Installing a pool in your backyard can not only provide joy for the family, but also generate significant property value that might even exceed the cost of constructing the pool itself. Pool maintenance, however, represents a major strain on energy and, as such, increases your utility bills. Neil Anderson Associates estimates the cost of heating a 500-square foot pool to a depth of just five feet to be $100 in the summertime and $1,000 in the wintertime. Those who want to minimize the cost of their indoor or outdoor pools can utilize the power of the sun to get free electricity. Solar-savvy homeowners are part of a larger American trend that’s shifting toward energy independence: The Refrigeration School reports that 6 million more American homes are expected to start using solar power by 2020.
Solar vs. Gas
A gas pool heater does not cost as much as other parts of a pool, such as the filter or the chemicals needed to keep it clean, but the price tag on a gas heater is still considerable. Homeowners with an uncovered pool face an initial investment of some two thousand dollars, reports the Department of Energy. And that’s just for the heater, not the gas, which currently costs approximately five dollars for every million BTUs of warmth. That may sound cheap, but the total energy cost of heating a pool is considerable: Solar Swim suggests a pool will use about one half million BTUs in order to get warm enough to enjoy, which is about the amount of energy needed to heat an entire house. Installing solar grids can drastically cut down on the cost of powering a pool.
Though solar power is a renewable resource, the panels themselves will cost money at the outset in order to set up the grid. The good news is that these panels are much cheaper on today’s market than they were a few years ago: Solar Heating for Dummies writes that a 4×20 panel costs around $200, a fraction of the price tag on solar panels as little as a decade ago. What’s more, pool suppliers have picked up on the solar craze and offer customers ready-made panels to heat a pool, so that a homeowner need not even pay out to a contractor to install the panels on their property. Once you choose to install solar grids, your main consideration will be how to most efficiently harvest the sun’s rays—where to place the panels for greatest energy return.
The quantity of sunlight that your property receives in any given day will be the greatest determining factor to effectively reduce the costs of pool heating through solar. Obviously, you do not want to install solar panels in the shade of your home or beneath trees along your property, but you may also want to take into consideration data about the cost efficiency of solar in the climate where you live. The National Renewable Energy Council has charts on solar efficiency in different parts of the country that can help homeowners calculate the amount of solar power they can expect to snag through any given year; to no surprise, the rainy Pacific Northwest is low on the list while the sunny deserts of Arizona and New Mexico top the charts.
Once your solar grids are set up, you can take additional steps to minimize the amount of energy needed to heat up a pool, like by taking advantage of a pool liner. A pool lining prevents the water from losing heat through contact with the cold cement of the ground, and can therefore be a great energy-saving tool.
The Big Picture
Solar grids can increase energy independence for a pool. A homeowner should determine their solar exposure to calculate how many grids are needed, and then make certain the grids get the maximum amount of light each day. Finally, take steps to avoid heat loss from the water itself.