The 7 Best Solar Pool Heaters for Free and Sustainable Energy

Best-Solar-Pool-Heaters

If you’re lucky enough to own a swimming pool, heating the water can prove costly.

Unless, that is, you opt for a solar heating system rather than an electric pool heater.

Whether you want to replace an electric heating system or to supplement your existing system and cut costs, we’ll be reviewing a cross-section of the best solar pool heaters today to make your life easier.

It goes unsaid that you’ll need to live somewhere with an equable climate enjoying plenty of sunshine to get best results from a solar heater. You’ll be collecting heat from the sun, and your system will only work at full capacity if it’s hot and sunny. Performance will be notably diminished when it’s gloomy outside.

You’ll find various types of solar heater in this vertical. Some pump water through a filter located on solar panels placed on top of the pool, or on the sides of the pool. Pipes circulate throughout the bottom of your pool to keep the water warm. Others take the shape of solar blankets. We’ll present you with a variety of different styles suitable for a range of pools, both in-ground and above-ground.

Now, before we press ahead with our reviews, though, time for some background…

If you don’t have a clear idea of what to look for when you’re comparing solar pool heaters, all you need to do is focus on the following points when you’re considering which heater makes the best fit.

  • Size of pool: Firstly, the size of your pool will dictate how well the system you have in mind is liable to work. Smaller and mid-sized heaters work well in much smaller pools. In larger and deeper swimming pools, you’ll need a more powerful solar pool heater if you want to make a noticeable difference to water temperature
  • Type of pool: You’ll find that different types of solar pool heater are effective for above-ground pools than for in-ground pools, where surface sheets are the optimum method of solar heating
  • Build quality: While you might need to pay a little more for a solidly-built solar pool heater, you’ll end up benefiting with a lengthier lifespan. Protect your investment and don’t compromise when it comes to build quality
  • Price vs savings on running costs: When you’re looking for the best solar pool heater, it pays to look beyond the bottom line. You’re making an investment here if you get the right heater for your pool. You can make significant savings on your ongoing running costs with the free energy dispensed by the sun, so you should look at overall value rather than obsessing over the sticker price

Right, with those basics sketched in, you should be all set to navigate the best models on the market.

Jump in!

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The 7 Best Solar Pool Heaters

1. Best for Inground Pools: Smart Pool Solar Heater

Smart-Pool-S601-Pool-Solar-Heaters

Features

  • For in-ground pools
  • 34 pounds
  • 240 x 52 x 2 inches

Our overall favorite solar pool heater for in-ground pools comes from Smart Pool, so what makes this unit stand out?

The first key selling point is the fact that this heater could potentially increase the water temperature in your pool by as much as 10F. This sets the heater apart from many competing models that can’t boast the same efficiency.

This heater is composed of 80 square feet of panels in an array 4 x 20 feet.

Now, you will need an installation kit for this set-up, and you’ll need to buy this separately. We don’t appreciate essentials being bundled as extras, but if you’re prepared to dig deep and take this on the chin, you’ll end up with an installation that can cut down your swimming pool running costs while at the same time making the water temperature more comfortable year-round.

The panels are made from a rugged polypropylene built to withstand the elements without fading or degrading.

While the majority of user reviews are overwhelmingly positive, the few complaints mention the need to buy the installation kit separately. In terms of performance and lifespan, you’ll find little but praise for this highly effective and efficient solar pool heater.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Raises water temperature by up to 10F
  • Ideal for in-ground pools
  • Interchangeable connectors
  • Installation kit not included

2. Best for Above Ground Pools: Fafco Solar Panel Heating Kit

Fafco-10028-Universal-24ft-x-3.75in-Solar-Panel-Heating-Kit

Features

  • For above-ground pools
  • 40 pounds
  • 5 x 15 x 15 inches

If you have an above-ground pool and you’re looking to ramp up the temperature of the water without causing your electricity bill to spike, why not consider this solar panel heating kit from Fafco?

Unlike some solar pool heaters, this one couldn’t be much easier to get up and running. You could have this thing operational in less than 30 minutes. All you need to do is unroll the blanket, hook the system up to your pool filter outlet, and then connect the system outlet with your swimming pool inlet. It really is as easy as that.

Kicking out almost 150,000 BTU on a daily basis, this heater is capable of warming the water in above-ground pools by up to 10F. Compatibility is broad.

You won’t have to worry about getting the right fit for your pool pump either. This heater is designed to play nicely with all pool pumps.

The main drawback of this heater concerns the amount of space it occupies. If you don’t mind calling in the big guns, you’ll benefit from an efficient, eco-friendly, and completely sustainable approach to pool heating that won’t cost you a red cent once you’ve invested in the Fafco.

Backed by a comprehensive 3-year limited warranty, you can buy this solar pool heater with complete confidence.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • 30-minute installation
  • Works with all pool pumps
  • Expansive 24-foot panel
  • Bulky footprint

3. GAME Contour Solar Heater

GAME-4714-SolarPRO-Contour-Solar-Pool-Heater-for-Intex

Features

  • For Intex and Bestway pools
  • 17 pounds
  • 28 x 11 x 28 inches

Next up comes a neat solution for owners of Intex or Bestway swimming pools looking for a compact but efficient method of heating the pool water without paying a fortune on power bills.

Designed for swimming pools containing up to 10,000 gallons of water, you’ll get a heating system that’s not flow-restrictive and capable of raising the temperature of the water by up to 5F in a week. In this regard, the heater is neither the briskest, nor the most effective. If you live somewhere with a cooler climate, this solar heater is unlikely to work in a standalone capacity, although you could use it to supplement a pool heater and reduce running costs.

The transparent dome creates heat using the greenhouse effect. You’ll be able to run this heater without a bypass when you’re using pumps to 1.5 HP.

Aside from a few isolated gripes about the unthreaded connections, most consumers lavish praise on the build quality and lifespan of this solar heater, even if there are fewer compliments concerning performance.

Overall, this solar heater is fit for purpose, but somewhat limited. For many pool owners with Bestway or Intex above-ground pools, though, GAME delivers, even if you need to pay for the privilege.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Adapter included
  • Not flow-restrictive
  • Space-saving dimensions
  • Connections not threaded

4. SunHeater Pool Heating System

SunHeater-Pool-Heating-System-Two-2’-x-20’-Panels

Features

  • For in-ground or above-ground pools
  • 20 pounds
  • 240 x 27.5 x 16 inches

Next up comes a pair of solar heating panels designed to work well with both in-ground and above-ground pools.

As with all the best solar pool heaters, you can transform the sun’s rays into energy that will raise the temperature of the water in your pool by as much as 10F. In this respect, these panels are among the effective in their class.

Water is pushed through the multiple tubes in this system, and the water is then warmed by the UV rays from the sun. Once it’s warm, the water is directed back into your swimming pool. Wherever you live, then, you’ll be able to extend your swimming season without resorting to an expensive pool heater that draws down a great deal of electricity. This system might not be especially cheap to buy, but you won’t be faced with any ongoing running costs.

Like with any solar pool heater, you’ll be free to run this is in a standalone capacity or, if you need a helping hand, in tandem with an existing pool heater. You can either remove the cost of heating your swimming pool completely, or at minimum cut it right back.

Easy to install, eco-friendly, and entirely sustainable, use this solar heating system combined with the filtration system in your pool for a user-friendly and cost-effective pool heating solution.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Use with or instead of heater
  • Straightforward installation
  • Tube-on-web build
  • Doesn’t warm water much

5. SunHeater Universal Solar Pool Heater

SunHeater-S120U-Universal-Solar-Pool-Heater-2-by-20-Feet

Features

  • For in-ground or above-ground pools
  • 18 pounds
  • 120 x 27.5 x 16 inches

Next up comes another highly versatile solar pool heater you could use in an in-ground or above-ground pool.

Either way, you’ll enjoy super-simple installation. Set this system up on a roof or rack, on the ground or on a fence.

You won’t any special equipment either, as this heater runs with your existing pool pump.

The manufacturer claims that the heater can lift the temperature of the water in your pool by as much as 6 to 10F.

The panel is solidly built and weather-resistant. As long as you keep on top of maintenance, you can expect years of faithful service from this solar heater, and no ongoing costs once you’ve absorbed the price of purchase. The same certainly cannot be said for electric pool heaters.

The only scattered complaints we found came from owners of Intex sand filter systems, claiming this heater doesn’t work well with these. Overall, most customers seem satisfied with this green and highly efficient pool heater.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Easy DIY installation
  • Raises water temperature by up to 10 degrees
  • Works with existing pool pump
  • Not ideal with Intex sand filter systems

6. Intex Solar Mat

Intex-28685E-Solar-Mat-Above-Ground-Swimming-Pool-Water-Heater

Features

  • For above-ground pools to 8000 GPH
  • 8 pounds
  • 16 x 13 x 10.5 inches

Pool specialist Intex serves up this simple but reasonably effective solar mat for above-ground swimming pools.

Made to work with a variety of Intex pool pumps, this heater makes a smooth fit for pools with a capacity of up to 8000 gallons.

You’ll get all the connectors you need bundled here, so you won’t need to hustle down to the hardware store after unboxing.

This is one of the most user-friendly heaters on our shortlist requiring nothing more than 20 or 30 minutes to get started.

According to Intex, you could raise the temperature of the water in your pool by anywhere from 5 to 9F making this roughly in line with most of the competition in terms of warming potential.

Overall, although you’ll need a powerful pump to get the most from this heater, we feel it’s one of the best options for owners of above-ground Intex pools.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Works with a range of filter pumps
  • Unbeatable brand heritage
  • All connectors included
  • You need a powerful pump

7. Kokido Solar Dome

Kokido-Keops-Solar-Dome-Above-Ground-Swimming-Pool-Water-Heater

Features

  • For above-ground pools
  • 4 pounds
  • 23 x 23.23 x 11.3 inches

As we come to the end of our collected list of the best solar pool heaters, we have another solar dome, this time from Kokido. How does this unit differentiate itself, then?

The first thing you’ll benefit from is a super-simple installation requiring no DIY expertise and no time-consuming set-up. Instructions are crisp and clear. You should be up and running well within the hour.

Compatible with the majority of above-ground pools, you’ll get more flexibility here than much of the opposition can offer. All connections and hardware you need come bundled.

The serious drawback of this heater is that it’s another model that fails to raise the water temperature significantly. You may notice a few degrees of improvement, but you won’t get immediately noticeable results.

As with all solar pool heaters, you should cut right back on the running costs of your pool if you are able to do without an electric heater. Even if you can’t manage to do away with this completely, supplementing it with a solar heater can still reduce costs.

Overall, we feel there are superior options at your disposal at a similar price point, so it’s tough for us to strongly recommend this particular heater.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Compatible with most above-ground pools
  • Slashes heating costs
  • Rack for maximum efficiency
  • Doesn’t dramatically raise water temperature

Conclusion

With today’s brief guide to buying the best solar pool heater, we hope we’ve given you everything you need to know so you can approach this buying decision with confidence.

We always highlight where the pool products we review fall down as well as showcasing their many benefits. Our sole aim is to provide you with the information you need to make an informed buying decision.

If you come across a solar pool heater we didn’t review today, we hope you found the buying guidance useful. Bear the pointers above in mind and you should have absolutely no problem finding the best solar pool heater for your needs.

Take a second to bookmark Wild River Country before you go. We’re here to help you with all aspects of pool ownership, from choosing the best pool equipment to best practice for pool health. We bring you fresh content daily, so come back soon!

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