Solar Pool Heating

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MillennialFinance19
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Solar Pool Heating

Post by MillennialFinance19 »

Hello:

Our family is about to build an inground pool in the coming months. Our pool builder has recommended solar pool heating. He doesn't deal with the install or contracting, rather allows the homeowner to shop his list of reputable companies and cuts himself out of the deal (he does the same with landscaping, etc.) I'm trying to get some feedback from those of you who have solar pool heating and an opinion one way or another.

I started researching and have heard rough costs of $4k-$5.5k installed.

Background:
Located in the SE U.S. Average temps in December are High/Low 66/42, January 63/37, February, 67/41. These are the 3 months we're most concerned with. This will be on an east-facing roof; several of the companies have stated it is a good angle. Pool will have a full screen enclosure when complete.

My questions:

1) How well does the heating work? Is the pool swim-able in January?
2) Maintenance required? I've been looking at the system layouts and they seem pretty simple.
3) Cost. Is what I'm hearing consistent with what you know/spent? I, personally, think $4-5.5k is pretty reasonable considering the propane heating install is $7k not including tank.

Are there any other questions I should be asking? Thanks in advance!
For the love of God, stick to your plan!!!
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lthenderson
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by lthenderson »

My brother has a solar heated pool. He bought about 50 feet of galvanized pipe and elbows and after painting it black threaded it together like a giant heat exchanger with the end hanging over the edge of the pool. Water is pulled from the pool, run through the pipe heated by the sun and dumped back into the pool. To control the temperature though, one must swim over and turn off the pump going to it if it gets to warm or if too cold, turn on the same pump. Works remarkably well for about eight months of the year in northern Minnesota. On a sunny day, the water coming out the end would be hot enough to scald your skin. He uses just a cheap recirculation pump that generally comes with those inflatable pools you can buy online that doesn't draw much energy.
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MillennialFinance19
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by MillennialFinance19 »

lthenderson wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 4:35 pm My brother has a solar heated pool. He bought about 50 feet of galvanized pipe and elbows and after painting it black threaded it together like a giant heat exchanger with the end hanging over the edge of the pool. Water is pulled from the pool, run through the pipe heated by the sun and dumped back into the pool. To control the temperature though, one must swim over and turn off the pump going to it if it gets to warm or if too cold, turn on the same pump. Works remarkably well for about eight months of the year in northern Minnesota. On a sunny day, the water coming out the end would be hot enough to scald your skin. He uses just a cheap recirculation pump that generally comes with those inflatable pools you can buy online that doesn't draw much energy.
This is outstanding... gives me hope that I can swim for 12 months in the southeast!
For the love of God, stick to your plan!!!
criticalmass
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by criticalmass »

Plan on covering a "solar" cover at night or when not using the pool in cold months. That will significantly reduce heat loss and water loss through evaporation. It may also reduce chemical needs. I know lots of people in the Southeast (Florida) who use their in ground pool 12 months a year, in fact keeping the pool temperature cool in summer is a harder challenge than heating it in winter. A 96 degree pool isn't that fun, and is a challenge to keep clean and algae free without high chemical levels.

The energy of sunlight is the same per square meter, whether it lands on your pool, or on a solar panel. However a black panel/hose may absorb more thermal energy than a white pool bottom. The total heat gain (kinetic energy really) is more important than the temperature of water leaving a solar panel system, as you could run the pump slower to increase the output water temperature, but the total heat output of the water would remain same since the mass is reduced too.
Gill
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by Gill »

We have solar for the pool in Southwest Florida and find that it extends the shoulder season for swimming but by no means in December, January and February. We also have a propane gas heater to supplement the solar at times. I wouldn’t depend on solar alone.
Gill
Cost basis is redundant. One has a basis in an investment | One advises and gives advice | One should follow the principle of investing one's principal
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MillennialFinance19
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by MillennialFinance19 »

Gill wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 8:23 pm We have solar for the pool in Southwest Florida and find that it extends the shoulder season for swimming but by no means in December, January and February. We also have a propane gas heater to supplement the solar at times. I wouldn’t depend on solar alone.
Gill
That was what I’m looking for. I just want to set my expectations near reality.
For the love of God, stick to your plan!!!
Gill
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by Gill »

MillennialFinance19 wrote: Sat Nov 21, 2020 9:03 am
Gill wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 8:23 pm We have solar for the pool in Southwest Florida and find that it extends the shoulder season for swimming but by no means in December, January and February. We also have a propane gas heater to supplement the solar at times. I wouldn’t depend on solar alone.
Gill
That was what I’m looking for. I just want to set my expectations near reality.
I should have added that we don't use a pool blanket. As was mentioned earlier, they can help a great deal. I have had them at other Florida houses and found them a huge nuisance. When you want a five minute dip in the pool you are not about to pull the blanket off and then put it back on. I often would swim under the blanket which probably makes some people cringe at the thought. We have had both solar and gas heat in our current home for nine years and never swim in the coldest months of the year. If your pool has a spa the solar works very well for it and can actually bring the spa up to over 100 degrees in the Winter. We have that also and occasionally use the spa in that manner. Bottom line, we paid about $6,000 for the solar nine years ago plus a few repairs along the way and I'm not so sure the investment made sense. I could have burned a lot of propane for $6,000!
Gill
Cost basis is redundant. One has a basis in an investment | One advises and gives advice | One should follow the principle of investing one's principal
BoomerM3
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by BoomerM3 »

I think your expectations are to high. I live in SW Florida and have had solar for 20 years. We have a 'perfect' roof location - due south and adequate roof space to accommodate 7 panels.

1) How well does the heating work? Is the pool swim-able in January?
NOT. Our season ends in mid-December depending on the weather. To use the pool later than that, we need a additional heat source.
2) Maintenance required? I've been looking at the system layouts and they seem pretty simple.
No maintenance required - or possible. We had a 12 year warranty. That is important!

3) Cost. Is what I'm hearing consistent with what you know/spent?
Can't compare because our installation is so old. But, a heat pump or gas heater requires expensive installations,
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MillennialFinance19
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by MillennialFinance19 »

BoomerM3 wrote: Sat Nov 21, 2020 11:01 am I think your expectations are to high. I live in SW Florida and have had solar for 20 years. We have a 'perfect' roof location - due south and adequate roof space to accommodate 7 panels.

1) How well does the heating work? Is the pool swim-able in January?
NOT. Our season ends in mid-December depending on the weather. To use the pool later than that, we need a additional heat source.
2) Maintenance required? I've been looking at the system layouts and they seem pretty simple.
No maintenance required - or possible. We had a 12 year warranty. That is important!

3) Cost. Is what I'm hearing consistent with what you know/spent?
Can't compare because our installation is so old. But, a heat pump or gas heater requires expensive installations,
Thanks, BoomerM3, this is helpful. Understand on January, that was my "shoot for the moon" goal. If we can take a casual dip in November and March, I'll be pretty satisfied. If I can squeeze one in on Christmas Eve, I'd be thrilled.

My biggest turnoff for propane is that our current tank being 120 only gallons wouldn't suffice to accommodate the pool. We would need to replace the tank, or add an additional larger one. Additionally, the upfront cost is definitely more on propane, maybe so much that it would never make financial sense.
For the love of God, stick to your plan!!!
Gill
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by Gill »

MillennialFinance19 wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 8:56 am
BoomerM3 wrote: Sat Nov 21, 2020 11:01 am I think your expectations are to high. I live in SW Florida and have had solar for 20 years. We have a 'perfect' roof location - due south and adequate roof space to accommodate 7 panels.

1) How well does the heating work? Is the pool swim-able in January?
NOT. Our season ends in mid-December depending on the weather. To use the pool later than that, we need a additional heat source.
2) Maintenance required? I've been looking at the system layouts and they seem pretty simple.
No maintenance required - or possible. We had a 12 year warranty. That is important!

3) Cost. Is what I'm hearing consistent with what you know/spent?
Can't compare because our installation is so old. But, a heat pump or gas heater requires expensive installations,
Thanks, BoomerM3, this is helpful. Understand on January, that was my "shoot for the moon" goal. If we can take a casual dip in November and March, I'll be pretty satisfied. If I can squeeze one in on Christmas Eve, I'd be thrilled.

My biggest turnoff for propane is that our current tank being 120 only gallons wouldn't suffice to accommodate the pool. We would need to replace the tank, or add an additional larger one. Additionally, the upfront cost is definitely more on propane, maybe so much that it would never make financial sense.
Our gas heater was about $2,000 plus a 250 gallon propane tank. Had to replace the heater after about six years. Add that to the $6,000 solar and I’d hate to calculate how much each dip in the pool costs me!
Gill
Cost basis is redundant. One has a basis in an investment | One advises and gives advice | One should follow the principle of investing one's principal
SwampDonkey
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by SwampDonkey »

MillennialFinance19 wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 3:20 pm My questions:

1) How well does the heating work? Is the pool swim-able in January?
2) Maintenance required? I've been looking at the system layouts and they seem pretty simple.
3) Cost. Is what I'm hearing consistent with what you know/spent? I, personally, think $4-5.5k is pretty reasonable considering the propane heating install is $7k not including tank.

Are there any other questions I should be asking? Thanks in advance!
Also live in FL and have a solar heated pool (9k gallons, for reference).

To answer your questions:
1. Heating works extremely well. We have a small waterfall in our pool and when you sit under the waterfall during the sunny hours, the water feels like hot shower-temperature water. I swam last week and the pool was 80 degrees. Yesterday it was 72 degrees. Unless you are very brave, I don't think you'd want to swim from Dec-Feb using a standard-sized solar system.

2. We've been in our home 2.5 years - zero maintenance so far.

3. Came with the home so costs are unknown.

Other thoughts:
1. If you really want to swim in the winter, you can add more solar panels and this should increase your warming capacity. My neighbor recently doubled his panels and he says it should be enough to comfortably swim in the winter.

2. Because most panels are on the roof, make sure the pump that is installed is powerful enough to pump the water up there effectively.

3. Also, because this is a new pool install, HIGHLY recommend your pool company install a variable-speed pump. We installed one last year and it is much better than a single-speed pump (~2x the costs of a single speed but the energy efficiency will pay off the difference within 1-2 years.... it's a no-brainer).
OldBallCoach
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by OldBallCoach »

We are in southwestern Michigan on Lake Michigan and we use a solar pool heater with issues what so ever. Our contractor installed it as part of the build so I am not sure on actualy cost but four years in we have spent nothing on it or any of the pool for that matter. We open out pool mid May and close usually mid September. We do have a cover that rolls out at night when its cooler out. July and August no cover at all. Enjoy!!
Bobby206
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by Bobby206 »

Have had it for over 15 years on our pool here in California. I find it extends the swim season a few weeks on each end and makes it more comfortable on questionable days. However, if I was doing it again I'd get a gas heater. Of course ymmv.
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MillennialFinance19
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by MillennialFinance19 »

SwampDonkey wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:31 am
3. Also, because this is a new pool install, HIGHLY recommend your pool company install a variable-speed pump. We installed one last year and it is much better than a single-speed pump (~2x the costs of a single speed but the energy efficiency will pay off the difference within 1-2 years.... it's a no-brainer).
Thanks on all.

Yes, we are getting a variable-speed pump.

EDITED TO ADD: We have a ton of roof space, so we're going to go over the top as far as the # of panels is concerned.
Last edited by MillennialFinance19 on Sun Nov 22, 2020 10:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by MillennialFinance19 »

OldBallCoach wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:41 am We are in southwestern Michigan on Lake Michigan and we use a solar pool heater with issues what so ever. Our contractor installed it as part of the build so I am not sure on actualy cost but four years in we have spent nothing on it or any of the pool for that matter. We open out pool mid May and close usually mid September. We do have a cover that rolls out at night when its cooler out. July and August no cover at all. Enjoy!!
That's encouraging considering where you're located.
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HomeStretch
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by HomeStretch »

If you really want to swim day and night year round, it’s going to cost you a lot and you will need multiple systems (solar cover, solar, propane heater). Consider adding a spa to your pool for use in the coldest months in lieu of trying to swim in main pool in those months.

For the longest pool swimming season, in my experience you need a solar cover used at night to retain heat combined with a heater (solar and/or propane). The solar covers on rollers are cumbersome to roll/unroll and aesthetically unpleasing to me. Automatic covers can cost > $10k and can only be hidden under the coping if your pool is a rectangle shape.

In a cooler clime we use a propane heater to extend the pool season for a few weeks on either end. As ambient temperatures drop, an uncovered pool will lose a LOT of heat overnight (double digits in water temperature). No matter which method(s) you choose to heat your pool, it will take time and $ (for propane) to reheat your pool the next day to a comfortable temperature. How long depends on the pool’s number of gallons. In our case, the heater can only heat up to 4 degrees per hour.
Last edited by HomeStretch on Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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galving
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by galving »

No solar heater installed here in TX.
Pool temp running 71F. We have a full natural gas heater mainly for the spa but can re-route it to heat the full pool.
Over Christmas we ran the temp up into the mid 80'sF and used it for the full week. Total additional cost <$100.

We're generally in the pool 12 months/year even if we just bounce out of the spa and into the 'cold pool' for a short time.
Growing up in the Northeast I had several friends pull a plastic bubble wrap like cover over the pool at night which kept the water warm.
They'd leave the cover on during days they didn't swim and it acted as a solar 'heater' at probably a fraction of the cost.

Good luck!
illumination
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by illumination »

I think you're setting up expectations too high that this will allow you to swim comfortably in the winter (if that's the main goal). But everyone is wired different. It's also prohibitively expensive to use fuel to heat a full size pool (and electricity to heat it one is like another mortgage payment).

But one other thing to keep in mind if you're building a new pool around keeping it warm, I've found that a dark pebble tec finish makes a pool a lot warmer than a traditional white plaster pool. If I could have done my pool over, I would have done a pebble tec finish.

Also, solar pool blankets really work well (but are a pain). I had one just on my spa, and you would think the gas heater had been on for several hours when you went in just from the heat the sun produces.
OldBallCoach
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by OldBallCoach »

MillennialFinance19 wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 10:22 am
OldBallCoach wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:41 am We are in southwestern Michigan on Lake Michigan and we use a solar pool heater with issues what so ever. Our contractor installed it as part of the build so I am not sure on actualy cost but four years in we have spent nothing on it or any of the pool for that matter. We open out pool mid May and close usually mid September. We do have a cover that rolls out at night when its cooler out. July and August no cover at all. Enjoy!!
That's encouraging considering where you're located.
Our pool heater is actually pretty clever I think...they basically buried the pipe into the sand and that has exposure to sun almost all day. We use geo thermal /radiant heat in our home so it seemed like the natural plan to follow. One thing is when we winterize the pool is takes a commericial sized air compressor to blow out the lines, so we have that done by the same guy that does our lawn sprinklers. Draw down the water level and drain the lines and filters and pump and blow it clear. Seems to have worked well so far.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by TomatoTomahto »

illumination wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:05 am I think you're setting up expectations too high that this will allow you to swim comfortably in the winter (if that's the main goal). But everyone is wired different. It's also prohibitively expensive to use fuel to heat a full size pool (and electricity to heat it one is like another mortgage payment).

But one other thing to keep in mind if you're building a new pool around keeping it warm, I've found that a dark pebble tec finish makes a pool a lot warmer than a traditional white plaster pool. If I could have done my pool over, I would have done a pebble tec finish.

Also, solar pool blankets really work well (but are a pain). I had one just on my spa, and you would think the gas heater had been on for several hours when you went in just from the heat the sun produces.
I was shocked how large a dent our air sourced heat pump put in our solar net meter credits. Still cheaper than propane though.

We have pebble tec, and will consider a solar blanket (for the spa, yes, and perhaps the pool).
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
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unclescrooge
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by unclescrooge »

Based on my research during my in-laws pool renovation, here is what I learned.

Black bottom pool will be ten degrees warmer than a white pool. You can find the math online.

Pebble tech is very rough on your feet and fingertips. It looks nice, but we all hate it. I wouldn't get it if I was doing my pool. I'd put tile if I could afford it.

A solar blanket was the most cost effective solution. Invest in a roller to make the covering and uncovering portion less of a hassle.

We got solar quotes and it didn't make sense.
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by Valuethinker »

MillennialFinance19 wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 3:20 pm Hello:

Our family is about to build an inground pool in the coming months. Our pool builder has recommended solar pool heating. He doesn't deal with the install or contracting, rather allows the homeowner to shop his list of reputable companies and cuts himself out of the deal (he does the same with landscaping, etc.) I'm trying to get some feedback from those of you who have solar pool heating and an opinion one way or another.

I started researching and have heard rough costs of $4k-$5.5k installed.

Background:
Located in the SE U.S. Average temps in December are High/Low 66/42, January 63/37, February, 67/41. These are the 3 months we're most concerned with. This will be on an east-facing roof; several of the companies have stated it is a good angle. Pool will have a full screen enclosure when complete.

My questions:

1) How well does the heating work? Is the pool swim-able in January?
2) Maintenance required? I've been looking at the system layouts and they seem pretty simple.
3) Cost. Is what I'm hearing consistent with what you know/spent? I, personally, think $4-5.5k is pretty reasonable considering the propane heating install is $7k not including tank.

Are there any other questions I should be asking? Thanks in advance!
https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat ... ol-heaters

takes you through heat pump swimming pool heaters.

Propane is expensive relative to natural gas and that would make the economics of a HP more attractive. It sounds like natural gas is not an option?

So your real comparison is solar v heat pump?

In you shoes, if you have the roof space, I'd be thinking about Solar PV (depending on the economics of same in Florida, and the durability of the panels in a part of USA that suffers from hurricanes). Electricity is just expensive & so displacing it (by generating locally) is in the long run likely to be a good thing, financially.

There is such a thing as a solar PV - solar thermal hybrid panel (there's an Italian company that makes them). It should actually improve the efficiency of the PV panel (heat is not good for the semiconductor efficiency). But I imagine you'd need a specialised contractor that understoods the principles.

There are pool covers with rollers. That's an easy win and something of a no brainer.
Valuethinker
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by Valuethinker »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:30 am
illumination wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:05 am I think you're setting up expectations too high that this will allow you to swim comfortably in the winter (if that's the main goal). But everyone is wired different. It's also prohibitively expensive to use fuel to heat a full size pool (and electricity to heat it one is like another mortgage payment).

But one other thing to keep in mind if you're building a new pool around keeping it warm, I've found that a dark pebble tec finish makes a pool a lot warmer than a traditional white plaster pool. If I could have done my pool over, I would have done a pebble tec finish.

Also, solar pool blankets really work well (but are a pain). I had one just on my spa, and you would think the gas heater had been on for several hours when you went in just from the heat the sun produces.
I was shocked how large a dent our air sourced heat pump put in our solar net meter credits. Still cheaper than propane though.

We have pebble tec, and will consider a solar blanket (for the spa, yes, and perhaps the pool).
Just out of curiousity, aren't all pools blue?

I am thinking, here in the UK, I have never seen a swimming pool (public) that is not blue-green. Same would be true of Canada.
chrisjul
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by chrisjul »

Best invesment I've made in 10 years on the house. I live in S FL and can swim year round. NO maintenance or repairs in the 10 years I've had it.

GL!
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MillennialFinance19
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by MillennialFinance19 »

illumination wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:05 am I think you're setting up expectations too high that this will allow you to swim comfortably in the winter (if that's the main goal). But everyone is wired different. It's also prohibitively expensive to use fuel to heat a full size pool (and electricity to heat it one is like another mortgage payment).

But one other thing to keep in mind if you're building a new pool around keeping it warm, I've found that a dark pebble tec finish makes a pool a lot warmer than a traditional white plaster pool. If I could have done my pool over, I would have done a pebble tec finish.

Also, solar pool blankets really work well (but are a pain). I had one just on my spa, and you would think the gas heater had been on for several hours when you went in just from the heat the sun produces.
No, based on speaking to people in my area I figured Jan/Feb/Mar were far fetched. I’m just doing my research to see what I should expect!

We are doing a dark gray plaster finish.
Last edited by MillennialFinance19 on Sun Nov 22, 2020 1:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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MillennialFinance19
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by MillennialFinance19 »

Valuethinker wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:31 pm https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat ... ol-heaters

takes you through heat pump swimming pool heaters.

Propane is expensive relative to natural gas and that would make the economics of a HP more attractive. It sounds like natural gas is not an option?

So your real comparison is solar v heat pump?
Thanks for the insight. Yes, natural gas isn’t an option.
For the love of God, stick to your plan!!!
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unclescrooge
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Re: Solar Pool Heating

Post by unclescrooge »

Valuethinker wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:33 pm
TomatoTomahto wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:30 am
illumination wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:05 am I think you're setting up expectations too high that this will allow you to swim comfortably in the winter (if that's the main goal). But everyone is wired different. It's also prohibitively expensive to use fuel to heat a full size pool (and electricity to heat it one is like another mortgage payment).

But one other thing to keep in mind if you're building a new pool around keeping it warm, I've found that a dark pebble tec finish makes a pool a lot warmer than a traditional white plaster pool. If I could have done my pool over, I would have done a pebble tec finish.

Also, solar pool blankets really work well (but are a pain). I had one just on my spa, and you would think the gas heater had been on for several hours when you went in just from the heat the sun produces.
I was shocked how large a dent our air sourced heat pump put in our solar net meter credits. Still cheaper than propane though.

We have pebble tec, and will consider a solar blanket (for the spa, yes, and perhaps the pool).
Just out of curiousity, aren't all pools blue?

I am thinking, here in the UK, I have never seen a swimming pool (public) that is not blue-green. Same would be true of Canada.
The Hollywood style pool is white. Which makes for freezing temps, even in the California summer. My in-laws pool was useable for 2 months in SoCal before they redid it in dark blue.
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