A swimming pool solar cover is a thin plastic blanket that floats on a pool's water surface and has the appearance of bubble wrap. Typically they come available in navy blue, black, and forest green colors and are cut to conform to the shape of the pool.
Do they work?
Despite what one might think, solar covers usually work very well. In most cases, they will warm the pool water temperature 4-8 degrees. Although this may not sound like much, it makes a huge difference in terms of the comfort level of the water temperature. This is also why in many climates pool owners only use their solar cover at the beginning and end of the season, as the cover can cause the pool to get too hot during the heat of the summer.
Is a reel necessary?
Absolutely. In fact, I won't even sell a solar cover without a reel because they are just too big and cumbersome without one. I've seen many cases where a person bought a solar cover without a reel and after trying to take the cover off the first time they simply stored the cover away because they felt it was too much work. This is why having a reel that allows the cover to roll right up without any mess or hassle is imperative. These reels typically come with casters so that they can be removed during the hot part of the season when the cover is not in use.
How long do solar covers last?
Solar covers do not last very long at all, especially the cheaper one. I have found that a solar cover with a 6-year warranty will last only one season, an 8-year warranty cover will last about two seasons, and a 10-year warranty cover will last about 3 seasons. Now you may be asking how this is possible. The answer is that all solar cover warranties are quite prorated and are worth very little after the first season. Most solar cover reels last 4-8 years.
How much do they cost?
The price range of most solar covers is $75-$225. As you can imagine, this price varies based on the quality of the cover and the size of the pool. The main expense when buying a solar cover though is the reel, which in most cases will be in the $200-$500 range.
Do they keep debris out?
Although solar covers do help keep some debris out of the pool, I would not suggest buying one with the hopes that it will greatly lessen maintenance. The amount of vacuuming or leaf skimming one has will not be greatly impacted with a solar cover.