Pool Info: Solar Blankets / Solar Pool Covers
Solar blankets or solar pool covers serve a very useful role. Retaining heat; preventing heat loss - is the most important one. A solar blanket will also help raise the water temperature a certain amount, but if you are expecting a solar blanket to heat your pool to 90 degrees in March or September, you will be disappointed. With daily sun, you can however expect a modest temperature increase of 5-10 degrees with a solar blanket. The following are tips and ideas that will prolong the life of your solar blanket and make the most of your solar blanket purchase.
How Solar Blankets Work
Solar blankets have a two-fold purpose, to retain the heat in the pool by preventing evaporation and heat loss through the pool’s surface, which is accelerated by a light wind. The second purpose is to absorb the heat rays of the sun. Any flat material laid over a pool will absorb heat, but may not transfer it effectively to the water. Solar blanket design uses air pockets, or bubbles, that reflect the sun’s rays into the water, while the heat warms the air in the bubble, transferring it to the water more effectively.
Buying a New Solar Blanket
When you measure your pool for a new inground solar pool cover, measure the longest and widest points of the pool. Include steps and loveseats. When you get your solar blanket, it will be a large rectangle. There are many grades of solar blanket available, or thicknesses rally. You’ll find 8 mil, 12 mil and 16 mil solar blankets available, with thicker covers having correspondingly longer warranty periods. Whatever the warranty says, expect about half that amount of actual life, unless you take very good care of your solar blanket.
Thicker blankets are more durable and have a slight thermal benefit over thinner blankets, but they are also heavier and bulkier to move around. Very large pool solar covers can be expensive to ship, and often we would recommend buying two half-sized blankets, to reduce shipping costs. Large solar blankets of any size can also be custom ordered for very large pools.
Trimming a New Solar Blanket
Unless you have a rectangle pool that matches exactly the size of a new solar blanket, you will want to trim the solar cover to fit inside of the pool, from edge to edge. For freeform shaped pools, you will buy the largest rectangle that will cover the entire pool, and then cut away the excess material.
If time allows, lay it over the pool, bubble side down and leave it for a day or two before trimming it. This will allow the blanket to “open” a bit and allowing packing wrinkles to fade, giving a better end result.
After your solar blanket has come out of the box, and laid over the pool for some time, you are ready to trim it. First, re-center the blanket over the pool, and weigh down the corners with something heavy. Allow the cover to slacken into the pool, it should not be tight, but floating (bubble side down) as much as possible.
Use a sharp pair of scissors or a razor knife. It’s a lot of cutting; I think a (sharp) razor knife would be the best tool. The idea is to have the blanket fit edge to edge, end to end, curling up onto the tiles or edge of the pool just a bit. Cut the solar blanket material all the way around the pool; be sure to cut the corners to the proper radius.
I like to use the edge of the coping stone as a guide for my razor knife. This also ends up with a blanket that will turn up on the edge of the tile. This keeps the pool cleaner than a solar pool cover that does not quite cover from edge to edge, but has gaps on the sides.
Extra material that is cut off could be cut into squares and used as packing material, or it can be recycled, along with your previous solar blanket, if you had one.
Storing Your Solar Blanket
The best way to store your solar blanket is with a roller, or a solar reel. The solar blanket is attached to a solar reel with straps, and is rolled up when the blanket is not in use. Most rollers have wheels that can be used to store the cover and reel when it’s party time or when you just don’t want it around. If storing outdoors on a reel, use a solar blanket winter reel cover, to keep the solar blanket safe from winter weather.
Some solar covers ship in a large white bag that can be used for storage. Or, solar covers can be stored rolled up, standing in a tall trash can. When storing a solar cover for winter, be sure that it is clean and dry before folding. Store indoors, out of the elements. Do not leave the solar cover out in the weather during winter.
Cleaning Your Solar Blanket Cover
The best way to clean your solar blanket is to use a pool cover cleaner, if needed, or just plenty of water and a soft push broom or pool brush. Wet the solar blanket and use your telescoping pole and your pool brush. Squirt a small amount of solar blanket cleaner on the cover and scrub. You can do this with the cover right on the pool if you want to. When you are done, grab the hose and spray the dirty water into the skimmer opening. It may be easier to remove the solar cover from the pool and spread it out on the lawn (but not right after mowing)! If you have a slope you can spread it on, like a sloping driveway, this will make rinsing easier. For a quick cleaning, you can just hose off the solar cover while it is on the pool. Hose the debris towards the skimmer opening or into the corner and use your leaf net to remove most of the debris, before it sinks.
Protecting Your Solar Pool Cover
You can increase the life of your solar blanket by following a few simple rules. Never leave your solar blanket outside when the pool is winterized. Make sure you keep a chemically balanced swimming pool, with special attention to pH level in the pool. Remove the solar cover when you shock the pool, and leave it off for 2-3 days after any shock treatment. Use a cover cleaner on a regular basis. When stored on a solar blanket reel, use a solar blanket cover to protect it from the sun. Funny that the sun can harm a solar blanket; but next to very low pH or high chlorine, UV rays cause the most damage to a pool solar blanket.
How Long do Solar Blankets Last?
A pool solar cover will not last forever. The material will begin to deteriorate after some time. The first sign of the end of your solar blanket is when the bubbles on the solar cover begin to fall off. When the solar blanket begins to flake off, and then it rips as you are pulling it off, it’s time to replace. Polyethylene is recyclable, so when buying a solar cover replacement, please consider the environment when disposing of the old solar pool cover. Most solar blankets have short lives; maybe 5 years would be considered a long lifespan.