With warranties exceeding a decade in most cases, manufacturers are obviously very confident in their solar pool heating panels. Once the warranty enters the discussion, usually that is the end of the conversation. But the question still remains:
“How Long Does a Solar Pool Heating Panel System Last?”
Solar pool heating systems are generally trouble-free, especially with proper care and maintenance. Solar pool heating panels will see millions of gallons of water flowing through them over a lifetime. Like any pool plumbing or system with water flowing through it, especially one that is exposed to the sun every day, there will be some deterioration over time. The good news is that the deterioration if very minimal due to UV inhibitors in the formulation of the panels. Manufacturers work very hard to ensure their formulation is long lasting, and the big players have been around long enough to know their products can be solidly supported over long warranty periods.
There are systems that have been operational in Southwest Florida over 30 years. It’s hard to tell exactly why some systems last that long, but care and maintenance, system pressures, environmental impacts, and frequency of use surely have roles. Regardless, you should plan on replacing your solar pool heating panels between 10 and 15 years after the initial installation for the best experience.
Another related question is:
“How long will solar pool heaters continue to perform at a high level”
We recently received a call from a happy customer who had their solar pool heater installed in 2001 (14 years ago), saying his pool is 91ºF today. He was surprised that it has continued to work so well. I wasn’t surprised, as solar pool heating panels do not really degrade to a great degree in terms of the amount of heat transferred to pool water. Naturally panels will fade a little, but will still remain a color that most people would call black or very dark gray. As a result, there is very little change in the performance of a solar pool heater over time. The decision to replace a solar pool heater usually comes after a warranty expires and minor panel or plumbing leaks, which can be easily repaired in most cases, become more frequent. While it is possible to continue to service and maintain a system well after the warranty period, many people conclude that new panels with a new warranty is money better spent.
So if you are wondering how long a solar pool heater lasts, the answer is… a long time. In fact, it’s about the same length of time that the average homeowner stays in their home (nationwide average), and probably much longer than the average homeowner in Southwest Florida. If you calculate the cost per year of owning a solar pool heater, it starts to look like a very attractive upgrade, especially compared to traditional heaters!
Will your answer change if I have a salt water pool? My system is about seven years old and for the last 2-3 years I’ve had a black powder-like residue in the pool which can only be coming from the solar panels – there’s nothing else black in the system. My pool buy has no idea what it is. I’m thinking the solar panels are gradually being “dissolved” by the salt water. Any ideas?
Excellent question, and I’m glad you brought it up. You have an older style panel that was long ago determined to be unsuitable to the environment. I won’t mention any brand names, but these were made from an EPDM/rubber compound. They were well known to dissolve and cause what became known as “black pool disease.” It is not due to the salt, per se. It would also occur with traditionally liquid/granular/tablet chlorinated pools.
Modern solar panels are made from polyethylene, which is impervious to pool water, including chlorinated water generated from salt cells.
Unfortunately, you have a bad product and you should remove it urgently. When replacing it, go with a polyethylene based product. While there are different quality levels, all have additives that prevent breakdown from UV radiation and corrosive pool water. You will not have an issue with these. In fact, some polyethylene based solar pool heaters have lasted over 30 years without and breakdown that affects pool water quality. You are more likely to see breakdown on the outside from UV exposure due to poor material quality or workmanship, but this is rare and it would not affect the pool water.
Hi, my panels heat the pool well and have lasted many years, from before we bought the place 10 years ago. My question is how well they will last if we switch the pool pump off? We are often away for long and I’m worried if water doesn’t flow that it will overheat and damage, but a friend told me it won’t matter?
Pieter, it won’t matter. Just make sure the system is fully drained. If your panels are over 10 years old, chances are they don’t have a lot of life left in them anyway, but letting them stagnate empty won’t accelerate that.
Hi, we bought our pool-solar panels in 2000 for our old house, we moved to our current home in 2010 and transferred the panels. The system has been working well, warming the pool up to as high as 88 some years. Last year we installed solar panels for electricity generation so had to move the pool-solar to the North-facing part of our roof. Even on super-sunny days we don’t get much higher than 81-82 now.
given that the panels are over 20 years old, if we were to buy new ones, could we expect a material improvement in max temperature ?
No. North roofs are not appropriate for solar thermal products.