Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may earn a small commission for qualifying purchases.
The maintenance and cleaning of the pool are the most important tasks of a pool owner. Pool tarps provide a remedy by acting as a barrier between the pool water and the outside world, keeping dirt, animals, leaves, foreign bodies, and the inquisitive children of the neighborhood away and helping to avoid accidents.
However, automatic pool covers go beyond these basics and provide a lot of convenience and unique features. The best automatic pool cover retracts and extends at the push of a button and warms the pool while the tarp is extended.
Before you buy an automatic pool cover, you should have a basic understanding. You need to know what pool covers are, how they work, how they’re installed, what the various types are, and how to choose one that meets your needs and, most importantly, your budget.
What Is an Automatic Pool Cover?
Automatic pool covers are systems with an electric motor, reel, and sometimes pool covers and remote controls, designed to help you unroll and roll up the safety covers with the touch of a button.
The word automatic is misleading. Rather, it should be called an electric pool cover. It doesn’t work automatically but is driven by an electric motor. The pool safety cover is rolled in or out at the push of a button. That is why it is colloquially called automatic.
The principle of the swimming pool cover is very simple. It works just like a garage door or a blind for external windows. However, the only difference is that the pool cover extends and retracts horizontally over the swimming pool, instead of vertically like a roller shutter or blind.
The advantages of an automatic pool cover
The general benefits of an automatic pool cover are beyond question. It brings you multiple benefits:
- Simple and convenient operation
- Increased safety and hygiene
- Less heating costs
- Fewer leaves and foreign bodies in the water
- Less rainwater in the pool
- Makes pool usable during and outside of swimming season
How to Install an Automatic Pool Cover
The first question you might be asking here is: Can I install the automatic pool cover myself? The answer is yes, if you are a DIY enthusiast!
What you need to install a swimming pool cover
- Two handy people
- Space to lay out the material, especially the shutter slats
- Tools (read the installation instructions), in particular a drill, a screwdriver, open-end wrenches, and a level.
Steps to install an automatic pool cover
- Swimming pool cover slats are delivered unassembled. The first thing to do is to clip them together, according to the assembly instructions. Locate the first blade on which you will fix the straps allowing you to attach the shutter to the reel.
- Secure the reel between the two terminals provided for this purpose.
- Place the reel and the two terminals in the desired location, at the end of the pool, but do not yet secure them to the ground. Check that it is well placed, horizontally and vertically, in relation to the pool. To do this, use a level.
- If your pool has overflow copings, you will have to cut them with a grinder so that the shutter slats pass without friction. Delicate operation to be carried out by a person experienced in the handling of a grinder, or even a professional.
- Mark the final location of the terminals on the ground and secure them with a drill after checking that they are straight, using a level. If your pool cover is electric, consider providing for the passage of the cable by digging trenches.
- The reel is now attached to the end of the pool. You must now hang the shutter. While a person maintains the shutter on the surface of the water by positioning the 1st blade on the side of the reel, screw the straps on the axis of the reel.
- Open the swimming pool cover at the surface of the water, to check that you have installed it correctly.
- Adjust the swimming pool shutter limit switch according to the instructions.
- As the shutter is electric, connect the control box and install an electrical box in the technical room.
Automatic Pool Covers: Reviews of The 5 Best Products
So you now understand the value of an automatic pool cover? If you’re ready to invest in the convenience and functionality they offer, here are the best automatic pool covers offered in the pool and spa industry.
1. Solar Lakes Automatic Solar Blanket Cover
Pool owners who are worried about the pool temperature being in unswimmable conditions during the winter months will be happy about this solar safety cover. Coming with its motorized unit, solar panel, battery, and waterproof remote controller, no automatic winter cover is as complete as this!
The content in the kit means you can have the winter pool cover powered electrically by solar energy. It is a 100% eco-friendly system that works independently of the grid energy. You can operate it with no hose, cord, or plugs. Ideal for inground pools, the Solar Lakes Pool Cover is 1/4 inches thick and can cover a pool of around 20 x 40 feet in just a minute. The system makes it possible to use the pool during and outside the swimming season.
2. Solar Lakes Remote Controlled Automatic Solar Blanket Cover With Reel / Roller
First released late in 2017, the solar blanket cover, also from Solar Lakes, is much similar to the first model reviewed earlier. It’s also a rectangular swimming pool cover for a pool size of up to 20 by 40 feet. However, this one works with a vingli reel. Made exclusively for inground pools, it comes with its remote control, simplifying pool ownership and management.
The blanket is yet another cover that can operate electrically and independently, thanks to the included solar battery unit. It’s not a product for above-ground pools but can be used in inground pool types. According to pool owners who have bought the cover, the reel/cover makes opening and closing the pool easy as it’s powered by solar energy, hence, reducing water evaporation and trapping heat. It comes with a solar panel that makes the pool water warmer.
3. Pool Boy Solar Blanket Reel for Pools Up to 20 Feet Wide
What makes the Pool Boy Blanket Reel differentiated from the ones reviewed earlier is that it’s much more inexpensive. It’s ideal for those who have an existing pool cover and just need a pool cover reel for driving the cover over the swimming pool and spa. That is to say that, the Pool Boy doesn’t come with a solar pool cover or pool cover straps. It’s designed for pools that are up to 20-foot wide.
However, it features all other essential components, which are the solar blanket reel, a 40-foot cable, and remote control. The good thing here is the roller is height adjustable. In addition, it can help you save about 75 percent of your energy costs and around 30 percent of your water use.
4. Pool Boy II Automatic Solar Reel with Remote Control
Yet another pool feel system from Pool Boy. Covering and uncovering the pool automatically requires electric power. However, you don’t have to depend on the power supply from the grid and shoot up your energy bill. The Pool Boy II works off the grid, thanks to the solar system provided in the package.
Also, this doesn’t come with a pool cover or solar strap kits. Provided you want an all-in-one system, you can pick one of the Solar Lakes systems reviewed above. The solar covers and the needed straps can be easily purchased if you don’t have those yet. What makes sense about purchasing the reel-only system is the engineering put into the design. It’s built of heavy-weight aluminum and the transformer and cable are connected by a long 40-foot cable. If you have a rectangular inground pool that measures 20 by 40 feet, then this is it!
5. Pool Boy III Solar Blanket Reel for Swimming Pools
For swimming pools up to 20 feet, the Pool Boy III is one of the latest models coming from the brand, as far as solar blanket systems are concerned. What interests us most about the system is its completeness – this one is a reel and solar power system combo. It includes a 12v rechargeable battery.
The charger you need for recharging is also included and there is a remote control for uncovering and covering the pool through the reel. In addition, you’ll also get a tube kit and installation hardware for drilling the tubes and assembling the system. Installing the system takes around two hours and you don’t necessarily have to call a technician.
So, we recommend this for new pool owners who have just completed their pool project and are looking for a way to keep dirt and debris out while making the pool ready for the most unwelcoming of seasons. It’s compatible with pools that are up to 20 feet wide. The height system here, however, is fixed and not adjustable.
How to Choose the Best Automatic Pool Cover
There are a lot of automatic pool covers on the pool and spa market. But not all will be most suitable for you. So, ask yourself what you need most in this type of cover and weigh them with the standards of the best pool cover models in the pool industry.
In a broad sense, there are two types of automatic pool covers:
- Above ground swimming pool cover
It is mainly suitable for swimming pools that have already been built or if you choose to do so in advance. It’s the most used option thanks to its cost and it is easy to install. In this option, you will find different models according to the brands: blanket with box, blanket benefiting from solar energy.
The above ground shutter consists of an assembly of PVC slats that roll up on an axis fixed to the ground. Also, provide fasteners and safety straps to lock the tarp when it covers the pool. For models that operate on mains, you will also have an electrical power supply box to protect them.
- The submerged or under-coping system
A submerged reel must be planned upstream as soon as you decide to build your swimming pool. The main advantage of this type of system is that the roof can be discreetly stored under the surrounding terrace. It rolls up on guide rails which allows you to benefit from a completely invisible protection when bathing.
The cover material
The cover material is perhaps the most important feature in the system. There are solar bubble covers and other models with thermal design. Normal winter pool covers are made of PVC material and must be heavy-duty, not too thick, and not too thin. When the swimming pool covers are too thin, it heats too much but will not retain heat for a long time. However, when too thick, it wouldn’t heat faster but will trap heat. Still, a balance is needed.
The bench serves as a nice protective housing for your pool cover. It also offers a welcome seat. The upper bench cladding is open on both sides and protects your pool tarp against UV light.
When the safety covers are rolled up, you have a tidy place on the side of the pool. They ensure pools look tidier and more valuable.
The slats, when wound up and the pool covers themselves, are usually available in trendy colors – e.g in gray as a perfect complement to surrounding rattan furniture or in sand for a “terracotta effect” on the terrace or in blue for a true water feeling. As an option, some are even available in a wood effect.
The bench cladding can be removed at any time to make it easier to clean the slats. You can also redesign them yourself with a different color effect.
Some models have standard LED lighting around the bench. With this, you can transform the bench into a real eye-catcher in your outdoor area.
The LED light rail, along the bench and on the end stand, brings atmospheric lighting to the edge of the pool.
This lighting can be controlled with the supplied remote control: switch it on or off conveniently from the terrace and choose the color of the lighting. A swimming pool cover made of high-quality aluminum will also cover the rail of the LED lighting.
Solar panels, engines, and accessories
Automatic pool covers need a source of electric power. There are pool covers which use power from the mains but the most suitable for water facilities are the solar-powered systems which take energy from the sun’s heat. That is, they have to come with solar panel systems, pool cover straps, and more.
The motor is usually located in the aluminum shaft of the cover. It should be quiet and powerful. Other necessary swimming pool accessories for the cover system include a remote controller for uncovering and covering the pool.
Commonly Asked Questions
Are automatic pool covers safe?
Automatic pool covers, especially the more heavy-duty safety pool covers, are children and pets safe; are reliable as long as there is a power connection (although most can be operated mechanically), and are easy to use. You don’t need a lot of muscle power to cover or uncover the pool with these systems.
How much does an automatic pool cover cost?
For a submerged shutter, prices will vary depending on the material and the model chosen. If you want an automatic slatted type shutter, prices start around $400 / m². According to the Home Advisor, an automatic pool cover will cost you around $1,000 – $10,000.
How to clean automatic pool cover?
You can clean a pool roller shutter that is built above ground with roller shutter cleaner. Apply this to the slats with a spray bottle or a sponge and let it take effect. Then rinse the automatic pool cover with a strong jet of water – done. The manufacturers advise to thoroughly clean the automatic cover twice a year, during wintering and when starting up your pool.
To prevent the shutter slats from getting stained, do not hesitate to spray the shutter regularly with a water jet to prevent impurities from remaining on the shutter for too long.
The best pool cover products with automatic systems are configured for use at the push of a button. They can be more expensive than other pool covers because they need to be installed on your pool, but they are the easiest to use. However, they are generally strong and durable. They support weight and are ideal for where you have kids and pets around. Automatic pool covers, especially the solar pool covers, bring the comfort of use by ensuring retention of heating while keeping leaves, debris, dirt, and other elements out.