Guide to Swimming Pool Covers
Swimming pool covers might not be the most glamourous of accessories – but ask any pool owner, and they’ll tell you that pool covers are necessary and important. The right cover can keep your water clean and balanced, help safeguard your pool against the elements, and take some of the workload off of your swimming pool heater. Perhaps most importantly, though: Many pool covers act as protective safety barriers that keep unattended kids, animals and debris from falling into your pool.
Like most swimming pool accessories, there are lots of great options out there for swimming pool covers, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that’s right for everyone. The pool cover you choose will depend on factors such as your budget, the climate where you live, the type of pool you have, and more.
Not sure where to start? Use this guide to gather ideas and get a feel for the different types of swimming pool covers you have to choose from.
Solar swimming pool covers/Solar blankets
A solar swimming pool cover (also sometimes called a “solar blanket”) is a great way to harness the sun’s energy to keep your swimming pool warm and comfortable. Solar covers attract and retain heat, which means that you don’t have to run your pool heater as much (or possibly even at all, depending on how much sun and heat your pool gets during the day).
Most solar covers look a bit like bubble wrap, and they come in a variety of shades, with their own unique pros and cons. For example, clear solar covers draw in most direct sunlight, but this also means that they can lead to quicker chlorine breakdown. Dark and opaque solar pool covers are better for retaining heat, which makes them a good choice if, for example, you wanted to keep your pool warm overnight.
It’s worth noting that there are a few drawbacks to solar covers: First, because they’re made of relatively flimsy plastic, they can’t function as safety covers. This is especially important to consider if there are kids and pets in your household (or even in your neighborhood). And second, solar covers aren’t really built for longevity. In general, you can expect your solar pool cover to last anywhere between 1 to 3 years before you’ll need to shop around for a replacement.
Do solar pool covers work?
Solar pool covers work – but it’s important to keep in mind that these types of covers serve a very different purpose than other types of covers. Unlike other pool covers (such as safety covers, winter covers, and automatic covers), solar swimming pool covers are designed to absorb and retain sunlight and heat. For swimming pool owners who live in warm, sunny climates, a solar blanket is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to keep their pool water warm and toasty.
The drawback? All of that extra sunshine can throw off your pool’s chlorine levels (chlorine burns off when exposed to direct sunlight), which can cause an imbalance in your pool’s chemistry. So, if you choose to go solar, it’s wise to test your pool water regularly to ensure that it’s balanced.
Winter swimming pool covers
Unless you’re blessed with year-round sunshine and balmy temperatures, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to close down your swimming pool during the cold winter months – and a winter swimming pool cover is an important component of your pool winterization toolkit.
A good winter swimming pool cover performs several important functions: It keeps snow, ice, and other debris out of your pool water, and it can help block the sunlight and inhibit algae growth while your pool is out of commission for the season. The winter pool cover you choose will depend on several factors, such as whether you have an inground or an above-ground pool, and how much snow and ice you typically get during the winter.
Expecting lots of snow and ice? Consider an air pillow
An inflatable air pillow fits under your winter cover and helps relieve pressure as your pool water freezes. Air pillows also create a dome in the center of your pool which helps prevent ice and snow from collecting in one spot and weighing your cover down over time.
A few things to keep in mind: Winter covers don’t last terribly long (most will only hold up for a season or two). Not all winter covers are safety covers – so if you’ve got concerns about kids and pets around your pool area, you might want to upgrade to a safety cover instead – most safety covers are tough enough for snow and ice, with the added bonus of an extra-long lifespan.
Swimming pool safety covers
Being a swimming pool owner means prioritizing safety over everything else – and that means covering your swimming pool with a strong, sturdy safety cover.
Safety covers are engineered to be thicker, stronger, and tougher than other types of swimming pool covers. What’s great about them is that they’ll do all of the things you’d expect from, say, a winter cover (keeping dirt out of the pool, helping retain a bit of heat, and so on), with the added benefit of keeping unattended animals or kids from falling in accidentally.
Of course, you’ll pay more for that strength and durability: Safety covers will cost more than solar covers and winter covers, for sure – but most pool owners agree that the extra peace of mind is worth the slightly higher price tag. And considering that a mesh pool safety cover can last 10 to 15 years, it’s definitely money well spent.
For more resources on swimming pool safety, visit our Safety Resources page.
Automatic swimming pool covers
Automatic swimming pool covers offer a killer combination of strength and convenience. These retractable, automated covers are built into your pool (most fit over your pool or below your coping or decking), and allow you to open and close your pool with the push of a button -- or the turn of a crank if you prefer a non-electric version.
Like other types of pool covers, automatic pool covers keep dirt and debris out of your pool water – and they also protect kids and pets from accidentally falling in. They help your pool retain heat, which can help save wear and tear on your pool’s heater and keep your pool water swim-ready for longer.
Of course, they’re also expensive: By far, automatic swimming pool covers are the most expensive type of cover you can buy. They’re especially expensive when you consider the fact that the average lifespan of an automatic cover is around 5 to 7 years. Another thing to think about: Even though they’re strong enough to function as safety covers, automatic pool covers don’t hold up especially well to winter weather, so if you live somewhere with lots of snow and ice, this might not be the best choice for your swimming pool.
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Swimming Pool Cover FAQs
Which pool cover is right for me?
That depends on several factors, including the climate you live in, your reasons for purchasing a cover, and the type of swimming pool you have (inground vs. above ground). Your pool builder or local swimming pool retailer can help you decide which option is the best for your swimming pool and your lifestyle.
How do you get water off of your pool cover?
Some pool owners use a pump to remove excess water from a swimming pool cover. You can also help prevent this issue by choosing a swimming pool cover made of mesh: Dirt and debris won’t be able to get through, but a tight weave will allow water to pass through. If you live in a part of the country where snow and ice are common, consider adding an inflatable air pillow underneath your pool cover. This creates a dome shape in the center of your pool, which prevents water from pooling – and freezing – in the middle of your pool cover.
How can I keep my pool cover from blowing off?
Most pool covers come with sturdy metal hooks and nylon straps that will keep your pool cover securely in place. You can also buy separate clips and hooks if you find that your pool cover simply won’t stay put. And if you choose an automatic pool cover, that’s not a concern at all (of course, automatic covers are the most expensive option, so you’ll pay quite a bit more for that benefit!)
How do you put a pool cover on?
That depends on the type of cover and the type of swimming pool you have. For example, if you have an inground pool with an automatic cover, all you need to do is push a button and your cover is on. On the other hand, if you have an above ground pool with a solar cover, you’ll simply float the solar cover on top of your pool and secure it with specially designed clips or hooks. Your best bet is to check with the instructions that came with your pool cover or ask the manufacturer.