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Pool Solar Panel Installation: In 5 Easy Steps

Solar panels are a fantastic way to heat your pool year-round, but installation can seem like a chore. Fortunately, it’s not as challenging as you may expect. Follow these steps for pool solar panel installation, and you’ll be enjoying a pleasantly warm soak or swim in no time.

What You’ll Need

  • Tape measure or outdoor measuring tool
  • Torpedo level
  • Angle finder
  • Solar pool heater kit
A close-up view of what Pool Solar Panel Installation looks like

Step 1: Determine if Your Site Gets Enough Sunlight 

Before you purchase and install a solar pool heater, you need to determine your pool’s solar resource. Solar resource refers to how much of the sun’s energy reaches the site where you plan to install your pool’s solar heating system.

Pool solar panel installation can be done on a roof or on the ground. Before buying, you’ll want to determine if you have enough space.

Solar pool heating systems can even work effectively if you don’t live in a sunny part of the world because they use direct and diffuse solar radiation. As long as you install the solar panels in an unshaded area that faces south, your site might have an adequate solar resource (1). 

Step 2: Do You Need a Permit

Depending on where you live, installing a solar pool heater may require a permit. Before installing a solar heating system, check with your local government to determine whether you need to apply for a license. In some areas, you may have to hire a licensed contractor to install your solar pool heat

Step 3: Select your Pool Solar Panels

To determine the right pool solar panels for you, you’ll need to measure your dimensions. Your solar collector’s surface area should equal 50% to 100% of your pool’s surface area. It may be necessary to increase the collector area to pool surface area ratio if you live in a cloudy area (2).

Keep in mind that increasing the collector square footage will extend your swimming season.

If you want to use a 15×30 foot outdoor swimming pool year-round in Arizona, you’d typically need a solar collector that 100% equals the pool’s square footage. However, you can often decrease the necessary collector area by using a pool cover.

Step 4: Install Solar Panels in the Sunniest Location Possible 

Solar panels need the sun to work effectively, so the sunnier the installation location, the better (3).

Renewable sources can save money and energy by pre-heating water and supplementing traditional electric or fossil-fuel heaters for pools.

That said, to get the most out of your system, you’ll want to choose a location that receives at least four hours of sunlight a day to pre-heat your water. If you’re going to install a solar pool heating system on your roof, choose a location unobstructed by trees. 

If you’re planning on installing your solar pool heating system on the ground, be sure direct sunlight can reach them. In essence, your solar pool heating system doesn’t have to be installed near your pool to work effectively. 

Step 5: Solar Panel Orientation and Tilt

Orient your solar panels to maximize the amount of daily and seasonal solar energy they get. Installing a solar pool heating system in North America would orient solar panels south like in this video:

If your roof faces east-west, you’ll place your solar pool heating system on the ground to face south (1). This is summarized by the Environmental Protection Agency:

Solar hot water collectors should be oriented geographically to maximize the amount of daily and seasonal solar energy that they receive. In general, the optimum orientation for a solar collector in the northern hemisphere is true south.

In addition, your latitude and the duration of your swimming season will determine the tilt of your collector. If you only need to heat your pool during the summer months, tilt your solar panels at an angle equal to your latitude minus 10° to 15°. If you’re heating your inground pool year-round, tilt your solar panels at an angle equal to your latitude. 

FAQ

The short answer for the best place to install pool solar panels is near the pool but in a spot with the most sunlight. In some cases, that will mean roof installation. In others, it will mean a ground-level solar pool heating system adjacent to your pool area, or even atop a shade structure in your yard.

In addition, keep in mind your collector’s tilt angle. Optimally, it should equal your latitude. However, most pool owners prefer their solar collectors to go flat on their roofs because it’s usually more aesthetically pleasing (1).

Pool solar panels last approximately 10-20 years long on average (4). This makes them competitive with gas, and heat pump pool heaters, as one of our best ways to heat a pool.

Ultimately, when you look at the big question of, “How long do solar panels last?” it all comes down to materials and efficiency.

A solar pool heating system will usually cost around $3,000-$4,000 for the unit and installation together. However, depending on your local fuel costs, you can expect to recoup this investment in between 1.5 and 7 years according to Energy.gov (4).

For more ways to invest in a sustainable future, Tap or Click This for our homepage.

  1. Siting Your Solar Water Heating System. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/siting-your-solar-water-heating-system
  2. Sizing & Economics. Retrieved from: http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/consumer/solar_hot_water/pools/sizing.htm
  3. Renewable Pool Heating. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/rhc/renewable-pool-heating
  4. Solar Swimming Pool Heaters. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/solar-swimming-pool-heaters
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