Pool Heater Ideas

pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
163
Northern Illinois
I am trying to come up with ideas on how to heat our 27' 54" above ground pool (approximately 19,000 gallons). Ideally we'll invest in an electric or gas heater but it won't be for at least a year. For this year I'd like to just gain a couple of degrees of temperature on average (kids and wife use pool almost everyday during summer when warm enough....prefer over 78 degrees).

I've researched the solar panel idea, but I don't see how these panels would fit into our landscape layout. Unfortunately our house is over 50 feet away from the pool which makes using the roof less than ideal. I've thought about trying to build a smaller panel with circular piping (much smaller footprint) but everything I read cautions against them.

Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks in advance!
 

jblizzle

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Solar heating is about surface area exposed to the sun. So a smaller cooled panel is not going to do as much as a larger panel.

There is little head loss in straight pipe, so running to the house is not likely a problem.
 

JohnT

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You could place a small ground rack for a couple of panels on the south side of your deck or on the south side of the pool. Pretty simple to frame and not expensive.
 

pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
163
Northern Illinois
Thanks to both of you. The area of the house directly across from the pool is two-story and I'm not comfortable going up that high to install. If we were to do a roof install it would have to be on the roof right next to the back deck (you can see the incline in the photo).

If we were to install a rack along the south of the deck or pool, I would imagine it would take up a large area. The panels are 20' long, correct?

How many degrees would each panel give us?
 

maieranne

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Jun 17, 2011
108
Central Iowa
We are also looking to do some solar heat to extend our pool time spring/fall. Thinking of running some black garden hose on a black wooden panel or on skirting of the deck around the pool facing south. If yours is temporary, as it sounds it is from you looking to go gas in a couple years this may be a cheap interim solution. That being said we haven't set ours up yet so unsure how much hose will be enough to make a difference......just a thought.
 

duraleigh

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How many degrees would each panel give us?
Impossible to calculate with any accuracy.....way too many variables. The biggest one is using a solar cover religiously.
 

Charlie_R

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May 8, 2013
2,156
Mexico, MO
I would suggest a rocket stove type heater that you could build yourself, but I think maybe your neighbors or HOA would object.

I've put one together for my 15'x48" Intex, and burn scrap wood from construction sites, and cast-off pallets.
 

JohnT

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Thanks to both of you. The area of the house directly across from the pool is two-story and I'm not comfortable going up that high to install. If we were to do a roof install it would have to be on the roof right next to the back deck (you can see the incline in the photo).

If we were to install a rack along the south of the deck or pool, I would imagine it would take up a large area. The panels are 20' long, correct?

How many degrees would each panel give us?


Panels are available in several sizes, but the most common for the above ground style are either 2X20' or 4X20'.

There are a few options for racks in This Thread

Another possibility is to build a pergola shade structure to hold the panels and provide a shaded sitting area. The extra height adds a little cost, but the space serves two purposes.
 

pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
163
Northern Illinois
Thanks to all! After further research I think some sort of wood heater is the best option. Here are a couple of questions/comments I've run across as I researched:

1. I am actually in the process of creating a new fire pit area (blue circle on aerial photo). This fire pit will be built into the ground and surrounded with field stones. We also have an old chimney fire pit (see attached picture) that could be used. I know we'll be using the new fire pit in the evenings (we like to swim and sit around the fire pit in the evenings). Any opinion on either of these options?

2. I was thinking of burying the plumping to and from the pool to the fire pit to reduce the "redneck" aspect and make it look more professional. Any opinions on this idea?

3. The filter pump could be used to facilitate water flow or a separate pump could be bought. Any opinions?

4. As anyone built a similar system? Do you have any pictures? Any good links I should check out?

Thanks again!
 

JohnT

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Wood heat isn't nearly as effective as you might imagine. It takes a lot of wood to heat a pool.
 

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pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
163
Northern Illinois
Thanks John. We actually have a lot of wood (old wood from a tree my grandparents cut down, leftover wood from past winter for fireplace, scrap lumber). That's why I thought the fire heater was the best option.
 

Charlie_R

TFP Expert
May 8, 2013
2,156
Mexico, MO
I agree with John, it does take a lot of wood to heat a pool. For me the wood is free, except for having to go pick it up.

Here is the "redneck" system I used for the last couple of years, photobucket album link. The heater is on page 2.

This year I've built a rocket stove type, and will upload pics soon. Yes, I'm one that uses what I have on hand. I enjoy repurposing things that otherwise would go to the landfill.
 

JohnT

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Thanks John. We actually have a lot of wood (old wood from a tree my grandparents cut down, leftover wood from past winter for fireplace, scrap lumber). That's why I thought the fire heater was the best option.

I've seen people report needing two pickup loads a week in a well insulated boiler. The heating load from the pool was higher than the load for heating their house in the winter.
 

pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
163
Northern Illinois
I appreciate everyone's suggestions but have decided to go the diy route. I understand that the commercial panels are more efficient for the cost but they are not an option for us because 1. One panel would cost over $150 installed 2. The footprint on the panels (especially the 20' length) is too large for our application 3. I am skeptical that a 2'x20' panel actually offers 40 sq ft of heat absorption. I'm not sure exactly how the panels are constructed and function, but I would imagine there are tubes running through them. The sq ft would be the "facing surface" of the tubes if comparing them "apples to apples" with a diy coil system. Anyway, I am looking for opinions on the following:

1. What would be the best type of tubing to use? Poly tubing (irrigation)? PVC? Black garden hose? Is a smaller diameter (like 1/2") better or worse than a larger (like 1")?

2. Are there advantages/disadvantages to a coil system as opposed to a lateral system?

3. Would enclosing the system help efficiency? For example, would enclosing a system in wood and plexiglass help? I would imagine the air temperature would be higher inside such a box, but I also think I read somewhere that the plexiglass would block some of the strength of the sun.

4. I have an old sump pump I can use to power such a system......does this sound like a good idea?

Thanks in advance and have a great weekend!
 

JasonLion

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You will not be able to come even remotely close to the efficiency of a commercial panel with a DIY setup. Commercial panels are highly efficient and make effective use of their entire surface area. DIY panels are typically less than 1/4 as efficient per unit area, and often end up costing just as much.

Enclosing the panels is only worth it if your air temperature is quite low. Enclosed panels are used for home hot water in the winter, but lower efficiency when the air temperature is 60+ degrees.
 

peterdaly

Well-known member
Aug 14, 2013
188
Fayetteville, NY
First, I don't believe you save any money by DIY if you try to build a system that can add any reasonable temperature to the pool, but a small DIY system is how many of us (me included) get started in this.

1. What would be the best type of tubing to use? Poly tubing (irrigation)? PVC? Black garden hose? Is a smaller diameter (like 1/2") better or worse than a larger (like 1")?


2. Are there advantages/disadvantages to a coil system as opposed to a lateral system?
1/2 irrigation tubing, in multiple coils, plumbed in parallel. A coil will be the most cost efficient and simple to build. 1/2" to maximize surface area contact with the water...a larger pipe has more water "in the middle" that is not touching the tube. If using the pool pump, you will need some sort of bypass to limit the water flow going through this. A commercial panel can handle and heat 44gal/min, which is way above what a few 1/2 irrigation coils can handle.

3. Would enclosing the system help efficiency? For example, would enclosing a system in wood and plexiglass help? I would imagine the air temperature would be higher inside such a box, but I also think I read somewhere that the plexiglass would block some of the strength of the sun.
No.

4. I have an old sump pump I can use to power such a system......does this sound like a good idea?
If it's a utility (lower than pool pump flow) pump, then sure. That would be perfect. If a it's a pool pump, you need to figure out flow control, and are probably better off running off the main pump. 3/4hp single speed pool pump will push about 44gal/minute in many setups.

Additionally, if it runs when the sun is not out, it may actually cool the pool. Keep how you control this thing in mind when you put your plans together. A professional system includes a controller that automates control to only run when heat is available.
 

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