Pool Lilly Pad Solar Cover

A week ago i wrote about how Karrie and i got a new used pool.

After putting up the pool we quickly realized that it was too cold.  It was just in too much shade from the trees and the sun didn't have time to warm up the water.  After we take down the pool in the fall we plan on cutting down a lot of branches.  But until then we began looking into some cheap options and i saw this really cool idea.  It's a great combination of simplicity and effectiveness.  Basically you pump the water from your pool through several hundred feet of black hose pipe.
diy homemade solar pool heater

By the time the water flows through the hot pipe and back into the pool, the water temperature can rise up to 150 degrees, depending on the amount of sunlight.  I thought this was genius.  The problem we had was that we didn't have a great place to put the pipe where it would get sun all day long.  Some people put it on the roof of their house but that seemed like too much work.  Also the cost for all that pipe and a submersible pump was over $100.  So that option was out.

Our next option was a solar cover.  But the cheapest cover i could find for an 18 foot pool was $60.  And i wasn't really happy with the material.  It's basically just blue bubble wrap that floats on the water.
 blue solar pool cover, heat pool

I thought it would be some sort of heavy duty corrugated plastic that would create a greenhouse like effect.  Solar covers are basically just blue bubble-wrap.  Also after talking to the guy at the store, the main purpose for the cover is to keep the heat in the water at night, not to heat the water up during the day.  I was looking for something that would do both.

So i continued to look online for ideas and i saw theses Solar Rings. They are 5' in diameter and cost around $18 each.  They give you the option of adding more or less to vary the amount of heat that is kept in the pool.  Here's what they look like.
solar pool rings, heat pool, cheap pool ring

I figured that i could make them for practically nothing.  Just go to the dollar store, buy a couple of hula hoops and wrap them in a black garbage bag.  (Needless to say we have a very classy pool)

But then when i went to the dollar store, the only hula hoops they had were real small, cheap and looked like they would fall apart.
dollar store hula hoops, fun hoops, cheap

So instead i went to Lowe's and bought 100' of 3/4" sprinkler plastic pipe for $17.  Then instead of garbage bags i remembered that i had 2 rolls of landscaping plastic barrier material.  It was a little thicker material and i thought it would hold up better.

The real solar rings are 5' in diameter and for our 18' pool i would only need 8 rings.  But i figured that 5' would be too difficult to handle and store over the winter.  4' diameter would probably be the best, but the roll of landscaping plastic comes in 3' sheets.  So i decided to make the rings 3' in diameter so that it would fit perfectly on the 3' sheets, it would mean less cutting and less wasted material.
autocad measurements pool rings
After drawing this on AutoCAD i realized that i would need 21 rings to fill a pool 18 foot in diameter. 

Here's the materials i used.  The 100' of 3/4" irrigation pipe, 10 connectors and the black plastic.  (it's actually a weed barrier material) 
homemade pool ring material, how to

I measured and cut first ring to be just under 3' in diameter.  I needed to have an inch or two on either side so that i could fold it around and attach it to the ring.  And at the bottom you can see the gray connector piece that connects the two ends into a ring.
how to make cheap pool heater rings cover

 Here you can see how i cut the black plastic.
diy pool ring heater cover solar, make

I tested out several different ways to attach the plastic sheet to the pipe.  I was hoping that i could just use the hot soldering wand and melt the two plastic parts together.  But the plastic sheet was too thin and it just melted away.  Next i tried different types of tape which ended up working alright.  I ended up going with hot glue.  It was fast, cheap, held together the best and looked good too. 
best way to melt plastic, glue, join, together

So i cut and joined up 10 rings using all of the 100' pipe.
make solar pool rings, solar cover

Here they are all done and hot glued together.
finished pool lilly pad solar covers

I threw them in the pool and realized that my sketch was right.  10 rings meant i was only half way to filling the pool.
floating pool cover lilly pad solar heater

 Long story short, this is only a good idea if you can get the building materials FREE.  If you have to buy the pipe and plastic, then you might as well just buy a $60 solar cover.  The 100 feet of 3/4" plastic pipe and 10 connectors cost $25.

I ended up having to go back and buy another 100' and connectors.  I had enough black plastic sheets for another 5 rings.  But before having to go back and buy more plastic for the last 5, Karrie brought home some bubble wrap from her work.  I had to use clear packaging tape to make the pieces of bubble-wrap big enough but it ended up working great.
solar rings, diy bubble wrap pool cover, solar pool cover bubble wrap

Here's what it looks like now.  It's not the best looking thing in the world but it seems to work.  Typically the pool water was fluctuating between 68 at night and 72 during the day.  After adding the solar rings it reads 70 degrees in the morning and can get up to 78 if it's sunny. 
pool solar cover, homemade pool cover

Karrie is also bringing home more large bubble-wrap from work.  I have been taping the pieces together with the idea of making our own solar cover.  Hopefully i finish it before the end of the year.


Anonymous said...

hey just seems to me after using a solar cover for years that these would be a lot eaisier to lean against the fence or side of the pool rather than have solar cover wadded up on the deck

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous comment. We bought a solar cover and it just drives us crazy. It's very heavy, there's no place to put it. It's in the way on the deck and kills the grass when it's laying on the lawn. My husband actually built some PVC U shaped contraptions and attached them to the side of our above ground pool to wedge the cover in when not in use. It's very difficult to get it on and off and therefore, doesn't get used enough. We like your plan with these little hula hoop covers. It seems alot easier. Thanks for the idea.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your project and ideas.

Unknown said...

I bought 20 solar rings and they were 24 bucks a piece. With a 20x40 pool, I need probably 12-15 more but if you buy them individually, you pay more than you do as a pack of 10. I am have to have something that I can handle myself because I am taking care of my Mom,who has Alzheimer's and the doctors want her in the pool 4-5 times a week. I love your idea.

Anonymous said...

Hi, i saw those rings online too. We have a 30' round above ground so, needless to say, it's a pain to take off the solar blanket. I went a little different route. Lowes sells pvc pipe, i believe 1/2" already cut in 2' sections. I grab a ton of those and corner pieces and used the plumbers primer and cement to connect them. Cut out square pieces of our solar blanket, then turned the square so that the corners were in the middle of sides. Then wrapped around pipe and attached with grommets. I found 500 black plastic grommets for around $26. I may have to sell some to make money back. I made 10 square ones and then my husband found that we had plastic pipe left from something. So we bought connectors and are going to make 7/ 10' rings. I made one with a square cut out. It holds water on top, making it awkward to manuever. I plan to cut circles out a little bigger and use the grommets to attach then around pipe for ectra strength. So far, they seem to eork. Im sure you can buy the pvc pipe cheaper but i knew this was already a big project and gigured i would save step.

Shangri-la said...

I'm determined to go in my new pool every day of the year. During the summer I love love love the cool cold water. The winter might be another story. Thank you for this idea. I also building things and see if it works.