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Winter Swimming Pool Covers

Swimming Pool with Winter Cover

Winter is coming. Is your pool ready? If you’re planning to close down your pool for the season, a pool cover is essential. Pool covers protect your pool from the elements, prevent unsightly debris from piling up, and provide an important safeguard for children and pets.

Which cover is right for you? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular options.

Standard Winter Cover

A typical “standard” winter pool cover is made of a tarp-like material and is designed to keep out dead leaves, debris, and sunlight during the months you’re not using your pool.

Winter pool covers are affordable, widely available for both inground and above ground pools, and they’re usually easy to install. However, these covers tend to deteriorate quickly and most will need to be replaced within two or three years. They’re also not the sturdiest option. Although they are designed to stay firmly in place -- above ground covers are held in place by heavy-duty cables; inground winter covers are held in place with specially designed water bags -- they won’t stand up to heavy weights.

Safety Covers

Swimming pool safety covers will cost a bit more than standard winter swimming pool covers, and installation is slightly more labor-intensive. But many swimming pool owners find that the extra cost and work is worth it. If properly maintained and stored, safety covers last longer than standard covers, and they’re strong enough to keep unattended children and small animals from falling in the water.

There are two types of safety covers:

Solid safety covers

Durable and long-lasting, solid pool safety covers are designed to stand up to heavy winter debris and snow. They also block out sunlight, which prevents harmful algae growth. The only drawback to a solid cover is that it’s well . . . solid. There’s no place for rain or melted snow to pass through, which means you’ll need a pump to keep your pool cover free of excess water.

Swimming Pool Safety Covers, In Ground Pool Covers

Mesh safety covers

Mesh covers protect your pool and keep out debris like leaves and tree branches. They’re also deceptively strong. Mesh covers are held in place by a network of heavy-duty straps, which means they stay firmly anchored in place all winter long and can easily support thousands of pounds. And although mesh safety covers won’t block out all sunlight, most of them offer some degree of sun protection to help inhibit algae growth. And because water can pass through mesh easily, there’s no pool cover pump required.

In Ground Swimming Pool, Mesh Pool Safety Covers

Why you need a safety cover

Winter pool covers will keep out debris and sunlight, but they typically can’t hold substantial amounts of weight. Safety covers, on the other hand, are purpose-built to be extra strong, which means they can keep unattended kids and small animals out of the water.

Automatic Swimming Pool Cover

Although it’s far the priciest option, an automatic swimming pool cover makes up for its hefty price tag with convenience. With an automatic swimming pool cover, you get the strength of a safety cover at the touch of a button -- literally. These retractable covers are made of super-durable fabric and designed to keep out debris, sunlight, people, and pets. Unlike a traditional safety cover, though, these covers are built in and controlled by a button or a switch.

When it comes to safety, it’s hard to beat automatic covers. Once they’re closed, they’re closed -- and nothing’s getting through. Of course, these covers are not the right fit for every pool, and they might not be the best fit for above ground pools or pools with unusual shapes. Another consideration: In addition to being expensive to install, the actual pool cover will need to be replaced every five to seven years.

Automatic Swimming Pool Covers, In Ground Swimming Pool

Beyond Covers: Winter Pool Equipment and Accessories

There’s more to winterizing your swimming pool than choosing a cover. You can choose from a wide variety of winter pool supplies that can help you remove snow and debris, maintain your pool’s chemical balance, and more:

  • A snow broom. Snow is very heavy, and it can quickly weigh down your pool cover. Don’t wait for it to melt. Instead, use a long-handled snow broom to push it off. Many pool equipment retailers sell specially designed snow brooms made of soft rubber, which won’t damage or tear your pool cover.
  • Air pillows. These are a must for above ground pools. Air pillows to fit under your winter pool cover, and they help relieve pressure -- and protect your pool’s walls -- as your pool water freezes. Air pillows can also keep leaves, debris, and water from collecting in the center of your pool cover.
  • Safety cover patch kits. If your swimming pool cover does get torn or damaged, a patch kit can provide a quick-fix. It’s a good idea to have one or two patch kits on hand just in case.
  • Winter pool chemical kits. Winter chemical kits can prevent staining, inhibit algae growth, and keep your pool water fresh until the next swimming season.
  • Leaf catchers. These lightweight nets are designed to fit over your winter pool safety cover. They make it quick and easy to dispose of piled up debris. Simply remove the net, dump the leaves, and you’re done!

Swimming Pool Cover FAQs

How long will my swimming pool cover last?

A basic winter cover might last 3 to 5 years, but a tougher safety cover (such as a solid or mesh cover) can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years.

How much does a swimming pool cover cost?

That depends on several factors, including the size and shape of your pool, and the type of cover you choose. In general, smaller covers and covers made of mesh will cost less than larger, solid covers. And, of course, automatic pool covers will be the most expensive of all. A retailer that sells pool supplies and pool equipment can give you an estimate based on your swimming pool’s unique dimensions.

Can you repair a pool cover?

If your pool cover has minor damage, such as a small hole or tear, you can repair it with a specially designed patch kit. Keep in mind, though, that if your pool cover is older, or if the damage is extensive, it might make more sense to replace it entirely.

How do pool covers work?

Pool covers are pretty simple: They act as a barrier between your swimming pool and the outside elements. A basic pool cover can help retain heat, keep your pool free of debris like leaves and dirt, block sunlight, and inhibit algae growth. Some pool covers -- known as “safety covers” -- are also strong enough to prevent people and animals from falling in by accident.

What is a pool cover pump? And do I need one?

A pool cover pump keeps water and melted snow from pooling on top of your pool cover and weighing it down. You’ll need a pool cover pump if you opt for a solid pool cover. If you’ve got a mesh pool cover, however, you don’t need to worry about a pool cover pump. The tiny holes in a mesh cover prevent water from collecting.

What kind of winter pool cover do I need?

The pool cover you choose will depend on several factors: Is your pool inground or above ground? Do you get a lot of snow where you live? Do you want something strong and ultra-durable or quick and easy? Speak with a retailer that specializes in pool supplies to learn more about the available options.

Do I need to clean my pool cover?

Yes! A good maintenance routine can help extend the life of your pool cover. Here are some things you can do to keep your pool cover in tip-top shape:

  • Remove debris, leaves, and snow immediately. If your pool is surrounded by trees, consider adding a leaf net over your cover -- it’ll make removal much easier!
  • Wash your cover with a mild detergent (dish soap works well) and a pool brush to remove dirt and chemicals.
  • Check your pool cover for holes, tears, and other signs of wear.
  • If you add chemicals to your pool water, wait at least two hours before putting your pool cover on.