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Heat Pool on the Cheap With Solar Kit


QUESTION: Our swimming pool gets uncomfortably chilly in the winter, but I cannot afford to operate a pool heater. I would also like to start using it earlier in the year. Is a solar pool heater kit the answer?

ANSWER: Yes. Installing a do-it-yourself solar pool heating kit provides several months of additional pool use. Imagine doing laps in your 80-degree pool when it's only 60 degrees outdoors.

The beauties of low-cost solar kits are their simplicity and high efficiency (up to 80%). Many kits use lightweight flexible collectors that are delivered to your house in a roll. These collectors can be mounted on the roof or a rack or even laid on the ground by the pool.

The kits include every part you need. Just roll the collector out on your roof (or on your driveway first), attach the headers and run the hoses or standard 2-inch PVC pipe to your pool.

Some systems are glued (and withstand 120-mph winds) on the roof so no holes are required. The thin collectors can barely be seen from the ground.

Your existing filter pump is used to move the pool water through the collector. The better models have automatic temperature sensors. These divert the pool water to the collector only when the collector is warmer than the pool water. You can override the sensor with a manual switch.

If your pool water ever gets too warm in the summer, operate the pump at night to naturally cool the water. Instead of absorbing heat, the pool water flowing through the collector gives off heat to the clear night sky.

Heating pool water is the most cost-effective use of solar heat. Compared with using a gas, oil or electric pool heater, a low-cost do-it-yourself solar kit can pay back its cost in just a few years.

Several unique solar kits do not require collectors on your roof. One design, Solar Attic, uses a small fan and radiator inside your attic. By lowering the attic temperature, it may reduce your air-conditioning load too.

Whenever your attic temperature is eight degrees warmer than the pool water, the fan runs to draw the hot attic air through the radiator, which heats the pool water. In effect, it uses your entire roof as a giant solar collector.

With another unique kit, the pool water flows through special hollow pool decking. The plastic deck transfers the sun's heat to the water. This also keeps the decking comfortably cool to walk and lie on. Entire aboveground solar pool kits are available too.

Write for (or instant download Update Bulletin No. 625, a buyer's guide to 11 solar pool heating kits, materials, sizes and features and a collector sizing worksheet. Please include $3 and a business-size, self-addressed envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Bad Range Gasket Can Tax Air Conditioning

Q: Our gas range is fairly old, and the oven does not seem to hold its temperature as steady as it once did. Do you think that replacing the oven gasket will help?

A: The gasket or the thermostat is the most likely culprit, and each can be repaired. If the oven door is not snug when it is closed or you see any sign of gasket deterioration, replace the gasket.

Even if your oven temperature is not a problem, inspect the oven door gasket regularly. Especially with a gas range, the excess wasted heat and humidity from a bad gasket can push up your air-conditioning bills.


Letters and questions to James Dulley, a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant, may be sent to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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