Solar Rings vs. Solar Covers: Which Is Better?

By Kami Turky


Both solar rings and solar covers have emerged as popular choices for pool owners looking to enhance the efficiency of their pools while also conserving energy.

However, each offers distinct advantages and potential drawbacks, depending on individual pool requirements, maintenance preferences, and budget constraints.

In this guide, I’ll provide a detailed comparison of both options, shedding light on their working mechanisms, effectiveness, and overall value, to help you select the ideal solution for your pool’s unique needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Solar rings are vinyl discs that float on pools, converting sunlight into heat and aiding in insulation.
  • Solar covers are large sheets that warm the pool and minimize evaporation, with a bubble design for heat retention.
  • Both offer eco-friendly heating, but differ in coverage, safety, and ease of use.
  • Solar covers excel in debris protection and evaporation reduction, while rings are safer and easier to store.
  • While covers have a higher initial cost, their long-term savings are notable; rings provide cost-effective flexibility.

What Are Solar Rings?

Working Mechanism

Solar rings are circular or sometimes square discs that are made of UV-resistant vinyl and float on the pool’s surface. 

The bottom layer of the solar ring is typically dark-colored, enabling it to absorb sunlight efficiently. 

Once this sunlight is absorbed, it’s converted into heat, which is then directly transferred to the pool water. 

The design of the solar rings ensures that the heat is retained and not lost back to the atmosphere.

In addition to heating, the top layer of the solar ring plays a crucial role in insulation. 

This clear layer is designed to trap insulating air, acting as a barrier that retains the heat within the pool and reduces heat loss due to evaporation. 

While individual solar rings might not cover the entire pool surface, using multiple rings can achieve a substantial coverage. 

For optimal results, it’s recommended to cover about 70-80% of the pool’s surface with these rings. 

This coverage not only aids in heating but also significantly reduces water evaporation, helping maintain the pool’s temperature.


  • Eco-friendly: Solar rings harness renewable solar energy, making them an environmentally friendly option for pool heating.
  • Cost-effective: They can reduce the need for traditional pool heaters, leading to savings on energy bills.
  • Reduces Evaporation: By covering a significant portion of the pool’s surface, solar rings reduce water evaporation, conserving water and maintaining the pool’s temperature.
  • Easy Installation: Solar rings are simple to use. They can be easily placed on the pool surface without the need for any tools or professional installation.
  • Safety: Unlike large pool covers, solar rings don’t pose a significant risk of entrapment. Their segmented nature allows for better visibility and safety.
  • Flexibility: They can be easily removed or added based on the user’s preference and pool’s size.


  • Incomplete Coverage: Unlike full pool covers, solar rings can’t provide 100% coverage. This means there will always be some level of evaporation and heat loss.
  • Durability Concerns: Being exposed to direct sunlight and pool chemicals, solar rings might degrade over time, requiring replacement.
  • Wind Issues: In windy conditions, solar rings can get displaced or even blown out of the pool if not anchored properly.
  • Maintenance: Over time, solar rings can accumulate dirt and debris, requiring regular cleaning.

What Are Solar Covers?

Working Mechanism

Solar covers, often known as solar blankets or pool blankets, are expansive sheets made predominantly from UV-resistant plastic materials. 

Designed to cover the entirety of a swimming pool’s surface, their main role is to harness solar energy, warming the pool water and reducing evaporation. 

These covers have a distinct appearance, similar to bubble wrap, with air-filled bubbles that play a crucial role in retaining heat.

The primary function of a solar cover is to absorb sunlight. 

The plastic material, especially the bubbles on the cover, acts almost like a magnifying lens. These bubbles capture and amplify the sun’s rays, enhancing the rate of heat absorption. 

As the cover rests directly atop the pool’s surface, the absorbed heat is directly and efficiently transferred to the water below. 

Beyond just heating the water, solar covers have an insulating effect. The air-filled bubbles create a barrier between the warm pool water and the cooler external environment. 

This insulation ensures that the heat remains trapped within the pool, preventing significant heat loss, especially during cooler nights. 

Moreover, evaporation is a leading cause of heat loss in pools. As water evaporates, it carries away a significant amount of heat. 

Solar covers, by their very design, act as a barrier to this evaporation. 

This not only aids in heat retention but also conserves water and helps maintain the pool’s chemical balance. 


  • Energy Efficiency: Solar covers harness the sun’s energy, reducing the need for electric or gas pool heaters and leading to energy savings.
  • Water Conservation: They effectively reduce water evaporation, helping in conserving water and reducing the need for frequent refills.
  • Chemical Preservation: By reducing evaporation, solar covers also reduce the loss of pool chemicals, maintaining the pool’s chemical balance and saving on chemical costs.
  • Cost-effective: Over time, the savings on heating bills, water, and chemicals can make solar covers a cost-effective investment.
  • Easy to Use: Solar covers can be easily rolled out onto the pool and rolled back when not needed, making them user-friendly.


  • Manual Handling: Large solar covers can be cumbersome to roll out and retract, especially for bigger pools.
  • Storage: When not in use, they need to be stored properly, which can require additional space.
  • Wear and Tear: Continuous exposure to the sun and chemicals can degrade the material over time, reducing its efficiency and lifespan.
  • Not a Safety Device: It’s essential to note that solar covers are not designed to be safety devices. They won’t prevent accidents or support weight like safety covers.

Direct Comparison: Solar Rings vs. Solar Cover

1. Evaporation Reduction

Both solar rings and solar covers are designed to reduce evaporation.

Solar covers provide a continuous barrier over the pool’s surface, effectively minimizing the water’s exposure to the atmosphere. 

By covering the entire pool, they create a seal that significantly reduces the rate of evaporation. 

On the other hand, solar rings, often referred to as “lily pads,” are individual discs that float on the pool’s surface. 

While they do cover a substantial portion of the water, there are gaps between each ring. 

These gaps mean that solar rings might not be as effective as solar covers in completely preventing evaporation. 

In a direct comparison for evaporation reduction, solar covers likely have the edge due to their full-surface coverage.

2. Heating Capabilities

Solar covers span the entire pool, capturing sunlight uniformly and warming the water consistently. 

Their continuous design ensures even heat distribution, making them highly effective in raising the pool’s temperature during sunny days.

Conversely, solar rings, being individual units, absorb and transfer heat only to the water directly beneath them. 

While they harness solar energy efficiently, their segmented nature can lead to uneven heating, with gaps between rings being cooler than areas directly beneath them.

Thus, solar covers offer a more consistent and comprehensive heating solution for pools, ensuring an even temperature throughout.

3. Safety Considerations

Solar covers provide a continuous barrier over the pool, which can prevent accidental falls but poses a risk if someone, especially children or pets, were to get trapped underneath. 

In contrast, solar rings, with their segmented design, offer better visibility into the pool and reduce entrapment risks.

Although solar rings don’t completely prevent accidental falls into the water due to the gaps between them, they reduce the risk of entrapment, a serious concern with solar covers.

4. Reducing Water Consumption

Solar covers, with their full-surface coverage, effectively minimize water evaporation. 

By sealing the pool’s surface, they prevent a significant amount of water loss, ensuring that the pool retains more of its water over time.

Solar rings, on the other hand, also play a role in reducing water consumption. 

While they don’t offer the complete coverage that solar covers do, they still cover a substantial portion of the pool’s surface. This coverage helps in curbing evaporation to a notable extent.

However, when directly compared, solar covers might have a slight edge in terms of water conservation due to their comprehensive coverage.

5. Reducing Chemical Loss

Solar covers offer comprehensive protection, significantly curbing chemical evaporation and ensuring a stable pool balance. 

Meanwhile, solar rings, with their partial coverage, still manage to retain a good portion of the pool’s chemicals.

Therefore, solar covers maintain a more consistent chemical balance due to their comprehensive coverage.

6. Heating Cost Reduction

Solar covers, by virtue of their design, capture and retain the sun’s heat effectively, reducing the need for additional pool heating. 

This translates to significant energy savings, especially for those who rely on electric or gas heaters. 

By maintaining a warmer pool temperature naturally, solar covers can lead to substantial reductions in monthly energy bills.

Solar rings, while operating on a similar principle, might not offer the same level of cost savings due to their segmented coverage.

7. Debris Management

Solar covers provide a continuous barrier over the pool’s surface, effectively preventing leaves, twigs, and other debris from entering the water. 

This not only keeps the pool cleaner but also reduces the frequency of manual cleaning and potential blockages in filtration systems.

Conversely, solar rings, with their segmented design, might not offer the same level of debris protection. 

While they do cover significant portions of the pool, the gaps between the rings can allow smaller debris to slip through. 

However, they still manage to block a good amount of larger debris, offering some level of cleanliness.

In direct comparison, solar covers emerge as the superior option for debris management, reducing the need for frequent cleaning.

8. Algae Growth Considerations

Algae growth in pools is a common concern, as it can make the water murky, slippery, and unhealthy. The growth of algae is primarily fueled by sunlight and nutrients present in the water.

Solar covers, by covering the entire surface of the pool, significantly reduce the amount of sunlight that penetrates the water. 

This lack of sunlight inhibits the photosynthesis process that algae rely on to grow. 

As a result, pools with solar covers tend to experience reduced algae growth, leading to clearer water and less frequent need for algaecide treatments.

Conversely, solar rings, due to their segmented nature, don’t block sunlight as completely as solar covers. 

The gaps between the rings allow some sunlight to reach the water, potentially providing pockets where algae can thrive. 

In a direct comparison, solar covers offer a more effective solution in preventing algae growth due to their complete coverage.

9. Ease of Use

Solar covers, being large sheets, can be a bit of a hassle, especially for bigger pools. 

Rolling them out or retracting them often requires a reel or at least two people to handle effectively. 

Additionally, ensuring that the cover sits perfectly without any wrinkles or air pockets might take a bit of effort.

On the other hand, solar rings are much simpler in this regard. Being individual units, they can be easily placed on or removed from the pool’s surface without much hassle. 

Their lightweight and manageable size mean that even a single person can handle them with ease. Moreover, there’s no need for any reels or additional equipment.

So, solar rings have a clear advantage. They offer a hassle-free solution for those who want to avoid the potential challenges that come with handling large solar covers. 

10. Wind Resistance

Solar covers, due to their expansive nature and the weight they gain when settled on the water, generally stay in place even in windy conditions. 

Their full-surface coverage ensures that there’s minimal opportunity for wind to get underneath and lift the cover. 

However, if not properly secured at the edges, there’s still a chance for wind to catch a loose end and potentially displace the cover.

Solar rings, being individual and lighter units, are more susceptible to wind. If a gust is strong enough, it can get beneath a ring and cause it to flip or even blow it out of the pool. 

Some pool owners address this by anchoring the rings or connecting them together to provide more stability.

In terms of wind resistance, solar covers typically offer better protection against displacement.

11. Storage Considerations

Solar covers, given their large size, require more thought when it comes to storage. When retracted, they can be bulky, especially for larger pools. 

Many pool owners use reels to roll up and store solar covers, making the process more manageable. 

However, these reels, along with the rolled-up cover, can take up considerable space. If a reel isn’t used, folding or rolling the cover manually can be a hassle and might require more than one person.

Solar rings have a more straightforward storage solution. Being smaller, individual units, they can be easily stacked and stored in a compact manner.

Their design allows for quick removal and stacking, and they don’t require any additional equipment like reels. 

This makes them particularly suitable for pool owners with limited storage space or those who prefer a less labor-intensive storage process.

In the realm of storage considerations, solar rings have the advantage due to their compact and modular nature.

12. Longevity and Durability

Solar covers, made of UV-resistant plastic materials, are designed to withstand the harsh effects of direct sunlight and pool chemicals. 

However, their continuous exposure to these elements, combined with the wear and tear from rolling or folding, can lead to degradation over time. 

Typically, with proper care, a good-quality solar cover can last several seasons before showing signs of wear or reduced efficiency.

Solar rings, on the other hand, share a similar construction material as solar covers. 

Their segmented nature means that individual rings can be replaced if they get damaged, without the need to replace the entire set. 

This modular approach can extend the overall lifespan of the product. However, like solar covers, they too are susceptible to UV degradation and the effects of pool chemicals.

In a direct comparison, both solar covers and solar rings offer durability, with their lifespan largely dependent on the quality of materials used and the care they receive.

13. Cost Analysis

Solar covers, being large sheets designed to cover the entire pool, often have a higher initial cost, especially for larger pools. 

The price can vary based on the thickness, material quality, and UV resistance. 

While the upfront cost might be substantial, the savings they offer in terms of reduced heating bills, chemical conservation, and water savings can offset this over time.

Solar rings, being sold as individual units, might have a lower initial cost per unit. 

This allows pool owners the flexibility to purchase the number of rings they need, potentially spreading out the cost. 

However, to cover a pool adequately, multiple rings are required, which can add up. 

On the plus side, the ability to replace individual rings if they get damaged can lead to cost savings in the long run, as opposed to replacing an entire solar cover.

Thus, while solar covers might have a higher upfront cost, their long-term savings potential is significant. 

Solar rings, with their flexibility and modular benefits, can be a cost-effective solution, especially for those who prioritize ease of use and individual replacement options.


Do Solar Rings Actually Work?

Solar rings work by absorbing sunlight and converting it into heat, effectively warming the pool water.

What Do Solar Rings Do?

Solar rings float on the pool, capturing sunlight to heat the water and reduce evaporation.

What Is the Difference Between Solar Cover and Pool Cover?

The difference between a solar cover and a pool cover is that a solar cover is designed to harness sunlight to warm the pool and reduce evaporation, while a pool cover primarily protects the pool from debris and prevents water loss.

What Is a Solar Cover?

A solar cover is a sheet that covers the pool, using sunlight to heat the water and minimize evaporation.


As promised, we’ve covered the intricacies of both solar rings and solar covers, highlighting their respective strengths and challenges.

While each offers its own set of benefits, the choice ultimately boils down to individual preferences, pool specifications, and desired outcomes.

If you ask for my advice, I personally prefer solar covers for their comprehensive coverage and consistent heating capabilities. 

They tend to offer a more uniform temperature across the pool and significantly reduce chemical and water loss due to evaporation.

Do you still have questions? If so, feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer.

Kami Turky

Kami is a solar engineer with nearly a decade of experience in researching, testing, and reviewing various solar products. He has also provided technical consultation to several organizations on the best ways to incorporate solar energy into their operations. When he’s not busy helping others find the best solar solutions, Kami enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, camping, and exploring the natural wonders of his home state.

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