What Are Solar Pool Covers and How Do They Work?

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated March 14, 2022
father and son playing in the pool
Photo: Halfpoint Images / Moment / Getty Images


  • Solar pool covers cost around $800–$1,000.

  • Solar covers lower evaporation by 95% on average.

  • Compared to other pool covers, solar covers are generally less solid but more effective at warming the pool.

  • Without a pool cover, your pool can lose 12,000–31,000 gallons of water every year.

  • There are three types of solar cover materials to choose from.

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Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you have to sit at the windowsill and look out longingly at your pool. Whether you want to keep dirt and debris out of the pool when it’s not in use or you want to take advantage of that solar heat from the sun on a cool day, a swimming pool solar cover is a multipurpose device that can make your pool easier to manage and use. 

This complete solar pool cover guide will provide you with everything you need to know about solar pool covers.

What Is a Solar Pool Cover?

A solar pool cover is a solar blanket that helps winterize your pool by keeping it heated in the cooler seasons, preventing debris from entering, and reducing water loss through evaporation. 

Solar pool covers come in an assortment of shapes and sizes to fit any pool. They also come in three main types of materials: vinyl, polyethylene, and polypropylene. 

How Do Solar Pool Covers Work?

These handy pool must-haves look like giant bubble wrap, but don’t let their appearance fool you. Despite their simple design and appearance, solar covers are an efficient and affordable way to heat pools on days that would otherwise be too cool.l. 

When combined with a solar pool heater, your pool cover serves as an energy-saver for heating your pool when you’re ready to take a dip on a late autumn afternoon. 

Solar covers also serve as protection from debris and prevent the chemicals in your pool, like chlorine, from evaporating. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an uncovered pool can lose anywhere from 12,000 to 31,000 gallons of water from evaporation annually.

In addition, a study conducted at the National Pool Industry Research Center by California Polytechnic State University shows that solar covers are 95% efficient at reducing evaporation, which helps conserve water and save you money on replacing all of that evaporated water.

Solar Pool Covers vs. Other Types of Pool Covers

5 types of pool covers, including automatic, mesh, solar, solid, and winter
Photo: pixinoo / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

While all pool covers work by protecting your pool from leaves, dirt, and other debris, each type has pros and cons that can influence your decision as you shop for a pool cover. Most other types of pool covers are not designed to let in solar light to warm the pool, so you don’t get the benefit of going for a swim in the winter as you do with solar pool covers.

Here are the different types of pool covers on the market and how they compare in cost, features, and performance:

Automatic Pool Covers

  • $12,000–$22,000

  • Made of heavy vinyl

  • Durable and sturdy

  • Increase pool temperatures

  • Can be used with a heat pump

  • Costly and expensive to repair

Mesh Pool Covers:

  • $1,500–$3,000

  • Made from polypropylene

  • Long-lasting with a 10–15-year lifespan

  • Doesn’t require a pump

  • Porous, allowing snow, ice, and rain to seep through the cover

Solid Vinyl Pool Covers

  • $1,200–$3,000

  • Made of solid vinyl

  • Sturdy and able to bear weight for safety

  • 6–10-year lifespan

  • Must also have a pump

  • Excellent at maintaining your pool

  • Costly and must be replaced more frequently

Solar Pool Covers

  • $75–$300

  • Made of vinyl, polyethylene, or polypropylene

  • 3-year lifespan

  • Lightweight to allow sunlight in

  • Not sturdy enough for safety benefits

Winter Pool Covers

  • $75–$225

  • Made of tarp

  • 1–3-year lifespan

  • Usually heavier and more secure than solar pool covers

  • Less effective than more costly pool cover options

Solar Pool Covers Pros and Cons

man covering swimming pool in yard
Photo: lara-sh / Adobe Stock

With that brief overview aside, solar pool covers alone offer many benefits with only a few disadvantages. 

Benefits of Solar Pool Covers

There are many pros to choosing a solar pool cover for your pool this year. Solar pool covers:

  • Conserve water by around 30%–50%

  • Reduce the use of chemicals in your pool by 35%–60%

  • Save money by keeping heating costs and make-up water low

  • Keep debris out of your pool

  • Cost very little compared to most other pool cover options

  • Heat your pool anywhere from 5–15 degrees Fahrenheit 

  • Make it possible to swim on cooler days

Disadvantages of Solar Pool Covers

On the other hand, solar pool covers do come with a few cons that are worth considering as you make your decision. For the most part, solar pool covers:

  • Have a short lifespan of only three years

  • Are too lightweight to provide security features for pets, children, and the elderly

How Much Do Solar Pool Covers Cost?

A solar pool cover costs around $75 to $300 on average. Price factors include the thickness of the material, type of materials, and the size of your pool. For example, a large pool with a thick cover made from vinyl is going to cost more than a small pool that uses a thin, polyethylene material.

Choosing a Solar Pool Cover

When it comes to picking a solar pool cover, it can feel a little like going into a hectic grocery store and having to choose between too many options! This is because there are several variables that can affect your decision. 

You have to take the material, the shape, and the thickness of the solar pool cover into account to pick a cover that works for your pool. 

Types of Solar Pool Cover Material 

Again, there are three types of materials used for solar pool covers—vinyl, polyethylene, and polypropylene—and the type you choose makes a difference in the performance of the solar cover. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of material available for a solar pool cover:

  1. Vinyl solar pool covers: Durable but heavy and less likely for light to pass through and warm your pool 

  2. Polyethylene solar pool covers: Lightweight, flexible, and capable of slight stretching

  3. Polypropylene solar pool covers: Similar to polyethylene but stiff and less durable than the other options and more resistant to the chemicals in your pool than polyethylene

Types of Solar Pool Cover Shapes

Most solar pool covers are not customized to perfectly fit your pool. However, there are a variety of shapes to choose from to help you pick a cover that most accurately covers the pool’s surface. These shapes include round, oval, or rectangular ones. 

Solar Pool Cover Thickness

In addition to all of the factors above, you also have to consider the thickness of the pool cover. Most solar covers come in three different thicknesses, including 8 mm, 12 mm, and 16 mm. The thicker the cover, the heavier and less transparent the material. 

A thicker cover is more durable than a flimsier one, but if you choose a material that is too thick, the amount of sunlight that your cover absorbs, also known as solar gain, will decrease. This means less heat will enter the pool to warm it. At the same time, a thicker cover is sturdier, less likely to blow away, and better at preventing UV damage to your pool and the chemicals inside it.

For maximum heat in your pool, opt for a transparent bubble cover, which will only reduce your pool’s solar energy absorption by around 5% to 15% compared to a more opaque and nontransparent cover, which will reduce the energy absorption by 20% to 40%, according to Energy Saver

The Dos and Don’ts of Solar Pool Covers

After choosing the best solar pool cover for your pool, it’s time to look at a few basic tips on what to do and what not to do with your solar pool cover.


  • Choose the correct thickness for your pool cover.

  • Pick the right size for your pool.

  • Decide on which material is best for your pool.

  • Consult with a trained professional for questions, advice, and installation help.


  • Hold your pool cover in place using cinder blocks, bricks, or any other heavy material not designed for holding the cover in place. It can damage your cover or pool and give way under the weight of a pet or child.

  • DIY the installation if you’re not experienced in accurately measuring and cutting the material. Doing the installation yourself could lead to the material falling short and not offering you the same benefits as an accurately measured pool cover.

Installing a Solar Pool Cover

You’ve chosen your solar pool cover for your pool and you’ve discovered the ins and outs of using one of these covers; now it’s time to install your cover and start saving water and energy. You can either DIY your cover installation or have a local professional swimming pool company install it for you. 

Here’s a quick look at both options:

Solar Pool Cover DIY Installation

If you want to get your handyperson skills on and just DIY the installation, installing your new solar pool cover should be a fairly straightforward process. 

Follow these three steps to properly install the cover:

  1. Lay the pool cover (bubble side downwards) across the surface of your pool few a few hours to let it settle.

  2. Once settled, use sharp scissors to cut the material, leaving 4 to 6 inches over the pool’s edge. 

  3. Let the cover settle for two to three more weeks before cutting the cover again, this time leaving 2 to 3 inches of material around the edges. This allows the cover to sit on top with its edges curled up like a bowl, preventing dirt from slipping in from the sides or underneath.

Hire a Pool Service Pro

Cutting the material just right keeps out debris, prevents your pool from losing water, and makes it easy to put the cover in place and remove come summertime, but it can also be challenging—especially if you’ve never done it before.

In this case, it might be best to hire a pool service company near you to do the installation. A trained professional will have the experience needed to make your new solar pool cover fit optimally, saving you time and money.

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