DIY Pool Heater: Step-By-Step Setup Guide

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By Debarghya Roy

Key Takeaways

  • A DIY solar pool heater is an affordable and environmentally friendly solution for extending your swimming season without the hefty price tag and energy consumption of traditional heating options.
  • By using black irrigation hose, a wooden or plastic base, reflective material (optional), and hose connectors, you can create a simple yet effective solar pool heater in just six easy steps for under $100.
  • Building a DIY solar pool heater not only saves costs but also encourages sustainability practices by utilizing renewable resources like sunlight to warm up your pool water, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing environmental impact.

Imagine a warm and inviting swimming pool without the hefty price tag and energy consumption that comes with traditional heating options. 

In this blog post, we will guide you through everything you need to know about building a simple yet effective solar pool heater for your above ground or inground pool.

What Is a DIY Solar Pool Heater?

A DIY solar pool heater is an affordable, environmentally friendly solution for extending your swimming season, all while keeping costs under $100.

DIY Pool Heater

How A Solar Pool Heater Works?

A solar pool heater harnesses the sun’s energy to heat your pool water, providing a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to traditional heating methods.

  • The process begins with a black irrigation hose coiled on a flat surface, ideally positioned in an area that receives direct sunlight for most of the day.
  • The heated water is then circulated back into your pool using a submersible pump connected to one end of the hose. 
  • Meanwhile, fresh cool water from your pool is drawn into another end of this system, ensuring continuous flow throughout the entire setup.
  • This cycle keeps repeating as long as there’s sunlight available, steadily raising your pool’s temperature by several degrees over several days’ time.

Benefits Of A DIY Solar Pool Heater

A DIY solar pool heater is not only cost-effective but also environmentally friendly, increasing your pool usage.


A key advantage of building a DIY solar pool heater is its cost-effectiveness, especially when compared to traditional pool heating options. 

With just under $100, you can acquire all the necessary materials like the black irrigation hose, submersible pump, irrigation hose connector for the pump, and plywood and wood pieces to frame the wooden tray.

Additionally, using solar energy as your primary source for heating reduces long-term utility costs since it is an abundant and free resource.

Consequently, not only will you save money on upfront construction expenses but also in terms of ongoing operational costs.

Environmentally Friendly

One of the major benefits of building a DIY solar pool heater is its environmentally friendly nature

Reduces carbon footprint Traditional pool heaters often rely on gas or electricity, which can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and an increased carbon footprint can be reduced by using DIY solar pool heaters.
Reducing your impact on the environment In contrast, a solar pool heater harnesses the sun’s free and clean energy source, reducing your impact on the environment while creating an energy-efficient solution for your swimming pool.
Repurpose recycled materialsDIY solar pool heaters also encourage sustainable practices by allowing homeowners to repurpose recycled materials like old windows or corrugated metal roofing sheets into effective heating systems.
Being eco-friendly in terms of energy consumptionUsing black irrigation hose, submersible pump or PEX tubing conserves resources contributing in making this off-grid solution even more beneficial for our planet.

Increased Pool Usage

  • Another noteworthy benefit of building a DIY solar pool heater is an increased pool usage
  • Pool owners often struggle with utilizing their pools during the colder months, but a solar pool heater can extend the swimming season and make it possible to enjoy warm water throughout the year.
  • This means more fun for you and your family, as well as potentially increasing your property value by having an attractive outdoor space that can be used all year round.

Materials Needed For A DIY Solar Pool Heater

To build a DIY solar pool heater, you need a black irrigation hose, a wooden or plastic base, reflective material (optional), and hose connectors.

Irrigation Hose

One of the essential materials needed for building a DIY solar pool heater is an irrigation hose, typically made from polyurethane or vinyl. 

The length of the irrigation hose required will depend on the size of your pool, with at least 50% of the pool’s surface area covered by coiled tubing.

It’s important to use black-colored hoses that absorb as much heat energy transfer from sunlight as possible. 

You can attach these hoses using UV-resistant zip-ties with Teflon tape to prevent leaks in joints and connections.

Use a Wooden Or Plastic Base

  • When constructing your DIY solar pool heater, one of the first things you’ll need to consider is whether to use a wooden or plastic base.
  • A wooden base is often recommended as it provides sturdy support for the irrigation hose coil and allows for easy installation of additional components like valves and connectors.
  • However, untreated wood may rot over time if exposed to water, so using pressure-treated lumber or sealing the wood with waterproof paint or resin can help ensure longevity.
  • On the other hand, a plastic base may not require any special treatments and can be lightweight and easy to move around if needed.

Black Paint

One of the key materials needed for building a solar pool heater is black paint

The reason why it’s important to use black paint is that it helps increase the heat absorption and efficiency of your DIY pool heater.

When sunlight hits the dark surface, it absorbs more heat compared to lighter colors which reflect more light away. 

This means that by painting your wooden or plastic base and irrigation hose black, you’ll be able to maximize your solar pool heating system’s potential for warming up water.

Using reflective material like aluminum sheets can amplify this effect further by directing even more sunlight onto your coiled irrigation hose.

Reflective Material 

In addition to black paint or plastic that absorbs sunlight, reflective material can also be used as an optional supply for a DIY solar pool heater.

By reflecting extra sunlight onto the coils of the hose, a greater amount of heat will be produced and distributed throughout the water in your pool. 

This means even better efficiency and faster heating times! Reflective material such as aluminum sheets can be purchased at home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s, and cut to fit along the sides of your base structure.

For those looking to keep costs down, however, black spray paint or plastic wrap can serve as an alternative solution.

Hose Connectors

Irrigation hose connectors are an essential part of building a DIY solar pool heater. 

They allow you to connect the irrigation hose to your pool’s water system and ensure a steady flow of water through the solar panels.

One example of a suitable connection is a 1/2″ threaded-to-ribbed adapter, which allows for easy attachment to both garden hoses and poly tubing. 

Additionally, Teflon tape and plumbers grease can be used to seal any leaks when connecting the hoses together.

Step-by-Step Guide To Building A Solar Pool Heater

In this section, we’ll guide you through the simple process of building a DIY solar pool heater in under $100.

Step 1: Build The Base

  • The first step in building your DIY solar pool heater is to create the base
  • To do this, you will need plywood and wood framing materials to construct a tray that can hold the black irrigation hose.
  • You should also take into consideration factors such as wind and rain when designing your base, as these elements could cause damage if not accounted for.

Step 2: Create The Hose Coil

The hose coil is the heart of your DIY solar pool heater. 

This step involves taking a 200-foot long irrigation hose and coiling it tightly onto a wooden tray or base to fit as many loops as possible.

The size of the coil will depend on the size of your pool, but it should be at least 50% of the surface area.

It’s essential that you create a tight coil without any kinks in your hose to ensure efficient heating. 

If you have extra space in your backyard, you could consider making multiple coils connected together for maximum coverage and faster heating times.

Step 3: Paint The Hose And Base Black

Once you have secured the irrigation hose onto your wooden tray, it’s time to paint everything black because darker colors absorb more sunlight and heat than lighter colors.

By painting the hose and base black, you are dramatically increasing their ability to absorb heat from the sun.

It is important to note that a simple coat of paint isn’t enough; you need to make sure that every inch is covered so that no sunlight gets reflected away. 

A good tip for getting an even coat of paint on your irrigation hose is by using a fan brush.

Painting the base not only helps improve absorption but also makes the whole setup look neater and more professional.

Step 4: Add Reflectors

If you want to increase the efficiency of your DIY solar pool heater, adding reflectors is an optional but useful step. 

Reflectors are materials that direct more sunlight onto the black tubing by reflecting it from different angles and increasing its absorption.

This can enhance the performance of the solar pool heater by up to 30%

Reflectors can be made from inexpensive materials like aluminum sheets, Mylar or reflective insulation that are cut into strips and attached to a base at an angle facing towards the sun.

Step 5: Connect The Hose To The Pool’s Water System

Now that you have your hose coiled and painted, it’s time to connect it to the pool’s water system. 

Begin by attaching one end of the hose to a submersible pump, which will suck cold water from the pool and force it through the solar heater.

Make sure you secure all connections tightly using irrigation hose connectors and Teflon tape if necessary. 

If you want more control over when the solar heater operates, consider adding shut-off valves or ball valves somewhere along either side of your hoses.

The important thing is that once everything is connected correctly, turn on your sump pump while making sure there are no leaks around each connection point.

Step 6: Let The Sun Do The Work

Once you have connected the hose to your pool’s water system, it’s time to let the sun do its job. 

The black irrigation hose that runs through your DIY solar pool heater works as a solar collector and transfers heat energy into the water running through it.

To ensure that your pool is heated most efficiently, position your DIY solar pool heater where it gets maximum sun exposure. 

Keep in mind that if there are any shadows cast onto your solar collector during peak sunlight hours, this can affect how well it heats up.

Troubleshooting Common Issues With DIY Solar Pool Heaters

The sump pump and returning hot water should be kept on opposite sides of the pool to prevent insufficient heating, while increasing the pump speed can improve heat energy transfer.

Insufficient Heating Of DIY Pool Heater

  • One of the most common issues with DIY solar pool heaters is insufficient heating
  • This can be caused by several factors, including a low flow rate, inadequate exposure to sunlight or lack of reflectors.
  • To enhance the effectiveness of your heater, ensure that the hose coil is built correctly and placed in an area with maximum sun exposure.
  • If you’re experiencing poor heating results despite having followed all steps correctly, it may be worth checking for leaks or damage to your irrigation hose coil. 

Leaks Or Hose Damage In DIY Pool Heater

It is important to use the correct materials and follow proper installation procedures when building a DIY solar pool heater. 

One common issue with these systems is leaks or hose damage.

To avoid these problems, it is recommended to use irrigation poly tubing instead of garden hoses as they are made from different materials and have different diameters.

It may also be useful to check for wear and tear regularly, especially on black hoses and coiled hoses which can be prone to damage over time.

Properly sealing all connections using Teflon tape or pipe dope can help prevent leaks from occurring in the first place.

Improving the Efficiency Of DIY Pool Heater

To improve the efficiency of your DIY solar pool heater, there are a few things you can do. 

First, make sure that the sump pump and returning hot water nozzle are on opposite sides of the pool.

This allows for greater heat energy transfer throughout the entire pool. Additionally, increasing the speed of the pump will help to circulate more hot water through the system.

It’s important to keep in mind that while a DIY solar pool heater is an affordable and eco-friendly option, it won’t be as powerful as traditional electric or gas heaters.

How Warm Can A Solar Pool Heater Get?

A solar pool heater can increase the water temperature by 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit and even more on a hot, sunny day. 

The efficiency of the DIY solar pool heater depends on multiple factors such as location, size of the pool, and weather conditions.

For instance, in warmer regions where there is ample sunlight throughout the year, a solar pool heater will heat up your water much faster than in cooler regions with fewer hours of sunshine per day.

Factors like proper installation and maintenance also play an important role in determining how warm your pool can get using a solar heater.

How Long Does It Take To Heat The Pool?

One of the most common questions that pool owners ask is how long it takes to heat up their pool. 

  • The answer depends on various factors, such as the size of your pool, the temperature outside, and the type of heating system you’re using.
  • With a traditional gas heater or heat pump, it can take anywhere from several hours to a day for your water temperature to reach comfortable levels.
  • DIY solar pool heaters are an affordable and eco-friendly heating option that can significantly extend your swimming season by increasing your water temperature by 5-15 degrees Fahrenheit (2-8 Celsius).

Do Solar Pool Heaters Work In Winter?

Solar pool heaters can still work in winter, but they may not be as effective due to less sunlight and shorter days.

However, with proper insulation and positioning of the solar heater in a sunny spot, it can still provide some heat energy transfer to warm the pool water.

It is important to note that the colder the outside temperature, the longer it will take for the solar heater to heat up the water. 

One tip is to use a solar cover or blanket at night to help retain heat and prevent evaporation.

In addition, using an outdoor timer to turn on the heater during peak sun hours can maximize its efficiency.

Additional DIY Solar Pool Heater Ideas

Explore alternative designs and configurations for your DIY solar pool heater, such as using recycled materials or incorporating PEX tubing and aluminum fins for improved heat transfer.

Using Recycled Materials

DIY solar pool heaters can be built with a variety of recycled materials, making the project both eco-friendly and budget-friendly

For example, old windows or polycarbonate sheeting can make an effective pool heater by trapping heat inside a glass enclosure.

Aluminum cans can also be used to construct a solar panel system for heating water.

Additionally, incorporating recycled materials into your DIY projects helps reduce waste and promotes self-sufficiency

Not only will creating your own solar pool heater save you money on energy bills, but it’s also an environmentally responsible solution that supports sustainability efforts.

Alternative Designs And Configurations

There are numerous alternative designs and configurations for DIY solar pool heaters.

These alternatives can be just as effective, easy to construct, and budget-friendly.

Aluminum can solar heater

One example is the aluminum can solar heater which uses an array of painted cans to absorb solar energy that heats the water as it flows through them. 

Copper coil pool heater

Another option is copper coil pool heater where a length of copper tubing is coiled within a box covered with glass or plastic.

 PEX tubing with aluminum fins

Another popular design choice is PEX tubing with aluminum fins or loops laid out on a plywood board that can be sized according to your pool size. 

The black surface absorbs sunlight while heat transfer plates effectively conduct heat into the water passing through them.


How does a DIY pool heater work?

A DIY solar pool heater works by circulating water from the pool through a system of tubes or hoses that are placed in direct sunlight. 

The sun heats up the water as it moves through this system, and then pumps it back into your pool at a warmer temperature.

What materials do I need to build my own solar pool heater?

To build your own solar pool heater, you will need some basic materials like PVC pipes, hose clamps, and connectors, along with a few specialized pieces like flat-plate collectors or evacuated tubes that capture the sun’s energy.

Is building your own solar pool heater cost-effective?

Building your own DIY solar pool heater is an extremely cost-effective way to warm up your swimming pool. 

With just $100 worth of materials and some elbow grease, you can create a device that will save hundreds on energy bills over time.

Are there any maintenance requirements for my DIY solar pool heater?

While these types of devices require minimal maintenance outside of checking periodically for leaks or damage.

If using sensitive parts (i.e., electronic sensors/controllers) extra care may be needed depending upon climate & weather conditions impacting performance overtime such as heavy rain/storms causing damage due high winds/forceful impact etc.

Regular cleaning also recommended to ensure optimal performance especially during rainy seasons when debris accumulation may hinder effectiveness.


With the rising costs of energy, building a DIY solar pool heater is an affordable and eco-friendly option for heating your above ground pool.

Heat Pump