If you have an existing pool automation system, it’s usually not necessary to add a solar controller when installing solar pool heating. If your pool does not already have an automation system, you may benefit from a solar controller, which allows you to set a desired pool temperature and optimizes the operation of your solar pool heating panels.
The Pentair SolarTouch solar pool heating controller is a dedicated solar controller. That means it isn’t a full pool automation controller. It’s features are limited to controlling the valves and pump(s) associated with your solar pool heating system. We recommend the SolarTouch when all that is needed is simple solar panel control, and here’s why:
- It provides all the features you need in a solar controller without unnecessary complexity. While some controllers will automate a spa, turn on lighting, and cook you eggs in the morning, the SunTouch simply lets you set a desired pool temperature. We call this “set it and forget it.” Most people like this simplicity.
- It is a digital interface. Unlike controllers with analog dials, you can set a specific desired temperature using up-down buttons and see the temperature set point on a digital display. While the water sensors are not highly accurate, at least you can set a temperature with which you are comfortable, and come back to that exact same set point later.
- It has just the right behind-the-scenes capability like booster pump control, freeze protection mode, and timer bypass capability. This covers needs for most of the solar pool heater setups we encounter.
- It controls the solar speed of the Pentair Intelliflo variable speed pump family, and it does so without overriding the pump controller and display. The Intelliflo is (by far) the most popular premium variable speed pump being installed on new and existing pools in Southwest Florida today. Pool builders in new communities are installing hundreds of these pumps, and it seems to be a favorite for retrofits as well. The SolarTouch allows the pump’s control module to function normally, while overriding the speed when necessary to optimize solar pool heating operation. Other automation systems override the pump control completely, causing confusion for some pool owners and service companies.
- For pools without variable speed pumps, it does not replace the timer function. While this might seem like a lacking feature, the familiarity and simplicity of traditional mechanical timers for pool pump control is actually a better option. The SolarTouch can be wired to bypass the timer for freeze protection or solar override.
- It future-proofs pools, allowing the owner to upgrade to a Pentair variable speed pump in the future with ease, and connects to the pump with a single plug and play cable that comes with the pump.
- It is one of the easiest solar controllers to install. It comes as a kit with sensors, a solar valve, and a motorized actuator packaged together, and it has flexible options for power and low voltage wiring. While the terminals are a bit hard to reach for the sensors, this controller goes in without much difficulty in virtually any pool setup.
- It has proven to be very reliable. It started to be installed in Southwest Florida in late 2010, and we have seen very few problems. Its simplicity is it’s strength. A solar controller should last the life of solar panels, and I don’t expect the SolarTouch to disappoint.
- It provides the best value. While it is not the absolute cheapest solution on the market, for just a little more than the most basic control, you get a much better control with a digital interface.
- It is easy to operate. With just four buttons, and really only two that you will use regularly, it’s dead-easy to set a desired temperature. The other buttons are for configuration, which is also very basic, and will probably never be needed after initial installation. The only other button that you might use occasionally puts the controller in vacation mode to turn your solar pool heater off during long absences.
Unless you need or want more advanced control of your pool, or you have an existing pool pump that cannot be controlled by the SolarTouch, we definitely recommend the SolarTouch for your solar pool heating controller needs.