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Bob Bolcik hasn’t had to make repairs on his solar pool heating system since it was installed eight years ago.
East County Wednesday, May. 13, 2015 2 years ago

Cost-saving solutions

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Solar power can heat pools during the winter months and cut down on costs.
by: Jessica Salmond Staff Writer

Looking at Bob Bolcik’s pool, you wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary — just the usual clear, inviting water rippling against tiled sides. 

But what sets Bolcik apart from some pool owners is in the pipes: his water is sun-kissed via a solar heating system on his roof. 

Bolcik is a Tara Preserve resident and has lived in his home since 2003. A former Maryland resident, Bolcik said he never dreamed he would live in Florida. However, during a February 2003 snowstorm, he measured 33 inches of snow in his driveway — and he couldn’t get his car out.

“I said, ‘This is the last winter I’m spending in Maryland,’” he said, prompting the move to Florida.

Eight years ago, a solar energy company based in Venice approached both him and a former neighbor about installing a solar-assisted heating system for their pools.

“We’re frugal people, and the benefits outweighed the cost of the system,” Bolcik said. 

After the initial installation of the solar system, Bolcik doesn’t incur any costs to heat his 7,300-cubic-foot pool. In addition, the system hasn’t broken, it doesn’t need cleaning, and it doesn’t require electricity.

In comparison, Bolcik uses natural gas to heat a smaller spa pool that is approximately a sixth the size of the regular pool. Using gas to heat the spa costs about $5 a day, he said. 

In addition, Bolcik is able to keep his pool open longer. 

“It bought us more usage of the pool; we can keep using the pool during the winter season,” he said. 

The black panels on his roof heat the water that is carried via pipes from his pool to the roof and back down again. A flick of a switch opens a valve, which allows water to start flowing through the system. Bolcik can’t control the exact temperature of his water as he would be able to with a gas heater or a heat pump, but he said he can raise the temperature about 10 to 12 degrees higher via solar power. He likes to keep the pool heated at about 80 degrees, he said. 

“If solar pool heating doesn’t work in Florida, can you tell me where it would?” 

– Jim Roark, of Roark Solar

 

The panels were installed on the southern side of his roof — the side that gets the most sunlight. Bolcik shuts down the system in the summer and turns it off when he travels.

Jim Roark, owner of Roark Solar in Sarasota, said the best way to keep a solar system such as Bolcik’s from needing repairs is to hire a solar contractor to install the system, rather than a plumber or another service professional, and to pick a high-quality system.

Roark said the solar system is the most inexpensive method for pool heating. A gas heater is the most effective, but comes with higher cost, he says. 

A gas heater could run a pool owner an average of $4,000 to $5,000 a year. A heat pump would cost about $3,000 a year. A solar heat system: $0.

Roark said a quality solar system will cost $4,000, depending on the size of the pool, and will last about 12 years. A gas heater costs about $2,200, and a heat pump costs about $4,000.

“The solar system will still be under warranty when you’re on your third gas heater,” Roark said. “If solar pool heating doesn’t work in Florida, can you tell me where it would?”

 

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