Solar pool heater has been trending nowadays and swimming has been a favorite pastime since the dawn of history. Today, we have the luxury of taking a dip in the pool instead of a pond or stream, but there’s one thing that can put a damper on your summer mood faster than a botched barbecue: a cold pool.
No one likes chattering teeth while they’re trying to relax, which is why a water heater makes all the difference above and in-ground pools. However, these devices are far more expensive than most homeowners would like to pay. That’s where a solar pool heater comes in handy.
Instead of shelling out your cold hard cash on a store-bought model, why not make your own? It’s a lot easier than you might think, and ten times less expensive. Here’s everything you need to know to make your DIY solar pool heater.
Solar Pool Heater: What Do I Need?
To get started on this project, all you need to do is take a trip to your local hardware store. While there, pick up the following items:
- A black garden hose. The longer, the better, and it has to be black for this to work.
- UV-resistant zip-ties.
- Hose connectors or clamps to attach the black hose to your filter’s pipes.
- Two Y adapters to connect the hose to your pool’s filter pump.
- One ball adapter.
- Something to hold your creation in place. Plywood works just fine.
- Black spray paint.
- An outdoor timer.
- (Optional) A way to read surface temperatures.
Altogether, these items shouldn’t cost any more than $50 at a hardware store like Home Depot or Lowes. Also, make sure the plywood board is larger than the coiled black hose. Once you have your items assembled, it’s time to get to work.
Step 1: Spray Paint the Plywood
The color black attracts the most heat, which is why you want the black spray paint. Start your project by spray painting the entire piece of plywood. Leave no edge or corner uncovered, and make sure the layer of paint is thick.
This step helps the sun’s rays heat the board, which is essential for this solar pool heater to work. Without the added heat from the backboard, your efforts will be in vain. This step can add up to 50 degrees to your hose’s heating capabilities once all is said and done.
Step 2: Connecting the Hose
Take your garden hose and coil it in a circle on top of the plywood backing. Don’t follow the edges and make a square, though, or you’ll end up with kinks in the hose. Make sure to leave ample space in the center of the board to help draw in extra heat.
As you coil the hose, use your UV-resistant zip-ties to keep it in place. Leave one end sticking out near the bottom of the board, tucking the other end underneath the coiled section and out the other end. Ideally, you should have excess hose hanging off the left and right side of your plywood backing.
Taking your time, securely attach the hose to its plywood backing. If you plan on making this DIY installation permanent, then feel free to use heat resistant glue, tape, or smaller planks of plywood to hold everything in place.
Step 3: Connecting the Valves
The next step in your DIY project is to connect one end of the black hose to your pool’s filtration system. This is how water will flow through the tube and end up back into the pool without adding additional water from another source. If you don’t have a filtration system, then a water pump works just as well.
The Y adapters you purchased quickly connect to your existing piping, offering a new outlet for water to flow when the valve is turned to the open position. From the existing pipe at the top of your filter, connect the first Y adapter after the pipe turns downwards.
Beneath the first Y adapter, connect the ball adapter. Then, attach the second Y adapter to complete the pipe circuit. The first Y adapter allows water to flow to your solar pool heater, while the ball adapter stops excess water from returning to the pool through the existing system.
You need to close the ball adapter and open the Y adapter for this system to work correctly. Otherwise, there won’t be enough pressure to move water through the heater. Afterward, you can reverse the valves to have your filter function normally again. This step is the hardest part of the process but doesn’t take very long to figure out.
Step 4: Connecting the Hose
Using connectors or clamps, the next step is to connect your hose to the top Y adapter. For your solar pool heater to work at all, there needs to be a tight seal formed here. With the other end of your hose, do the same with the bottom Y adapter.
Once both ends of the hose are in place and sealed tight, you’re almost finished with this DIY project. Now you have a functioning circuit for cold water to leave, heat in your solar device, then enter the pool via its returns.
Note: Due to the pressure of some filtration systems, you might not be able to close the ball adapter the entire way safely. This is perfectly okay. You can partially close it to get the same effect.
Step 5: It’s All About Timing
Having water constantly flow through your solar pool heater defeats the purpose. As hot as your hose and plywood might get, it isn’t enough to heat water in just a few seconds. Even some of the longest tubes can only hold about ten gallons, which would quickly become as cold as the other hundred or so gallons in your pool.
Connecting an outdoor timer to your DIY rig stops this from happening. If your pool filter already has a timer, set it to run in 30-minute intervals while you want to use the heater and skip this step. If not, then it’s time for a little electrical work.
Start by flipping the switch on your circuit breaker. If it isn’t in the “Off” position, you could seriously injure yourself through electric shock. No one wants their DIY project to turn into a trip to the ER.
Skip the complicated wiring models and go with a model that plugs right into an outlet. This will save you time, money, and a headache. Connecting the various colored wired from your pump filter is as simple as following the directions from there. Each should have a slot to enter, locking in place just like a light switch would.
The standard metal boxes with revolving wheel timers that most use with their pools can cost upwards of $100, with the most expensive models breaching $1,000. Simpler models work just as well and are often more user-friendly. You can always upgrade down the road if you want to.
Once your timer is connected, set it to run in 30-minute intervals. You might need to adjust that timeframe based on the size of your pool, its chlorine needs, and other factors. However, the 30-minute mark is an excellent place to start.
Step 6: Testing the System
Now that the water flowing through your solar pool heater has time to heat up, everything should be ready to go. Switch you circuit breaker on, then give the system about an hour to get to work. Keep an eye on your valves and the hose for any leaks and keep tabs on your pump filter for any pressure issues.
Adjust your new adapters as needed to keep the pressure at a stable level, turning off the system to work on any leaks where the hose connects. If everything is in working order, all you have to do is wait. Don’t forget to make sure your solar hose panel is facing the sun, absorbing the most amount of heat possible.
Head over to your pool’s return system and feel the water entering out of the jet. Does it feel warm, maybe even hot? If so, you’ve just created your own solar pool heater!
If there are any issues, continuing checking the various parts of your solar circuitry. Most problems are caused by the connection to the Y adapters or an issue with how fast water is entering and exiting the hose. In some cases, you might just need to adjust your timer setting.
A DIY Masterpiece
Who says you have to spend hundreds of dollars to heat your pool? Now you know how to create a DIY solar pool heater for less than $50. Best of all, you can increase your heating power by adding additional hose coils and attaching them with hose connectors. The possibilities are endless.
Say goodbye to the days of chilly nights and cloudy days ruining your home pool experience. With your new heater, you can enjoy a steamy dip in the water anytime you want. Enjoy!