Is Solar Heating Worth It?

Gas heaters can seem expensive up-front. For a typical inground pool, those heaters start around $2000. In comparison, some solar heating units are sold by the roll or by the sheet at $100 per unit. With a price difference so dramatic, it's common for people to wonder if solar is worth a shot.

The first thing to understand is that not all solar heaters are of equal quality. A common model by Game (Solar Pro) is not going to hold-up as well as an Enersol panel, for example.

Another important factor when deciding for or against solar heating is checking what kind of pool the heater is built for. To refer back to the Solar Pro again, many of its connections are odd sizes. They are technically designed for Intex pools, which has fittings that are largely proprietary. Hooking up a poorly-suited solar heater can be difficult if this factor is not considered from the start.

The next point is that solar heaters are not one-size-fits-all. You can't expect the same gas heater to be effective on both a 20-by-40 foot inground pool and a 15-foot aboveground. Solar heaters are no different. Modular units like the Enersol panels are meant to be purchased as a batch and hooked together, with the number of panels purchased being dependent upon the size of the pool.

Complete units like the Solar Pro often come in varying sizes. These models are rarely large enough to heat an inground pool, but they can be effective on modest abovegrounds.

Once you have researched how many panels/units your particular pool needs, based on its size, you will probably find that the upfront cost is very similar to that of a gas heater. Many people are surprised by this, but spending less could mean that you have spent money on too few solar panels and will not see a return on your investment.

The benefit of solar heating is that it is free after you have purchased it. The downside is that it is less dependable than a gas heater because it relies upon the appropriate weather conditions. To get the best of both worlds, some people will pair a reduced number of solar panels with a gas heater. This allows the solar heating to do what it can, while the gas heater only kicks in when the solar panels cannot keep the pool up to temperature. As a result, your gas bills are reduced and the lifespan of your gas heater is potentially extended.

Overall, if you are willing to spend the same amount of money upfront on solar heating as you would on gas, the option is generally going to be worth your investment. The biggest limitation with solar heating is usually space. If you have enough space on your roof for the requisite number of solar panels then you are good to go. If you live in a very shaded area or are limited by space, solar heating may not be a good option for you.