Can You Power And Heat Your Pool With Solar?

We Aussies love our pools. Having a pool in the backyard offers years of entertainment and relaxation – but what about the running costs? A typical in-ground pool pump accounts for 17% of a home’s electricity usage. If that doesn’t scare you enough, then consider the cost of heating your pool – that luxury can cost an additional $400-$2000 a year depending on the heating method!

If you’ve ever wondered whether you can power or heat your pool with solar, you aren’t alone. Solar, after all, offers free energy from the sun, especially during the summer when you’re most likely to use your pool.

The good news is that, yes, you can power and heat your pool with solar. For running your pool, there are two main options: you can either install a solar pool pump, or you can use your existing grid-connected solar system that powers your home and use some of that power to run your pump.

In this article, we will take you through the pros and cons of these two options as well as look at solar water heaters so you can find the best option to save money and enjoy a pool powered by the sun.

Using a Solar Pool Pump

Your pool pump is the key piece of equipment that keeps your swimming pool clean and your water circulated. It’s also one of the largest power-guzzling components, so minimising its running costs should be a priority for you! In fact, according to myperfectpool.com.au, the average cost of running a pool pump is $420 per year for a single-speed pool pump running for 8 hours a day.

If you opt for a solar pool pump, you are essentially taking your pool pump “off-grid”. This involves buying a DC pool pump that is wired directly into dedicated solar panels that work exclusively on powering your pump. From there, it’s pretty simple – when the sun is shining your pool pump will run on free, green energy.

Cost:

Solar pool pumps typically cost between $250 and $750 which is probably on par with most standard (non-solar) pool pumps. The major upfront cost is the solar panel component, which can set you back anywhere between $1,500 to a few thousand dollars depending on your specific setup and circumstances.

You should recover the cost of your solar pool pump and panels in as little as 3 -7 years through savings on your energy bill. Keep in mind to factor in the cost of a solar pool pump replacement, as it will have a shorter warranty period than your solar panels.

Pros:

  • Since your pump won’t be connected to the grid, you eliminate any running costs associated with the pump. This also means you don’t need special permission to set it up.
  • You won’t produce any carbon emissions and will therefore enjoy a more environmentally friendly way of running your swimming pool.
  • You can claim the government solar rebate on your panels
  • The panels can be mounted on a structure close to your pool – no need to take up valuable roof space.
  • They are low maintenance.
  • Although you will produce less power in winter, you’ll probably be swimming less so you won’t need as much power.

Cons:

  • You’ll need to fork out for a new solar pool pump – you cannot convert your existing pump to a solar-ready pump.
  • Since your panels are off-grid, any excess energy will go to waste – it cannot be used elsewhere on your property, stored in a solar battery or be sent back to the grid for a feed-in tariff.

Using Your Grid-Connected Solar System

If you have a grid-connected solar power system, then you can use the solar energy generated by your system to power your pool pump. The good news is that this option allows for all of the benefits of running a pool off-grid while having the option of using grid power if you need to.

The downside is that, unless your solar system is very large or produces more energy than you can use in a day (e.g., during summer), then chances are running the pump will cost some money – albeit much less than it would have before installing solar.

With the current trend towards purchasing larger solar systems (i.e. 8-10kW) rather than the standard 5-6kW setup that has been the norm up until this point, more homeowners will be able to cover their pool running costs with their solar system. While these homeowners may have once preferred to send their excess power to the grid for a feed-in tariff, the current low rates mean that self-consumption of solar energy is a far more economical choice.

Energy-intensive pool pumps are an ideal use of excess solar energy! The key is to set your pump on a timer, ensuring it is only running when your panels are producing the most power – usually as close to midday as possible.

Cost:

If you have an existing grid-connected system that is large enough, then there is no additional cost.

Pros:

  • You will cover at least some if not all of your pool running costs.
  • It’s an environmentally-friendly option to run your pool.
  • No need to mess around with wires or cables
  • No need to change your pool pump or invest in dedicated solar panels or installation costs.
  • No solar power will go to waste.

Cons:

  • You will need a larger solar system to cover your energy needs –  if you don’t already have a large enough system, adding panels will be an additional cost that may or may not be worth the investment.
  • If your panels aren’t producing enough energy to power the pump (i.e. during winter or on overcast days), then there will be a cost associated with running it.
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Which is the better option?

While there are a number of pros and cons for both options, it is probably safe to say that running your pool using a grid-connected solar system will be the most practical option in terms of cost-effectiveness and reliability. You will always have access to power should you need it and no solar energy will go to waste.

If you had to choose between buying a solar system for your house that can also run your pool or just buying a dedicated system for your pool, you’re going to get more bang for your buck for the system that will slash your entire energy bill – not just the component that goes towards your pool.

That said, either option is preferable to the alternative of using grid electricity to run your pool!

What About Heating My Pool?

As mentioned earlier, the costs associated with heating a pool can be exorbitant, hence why heating is generally considered a luxury feature. There a three main options for heating your pool – gas heaters, electric heat pumps and solar pool heaters.

While they each have their pros and cons, solar pool heaters are the most popular type of pool heating system in Australia, and for an obvious reason: they heat the water by harnessing free energy from the sun.

Solar water heating can take a variety of forms. Firstly, some systems use a solar heat exchanger component, using the heat generated from your solar pool pump to warm up your pool, ensuring no energy is wasted. These hybrid systems usually require a grid connection however and do have an associated, albeit low, running cost.

There are also tubular pool heaters that operate similarly to solar hot water systems. Water is pumped from the pool and flows through a solar collector – either a series of flexible tubes or solar panels most commonly mounted on the house roof. The water is heated by the sun before flowing back into the pool. This can be a rather costly option, costing more than $1,000.

The most inexpensive, although somewhat less efficient, way to heat your pool with solar is to use solar mats or pool covers, which are designed to absorb and distribute heat. These typically cost anywhere from $100 to $300.

How Else Can I Save On Pool Running Costs?

We understand that not everyone is in a position to install a solar solution to run or heat their pool. If this is the case, the best thing you can do right now to reduce your energy costs is to shop around for the best energy deal.

5 tips to get a better energy deal

Considering most of us (even those with solar) will have to rely on the grid for energy at least some of the time, it’s important you shop around at least every 6 months to ensure you are getting a good energy deal. Remember, energy providers capitalise on our inattention to quietly increase prices. Our free energy comparison tool is the fastest and easiest way to compare your energy deal with over 95% of Australian energy retailers.

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Looking to go solar? We can help.

Energy Matters has assisted over 30,000 Australians in their transition to clean energy. We can guide you toward solar and/or battery storage solution that fits your lifestyle and budget. Receive up to 3, obligation-free quotes from our trusted network of accredited solar installers. It’s fast, free, and takes the hassle out of shopping around.