By Marcus Sheridan
With the summer soon coming to a close, the time to cover your pool for the winter months soon approaches. Many of you may already have a winter cover that you're happy with, others may be curious as to the other options that are available. This article will talk about the three main types of pool covers and the pros and cons of each.
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 between 1 and 3 seasons before it has to be replaced. One of the other main drawbacks of this type of cover is the fact that it holds very little weight. In other words, if a dog, animal, or person attempts to walk on the cover they will get very wet. Standard covers also require a pump, which means that one must be vigilant throughout the off-season as to ensure too much water does not build up on the top, causing the cover to cave in.
Other then the fact that their longevity is so poor, standard winters cover can be hard to look at for seven months out of the year, as their appearance is not what I would call "aesthetically pleasing".
Security Cover: Price Range $1200-$3000
About 90% of our inground pool customers utilize a security cover. These covers have somewhat of a trampoline appearance, with spring-loaded straps connected to the cover, and anchored into the concrete, to hold it in place. There are two types of security covers. 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), and so once it is on for the off-season, there is typically no additional upkeep to worry about. These covers normally last between 10 and 15 years. The other type of security cover consists of a solid vinyl material. The main benefit of a "solid" security cover is that does not allow any water to pass through, which means that the water should still be clear in the spring opening season. Solid security covers normally last between 6 and 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, solid covers, although they allow for a much prettier opening, 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".
Automatic Covers: Price Range $5000-$15,000
Automatic covers come in many forms, and this is the reason for their broad price range. Their two biggest benefits are the fact that they are wonderful solar covers and 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 (2-4k), and considering their initial cost, 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, sometime 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 degrees, which feels like taking a bath at that point and is not very refreshing at all.
The biggest problem with auto covers is their propensity to break down. With so many components (motor, ropes/pulleys, vinyl, aluminum track, etc.), there are many parts that can break down. We find that after about 3 years auto covers can break down quite often, which can be very frustrating, especially if the cover breaks and it can not be taken off the pool, disallowing anyone to swim. I have seen this occur many times and it's never a pleasant experience. The other big 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. In some cases, it is necessary for homeowners to open their cover before a major snow storm as to eliminate the potential of any cave-ins from happening.