Like the SmartPool SunHeater in-ground solar pool heater, the SunHeater above-ground solar heater is a panel-based solar heater system designed to raise the water temperature of your outdoor pool by up to ten degrees. Just as with other solar pool heaters, the SunHeater above-ground solar heater is a relatively inexpensive way to increase the length of your swimming season, and to warm the water in unseasonably cool weather.
The SunHeater above-ground solar pool heater uses a series of tubes and solar panels, connected to your existing pool pump, to warm the pool water using the power of the sun. The water is pumped into a series of tubes warmed by “solar panels”, then pumped back into the pool. These are not true solar panels in that they are not solar photovoltaic panels; rather, as most solar pool heaters do, they use carbon black to absorb the sunlight. In this sense, the solar panels used both by SunHeater and other solar pool heaters could be considered more of a passive solar system.
Installation and Specifications
Both the SunHeater in-ground and above-ground solar pool heaters are designed to by DIY installation, but user reviews state that the installation is trickier than it first appears. Once the system is installed, however, most customers are generally happy with the value the solar pool heater provides. To heat a pool of up to 40 square feet, most SunHeater above-ground solar heaters cost around $110, depending upon the retailer.
To heat pools from 40 to 80 square feet, expect to pay closer to $200 or even as high as $250. The solar heater quickly pays for itself; solar pool heaters cost an average of $30 – $75 per month, depending upon the size of the pool. Traditional pool heaters cost more than double that because of the cost of powering the heat pump or paying for natural gas or propane.
The solar panels themselves take up a fair bit of room. These can be installed on your roof, or on your pool house roof. Some users install the panels right on the ground near the pool, but other users complain that this method tends to burn their lawn. One clever user had a fence with southern exposure, and hung the solar panels from the fence.
The Bottom Line
Like the SunHeater for in-ground pools, many users complain of cheap tubing and panels that tend to degrade over time. The other problem of all solar panel-based solar heaters is the sheer amount of space that the panels take up, and the rather unaesthetic look this leaves the owner with. Besides these two complaints, though, the SunHeater is generally appreciated by most customers.