Are Solar Panels Really Green?

Solar Site Assessment for your HomeThe standard assumption by most consumers is that solar panels along with wind technology is that they are green and make a positive contribution to the reduction of pollution around the world. But, are solar panels really green? Technology has been around for years. They are also touted as a green technology that will change the way that electricity is generated. Reductions in coal-based generated electricity will put many people out of work. Reduction in coal use will also reduce the amount of pollution. This is the argument of most environmentalists. What are the facts and will this trend really help us in the long run?

Are Solar Panels Really Green?

The jury is actually still out on this question, Are Solar Panels Really Green, believe it or not. This is still a relatively new industry. Before we can definitely say that there will be reductions in pollution based on solar panels. Here are a few examples.

Coal-Fired Electrical Generation Plants – Switching to solar panels will reduce the amount of electricity needed from these plants. Therefore reducing the amount of coal burned is a good thing. The reduction in the amount of local pollution is a good thing from an environmental perspective. Switching to natural gas will also reduce pollution.

Solar Panel Farms – They take up a large area. Nothing else can be done with the land they occupy. Much more space is required for solar panels than for traditional power plants. And water is becoming a short supply issue for many areas.

Manufacturing Solar Panels

China predominantly manufactures these products. China has very lax standards in terms of control of toxic chemicals used in the process. It takes a great deal of energy to make a solar panel. Toxic waste is not disposed of properly. China and other countries are having to deal with significant levels of pollution in their countries.

Recycling –  No business has yet developed to deal with the toxic chemicals in solar panels. They are ending up in landfill sites.

To learn more about various solar-related issues, click here.


Solar System Information

Solar System InformationDo you need to apply for permits before you install a solar system at your home? The answer probably depends on where you live and the kind of solar system you are installing. Many cities and towns require permits before any significant construction or change in structure to your home. This includes other buildings on your property. They want to ensure that your plans adhere to all local bylaws regardless of what they are. Some will deal with safety issues. At the same time, others may be more aesthetic. HOA, in particular, may also have a say in what you do on your property. Obtain a permit for roof installations.

Solar System Information – Permits

If you are planning a solar power system not attached to the power electrical grid, you may not need a permit from the local electrical supply company. You will most likely still need an electrical permit to ensure the system is appropriately designed and installed to meet all existing electrical safety requirements. Preparation of construction and electrical system permits usually mandatory in these situations.

You will also want to have these permits prepared and approved. A solar system installed somewhere on your property, including your home’s roof, may also impact your insurance requirements. A properly designed, installed, and approved solar power generation system will ensure that your insurance is not null and void if you need to make a claim. Always check with your insurance company to find and meet their requirements. Get it in writing so that there is no misunderstanding.

Since most home owners do not have the skills needed to prepare these permits, the company trying to sell you a solar system should provide this service as part of the package they deliver to you.

Are You a Good Candidate for Solar Power Generation?

As we do research for this blog, we come across interesting tidbits which we think will be useful for us as well as our readers. We are investigating how we can get on the solar or wind power generation wagon and possibly reduce our own carbon footprint. So far I am finding that although it is technically possible, the costs make Solar Power Generation financially not viable.

But we have to begin with first steps and we came across these questions which I thought were good questions to address to see if we really qualify as possible solar power users or generators. These are general questions and if you get through these, then talk to an expert.

Here they are:

  • Would you like to reduce or even eliminate your electric bills?
  • Does a good portion of your roof get unshaded sunshine for most of the day throughout the year?
  • Are you interested in making your own electricity, pollution-free, with fuel provided free of charge by Mother Nature?
  • Would you like to lessen our country’s dependence on fossil fuels?
  • Do you want to take advantage of LIPA’s Solar Pioneer cash rebate?
  • Is your roof in decent condition?
  • Do you own your own home?

Solar Power Generation

We will try to answer each of these based on were we live and our situation. They are looking for yes or no answers, however I thought it would be a good idea to put a little bit of explanation with the answers we give and why the questions are important.
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Does a Pool Heat Up Faster With or Without the Solar Blanket On

Solar Blankets for Your PoolOne of the questions we received about our solar blanket series was “does a pool heat up faster with or without the solar blanket on”? The answer is clearly yes. If you live in a climate were you get a lot of sun the pool will heat very quickly and you will save lots of energy too! In fact if you have hot days and warm nights there is a good chance that you will not need to use your solar blanket all of the time. The pool will stay warm especially with warm summer nights without the solar blanket. There are other benefits as well to using a solar blanket. Here they are:

  • Pool heats up faster
  • Your pool water retains the heat during cool evenings and days
  • Pool water evaporation is reduced
  • Chemical depletion of chlorine is also reduced
  • Protection of your liner from UV rays extends the life of your liner

Solar Blanket – Pool heats up faster

The pool definitely heats up faster with the solar blanket on than off. All you need to do to test this statement is leave the blanket on during the middle of the day and watch the temperature go up.

In fact we turn off the pool pump during the day to conserve electricity and the top foot of water in our pool actually gets hot. What a pleasant experience to get into a pool when the top foot of water is around 100 F and the rest of the pool is around 80 F! It is so great to float in the top foot of water and enjoy hot tub water without actually being in one. If you just float the water does not mix and just stays hot!

We will leave the solar blanket on the pool until around 1pm and then remove it to go swimming.  Of course if the kids or family want to swim earlier we don’t stop them but if we are not using the pool the solar blanket stays on to gain those extra degrees.

Pool water retains the heat during cool evenings and days

If you get a cool day or your evenings are cool, the temperature of the water will drop quickly in your pool. Leave your blanket on the pool to keep the heat from escaping during these cool hours. Monitor the chlorine levels closely to avoid build up of algae and shock the pool every few days. You will also use less chlorine as well.

Pool water evaporation is reduced

With the solar blanket on the pool the amount of evaporation from the pool is much less. You will find that you will have to add much less water to the pool due to evaporation during dry summer periods and hot sunny days. We once had so much evaporation that I thought there was a leak somewhere. As soon as I placed the solar blanket on the pool, I noticed much less evaporation of the pool water.

Chemical depletion of chlorine is also reduced

The same thing applies to depletion of the chlorine in the pool. With the suns rays unable to penetrate the pool water, the chlorine in the water remains to continue to do its job of fighting bacteria in the water.

Solar Blanket Protection of your line from UV rays

Your pool liner like all vinyls is subject to deterioration over time due to UV rays from the sun. With the solar blanket on, there are less rays hitting your liner which will allow it to last much longer. Of course you will have to replace your solar blanket every 3 to 5 years. Since it will deteriorate due to the chemicals and the suns rays.

But this is a much lower cost than replacing  the liner of a pool. Our liner is around 20 years old now. I maintain that it is solely due to the solar blanket. I have heard lots of people replacing the blanket after 10 years because the vinyl becomes brittle. It cracks from the constant sun. A new liner can cost five to ten thousand dollars depending on the size of the pool. A solar blanket will cost around $300, a big difference.

Solar blankets have a lot of advantages in addition to conserving electricity which is what this web site is all about. Your comments are welcome. for more solar related posts, click here.


Should You Leave Solar Blankets on Pool

solar blanket for your poolWe had a question about whether you should leave  solar blankets on a pool all of the time or take it off every day. Whether we are using the pool  or not. The short answer is, leave solar blankets on as much as you can but you also should let your pool breathe a bit every day. Remove the solar blanket for an hour once a day.

We have had a pool for the past 23 years and have used a solar blanket for every one of those years to keep our pool nice and warm for swimming. It has worked out great for us and it is well worth the cost of a solar blanket compared to heating with a gas heater. But back to our question of whether you should leave a solar blanket on the pool or not all day long.

Based on our experience the answer is yes, however there are some issues you need to be aware of if you are going to do this.  The practical side of leaving your solar blanket on the pool is whether you take the time to monitor the temperature and also the level of chlorine in your pool. If you let the water get too warm and the chlorine level too low, you risk the growth of green algae in your pool. In fact our pool turned totally green one year because I forgot to check the chlorine level. It took us 2 weeks to get the pool clear again.

Solar Blankets Schedule

This has been one of the best summers for a pool and so far we have had no problems at all. This is our schedule for the pool which has worked well for us:

  • Pump is turned on to circulate the water from 6:30am to 9:30am
  • Solar blanket is removed around lunch time
  • Chlorine level is checked around 6pm
  • Pump is turned on to circulate the water from 6pm until around 10pm
  • Chlorine and algaecide are added as needed
  • Chlorine shock treatment is completed once every 3 to 5 days depending on the temperature of the water.
  • Solar blanket is place back on after we are finished swimming in the evening

Daily Monitoring

The message here is daily monitoring of the chlorine level in the water or at least every 2nd day. It is very important to not let the water get cloudy ever. Once it does it is only a matter of hours before it goes green on you. Check the sides of the pool daily. If you begin to see green algae forming on the sides of the pool or the water begins to look a little bit cloudy , it is time to take action.

With the solar blanket on the pool so much, the water temperature rises quickly so daily monitoring is required. Once the blanket is removed and people are swimming, the water is being circulated more and mixed as well. So there is no need to have the poop pump on all day long for private pools. However if you are the type to forget about some of these steps then it is best to use an automatic chlorinater. Leave the pool pump on all of the time.

Hot Water

There is an added benefit of leaving the solar blanket on with the pool pump off. The top foot of water gets incredibly warm. This makes it very nice to enter the pool and swim in the top foot of water. This warm temperature is really great when the air temperature begins to cool as you get closer to the fall. Day time temperatures are lower. Of course after a few minutes the water mixes and the overall pool assumes the average temperature of the water.

This has been our experience of leaving the solar  blanket on the pool for long periods of time. With Solar Blankets you can save energy and also enjoy a warm pool too. It really does depend on the sun. If you only have cloudy rainy days there is not much to be gained by a solar blanket. Or even heating the pool with a heater. Comments are welcome.

For more articles on solar pool heating, click here.


Solar Panel Pool Heaters

Our last post was about solar blankets as a means of keeping your pool warm during the summer months. So we thought we would follow it up  solar-panel-heater-for-poolwith a post about solar panel pool heaters  for pools. They also will heat your pool, however they work very differently and cost a bit more. Again you are minimizing the impact on energy use and therefore reducing your cost as well as impact on the environment.

Solar Panel Pool Heaters – How Do They Work

Solar Panel Pool Heaters involve pumping water from the pool to the solar collectors where the water is heated by the sun. The warm water is then pumped back into the swimming pool allowing you to enjoy your pool for many months, and in some areas all year long depending on your location.

The basics of  solar pool heating systems include the following major items:

Solar collector — the device that pool water is circulated to be heated by the sun

Flow control valve — automatic or manual device that diverts pool water through the solar collector.

Filter — standard with all pools and removes debris before water is pumped through the collector

Pump — also standard with all pools and circulates water through the filter and collector and back to the pool

Solar panel pool heaters system can be as complex or as simple as you want them, all it costs is money. Manual systems are the least expensive and require the operator to manually turn a valve to cause water to be circulated through the solar collectors. solar roof panel pool heaterAutomated electronic systems will monitor the temperature of the water coming from the solar collectors and when it is warmer than the pool water, will open the valve automatically. It will also shut the valve to stop water from going through the collectors if the water from the collectors is colder than the pool.

Solar Panel Pool Heaters System Types

Solar panel pool heaters collectors are made out of different materials. The type you’ll need depends on your climate and how you intend to use the collector. If you’ll only be using your pool when temperatures are above freezing, then you’ll probably only need an unglazed collector system.

Unglazed Solar Pool Heating Collectors

Unglazed collectors are far less expensive than glazed collectors. These collectors are generally made of heavy-duty rubber or plastic treated with an ultraviolet (UV) light inhibitor to extend the life of the panels. These unglazed systems can even work for indoor pools in cold climates if the system is designed to drain back to the pool when not in use.

Glazed Solar Pool and Water Heating Collectors

Glazed collector systems are generally made of copper tubing on an aluminum plate with an iron-tempered glass covering, which increases their cost. In colder weather, glazed collector systems—with heat exchangers and transfer fluids—capture solar heat more efficiently than unglazed systems.

Protect either system from freezing.

Selecting a Solar Pool Heater

An unglazed solar pool heating system usually costs between $3,000 and $4,000 to buy and install. This provides a payback of between 1.5 and 7 years, depending on length of time you use the pool each year and  your local fuel heating costs.  Compared to a solar blanket, solar collectors are much more expensive. They also typically last longer than gas and heat pump pool heaters. Your actual cost and payback depend on many factors.

Before you install a solar collector of either type, evaluate the following:

  • Evaluate your site’s solar resource, location, hours of direct sun , etc
  • Determine the correct system size based on your pool and site selection
  • Determine the system’s efficiency
  • Compare system costs
  • Investigate local codes, covenants, and regulations
  • Contact a local company for additional information /assistance

Installing and Maintaining

The proper installation of a solar pool heating system depends on many factors such as :

  • Solar resource,
  • Climate,
  • Local building code requirements, and
  • Safety issues.
  • Ability to do it yourself vs. hiring an expert

Your solar collector should not require a lot of maintenance, other than cleaning once in a while and draining in cold winter months.

Benefits of Solar Pool Heating

  • Can extend swimming season up to 12 months depending on location
  • Ave. temp. rise up to 15-20º
  • Has no operating costs
  • No pollution, no fuel needed
  • Usually last 20+ years, with proper care
  • Relatively Quick and easy installation
  • Minimal maintenance required

Common Questions

How does the weather affect the performance of the Panels?

Cloudy days and rain will typically reduce the heating efficiency of the panels.

For more articles on solar heating, click here.



Solar Blankets for Your Pool

Solar Blankets for Your PoolOur first post that talks about renewable energy is related to your swimming pool. It is about how you can avoid using non renewable energy and use solar blankets for your pool instead. You will also save money as well in this particular solar energy solution! A solar blanket insulates the pool, keeps the heat in and converts sunlight into heat as well. Most come with rollers that make it easy to remove from the pool when it is time to use your pool. When it is time to place the solar blanket back on the pool, just drag it out over the pool as this lady is doing. Easily done and probably the most cost effective solution. Never leave the solar blanket on your lawn. Your grass will burn in no time.

Gas Heaters

Many people will employ gas fired or electric powered heaters to heat their pools to the desired temperature. While this is gas pool heaterfast and you just need to dial the temperature that you want, it is using either natural gas, electricity or perhaps oil to heat your pool.  It is also convenient and can be turned on for the weekend or whenever you want to have warm water to swim in. They are expensive to install as well as to operate. Installation costs can be as much as $2000 and operating costs each season can vary a great deal based on use, but $500 a season is not uncommon. You are also using non renewable energy to heat your pool and contributing to green house gases as well as pollution in general.

Solar Blankets for Your Pool

Using a solar blanket can achieve the same result, while saving energy and taking advantage of the sun’s heating rays to keep your pool warm. Many people do not like the extra work involved and the time it takes to remove and install the solar blanket each day, however it is an inexpensive way to heat your pool.

The work involved is not a lot. Basically you have to roll up the solar blanket when you want to use the pool using a roller or wrap it with straps. When you are ready to place the blanket back on the pool, it is a quick 2 or 3 minute job to pull the blanket back over the pool. There is no cost other than the two to three hundred dollar cost of the blanket depending on the size of the pool, when you purchase it and install it.

Rollers for Solar Blankets

In ground pools have a neat device that you can purchase to use to remove your solar blanket from the pool. Basically it is a long tube that spans across the pool with a crank at one end that solar blanket rolleryou use to roll up the solar blanket that is installed on your in ground pool.

These same rollers can be installed on above ground pools. However it is a little more difficult since you need to install something to attach the roller too that sits on top of your above ground pool and off to one side. You will need to cover your solar blanket when it is rolled up with a white plastic sheet. This protects it from the sun and avoids over heating. They come with the solar blanket and can also be purchased from your pool store.

Above Ground Pool Solar Blankets

Above ground pools do not seem to cool down as fast as in ground pools. They tend to heat up more quickly as well. This is primarily due to the cooling effect of the ground around the in ground pool . It keeps the water at a constant temperature. Never the less if you want to  heat your pool you can with a solar blanket. They are quite effective and will keep your above ground pool warmer than many in ground pools.

In this case the blanket is just manually rolled up and left hanging at the side of the pool. Which is fine. You do not have to be concerned about purchasing a roller and mounting it at one side of the pool. It is a little bit more laborious to rolling up the blanket.

Maintaining and Installing a Solar Blanket

solar blanketSolar blankets should always be covered when they are rolled up. If they are left in the sun and not covered by a thin white plastic sheet, the blanket will heat up and in fact get so hot it will melt the plastic. At the very least it will begin to cause the plastic and bubbles to deteriorate more quickly. Always cover them when they are not on the pool and left in the sun. A properly maintained solar blanket should last at least 3 to 4 years.

Installation is pretty simple. Purchase a blanket that is either the size of your pool. Or slightly larger if your pool is not a rectangle such as a kidney shaped pool. Next lay out the blanket on your pool and allow it to stretch. The heat from the sun will soften it a bit and stretch the blanket somewhat as it heats up.

Next using a pair of scissors, cut the blanket while it is on your pool to the edges of your pool. Follow  the shape of your pool. Installation and cutting will take a maximum of no more than 30 minutes. Attach the blanket to your roller if you have one and you are done.


Comments are welcome regarding solar blankets for pools and any other methods of heating your pool for swimming. For more related articles about solar heating, click here.


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