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The Heat Is On - Swimming Pool Heating Options

There are many different systems and options when considering how to heat your swimming pool. Location, pool size and the desired temperature all affect which option is best for your facility. This blog introduces you to the various pool heating solutions available and the important factors to consider in order to make an informed decision.

 

NATURAL GAS, PROPANE & ELECTRIC POOL HEATERS

Natural gas and propane pool heaters are still very common and have become increasingly more energy efficient, which we all know is good news for the environment but also for the pocket book of the person or facility paying for the fuel. These are great options depending on the availability of the desired fuel in the location of the swimming pool. For example, a swimming pool in the city will no doubt have access to either natural gas or propane, however a rural swimming pool will have to look into which option is available and at what cost. If neither natural gas nor propane is available for a reasonable and affordable cost, an electric pool heater may be the solution. As anyone who has had to pay electricity bill on their own knows, electricity does not come cheap. In this case, there are other, more affordable options available such as a heat pump, solar heating system, or even a wood fired boiler used in conjunction with a heat exchanger, all of which will be discussed more below.

 

BOILERS, WOOD FIRED BOILERS & HEAT EXCHANGERS

Boilers used in conjunction with a heat exchanger are another common method used to heat a swimming pool. A typical boiler is gas fired and used to heat the entire building, so tying it into a heat exchanger to heat the pool is a great idea. Again, location determines whether this option is viable depending on the availability and cost of fuel, either natural gas or propane. The boiler must be sized properly for this however; therefore consulting with a professional pool designer at the beginning stages of design and throughout is always a good idea to make sure there are no problems when the facility is constructed. 

 

Wood fired boilers are a great option for a facility that has the outdoor space for it, as well as an abundance of wood to burn. Campgrounds, for example, typically have a lot of fire wood handy from cutting down trees to make campsites, wood left behind by campers, etc. So why not make use of it? In this case, a wood fired boiler connected to a heat exchanger is an extremely feasible option to heat the swimming pool. Keeping the fire stoked throughout the day and night is an important factor to consider before making your decision. Facilities like campgrounds are normally fully staffed throughout the summer season with employees who can handle the task. Delegating this job to an employee who will treat it as their baby and never let the fire die will ensure happy campers all season long!

 

HEAT PUMPS

A heat pump is an environmentally friendly option; however its effectiveness depends on the location of the swimming pool. Heat pumps will only work well in an environment with warm air to utilize. Operating much more efficiently than a natural gas, oil or an electric pool heater, a heat pump can show big monetary rewards in areas with high natural or propane gas costs. To run this efficiently, the heat pump extracts the heat from the air, intensifies the heat with a compressor, delivers the heat to the water, and exhausts the cooler air out the top of the unit. Since it uses the warm ambient air temperature to do the work, it is a very efficient way to heat water.

 

SOLAR POOL HEATING

A solar pool heating system is a great way to make use of the energy provided by the sun and save money with regards to heating a pool. A typical solar heating system has a “collector”, which is the system that the water circulates through, to warm it up using the sun’s energy. The water is pushed through the collector by the pool pump, which has to be sized properly to account for the extra work it has to do in comparison to a pool that does not use solar heating. Generally, the water that comes from the pool is first sent through a strainer, which removes any debris that may be present in the water that could damage or clog the pump and filter. Then, the water goes through the pump into the filter, where smaller impurities are filtered out. Once the water is filtered, it is sent into the solar “collector”, which is usually a series of tubes on a southern facing roof to heat the water inside of them. The warm water is then returned to the pool. This system is ideal, but its effectiveness depends on the location of the pool geographically. The system, as with any other pool heating system, must be sized properly for it to function as desired. 

 

As always, it is best to consult with a professional pool consultant when considering a pool heating option for a new or existing facility. 

 

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Heat Loss Prevention: Solar Blankets or Liquid Pool Covers?

When I think about heating an outdoor swimming pool, the first method that comes to mind is a solar blanket, or solid cover. Usually, this means a large blue bubble wrap sheet that covers the entire surface of your pool, and is stored on a reel when the pool is in use. However, did you know there is another option to help keep the heat in your pool? Let’s take a look at two of the most common, but different options.

 

A solar blanket retains heat, and radiates the heat to the pool water when the sun is shining. When purchasing a solar blanket, you have several options you can choose from including, but not limited to size, shape, colour, density, and type of material. With the array of sizes and shapes, there will always be something that will fit your pool almost perfectly or, in some cases, after a little trimming. All colour options are equally effective, so the choice of colour is ultimately based on the pool owner’s preference. The density of the cover will usually determine the life expectancy of the cover.  

 

SOLAR BLANKETS

Solar blankets can help protect your pool water from debris that could blow in on a windy day; however, solar blankets can also become a breeding ground for algae if left on for too long in the heat and humidity. Below, are a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of solar blanket heating options.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Solar blankets have an insulating quality (provided by the air pockets that make them up) that liquid covers do not.
  • Can help prevent some debris from entering the pool

DISADVANTAGES

  • Solar Blankets don’t last long. After approximately 3 seasons, the blanket will need to be replaced.
  • Labour intensive (If you do not have a reel for your solar blanket, you need two sets of hands to lift and fold the blanket before and after pool use)
  • Solar blankets are not aesthetically pleasing.
  • They can be very dangerous if trapped underneath.
  • Not environmentally friendly. Did you know you can make tens of thousands of sandwich bags from the material used in a solar blanket? Process to manufacture uses oil to produce the plastic.
  • Although a solar blanket will prevent some debris from entering the pool, most of it ends up in the pool when you take the cover off.

LIQUID POOL COVERS

Liquid covers reduce heat loss in your swimming pool by reducing evaporation of water from the surface. There are a number of liquid pool covers currently on the market by many different manufacturers. However, one thing that seems to be consistent throughout the market is the environmentally friendly factor. Liquid pool covers are usually biodegradable and made with an alcohol based product, which won’t harm your pools chemistry when used in the correct dosage. Most importantly, liquid pool covers are safe for your family, and even your four legged friends!

 

The ingredients used to form a liquid pool cover are not the only safety feature. When considering safety, liquid pool covers are by far the safer option in comparison to a solar blanket. If you have children or pets and use a solar blanket, there is a potential risk of entrapment. Once submerged, a solar blanket can be difficult to escape for people and animals of all sizes. A liquid pol covers invisible film is impossible for something or someone to get caught underneath, eliminating the risk of entrapment entirely.

 

When taking operation into account, liquid pool covers have their disadvantages as well. Since the liquid is a thin layer, it can be disturbed by movement in the water and from wind. The liquid pool cover will only resume its total pool coverage once the water movement has stopped.

 

The convenience of a liquid pool cover is another benefit. There is no labour required to use this product. On top of that, how many times have you thought to yourself, “I’d like to go for a swim”, only to realize that your solar blanket is on and to go swimming, you not only have to find another set of hands, but you also have to remove it? Sometimes, going for a swim isn’t really worth the effort. A huge benefit of a liquid pool cover is the immediacy. Do you want to swim right now? Great! With a liquid pool cover all it takes is a big jump and you are swimming, without the worry of lugging that large wet plastic tarp off of your pool. Below, are a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of liquid pool covers.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • The danger of entrapment is eliminated with the use of a liquid pool cover
  • There is no labour requirement
  • No need to worry about replacement covers
  • Non-toxic
  • Very aesthetically pleasing. The cover is completely transparent, and invisible to the naked eye. Swimmers won’t even know it is being used.
  • Environmentally friendly and biodegradable

DISADVANTAGES

  • Must purchase the product
  • Not suitable for disturbed water
  • Will not stop debris from entering the pool

Solar blankets and liquid pool covers both have their benefits, but they also have their downfalls. They are both effective at preventing heat loss from your pool, however, there are some differences. After considering all of the factors for each option, and weighing them against some of your needs you can determine the benefits you value the most, which in the end, will help you make a decision.

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