Swimming pool covers are an essential piece of pool equipment that all pool owners should own if they want to reduce chemical consumption, reduce evaporation, insulate their pool water, keep debris out, and make cleaning easier. I mean, who doesn’t want these benefits?
The question then, is not whether or not to buy a pool cover, but which one should you buy? After all, there are so many shapes, sizes, and types.
As a pool owner, you must choose between winter covers, solar covers, mesh covers, solid covers, hybrid covers, and automatic covers. Each type has its own pros and cons, and the cost and longevity differs greatly between them as well. They all do the job of covering up your pool, but there are also some fringe benefits which you may want.
In this article, I will go over each type of pool cover that you can buy, as well as their pros and cons, to help you better decide which type you think is right for your pool.
Types of swimming pool covers
There are many types of pool covers to choose from, from a simple barrier between the pool and the outside, to covers that allow light to penetrate through or to seal so strongly you could literally walk across it. Let’s break each type down.
Winter pool covers
Winter pool covers are sometimes referred to as water bag covers. This is in reference to the fact that the cover is secured in place by a series of water bags.
A winter pool cover looks like a giant tarp surrounded by water bags that are only about half full of water to account for any expansion that occurs when frozen.
Since winter pool covers are made of a non-permeable, solid material, water and debris cannot penetrate through the cover which is great for preserving your pool water the way it is.
A downside of a winter pool cover is that it cannot support much weight. That means that if there is heavy rainfall, an abundance of debris, or a wandering animal that makes its way onto the cover, it could easily collapse. Ideally, you have a fence or enclosure around the winter cover to keep animals and kids away.
To care for a winter pool cover, all you need to do is drain the water on its surface every now and then using a submersible pump or bucket.
Due to how bare-bones in terms of features they are, winter pool covers are the most affordable type of pool cover and are a great choice if you aren’t sure which of the other cover types you should get.
Mesh pool covers
Unlike a solid cover like a winter pool cover, mesh pool covers are porous and allow water to seep through.
They are able to filter out any debris, but any snow that falls on a mesh pool cover will drain through and not accumulate on the surface.
This means that you never have to worry about draining the water, and also the mesh pool cover will not be under any strain from supporting heavy snowfall.
The mesh material is lightweight, making mesh pool covers the most lightweight type of cover. However, it doesn’t block UV rays and can allow for water evaporation. Furthermore, water can seep into the mesh cover and get frozen, meaning the mesh cover itself gets frozen as well.
Solid pool covers
A winter pool cover is a type of solid pool cover. Essentially, any pool cover made with a non-permeable material can be considered a solid pool cover.
Due to the non-permeability of a solid pool cover, water and snow cannot pass through it, instead collecting atop of it. This presents a problem, as the extra weight stresses the pool cover material and can cause it to collapse.
Therefore, it is common for solid pool covers to include a submersible pump which sits at the center of the cover to help you drain the water out.
A solid pool cover provides UV protection to keep your pool liner lasting longer, and provides excellent insulation for your pool water.
Hybrid pool covers
Can’t decide between a mesh cover and a solid cover? How about a bit of both?
Hybrid pool covers are a cross between solid and mesh pool covers. A hybrid design typically includes a series of solid vinyl patches with a small section of mesh.
This allows water to still drain through the mesh areas while blocking the majority of UV rays and finer contaminants thanks to the solid parts.
It’s the perfect solution if you don’t want to keep cleaning the water that collects at the surface while still blocking most UV rays.
Unfortunately, the cost is quite high, as if you were buying a solid cover and mesh cover separately.
Automatic pool covers
Automatic pool covers come in mesh, solid, and hybrid forms. This is not exactly a different type of pool cover, but rather a system that helps you put on and take off your pool cover automatically.
As such, you will receive the benefits and downsides of the type of cover that you have. As for the automatic system itself, naturally the benefit is that you can put on and take off the pool cover with just the press of the button. Unfortunately, this convenience comes at a high price.
There are two types of automatic pool covers: ones with an on-deck track, and ones with a recessed track. The on-deck track sits along the edge of the pool and is visible. The recessed track is hidden beneath the pool edge so that you cannot see it.
Solar pool covers
Lastly, solar pool covers do something slightly different than the other pool cover types. Its purpose is not just to cover up your pool, which it also does by the way, but rather its main function is to insulate your pool.
Many solar covers are transparent in order to allow light to pass through. By doing so, heat can more easily transfer from the sun to your pool.
To ensure your pool stays warm, solar covers have the greatest insulating capabilities. Heat that is transferred to the pool water from the sun will stay trapped such that you can keep your pool consistently warmer overnight so that the water is still warm the next day.
If you are someone who is sensitive to the cold and wants to cut back on how much you’re using your pool heater, consider using a solar pool cover to warm up your pool instead.
Which type of pool cover should you get?
There are a few questions you should ask yourself to help you narrow down which pool cover you’d rather have.
Aside from the automatic pool cover, any of the pool covers mentioned above can be used for both in-ground and above-ground pools.
If budget is your primary concern, then a winter pool cover is the most affordable. You can start with that and use it until you’re ready to upgrade.
If you want easy cleanup for when pool season returns, stick with a solid cover. Just be prepared to drain the water that collects on the surface.
If you want a pool cover that keeps your pool clean and can be walked on, go with a hybrid cover. Otherwise, a mesh cover can also get the job done.
If you want a warmer pool, buy a solar cover and use it in tandem with your pool heater and pump. Solar covers are most effective in sunny climates, so if you don’t have much sunshine where you live, then they will be less effective unless used with a pool heater.