Swimming Pool Covers: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
With the summer soon coming to a close, the time to cover your pool for the winter months approaches. Many of you may already have a winter cover that you're happy with. Others may be curious as to the options that are available. This article will talk about the three main types of pool covers and the pros and cons of each.
What type of pool cover is best for me?
- A standard (tarp) winter cover costs $75–$225. It needs a pump on top, keeps out sunlight and light debris, and lasts 1–3 seasons.
- A mesh security cover costs $1,200–$3,000. It doesn't need a pump on top, keeps out debris but not water, and lasts 10–15 years.
- A solid (vinyl) security cover costs $1,200–$3,000. It needs a pump on top, keeps out debris and water, and lasts 6–10 years.
- An automatic cover costs $5,000–$15,000. It offers constant protection, heats the water significantly, and lasts 3 years before you have to start replacing parts.
Standard Winter Cover
Price range $75–$225
This cover does a nice job of keeping out sunlight as well as other debris.
Standard covers are made of a tarp-like material and are held down with water bags. This material only lasts 1–3 seasons before it has to be replaced.
One of the other main drawbacks of this type of cover is that it holds very little weight. In other words, if an animal, or person attempts to walk on the cover, they will get very wet.
Standard covers also require a pump, so you must be vigilant throughout the off-season to ensure too much water does not build up on the top, causing the cover to cave in.
Standard winter covers are short-lived. One to three seasons? That's pretty poor longevity.
They can also be hard to look at for 7 months out of the year. Their appearance is not what I would call "aesthetically pleasing."
Price range $1,200–$3,000
Most inground pool owners we know of use a security cover. These covers look sort of like a trampoline. Spring-loaded straps connect to the cover and anchor it into the concrete to hold it in place.
Security covers come in two types: mesh and solid.
The main type we offer is made of a mesh material.
This cover is very effective in keeping leaves and debris out and can also support a great amount of weight, including heavy snow loads.
Because it is mesh, no pump is required on top. The rain water just passes through. Once it is on for the off-season, there is typically no additional upkeep to worry about.
These covers normally last 10–15 years.
The other type of security cover consists of a solid vinyl material.
The main benefit of a "solid" security cover is that it does not allow any water to pass through. This means that the water should still be clear in the spring opening season.
Solid security covers normally last 6–10 years.
The main drawback that some find with mesh security covers is that they allow water to pass through, which means the pool water can be very dirty when it comes time to open it in the spring.
This cloudy/murky water is usually clear within 2–5 days of opening, but it does take some work getting it back to normal.
On the flip side of this discussion, although solid covers allow for a much prettier opening, they require a pump on top (which have to be adjusted periodically throughout the off-season).
These cover pumps, because of the wear and tear of the cold months, usually only last 2–4 years before they quit working, and their replacement cost is around $225.
Solid covers also do not last nearly as long as mesh covers.
Based on my experience, I really can't classify any of the drawbacks of security covers as "ugly."
Price range $12,000–$22,000
Automatic covers come in many forms, and this is the reason for their broad price range.
Their two biggest benefits:
- They are wonderful solar covers
- They offer constant protection against unwanted guests/swimmers
They also help keep leaves and debris out of the pool during the season, potentially cutting down on time spent cleaning/maintaining the pool.
Auto covers are made of a vinyl material that typically wears out after five years or so.
The cost of replacing this material is quite expensive ($2,000–$4,000) and, considering their initial cost, this can be quite frustrating for homeowners.
Another problem with these covers that many people don't realize is that because they are such good solar covers, sometimes they can heat the water too much. This especially occurs during the months of July and August when most pool owners do not want their pool water to be any warmer.
I have seen cases where auto covers will cause the water to get over 95°F, which feels like taking a bath at that point and is not very refreshing at all.
The other problem with auto covers is the fact that they are not "true" winter covers. Although they are rated to hold about 2,000 lbs, a heavy snow load can cause these covers to cave-in. If your decision is to use your automatic cover as a winter cover, you'll need to monitor it closely throughout the winter to prevent potentially significant damage. Be sure to check out our article on winter maintenance for automatic pool covers.
In years past we would see automatic covers break down quite frequently, after just a couple of years. However, the advancement of technology and materials has produced automatic covers that have become quite reliable. As of 2022, we no longer have much to add to the 'ugly' truth for them.
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Editor's note: This article was updated on September 7, 2023.