wish to provide pool heating year-round, a glazed collection system is better suited for your purpose.

The return on investment for solar pool products is relatively short  A typical solar pool water heater system that runs for 25 years costs between $2,000 and $4,000 can pay for itself in 1 ½ - 7 years-and it can cut nearly 200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from your carbon footprint. Estimating your potential savings from switching to a solar-powered pool heater requires the consideration of several factors, including how much solar energy your home receives, how large your solar system will be, and the cost of installation. The US Department of Energy has a good calculator for comparing the costs of pool heating systems.

Pool Pump Operation

Twenty percent of your home's energy could be used to pump water through your swimming pool system during the summer months! In fact, your pool pump may be the second in the list of energy-hogging appliances in your home. Here again is a great opportunity to reduce your monthly swimming pool costs by choosing a cost-effective solar pool pump.

Using a few photovoltaic (PV) panels connected to a regular pool pump, your system can run all day without the use of traditional electricity. These systems normally function separately from your pool water heater, even if it is a solar thermal water heater. A conventional pool pump could be costing you on average $240 in electricity every pool season. A new solar pool pump will cost between $500 and $2,000 but with energy savings every year, should pay for itself in fewer than 10 years. 

Shower Water Heating

Using the same principles found in solar-powered pool water heaters, solar showers provide swimmers with warm water next to the pool at a fraction of the cost of traditionally-heated showers. By capturing ambient warmth with dark-colored materials-even on cloudy days-solar showers allow you to enjoy pleasantly warm water all day long. These systems generally cost between $200 and $500.

Exploring Solar Features' Benefits

There are good choices to equip your solar pool. Between water heating, water pumping, and pool-side shower requirements, your outdoor pool could be costing you a bundle every year in energy expenses. Choosing solar could significantly reduce the annual operating costs associated with your pool, allowing you to enjoy the luxury of swimming on warm summer days without worrying about your power bills at the end of the season.