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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Solar collectors can heat your pool for extra months of swimming

Kristin Arrigo

Want to get in an extra couple of months of swimming?

A solar thermal collector is a device used for heating the swimming pool with sunlight. The pool water travels through your pool filter and is circulated through the collector. The solar collector works during the day, so the pool filter will have to be on during the daytime.

Because you’re going to be running it during some changing weather and temperatures, you will want a way to protect it from freezing. If you get collector with a draindown system, there are sensors that will shut off the circulation of water through the system and drain it completely, then start it again, so that the collector can run in cold climates, protected from freezing up.

As you are floating around, or doing your exercises in your toasty pool, you can think about the money saved each month by using solar energy.

Although some say that the estimated time to make your money back on the cost of a solar collector can take up to seven years, it probably averages a lot less than seven years in cooler climates, like September in New Hampshire.

Other comparisons say you save about $100 a month right away. What works even faster than making your money back, is how fast it heats up your pool; in just a couple of days, the temperature is warmer.

OK, so maybe it’s not that much warmer when it comes to September, but it’s enough to be very comfortable and make it worth keeping the pool open.

Solar devices have been around for a long time and have become a popular do-it-yourself project. It’s a good idea to try your hand at a solar project on something like the pool before you build your home solar water heater.

Then again, it’s a better idea to talk to a professional about which type of solar collector to buy, because products vary by climate, and regulations vary by region. A professional can also help you to determine how much sun you are getting, the increase of temperature to expect and the size of the collector to purchase.

In Maine and New Hampshire, there is a company called ReVision Energy. They have a pretty good testimonial on their web site, Solar thermal collectors are available at most home improvement stores; even Lowe’s sells one made for the pool.

While swimming as the leaves turn colors sounds amazing, it’s kind of eerie to think that the possibility of doing laps in a snowstorm may not be that far off.

Changing the perspective of how energy is consumed will help reduce emissions that cause pollution and influence climate change, and calendar changes, too, because if you’re swimming through fall, I guess Halloween is the new Labor Day, and we will have to start school in November. More to think about while floating on my raft.

Kristin Arrigo is an environmental writer and can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ArrigoKristin. Only Better runs the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.