In this guide, we’ll look at what solar pool heating is, how it works and the costs involved. After reading this guide, you’ll be able to make an informed decision of whether solar heating is right for your pool.

What is solar pool heating?

There are three major forms of pool heating: solar, electric-heat pump or gas. Solar pool heating is simply a system that works on building a temperature by heating the water through the heat of the sun.

A typical solar pool heating system includes:

  • Filter – cleans the water to remove debris like leaf litter
  • Pump – pumps circulate the water through the solar system and return it to the pool
  • Collectors – water is directed through the collectors (usually mounted on the roof) to increase in temperature
  • Flow Control Valve – control values diverts water through the collectors. The water is pumped through the filter, then collectors and once heated, it’s returned to the swimming pool.

The solar pool heating system can be controlled automatically or manually. Most pool owners will set their heating through a digital controller which allows the water to be automatically pumped to the roof when the pool temperature requires it and where there is enough sunshine.

The types of solar pool heating

There are several types of solar pool heating systems that you can choose from depending on your budget, roof space and size of the pool. These include rigid panels, rubber or strip matting, evacuated tube, heat pumps and gas.

It’s recommended you discuss the different types of solar pool heating with your pool professional to see which system is better suited to your property and needs.

Some of the key things to keep in mind when choosing the right type of system include:

  • How big is your pool
  • How warm you want the water to be
  • How long you want to heat your pool for in the year
  • The amount of roof and ground space you have
  • If you’re prepared to invest in a pool cover
  • If your roof pitch and orientation is suitable for panels
  • Your climate

The average water temperature with solar pool heating

Solar Pool Heating 01
How warm your water will get with solar pool heating will depend on several factors

Your pool water temperature will depend on a few factors including:

  • Your pool size
  • Number of solar collectors
  • The type of solar heating you’ve installed
  • The orientation of the panels
  • The pitch of your roof and how much is shaded
  • How much of your pool is affected by shade
  • If your pool is covered or not

The pros and cons of solar pool heating

There are many reasons people opt for solar pool heating systems. They’re relatively affordable to purchase and energy efficient to run. Solar is also an environmentally friendly form of heating and once the infrastructure is installed, there are minimal operating costs.

While solar pool heating is low-cost, it is dependent on regular sunshine. For optimal results, solar collectors will need to be installed orientated to the north, north-west or west with minimal shading.

As a general rule, solar will increase your swimming season by approximately 4-6 weeks. It will work to heat your pool on cloudy days, but with a more reduced effort. If you desire warmish water most of the year, gas or electric heating may be a better option. 

How much does solar pool heating cost?

The cost of solar pool heating generally depends on the size of the pool, the placement of the panels and your climate.

The larger the pool, the greater the cost as more panels are required. While it might be tempting to reduce the number of panels, skimping on the size of the solar heating system is likely to leave you disappointed as you’ll struggle to increase the water to your desired temperature.

The costs of solar panels for a 30 cubic metre pool (17 panels) can start at $2,750 and increase to $6,350 for a 60 cubic metre pool (48×132 panels).

A heat pump is another option that operates in a similar way to solar heating systems by absorbing heat from the atmosphere. They use a lot less electricity than your standard pumps and can generate a decent amount of heat, but keep in mind, they’re more expensive to run than solar. The required kilowatt will depend on your pool size. As a guide, you can expect to pay $3,600 for a 9kW heat pump sufficient for a 30 cubic metre pool and up to $6,900 for a 21kW heat pump, enough for a 60 cubic metre pool.

These prices are indicative only and exclude installation which will depend on the individual installer and the site.

For more pool advice, check out the pool section of our Learning Library.