Pros / The SunHeater system is inexpensive compared to other heating options.
Cons / It needs a lot of direct sun exposure to be effective.
Verdict / Though it doesn’t have all the fancy features of a gas or electric heater, the Solar SunHeater is a great low-cost solar heating option that can raise your pool’s temperature by up to 10 degrees.
The SmartPool Solar SunHeater is a system of black polyethylene panels that, when exposed to direct sunlight, collect heat from the sun. You connect these panels to your pool’s pump, and water circulates through the series of tubes inside them, where it absorbs the collected heat and then cycles back into your pool. The system’s performance depends on a lot of factors, including how much direct sunlight the panels receive, how many panels you have, the temperature outside and the size and surface area of your pool. Since you use your existing pool pump and the heat comes from sunlight, the SunHeater has basically nonexistent operational costs.
It is much less complex than other products we reviewed, and numbers-wise it trails behind products that have measurable outputs and digital displays with controls and user interface options like the Hayward HeatPro and Universal H200. However, it is a fundamentally different way of heating your pool. True, the SunHeater system has less heating power and a few more limitations than gas heaters and electric heat pumps, but if you’re looking for a low-cost, high-efficiency way to warm up your pool in the summer, solar is the way to go.
As mentioned before, the SunHeater is simple and doesn’t require the use of temperature controls or a digital display interface. You can either run water through the panels or not, depending on whether you want to use them at the moment. We recommend installing a diverter so you can keep your pump running without always using the panels.
At night, when the outside temperature is cooler than the water in your pool, the system can act as a radiator and bring down your pool’s temperature. This is a great feature if you want to cool your pool, but if you want it to stay warm, you need to divert the flow. Most of SmartPool’s buying options for the SunHeater do not include the diverter valve kit – so make sure to buy the Complete Solar Heating System or purchase the diverter separately.
The SunHeater system does not come with a rack or stand. The panels can be hung from fences, laid on the ground, placed on a roof or put anywhere with enough sun exposure. You don’t need a professional to set up the system, but it can be a bit of a project. If you choose to mount the panels on a roof, you might need a stronger pump as well.
SmartPool offers a five-year limited warranty on its SunHeater products, and you can reach support via its online customer service or warranty claim forms. SmartPool can also be reached by phone 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST on weekdays.
The SmartPool Solar SunHeater is a simple, inexpensive product that can soak up some sun and help heat your pool. It may not be as powerful or complex as other pool heating options, but it is an excellent product if you want to bring the water up a few degrees in the summer. It is an excellent heating option for above-ground pools, and we recommend using the SunHeater in addition to a solar blanket to help keep your pool water warm.