9 Best Solar Pool Heaters in 2023
When buying solar pool heaters, people often give precedence to features like square footage, mounting type, water pressure limit, and the type of pool the solar pool heater is suitable for. But, in the end, the best solar pool heaters tip above the rest by offering superior temperature rise in all conditions.
Best Solar Pool Heaters at a Glance
- Smart Pool S601 Pool Solar Heaters – Best Overall Solar Pool Heater
- SunHeater Aboveground Solar Heating System – Highest Pool Water Temperature Raise
- SolarPoolSupply High-Performance Solar Pool Heater Panel – For In,- and Aboveground Pools
- Fafco Solar Bear – Best Heating System for Above-Ground Pools
- SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater – With Roof Kit Diverter
- SunHeater Solar Pool Heating System – Highest Water Pressure Limit
- Intex Solar Heater – Mat for Above-Ground Swimming Pool
- GAME 72000-BB – Curved Design
- SolarPoolSupply – Highest Performing Design
For effective heating, the square footage of a solar pool heater must be sufficient to heat your swimming pool. If the surface area of your pool water heater falls below what your pool needs, the pool temperature may never get to the level you expect.
The solar panels of solar pool heaters are designed to provide a specific rise in temperature. So, if you use the appropriate size for your pool, the temperature rise will ultimately determine heating efficiency. The temperature rise of the pool solar panels is particularly vital in low sunlight and average temperatures.
When considering the energy needs of your solar pool heater, our Amp Hours to Kilowatt Hours (Ah to kWh) Conversion Calculator can be a handy tool to help you understand the storage capacity of your battery system in kilowatt-hours, ensuring you have the right amount of energy for efficient heating.
Solar pool heaters are available in various mounting types, and each one of these mounting types offers different levels of efficiency. Of the many mounting options you will come across for solar pool heaters, 3 are more common than the rest.
These 3 are flat mounting, racking system mounting, and rooftop mounting. Of these 3, the rooftop mounting offers the highest heating efficiency, while the flat mounting is less energy efficient than the other two.
Solar heating systems are designed to resist water pressure up to a certain level. If the pressure of the water from your pool pump exceeds the water pressure limit of your solar pool heater, the solar heater may get damaged. If this happens, the warranty may become invalid.
In any case, the water pressure from your pool pump exceeds the water pressure limit. You may have to get a bypass valve for better pressure control. But if your solar heating system already has a substantially high water pressure limit, you may not have to get a bypass valve.
Some solar pool heaters are built for in-ground pools, while others are for above-ground pools. Then, in some cases, you will come across those suitable for in-ground and above-ground pools. For the best heating, you should opt for a solar heating system that suits the structure of your pool.
Top Solar Pool Heaters Reviews
1. SmartPool S601 Pool Solar Heaters
Combining high square footage, an excellent temperature rise, flexible mounting types, and a high water pressure limit, the SmartPool S601 Pool Solar Heaters takes the top spot on our best solar pool heaters review.
This solar heating system for in-ground pools comes with a solar panel measuring 4′ x 20′, and it offers a decent temperature rise when used correctly.
The S601 SmartPool Solar Heaters offer 80 square feet of solar panels – the highest square footage of any product. The superior square footage meant more surface area for us, translating to rapid heating.
Apart from the square footage, which aids rapid heating, it offers a temperature rise of around 6 to 10℉ when properly sized and installed. Interestingly, the pool temperature rise can sometimes be as high as 15℉.
The polypropylene solar collector supports flexible mounting types. You can lay it flat, use it on the roof, or use it on a racking system. However, you have to get the installation kit separately.
This solar heater can withstand pressure from an existing pool pump with a capacity of up to 1.5 hp. Only the SunHeater S120U can withstand higher water pressure from a pool pump.
Then while this solar water heater was made for in-ground pools, it may also be used on an above-ground pool. Of course, the heating efficiency would be less.
Besides the solar pool heater panels, the manufacturer offers two value-added products. The first is a liquid heat shield, which locks heat inside the solar collectors, reduces pool water evaporation, and keeps the solar pool heater warm for longer.
The second value-added product is a reel system, which helps unfurl and rapidly pack the solar heater.
We do not doubt that this solar heating system is an excellent product. But one drawback we noticed is the absence of the installation kit in the solar pool heater pack. What this means is that you have to buy the installation kit separately.
Alternatively, you may just lay the solar panel flat. But mounting your solar pool heater flat is not the best way.
- With a temperature rise of up to 15℉, it offers the highest temperature rise in our review.
- No other solar pool heater on the list offers higher square footage. However, 3 other solar pool heaters match its coverage.
- The water pressure limit is one of the highest on the list.
- Mounting comes with flexibility. You can lay it flat, use a racking system, or lay it on your roof.
- You have to get the installation kit separately.
- Lower heating efficiency when used in above-ground pools.
2. SunHeater Aboveground Pool Heating System
The SunHeater Aboveground Pool Heating System is the second-best in our best pool heating system review.
Like the previous product, it is made of durable polypropylene. It also has a large surface area (high square footage), an appreciable water pressure limit, and a high-temperature rise. But it does not have flexible mounting options.
The SunHeater Aboveground features 2 solar pool heater panels, each with a square footage of 40 sq. ft. Together, these solar panels provide square footage of 80 sq. ft.
With the coverage offered, it should be able to heat pools with 160 sq. ft. You’d also get rapid heating with this – about the same rate as the previous option. It can raise pool temperature by up to 15 ℉. But, of course, this also depends on the availability of solar power, the placement of the solar collectors, and the sizing.
This solar pool heater is good enough for diameters of up to 31 feet for oval swimming pools with 18′ x 36′ dimensions.
You can install this solar heater to an existing pool pump with a 1-1.5 hp capacity. Going by this, only the Sunheater S120U surpasses its pressure tolerance.
This solar heater is suited for above-ground pools. To this end, the manufacturer crafted it with flex hose adapters to ease the installation process.
The SmartPool supports mounting a rack, meaning you can adjust the tilt angle of the solar panels and maximize their exposure to solar energy.
However, since it comes from the same manufacturer as the S601 SmartPool, you can also get the reel system and the liquid heat shield.
- A potential temperature rise of up to 15℉.
- The square footage is the joint-highest on the list.
- On our list, the water pressure limit of this solar heater is only bettered by one other product.
- When used for an above-ground pool, the installation is pretty simple.
- It only supports rack mounting.
- Unsuitable for in-ground pools.
3. SolarPoolSupply High-Performance Solar Pool Heater Panel
The performance of the SolarPoolSupply High-Performance Solar Pool Heater Panel was undeniably impressive. But beyond that performance, its versatility caught our eye. We were able to use it for inground and above-ground pools.
The design of this pool heater highlights the efficiency it contributes to solar pool heating. For one, the 1.5 ID header allowed for adequate and rapid water flow. This minimized heat loss, ensuring more water got to the pool.
We would have required stronger pump pressure with a larger header to ensure rapid flow. But with the 1.5. ID header, we found a suitable balance. Yet, we may have sacrificed a bit in the way of pressure control and chances of back pressure.
Away from that, the panels felt tough on our hands. So, we reckon it should last up to 15 years, as the manufacturer stated.
Of course, the heating performance was remarkable, as we said before. Even when the sun wasn’t shining brightest, this pool heater still got sufficient heat to make the pool warm/lukewarm. On the best days, it heats the pool by up to 5 to 10 ℉, which is more than fair.
Installing the SolarPoolSupply High-Performance Solar Pool Heater Panel was as uncomplicated as they come. But it would have been better if the panel came with connectors.
- The temperature rise offered by this solar heater is pretty significant.
- Decent water pressure limit.
- Suitable for inground and above-ground pools.
- It can be used on a rack, so you can adjust it to increase its exposure to the sun.
- It doesn’t come with connectors
4. Fafco Above-Ground Pool Solar Heater
The Fafco Above-ground Solar Pool Heater is a single-unit solar pool heater made from UV-stabilized polyethylene. It boasts substantial square footage, a significant temperature rise, and a decent water pressure limit.
This solar pool heating system is for above-ground pools and has 80 square feet of surface area.
It has 12 mounting caps, 6 mounting straps, 12 mounting bases, 20 rubber tube plugs, 1-½” barb connections, and 1 valve handle. This solar pool heater is easy to install with all these fittings in the pack.
You can raise your pool water temperature by around 5 to 10℉. Not the highest in our assessments, but then it is enough quality – going by what we’ve seen generally.
The manufacturer recommends exposing the solar collector to the south at an angle of 10-30 degrees for the most effective heating. To achieve this tilt, you need a rack. However, you must construct it since it does not come with one. Alternatively, you can install it on your roof, like we did.
Besides using a rack and mounting on the roof, you can lay this solar pool heater flat. The product comes with ground spikes to facilitate flat installation on the ground. But while the flat mounting option is available, it is not the best option.
If you can get the installation and placement right, this pool heater will give you an extended swimming season.
You can use the Fafco Heating System with a pool pump of up to 1 hp capacity. About 3 other products we reviewed can withstand higher water pressure. So, if water pressure is a concern, you should check those alternatives out.
The Fafco has an integral bypass valve that can help control the water pressure as needed. But it is only suitable for above-ground pools.
- Joint highest square footage
- The temperature rise offered is pretty substantial.
- You get flexible mounting options.
- It has a decent water pressure limit.
- The solar panel features an integral bypass valve to help with pressure control.
- Not suitable for an above-ground pool
5. SunQuest Solar Pool Heater
The SunQuest Solar Pool Heater has the max flow design, promoting water circulation while preventing backpressure. It offers a good amount of surface area (square footage), a decent temperature rise, and easy installation.
As the name says, the SunQuest comes as 2 solar panels measuring 2 feet by 12 feet. So, overall, both solar panels provide 48 sq. ft. Of course, that square footage is not the highest in our review. But it is good enough for the price.
With a surface area of 48 square feet, you should be able to use this solar heating system on a swimming pool of 96 square feet. Of course, this depends on your region, the pool type, and other factors.
Following exposure to sufficient solar energy and proper installation, the SunQuest can raise the temperature of your pool by up to 10℉. While this is not the best temperature rise of any solar pool heaters on our list, it is pretty high.
But if you want a higher temperature rise, you may try out any of the heaters we previously mentioned. Alternatively, you could get more units of this pool heater.
Unlike our top choice, this product does not offer multiple mounting options. While it is primarily suited for flat mounting, you may create a rack for it yourself.
The SunQuest should be easy to install since various fittings aid the installation process. Such fittings are the connectors compatible with 1-1/2″ & 1-1/4″ flexible hose. Even with the said fittings, the installation process may be tedious and complicated.
It comes with 2-inch OD headers. The upside to using these types of headers is better pressure control, better water circulation, and reduced back pressure to pool pumps.
You do not have to bother about your pool type as it serves both the inground and above-ground pools.
- It uses 2-inch OD headers, which help control pressure and improve water circulation.
- The temperature rise is appreciable.
- It offers square footage of up to 48 sq. ft., which is okay.
- Works for in-ground pools and above-ground pools.
- Installation can get a bit complicated.
6. SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heating System
None of our review’s other solar pool heaters can withstand the pressure the SunHeater S120U Solar Pool Heating System can tolerate. But beyond its high water pressure limit, this pool heater offers a very high-temperature rise and multiple mounting options.
The SunHeater S120U Universal offers a surface area of 40 square feet in square footage. This falls short of most products we assessed but is not the lowest. Of course, it wouldn’t heat your pool as fast as others. But then, you wouldn’t have to wait the whole day for a warm pool.
Most swimming pools use solar pool heaters with a surface area of 50 to 100% of their square footage. Going by this, you may not use this solar pool heater for a pool with square footage greater than 80 square feet.
While the square footage is just about decent, its water pressure limit is pretty impressive. You can use this solar pool heater with a pool pump of up to 3 hp capacity. None of the other pool water heating systems on our list has a pressure limit as high as this.
Under the right conditions, your pool water temperature can be increased by 6 to 10℉. Then under the best conditions, the pool water temperature can rise by up to 15℉. The temperature rise matches the best of all the solar pool heaters in the review.
You are spoiled for choice regarding the mounting types available. You can lay it flat on the ground or on a fence. Alternatively, you can place it on a rack or install it on a roof. However, you must buy a rack separately or make one yourself.
The SunHeater S120U is a universal solar pool heater. In other words, you can use it with an above-ground or in-ground pool.
The manufacturer offers 2 value-added products at extra cost. You can get the reel system, which helps pack and unpack the solar panels easily. Then you may also get the liquid heat shield, which reduces pool water loss through evaporation and increases heat retention.
- Offers the highest water pressure limit of any solar pool heaters on our list.
- The temperature rise is pretty high.
- You get to choose any mounting type you want.
- The square footage could be higher.
7. Intex Above Ground Pool Heater
The Intex Solar Heater Mat features on our best solar pool heaters review because of the decent temperature rise it offers. But beyond the temperature rise, this product is made with UV-stabilized PVC, which drives its durability.
The square footage of this product is one of the lowest in our review. Nonetheless, you can buy multiple units of the mat to meet the needs of your own pool. One unit has a surface area of about 11 square feet. So, you will need about 7 to 8 pieces to match some of our best options.
The Intex solar-powered pool heater mat provides a temperature rise of around 5 to 9℉. While this is not among the highest-reviewed solar pool heaters, it is significant. But there are others that offer a better temperature rise.
You can only mount the mat flat on the ground. And this means you may be unable to adjust the tilt angle for maximum heating efficiency.
The water pressure limit is not very impressive. The manufacturer states that the solar blanket is only compatible with 0.5 hp pool pumps. So, it has the lowest water pressure limit of any of the solar pool heaters on our list. But it should still do the job if installed properly.
This pool heater is not suited for an inground pool. It was designed only for aboveground pools. If you want a product you can use for both pool types, consider the SunQuest or the S120U.
The Intex is easy to install. It features 1 ¼” (32mm) hose attachment points, an adaptor A for a 1 ½” hose connection, and an adaptor B for a 1 ½” hose connection. It also comes with a 19-inch long 1 ¼” connecting hose. Installation is typically a breeze with all of the said fittings in place.
Beyond all the above, this solar pool heater mat is optimized for durability. For one, it is made with UV-stabilized PVC. So, you can expect it to remain in top shape for many seasons.
That aside, this solar pool heater mat folds into a compact shape. So you never have to stress about finding space to store it in winter.
- The temperature rise is pretty appreciable.
- It is pretty portable – easy to fold and store.
- Made with UV-stabilized PVC, this solar pool mat typically resists solar damage, contributing to its durability.
- The water pressure limit could also be higher.
8. GAME Curve Solar Pool Heater
The Game 72000-BB is the only curve solar pool heater on our list. It is one of the least expensive solar pool heaters on our list. Beyond being inexpensive, it offers a unique design, considerable durability, and a passable temperature rise.
The manufacturer estimates that when ideally installed, it can raise pool water temperature by up to 5 degrees in 4 days. Of course, this is the lowest temperature rise and heating rate of any solar pool heaters on our list. But on the upside, it allows for gradual and sustained solar pool heating.
The Game ground pool heater offers a surface area of just around 8.59 square feet. The lowest in the review – of course, this contributes to the relatively slow heating. But its curved design helps maximize heat collection even with the small surface area.
While it was crafted for aboveground pools, it is also compatible with many inground pools. Besides that, it comes with a bypass kit to connect it to other solar pool heaters.
This solar pool heater is made from UV-tolerant plastic, increasing its durability. Before noticing any UV degradation signs, you should get many seasons out of it.
- Made from plastic with decent resistance to UV radiation.
- It offers gradual and sustained heating.
- Compatible with both in-ground and aboveground pools.
- Comes with foldable and adjustable legs.
- While heating is gradual and sustained, the temperature rise is the lowest of any product on the list.
9. SolarPoolSupply Highest Performing Design
Last on our list is the SolarPoolSupply Highest Performing Design. This solar pool heating panel offers a passable water pressure limit, a decent surface area, and a fair temperature rise.
The SolarPoolSupply has a surface area of 32 square feet. Not the highest, but then you can get multiple units until the total meets your pool’s requirements.
You can have a temperature rise of up to 10℉. This is pretty decent compared to the other solar pool heaters we have reviewed.
The solar panel is compatible with pool pumps with up to 1 hp capacities. You may mount the panel flat on the ground, on a rack, or on a rooftop. However, if you install it on a rack or rooftop, you must get a rack separately.
This energy-efficient solar pool heater is made with compounded polypropylene. It resists UV degradation to a high degree. Then again, it resists corrosion and scale deposition on its wall. So, overall, the durability is top-notch.
- It has a water pressure that is pretty okay.
- The temperature rise offered by this solar heater is pretty decent.
- You get to choose from multiple mounting options.
- Made from pre-compounded propylene, this solar heater offers substantial durability and should keep working for many years.
- You must get a rack separately if you install it on the rooftop or a rack.
- The square footage could be higher.
Square Footage, Sizing, and Solar Cover
The heating efficiency of solar pool heating systems is, in part, dependent on square footage. The size or square footage of solar pool heater systems, in turn, depends on the availability of sunlight, the swimming season duration you desire, the pool’s square footage, the pool type, and the presence of a solar pool cover, amongst other factors.
Generally, it is estimated that the square footage of pool solar panels/heaters should be at least 50% of the pool’s square footage. But if you live in a region that does not get enough sunlight, you may want to get a swimming pool heater that is about 100% of the pool’s square footage. Else, you may not get as much heating as you desire.
If you want a longer season, you should get a solar panel heating system with a surface area closer to 100% of the pool size. The bigger the solar pool heating, the longer you can keep warm water and your swimming season.
An in-ground pool is insulated by the earth surrounding it. So it does not lose pool water to radiation as fast as an above-ground pool will. For this reason, the size of the solar pool heaters for above-ground pools is typically smaller than those for an in-ground pool.
Your swimming pool will retain more heat with a solar pool cover than without one. So, if you have a solar pool cover, your pool can make do with a solar heater with lower square footage.
Ultimately, you can buy multiple units if one will not suffice for your pool size. So, while the square footage is vital to look out for, it is not complicated.
This is vital – the main reason you get a solar pool heater is to raise your pool’s water temperature.
Oftentimes, manufacturers indicate the potential temperature rise their products can offer to your pool. But you should know that getting high-temperature rises would be pretty hard if solar collectors are not exposed to solar heat at the best angle or installed in an optimal location.
Also, if sunlight in your region is short, most solar pool heaters may never get enough solar heat to warm your pool.
So, while considering the temperature rise stated by the manufacturer, consider the external factors that apply to you. For better temperature rises, you should look out for solar pool heaters with higher upper-temperature limits.
Solar pool heaters are typically mounted in 3 ways: flat on the ground, on a rack, and on a roof. Some solar pool heaters are designed to accommodate all three mounting options. On the other hand, some solar pool heaters work with one or two mounting options.
The varying efficiency of each option defines the importance of flexibility in the choice of mounting options. While you can get high heating efficiency with roof-mounted pool heaters, those mounted flat on the ground typically do not reach maximum efficiency.
Besides heating efficiency, mounting type also affects space optimization. Roof-mounted pool heaters optimize space better than rack-mounted pool heaters and those mounted flat on the ground.
Nonetheless, roof-mounted swimming pool heaters take longer to install. And in some cases, getting on the roof to install them may not be feasible.
All in all, if you can get a product that supports all 3 mounting types, you can easily choose what suits the factors peculiar to you.
Your pool is either an above-ground pool or an in-ground pool. Whichever it is, know that the heating requirements of both pool types differ.
While in-ground swimming pools get some insulation from the earth surrounding them, above-ground swimming pools don’t. For this reason, in-ground swimming pools typically retain heat longer than above-ground swimming pools. Hence, their general heating requirements are low.
But beyond the difference in heating needs, the installation options for both types of pools differ. Some manufacturers design their products to suit just one pool type, while others craft theirs to suit both.
Ensure you check that it is compatible with your pool. Better still, look out for a product that supports both pool types.
Water Pressure Limit
A solar-powered pool heater’s maximum water pressure varies from product to product. So, before choosing from amongst the solar pool heaters in the market, verify the water pressure limit.
If you select a solar water heater with a water pressure limit below the capacity of your pool pump, you may damage the solar heater. However, if you install a bypass valve alongside the pool heater, you can control the pressure and prevent such damage.
You should look out for a product made from high-quality materials. Anything short of quality, and you may not be able to use the pool heater beyond a few seasons.
Keep an eye out for UV-treated solar collectors. These types will resist degradation by UV rays from the sun and last for many seasons. You should also look for solar collectors that will not crack at low temperatures. Some products crack in colder regions, so the owners never really get to use them.
The warranty is one detail you should not miss, and the warranty details give you some more confidence about the quality of a solar pool heating system.
The warranty period for solar pool heaters can span as long as 20 years. Of course, many products do not have a warranty period of 20 years. So, consider the details of the warranty and the cost of the solar pool heating cost, then decide whether it is worth it or not.
When choosing the best solar pool heater systems, prioritize how much temperature rise your choice can give you.
Once that is settled, consider the square footage. You wouldn’t want to buy multiple units of solar collectors before you can get the desired solar heating. That will just take space and complicate things.
Then once those two features are settled, check for the pump capacity it can work with, check for the mounting options, and verify the product’s durability.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?