Are you dreaming for spring like I am with the average temperatures in the New Jersey area hovering around 21 degrees? Day dreaming about the pool you have in your backyard and dipping your toe into the warm pool water?
Well, if you live in the northeast like me, I can’t dip my toe in my pool until at least the end of June unless I want to incur an expensive gas bill from my pool heater. So, basically, if I don’t want to use my heater, we are talking about three months of the year when the water is warm enough for me to take a swim. Well, maybe two and half. I can be kind of a princess when it come to the water. I like my water at least 85 degrees.
For those of you who want a longer swimming season without the expensive heating bill, solar pool heating is the way to go. I am considering it myself. Let the sun heat your swimming pool instead of depleting our natural resources of natural gas or coal.
Are you scratching your head right about now and wondering if I am slightly delusional? Why am I writing about solar pool heating in the dead of winter? According to Richard Bonet, an industrial engineer and owner of New Jersey based Solar Living, Inc., if you are considering solar heater, you should contact an installer no later than March. If you wait until April, it is likely that you could be on a 8 week plus waiting list. In the past, sixty percent of his business has been solar pool heating. (With new solar hot water incentives being offered, this percentage may fluctuate in the coming year.)
Could Solar Pool Heating Be the Answer?
I contacted Bonet because I was interested in solar hot water heating. To be honest, I was intrigued by his website with articles about evacuated tubes versus flat panels and the efficiency of pool solar panels in comparison to photovoltaic panels. (For more information about evacuated tubes versus solar flat panels, see here.) In addition, he has been providing solar hot water, pool heating, and conventional solar panel to a huge chunk of the east coast (see here for a map of where his clients reside) for over thirty-three years.
After our discussion, I decided that the cost to create a solar radiant system was too expensive for my budget. I already had a geothermal hot water system and paid a nice piece of change for this system. Switching to solar domestic hot water was not an option for me. But next house, a possibility! (Check out your states’ incentives. See New Jersey’s incentives.)
So, how did we end up on heating the pool? As we discussed where to throw the heat of a solar heating system during the summer and he mentioned throwing it into a swimming pool. Really? My mind quickly shifted to my $400 monthly gas bills and my kids asking why the pool is so cold because I refused to put on the gas heater.
How Much Would this Cost Me? What’s the Payback?
After we concluded our discussion about solar hot water, I asked Bonet what about the pool? Would it cost me to install a solar heater? He replied not at all and quickly referred me to the price list on his website.
Basically, my 40 by 20 foot pool would cost about $4700 and would need about 400 square feet of panels. He explained if you live in an area such as Florida, California, or Texas (the warmer states) your system might cost more because you heat your pool year around. Your needs might be greater in the winter when the sun is not as intense as the summer months.
Solar Pool Heating is not just for residential pools. Solar Living, Inc. has also installed solar panels for outdoor commerical pools as well.
What about payback? Bonet further explained that if you already had a heater, your payback would be around three years. If you did not have a current heater, payback would be quicker. On average, a one year payback. He was basing the quick payback on the following formula:
Cost of Solar Pool Heating -Cost of new Gas Heater and Installation plus the cost to heat the pool each month.
How Much Many Panels Will I Need?
According to Bonet, you would need about 1/2 of the square feet area of your pool in panels. My pool is 800 square feet and I need 400 square feet of panels. Panels can be installed on a roof, which includes a pergola, bath house, or roof. (See picture above of the installation of panels on top of a pool house.)
In the alternative, they can be installed on a ground mount which adds about 3 dollars a square foot to the cost since the ground mount must be able to sustain the weight of snow. (See picture above of a ground mount.) In my case, this would add about $1200 dollars to the job.
What intrigued me was the cost. Why would 400 square feet of panels be so much less in comparison to photovoltaic panels? Solar pool panels are low cost unglazed, plastic collectors rather than made from crystalline silicon like photovoltaic panels. (See here for more information how photovoltaic panels are made.)
In addition, installation orientation for pool solar heating is not an issue like the installation of photovoltaic panels. PV panels should be installed on a south facing roof. However, Bonet explained that pool panels can be installed in any direction in the northeast since the summer sun is so high in the sky.
How Much Warmer Will My Pool Be?
How much warmer will your pool be by heating it with pool solar panels? Bonet explained by fifteen (15) degrees, which enables you to swim on average from late April to end of September assuming 82 degree temperature for exercising and 85 degree temperature for leisurely swimming. In addition, a conventional heater can supplement your swimming pleasure. If desired temperature is not met by solar panels, the pool can then call for supplemental heat via your heater.
How will the Panels Affect my Variable Speed Pump?
As we were talking, I asked Bonet why there are not incentives for pool heating, reasoning that incentives are provided for the installation of variable speed pump motors in California. Thank goodness I brought up this point. Bonet explained that putting solar pool heating panels on a roof is a problem for variable speed motors. In order to pump the water up to a roof, the variable speed motor must be set in a high speed which defeats the purpose of the variable speed’s lower energy consumption. Bonet indicated that the manufacturers of variable speed motors are working on rectifying this problem. In addition, one can install the panels on a ground mount or on top of a pergola which may alleviate the variable speed motor issue. Check with your variable speed motor manufacturer before you install pool panels to make sure of the right speed to use.
Who Can I Trust to Install?
With solar becoming the new rage, how do you know which installer is a right fit for you? Bonet advised to find out the following about your prospective installer:
- Look for a Company who has been owned by the same people for many years and has alot experience. You want a company that has been around and will continue to be around long after your installation.
- Ask for at least five references with at least three client references where there was a problem with their installation or systems in general. You are looking to see if the Company came back and properly serviced the client. Bonet can give you references right there on the spot when he or one of the other owners comes for a site inspection. (Their client map has addresses and names attached to each dot which only the Company has access to.)
- Obtain several quotes. The one that is seems to be a lot lower than the others is too good to be true.
- Where are their products made and assembled? All of Solar Living’s pool panels are made in NJ. In fact all of their hot water or photovoltaic panels are made in the USA.
At the end of the summer, your pool company can purge the system if it is underground. If above ground, the system purges itself when your pool company closed your pool.
For all of DIYer, see here for home-made pool collectors.
So, consider harnessing the sun rather than our natural gas resources to heat your pool this summer. I don’t know about you but just dreaming about lounging in my warm pool in the summer, might get me through this frigid winter.
So, readers, do any of you have solar pool heating? If so, what has been your experience with it?
Any readers thinking of installing solar pool heating?