Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine

Top Reasons Solar Pool Heaters Are a Great Investment

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

By Bryn Huntpalmer

We all look forward to that first day of the year when it’s finally warm enough to take a running leap into our pool, just like how we all shed a tear when the seasons turn months later, forcing our bathing suits into retirement yet again. When you choose to deck out your home’s pool with a solar water heater, though, you give yourself the chance to enjoy substantially more swim days every year—without adding a dime to your monthly utility bills. Between the durability and reliability of modern solar technology, you are sure to recoup your renovation expense in no time. Here are the top reasons for why a solar pool heater is a great investment for your home.

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Relatively comparable in price. Regardless of the pool heating system you choose, each one is relatively comparable in price. Although gas and electric resistance heaters are less expensive than electric heat pumps, you can still expect to spend around $2,500 (USD) for components and installation. This price will balloon two to three times as much when installing an electric resistance heater, due to the wiring upgrades that are usually necessary to support the large amount of electrical current the system requires. On the other hand, the average solar pool heaters will run around $3,000 to $4,000, depending on the size and location of the pool itself, how the solar panels are able to be positioned on the home and the desired temperature of the pool water.

Advanced DIYers can save a third of the total expense by installing the solar pool heating system themselves. A proficient knowledge in plumbing and electrical wiring is needed, (and a full weekend free), but it is certainly not an insurmountable task. Before embarking on this renovation, though, be sure to fully read the manufacturer’s manual so that the installation doesn’t void any warranties. Also, most manufacturers will have how-to videos on their website that will assist in instructing on proper installation techniques.

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Monthly expense. Let’s face it, fossil fuels are expensive. Whether the impact is felt by the Earth or our very own wallets, the costs of maintaining a gas or electric pool heater are high. Depending upon your city’s climate, one should plan on monthly expenses to swell by $100 to $300 a month, at least. When you opt to go with the free power of the sun instead, the investment will pay for itself in two to three years.

Solar heaters are effective. Being comparably priced is a wonderful attribute only if the product is effective. Thankfully, that is definitely the case for solar heaters. So long as the solar panels are positioned properly to garner the full power of the sun’s rays, then one can expect to adequately increase the pool’s temperature by up to 15 degrees (in most cases). The best way to ensure the pool’s warmth, especially once the weather starts turning cooler, is to utilize a solar blanket over the pool whenever it is not in use. Think of the pool as a pot of water you are trying to get to boil. If you leave the lid off the pot, the water will eventually boil, but it will take a substantially longer time to make this happen. If you cover your pot with a lid, however, the water will only need a few minutes to rise in temperature. A solar blanket effectively performs the same duty as the lid by trapping in heat and preventing excessive water evaporation.

Solar technology extends the swimming season. In general, pool water temperature will be fairly comparable to the ambient air around it. That’s why when the temperature starts falling into the low 70s, most people won’t be able to stand a dip in the pool anymore.

When the Florida Solar Energy Center began monitoring solar pools over 20 years ago, they noticed that most owners were only able to enjoy their pool for 110 days a year. For those homeowners who installed a solar pool heating system, however, they were able to extend that to 290 days. (Obviously, if one lives in a less temperate climate, then you may not be able to reach numbers like these. It is safe to say, though, that you can more than double the amount of weather appropriate days to swim.)

A heater of any kind is not mandatory, but owning a pool has expenses regardless of whether it is being used or not. If you’ve already installed a pool, then you’re already heavily invested—so why wouldn’t you want to eek out as many swimmable days as possible? By choosing to add a solar pool heater, you’ll get to enjoy that investment more with a solar heating system that will pay for itself.

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Keep it cool. One of the little known facts about a solar pool heater is that it can actually lower a pool’s temperature as well! Nobody can cool off in 90+ degree pool water at the peak of summer heat. By running a heater system overnight rather than during daylight hours, the circulating water will cool several degrees, making it far more comfortable the following day.

Durability and reliability. Gas swimming pool heaters can be rather finicky and require a fair amount of maintenance. All that maintenance is incredibly expensive, too, since the components inside the heater have to be able to withstand such high temperatures. Plus, gas heaters usually only have a lifespan of about five years. Electric heaters will provide a few more years of usage, with most lasting between five to 10 years, but they also require regular servicing from an AC technician. On the other hand, solar pool heating systems usually come with a warranty ensuring good service for 10 to 20 years and require little to no maintenance when the pool’s chemical balance and filtering system are in good working order.

Environmental impact. One of the main reasons to opt for a solar pool heating system is ecological impact. You can rest easy knowing that your comfort is not coming at the expense of extensive oil drilling and shipping or at the risk of harming your own family’s health. As always, clean energy is the best energy. With the sound investment in a quality solar pool heating system, one can enjoy the relaxing, warm waters of your own pool for years to come.

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About the author

Bryn Huntpalmer is an editor and writer for Modernize.com, Her goal is to empower homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big, eco-friendly home projects with confidence. With a background in writing about energy-efficient topics relating to HVAC, solar, windows and roofing, Huntpalmer loves to help empower home owners with the resources they need to better their homes.

About the company

Modernize.com is an online service that connects homeowners with trusted professionals specializing in exterior home improvement projects, including solar, roofing, windows and HVAC solutions. It helps guide homeowners through the information they need to speak with confidence and take their home projects from a dream to an actual plan. Modernize helps people avoid wasting time and energy calling around by connecting them directly with the right people to receive free cost estimates, schedule at-home consultations and get a custom quote based on their unique situation. The company also offers extensive guides to get the job done efficiently. “We are your one stop for everything home improvement.”

HPC Bacteria Issues and Their Effect on the POU Industry

Wednesday, May 14th, 2003

By Peter Cartwright, P.E., CWS-VI

As so eloquently described in Dr. Kelly Reynolds’ March 2003 “On Tap” column, it appears as though the latest scientific conclusions regarding the health effects of high concentrations of heterotrophic plate count (HPC) bacteria in drinking water are, regardless of the concentration, these bacteria are unlikely to affect human health.

ANALYSIS
There even appears to be a consensus among experts that high concentrations of HPC bacteria will inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, although this may not be the case with pathogenic viruses. So, expanding on this school of thought, it’s possible to conclude that from a microbiological perspective, it may be safer to actually encourage the growth of HPC bacteria in drinking water supplies. Does this mean the end of disinfectant technologies such as ultraviolet (UV) irradiation and ozonation? That’s questionable.

First, some background, though.

Behind the studies
Arguably, the leading microbiologist in the point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) segment of the water treatment industry, University of Arizona professor Charles Gerba, is currently investigating these issues. (Gerba presented his most recent findings at the WQA Las Vegas convention in March 2003). He has indicated that the inhibitory effect of HPC bacteria on pathogenic bacteria is so significant that HPC bacteria proliferation shouldn’t be discouraged. Obviously, for semiconductor rinsing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, hemodialysis and other applications requiring microorganism-free water, this isn’t an option—but, for most drinking water uses and many other applications, it is.

This revelation also has implications regarding membrane filtration, namely the phenomenon of bacteria “grow-through.” Bacteria are viable (alive and constantly multiplying) and will grow in virtually any environment. As such, they apparently will grow through any membrane, regardless of its pore size. This phenomenon is controversial and the exact mechanism isn’t fully understood. The evidence, however, is very clear: if water sits stagnant on the feed side of a reverse osmosis (RO) membrane—or any membrane for that matter—for as short a time as several hours, HPC bacteria will appear on the permeate side.

The bottom line is that the storage tanks of virtually all residential RO systems are full of HPC bacteria in much higher concentrations than in the raw water supplies. There are exceptions of course. CTA (cellulose triacetate) membranes that allow some of the municipal chlorine to pass into the permeate stream and those units equipped with UV lights. Still, neither approach will produce completely bacteria-free water and, given the environmental conditions of these storage tanks, some bacteria species will replicate as frequently as every 20 minutes! Of course, this revelation indicates that the high concentrations of HPC bacteria may actually make this stored water safer and should be encouraged (or, at least, not discouraged), as long as there’s no aesthetic effect on the water.

Now, regarding the other types of common waterborne pathogens, viruses and protozoan cysts, even a sub micron-rated filter should remove the cysts, and RO membranes have sufficiently small pore sizes to prevent the passage of viruses. Many of these pathogens require a human host to multiply, so once they’re removed from the water supply, short of recontamination, the treated water should be relatively free of them.

Open-ended questions remain
So, back to our question regarding the future of POU disinfection technologies. While it is certainly too early to definitively answer that question, it does bring other questions to mind:

  • Are there only certain kinds of HPC bacteria that inhibit pathogenic bacteria growth?
  • What concentrations of HPC bacteria are required to affect this inhibition activity?
  • Are there certain water conditions/parameters that inhibit HPC bacteria growth?
  • What about the biofilm formed by these high concentrations of HPC bacteria?
  • Will biofilms protect pathogenic organisms from the inhibiting effect of HPC bacteria?
  • Do these conclusions include the immunocompromised population?
  • What about the taste, odor and other aesthetic effects of high concentrations of HPC bacteria?

In addition to these technical questions, we must consider the most important factor of all—consumer perception. In spite of all the scientific evidence, the concept of consumers knowingly drinking water laden with bacteria, benign or not, may not be a realistic expectation at this time.

What about municipally chlorinated water supplies? After all, chlorine has an outstanding record of inactivating bacterial and viral pathogens. On the other hand, the levels of chlorine used in municipal treatment are basically ineffective against Cryptosporidium parvum—as well as many species of HPC bacteria—and to address this problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has promulgated the “multiple barrier” approach to protect surface water supplies with strong evidence that the same treatment scenario will be required for many groundwater supplies in the future.

Too early to test the wind
So, where am I going with all of this? Well, it appears to me that the revelation that HPC bacteria are non-pathogenic and will likely not require regulation is very interesting. Yet, beyond this, I don’t see much of an effect on the POU/POE industry. We still have to address the other kinds of pathogenic microorganisms. Plus, don’t forget what is arguably the most important issue of all—how consumers would react to the idea of consuming bacteria-laden drinking water. For example, remember the reaction to San Diego’s ill-fated “Toilet to the Tap” water recycling program. The “Yuck!” factor in public perception should not be taken for granted.

Conclusion
So, what’s next? Here are few things to consider:

  • Certainly, more scientific data are required, but will these change our conclusions? Perhaps.
  • Will the final conclusions have an effect on the POU/POE industry? Most likely.
  • Should the industry do anything now? I don’t think so.

Stay tuned for future developments.

About the author
Peter S. Cartwright, president of Cartwright Consulting Co., Minneapolis, is a registered professional engineer in several states. He has been in the water treatment industry since 1974 and has published more than 100 papers and articles on related issues. Cartwright has been chairman of several WQA committees and task forces has received the organization’s Award of Merit. A member of the WC&P Technical Review Committee since 1996, his expertise includes such high technology separation processes as reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, microfiltration, electrodialysis, deionization, carbon adsorption, ozonation and distillation. He can be reached at (952) 854-4911, (952) 854-6964 (fax) or email: CartwrightConsul@cs.com.

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