If you do not use your pool year-round, then covering it during the offseason is a good idea. Pool covers are not created equal. Some are much stronger than others and generally not intended for safety purposes. You also have to consider how you are going to get it on and off the pool — manually, semi-automatically, or with an automatic system. Whatever cover and system you choose, be sure to use it for its intended purpose.
If all you want is to retain heat, one of the lowest cost covers is the old-school bubble cover, also known as a solar cover or a solar blanket. This large sheet of plastic looks like bubble wrap except it is a thicker grade of plastic and has UV inhibitors.
Solar Cover Pros
- Minimizes evaporation, thus less water re-fill.
- Prevents chemical loss from evaporation.
- Keeps algae and debris out of the pool.
- Provides a longer swim season.
Solar Cover Cons
- The bubble cover only lasts one to three seasons before it has to be replaced.
- Cover and uncover the pool yourself unless you buy a solar cover reel.
- Does not hold any weight.
Cost: $75 – $225 for the cover only. Manual reels cost $125 – $500.
It seems kind of space-agey, but you can literally pour a solar pool cover from a bottle. Natural Chemistry’s CoverFree formulation creates a protective barrier on the water’s surface that is said to withstand disturbances from wind or users while simultaneously maintaining the pool’s pH balance and guard against evaporation and heat loss. You will need to buy multiple bottles to continually add the product to the pool. A 32 oz. bottle costs $28, but we have seen it as low as $19.50.
Standard Winter Cover
Also called a tarp cover, it is made out of polyethylene and is available with a thin layer of flexible insulation. The sole purpose is to close the pool for the winter while keeping it clean.
Standard Winter Cover Pros
• Effectively blocks UV rays to help fight against evaporation.
• Good at keeping out leaves and other debris.
Standard Winter Cover Cons
• Needs to be held down with water bags, which could cost more than the cover itself.
• Can only hold very little weight or it will collapse into the pool.
• Lasts one to three years.
Cost: $75 – $225
Safety Cover / Security Cover
Specifically designed to prevent people and animals from drowning, they are strongly constructed and usually have an anchor system around the edges of the pool to keep it in place. There are three basic types of pool safety covers: mesh, solid, and automatic.
Usually installed with a manual or electronic roller system and is one of the more affordable options. The safety anchors need to be installed by a professional installer.
- Fairly lightweight yet can support thousands of pounds including heavy snow in Arizona’s snow-prone regions.
- A cover pump is not needed.
- Little to no upkeep while in place.
- Lifespan ranges from 10 – 15 years with proper care.
- The mesh can be removed and replaced by one person.
- Because water can pass through, the pool water can be very dirty when it comes time to open it for the season.
- Sunlight passes through, which can cause early algae growth, thus more cleaning, and chemicals.
Cost: $1,200 and $3,000
Custom-fit to the shape of your pool, this type is secured to the deck with anchors and springs. Usually made of vinyl, it can be folded and stored when not being used. This also needs to be installed by a professional.
- Because water and debris do not pass through, the pool water should be clear in the opening season.
- Solid security covers normally last six to 10 years.
- Keeps out UV rays which reduces evaporation and algae.
- Collects moisture, so you need to manually clean it with a pool brush or pool cover pump so it won’t sag or tear. The cover pump needs to be adjusted throughout the off-season and lasts two to four years.
- Does not last nearly as long as mesh covers.
- Costs about $600 more than a mesh cover.
Cost: $1,800 and $3,600
The most secure cover in terms of pool safety, and the most costly.
- Prevents people and animals from slipping into the pool.
- Keeps leaves and debris out of the pool year-round, thus cutting down on time spent cleaning/maintaining the pool.
- Great at heating the water due to the heavy vinyl material.
- Is expensive to buy, and expensive to replace.
- Can make the water too warm during the months you want it cool.
Cost: $12,000 – $22,000
Pool Cover Pumps
As rainwater accumulates, it will gather in the center of the cover. SwimUniversity.com explains that one inch of rain on a square foot weighs 5.2 pounds. If your cover has a surface of approximately 280 square feet (roughly a 12 by 24-foot pool), that’s 1,456 pounds of water on the cover after just one inch of rain. Leaving three-quarters of a ton of water sitting on the pool cover will speed up the need for replacement.
Additionally, when the time comes to reopen the pool, that standing water has to go somewhere. Better the dirty water goes through a pump rather than in your pool.
Pool cover pumps range from $60 to over $200 depending on the amount of water they pump and whether it is manually or automatically operated.
The best way to determine the best pool cover material and placement system are to consult a licensed pool service professional or cover technician.
IMPORTANT: When using your pool, always completely remove the pool cover. Never keep the pool partially covered. Someone could swim underneath, become disoriented, panic, and drown.