Home Solar PV Heating Systems for Swimming Pools and Spas

Just as hot water can be solar heated for residential use, the same can be done for the home swimming pool. Solar pool heating systems powered by photovoltaic cell power are not only more and more common, but may soon become mandatory by building code in some US States.

Heating a Pool with Solar Energy

Solar pool systems can vary much in look and design. Roof-mounted PV panels can be connected to heat the water remotely, but in most cases the solar arrays are set up alongside the pool or somewhere nearby. The size of the pool in gallons will determine how large of a solar panel system is required to heat the water to desired temperature.

Many pool systems powered by solar energy in the past have required obtrusive panels or equipment that was offputting to many homeowners. However, newer photovoltaic cell and panel designs have streamlined many systems so that they can be installed unobtrusively. Pool heating solar panels can be affixed to the tops of sheds or pool cabanas. Ground mounted freestanding pv panels can he partially or mostly hidden by foilage, bushes, or landscaping. Aesthetically, the older klunky solar pool heaters are a thing of the past.

But for those homeowners who don't want to see any type of solar electric equipment in their garden or backyard, there are still pool heating options. Some PV panel products are made into a type of solar fabric. These can be rolled up and down like windowshades, capturing the sun's energy to heat the pool during daylight hours and rolled up when not needed or desired to be seen. Portable solar kits can also power a pool heating system, with the panels being taken down seasonally and stored away during winter months or whenever an unslightly solar array might spoil the visual beauty of a backyard party or BBQ.

The Inner Workings of Solar Pool Heating - Collecting and Distributing the Sun's Energy

Operationally, heating pool water with the sun's rays works almost identically to a solar residental household water heater or tank. Cool water passes through solar collectors, and is in turn warmed by the sun. The heater water is transferred past an isolation valve and into the pool, as cool water is drawn from another area of the pool to be heated. The cool water usually passes though the pool's filtration system before being pumped into the solar collector array. Solar sensors determine water temperature and use check valves to divert heated water whenever necessary.

Alternative Home Energy

Solar panels used in the collectors are usually glazed. The glazing includes a transparent covering, usually glass, designed to reduce heat loss when applied to the surface of the solar absorbers. Glazing helps slow the process of both convective and radiant heat loss, whereas an unglazed collector will not. Another advantage of glazed solar collectors is that they can continue working in cold-air weather conditions. As long as the sun is shining, glazed systems will still capture heat energy.

Pool heating systems (even those completely absent of solar power) almost always include a pool blanket. Some pool blankets are constructed simply of plastic bubble-wrap, with each individual bubble acting almost as a solar lense to help heat the pool. Other blankets may be sprayed on one side with a 'solar' coating, which really only acts as an insulator. In all cases, pool blankets have one thing in common: they maintain water temperature within the pool by retaining heat that would normally be lost to the open air.

Solar Rings for Pool Heating

Finally, there are even floating pool rings containing passive solar heating devices built right into them. Made of tough heavyweight vinyl, these rings don't use PV cells at all - rather the upper clear layer of the ring holds insulating air and sunlight is focused on a lower, blue-colored layer. By buying enough of them, and covering the surface of your pool while not in use, the ensuing heat warms the surrounding water beneath it. These rings operate in exactly the same fashion as a bubble-wrap solar blanket, only the bubbles are much larger and the rings must be gathered up each time you want to swim... and then laid back out again to warm the pool when swimming is over.

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