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While it may look like a big piece of plastic, solar pool covers are specifically designed for use on above-ground and inground pools, along with hot tubs. A solar pool cover provides a number of benefits, making it an essential part of pool care and maintenance for most homeowners.
Choose a pool cover based on the size of your pool, and your priorities for a pool cover, which could include raising water temperature using solar energy, preventing heat loss through evaporation, or reducing UV exposure which impacts chlorine levels. Also, consider the type of material for your pool cover and the thickness; these factors impact durability and function.
Ahead, the best solar pool covers for your swimming pool or hot tub.
Best Overall: Sun2Solar 1200 Series Rectangle Solar Pool Cover
Size: 15 x 30 feet | Shape: Rectangle | Thickness: not listed | Material: Plastic | Weight: Approx. 30 pounds
Minimizes changes in water chemistry
Easy to roll
Trim to fit
Not available in round or oval shape
This blue solar pool cover provides the essential functions you need and is available in a variety of sizes to fit your pool. Made of a flexible resin, it strikes the balance between being thick enough to be durable and thin enough to transmit heat from the sun.
The bottom of the Sun2Solar pool cover is covered in air bubbles, which should be placed down into the water—leaving the smooth side facing up. The surface of the light blue cover will absorb UV rays from the sun, while the bubbles will transmit the absorbed energy into the water below. While it’s true that clear solar pool covers transmit more of the sun’s energy into the water, they let in more UV rays that cause significant changes to pool water chemistry—requiring more chemicals to avoid algae and maintain ideal water conditions. This light blue cover is a more versatile option for homeowners that are looking for a pool cover to keep out debris, lock in heat at night, and absorb the sun’s energy during the day.
Best for Inground Pools: Pool Supply World Velox Silver Solar Cover
Size: 16 x 32 feet | Shape: Rectangle | Thickness: 16 mil | Material: UV Resistant | Weight: Not Listed
Protects against UV rays
Extra durability from 16 mil thickness
Heavier to fold or roll
This silver solar cover is a great pick for inground pools. The UV-resistant silver-colored material allows the sun’s energy to pass through to the water below but also protects against some of the effects of UV exposure on pool chemicals. A thickness of 16 mil means extra durability, which is handy if you plan to use a pool cover reel to easily store your inground pool solar cover. Whether you plan to use your solar cover during the day or at night to prevent a steep drop in water temperatures, this Velox Silver Solar Cover has your pool covered. It’s available in various sizes ranging from 12 x 20 feet to 25 x 50 feet.
Best for Above-Ground Pools: Summer Waves Adjustable Round Solar Pool Cover
Size: 10-15 feet | Shape: Round | Thickness: Not Listed | Material: PVC | Weight: 9.3 pounds
Drawstring adjusts for various pool sizes
Made of durable PVC
May be loose on smaller pools
Only fits pools up to 15 feet in diameter
Inground pools benefit from ground insulation, but above-ground pools have to contend with ambient temperature loss through the sides of the pool. Plus, these pools are still subject to heat loss through evaporation. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that each pound of 80-degree Fahrenheit water lost from a pool through evaporation results in a loss of 1,048 BTU of heat from the pool. A solar cover for above-ground pools solves these problems, while also minimizing the time you need to spend skimming your pool of leaves, bugs, and pollen.
The Summer Waves Adjustable Round Pool Cover is sized for above-ground pools with a diameter of 10 to 15 feet. A drawstring cord allows you to pull the cover snugly around the pool perimeter. Keep in mind that smaller pools won’t have as tight of a fit, but it does provide a solid surface to keep debris from falling into your pool. It’s made of a thick, durable PVC that is also opaque for UV resistance.
Best Round: Midwest Canvas Space Age Solar Blanket
Size: 16 feet | Shape: Round | Thickness: 12 mil | Material: Resin | Weight: Not Listed
Silver bubbles to transfer heat
10 year limited warranty
For a round solar pool cover, consider this option from Midwest Canvas. The Space Age Solar Blanket is a 12 mil thick solar pool cover, which is thick enough to withstand frequent set-up and removal. It fits pools of various diameters, depending on which option you select. You can always trim the cover if it’s a little too large. This version stands out for its ‘space age’ silver air bubbles, which transfer the sun’s energy but minimize the effect of UV exposure on chlorine levels in your pool.
Best Oval: Midwest Canvas Supreme Solar Cover for Oval Pools
Size: 16 x 32 feet | Shape: Oval | Thickness: 12 mil | Material: Not Listed | Weight: Not Listed
Clear for better heat absorption
5 year warranty
Recommended for above ground pool use only
If you have an oval-shaped pool, shop for a solar cover that matches your pool’s shape and dimensions. Round pool covers may leave the end of an oval pool exposed, while rectangular solar pool covers may have too much overhang.
The Supreme Solar Cover from Midwest Canvas is made to match the shape of oval pools and comes in 7 different sizes. Like many other top solar pool covers, this one is also 12 mil thick. It’s clear, so it will the most of the sun’s energy to pass through and heat the water underneath the cover. Keep in mind, though, that this may also mean you’ll need to add more chlorine to the water.
Best for Hot Tubs: Spa Depot Thermo-Float Spa Blanket
Size: 8 x 8 feet | Shape: Square | Thickness: 16 mil | Material: Not Listed | Weight: Not Listed
16 mil thick material
Reduces evaporative heat loss up to 95%
Only available in one size
A hot tub solar cover keeps out debris but also conserves energy. A spa blanket, as they’re sometimes referred to, reduces heat loss—keeping your hot tub warmer and ready to go with less energy usage. This option from Thermo-Float is made of thick 16 mil material that is durable and energy-efficient. Unlike thinner solar pool covers that are 8 or 12 mil thick, this version prevents up to 95 percent of evaporative heat loss.
It measures 8 x 8 feet, but the manufacturer advises you to trim it to fit your spa with an overhang of about 2 inches. The plastic bubbles should be placed facedown; they will absorb solar energy and transfer it into your hot tub water.
Best for Heat Retention: In the Swim Premium Plus Solar Blanket
Size: 16 x 32 feet | Shape: Rectangle | Thickness: 12 mil | Material: Not Listed | Weight: Not Listed
Aluminized cover to transfer heat
Blocks UV rays
7 year limited warranty
Heavy to move
If your primary purpose for a solar cover is to maintain your pool’s temperature, then shop for a dark-colored solar blanket. This blue-black version from In the Swim is designed to retain heat and prevent evaporation. The solar cover is 12 mil thick and features an aluminized bottom to boost heat transfer from the sun’s rays to the pool water. It can raise water temperatures up to 15 degrees, while at the same time reducing the amount of debris that lands in your pool.
Best Budget: Sun2Solar 800 Series Solar Pool Cover
Size: 18 x 38 feet | Shape: Rectangle | Thickness: 8 mil | Material: Not Listed | Weight: Not Listed
Blue resin blocks UV rays
Trim to fit
More prone to tearing
A pool cover is a smart way to save both time and money since it can protect your pool from debris, heat loss, and minimize the effect of UV rays on your chlorine levels. If you’re also looking to minimize your spending on the pool cover itself, then this option from Sun2Solar is an affordable solution.
Made of 8 mil thick resin, this is not the thickest solar pool cover on the market but it will get the job done. Be sure to pull gently when setting up or removing the cover from your pool. It’s available for small to large swimming pools and can be trimmed to fit your pool specifically. The light blue color of this solar cover will absorb the sun’s energy while reducing its effects on your pool’s chlorine levels—which can minimize the quantity and expense needed for pool chemicals.
The Sun2Solar 1200 Series Rectangle Solar Pool Cover (view at Amazon) is our top choice. This rectangular cover features thick plastic construction, which makes it excellent at retaining heat and preventing evaporation. For a round solar pool cover, we recommend the Midwest Canvas Space Age Solar Blanket (view at Pool Supplies). It can be trimmed to fit the dimensions of your pool and blocks UV rays while still allowing solar energy to pass through to the water below.
What to Look for in a Solar Pool Cover
Choose a solar pool cover that approximately matches the dimensions of your pool. However, know that most pool covers can be trimmed to fit the specific size and shape of your pool without voiding the manufacturer’s warranty. If you’re in between solar pool cover sizes, go with the larger size and use scissors to cut it down to size. You may also need to trim a pool solar cover for a uniquely shaped pool, like a kidney pool.
The thickness of a solar pool cover is measured in millimeters. Typically, you’ll find 8, 12, or 16 mil options, though other thicknesses (like 14 mil) are sometimes seen as well. Thickness is an important consideration when buying a pool cover since it impacts how heavy the pool cover is along with how durable it will be. Thicker pool covers are less likely to tear or rip when putting the cover on your pool or removing it. Additionally, thinner pool covers typically allow more of the sun’s energy to reach the water below the cover—but also may allow for more heat loss during the night.
There are three primary materials for solar pool covers: vinyl, polyethylene, and polypropylene. Vinyl pool covers are very durable but can be heavy. Polyethylene and polypropylene covers are very common; choose a thicker cover if you want a cover that is more tear-resistant.
When it comes to material, you’ll also have choices regarding the color of the solar cover. Opaque (or solid color) pool covers will block UV rays that impact pool chemistry but also result in less passive heating from solar energy. Clear solar covers allow the sun’s rays to pass through to the water below and can result in the largest temperature rise, but also frequently cause an increased need for chlorine. Silver or light blue covers that fall in between opaque and transparent are often a good compromise. Solar covers made of these materials block some UV radiation while still allowing for solar heating.
How do solar pool covers work?
Solar pool covers work to retain heat and minimize evaporation. They contain small air pockets that capture heat from the sun that is then transferred to the water in the pool. Solar covers also act as an insulator so that heat can't escape the water in the pool. It's a great way to reduce pool heating costs as it uses heat from the sun to insulate and minimize evaporation as opposed to a traditional pool heater which requires electricity.
Are solar pool covers effective?
Solar pool covers are effective as long as you use them consistently. Using one overnight can reduce heat loss and make the water warm enough to swim in the next day. They're even effective at reducing chemical depletion in the water and keeping larger debris out of your pool.
Do solar pool covers cause algae?
Although it could be argued that higher temperatures in pool water may cause algae to grow, solar pool covers alone don't typically cause this. There are a number of things that can cause algae growth including the presence of nitrates, very warm temperatures, rain water, or imbalanced chemicals. Having low chlorine levels in your pool can cause algae to grow very rapidly. You'll also want to make sure rain water doesn't get stuck on top of your solar pool cover as this can increase the risk of algae growth as well. As long as you clean and care for your cover and pool regularly, you shouldn't have any problems.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Erica Puisis has been covering the best products for outdoor and indoor living at The Spruce since 2017. Her research and areas of expertise have included pool heaters, cleaners, and water testing equipment. To find the best options for this essential pool accessory, she considered the thickness of each solar cover, its ability to retain heat, block UV rays, or provide passive heating for pool water, and the length of any warranty periods.