Pool covers play an important role in maintaining and protecting your pool throughout the seasons and can also provide a level of safety that helps keep loved ones safe. Depending on the time of year (summer or winter) or for us here at Hipel Pools (pool season or winter) you will need a different type of cover with most pool owners having at least two covers, one for the summer and one for the winter. In this ultimate guide, we will take a deep dive into every pool cover option available to help you decide what pool cover options are the best choice for you.
Using a cover during the warmer summer months when your pool is being used mainly provides benefits in regards to energy efficiency, heat retention, evaporation reduction, less chemical usage and in some cases improved safety. Covers for the summer months can cost as little as $30 for a simple liquid pool cover or as much as $30,000 for an automatic pool cover with plenty of other options in between such as solar blankets which we will touch on in more detail a little later on.
Liquid Pool Cover
Coverfree liquid cover’s main ingredient is Cetyl Alcohol a fatty-based alcohol that when combined with the water in your pool forms an incredibly thin one-molecule thick layer on the surface of the water that is invisible to the naked eye, odourless, and impossible to feel. This ultra-thin layer on the surface of your pool is enough to help aid in the prevention of evaporation and heat loss which helps to conserve water and save energy.
Liquid covers are the most cost-effective pool cover option for the summer costing about $30 per bottle and it is required that the chemical be added weekly to your pool with a bottle of chemical typically lasting several weeks. Although liquid cover can be the cheapest summer cover option in the short term it is the least effective cover option according to a study conducted by California Polytechnic State University reducing evaporation rates in swimming pools by only about 15%.
Here at Hipel Pools we try and steer pool owners away from liquid pool covers due to the low overall efficiency and the repeated need to re-apply and purchase the liquid cover. If you don’t yet own a summer pool cover and are looking for a cheap temporary solution until you can get a more permanent cover then a liquid pool cover may be a great option.
Solar Pool Blanket
A solar blanket is essentially a plastic roll of thick bubble wrap that covers the entire water’s surface when the pool is not in use. Solar blankets help to dramatically reduce evaporation in your swimming pool which in turn helps to reduce heat loss in your pool’s water. The same study conducted by the California Polytechnic State University found Solar Blankets to be nearly 95% effective at reducing evaporation and its harmful effects.
Solar blankets are probably the most common way of covering your pool in the summer months and can be purchased for as little as $300 with more advanced options such as a Cleardeck System costing between $4000-$7000 to have installed.
Although solar blankets are low-cost and very effective they do come with some drawbacks. The solar blanket itself typically will only last for 3-5 years before it starts to deteriorate from the sun’s harmful rays and need replacing. A lot of pool owners also find the solar blanket roller to be unsightly on their pool deck when the solar blanket is rolled up and not in use which is why on a lot of new pool builds customers will opt for the more expensive Cleardeck Solar Blanket System.
Overall though we feel the solar blanket is the best choice for a summer pool cover option as far as the cost of ownership and overall effectiveness.
Solar Sun Rings
Solar sun rings are essentially small circular solar blankets that are inflated and set side by side throughout the pool and float on top of the surface of the pool. Although not very popular and not as effective as many types of summer covers some people do find them easier to handle than the traditional solar blanket. The California Polytechnic State University study found solar sun rings to be about 50% effective at reducing the effects of evaporation.
Solar sun rings cost about $50 per ring so depending on the size of your pool you’re looking at an overall cost of between $400-$1000. We don’t recommend the use of solar sun rings unless you do find them easier to handle because they will likely cost a little bit more than a solar blanket and they are about 45% less effective than a solar blanket at preventing evaporation because they do not cover the entire surface of the pool. So why spend more for less efficiency?
Automatic covers are the Cadillac of swimming pool covers. They are high-quality, very effective, expensive and unlike any other summer, cover add an exceptional level of safety. Auto covers which are typically only installed on new pool builds act much the same as a solar pool blanket but are obviously automatic and utilize a high-quality canvas instead of a plastic bubble-wrap type material. The California Polytechnic State University study found auto covers to be around 94% effective at reducing evaporation.
Not only are auto covers great at reducing evaporation, retaining heat, and improving energy efficiency they also help to substantially reduce chemical usage by blocking the sun’s harmful rays and by preventing rainwater from entering the pool which negatively alters the pool water chemistry.
Auto covers are also one of the few if not only summer covers that provide a high level of safety by preventing children, pets, or anything else from entering the pool without supervision.
Automatic covers are a very attractive option to most potential pool owners but the price tag is typically what steers people away. In our area (Ontario, Canada) Automatic covers typically cost between $22,500 – $32,5000 to install on a new pool.
The biggest flaw with auto-covers outside of the price point is they require continued maintenance from qualified professionals to maintain the electric motors, track and pulley system and many other mechanical components that keep the cover operating smoothly. You should expect to spend $250-$750 per year on general cover maintenance and over time as the canvas and mechanical components wear you will incur additional expenses to have these repaired or replaced.
No Summer Pool Cover
It is not an absolute requirement to have a cover on your pool during the summer but we highly recommend it for a number of reasons.
- One of the most common things we hear from pool owners who don’t use a summer pool cover is they think their pool has a leak. The reason they believe their pool has a leak is that pools lose a substantial amount of water to evaporation. It is not uncommon for a pool to lose 1/4″ of water per day or 2″ of water per week to evaporation which is a substantial amount of water.
- If your pool is losing a lot of water to evaporation you will need to frequently refill your pool with water and unless you have a well on your property water isn’t free.
- Evaporation is also a major factor causing heat loss in a pool and if your pool is not being protected against evaporation and is being filled with cold water frequently it is going to cost you more to keep your pool heated.
- Not only are heating costs higher but if your pool is constantly being topped up with water you are going to need to treat your pool water more frequently with pool chemicals to maintain the proper water chemistry levels.
If you take these points into consideration along with the costs of not using a summer cover it should become clear that using some sort of pool cover in the summer is a very good idea that will provide efficiency and cost savings over the long term.
Using a pool cover during the off-season or winter months when your pool is not in use is not mandatory but is a very good option to consider. The main reason for utilizing a cover during the off-season is to protect your pool from damage that could be caused by a number of factors including wind, falling trees, blowing objects and debris, and an assortment of other damages that could occur during those cold winter months. Some covers such as the winter safety cover also provide a high level of safety and peace of mind by keeping anyone or anything that may fall into the pool during the off-season safe.
Standard Winter Cover (Tarp-Style)
Standard winter covers are essentially a large tarp placed over the top of your pool and weighed down with water bags to help hold it in place for the off-season. Standard winter covers are a very low-cost option for covering your pool in the winter ranging in price from $100-$600 and with proper care last a fairly long time.
Standard winter covers are a very common type of pool cover due to the low cost but are most commonly known as the least convenient type of pool cover you can buy. The water bags used to weigh the cover down can be easily punctured and leak water causing the cover to blow around in windy conditions. If the water bags are overfilled with water when the outside temperatures drop below freezing the water inside the bags freezes causing the water to expand as it turns into ice bursting the water bags again leaving you with a cover that is not properly held down. Other Objects such as cinder blocks can be used as an alternative to holding the cover down but can be inconvenient to store during the summer months if you don’t have the space.
Standard winter covers are also more difficult to remove in the springtime without introducing a lot of debris into the pool as well as being difficult to clean before storing away for the summer.
Vinyl Lock In Cover (Vinyl Liner Pools Only)
Vinyl lock-in covers only work on vinyl liner pools with a dual-liner track but are very similar to the standard trap-style winter cover. Instead of using water bags to hold the cover down the cover is locked into the second liner track just like the vinyl liner of the pool which holds it in place for the winter. Vinyl lock-in covers range in price from about $800-$1350.
Made from a material very similar to that of a vinyl pool liner lock-in covers are fairly durable but caution must be taken when installing or removing the cover so it is not ripped or torn on any sharp objects.
Vinyl lock-in covers share a lot of the same inconveniences as a standard tarp-style winter covers with the exception that they stay in place substantially better throughout the winter without the fear of leaking or bursting water bags.
Winter Safety Cover
Our personal favourite winter pool cover here at Hipel Pools is by far the winter safety cover. Safety covers are made from a strong yet lightweight UV-treated polypropylene mesh or solid vinyl material. Straps are sewn onto the mesh or vinyl material in a grid pattern and spring buckles are applied to the ends so that the cover can be attached to anchors fastened into your pool deck. These brass anchors are permanently fastened into your pool deck but during the summer months, the anchors can be lowered down into the pool deck using an Allen key so they sit flush with your pool deck out of sight and out of mind.
Safety covers come in standard sizes or can be customized to fit any pool shape. If you have features surrounding your pool such as a raised spa, pillars, water/fire features or anything else the winter safety cover can be made to fit around these features. The initial purchase and installation of a safety cover will cost between $1500 – $4000 depending on the size of the cover and the complexity of the installation. The average initial cost is between $1800-$2500
There are more than a few reasons why we love safety covers so much here at Hipel Pools so we just made a list.
- Safety – Winter safety covers can easily support the weight of an adult, child, or even a large animal and keep them from falling in the pool when unattended.
- Cleanliness – Safety covers keep debris like leaves, sticks, bugs etc. out of your pool throughout the winter and unlike traditional tarp-style covers they are fast and easy to rinse off and clean come springtime.
- Simple to install – The initial installation of a winter safety cover requires installing anchors into your pool deck, but every year after that the installation is simple, fast, and worry-free
- Simple to remove – When the winter has subsided and you are ready to open your pool winter safety covers are simple to clean, remove, and store for the summer
- Longevity – Winter safety pool covers are strong, durable, and typically last over 15 years
- Customizable – Safety covers can be customized to fit any pool shape and to fit around other features on your pool deck like water features, raised spas, pillars, etc. Safety covers also come in a variety of different colours with black being the most popular
- Appearance – Safety covers keep your pool space looking clean and tidy even in the winter months
No Winter Cover
Although we highly recommend using a winter cover of some sort it’s not mandatory and you can get away without using one. As we stated earlier in the article the main reason for using a winter pool cover is to protect your pool from damage during the off-season when your pool is out of sight and out of mind. Besides protecting your pool a winter cover will also help to keep debris out of your pool and some covers like the winter safety cover provide a great level of safety.
If you do not cover your pool for the winter you are at a higher risk of damage occurring to your pool and you will have a lot more work to do come springtime to clean the pool up and get it back in swimming shape. Safety is also a big concern if your pool is left uncovered for the winter as pets, animals, and kids may be enticed to still enter the pool and with colder temperatures and ice-build up on the surface of the pool this can create an extreme hazard.
Our Cover Recommendations
Based on our experience over the years we would highly recommend you have two covers one for the summer and one for the winter.
Summer Cover Recommendation
For a summer cover, we would highly recommend an automatic safety cover. Auto covers by far provide the highest level of safety, an incredibly high level of energy savings, prevent evaporation, and preserve chemicals. In a perfect world we would recommend everyone have an automatic pool cover but with the hefty price tag and continued maintenance costs, we know this isn’t always a possibility.
If an automatic cover is not an option a solar blanket is the best alternative and the most common choice among pool owners. Solar blankets are inexpensive, highly effective, and simple to use and we would suggest using a solar blanket at the minimum.
Winter Cover Recommendations
Without hesitation, we would highly recommend a winter safety cover for a winter pool cover. They provide an incredible level of safety, do an amazing job protecting your pool, are simple and easy to deal with, last a long time with proper care, and look great as far as a pool covered for the winter goes.
One of the most important decisions you can make as a pool owner is how you will cover your pool and with so many cover options available we hope that our ultimate guide to pool covers has provided some clarity and helped you make an educated decision on what the best pool cover is for you and your family.
Thanks for reading!