This article is a guide to building your own solar pool heater. To learn more about solar pool heaters and what they do, read this article: SOLAR POOL WATER HEATERS: AN INTRODUCTION.
Pool water heaters are a good way to keep the water in your pool warm. They will allow you to enjoy swimming more in the summer months, and will make swimming possible in the early spring and late fall.
There are gas and electric pool heaters available on the market today, but they require electricity or fuel, and can be expensive (usually over $2000). A solar-powered heater is an environmentally-friendly alternative, and can be a lot cheaper (especially if you build it yourself).
The big obstacle lies in building the solar panel. Once that’s ready, you simply need to attach it to the line that goes from your pump and filter and sends water back into your pool.
HOW TO BUILD THE SOLAR PANEL
This section was originally posted in my article DIY: HOW TO BUILD A SOLAR WATER HEATER FOR YOUR HOME.
Supplies You’ll Need:
In order to build our own panel we will need some supplies:
1) Cedar planks, 5m+ per panel you plan on making, 80mm in width.
2) Plywood board, larger than 1.5mx1m for each panel you plan on making
3) 1.5mx1m aluminum sheet. Decent thickness/quality to avoid warping.
4) 40’ of 10mm annealed copper tubing
6) Black spray paint
7) Insulation foam
8 ) 1.5 x 1m 4mm float glass plate
9) Aluminum foil
Tools You’ll Need:
Some tools we’ll need:
2) Wood screws
Building the Pieces:
1) WOOD TRAY
We’ll start by preparing a wooden tray to house our panel. You’ll want to use a good hardwood that after being coated will last long and resist warping/deterioration. Cedar should work well. Best to pay a bit more for quality now to ensure the life of your unit. Cut the planks into two 1.5m pieces, and two 1m pieces. Use these pieces to create a rectangular frame, and use the drill and wood screws to connect them together. When finished, coat with a wood preservative.
Nail a plywood board to one side of the frame, creating a tray.
2) COPPER TUBING
Next we’ll prepare our copper tubing. Copper is soft and easy to shape, but do this slow and carefully as any kinks in the metal will reduce your efficiency. That can cost you A LOT of money over 20-30 years, so take your time. You can use a round object to bend the tubing around, a beer bottle works great. Shape the copper tubing into a zig zag pattern that maximizes filling the space within the frame, but still has the tubing moving slightly outward after each bend.
Here’s an illustration to demonstrate what I mean:
When you are finished, apply primer and spray paint black. Let paint dry.
3) ALUMINUM ABSORBER PLATE
The next step is to build an absorber plate. Take your aluminum sheet, and clean it thoroughly. Apply the primer to the shiny side. When ready, spray paint it black, and let dry.
Putting It All Together
1) Take your wooden tray, and put a thin layer of insulation foam on the inside.
2) Put a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side up, on top of this.
3) Place your absorber plate on top of this, black side up.
4) Place your copper tubing in top of this, lying on the absorber plate. Drill 2 holes in the wood frame for the copper tubing to come out of.
5) Put the glass plate on top of the open end of the frame. There should be less than inch between the glass and the copper tubing. Attach to the wood frame with a good adhesive and sealant.
Now the solar panel must be connected to the water line. Most pools have a water pump that pulls water out of the pool, pushes it into a filter, and pumps it back into the pool. The solar panel should be attached somewhere in this circuit, after the filtering step if possible. When the water moves through its filtering process, it will naturally be warmed by your solar panel, and you’ll have much a much warmer pool overall.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, your solar panel should face directly south, to maximize the solar energy it receives. In the Southern Hemisphere, it should face north.
The angle of your solar panel should match your latitude. So if you live in New York State, for instance, at 40 degrees latitude, your panel should face south at a 40 degree incline.
Good luck and stay prepared!