How to Make and Install a DIY Solar Pool Cover

a solar cover next to a pool
  • 4-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 100-300
What You'll Need
Black tarp
Waterproof strings
PVC cutter
Pipe glue
10-Foot PVC pipes
What You'll Need
Black tarp
Waterproof strings
PVC cutter
Pipe glue
10-Foot PVC pipes

Even though a cold pool may be refreshing in the hot summer months, no one wants a pool that is freezing cold. And pools that retain their heat are great because they can be used beyond just the hotter months of the year.

A solar pool cover is an energy-efficient and low-cost way to heat your pool. A solar pool cover works by utilizing solar rays and the heat from the sun to naturally warm your swimming pool.

A solar pool cover also keeps your pool cleaner by blocking dirt and debris from entering your pool and preventing water evaporation as well. You can make a solar pool cover yourself by following these few easy steps to follow. It is not expensive or time-consuming to do and can actually be quite environmentally friendly compared with some of the pool covers on the market as well.

Why Use a Solar Pool Cover

A cost-effective way to enjoy a nice warm pool without installing a heat pump is to put a DIY solar pool cover over it. Also called solar blankets, they are usually blue in color and made from polyethylene.

The bubbles on the bottom side resemble bubble wrap and retain the heat from the sun to keep the water warm and prevent evaporation (allowing people to enjoy their swimming pool even after the pool season has ended). Laying it onto the pool at night during the winter months will prevent heat loss and help keep your pool relatively clean from debris. You can also do this outside of the winter months if your pool just isn't heating up as much as you would like on its own.

Solar Pool Cover Installation

Step 1 - Measure Your Pool

The first step is to take measurements of your pool. This will help you determine how much materials you need for your project before you do anything else.

Using a measuring tape, measure the size of your pool before purchasing a cover to fit over it. Your measurements need to be as accurate as possible. It is nearly impossible to find a cover that fits your pool perfectly, and therefore you will need to cut the cover to the right size after purchasing it.

Measure the length of the pool and add six inches to the measurement for the PVC, more if you are unsure about your skill level and want a little extra wiggle room.

Next, measure the width of the pool for the size of the tarp. Measure your swimming pool at its longest point and widest point in case your pool is shaped other than a rectangle.

Step 2 - Mark the Pool Sides on the Cover

With the help of another person or multiple people if you have a larger pool, lay your cover across your pool with the bubble side facing down. Smooth any folds or wrinkles by hand.

Using a crayon, mark the pool sides on your cover. If your pool is curved you need to mark all the sides and edges carefully.

Step 3 - Cut PVC

Your next step is to cut your PVC pipe as necessary so that when the PVC pipes are connected, you will have one run of PVC the same length as your measured distance. You will need two runs of the PVC pipe, one for each side of the pool.

The additional 6 inches you measured earlier will allow the PVC pipe to rest on the outside of the pool, keeping the pool cover from sinking into the pool.

Use safety equipment when cutting the PVC pipe and take your time. Rushing through the process will do nothing to help you get the project done correctly.

Step 4 - Connect PVC Pipe

Next, you need to connect the different pieces of the PVC pipe to create one long continuous pipe for each side of the pool. Dry fit the PVC pipe together. You can then lay the pipe over the pool to validate your length. Be sure to test both pieces of pipe before you move on to the next steps.

Step 5 - Connect PVC

Now that you know your measurements are correct and your PVC is cut to the correct lengths, you can seal the connections of the PVC.

To seal it, pull apart the PVC at each connection and then apply the pipe glue to both sides of the PVC and reconnect the pipe. Allow the pipe time to set so the glue can properly dry and secure the PVC fittings.

Step 6 - Connect Tarp

Next, you will need to connect the tarp to the PVC. If your tarp does not have grommet holes in each end, you can use scissors to create a hole in the tarp at 1-foot intervals.

To create the holes, lay one end of the tarp over one run of the PVC pipe and secure it to the PVC using the waterproof string. A string that is not waterproof can disintegrate over time and should not be used here.

Tie the string through each hole and around the PVC pipe until the tarp is tightly secured to the PVC. Next, you need to repeat the same steps for the opposite end of the tarp. You may need to cut some of the tarp, depending on the size of your pool and how accurately you measured.

Make sure the tarp matches the width measurement of the pool and does not have any overhang.

Step 7 - Place the Solar Pool Cover

Now you can apply the cover to your pool. Simply place one of the PVC runs on each side of the pool. When you want to swim, you can roll the cover-up between the two PVC runs and the store. If it is a time of year when you are using the pool frequently, you may decide not to put the tarp back up after every use. If you do this, however, you will not get the pool as warm as if you were to use the cover frequently.

Fold the pool cover in half lengthwise and position a person at each end. Have the people pick up the edge in front of them and walk to the other end of the pool (together) to unroll the pool cover over the water. They should then set the cover onto the swimming pool. The cover will not sink, but set a seal over the water in the pool, fitting in perfectly.

An alternative to this is to purchase either a hand-cranked, automatic, or semi-automatic pool cover reel from a pool supply store, which provides the convenience of covering your pool yourself in a very easy way, without another person's help.

The reel also makes it easy to store the pool cover when not in use, and the wheels on the reel make it easy to move it around. It also eliminates the need to tug the cover to make it fit the pool correctly. All you have to do is roll the pool cover onto the wheel and walk to the other end of the pool holding on edge of it. Set it down onto the water when you reach the other end with the bubble side down.

The downside of this, however, is the cost. It is a lot more expensive than a cover you place over the pool yourself. You will also need to know how to maintain them because a broken pool cover is not very useful. And during the busy season, it may take a while to get someone to help you fix it if you do not know how to do so yourself.

How To Use a Solar Pool Cover

If you have a solar pool cover, you may be wondering just how warm it will make your pool. While this can vary some depending on the size of your pool, the quality of the cover, and the condition the pool is in, solar covers generally raise the temperature of a pool by up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

With most pools, a large percent of heat loss is because of the natural process of evaporation. A swimming pool cover prevents a large amount of evaporation from taking place. It, therefore, keeps a lot of the original water intact and warm.

A pool cover will also reduce the amount of cleaning chemicals that are being depleted from your pool on a daily basis. You will need to replenish this less as a result which will also keep your water warm as well.

How Fast Will a Solar Cover Heat a Pool?

Another common question with solar pool covers is how fast they will raise the temperature of your pool. This can vary greatly depending on the size of your pool, among other variables. On average, though, a solar pool cover can heat your pool up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit in half a day's time which makes them a great way to raise your pool's temperature quickly and cheaply.

Recycling Pool Solar Covers

If for whatever reason the solar pool cover doesn't work out for you, you may be wondering if you can recycle it. The answer, generally, is yes. The materials used in the project are accepted at most city and county recycling facilities.

Bubble Wrap as a Cover

Can you use bubble wrap as a pool cover? This is a trick question, mainly because there is more than one thing you may think of when thinking of bubble wrap. You should not use bubble wrap intended for packing as a cover for your pool. While bubble wrap may be versatile, being used as a solar pool cover is not its intended use.

A solar blanket, however, is sometimes referred to as a bubble wrap cover because of the way it lays on the top of your pool. This is a great solar pool cover option. Solar blankets can be purchased online, at home improvement stores, or anywhere that sells pool equipment.

These look similar to bubble wrap due to the number of bubbles that covers the surface of the solar blanket, hence where they get their name. The bubbles capture UV rays. This, in turn, retains heat and moisture in the water, raising the temperature and making your pool a comfortable place to swim for a greater period of time.

The solar blankets also prevent evaporation which, as noted above, is a big part of why covers keep pools warm.

Make sure you purchase a blanket that is larger than your pool to be safe and so that it covers the entirety of the pool so that it will work its best.

One benefit of these pool covers is that they are generally cheaper than other alternative options.

Solar Pool Cover Alternatives

There are a lot of alternatives to solar pool covers that can still keep your pool warm and clean.

One option is a liquid pool blanket. Liquid pool blankets, like other options mentioned above, trap heat and reduce evaporation. They are a preferred option for many because they do not have to be frequently removed and replaced.

A budget-friendly option to heat your pool is black plastic. Bargain options here include black plastic garbage bags, or black duct tape. None of these options will last too long, though, or are particularly environmentally friendly. Neither is a good bet if you are looking for a cover that will stand the test of time.

Black PVC pipes are a better option. Even better would be to put large black plastic sheets on your pool.

The black will absorb heat and keep your water warm. It works similar to the way asphalt gets so hot during the summertime. Just be careful when removing whatever you decide to use as a cover.

Similarly, a black tarp is also a great way to heat your pool. Other tarps will work as well, though, maybe not as fast. This is an incredibly easy pool cover option. Simply lay the tarp on your pool. The fabric will heat up and it will in turn heat the pool. It will also help to trap warm water in the pool.

There you have it. By following these steps you can make and install a solar pool cover and make your pool an inviting place with projects like pool lights or pergolas.