Swimming pool heating is an issue for all pool owners. Even in the warmest climates, pools will rarely heat up to an ideal temperature and, if they do, it is only maintained for a short time each year. This results in unheated pools only being used for a small part of the year.
Heating the pool opens a whole new world of fun and happy kids; however, which is more efficient for pool heating, a solar or heat pump?
Overall, heat pumps are better than solar pool heating technology. Heat pumps provide a more immediate and accurate temperature control with lower running and maintenance costs. Heat pumps can be powered by solar systems making them environmentally friendly.
The two systems use very different technologies. Each has its pros and cons and has very different cost implications for the owner.
Solar Vs. Heat Pump for Pool Heating
The answer to which technology is better is not entirely straightforward. On the balance of the facts, Heat Pumps Win! There are, however, a couple of considerations that need to be considered, such as:
- The climate the property is situated in
- The pool owner’s initial and ongoing budget
- Maintaining the water at a specific temperature over a long period
The following explains the different types of heating systems available.
Closer Look at The Solar Water Heating Systems
Many solar systems can be used to heat your pool. These include:
- Solar Water Heaters
- Using Solar Panels to Heat Your Pool
- Solar Mats
- Dome Shaped Solar Collectors
- Pool Heating Covers
1. What Are Solar Water Heaters?
Water is piped through tubes placed under a monochromatic or photovoltaic panel. The panel converts the sun’s energy to heat and transfers this to the water flowing through the pipe.
2. How Do You Use Solar Panels to Heat Your Pool?
Solar panels use the sun’s energy to create electricity to power a heating appliance. The heating appliance could be either a heat pump or a heat exchanger. These systems have higher energy needs. You may need to expand your existing solar power system to cover the energy needs of the heat pump or heat exchanger. Costs of acquiring and installing solar panels are high.
3. What Are Solar Mats?
Solar mats are installed on the house roof, preferably close to the swimming pool.
The pool pump sends the pool water through the solar mat and back to the pool. Once the mat is heated by the sun, the solar mat transfers the heat energy to the water as it passes through.
4. What Are Dome-Shaped Solar Collectors?
These work in a similar fashion to solar mats. They consist of a triangular dome that contains piping wrapped around a central core. The primary benefit is that they take up less space. They have a smaller capacity – one dome can only heat a pool volume of 5,000 liters.
An average-sized pool containing 40,000 to 50,000 liters would need eight to ten of these domes to heat a pool effectively. Requiring so many units negates the benefit, so they are only suitable for tiny paddling pools or Jacuzzis.
5. Are Pool Heating Covers Beneficial?
They are particularly effective when used with any Solar or Heat Pump System.
Pool heating covers is a passive technology. They do not require the pumping of the pool’s water through any auxiliary equipment. The heating cover is placed over the pool when the pool is not in use.
These covers work by trapping the free energy released by the sun. Energy transfers to the water resulting in the water heating up.
An ancillary benefit of solar heating covers is reducing evaporation and saving on water costs.
How Do Heat Pumps Work?
The old style of pool heaters was energy-intensive (they used anything from electricity, wood, diesel, or gas). These older systems were effective but consequently expensive to run. Typically, these systems use 5kw of energy to generate 1kw of heat.
Comparatively, modern heat pumps are economical and use much less energy. The science is simple. Heat pumps operate in the opposite way to a regular kitchen fridge, and the operation process is following:
- Water passes through the heat pump.
- A fan sucks the warm ambient atmospheric air through a piping system filled with non-CFC refrigerant.
- The action transfers the surrounding heat in the air to the refrigerant.
- In turn, the refrigerant is compressed, causing it to become super-heated. This “super-heat” transfers to the water pumped through the pipes.
- The heated water returns to the pool.
- Heat pumps are a very effective technology, and the pool temperature changes quickly through the actions of the pump.
- Heat pumps are efficient because the energy used by the device is only needed to drive the fan and not in the actual generation of the heat. The existing pool pump drives the water through the heat pump.
- Typically, modern heat pumps use 1kw of energy to generate 1 kW of heat; this makes them five times more efficient than the older systems.
- Solar panels can power heat pumps. Solar eliminates the recurring charge of a heat pump. The downside is that it can only power the pump during the day when the sun is out.
If the owner has sufficient solar battery capacity, the system can run on cloudy days and overnight.
The Environmental Impact Of Both Technologies
At face value, the environmental impact of each system is low. Depending on the energy supply of the heat pump, the effect may be negligible. In countries that power electricity with coal-powered power stations, a system connected to the power utility grid must be considered environmentally harmful.
Solar is clean energy, and apart from the environmental impact incurred during the equipment’s manufacture, the effect is positive.
Both technologies’ most significant environmental impact is at the end of their useful life disposal. If each technology is responsibly disposed of, and where possible, recycled, these could be called “green” sustainable technologies.
Solar Water Heating System Vs. Heat Pump; Advantages and Disadvantages
Solar and heat pump heat pools in vastly different ways; comparing the pros and cons of the two systems allows you to decide which method will work best for you and your family.
Heat Pumps Pros And Cons For Heating Pools
- Heat pumps are an efficient source of energy to heat a pool pump.
- Heat pumps are durable.
- Heat pumps can work 24 hours a day, irrespective of the weather conditions.
- Heat pumps are more effective than solar and heat the pool faster.
- They are clean and safe to operate.
- If the temperature becomes freezing, the heat pump may not work
- Heat pumps powered by the electricity grid incur a monthly cost for electricity usage. It can be mitigated if a solar system is used to power the heat pump wholly or partly.
- If heat pumps fail outside of the warranty period, the replacement parts are costly.
Solar Pool Heat Panels Pros and Cons
- A pure solar system requires a once-off (expensive) investment for the initial purchase and installation. After this, there are no monthly running costs.
- Solar systems can only work when the sun is out and not covered by clouds.
- Solar panels require almost no regular maintenance other than cleaning the surface of the panels periodically.
- Solar systems are clean and safe to operate.
Heating a pool is a worthwhile investment and will increase its enjoyment for more extended periods in a year. Although both systems have benefits and disadvantages, overall, heat pumps are the more effective way to heat your pool.