This independent website is funded by its readers. It can earn a commission on any purchases made through product links, at no extra cost to the buyer.  Learn more >

If you’re running a pool heater you definitely need a solar pool cover. Even if your not running a pool heater you will surely benefit from owning one.  Adding a solar cover to any pool can help to increase water temperature, hugely reduce water evaporation and substantially lower energy costs. 

If you are running a heater using a solar cover can actually reduce energy consumption by as much as 70%. Now you see  why you definitely need one.

It’s a “no brainer” really !!

If you still need convincing read on.  We’re taking a deep dive into the best solar pool covers. A pool accessory that actually makes money instead of costing you money.

Why You Need A Solar pool Cover

Not to be confused with a regular safety pool cover a solar cover floats right on top of the water.  It’s kind of a protective coating that seals off your pool water from the outside elements.

Firstly it reduces evaporation by up to 90%, we’re going to discuss why thats so important to your bank balance later on, and secondly it still allows summer sun through to heat the water. 

But there’s no sun in winter !! 

Hey don’t worry,  our new best friend the solar pool cover still works it’s magic maintaining the heated water temperature by reducing heat loss by evaporation. For heated pools it’s kind of like throwing a thermal blanket over the pool surface. 

In outdoor pools the primary pool safety cover will generally be deployed during the winter months. That does not stop evaporation or convected heat loss though.  Only a solar cover can do this.  We’re going to explain this next.

How Does A Solar Cover Work The Magic

Heat Loss 

There’s a constant battle going on in your pool if you’re trying to heat it,  or even if you’re just trying to take the chill off.   

There are four ways that heat is lost radiation, convection, evaporation and conduction, and in our pool we suffer from them all. 

Our solar pool cover helps to take care of two of them, radiation and evaporation. The largest loss of heat energy from a pool is through evaporation.

So if our pool is at a pleasant 80º and we lose just one pint of water to evaporation it takes over 1000 BTUs of heat out of the pool, and that’s got to be replaced to maintain the temperature,  as well as the water of course. 

The best solar covers stop up to 90% of water evaporation. That means they save heat and water, and they’re two things that cost you money to replace when they’re lost.

Of course it’s not that simple, it never is, there are a lot of other factors involved. The pool temperature, air temperature, humidity, and the wind speed over the pool’s surface all affect heat loss too.

Adding Heat  

During the summer season when the pool is generally left uncovered the sun will heat the water as much as 0.5 -1.0º per hour during part of the day. 

Free heat !!  Yes that’s true, until our old friend evaporation shows up and robs us of the water.  Keeping the water in the pool is one of the problems that all pool owners face.

You’re going to loose water from splashing, diving and horsing around, just having fun really, thats why we have a pool after all.

The invisible water thief is evaporation, and it’s stealing your water all day and all night long, and that’s money being robbed straight out of our wallet.

That’s why we need a cover.  If you use this type of cover  during a warm sunny day when when the pools not in use it will warm the pool and stop evaporation, well 90% of it at least.  That`s why it’s called a solar pool cover.

Now you’re getting free heat !!  It captures the suns heat, keeps it in the pool, and it stops evaporation !

We’ve reached pool owners Nirvana, right ?

Well yes and no.  Even the best solar pool cover will reduce the heating power of the sun a little, usually by between 5 – 15% in the case of a transparent bubble cover. The popular blue covers do look a little better in the pool but blocks slightly more of the suns energy.

Where our gains are made is that the heat is trapped in the pool and in the massive reduction in evaporation.

What’s The Best Solar Pool Cover ?

A solar cover may look like the big bother of bubble wrap on steroids,  and in some ways it is. Most of the covers are tough as they come, and they’re generally available in blue or transparent. Just two color choices then, but they’re available in a really wide range of sizes, and can be easily trimmed to suit the size or shape of your pool.

In general thicker is better when we’re picking a solar cover. For pool owners running a pool heater thick and blue is the best choice because it will retain most heat in the pool. We recommend this 16 mil model. It’s available for rectangular and round pool with many size options.

The Excellent 16 mil Sun2Solar Blue Solar Pool Cover Range
3,042 Reviews
The Excellent 16 mil Sun2Solar Blue Solar Pool Cover Range

  • Good thermal retention. Particularly recommended for heated pools but an excellent choice for all installations.
  • Quite a heavyweight cover. We definitely advise a pool cover reel with this thickness product so one person can easily handle it on and off the pool.
  • Comes in either blue as highlighted or transparent color options and a huge range of sizes to choose from.
  • 3 Year limited warranty.

If you’re looking to just take the chill off the pool using solar energy then a slightly thinner transparent solar cover is better. It allows the maximum heat from the sun to warm the pool water. 

In this case it’s a bit of a trade off because too thin and it will last just one season, and can be easily be wind blown into a crumpled mess at one end of the pool. Our recommendation for maximum solar heating and durability is this 12 mil cover. There are plenty of size options, round or rectangular you’ll surely find the one you’re looking for.

The Sun2Solar 12 mil Clear Solar Cover Range
9,567 Reviews
The Sun2Solar 12 mil Clear Solar Cover Range

  • This transparent cover has good balance between durability and allowing the maximum solar heat penetration to the pool.
  • Can be easily handled by two people but we still recommend a pool cover reel for ease of deployment.
  • It is available in blue finish as well. Large range of sizes available but mostly for rectangular pools.
  • 3 Year limited warranty.

Above Ground POOL SOLAR COVER

Of course any of the solar covers we’ve recommended above can be used on above ground pools. However one of the biggest manufacturers of above ground pool Intex have produced their own range of solar cover to match their model sizes and pool livery. 

They are cheap, but of un-advertised thickness, however they might last a season or two. They are a very popular choice and many owners do appear to be quite happy with their purchase.But we are unable to recommend them to lack of material specifications from the manufacturer.

We’ve included them for illustrative purpose, and thousands of happy buyers means they must quite effective. A number of size options to suit different pool sizes are available.

Intex 28014E 16 Foot Solar Protective Round Pool Cover for Above Ground Outdoor Backyard Swimming Pools with Secure Fit, Blue
30,568 Reviews
Intex 28014E 16 Foot Solar Protective Round Pool Cover for Above Ground Outdoor Backyard Swimming Pools with Secure Fit, Blue

  • These budget Intex Solar Covers are available for 10, 15, 16 and 18 foot diameter pools.
  • Very lightweight, so they are easy to remove or deploy. Good for adding a little solar heat to the pool and cutting evaporation down.
  • Overwhelming positive owner reviews for the cover but expect a limited product life.

Saving Water With A Solar Pool Cover

You can check out local annual evaporation rates for your area, there’s plenty of data available to give you a rough idea of what an uncovered pool might lose during the year or the season. Most industry professionals prefer to use an evaporation rule of thumb for swimming pools. We use linear rate of 0.25 inches of water per day is lost to the air from an uncovered unused outdoor pool. During the summer that can almost double with heavy pool use.

So using our best case example of 0.25 inches water loss per day, an average sized 600 square foot pool will loose 93 gallons of precious H2O daily. Yikes !!! That means during a five month summer season the entire pool water volume will need to be replaced.  Where’s it all gone ?  Into thin air, that’s where.

If a solar pool cover can cut this alarming loss rate way down, and remember water loss means chemical loss. So it’s good for your wallet, but most importantly using a solar cover is an environmentally sound decision too.

Tailoring Your Cover To Suit Your Pool

When you receive your pool cover unless you’ve a standard size pool you’re probably going to have to trim it to suit your pool dimensions. 

Of course it’s easy enough to do,  just make sure you’ve got a sharp pair of cutting shears so you get a good clean cut straight edge. Most solar covers have the bubbles running in convenient lines the length of the cover, so it’s easy to keep your cut straight and neat. 

If you’ve got space it’s much easier to measure the pool and cut the cover accordingly. Remember to measure waterline to waterline in the pool, and not the from the tiles or decking around the pool. There’s usually a tile overhang around the pool of an inch or so. If we cut tile to the tiles we’re too small, and we want a snug fitting cover. 

Lastly use the old rule of measure twice and cut once !!  Ending up with a solar cover in two pieces held together with Gorilla Tape is not the look we’re going for !!

Solar Pool Cover Reel

Now you’ve got your cover nice and tailored to fit you can throw it in the pool.

But we don’t advise that !  For the cover to be of the most benefit it needs to be deployed often.  Ideally every time the pool is not in use.

We know that’s never going happen.  But it’s probably going to be at least pulled over or off the pool daily and we need a convenient way that one person can easily do it. That’s where a pool cover reel comes in. We think it’s pretty indispensable.

Vingli Solar Pool Cover Reel for Inground Swimming Pools
2,543 Reviews
Vingli Solar Pool Cover Reel for Inground Swimming Pools

  • Being elevated makes it much more ergonomic than most pool cover reels.
  • Easily adjusted for width. Nice and stable with a lockable width adjuster.
  • Rust free design with stainless steel legs and aluminum reel tube..
  • 2 Year warranty. Additional protection plans are available.
  • Great user experience and customer reviews.

Without a reel the cover gets folded, dragged across the ground and probably damaged. In any case if the cover is a hassle to put on we all know it’s likely going to be left in a heap at the side of the pool.  In the winter months in particular this can be a particularly unpleasant task.

We like this Vingli model because it has the spooling wheel at a convenient height and can be easily wheeled by one person. It makes running or retrieving the cover a breeze.

The Solar Ring Alternative

A solar ring is not an astronomical phenomena, it’s actually a pool accessory, and quite a good one.  They find their way into this article because can catch and hold heat from the sun and cut down somewhat on evaporation too.

Solar Sun Rings Pool Water Heat Retainer With Anchors
2,471 Reviews
Solar Sun Rings Pool Water Heat Retainer With Anchors

  • They may look like a fun pool inflatable but they are actually quite an efficient tool to reduce evaporation and retain heat.
  • Able to add warmth if sufficient are deployed over the pool surface.
  • Available individually or in packs There is even a twenty pack if you have an olympic size pool.
  • 2 Year warranty.
  • Reviews are a little mixed but many buyers mis-understood the product.

They’re no substitute for a solar blanket, but they’re just what many pool owners are looking for.

How Are They Made  

Each ring is 5 foot across and does need to be inflated, and to help the rings cluster together in the pool they have magnets around their edges.

This actually does really help to keep them connected, and the gaps to the minimum. Having the rings connected like this also reduces the chance of the odd one being blown off the pool on a blustery day.

They’re constructed from two layers of U.V. resistant vinyl.  The upper layer is clear and directs the suns rays through to the blue bottom layer which absorbs and retains the sun’ s heat.

How To Deploy Them  

This what most owners like, you can just scatter them out on to the pool and eventually they’ll meet up and connect with the magnets, or you can pop them in one at a time connection as you go. Pulling them from the pool is obviously just as simple and takes seconds. 

Deploying these rings doesn’t take the same mental commitment that a full on solar pool cover does, that’s why they’re so popular.

Small Storage Footprint  

At the end of the season instead of a wide, weighty roll of pool cover to stow away you’ve got maybe 6 or 12 of these. When deflated they take up no space at all.

If you hose them down with fresh water and dry them thoroughly before putting them to bed for the winter then you should get quite a few seasons use out of them.

These rings are obviously not a complete solution to evaporation and they certainly won’t heat the pool, but they can certainly warm it given the right conditions, and they will cut down on evaporation. If there is enough surface coverage they’ll also help to retain the days heat gains through the night too.

Not for the pool purist perhaps but we think they are really quite handy things. Easy to use, fun to look at and if you take into account their obvious limitations they do work. They’re certainly far better than nothing at all, and you will notice a difference using them.

Getting The Best From Your Solar Pool Cover

Our best advice is don’t worry about it.  At the end of the day our pool is to enjoy not worry about solar pool covers. Having said that every time you jump into an ice cold pool you’ll wish you’d remembered to put it on.

In most states it’s actually always best to have it on whenever the pool is not going to be used for a decent length of time. Warm summer days can have pretty chilly nights in many states you should make it a rule to reel out the pool cover overnight.

This way you’ll lock in the solar heat gains the pool’s made during the day and stop that evaporation water thief showing up in the night.  If you like a very early morning dip you’ll be pleased you did.

If you are living in a high summer humidity state you can happily leave the solar cover off all day and let the pool water enjoy the full benefit of the suns heat. High humidity means low evaporation in unheated pools at least.

Preserving Your Pool Cover

A good solar pool cover should give many season of protection before it needs replacing if it’s treated right.

Winter storage is often when things go wrong.  The last thing to do prior to stowing it for winter try to wash it down with fresh water and leave to dry before folding or re-spooling on the reel.

Leaving it damp could lead to an unpleasant shock next spring when you see all the mould thats grown round the bubbles in the winter.The type of plastic material that most covers are made of does not do well in freezing sub zero conditions. A cycle of freezing and unfreezing will cause the cover to deteriorate quicker or even split. 

We don’t expect you to have a heated pool shack,  but if you wrap some thermal protection around it will certainly help the cover survive to do another summers tour of duty for you.

We think a solar pool cover is an investment that just keeps giving !!  We wouldn’t be without one.

Related Articles

Best Winter Pool Cover Reviews

Best Swimming Pool Heater Reviews

Best Above Ground Pool Reviews

Best Intex Pool Pump Reviews

Images from Amazon Product Advertising