Pool Heaters Icon In the market for a Pool Solar Heater? Check out our 2023 Guide to the Best ones including Ratings!

updated: March 23, 2023

Thinking of investing in a solar pool heater? A backyard pool can be a terrific way to splash away your cares after a long, hard day at the office. However, if your pool is too frigid, diving into it can be a decidedly unpleasant experience instead of a delightful one.

Best-rated Solar Pool Heaters - 2023
Solar Heaters are Suitable for Above-ground & In-ground Pools

That’s where pool solar heaters enter the picture. These units require no electricity, are relatively easy to set up, and have exceptional efficiency. You can get solar heaters for above-ground pools and solar heaters for in-ground pools. You can even get floating solar pool heaters.

You can extend swim season by several months by running a solar heater for your pool. That way, you’ll be able to take a refreshing dip as the spring buds start to appear on the trees. You can also go for a relaxing swim in the autumn when the foliage explodes in bursts of orange and yellow.

Solar pool heater panels

Moreover, the cost of operating one is significantly less than any other type of pool heater. Solar pool heaters harness the sun’s free energy to get pool water nice and toasty, so you only pay what it costs to run a pool pump, typically $75 a year.

Because pool warmers cost hardly anything to run, you’ll likely recoup your initial investment within three years. They don’t spew planet-destroying greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, making them the most environmentally friendly pool heater choice.

Because these types of heaters are in such demand, they can even boost your home’s value. And with no moving parts, maintenance needs are minimal.

If you don’t have much space in your yard for a solar pool heater, don’t worry. That’s because you can mount panels on top of your house.

How They Work

The sun’s rays are constantly beating down on your backyard swimming oasis, which causes pool water to naturally heat up a tiny bit. Solar pool heaters amplify this natural effect a hundredfold.

How solar pool heater works

They do this by pushing pool water through tubes fastened to the back of collectors. As the water rises in the pipes, the sun’s energy collected by the panels makes the water warmer. The unit returns the water to the pool and repeats the cycle until the pool reaches your desired temperature level.

In places where it gets blisteringly hot, a solar heater can even cool pool water. It does that by circulating water through the collectors at night, when it’s significantly cooler.

Types Of Solar Pool Heaters

Flat Plate

Flat plate type of solar pool heater

This is the most common type consisting of a polypropylene sheet that absorbs the sun’s energy. This flexible and lightweight material makes it easier for pool owners to mount this type of unit to a roof or ground rack.

Evacuated Tube

Evacuated Tube type of solar pool heater

This model consists of parallel rows of glass tubes containing a metal heat pipe. The pipe is attached to a fin that absorbs solar energy, and the fin transfers heat to fluid in a metal tube.


A batch collector consists of tubes inside an insulated box. Water is heated by the sun as it passes through the pipes before recirculating.

The SunHeater S240U: Our Top-Rated Solar Pool Heater

1Most environmentally friendly
Incredibly energy efficient and cost-effective solution to your pool heating problem.

Not ready for the swim season to end? With the SunHeater S240U, it doesn’t have to! The S240U allows you to capture free heat from the sun to raise your pool water temperature to a comfortable level. It’s the most efficient and cost-effective method to heat your pool.

By running the system at night, you can even cool your water. This is a fantastic feature if you ever have severe heat waves.

ProsThe Good

This heater can raise your water temperature by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, which can significantly extend your pool season. It’s available for in-ground and above-ground pools of all shapes and sizes. You choose where you want to install it, whether on your roof, a fence, angled on the ground, a backyard shed, or anywhere else that strikes your fancy.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

In colder climates, the system might not generate enough of a temperature increase to be worth the cost. Some people say that the tubing that comes with the heater is a bit too thin. If you’re not careful, you can accidentally create tiny pinholes in it, which means that it must be replaced.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Many owners of this highly efficient pool heating system love how much money they save using it. The cost to warm up your backyard swimming oasis can start to add up in late spring and early fall if you’re using a gas or electric heater. However, the only expense in using this heater is the cost of running your pool pump, which is something you would do anyway.

Other users love how environmentally friendly it is and how easily it can be installed by the average pool owner.

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Solar Pool Heater Pros and Cons

Solar-Powered Pool Heater Pros


Solar pool heaters typically enjoy longer lifespans than other models. In fact, they can last up to 20 years before materials break down due to harsh UV rays and exposure to extreme temperatures and often outlive the roofs they’re built upon. Because they don’t have moving parts, they won’t need much maintenance and hardly ever break down.

Installing a solar-powered pool heater could make you eligible for tax credits. This is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of income tax you would otherwise have to pay.

For example, if you claim a $1,500 solar tax credit, you reduce your federal income tax by $1,500. The laws around them change frequently, so check state and local laws to see if you can get them before investing money in a solar system.

Luke Reed - Pool Maintenance Expert
Unlike gas- and electric-powered models, solar-powered units don’t require outside power sources other than the sun’s free and abundant energy. This makes them significantly more cost-effective than other models.
Expert Team

Solar-Powered Pool Heater Cons


Solar heaters for pools take longer to get pool water up to temperature than gas-powered ones. Even on days when sunlight is constantly streaming down on your pool, these units can only heat your water by a few degrees each day.

Because solar units need lots of sunlight to do the job they were designed for, they’re not suitable for places where it’s always cloudy. If you install them at ground level, you’ll need plenty of space because the panels need to have square footage of 50% of your pool or more.

Solar Pool Heaters FAQs

frequently asked questions about electric pool heater
Is solar pool heating worth it?

If you live in a place that enjoys summerlike weather most of the year, a solar-powered warmer is the most economical way to get your pool nice and toasty. While initial costs can be significant, ongoing operational expenses are lower than other pool heaters.

How long does it take to heat an average-sized pool with a solar pool heater??

The time it takes to get your pool water up to temperature depends on how warm you want the water to be, how big your pool is, the average outside temperature in your neck of the woods, pool heater type, and whether your pool is above- or in-ground. On average, solar-powered units boost water temperature by 5 to 7 degrees every 24 hours. On cloudy days with only sporadic sun, it might only heat water by 2 to 3 degrees every 24 hours.

Does solar pool heating work in the winter months?

Only if you live in a part of the country with balmy weather for most of the year, like California or Florida. Even in these places, temperatures can drop to a bone-chilling 55 degrees or less. Under these conditions, a solar pool heater won’t heat pool water to a temperature most people will feel comfortable swimming in. That’s why some pool owners wanting to enjoy their pools during colder parts of the year use another type of pool heater as a backup.

How many solar panels will it take to heat an inground pool?

If you’re using 4’x12′ panels in a warmer part of the country such as southern California, a solar-powered unit typically requires between 6 and 10 panels.

How to Choose a Solar-Powered Pool Heater

Getting a solar-powered pool heater isn’t as simple as finding one that looks like it might do the job. That’s because you’ll need to carefully consider the following factors:


Climate is among the most significant factors when deciding which solar swimming pool heater is right for you. Let’s say you live where it’s summerlike much of the year. In that case, your heater won’t need to be as big as one for significantly colder meteorological conditions.

Pool Size

Sizing is another crucial factor when deciding which solar-powered pool heater to get. The bigger your pool, the harder the system must work to heat water to a temperature you’ll feel comfortable swimming in. That means you’ll need more panels or larger ones.

Solar pool heater

The collectors’ surface area in a solar-powered heater should be between 50% and 100% of your pool’s surface area. If you live where it’s overcast much of the time, you might have to boost this ratio. The good news is that by increasing the square footage, you can also increase the length of swim season.

For example, a 20 by 40-foot in-ground swimming pool in Massachusetts requires collectors with 480 square feet of surface area. That’s because in this state, people use their backyard swimming oases for no more than six months of the year. Therefore, the surface area of your collectors only needs to be approximately 60% of the pool’s square footage.

Pool cover
Using a Pool Cover Retains Heat

Using a pool cover can trap heat that ordinarily would leak out at night. This can help reduce the size of the solar-powered pool heater you’ll need.

If you’re replacing a traditional pool heater with a solar-powered one, you may have to get a bigger pump. That’s because moving water through collectors takes more power than circulating water in your pool.

Backyard Size

Before plunking down money for a solar-powered unit, ensure you have enough space. If you put collectors on the ground, you’ll need a lot of it. The other option is to put your panels on top of your house. That way, space won’t be as much of an issue since you’re not using your roof for anything else.

Deciding Where to Put Panels

When deciding where to put panels, ensure that backyard objects won’t block sunlight as the sun moves from east to west. You can install panels anywhere where there’s enough sunlight hitting the collectors. Also, you need to find a place where you can orient them in the right direction and position them with the correct tilt toward the sun.

people decide where to put solar pool heater
You Need to Find a Right Place where to Put Panels

In the northern hemisphere, the optimal orientation is typically true south. This is the direction of the planet’s south pole, as opposed to magnetic south.

If you only take dips in the summer, tilt your collectors at an angle equal to your latitude minus 10 to 15 degrees. If you use your pool all year, the tilt should be the same as your latitude.

Solar Pool Heater Installation and Maintenance

Pool Solar Heater Installation

Installing a solar-powered pool heater isn’t too hard if you’re an experienced DIYer. Here’s what you’ll need to install a solar-powered warmer for an in-ground pool:

  • Solar collectors
  • Mounts
  • Steel bolts
  • Power drill
  • Straps and clips
  • PVC pipes
  • Adapters
  • Three-way valves
solar pool heater installation
  1. Step One: Choose Where You Want It to Go

    Select a place where the system will get plenty of natural light.

  2. Step Two: Attach Mounts

    If you’re installing the system on your roof, drill holes into the rafters approximately four feet apart. These are for the mounts. Attach mounts with steel bolts.

  3. Step Three: Fasten Collectors

    Attach panels to the mounts securely with clips and straps.

  4. Step Four: Ensure That Pump and Filter Is Off

    Ensure that everything is off so you can safely proceed to the next part.

  5. Step Five: Connect Collectors to Pipes

    Connect the inlet header at the bottom of the collector to a three-way valve using tubes. Connect a tube from the filter to the valve. Connect a tube to the pump from the other end of the filter. If the tube isn’t long enough, use an adapter. Connect the pipe at the end of the outlet header to the valve. Attach the three-way valve pipe to the pool.

  6. Step Six: Test System

    Lastly, fire up the pump, open the valves, and let the pump run for an hour or two. If the water gets warmer, everything is working just fine.

Solar Pool Heater Maintenance

Solar pool heaters maintenance

You can keep your solar pool heater running well for up to 20 years by maintaining it. Maintenance primarily consists of keeping pool chemicals balanced and regularly checking the filter, so the system doesn’t get clogged.

You also need to clear debris off collectors so they can operate at maximum efficiency. If glazed collectors are a part of your system, rinse them off regularly if your area doesn’t get much rain.

To winterize your unit, switch it off and drain the pipes before the mercury dips below freezing to prevent damage.

How Much Does a Solar Pool Heater Cost?

Wondering about solar pool heater cost? Well, a solar-powered pool warmer can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000, including buying the unit and installing it. While initial system costs can be greater than other types of pool heaters, ongoing expenses are where these models shine. By investing in one, your only operational expense is the electricity needed to run the pump. Typically, this is around $120 a year.

NOTE: This means a solar-powered model will pay for itself within 7 years.

Solar-Powered Pool Heaters for Above-Ground Pools

An above-ground pool loses warmth faster than an in-ground one. That’s because heat not only escapes from the top, as it does in in-ground pools—it also dissipates on the sides.

Solar pool heaters for aboveground pool

In in-ground pools, the sides are surrounded by dirt (which acts as insulation) so the heat leaves more slowly. Think about insulating your above-ground pool if you’re considering using a solar-powered heater. You can buy insulation specifically made for above-ground pools to minimize heat loss.

By adding insulation, your solar heater for your above-ground pool will be so much more efficient.

Solar Heaters for Inground Pools

Solar pool heaters for inground pool

As long as you live in a warm climate and have enough backyard space, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of a solar pool heater for your inground pool. These models give you the most bang for your buck because ongoing operational costs are minimal.

They don’t emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, so their environmental impact is negligible. And with no parts to break down, maintenance is a breeze.

Luke Reed - Pool Maintenance Expert
Our pool maintenance expert, Luke Reed, earned his BS in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1998. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of industries, including design and construction of luxury swimming pools.
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