Pool covers have several different functions, ranging from protecting the pool in the winter to keeping children and pets safe around the water. There are several types of pool covers on the market, each with advantages and disadvantages. Knowing how they work can help you choose the best option for your pool.
Made of a tarp-like material, standard covers are held in place using water or sand bags for weights. They are cheap and generally do a good job of keeping leaves and debris out of the pool. The cost of a standard cover is relatively low, ranging from under a hundred dollars to several hundred dollars, but they do not last as long as other options.
Standard pool covers do not hold a lot of weight. This has two major disadvantages: people or animals who walk or fall on the cover will wind up in the water, and a pump is required in order to keep water weight from caving in the cover. If enough snow piles up on a standard cover, it may slide into the pool. Standard covers are the only type of pool cover that do not increase safety by preventing animals or people from falling in.
There is a mesh version of the standard cover. It has either fine or super-fine holes in it to allow water to slowly drain through. This eliminates the need to use a pump on the surface of the cover.
Many people do not employ standard covers because their appearance is not ideal – some might even call them ugly. However, they are a quick and economical option in the short term for people on a budget. In the long term, other options may be less expensive when the cost is prorated over the life of the cover.
Safety or Security Covers
There are two basic types of security covers: mesh and solid. They are attached to anchors in the concrete around the pool and have a sort of trampoline-like appearance. Both types of security covers do a good job of keeping out leaves and debris. Security covers are probably the most popular pool cover for inground pool owners. They are more expensive than standard covers but typically perform better. The security covers themselves usually cost between one and three thousand dollars, but solid covers require additional expenses in the form of a pump.
Security covers protect children and pets from falling in the pool. When properly installed, people can walk on them without falling in. This can be an important consideration for people who have small children or pets.
Mesh covers do not require a pump, but they do let rainfall and runoff into the water. This can mean a cloudy pool that requires a few days of work to clear up when opening the pool in the spring. Snow does pile up on these covers, but they can hold a lot of weight and when it melts, it passes right through. Mesh covers can last up to fifteen years.
Solid covers keep the water in the pool clear and ready for use. However, they require a pump to remove rainfall and runoff from the surface. These pumps typically only last a couple of years because of the extreme weather that they work in, although the cover itself may last ten years. When the cost of the pump and bi-annual replacements is considered, solid security covers become significantly more expensive than mesh ones.
The advantages of automatic covers are that they require little effort to use and they keep unwanted guests, animals, leaves, and debris out of the pool. In some states, automatic pool covers are considered acceptable safety barriers and pools with them may not be required to have a fence.
Automatic pool covers are great solar covers. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the outside temperature. During hot weather, they may cause the pool to get too warm, but during cooler weather, they help reduce heat loss.
Unsurprisingly, automatic covers are expensive. They also have lots of moving parts that can break and wear out, which increases the cost of maintaining them. It is easy to spend several thousand dollars on the cover every few years due to the need to replace the vinyl material and other parts. Given that they cost five to fifteen thousand dollars initially, the expense can be a major issue. It can also be a major issue if the cover breaks and cannot be opened or closed.
Automatic covers are not actually meant to function as winter covers, although they may do that in areas with little or no snow. While they can hold a couple thousand pounds, they cannot hold up to a snow load. This means that in areas where it snows a fair amount, they will need to be replaced by another type of cover during the winter. In areas where heavy snow only happens occasionally, they may be opened if a storm is expected. However, this risks the cover pulling free and caving in if the upcoming snow load is misjudged.
Why Not to Use a General Tarp
All-purpose tarps are sometimes used for swimming pool covers, but they typically do not do a very good job. They are more difficult to set up, do not stay in place properly, and tend to have more issues with water pooling on top. If your budget is not very large, consider a standard pool cover.
Which swimming pool cover is best for me?
That depends on your desires and needs. Most heated pools will benefit from a solar cover. Solar covers are placed on the water and floated. These covers are not very protective, but they do retain heat and reduce evaporative water loss.
Separate from solar covers, there are three basic types of protective swimming pool covers and each type of cover has its strong points:
- Cheapest: standard cover
- Longest lifespan: mesh security cover
- Requires no pump: mesh security cover
- Prevents water from entering: standard, solid security covers, and automatic covers
- Support a lot of weight: security and automatic covers
- Best solar cover: automatic cover
And each type of cover has its weak points:
- Most expensive: automatic cover
- Shortest lifespan: standard cover
- Allows water to enter: mesh security cover
- Most likely to break: automatic cover
- Lowest weight capacity: standard cover
- Require a pump: standard, solid security, and automatic covers
So, a person who values clear water and doesn’t care about the cost of a pump might be happiest with a solid security cover or an automatic cover. On the other hand, a person who doesn’t want to pay for a pump or replacement parts for an automatic cover might go for a mesh security cover. People who don’t have large budgets upfront might have to make do with a standard cover. It really depends on what is most important to you.
What type of cover is best for above-ground pools?
That depends on your area, whether or not your pool has a heater, and whether or not you winterize it. Many people have multiple types of covers for their above-ground pools. It can make sense to use one cover at one time and another type of cover at another time for these pools.
Solar covers are used to retain heat and are easy to take on and off, which makes them a must-have for swimming season in a heated pool. Solid covers are attached via cables and prevent debris, water, or animals from getting into the pool, and they are the type of cover to use when winterizing a pool. However, they collect water and debris on top of them, which makes taking them off a real pain.
Mesh covers are like solid covers except that water can pass through them. They are best for covering up your pool when you are not using it for a shorter period of time. Because water does not collect on top of them, they are much easier to take on and off.
Installing a swimming pool cover
Most people will need to hire a professional to install an automatic cover. To install a security cover, you will need to drill holes in the concrete around your pool and place anchors. Once the anchors are positioned, the cover is attached with springs.
Standard covers are designed to float on the water with the edges coming up over the sides of the pool. They are held in place with water bags. No other type of weight should be used because if it were pulled into the pool, it could damage the lining. Above-ground pool covers are placed over the top of the pool and then cinched into position with cables.