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What Is An Automatic Pool Cover?

Part of having a pool is handling all of the assorted maintenance required to keep it in good working order, as well as purchasing the necessary parts and equipment. In addition to standard pumps and filters, all responsible pool owners will need to purchase a pool cover.

Pool covers are one of the most important accessories for both inground and above ground pools, and purchasing one is not a question of “if”, but of “what kind”. Multiple styles of pool covers are in the market today, including both manual and automatic designs.

For those looking to minimize the time and effort it takes to cover and uncover their pool, automatic operations may be the best solution.

Why do I need a pool cover?

Pool covers are critical for a variety of reasons, all of which directly result in saving you money. Good covers lay on the surface of the water and prevent excess evaporation of water. This means you will lose less water over the season.

Additionally, pool covers help owners to regulate the temperature of the water, meaning your pool will retain heat more efficiently as it is separated from the cooler surrounding air. The less energy you spend heating your pool, the less expensive your monthly utility bills may be. In some scenarios, pool covers may be able to regulate temperatures efficiently enough to eliminate the need for electric or gas pool heaters altogether.

Even if money is not your main concern, pool covers work to do more than just reduce your monthly bills. They reduce the amount of energy you will spend cleaning your pool, as they block out falling debris such as leaves, dirt, and grass which can easily fall or be blown in by wind.

unground swimming pool

What is an automatic pool cover?

Automatic pool covers are a new innovation in pool maintenance that have been gaining popularity in recent years. They’re often appreciated for the convenience and hands-off approach they offer to owners.

One of the biggest drawbacks to traditional pool covers is that they remain bulky, heavy, and generally hard to maneuver. Automatic covers eliminate this problem by requiring no manual movement or storing. Homeowners can simply activate the system to cover and uncover their pool.

How do they work?

The mechanisms behind automatic pool covers are generally straightforward. A leading edge tube attaches the pool cover to one side of the pool. From there, tracks running parallel along either side move the pool cover across the surface of the water when the system is activated.

These tracks can be mounted within the pool, along the outside edge, or even on the pool deck in accordance with your preferences. When activated, interlocking gears spin the leading edge tube, bringing the pool cover out and over the water.

Gears for automatic systems can be powered in two ways, usually determined by the overall size of a homeowners pool. Most commonly, automatic covers are powered by electricity. However, if the pool in question is quite large, a hydraulics system may need to be installed. For this reason, larger pools will typically be more expensive to cover.

unground automatic swimming pool cover

Inground Pools

When dealing with automatic pool covers, generally the pool in question is an inground style. Inground pools offer a simpler installation approach. Many contractors will offer the option of an automatic system before the pool is fully installed or designed.

In the case that a system is included with the initial build of your pool, tracking will often be better hidden from view as it will be worked into the design. However, existing inground pools have several options for automatic covers as well.

For existing pools, it is likely that the tracks will run above ground, parallel to the sides of the pool. The leading edge and gears will also remain above ground, and is often disguised in a variety of ways. Some companies offer bench style construction to add seating or storage to a pool in addition to camouflaging the mechanics of the installation.

Whether you are planning on breaking ground on a new pool, or looking to add an automatic cover to an existing inground feature, there’s a system on the market that can work for almost any homeowner. However, if you are looking to add an automatic cover to an above ground pool, you may face more difficulties.

Above Ground Pools

Though above ground pools are often cost efficient, they continuously offer less flexibility and opportunities for streamlining than their inground counterparts. This is seen again with the availability of automatic cover systems for above ground units.

Where inground pool units offer built-in options, or are easily modified, above ground units often lack much of the structure needed to make automatic pool covers possible. Because inground pools are built directly into your backyard’s hardscape, they offer substantial pool decks parallel to their sides. It is this deck area that is used for automatic cover installation that doesn’t look bulky or out of place.

above ground swimming pool

This same space is typically not afforded by above ground pools. This makes tracks hard to run, and offers limited space for the leading edge and mechanical gear to be installed. Automatic units installed on above ground pools can often be pricey, while offering a less streamlined look, and even interfering or creating hazards along the edge of the pool.

For this reason, most homeowners with above ground pools find themselves more interested in investing in updated manual covers designed with solar paneling and lightweight material. These manual covers require no installation, are cost effective, and add no bulk to the unit.

Should I invest in an automatic pool cover?

When deciding whether or not an automatic pool cover is for you, main points of consideration remain the style of your pool, and your own lifestyle.

For those with inground pools, installation of an automatic system is nearly always possible, though may be expensive. However, an automatic cover affords exceptional convenience, safety, and temperature regulation. For homeowners getting frequent use out of their pool, it may be well worth the expense.

On the other hand, if you use your pool infrequently, or maintain an above ground unit, and automatic cover may end up being more money than it’s worth. Above ground installations can be logistically difficult and in some cases, not possible. For those getting infrequent use out of their pool, manually removing a cover a few times a month may be a small inconvenience.

Ultimately, while automatic pool covers are worthwhile investments to many looking to optimize convenience and reduce their energy expenditure, for some it may remain an unnecessarily expensive accessory.

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