Covering your pool is one of the most cost-effective ways to maintain your investment and reduce other costs associated with this popular home addition. Not only do pool covers provide protection for the pool and water itself, keeping out dirt and debris, but they also control the pool temperature, and, depending on the type of cover you buy, may provide additional benefits including safety and security, heating, and weatherproofing.
As maintenance pieces, pool covers help save homeowners money on repairs as well as other common expenses such as water and pool chemicals. In addition, adding accessories to your pool cover, including cover reels, security components, heating aids, and chemical protectants, is another way to maintain the beauty and function of your backyard feature. Through these steps, it is possible to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on maintenance and repair over your pool’s lifetime.
Popular Types of Pool Covers
No matter the type of pool cover you choose, they all offer one important benefit: water conservation. All properly sized pool covers reduce water loss due to evaporation by anywhere from 30-50 percent. As a result, according to the EPA, covering a pool can save homeowners between 50-70 percent on their pool heating costs and reduce pool chemical use by 35-60 percent. Figures obviously vary according to environmental factors such as temperature, wind, and relative humidity. In addition to these overall benefits, each different type of pool cover provides specialized benefits and a few downsides that are worth noting before deciding which type of cover to buy and how much to spend on it.
Homeowners in northern states cannot use their outdoor pools year-round and therefore must protect them during the cold and snowy months. Priced reasonably, winter covers are made of high-strength woven material and cost as little as $30-$75. High-end, insulating winter covers for heated pools cost a bit more, however, generally between $100-$350.
Winter covers are specifically designed to protect and shield pools from snow and ice as well as keep out light to prevent the growth of algae and bacteria. Lightweight and easy to maneuver, winter covers are a simple addition to any pool maintenance routine and are easy for homeowners to apply and store at the beginning and end of each season.
However, although they play a critical role in protecting the pool itself, winter covers are too lightweight to provide a safety barrier and prevent children, pets, or other intruders from getting into the pool. To get the most life out of these covers, they also need to be safely stored between seasons, avoiding too much contact with the sun during the warmer months to prevent cracking.
While a cool pool on a hot day is quite refreshing, a cold pool on a warm one is no fun. However, heating a pool is expensive, which is where solar covers come in handy, extending your pool season by weeks or months depending on the climate. Priced between $30-$150, depending on the quality and thickness of material, a good solar cover can raise pool temperatures by up to 10 degrees on a sunny day. They do this by creating a greenhouse effect though tiny bubbles that trap and disperse heat. Solar covers also help to prevent evaporation and keep debris out of the pool. Unfortunately, these loose covers provide little else and, specifically, no safety benefits. Low-end solar covers are also usually only good for one season, deteriorating with weather, movement, and storage throughout the warm months.
Considered the ultimate in pool covers, safety and security covers offer users a number of important features and benefits that preserve and protect not only their pools, but also the people and animals around them. The one major downside of a safety cover is the price. Even low-end safety covers cost at least $400-$500, and high-end models can cost $2,000 or more because they involve intricate, spring-loaded strapping systems. For that price, however, homeowners get all the benefits of a winter cover, including the light-blocking properties that prevent the growth of algae and bacteria, the heating benefits of a solar cover, and, perhaps most importantly, peace of mind. Safety covers don't just keep people and children out of unattended pools; they lock those pools down. In fact, many safety cover manufacturers claim that, properly anchored, their covers not only keep people and animals out, but they are also strong enough to sustain much more, including a parked car or even a stray elephant. These covers can also last as long as 10 years.
Combining the benefits of protection, heat, and weatherization with unmatched convenience, automatic pool covers are the ultimate in luxury. They are also, unfortunately, prohibitively expensive, costing anywhere from $1,000-$10,000. Furthermore, the maintenance and repair costs of these covers is also incredibly high because there are many parts that can break, including the motor, reel, and cover itself, each of which may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace.
For those with the funds, however, automatic pool covers offer a huge protective advantage because they can provide the benefits of every one of the other major types of covers, protecting both the pool and those around it. They also save homeowners from wasting time and enduring irritation when opening and closing their pools for the season or even during individual uses because they close and open with the flip of a switch.
While pool covers provide a number of obvious benefits to users, they can sometimes be a hassle, especially when using the pool and, hence, not the cover. Homeowners can take care of this problem by investing in a cover reel to store the cover when not in use and make reattaching it to the pool easier. Pool cover reels range in quality from a simple PVC pipes used as a spool to a complex automated system that operates at the touch of a button.
Not only storing but preserving the integrity of your cover and preventing wrinkles and sun damage, pool cover reels range in cost from a few dollars for a simple spool to $250 or more for a large, pool-width crank-style reel. Mechanical reels cost a good deal more, starting at $300 with prices as high as $1,000 or more. This type of pool cover reel may be imbedded in the ground or seated above the ground similarly to crank-style reels.
While a pool cover on its own provides a great deal of protection and many benefits to pool owners, using complementary accessories that enhance these features is another way to save money on your pool maintenance costs. Popular examples include tarps to protect covers, particularly winter covers, when not in use and pool alarms to alert owners if trespassers or a child or animal nears an unattended pool.
In addition, using alternative solar heating aids is a great way to save money on pool operation costs as well as balance the overheating tendencies of solar covers in warm months. These accessories include chemical aids that use enzymes to create a "natural" solar cover that users don't need to remove, individual solar rings that float in only part of the pool, and other floating objects such as a ball that absorbs heat from the sun and then disperses it in the water.