GENERAL ADVICE BEFORE HEATING YOUR POOL
In a Mediterranean climate, like the Costa del Sol in Spain, swimming pools are very common and can be enjoyed without any heating during the summer months but soon cool down with cooler nights by late summer or early autumn, depending on the exposure to the sun. The good news is that a heated outdoor pool can be enjoyed during the rest of the year as the ambient air temperatures are not too low and sunny days are common. There are several ways of heating an outdoor pool. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the different systems available.
The first point to take into account is the swimming season you would like to achieve. You can extend the season into the autumn until the weather gets too cold for you to enjoy the pool or the pool heating system can no longer cope. This is often the case on pools where no heat retention cover is used. A heat retention cover is recommendable to reduce your running cost but often it´s not practical to install a cover due to the irregular shape of the pool. The best solution in this case can be to extend the season as much as possible without a cover. If you would like to swim throughout the winter you will either need a cover or have a very oversized system that could still let you down in very cold and windy weather.
DIFFERENT POOL HEATING SYSTEMS
- Solar Panels. The main advantage is obviously the fact that the heat you produce is free once you have paid for the initial installation. The 2 main disadvantages are, firstly, the fact that the effect is limited once the pool water temperature has dropped after a few rainy days in autumn and you will normally not raise the temperature again until at least mid to late spring. Secondly, you need a large surface area of panels, similar to the surface are of the pool itself. In most cases this is not practical and, even when it is, it can be an eyesore. In summary, it´s a big outlay and an eyesore for a small gain.
- Pool Heat Pumps. A pool heat pump will heat your pool all year round if you use a cover in winter. They are very effective and not too expensive to run compared to most other systems. A good Inverter pool heat pump can normally be run by connecting to the existing electrical supply in the pool pump room. Some can even be installed in the pool pump room when there is space. The disadvantages are that there are running costs, that are high compared to a solar system but low compared to any other system, and that they do make some noise though some are very quiet these days. A top quality pool heat pump will even have a silent compressor.
- Electric Heaters. There are electric pool heaters that can heat your pool effectively but they have the disadvantage that they have a very high consumption making them hugely expensive to run. In most cases homes will not actually have an electrical supply large enough to run one of these heaters. In Spain these pool heaters are illegal due to the high consumption.
- Gas or Oil Burners. There are pool heaters that work by burning gas or oil. These are also illegal in Spain. They are effective but have the other great disadvantage, as well as the fact that they are not legal, that you will need a large gas or oil tank that is an eyesore and a potential danger.
CHOOSING A POOL HEATING SYSTEM
Taking all of these options and weighing the pros and cons we would have to go for either a solar system or a pool heat pump. A solar system is acceptable if you have a large area where you can install the panels so that the installation will not be unsightly and if you only want to extend the season until the first heavy rains or cold weather. The pool heat pump is by far the best option if you want to be guaranteed a warm pool all year round without high running costs. The good news is that pool heat pumps have advanced considerably and are now more efficient, more economical to run and much quieter than before. Most can even be controlled from your mobile phone from anywhere in the world by connecting the heat pump to your WiFi.
POOL COVERS FOR HEAT RETENTION AND SAFETY
A point that is very important to mention regards pool covers. It is absolutely necessary to have a cover if you wish to heat your pool beyond mid-autumn and before mid-spring. Even in the fringe months it is highly recommendable to keep the pool covered at night and as much as possible when not in use as it will drastically reduce the running costs. There are many types of pool covers available for regular shaped pools but options are very limited for irregular pools. One word of advice. If you are planning to build a pool and think you may want to heat it, make it a regular shaped pool. The best thing is to get some advice from a professional pool heating company before you start building the pool as it can save you money and trouble down the line. Most good pool covers are also safety covers for children and pets. This is also an important consideration.