Having a pool is never easy: it needs frequent cleaning, consumes lots of energy, and forces you to constantly be on watch to prevent children from falling in. With that in mind, we selected the 3 best automatic pool covers that will make a huge difference in solving all these issues. We also went the extra mile to find an alternative solution that will fit your budget (as regular auto pool covers are quite costly).
Every auto pool cover mentioned in the article does its job well; however, brands often have a slightly different focus, and understanding these specifics will help you choose the best fit and not pay for features you don’t need. In addition, we’ll provide you with the most important tips you need to know to make your automated pool cover last for decades.
Comparison Table: 3 Best Automatic Pool Covers (and a Few Alternatives)
We carefully studied the technical characteristics of each model, identified customer segments that each brand is targeting, and analyzed more than 200 reviews to ensure the products we recommend will work as advertised and that the tips we give hold real value. You can proceed with the comparison table for the 3 best retractable pool covers below, or jump straight to the detailed reviews for more info.
Solar Lakes Motorized Solar Blanket Cover Reel
Best budget-friendly choice
- Mechanism: most parts are made of aluminum and plastic. Uses a lithium-ion battery.
- Cover fabric: solar blanket available as cover fabric (for separate purchase)
- Pool characteristics: can operate a reel for up to a 20 x 40' rectangular in-ground swimming pool
- Technology: operated with a waterproof handheld remote control
- The most budget-friendly option by a huge margin
- The only option on the market that motorizes the cover reel
- Can be attached to an existing manual reel in 5 minutes
- Comes with 1-year manufacturer warranty
- Makes the process of covering and uncovering the pool almost effortless
Most reliable mechanism
Price needs to be requested individually
- Mechanism: heavy-duty stainless steel mechanism
- Cover fabric: heavy-duty vinyl cover with patented heat seal webbing
- Pool characteristics: Designed for a full-size safety cover, up to 20 x 50′
- Technology: safety touchpad and controller that can send notifications
- The most durable materials used to construct the best mechanism in the industry
- The most extensive warranty coverage
- Meets all safety requirements
- Reduces electricity consumption by up to 50%
Automatic Pool Covers: AutoGuard
Easiest to maintain
Price needs to be requested individually
- Mechanism: steel and aluminum
- Cover fabric: coated vinyl fabric cover with high-density polyethylene housing
- Pool characteristics: can be adapted for almost any pool size
- Technology: PowerTouch and SmartMotion control system
- The most convenient repair process
- Meets the requirements of nearly all types and shapes of in-ground pools
- Convenient use due to PowerTouch and SmartMotion technology
- Neat, minimalistic design thanks to an inconspicuous, out-of-the-way recessed system
Cover-Pools: SnapTop Track Cover
Most versatile option
Price needs to be requested individually
- Mechanism: stainless steel hardware with a hard-coated aluminum break
- Cover fabric: vinyl-resin fabric cover reinforced with polyester mesh
- Pool characteristics: can be installed on pools of different materials and of odd shapes
- Technology: AquaLink smartphone app operates the interface
- The most versatile pool cover thanks to a variety of track options
- The most convenient to operate due to the AquaLink phone app
- Great at preventing evaporation (up to 94% retention)
- Designed specifically as a winter cover
What’s Up with the Market, And Why Are Electric Pool Covers So Expensive?
There are four large manufacturers represented in the automatic pool covers market: Coverstar (owned by Latham Pools), Automatic Pool Covers, Cover-Pools, and Aquamatic (we cover differences between them in our detailed reviews). It must be said that all four do their job rather well, but they all put a slightly different emphasis on three essential benefits.
For example, Aquamatic, which didn’t make it into the top 3, excels at manufacturing expensive, complicated, energy-saving machinery that will fit large commercial pools. Although their product is good, it’s just not what an owner of a regular home pool needs.
It is also crucial to understand that there is no cheap automatic cover available (but there is a low-cost alternative). The cost of an automatic pool cover ranges between $12,000 and $20,000 and depends on a variety of factors. To know the exact price, you will need to contact the local dealer and decide on specific details such as the location of the tracks (above the pool, inside the pool walls, or recessed in the pool deck), type of materials (aluminum or stainless steel), pool shape, motor technology, delivery, and installation cost. Manufacturing a durable and reliable cover takes lots of effort, so the prices are justified. But are the benefits worth these high prices?
What Value Do Auto Covers Provide?
People usually buy automatic pool covers for in-ground pools to achieve three goals:
- Ensure pool safety for small children or pets
This is arguably the most frequent reason for purchase. When it comes to pool safety, there is no better way to get peace of mind other than installing an automatic pool cover. The cover itself is made of reinforced vinyl, which is strong enough to hold 485 pounds (the requiredminimum). This benefit is unquantifiable, and if safety is the primary concern for you, an auto cover is definitely the way to go.
- Use less effort and chemicals to clean the pool
Since you prevent dirt, debris, rain, and the resulting algae from getting into the pool, you need to spend much less time and chemicals to get rid of those when you own an auto cover. And, of course, you no longer need to waste time covering and uncovering the pool, which also saves lots of time. It can save you hundreds of hours over the course of years, thus being another strong argument for purchase.
- Reduce heat loss and the overall electricity bill
You probably want your pool to be ready to swim in the shortest amount of time. That means you have to keep the pool warm using a water heater—and that’s a lot of energy. Automatic pool covers are extremely efficient at preventing evaporation (too little evaporation can cause harmful chlorine levels, but you can easily avoid it following these tips) and keeping the heat in. Savings from reduced heater time go above 50% in some cases. It is very significant, and these savings add up with time.
Now, let’s see how different brands approach these goals.
Which Auto Pool Cover Excels at What: Detailed Review
Coverstar: Eclipse — The Most Reliable Mechanism
Winning Category: Most Reliable Mechanism
Coverstar is probably the most well-known brand on the market, and for a good reason. It uses the most reliable materials in the industry (full stainless steel instead of the more common aluminum), and provides the most extensive warranties on its components. Actually, it was really hard to find negative reviews, and the only potential issue we’ve identified is that it might not be the best fit for a vinyl pool. Overall, it is a great option, but the other two models can be, in many cases, easier to install and repair.
APC: AutoGuard — the Easiest to Maintain
Winning Category: Easiest to Maintain
Automatic Pool Covers, or simply APC, is another big name in the business. It uses a bit more simplistic construction that allows easier repair if something breaks, while its performance is still one of the best in the industry. It is a versatile option that can be installed onto an existing pool of almost any shape and size. However, it is not the easiest model to install, and we recommend double-checking the compatibility of all essential parts (especially tracks). Most likely, it will require more frequent, but cheaper and less cumbersome, maintenance than Coverstar, and if it is properly installed and taken care of, the inconvenience will be minimal.
Cover-Pools: SnapTop Track Cover — the Most Versatile Option
Winning Category: Most Versatile Option
Cover-Pools offers a variety of interesting and unique solutions, and they can serve a long time. The mechanism is durable, energy-saving is top-notch, and different track designs allow the auto cover to be installed in practically every type of pool. But the downside is that this versatility requires a very careful installation, and not every builder can guarantee that. Overall, it can be a good choice if other electric pool covers don’t fit your pool design.
Can I Motorize My Pool Cover More Cheaply? (Yes, You Can!)
Even if your budget does not allow you to install the traditional track-based automatic pool cover, you can still get significant value by motorizing the existing manual pool cover reel. To make it work, you will need three items: a regular reel, a solar blanket, and a solar-powered roller. We have a separate article where we choose the best solar blanket and reel, and here we’ll look at:
Best Budget-Friendly Option
After combining these three parts (which takes less than 10 minutes, according to the videos), you will get a remotely controlled motorized pool cover for less than $2,400 (assuming you had to purchase all three parts). Does it provide the same benefits as a regular auto pool cover? Well, it does quite a few things:
- It does prevent debris from getting into the pool, but you have to make sure there are no gaps between the solar blanket and the pool walls.
- It also helps to keep the pool warmer and thus save electricity, but it is less effective, of course.
- It requires minimal effort to cover and uncover the pool and is very convenient overall.
- The customer reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and most of them praise personalized customer support from the owner and the availability of spare parts.
On the other hand:
- It does not solve the safety issue, as the solar blanket is not nearly sturdy enough to hold a person.
- The solar blanket will not last too long, several seasons at max. The solar panel and the roller are more durable, but still contain many aluminum and plastic parts. On the upside, replacing some details is usually not a big problem.
Here is a typical review we found for this option:
“It is easy to install and always charged (even in not-so-sunny Pittsburgh, PA). Operating is also easy as you simply need to press a button on the remote. Right after the purchase, Gabor from Solar Lakes called me to make sure what I ordered would work with the pool reel I was going to use. The product arrived quickly. A little over a year later, a small plastic piece called a motor shaft adaptor broke, and I could not find this piece anywhere. I contacted Solar Lakes via Amazon, and Gabor replied almost immediately. He verified what I needed and shipped the new part the next day. He not only did not charge me for this part but also upgraded it to an aluminum adaptor. Wonderful product and Company!”
Overall, if your primary goal is to make the cleaning and covering processes less cumbersome, and you don’t want to spend $20,000+ for a regular electric pool cover, it might be your best option. But choosing the best automatic pool cover option is not enough—it is also crucial to install it properly and provide careful maintenance. So next, we have 6 essential tips for your installation and maintenance processes.
6 Most Important Tips to Properly Install and Maintain a Pool Cover
There are things we see homeowners get wrong about pool maintenance very frequently. As a result, the efficiency and lifetime of their pool covers, both manual and automated, get greatly reduced. Here, we have collected essential tips you need to know to avoid those typical mistakes and make enjoying your pool effortless and cheaper.
3 Tips for Automatic Pool Covers
- When installing the cover, make sure you provide your builder with the correct pool size measurements.
We reviewed practically all comments available and can confidently say that there is no bigger cause of frustration than trying to install a pool cover that is too big or too small. The negative comments usually sound like “the builder ordered the wrong size cover.” It is, therefore, absolutely crucial to choose the most reliable installation team, even if it costs more, and monitor the shipment process closely to ensure that you get what you paid for.
- Remove rainwater and debris from the top of the cover weekly
You might assume that if the cover material is durable enough, it will easily deal with seemingly innocuous leaves and rainwater. Well, it will, for some time… The problem is that dirt can damage the track mechanism, causing it to break down eventually. And when rainwater evaporates from the top of the cover, it creates a high-chlorine environment that harms the fabric. The auto pool cover will last way longer and save you repair money if you don’t neglect weekly cleanings, and don’t forget to clean tracks every 3–6 months.
- Open your pool cover weekly to let the water evaporate and maintain a healthy chlorine level
As you now know, high chlorine concentration can hurt the fabric of the cover. And while preventing water evaporation is crucial from an energy-saving standpoint, letting too much chlorine build up under the cover can be devastating. The good thing is, all you need to do is to open the pool once a week and monitor the chlorine level to keep it between 1.0 and 4.0 ppm.
And 3 Recommendations for All Pool Covers
- Read the instructions carefully
Unlike regular track-based automated pool covers, installing solar blankets and assembling manual and motorized reels is aproject. Overlooking one screw from the installation manual can make the process take several hours of struggle instead of a 30-minute breeze.
- Reinforce the reel if you are dealing with stormy weather
Usually, the instructions mention ways to make the roller sturdier. But in case it doesn’t, keep in mind that a simple way to prevent the reel and solar element from falling is to support the sandbags. Falling can really hurt the plastic parts of the solar-powered roller, so avoiding it will greatly increase its life expectancy.
- Choose a solar blanket that is slightly larger than your pool
The key here is to leave no gaps between the pool walls and the edges of the blanket. Don’t be afraid to buy a slightly oversized version—it is easy to cut the extra fabric off the cover and adjust it to the shape of your pool.
Purchasing an automatic pool cover is never a bad addition to your existing or planned pool. Every brand in the market will deliver on three core aspects: ensuring poolside safety, making pool cleaning less cumbersome, and providing energy efficiency. We covered the slight differences between the brands to help you choose the best automatic cover for your pool.
All electric pool covers are costly, so we also found a budget-friendly option. If you prioritize cleaning benefits over safety, then you can consider getting a motorized pool cover which is much cheaper. Depending on which option you choose, you’ll need to be careful with the installation and maintenance processes, so you can also look at the helpful tips we collected. We hope this article will help you choose the best automatic pool cover to fit your preferences and make your experience with it smooth and long-lasting!
Best Budget-Friendly Option
A unique, low-cost alternative to a traditional track-based auto pool cover. You can attach it to a manual reel with a solar blanket in 5 minutes to prevent debris and heat loss while making the process of covering your pool almost effortless and remotely controlled.
🛠️ Who Makes the Best Automatic Pool Covers?
Each brand in the market has unique features and focus, but all of them provide the same benefits: safety, cleaning reduction, and energy efficiency.
🤔 What Are the Cons of Automatic Pool Covers?
Automatic pool covers are expensive, and not everyone can afford them. Apart from the budget, problems like high chlorine levels can only arise if the cover is not used properly.
💰 Can I Install an Automatic Pool Cover More Cheaply?
You can install a motorized pool cover reel for much less money. It doesn’t provide the same level of safety but is still very effective at keeping dirt out of the pool and preventing heat loss.
📅 What Is the Life Expectancy of an Automatic Pool Cover?
If you conduct regular maintenance, the whole construction can last for decades. The cover fabric and smaller details, however, might wear out and require a change after 5–7 years.
❄️ Are Automatic Pool Covers Good for Winter?
Some of them are, and some are not. For example, Cover-Pools’ selling point is its wintertime performance. But in general, it is always better to consult the manufacturer to know for sure.
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