This started out as a question on another thread, but was moved to its own thread, so I edited it in hopes of getting a good discussion going on the subject. We're looking to add a few months to the swimming season. I'm looking at the Sun Grabber solar panels, vs DIY coils, vs the Extend a Swim wood burning pool heater http://www.warmwatersolutions.com/
I'm specifically not considering an electric or propane because the operating costs appear high. Someone let me know if I'm way off here.
DIY Coils pros:
initial appearance is relatively cheap to make
DIY Coil Cons:
you have to build it
it may not work
trial & error process
appearance on roof
Virtually hands free operation, set the pump timer and forget about it.
Almost free operation: free sunlight, and already running the pump about 8 hours daily for water maintenance.
Relatively low cost for the kits: Sun Grabber kits with 5 panels (4' x 20') are about $1100-$1200 on ebay with shipping.
Our home has a large roof area, house is positioned right for solar (back yard faces South), full sun almost all day long (7-8 hours daily)
Freeze concerns: According to the mfg site, the panels need to be removed and stored from the roof prior to the first frost of the season.
Putting up and taking down annually seems like it would add extra wear & tear, and must be planned out-akin to holiday decorating tasks.
You need sunlight and semi-warm days to collect heat.
No way to maintain or gain heat on demand.
Seems to be a limit on how much temperature you can gain.
Needs lots of roof area to do the job properly
Requires holes to be made in a relatively new (5 year old) roof & shingles that do not currently leak.
appearance on roof
weight on roof
Wood Fired pros:
Simple installation: place it on a quickcrete pad & connect water in and water out pipes, (appears DIY in a few hours)
Install it and leave it.
Simple operation with no moving parts to break (firebox & heat exchanger)
Heat on demand (relatively speaking) day or night, clouds or sun. - so you can plan to use the pool.
Ability to superheat water and transfer it to pool, theoretically bringing the temp up hotter faster.
No holes in roof
Don't have to breakdown and store before freeze/frost
drain & bypass to winterize: this amounts to turning a couple of valves and opening a drain plug.
free firewood (I'd have to cut my own)
Wood Fired cons:
Stoking the fire several times daily.
Cutting wood to burn.
Smell from stove pipe smoke.
Heater location: not particularly unsightly, but needs to sit 3' away from any structure which would put it out in the middle of the side yard for us (mostly unused space that currently houses the pump & filter pad)
appearance in yard
Cost about $2500 -$3000 depending on size (Large or XL)
As far as freezing goes, we have an outdoor shower and 4 hose bibs all attached to our brick home and have never had any freeze issues with any of these. We've never needed to do anything to them to "winterize". We live in an area where sunlight and firewood are both plentiful. Steps from my yard I can cut all the free firewood I want, and we've already had a few 80+ degree days here in Savannah. I'm interested to know what you chose and how it is working out. Would you do it again and what would you do differently? Thanks to all who reply.
Split off of DIY solar heater questions. JasonLion