Choosing a Pool Cover for Inground and Above Ground Pool

Most swimming pool owners and operators in temperate climates are beginning to think about winterizing their pools. Whether a pool is inground or above ground, winter pool covers are necessary to protect swimming pools from damage caused by cold weather during the winter months. While climate helps determine the best winter pool cover, above ground and inground pools both should be covered, especially in areas where winter snowfall tends to be high. Yet pool covers are not just about protecting a swimming pool during those months when it’s too cold to swim. Even for those who live in areas where the climate allows for year-round swimming, the use of pool covers makes good economic sense.

Importance of Swimming Pool Covers

In cooler climates, using pool covers in wintertime helps keep ice and snow from mucking up a pool’s chemistry, while also keeping contaminants from entering the water. Maintaining a pool’s water levels in drier climates is another good reason to use pool covers. For above-ground pools or inground pools, it’s a great way to reduce evaporation. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), using a swimming pool cover is also the single most effective way to reduce swimming pool heating costs. The DOE also notes how swimming pool covers will:

  • Cut cleaning time by keeping debris from getting into the water in the first place.
  • Lower chemical use by 35-50 percent.
  • Reduce a pool’s heating costs by 50-70 percent.
  • Save water by lowering the water necessary to refill a pool to optimal levels by 30-50 percent.

The rate of evaporation from outdoor pools varies depending on air and water temperature, humidity, and wind speed. Pool owners in areas that experience low rainfalls during summer, or where water scarcity is an issue, can considerably reduce the rate of evaporation by using pool covers. For above-ground pools and inground pools that are built outdoors, evaporation leads to higher water usage and costs. Though not as prone to water loss from evaporation, it still occurs with indoor pools. Using pool covers for inground pools indoors reduces the need for ventilation to keep humidity levels down. This also contributes to lowering energy costs, as there’s less need to condition the air indoors.

Types of Pool Covers

Whether looking for pool covers for above-ground or inground pools, numerous options exist for swimming pool owners. Selecting a pool cover means looking at the shape and size of the pool, though depending on the material it may be possible to cut pool covers to fit. There are two basic types, with advantages and disadvantages for each. These are:

Safety Covers

These require posts to be drilled securely into the pool deck to keep them in place when the pool’s not in use. Because of their more robust design, they help prevent accidental drownings, so are often required for public pools, and many types can even support the weight of multiple people. Safety covers are more expensive because of higher costs for installation and material. Some pool owners even prefer safety covers because they just look better aesthetically.

Solar Covers

Also sometimes referred to as bubble covers, solar covers keep debris out and help prevent evaporation, though they aren’t strong enough to prevent people from accidentally falling in. They help conserve energy by trapping in heat to keep the water warm. These pool covers can often be cut to fit and, because they help heat the pool, can even extend a pool’s swimming season. Relatively inexpensive compared to other pool covers, solar blankets are the most common solar pool covering.

Additionally, a pool owner can use a leaf net over a pool cover to help prolong its life. These stretch across inground or above ground winter pool covers, or even solar blankets, catching leaves and other debris.

Reel Systems

For swimming pools that use solar or other malleable pool covers, a reel system for rolling and unrolling a pool cover can come in handy, especially for those with bigger pools. These can operate manually, semi-automatically, or completely automatically. They roll up and unroll the cover around a cylinder in much the same way a standard fishing reel works. These often feature wheels that enable the cover to be easily moved out of the way. Commercial inground reel systems are often used to protect pool covers for inground pools that are open to the public. Similar reel systems are also available for smaller residential and private pools. Other reel systems help protect pool covers for above-ground pools while also making them easier to cover and uncover. These can work manually via a crank, though there are also motorized models that use electric motors and take most of the effort out of covering and uncovering a pool. Fully automated reel systems do this at the push of a button.

Material for Pool Covers

Pool covers are made from specially designed materials that do not break down in ultraviolet light, typically of polypropylene, polyethylene or vinyl that’s been UV-stabilized and which resist pool chemicals. Many considerations should be taken into account when choosing material for a pool cover. For mild climates, mesh covers or solar blankets made from lightweight materials might suffice, also reducing the expense. For those living in cooler climes, especially areas that receive high snowfall, a tougher material is a better option.

Bubble (Solar) Covers

Though made from thicker grade plastic and resistant to ultraviolet light, these low-cost covers look a lot like the bubble wrap used in packaging. The DOE cites that transparent bubble covers lower absorption of solar energy by 5-15 percent, with opaque bubble covers reducing this by 20-40 percent. These covers tend not to last very long, however, with the highest quality ones lasting at most 7 years.

Mesh Covers

The standard for many pools, these lightweight covers typically last for 10-15 years and are made from a plastic mesh that is easy to store and clean. Allowing about 5 percent of sunlight into the pool, inground and above-ground winter pool covers made from this type of mesh allow water and dirt from melting ice and snow into the pool but keep larger debris out. Mesh safety covers made from polypropylene can also keep children or pets from falling into the water. There are additionally more durable versions made from heavier duty mesh that let in about one percent of sunlight. Though these tend to be more expensive, they often make the best winter pool cover for above-ground pools.

Solid Pool Covers

Typically made out of solid vinyl or a polyester fabric coated with laminate, these covers keep 100 percent of sunlight out, greatly inhibiting algae growth. They also keep water and nearly all debris out of a pool, even dirt, making them an excellent choice as pool covers for inground pools over winter. Often sturdy enough to hold the weight of several people, solid safety pool covers for inground pools often are used for public swimming venues. There are a couple of downsides, however. Solid pool covers don’t last as long as the hardier mesh ones, as they’re heavier and more difficult to store, usually lasting a bit over 10 years at best. Also, most solid pool covers don’t drain off rainwater or snowmelt on their own, so pool owners will need to pump water off the cover. There are, however, pool pumps specifically designed for this task.

Choosing the Best Pool Covers for Inground Pools & Above Ground Pools

Several considerations should be taken when choosing the best winter pool cover. Above ground and inground swimming pools, both benefit from covering over winter when the pool’s not in use. But there can be issues with them as well. Weight from melting snow can present problems, particularly for pools above ground. Winter covers that allow water from ice or snow to melt through them will raise water levels that may come into contact with the pool’s cover. This can cause ice to break into shards, which can slice through the winter covering, or even into the pool’s lining itself. That’s why the best inground and above-ground winter pool covers should be made from more durable materials if they need to withstand harsher winter environments.

Halogen Supply offers the highest quality residential and commercial swimming pool equipment and accessories available. To learn more about our products, please contact us today!