Advantages and Disadvantages of a Solar Heater

Eco-friendly and energy efficient, solar swimming pool heaters can be a great alternative to gas and electric models. A solar heater turns the light and heat from the sun into energy to heat up your pool. These heaters are very popular in different parts of the world, particularly areas with higher temperatures and a lot of sunshine.

How Do Solar Heaters Work?

If you already have a pump and filter set up for your pool, then all you need to set up solar heating is a kit with solar panels and a few other installation necessities. However, even if you are a pretty handy person, it is usually best to let a professional install your solar heating kit. Typically, the solar panels are mounted in an area that will get the most southwestern sunshine in a day, usually on a roof or a rack of some sort. Five to six hours of sun per day is ideal. If you do not have access to that type of sun exposure, you can still use solar heating by increasing the square footage of the solar heating panels for greater temperature rise in the water. Solar pool heaters work well in most parts of the United States and are incredibly low maintenance.

Once installed, solar heaters heat your pool by pulling the water from the pump to the black panels. The water travels through the panels, absorbing any heat picked up by the sun before flowing back through the pump and filter and into the pool.

Advantages of a Solar Heater

Heating your pool by using a solar heater provides one advantage that no other heater does: no direct operational costs. You can enjoy a heated pool all year round without having to worry about huge increases in your energy bills. People tend to use their pool heaters during peak times, which also happens to be when energy costs are the highest, but this is not a worry if you are using a solar heater.

Solar pool heaters are also more eco-friendly than most other options, since you are using natural resources to heat your pool, as opposed to using gas (which can emit carbon dioxide and other harmful elements during heating) or electricity (which requires the burning of fossil fuels to harness). If nothing else, solar heating is far more convenient and can usually be set up with whatever existing pump and filter you have, so you don’t have to worry about having to buy or set up new equipment.

Disadvantages of a Solar Heater

While there are several advantages to choosing a solar heater, there are a few disadvantages as well. Solar heaters do cost less in the long run when it comes to their operational costs, but the initial installment can be expensive. Depending on the size of your pool, they can also take up a considerable amount of room, so it is important to consider whether you are okay with solar panels taking up room on your roof, lawn, or anywhere else you may need to set them up.

The other thing to consider when it comes to choosing a solar heater is the wait time; a common complaint is that solar heaters do not heat as well (or at least as quickly) as gas or electric heaters. Solar heaters can take longer to heat the pool water, since they use energy and heat pulled from the sun rather than a separate heating element. Also, since a solar pool heater does pull its power from the sun, it is subject to weather conditions. On windy or cloudy days, you will not get the same results as you would on a bright and sunny day. A pool cover will allow the heating system to retain heat during those cooler, overcast days.

There are several options when it comes to deciding how you would like to heat your pool. Solar heating tends to be popular for its environmentally friendly process, low-cost use, and convenience, but there are disadvantages. It is important and recommended that you research different options to see what will work best for you before making a choice. Always consult a professional before attempting to install or set up any heating system.

To ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays chemically balanced, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone what you need to do to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. Use it with your own chemicals for flexibility or get our single-dose, pre-measured chemicals delivered to your door. If you need someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

Pros and Cons of Natural Gas Heaters

A natural gas heater is an efficient way to heat your pool or hot tub all year round. Even during the summer, outdoor temperatures might not stay high enough for long enough to keep your pool’s water warm without the help of a heater. Ideal for cooler climates and those that want their pool or hot tub heated quickly, natural gas heaters also work well when paired with solar heating or pools that don’t need to be heated often. While a natural gas heater is always a viable option, there are some disadvantages, so you should consult a pool professional before making any final decisions. A professional can help you determine what size and type of heater will work best for you.

How Natural Gas Heaters Work

As the pump circulates water from the pool, the water it draws from the pool. Next, it passes through the filter and makes its way to the heater. Gas burns in the heater’s combustion chamber. The water heats as it passes over this chamber and the hot water returns to the pool.

Natural gas heaters are ideal for heating pools for a short period of time and work great when you want to heat a pool quickly. These heaters are ideal for pools that are not used regularly, as gas pool heaters can help to maintain any desired temperature regardless of weather or climate conditions.

Pros of a Natural Gas Heater

  • Convenience: If you have access to a natural gas service, then getting the fuel to your heater is far easier than if you chose propane. Natural gas enters through a permanently fixed line and there is always more available.
  • Speed: If quick heating is what you need, then look no further than a natural gas heater. Unlike electric, solar, or heat pumps, natural gas burns quickly, making it a faster way to heat up your water. Gas heaters are especially effective if you don’t use your pool on a regular basis (since it heats the water quickly there is less need for prep time) or if you are trying to heat a smaller body of water, like a spa or hot tub.
  • Maintenance: Natural gas heaters generate enough heat to warm your pool in a short amount of time, so they don’t have to run as often or as long as some other heating methods, resulting in fewer problems due to wear and tear or consistent use. If you want a heater that requires little maintenance, then a natural gas heater is perfect for you.
  • Cost: While an electric heater or a heat pump may need to be turned on aseveral hours in advance, a natural gas heater only needs about 30 minutes for a typical hot tub or to simply raise the temperature a few degrees in a typical backyard swimming pool. This saves a considerable amount of money through reduced energy usage.

Cons of a Natural Gas Heater

  • Energy Efficiency: While natural gas heaters are more efficient than electric heaters, this does not mean that they are the most efficient way to heat your pool or spa. Solar heaters and heat pumps use the sun and recirculated warm air respectively to heat your pool or spa, making them the more energy efficient options when it comes to heaters. That does not mean you cannot get an energy efficient natural gas heater. Look for one with an efficiency rating of 89 to 95 percent according to energy.gov.
  • Purchase and Install Price: Gas heaters are incredibly efficient when it comes to heating your pool or spa and so might seem like the perfect choice for you, but there are some expenses to running a natural gas heater. In addition to installation and any initial purchase costs, you need to run pipe underground to provide a natural gas source for the heater’s furnace. If a natural gas source or pipe is not close to the pool equipment pad area itself, the cost can be prohibitive.
  • Rising Fuel Prices: Oil and gas prices fluctuate, meaning that operating your natural gas heater will not always cost the same. In the colder months, when oil and gas prices are usually at their highest, the cost of heating your pool can increase as much as 30 to 40 percent.
  • Repair and Replacement: Natural gas heaters are more susceptible to corrosion if your pool water is unbalanced. The amount of use your natural gas heater gets, in addition to outdoor temperatures and desired water temperature, determines how long the heater will last. Most natural gas heaters last about five years before requiring service or maintenance.

To ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced year round, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone what you need to do to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. Use it with your own chemicals for flexibility or get our single-dose, pre-measured chemicals delivered to your door. If you need someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

5 Ways to Conserve Water During the Pool Season

5 Ways to Conserve Water During the Pool Season. Water conservation may not be at the forefront of your priorities as a pool owner, but it fulfills to big green initiatives: good for the planet and good for your wallet. Pool and hot tub water conservation can save a bundle on utility bills, not to mention money spent on repairs. If your pool doesn’t have the proper water levels, it can damage both equipment and plumbing, which can lead to expensive repairs.

Not sure how to start? Keep reading for water conservation ideas.

1. Use a Pool Cover

Many pool owners use a cover outside of pool season to protect the pool from the elements. Pool covers are incredibly beneficial during the pool season as well. Like all other bodies of water, the water in your pool evaporates, especially during hotter months. Over the course of a year, it is possible to lose more than half of the water in your pool. A properly fitted pool cover greatly reduces evaporation, though, helping to maximize the amount of pool water you conserve. In addition, a cover continues protecting your pool from the elements and nasty debris, reducing the need for more chemicals by minimizing algae growth.

2. Check for Leaks

Regularly check your pool and its plumbing for cracks and leaks. You’d be amazed at the amount of water that can escape through even a small crack. Each ounce of water that leaves your pool is water that you could have saved and, in turn, money you could have saved. And, of course, leaking water has to go somewhere. Eventually, that accumulated water damages pool structures. Regularly checking your pool for signs of cracks or leaks helps stop the problem before it starts.

3. Shut Off Fountains and Waterfalls

Additions to your pool that use extra water, such as fountains and waterfalls, lose a significant amount of water to evaporation. They look and sound pretty, but they prevent you from conserving water and add to your water and utility bills. It is best to limit the amount of time you run water features, by shutting them off when the pool is not in use or only running them when you’re entertaining.

4. Check the Pump

To conserve water, you want to run your pool pump only when necessary. Start by running it for eight hours a day and, if it stays clear, you may reduce the time it runs. The size of the pool and time of year determines the amount of time your pump should run, but the less you run it the more water you will save. It takes a bit of trial and error to determine the right length of time to run the pump. Getting a timer rated for the size of your pool pump helps prevent calculation errors. If your pool begins to get cloudy, you should run your pump for longer. A typical Rule of Thumb: operate the filter pump one-hour for every 10 degrees of water temperature.

5. Drain the Pool Only When Necessary

Some pool owners prefer to start the pool season with freshly scrubbed pool walls and brand new water, but the amount of water this process wastes is astronomical. What’s more, it’s unnecessary in a properly maintained pool. Most experts agree that you only need to drain a pool every three to seven years, depending on the level of regular maintenance and the quality of the water used to top-off the pool level. To conserve water and save costs, only drain your pool only when necessary.

To keep the water in your pool or hot tub balanced, consider a pHin smart monitor. This little device constantly monitors your water and automatically sends you the exact chemicals you need to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. If you need someone to service your equipment or look for leaks and cracks, Pool Service on Demand instantly connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

How to Fix Air Bubbles in Your Pool

The post How to Fix Air Bubbles in Your Pool first appeared on Swim University.

Do you see air bubbles shooting out of the return jets in your swimming pool? It’s a very common problem (especially when you open your pool in the spring), and one that can be easily solved with a few troubleshooting tips.

Air Bubbles in Pool? Why This Happens

Commonly, the air is coming from the suction side of your swimming pool— this means anything before the water enters the filter. There are three places you can check to see if air is getting into your system.

1. The Skimmer(s)

Check the water level. If your pool doesn’t have enough water, your skimmer(s) might be pulling in air. Be sure that the water level is in the middle of your skimmer’s opening. Here’s an illustration depicting where your water level should be:

Check the skimmer basket. Make sure your skimmer baskets are not damaged and seated properly to ensure good water suction.

Check the weir. The weir (or skimmer flap) is the door that “flaps” in front of your skimmer — it’s there to trap large debris from escaping back into your pool and to regulate water flow into your skimmer. Sometimes it can get jammed, so make sure it’s freely moving back and forth. If you don’t have a skimmer weir, I would recommended getting one, although it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have one.

2. The Pump

Check the pump lid. First off, if the lid is cracked, that’s the problem right there, however, the most common issue has to do with the lid’s o-ring.

Check the lid o-ring. Turn the pump off, remove the lid, and check the o-ring for cracks. Just bend the o-ring between your fingers — around the whole o-ring — to check for any signs of cracking. If it looks like your o-ring is splitting or dry-rotted, you need to replace the o-ring. If there are no signs of cracking, that’s a good thing. However, I would recommend using a Teflon-based o-ring lube to create a better seal.

Check the pump basket. Sometimes if your basket is cracked it won’t be seated correctly in the housing. Replace a cracked filter basket and make sure it’s cleaned (frequently) and properly seated so that the lid can be sealed correctly.

Check the drain plugs. On the pump housing you should have a drain plug (maybe two). Make sure the drain plugs are not leaking or loose. You can apply some Teflon tape (plumbers tape) to the drain plug threads for a tighter seal.

3. The Union(s)

If you have an unground pool, you might have some unions in your plumbing. Unions are threaded connectors between piping that will allow you to easily replace your filter equipment without having to cut any pipe.

Inside the union, you should have yet another o-ring to check for damage. If it’s damaged, replace it. If it’s not, make sure the o-ring is properly seated inside the groove it belongs in. If the o-ring is not in its groove, it will not create a proper seal and allow air to get into your system.

You’re All Set!

Hopefully these troubleshooting tips solve your air bubble problem. If not, you can share your story in the comments below and I will respond with some additional help. To ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays perfectly balanced, consider purchasing a pHin smart monitor today!

Happy Swimming!

How to Create Your Own Solar Pool Heater in a Few Easy Steps

Whether you live in a climate that doesn’t give you as many hot, splash-ready days as you’d prefer, or you just want swimming season to come a few weeks earlier in the spring and last a few weeks longer in the fall, a solar pool heater fits the bill. However, should you purchase one, or make one? The right decision depends on your available time, money constraints, pool size, as well as how much you like to tinker. You can make that decision after we give you the down low on how to build your own.

Keep in mind, however, that while the overall concept of a solar swimming pool heater is simple, the process of actually designing and building one which is efficient and effective is a challenge.  You’ll need to be comfortable handling a variety of different tools, and have the engineering knowledge necessary to build a heater that can safely circulate large volumes of water.  

DIY Solar Pool Heating: The Basics

There are plenty of tutorials out there suggesting how to build your own solar swimming pool heater, but before you delve into one, it is important to understand the basics behind solar swimming pool heating. Knowing the basics can help you choose (or design) the right setup for your needs.

In most solar swimming pool heaters, the use of dark, matte colors to absorb the heat of the sun’s rays is leveraged in order to heat your pool water. Instead of attempting to heat the entire pool at one time, however, water circulates through a “heater” or “collection box,” where the collected water is warmed by the sun. That water then circulates back into the pool, while fresh cool water refills the collection box/heater.

Most DIY solar pool heaters consist of some basic parts: piping from the pool to the heater or the collection box, the heater/collection box itself, and the piping back into the pool. Water piped from the pool to the heater should be freshly filtered to keep your heater from clogging with debris and minimize the chance of it developing algae or other problems. You may also want to install an additional filter or screen to aid in this process.

What Is the Heater/Collection Box?

Owners can construct the solar heater portion of the setup in a number of ways. It could be a tank, preferably a shallow tank with a great deal of surface area, with a cover designed to capture or magnify heat from the sun. The water within the tank could be free flowing or confined to tubing. Tubing or piping is generally a better option simply in terms of efficient flow through the tank, but either can be effective. If piping is in use exclusively, it may remain open to the sun, provided its design encourages efficient heat collection.

The piping (including the inflow and outflow) should be composed of materials that are both ideal for heat convection and suitable for exposure to swimming pool water. If the tubing itself is directly exposed to the sun, it should be painted black, or even composed of a black material (black hosing or black PVC pipe).  

Do I Need Additional Pumps?

Whether you require additional pumps to make your DIY solar pool heater work depends upon the heater’s placement. If the heater resides beside the pool, you may not require additional pumps. However, if you have a large pool and require a large heater, placing it right beside the pool may not be an ideal option. Some pool owners actually place their heater on the roof of their home, essentially creating a large, pool-oriented solar panel to heat the pool. If you opt for this method, you will probably require an additional pump to send the water to the heater. This holds true for any time you place the heater at a distance from the pool. In some cases, you may require a pump to return the water from the heater to the pool as well.

Is Creating a DIY Solar Pool Heater Cheaper or More Convenient than Purchasing One?

Creating your own solar pool heater is no small amount of work, and there are inexpensive options available to purchase ready-made, especially if you have a smaller pool. However, if you have particular aesthetic needs, require a customized solution, or have access to free or reusable materials, making your own solar pool heater may be a better option. 

In terms of cost, it’s also important to keep in mind the time and energy you’ll have to devote to building the heater.  You’ll want to overestimate both, because there is likely to be some trial and error involved. 

Other Options

There’s another way to heat your pool using the sun’s rays: a solar “blanket.” This is a special type of pool cover, engineered to use the sun’s heat to take the edge off your pool’s chill. A solar blanket alone can warm your pool 10-20 degrees! They’re most effective when used to cover both the pool and the pump when not in use, during peak solar hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The solar blanket may be placed and removed by hand, or with the use of a swimming pool cover reel. Solar blankets can be a great, inexpensive way to extend the use of your pool a few additional weeks during cooler spring and fall weather.

Improving Your Pool Experience

Whichever option you choose, you should always be on the lookout for ways to improve your home swimming (and pool maintenance) experiences. After all, your swimming pool is an investment, an investment in your fun, relaxation, and quality family time! A swimming pool heater can help to extend the swimming season.

Another way you can make your pool a more pleasurable part of your life is by putting a pHin monitor to work. The device tests water quality constantly (including temperature) and alerts you via a custom app. You can even order any necessary chemicals in pre-measured pods, automatically, as required.

Another way you can make your pool a more pleasurable part of your life is by becoming a pHin member. pHin takes the guesswork out of pool and hot tub care. The monitor senses water quality (and temperature) 24/7, notifications are sent to your smartphone when the chemistry needs rebalancing, and the chemicals you’ll be needing are shipped right to your door in pre-measured, color-coded pods about every 4-6 weeks.

Your swimming pool should be a source of joy for you and your family, and you can maximize that joy by minimizing the headaches it can cause in terms of maintenance and work. And, of course, by giving your family warmer water when they most want it, with a solar pool heater.

How to Open an Inground Pool in 10 Steps

The post How to Open An Inground Pool in 10 Steps first appeared on Swim University.

Are you ready to open up your inground pool by yourself this year? Have no fear, it’s easier than you think.

You SHOULD open up your own swimming pool. It will save you time and money, because you won’t have to hire someone to do it for you…unless you want to.

Here is a very basic set of instructions. If you follow these 10 steps to open your pool, you’ll be thanking the gods you didn’t pay anyone, and you’ll be swimming sooner!

What You Need:

  • Pool cover pump
  • Winter cover cleaner
  • Start-up chemical kit
  • A friend

1. Remove Water and Debris From Your Winter Pool Cover

Remove all water, leaves, and debris from your cover. To remove the water, you can use a submersible pool cover pump.

Removing the debris can be tricky. Once the water is off the cover, you can use a broom to sweep off any large piles of debris. DO NOT use anything sharp or harsh on your cover.

SMART TIP: Once the water is removed, you could wait a day or two for the cover to dry and blow the debris off with a leaf blower.

2. Remove Your Winter Pool Cover

Carefully remove the cover without getting any debris, that remains on the top of the cover, into the pool. If dirty water and debris get fall in the water, it’s not a big deal. You will just have to remove it from the water later.

3. Clean Your Winter Pool Cover and Store Away

Lay the cover out on your lawn or a nearby area. Use water, soap, and a soft brush to wash your cover. You can use a winter cover cleaner, and some cover cleaners will even allow you to store the cover wet.

SMART TIP: Invest in a heavy duty plastic container with a lid to store your cover away. This will prevent bugs and rodents from eating or making a nest in your cover. This will extend the life of your pool cover.

NOTE: If you’re using water tubes to secure your pool cover, make sure you empty and dry them out before storing.

4. Remove Winter Plug(s) and Skimmer Ice Compensator(s)

Walk around your pool and make sure all winter plugs are removed from any openings in your pool, including return jets and step jets. Replace your return lines with the proper eyeball or jet fittings.

NOTE: If bubbles rise from the return or step jets when you remove the plugs, this is a sign that the lines (pipes) were properly blown out during winterization (pool closing).

Next, remove the ice compensator(s) from your skimmer bucket(s) (Gizmo) and remove the winter plugs from the bottom. Then, replace the skimmer baskets.

5. Re-Install Your Deck Equipment

Gather up your accessories and re-install them, including:

  • Pool ladders
  • Diving boards
  • Step rails

Make sure you lubricate all bolts to prevent rusting throughout the summer months.

6. Fill Your Pool Up

Your pool might have been drained during winterization or lost water over the winter. If the water level in your pool is below the midway point of the skimmer opening, use your garden hose to fill it up.

7. Set Up Your Filter And Pump

Replace the drain plugs and other parts, including your pressure gauge, on your filter and pump. Your filter should have one major drain plug and your pump may have one or two.

If you have a multiport valve, make sure you replace the air bleeder, sight glass, and pressure gauge.

IMPORTANT: Turn your multiport valve handle to “Filter.”

SMART TIP: Check the lid o-ring on your pump housing. Bend it with your fingers all around to check for any cracks in the rubber. A dry, cracked o-ring will cause your filter to pull air, which is not good. If this is the case, you should replace it. If the o-ring looks good, I suggest applying a Teflon-based o-ring lubricant (I recommend using Magic Lube) to create a good seal and making it easy to remove the pump lid when needed.

Re-install any additional equipment, including a booster pump, heater or chlorine dispenser, and make sure all drain plugs are securely in place.

8. Fire It Up!

Turn on the power to your pump and filter. Make sure the system starts up properly. Check for any leaks or drips.

If your pump isn’t pulling any water, you’ll need to help prime the pump. Shut off your filter system, remove the pump lid, and fill the housing with water. You can use a garden hose or a bucket of water from your pool. Replace the lid and turn your filter back on. This should help get the pump to pull water in from the skimmer(s) and main drain(s).

OTE: If the pressure on your filter tank seems high (over 15 psi), it might be a good idea to backwash your sand filter. After backwashing a D.E. (diatomaceous earth) filter, add fresh D.E. powder according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

9. Clean It Up!

Using a plastic leaf net (preferably with a rubber lining) attached to your telescopic pole, remove any debris that’s in your water. If there’s a large amount of debris on the bottom of your pool, carefully scoop it up with the leaf net. Try to remove as much debris from the water as possible.

Attach a pool brush to your telescopic pole and brush the walls and floor of the pool. This will help get the dirt into suspension and allow your filter to remove it.

SMART TIP: Make sure you turn your valves to pull water in from your bottom drain(s). This will help the filter collect the dirt and debris on the floor of your pool.

10. Shock and All

Take a sample of your water to a local pool supply store to get it professionally analyzed. You want to make sure you pH and alkalinity are properly balanced before adding any other pool chemicals.

Once your pool water is balanced, add the proper amount of sanitizer to your water (i.e. chlorine, bromine, or Baquacil).

I recommend double shocking your pool using 2 lbs. (or bags) of shock for every 10,000 gallons of water, or 5 gallons of liquid chlorine per 20,000 gallons of water.

One Last Check

Let your pool run at least 24 hours and vacuum out any debris using your manual vacuum. Retest the water using a home test kit or test strips. If everything checks out, and the pool is clear or cloudy blue, it’s ready to swim in!

Happy Swimming from pHin!