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Solar panels for pools: From chilly to chill

Tired of huge bills for pool heating? Get solar panels! In this article, we'll take a look at three types of solar panels for pools and explore how powering your pool with clean energy can increase your savings and help the planet.

This article was updated in March 2024

Worth it: Solar panels heat your pool and help the planet

up to $800

pool heating monthly energy costs

Pool heaters can cost up to $600 per month to run, with the pumps adding an additional $200 to the bill. Solar panels for pools can become a great long-term investment for homeowners looking to reduce these costs.

In addition to saving money, solar panels decrease the carbon footprint of a household. A 10,000-gallon pool can save up to 3,000 lb of CO2 emissions per year by using solar panels instead of a traditional gas or electric pool heater, according to the paper by Gallion et al.

While solar panels can save money in the long run, the upfront costs can be high. The cost of a solar pool heating system ranges from $2,500 to $10,000, depending on the size of the pool and the type of panels used. Despite this cost, many pool owners find that the energy savings and environmental benefits outweigh the initial investment.

3 types of solar panels for your pool

When it comes to solar panels for pools, there are three types to consider: thermal, photovoltaic and hybrid panels.

Thermal solar panels are best at heating water

Thermal panels absorb the heat of sun 

85%

maximum efficiency of thermal solar panels

Thermal panels use sunlight to heat a fluid, which then transfers the heat where it is needed. The fluid is usually a mixture of water and antifreeze which prevents the water from freezing in the winter. An absorber plate of a thermal panel converts sunlight into heat. A transparent cover allows sunlight to pass through but traps the heat inside. As the fluid circulates through the channels in the absorber plate, it absorbs the heat and carries it to the storage tank or heat exchanger and heats water for your needs.

The efficiency of thermal solar panels can reach an impressive 85%. However, heating is all they can do. You can install thermal solar panels on a roof or a ground-mounted rack, and the heated water can be circulated through the pool's filtration system or returned directly into the pool. 

Solar PV panels supply home with electricity

PV modules convert sunlight to electricity

Photovoltaic panels are much more versatile. They generate electricity which you can use to power a pool pump or a pool heater. The pool pump circulates the water through the pool's filtration system and the pool heater heats the water before it's returned to the pool. When you aren’t using the heater, the energy from panels can be directed elsewhere. You also have the option to sell the excess electricity into the grid. 

Solar panels go on top of your roof or in your yard. They require less maintenance than thermal panels and have a longer lifespan — over 25 years. However, they are generally more expensive to install than thermal panels.

PVT panels are an efficient hybrid of two types

Hybrid solar panels for pools do both

If you have a hard time choosing between thermal and photovoltaic panels, there is a third option that combines the benefits of both. Solar panels may get very hot on a sunny day. What’s more, the performance will suffer as the panels get hotter. Combining both technologies creates a win-win situation. Photovoltaic thermal (PVT) modules get a performance boost from cooling while heating the water in your pool.

Basically, PVT panels are just thermal panels, but they employ silicon cells instead of another heat-absorbing material at the front. Here’s how it works:

• The PV cells in the panel absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. It can be sold into the grid or used at home.
• As the PV cells absorb sunlight, they generate heat, which is transferred to a fluid circulating through the thermal collector in the panel.
• The fluid is then circulated through a heat exchanger, transferring the heat to the water for domestic hot water use or space heating.
• The cooled fluid is then recirculated back to the thermal collector, where it is heated again by the PV cells.

In terms of cost savings, hybrid solar panels are more efficient than traditional pool heating systems or PV systems, and can significantly reduce energy bills. A system of this type can collect 3-4 times the total solar energy of a solar electric system from the same roof area. Additionally, hybrid systems have a longer lifespan than traditional pool heaters and require minimal maintenance, making them a cost-effective long-term investment.

Using solar for heating water in Uganda

An A1 Solar Scholarship participant Michael Schoff offered his own perspective on the subject of heating water with the sun. Michael is member of Dartmouth College’s Humanitarian Engineering club which used solar energy to meet the energy needs of schools in Uganda.

Michael T. Schoff
Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering club’s member

As Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering group, we’re working on solar projects to sustainably heat water in sub-Saharan Africa. Firewood is the most prevalent way to heat water in that region, leading to carbon emissions and poisonous indoor air quality. Our club has traveled to Uganda to install solar thermal water heaters for schools. Currently, the club is planning a solar PV system to heat water for a primary school in rural Uganda.

I believe that the PV system can be more effective than solar thermal because the school chefs need the water in the early morning when they start cooking. Our previous systems could only heat water when the sun was out, so the tank cooled overnight. The cooks still needed to use firewood to reheat the water in the morning. An off-grid PV system has the advantage of a battery bank that can be charged during the day and discharged overnight to heat the water so that it is hot when the cooks need it at 5am. With this new design, we can hopefully eliminate the use of firewood in the school’s kitchen.

How to choose solar panels for pools

First, pick the type. Photovoltaic panels are great for generating electricity but would be inefficient for heating the pool water very often. Thermal panels are specifically designed for water heating but will do nothing else. Finally, hybrid systems will do both well, but they are harder to find and more expensive.

Solar panel systems for medium-sized pool (10,000-15,000 gal)

Thermal panels
PV panelsHybrid panels
System price
$2,500 – $4,000
$5,000 – $8,000
$7,000 — $10,000
Efficiency
Up to 85%
Up to 23%
Up to 65%
Applications
Heating
Electricity generation
Both

When making a choice consider several factors:

• Pool size. Larger pools will require more powerful panels and a bigger system in general.
• Panels efficiency. Higher efficiency panels will produce more power per ft², meaning that fewer panels may meet the energy demands of the pool.
• Warranty. Look for panels with a long warranty period, preferably 25 years or more, as this indicates that the manufacturer has confidence in the quality of their product.
• Weather resistance. Pick panels that will handle harsh weather well as they will be exposed to the elements for many years. Corrosion resistance is important, especially if you decide to place your system next to the pool.
• Costs. Solar panels pay for themselves long-term, but the upfront investments can be high. Use A1SolarStore calculator to calculate your return on investment (ROI) of the PV system, taking into account energy savings and tax incentives.

Calculate your solar system

Our Grid-Tied Solar System Calculator will help you choose the right solar panels and accessories to cover your energy needs.

Calculate your PV system

Photovoltaic panels may be the least efficient type when it comes to heating the water but they are much more versatile than thermal panels, plus cheaper and easier to get than PVT modules. When it comes to choosing them, several reputable brands offer high-quality and efficient products. 

LG is a top-rated brand that offers high-quality solar panels. Their panels are known for their durability and efficiency, with a conversion efficiency of up to 22%. LG also offers a 25-year warranty on their panels and has a reputation for excellent customer service. If you're looking for a reliable and long-lasting solar panel, LG is worth considering.

Canadian Solar is a popular choice for homeowners looking for affordable solar panels without sacrificing quality. Their panels have a conversion efficiency of up to 22%, which is still quite good, and they offer a 25-year warranty. Canadian Solar also has a reputation for being environmentally conscious and sustainable, which may appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

Suntech is another brand that offers efficient and reliable solar panels. Their panels have a conversion efficiency of up to 21%, and they come with a 12-year product warranty and a 25-year performance warranty. Suntech also has a strong focus on sustainability and has won several awards for their commitment to environmentally responsible practices.

3 best solar panels for pools

Vasilii Smirnov
Solar Installation Expert

One crucial piece of advice when choosing solar panels for your pool is to prioritize quality over price. Cheaper panels may save you money upfront, but they may not be as efficient or durable in the long run, costing you more in the end.

AC solar panels come with a microinverter come with a microinverter

The LG NeON 370 W solar panel is an excellent choice for pool solar installations. With its high power output of 370 W and an impressive efficiency of 20.4%, it generates more power per square foot than other panels. Additionally, the panel is durable and fully weatherproof but has a lightweight and slim profile that allows for easy installation on a variety of surfaces. This panel comes with a 25-year warranty and is an excellent option for homeowners looking for a truly reliable option for their pool.

Out of stock

LG NeON R 370W Solar Panel 60 cell LG-370M1K-A6 ACModule

  • Rated Power Output 370 W
  • Voltage (VOC)41.9 V
  • Number of cells60
  • Cell TypeMonocrystalline

Delivery on Jun 03–06

Canadian Solar HiKuBlack 390 W: Made in North America

This Canadian Solar 390 W panel is 19.2% efficient, rugged and more affordable compared to other popular choices. As a bonus, this sturdy and weatherproof PV module has a stylish, all-black appearance. Canadian Solar is a reputable brand from Ontario. It is famous for adapting its panels specifically to the North American climate.

Out of stock

Canadian Solar 390W Solar Panel 132 Cell CS3N-390MS HiKuBlack

  • Rated Power Output 390 W
  • Voltage (VOC)44.1 V
  • Number of cells132
  • Cell TypeMonocrystalline

Delivery on Jun 03–06

Suntech Ultra S 370 W: Stormproof

A great pool solar panel, this 370 W Suntech module has all it takes to become a reliable source of electricity for occasional heating, pumps, lights and other pool equipment. It is thinner and more compact than the two models above, but just as sturdy and efficient. Believe it or not, it can handle a 5400 Pa snow load and winds up to 210 mph.

Out of stock

Suntech 370W Solar Panel 120 Cell STP 370 S - B60/Wnhb

  • Rated Power Output 370 W
  • Voltage (VOC)40.9 V
  • Number of cells120
  • Cell TypeMonocrystalline

Delivery on Jun 03–06

Illustrations – Darya Vasina

Writing for electronics manufacturers like Bitmain taught Maxim to extract the important details from lengthy equipment documentation. At the same time, it made him aware of the environmental effects, and he put his talents to work for a renewable future.

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