Harness the Sun’s Heat With the Best Solar Pool Covers
Our top pick bubble wraps your water, so to say.
Published Jun 29, 2022 4:54 PM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
Think of it this way: A solar pool cover is like a light jacket for your swimming pool. It allows the sun’s rays to pass through during the day to warm water and then insulates the pool surface at night, preventing heat from escaping. Over a period of days, the best solar pool covers can even warm a pool’s water by as much as 10 degrees (we love a product that pulls double duty). Below, find out which covers are the best option for heating up your pool’s chilly waters.
- Best overall: Sun2Solar Clear Solar Cover
- Best value: Blue Wave Solar Blanket
- Best for above-ground: MidWest Canvas In the Swim Pool Cover
- Best for heat retention: In the Swim Clear Pool Solar Blanket
- Best cover alternative: Solar Sun Rings Solar Pool Heater
- Best liquid: Tropical Fish Liquid Solar Blanket
Best Overall: Sun2Solar Clear Solar Cover
Material: Polypropylene | Thickness: 16 mil | Shape: Rectangular
What we like:
- Made from 16-mil polypropylene
- Can raise pool temp by 10 degrees
- Heavy to roll
Why we chose it: A durable, extra-thick cover that can raise the temp of your pool—and insulate it.
Sure, this solar cover from Sun2Solar may look like some very expensive Bubble Wrap, but it’s one of the best ways to warm up chilly water. Those big pockets of air bubbles work to collect heat during the day and then block it from escaping at night, slowly increasing the temp (possibly to the tune of 10 degrees more) over a period of days. And since it comes in a variety of sizes and is trimmable, it will fit most pools. Just keep in mind that it’s 16-mil thick; that thickness makes it more durable, but it also makes it harder to fold up when not in use.
Best Value: Blue Wave 14-Mil Solar Blanket
Material: Polypropylene | Thickness: 14 mil | Shape: Rectangular
What we like:
- Bubble design warms and insulates
- Multiple size options
- Not as thick as higher-priced covers
Why we chose it: This thinner solar blanket is budget-friendly and easier to work with.
Similar to other pool covers, Blue Wave’s option has bubbles that will both capture heat for the pool water while insulating it at night, and it comes in a broad range of sizes. Its clear color allows more sunlight to pass through than a blue cover will, and its thinner material also means it weighs less and and is easier to fold and roll. It won’t last quite as long as thicker ones due to its 14-mil thickness (others measure 16 mil), but if you’re looking for an affordable blanket that’s easy to work with and don’t mind having to purchase a new one every few seasons, it’s an ideal choice.
Best Above-Ground: MidWest Canvas In the Swim Pool Cover
Material: Polyethylene | Thickness: 8 mil | Shape: Round
What we like:
- Variety of round sizes
- Not too pricey
- Thinner materials makes it less durable
Why we chose it: This thinner cover is extra-light and comes in round sizes, ideal for above-ground pools.
Weighing in at just 23 pounds for 24 feet of coverage, this lighter cover is easier to install or uninstall, a crucial feature for smaller above-ground pools that don’t have roller systems. Similar to others, it has a blue color that absorbs heat and bubbles that help insulate at night. With consistent sunlight, it can warm your water by as much as 10 degrees. There’s also a variety of sizes to choose from, and while it’s not as durable as those that come in a thickness of 14 or 16 mil, it’s perfect for most above-ground pools out there.
Best for Heat Retention: In the Swim Rectangle Ultra Clear Pool Solar Blanket
Material: Polypropylene and aluminum layer | Thickness: 16 mil | Shape: Rectangular
What we like:
- Silver layer reflects heat back into pool
- Thicker plastic is more durable
- High insulation
- Heavier than thinner covers
Why we chose it: With its foil reflective layer and thick material, this pool cover is one of the best ways to keep the waters warm.
If you’re struggling to keep your pool warm through cool nights, this cover may be your silver lining…literally. In addition to a 16-mil thickness, it has an aluminum bottom layer that collects heat from the sun and then reflects it back into the pool, making it better equipped at heating your pool and keeping it warm than thinner covers. Just bear in mind that it also weighs more: A 12-by-20-foot cover tips the scales to some 34 pounds, making it harder to remove and install on a day-to-day basis. It also comes with a steeper price tag, though you can expect it to last longer than thinner pool covers.
Best Cover Alternative: Solar Sun Rings Solar Pool Heater
Material: Discs | Thickness: N/A | Shape: Individual round discs
What we like:
- Easy to add and remove
- Stick together with magnets
- Doesn’t cover full pool
Why we chose it: These solar rings are an easy-to-use alternative for those who don’t want to wrestle with a pool cover.
You don’t have to struggle with a heavy pool cover day in, day out to raise the temperature of your pool water. This set of six solar rings uses the same principle but is much easier to use. The rings cover 70 and 80 percent of the pool surface, insulating and heating with the same bubble polypropylene found on traditional covers. But unlike traditional options, these individual rings are easier to manage. Simply gather and stack them when not in use and distribute them over the water when you’re done swimming. Just keep in mind that because they don’t cover the entire pool, they aren’t as effective at trapping heat as a regular pool cover.
Best Liquid: Tropical Fish Liquid Solar Blanket
Material: Liquid | Thickness: N/A | Shape: N/A
What we like:
- Easy to use
- Safe for swimmers
- Won’t affect pool chemistry
- Not as effective as a regular pool cover
Why we chose it: This liquid pool cover is for those who don’t want the hassle of a pool cover and only need to raise water temperature by a few degrees.
If you don’t relish the idea of covering and uncovering your pool just to raise its temperature a few degrees, consider this easy-to-use pool cover in a bottle (yes, it sounds a little futuristic). Tropical Fish Liquid Solar Blanket is based on the idea that the vast majority of heat loss from your pool is the result of evaporation. When you pour it in, the liquid spreads out to cover the surface of the pool, serving as a barrier that keeps heat from leaving the water via evaporation. By stopping this process from happening, it allows your pool to retain more heat, warming it up over time. It’s safe for swimmers (and pets) and won’t affect the chemistry of your pool water. Just don’t expect it to warm the water as well as an actual pool cover.
How We Chose These Products
When considering the best solar pool covers, we took into account several factors. Thickness was crucial, as it determines not only how well the cover serves as an insulator but also how durable it is. A thicker cover is heavier, however, which can make it more difficult to install and uninstall. Keeping those features in mind, we limited our selections to products around 12 mil thickness, with the exception of our above-ground selection. Since pools come in various shapes, we leaned toward pool covers that offer the same versatility of sizing and can be cut with scissors to create a custom fit. In addition to traditional pool covers, we included alternative products, including solar discs and a liquid pool cover, for those who may only need to raise the temperature of their water a few degrees and don’t want to tussle with a traditional cover.
Our Shopping Checklist
Nothing should inform your decision more about what type of solar pool cover to get than the climate you live in. For example, if you happen to live in an area where it’s hot and sunny during the day but cool at night, you’ll need a dark-colored cover that insulates, preventing heat from leaving the water. For warmer climates with short summers, go with a clear cover that allows the maximum amount of sun to reach the pool water.
Design and Materials
Nearly all solar pool covers are bubble blankets made from polyethylene. These bubbles allow sunlight to pass through and heat the water below and insulate the pool, preventing heat loss at night. Solar covers come in thicknesses ranging from as thin as 8 mil to as thick as 16 mil. While thicker covers are more durable and do a better job of preventing heat loss, they’re also harder to work with as they’re heavier and stiff.
There’s a reason most pool covers are blue, and it has nothing to do with matching the color of your water and walls. Not only does the color do a great job of absorbing heat from the sun, it also resists fading under UV rays better than other colors.
Installation and Use
A pool cover is designed to go on and off between usage. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be a whole thing to remove or install. Remember that while a thicker cover will be more durable and keep your pool warmer, it will also be harder to use. The best advice we can give is to look for a cover that you can reasonably manage. If possible, invest in a roller that allows you to store it by simply turning a crank.
Q: What is the difference between blue and clear solar covers?
As mentioned before, a clear cover allows sun to pass through it more easily than a blue cover, making it more adept at warming the water during the day. While a blue cover does not allow as much sunlight to pass through, it absorbs heat and hence does a better job of preventing heat loss at night.
Q: Does a solar cover heat a pool?
A solar cover does not create heat itself; however, it does help to trap heat in the pool water by preventing evaporation, which is one of the main causes of heat loss.
Q: Should I leave my solar cover on during the day?
If the pool is not in use, leave the solar cover on—it will allow heat from the sun to heat the pool water.
The Last Word
Most pool covers use the same general design in their construction; however, there are a few factors to consider when deciding which one is right for your pool. Select a cover that’s thick enough to insulate your pool while still being lightweight enough for you to install and uninstall with some level of ease. If you plan on using your pool on a regular basis, consider purchasing a pool roller that will make this process much simpler.