A New Approach To Solar Pool Heating

Solar Hybrid Electric Pool Heating is simply a solar electric system coupled with an electric heat pump pool heater. You can use your existing pool heater if you have one or we can install a high-efficiency heater when installing your solar panels.

Why Now?

For decades, traditional passive solar pool heating systems were the most economical way to heat swimming pools in Southwest Florida. They are simple and provide pool temperatures up to 10 degrees above an unheated pool by passing water through the panels on the roof where water is passively heated based on the conditions. Don’t get us wrong – we installed thousands of traditional solar pool heating panels over the years, and most clients were mostly satisfied with the results.

But times are changing, and technology has evolved. There is now a better approach, and we are modernizing the solar pool heating experience.

As good as they are, traditional solar pool heaters are plagued with many problems. They are limited in the amount of heat that can be added to a pool because they are highly dependent on the weather. They are not highly resistant to hurricane winds since they are simply plastic panels that can easily catch wind and tear (hurricanes Irma and Ian proved this dramatically). Maintenance problems will eventually catch up with every system, with recurring leaks being the main issue, causing roof damage, downtime, and client frustration. And the cost of these systems has been on the rise in recent years due to material costs (plastics are made from petroleum) and increasing labor costs as a percentage of the system price.

Inflection Point -

At the same time, solar electric systems have plummeted in price and electric heat pumps have become much more efficient. We are at an inflection point where the cost of a SHEPH system now makes more sense, especially when you consider the longevity and ancillary benefits. Innovations in the industry have made the solar electricity market absolutely boom across the nation. We have been a long-time installer of whole-home solar electric systems, but now we can offer small solar electric systems to offset traditional electric heating costs at prices competitive to traditional passive solar pool heaters. It doesn’t hurt that there is a massive Federal Tax Credit for solar electric systems!

Remember when traditional CRT TVs were being replaced with flat screens? That’s where we are in the solar pool heating industry.

Top Features

The SHEPH system is a much more modern approach to pool heating. It combines the elegance of solar photovoltaic panels with the power to do much more than traditional panels. It is superior to traditional passive solar pool heating for several reasons. The most important are:

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    Traditional solar pool heaters just passively heat water as much as they can, and you will never know how the system is actually performing. A SHEPH is monitored with an online portal where you will see exactly how much solar energy is produced and how much your electric pool heater is using.
    Solar electric panels provide quantifiable results every day of the year, whereas traditional solar pool heaters do absolutely nothing (except deteriorate) when not in use.

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    A passive solar pool heater is highly dependent on the weather, and does not work well in cool, windy, or cloudy conditions. Performance is limited to about 10ºF above an unheated pool. An electric heat pump is much less susceptible to these factors and can heat your pool as warm as you would like in almost any condition. It’s only dependent on the amount of electricity you are willing to use, which can be offset with solar electric panels.

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    A passive solar pool heater will last about 12 years, it’s warranted lifespan. At any time during the life, you can have maintenance issues (leaks) and persistent leaks will signal the end of life. Solar Electric (photovoltaic) panels will reliably provide power for 25-40 years with most major components warranted for 25 years! That’s over double the life of traditional solar pool heaters, and there are far fewer maintenance concerns, with no moving parts. Even the heat pump component of a SHEPH system can have up to a 7 year warranty, and costs much less to replace than a traditional solar pool heater.

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    No Waste

    A SHEPH system will provide solar power year-round, even when you are not using your pool, and even when you are not home! Excess solar power that is not going to heat your pool can be seamlessly used to power your pool pump, or other appliances in your home. Excess solar power can even be sent back to the utility grid for full credit! This is essentially the same thing as a whole house solar energy system, just scaled to offset your pool heater’s electricity use.

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    Size and Scalability

    A typical traditional solar pool heater can require upwards of 400 square feet of roof space, and there is a lot of ugly PVC plumbing required. A typical SHEPH system starts at 132 square feet and all of the electrical components on the roof are hidden! While traditional solar pool heaters are usually limited by available roof space, the SHEPH system is scalable, all the way up to offsetting 100% of your home’s electrical use.

Comparison Table

Initial Price $$ $$$
Tax Credit None -$
Net Price $$ $$
Solar Panel Lifespan 10 – 12 Years 25 – 40 Years
Manufacturer’s Warranty 12 Years, Non-Transferrable 25 Years, Transferable
Labor Warranty 12 Years, Limited, Service Fee 25 Years, All Inclusive, No Fee
Financing Not Available Readily Available
Monitoring None Free for Life
Maximum Temp 10-12 Degree Rise 104ºF
Performance Weather Dependent All Conditions, Day or Night
Operating Costs Minimal Controllable
Maintenance Infrequent, Nuisance Leaks Rare, Inconsequential
Replacement Complete System Heat Pump Only
Storm Resistance Fair Excellent
Heating Speed Slow Moderate
Spa Heating Suitability Poor Excellent
Upgradeability None Flexible

Pricing above is for example systems that are typical for the average pool and heating scenario.

Size Comparison

Comparison Details

Click each card below to compare Solar Hybrid Electric Pool Heating to Traditional Passive Solar Pool Heating.


A hybrid solar electric pool heater is positively quantifiable. Because it is monitored with a sophisticated electrical apparatus that reports data to the Internet every 15 minutes, you will know exactly how much energy your solar panels generate over each day, week, month, and year. In addition, we can monitor your electric heat pump’s energy use so you can manage it better and align your heater usage with your solar energy generation if you desire.

There is no substitute for proving that your solar panels are working. You would never know the real performance of a traditional solar pool heater, but a hybrid solar pool heater has completely transparent performance, so it is manageable. You can ensure you are getting what you paid for.


With traditional solar pool heating, your pool gets warmer. But there is no measuring system. It is impossible to know for sure how much energy you are saving (or generating, depending on how you look at it).

While you might know your pool temperature, you will never really know how well your solar panels are working, except by comparing your pool temperature to unheated pools.

Nothing Wasted

Hybrid solar electric pool heaters have two independent components - the solar panels that generate electricity and the heat pump that uses electricity to heat the pool. When you don’t need to heat your pool, the excess solar energy is automatically used in your home for other electrical needs. If your solar panels generate more than your house needs at times, the excess is exported to the utility grid and you get full credit for that excess electricity when you need it! You don’t need to be heating your pool and you don’t even need to be in town to enjoy the benefits of your solar panels.

Lost Energy

Solar pool heaters are usually only used for about 4-5 months of the year in Southwest Florida. The rest of the time they just lay stagnant, deteriorating on your roof, generating no heat, no electricity, nothing. In addition, pools are often heated unnecessarily when you are not using them, and this causes more evaporation and chemical use.

You're paying for something you only use during some months and days.


Hybrid solar electric heaters allow you to choose a setpoint on your heat pump and you can reliably reach much higher temperatures throughout the year. If you want to swim during sub-par weather, this may be the only option for your other than a gas heater.

If you have a spa, a solar hybrid electric pool heater will work in all conditions, day or night because the heating component is separated from the solar component.

Less Than Ideal

Traditional passive solar pool heating performance is weather dependent. You can’t heat your pool when it is cloudy, raining, or at night. The amount of heat generated is completely dependent on the weather conditions. At most, a solar-heated pool will be about 10 degrees warmer than an unheated pool. Pools drop to around 66ºF in Southwest Florida in the winter, even when ambient conditions may be nice enough for swimming. Solar pool heaters are ineffective at some times of the year when swimming may be desirable. If you want a particular swimming temperature reliably at all times, traditional solar pool heating will not work for you.

If you have a spa, passive solar pool heating will not allow you to heat it quickly enough for spontaneous use and will not reach a desirable temperature at all times of the year. You also can’t heat a spa at night or in inclement weather with a passive heater.


Solar electric panels and the associated components are designed to last over twice as long as traditional plastic solar pool heaters and are under warranty for 25 years! There are no moving parts and there is nothing to leak because pool water stays off your roof and in your pool plumbing.

Shorter Lifespan

Solar pool heaters are designed and warranted to last 10-12 years. At the end of life, and even prior to that, solar pool heaters will begin to leak, requiring maintenance and causing a nuisance, not to mention downtime.


A solar hybrid electric pool heater starts at under 140 square feet of roof space – about one-third the space of a traditional solar pool heater. There is no plumbing and electrical conduit can be hidden below panels and in your attic in most cases. Panel location is much more flexible, with south being the best orientation, and east and west being equally as good (unlike solar pool heaters). Solar electric panels are all black, sleek aluminum and glass panels.

Not Attractive

Solar panel adoption is often hampered by the stigma of how solar panels look on the roof. A typical 8-panel solar pool heater requires almost 400 square feet of roof space, not including the plumbing. You will have PVC pipes running along your roof surface, which most people consider pretty ugly. Sometimes the plumbing needs to be run all the way to the other side of the house.

Storm Resistant

Solar Electric Systems are fastened to your roof with modern hardware that is highly engineered. The attachment system is rock solid.

Hurricane Ian resulted in only very minor and scattered damage to solar electric panels across Southwest Florida, which we can't say about traditional solar pool heaters. Solar electric panels are made of aluminum frames and tempered glass. They actually help protect the underlying roof during catastrophic winds!

Damage Prone

Traditional plastic solar pool heating panels are prone to damage from catastrophic winds. Thousands of solar panels were lost during Hurricane Ian. Plastic panels easily tear and shred under ferocious winds (which could be considered a good thing, because it’s better the panel is sacrificed rather than your roof). Because the panels are relatively low cost, this is considered an acceptable risk, provided they are strapped to your roof and don’t become windborne debris. Speaking of windborne debris, it is much more likely to damage a plastic solar panel, causing leaks.

Plastic panels are also prone to rodent damage and damage from shifting on your roof over time because they are designed to expand and contract and can move in even light winds.


Solar electric panels require no maintenance and virtually all components are covered under manufacturer warranties for 25 years, with the monitoring system covered for 5 years. The heat pump component of a solar hybrid pool heater is a mechanical appliance and may require service similar to a high-quality air conditioning system, but there is only one component, not a separate indoor and outdoor unit. The solar panels will continue to perform even if the heat pump requires service. We don't even recommend cleaning solar panels, as we have proven that the benefits are negligible. Solar electric panels are considered effectively maintenance free.

Moving Parts

A solar pool heater will have over 7 million gallons of water passing through it each year. Problems do occur. Plumbing fittings and valves can leak, solar panels and their connections can leak, and solar controllers and sensors can fail. While maintenance is not particularly costly and many repairs are covered under warranty, service issues can be a nuisance. Not all components of a solar pool heater and its associated plumbing are covered by long warranties. And because solar pool heaters are mounted directly on your roof surface, there is more wear and tear on your roof than solar eclectic panels, which are slightly elevated from the roof surface.


A hybrid solar pool heating system is upgradeable, with solar panels only limited by your available roof space. You can offset utility electricity for other electrical devices in your home and wipe out your entire electric bill (minus some required fees). You can even upgrade to a whole home backup system with battery storage. These upgrades are possible at any time in the future because the system is modular.

The SHEPH features the exact same solar panels, microinverters, and monitoring system we install for whole-home solar systems and is 100% compatible if you choose to upgrade later. Software updates can even be done remotely!


A solar pool heater does only one thing – it heats your pool, and ceases to function when you don’t need heating. Roof space usually limits the number of panels, and adding panels has a diminishing performance effect.

Operating Costs

Solar Hybrid Electric Pool Heating allows you to monitor and manage your operating costs and compare operating costs to solar energy generation. These systems are designed to offset operating costs. A properly sized solar array will eliminate your annual heating electricity use as long as you keep an eye on your electric heat pump use.

Avoided Cost

While solar pool heaters have no inherent operating costs, variable-speed pumps are now the norm. You need to run your variable speed pump at a significantly higher speed to push water through solar panels. This costs extra electricity. Solar pool heaters are designed to avoid operating costs. But they do nothing when the system is turned off, unlike solar electric panels which provide year-round electricity savings.

Downsides to Solar Hybrid Electric Pool Heating

Surely there must be some downsides, as there are with any pool heating option.

At first glance, the initial cost might make you think that solar electricity can’t compete with solar thermal pool heating. But the economics have changed, and many factors have leveled the playing field. There are several mitigating factors:

  • There is a very generous 30% Federal Tax Credit for solar electricity systems. There are no incentives for solar thermal pool heaters.
  • Since solar electric panels last more than twice as long as solar pool heating panels, you will need to consider the cost of replacing a traditional solar pool heating system at least once to make an apples-to-apples comparison. While you may need to replace your heat pump at some point with a hybrid solar electric pool heater, the cost is far less than a complete solar pool heating system, and the most expensive component, the solar panels, will last over twice as long.
  • Hybrid solar electric pool heating systems qualify for extremely competitive and low-cost financing that is easy to get. You can finance a solar electric system much easier than a solar thermal pool heating system.

Other downsides to hybrid solar electric pool heating systems are longer permitting timeframes and slightly higher permit fees in select areas (Naples and Sanibel in particular). There is also a small amount of paperwork (that we facilitate) and LCEC charges a $35 interconnection fee if they are your utility company. The installation requires that you are home or allow us access to get into your attic in most cases. You need to provide us with a good WiFi signal near your pool equipment. You may need to be present for an inspection by the City/County (or we can arrange to be there for you if necessary).

Other than that, we can’t think of any reason not to select a Solar Hybrid Electric Pool Heater over a traditional passive solar pool heater today.

Reality Check

What do you really want?

Let’s face it – most people don’t use their pool 365 days a year. That means they don’t use their passive solar pool heating panels every day. So it makes sense to capture that wasted energy in the form of electricity. When your electric heat pump is not turned on, your solar panels can be generating electricity for use in the rest of the home, and even export some electricity to the grid. You get full credit for this extra electricity when you use it after the sun goes down. The grid acts as your “bank” for excess solar energy.

Because a hybrid solar pool heating system is quantifiable, you can see exactly how much your electric heater is costing you and adjust your habits accordingly. The Solar 6-Pack is designed to offset the average pool owner’s heating costs. You may use more or less electricity than average depending on your habits and the efficiency of your heat pump. If you find that you are using more electricity to heat your pool than the solar panels are generating, you can add solar panels, adjust your habits, or simply pay the difference to the utility for any excess electricity that you need to heat your pool.

You can’t do that with a traditional passive solar pool heater. You are limited to what the weather will allow.

While you may only use your heater for weekends, part of the year, or when family is in town, your solar panels will bring you benefits year-round. This is a much safer investment, and the return on your investment is verifiable through the monitoring system.

Your pool is an expensive investment. In fact, we like to call it the most expensive room “in” your home. It also costs a lot to operate, but you want to enjoy it. A Hybrid Solar Pool Heating system will provide you with an efficient way to reliably heat your pool and save electricity costs with a quantified return on investment that will pay for itself over time.

Compare Aesthetics

Solar Hybrid Electric Pool Heating has a smaller footprint with sleek panels and no exposed plumbing on the roof.

Traditional Solar Pool Heating takes up a huge amount of roof space and uses bulky panels with exposed PVC plumbing on the roof.


While everyone’s desired pool temperature is different and pool use frequency varies, we find that, on average, people really use their pools around 40 – 80 times per year and want their pool to be 80º – 85ºF on days that they use it. Based on the amount of electricity a quality heat pump uses and the above parameters, the average pool owner will need to generate about 4 Megawatt-Hours of electricity per year to offset this heating need. Six well-oriented solar panels will typically cover this electricity usage annually.

If you plan to heat your pool more often or to higher temperatures, consider adding panels to your system. Because it is modular, a hybrid solar electric pool heater can be expanded to a maximum of 11 panels before stepping into a more “whole home” system. This is because 11 microinverters is the maximum on a single 20 amp circuit, allowing an economical connection at a typical pool equipment pad.

Absolutely! If you have an older heat pump, you may need more solar panels to offset its energy use, or you can offset a portion of its energy consumption until you upgrade at a future date.

If you do not have a heat pump, we can help you with that. The electrical circuit is shared with the solar panels, so there is no extra cost for electrical upgrades, if necessary.

A heat pump is an electrical appliance similar to the outdoor unit of an air conditioner, but designed to operate in reverse. A compressor is used to take latent heat from the air and amplify it with a fluid (refrigerant), and a heat exchanger efficiently transfers the heat to your pool water which runs through it. The byproduct is cool air and condensation. It is the most efficient way to heat a pool in Southwest Florida because we have ideal conditions for air source heat pumps.

Because heat pumps use a substantial amount of electricity to heat pools, it makes sense to offset that consumption with solar electric panels to keep your operating costs down.

You can add panels to offset the electricity that your pool pump uses as well, and we can monitor your pool pump energy use as well if you would like (combined total energy use with your pool heater). In fact, if you don’t heat your pool at all, you can install solar electric panels to just offset your pool filter pump’s electrical usage. Depending on pump size and type, most pool systems need 3-5 solar panels to cover the pump’s electrical use.
Because your heat pump is independent of the solar panels, it can work day or night and in all conditions. The solar panels simply offset some or all of the electricity that your heat pump uses throughout the year. When you are not heating your pool, the solar panels continue to reduce your electricity bill. During times of heavy heating requirements, you will use more electricity than the solar panels produce. During periods of low or no heating requirements, your solar panels will produce excess electricity. You only pay for the net excess amount of electricity consumed over time, if any.
The Enphase Enlighten monitoring app will track your solar production and your heat pump electricity consumption. You can track the net energy consumption on a lifetime, annual, monthly, and daily basis, and even down to 15 minute increments! If you upgrade to a larger solar electric system designed for whole home electricity offset, we will switch your system to whole home consumption monitoring.
If you want to upgrade your system later, we will need to get new engineering and permitting. Expect a fixed cost of about $600 that can be saved if you upgrade when you initially install the system. Otherwise, pricing is variable based on the number of solar panels you want to add.
Most people qualify, as long as they pay Federal Income Tax. The credit directly offsets the amount you have paid or owe for the year in which your solar panels are installed. Ask your accountant for advice. The form used to take the credit is IRS Form 5695.
The tax credit is for “qualified solar electric property” only. Ask your accountant for advice regarding tax matters.
Yes, this is a grid-interactive, net metered system, just like the whole home systems you see. We will help you with the interconnection paperwork processing for your utility company (FPL or LCEC).
We use industry-leading mounts, rails, fasteners, and sealants that are the same as those used on our whole house systems. QuickMount PV, IronRidge, and S-5 are the primary brands we use for mounting systems. The system is engineered in accordance with the Florida Building Code with site-specific drawings signed and sealed by a Florida Licensed Professional Engineer.

A Solar 6-Pack will require 10–14 mounts to secure the system to your roof depending on where you live and other factors used to determine wind uplift design parameters.

Unlike a traditional solar pool heater, the panels do not rest on your roof surface and there is no unsightly strapping required. All mounting points are hidden under the solar panels.

We offer very affordable flat rate pricing to remove and reinstall solar electric panels, with labor as low as $100 per panel* at this time plus any components and sealants that are needed for reinstallation.

Solar pool heating systems are much more expensive to remove an reinstall because there is a lot of plumbing and typically there are many small parts and fittings that need to be replaced.

* Tile roofs are higher

If you heat your pool with gas, you probably already know that it can be very expensive. While we can’t offset your gas bill, we can install solar electric panels to cover the electricity costs for your pool pump and at least offset your total pool operating expense. You may wish to consider replacing your gas heater with a heat pump if you use your pool frequently and want to reduce your long-term operating costs. Installing a hybrid solar electric pool heating system may sound like a big investment if you have an existing gas heater, but the long- term benefits are tremendous. Keep in mind that gas heating is the fastest way to heat your pool, so you will need to change your habits and plan further ahead with a heat pump to reach your desired pool temperature. But your costs will be slashed dramatically.
Installing solar panels doesn’t mean you should expect to have unlimited free pool heating. Systems are designed to offset the electrical consumption of a heat pump for typical use cases and conditions. For example, if you try to heat your pool to 90ºF when it’s 40ºF outside, you will use a tremendous amount of electricity. A typically sized solar panel system is not designed to offset that. But we can go as big as you wish. If you want your pool to be 90ºF 365 days a year, we can design a system for that.

The good news is that because the system is quantifiable and easily monitored, you can see exactly how your heating usage compares to your solar production over time.