Every once in a while it seems like we get a spate of clients telling us that their pool builder or pool service company does not recommend solar panels for heating their pool. They are often told that they should install an electric heat pump. We want to tell you why this happens and dispel the myths about solar pool heating panels.
Why Pool Builders Recommend Against Solar Panels
Let’s get something straight. There are plenty of pool builders and pool service companies that recommend solar panels every day. In fact, they favor them over other heaters like electric heat pumps and gas heaters. But some have the opposite opinion. Here are the basic reasons that pool professionals argue against solar panels.
Pool Builders Don’t Install Solar Panels
They don’t install solar panels, but they do install electric and gas heaters. As a result, they make more money on electric and gas heaters. While many pool builders get discounted pricing on solar pool heating panels subcontracted to a licensed solar professional, the markup they make is usually less than the profit on a traditional heater.
And let’s face it – an electric or gas heater is just easier for them to install. It comes in a box and can be plumbed in under an hour.
They Buy The Wrong Products
Pool building is extremely competitive. It’s hard enough competing to earn your business with all of the lowball offers out there for pool construction. The last thing a pool builder wants to do is try to sell you a more expensive solar pool heater. As a result, they often offer the cheapest product. As a result, they get poor results, and customer satisfaction suffers. They don’t want to get a bad reputation from something a cheap solar panel dealer sold them.
They Don’t Know How To Sell The Benefits of Solar
An electric heat pump or gas heater is a simple concept. You put a big box next to your pool equipment and set a temperature on a control panel. It heats your pool. Simple, right? Of course, there is an ongoing cost associated with this, so you are not going to just run it all the time. You have to plan ahead to heat your pool. With solar panels, your pool is always warmer than an unheated pool, free of charge. That’s the main benefit that people don’t realize. Other benefits include much longer life, better warranties, noise, and environmental aspects.
But solar energy is foreign to most people. Since most of our clients are more familiar with solar electricity, they don’t understand solar pool heating, which neither uses nor produces electricity. Many clients initially think there is one type of solar panel that does it all. That is not the case. Solar pool heating is a niche industry, and requires specific knowledge to consult properly with a client.
They Don’t Pay Your Electric Bill
This ties into the main benefit above. Electric heat pumps and gas heaters will reliability and predictably heat your pool for the most part. But that reliability comes at a cost. Operating cost are downplayed dramatically by manufacturers and dealers, and most buyers find their costs substantially higher. You wouldn’t believe how many people come to us after running a traditional heater for a few months and getting surprised by their bills! Maintenance and replacement costs are also glossed over or ignored during the sales process.Ask yourself: Why do so many people have solar pool heaters?
Solar Pool Heater Myths
Many myths have been spread about solar pool heating by some pool builders and pool service companies. Most of these myths are designed to steer you into a more profitable product, and not told with your best interest in mind. Here are some of the whoppers we hear just about every day.
Solar Pool Heaters Don’t Work
If you hear this one, you can just dismiss everything else the person is telling you. Just look at the tens of thousands of roofs in Southwest Florida with solar pool heating systems. Solar pool heaters are everywhere, and people love them (when done right).
What often happens is that pool builders are shooting for a price rather than a proper system size and type that we know will satisfy customers. Undersizing a system will heat a pool for a low price, but will not provide the level of enjoyment and benefit of a properly designed system.
In other cases, the system is just not very good. small plumbing, cheap valves, high resistance to flow, and other design and material problems result in poor performance.
Solar Pool Heaters Are Expensive
This also makes no sense. A typical solar pool heater will cost about the same or slightly more than a high quality electric heat pump or gas heater with buried tank. However, the operational costs of electricity or gas will make ownership several times that of a solar pool heater, not to mention maintenance and replacement costs.
Solar Pool Heaters Will Destroy Your Roof
This is a scare tactic. Roof issues are rare. If installed properly, a solar pool heating system will not damage your roof. We take precautions that far exceed our competition, including plumbing spacers, metal rub plates, flashings, and adhesive tile foam. However, even our competition has a decent track record of maintaining roof integrity. Roofs don’t last forever. When it comes time for roof replacement, the solar panels are easily removed.
We take every precaution to protect your home and make it our number one priority when installing a solar pool heater. Excellent workmanship with well trained an experienced employees means you will not have to worry about this. Soalr contractors wouldn’t be around long if they went around destroying roofs!
Solar Panels Will Make Your Pool Green
There are two reasons this comes up. The first is that some systems add a lot of pressure to the existing pool circulation system, reducing the flow rate. With less flow you get less turnover, and you don’t get proper sanitization and chemical dispersion. That’s why we use the panels, plumbing, and valves (system) that results in the lowest resistance to flow in the industry.
The second reason is that pools that are warmer all the time may need more chemicals or more turnover. If you add solar panels and keep the same maintenance routine, you may experience minor problems that are easily correctable with small adjustments. The cost of this is negligible, especially compared to alternative heating options.
Solar Pool Panels Burn Up Pumps
While still a myth, this goes back to the issue with some dealers using solar panels, plumbing, and valves that restrict flow. To “burn up” a pool pump you need to essentially stop water flow through it. That happens when the pressure builds up high enough that the pump can’t push water any more. If your pool is maintained well (your filter is clean) and the existing pump operates well within it’s capability, adding solar panels will add a negligible amount of pressure.
Some older pools with smaller plumbing already run at high pressures. Other features like pop-up cleaners, therapy jets, and suction cleaners can cause pumps to operate closer to their limits. That’s why it is critical to choose a solar pool heating system with low resistance to flow by using full flow tubes and 2 inch plumbing and valves. Higher flow also happens to increase heating performance in any pool!
A properly designed solar pool heater will not burn up a pool pump. Swimming pool pumps and motors are rated for continuous duty along their entire performance curve.
Solar Pool Heaters vs. Electric Heat Pumps and Gas Heaters
You are probably here to learn whether you should install a solar pool heater or a traditional electric or gas heater. There are many reasons you might select a traditional heater. Some roofs are just not ideal for solar panels. Some pools have features that would benefit from a traditional heater instead. But more often than not, a solar pool heater will provide excellent benefits and satisfaction.
We don’t mean to lump all pool builders and pool service companies together. There are many out there that recommend our services, and embrace solar energy for the benefit of our mutual clients. There are some out there that are dead set against solar panels. We usually find that they had a bad experience with solar that turned them off to the technology. Every one of the myths above can be mitigated by selecting a company and products that complement the existing pool.
Aside from the operational cost, maintenance, and shorter lifespan of electric and gas heaters, solar panels offer other substantial benefits. Not having to turn solar panels off means you don’t have to plan ahead. Your pool is always warmer. You can extend your swimming season without thinking about it, and increase your enjoyment whenever you use your pool.
The environmental benefits are obvious. Electric heat pumps can use over twice the energy of an air conditioner, and often run longer! That’s right – a typical 120 kBTU heat pump is equivalent to a 10-ton air conditioner, twice the size of the largest residential units available. And gas heaters burn traditional fossil fuels, usually liquid propane in our area. While a heat pump is more environmentally friendly than a gas heater, it still uses tons of electricity (no pun intended).
Electric heaters also produce noise. While there are “super quiet” models available, there is still fan noise that can be heard, which is especially annoying if located near the pool deck or a bedroom window.
We have an obvious bias – we are primarily a solar pool heating dealer. However, we also offer heat pumps. They can be integrated into a hybrid system with solar panels. Using the two together can provide substantial results. While the costs of doing both is substantially higher, you can get the best of both worlds. Sometimes you can use a smaller solar pool heating system with a heat pump to bring down the cost a bit.
Most people, after thorough consultation, opt for solar pool heating. Just look around at roofs. Just about every neighborhood in Southwest Florida has many homes with solar panels. Sometimes you just can’t see them because they are hidden from view from the street. So many people who initially opt for a traditional heater later come to us to add solar panels.
We want you to go solar! We know we can make you one of our many satisfied customers. And we are prepared to earn your business through expert consultation. If you pool builder or pool service company recommends against solar panels, we would love the opportunity to talk to you about what they said. Maybe we can convince them together that solar is right for you!