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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
|Maintenance||Infrequent, Nuisance Leaks||Rare, Inconsequential|
|Replacement||Complete System||Heat Pump Only|
|Spa Heating Suitability||Poor||Excellent|
Pricing above is for example systems that are typical for the average pool and heating scenario.
Click each card below to compare Solar Hybrid Electric Pool Heating to Traditional Passive Solar Pool Heating.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.