Mesh Versus Solid Safety Covers
You have probably heard good things about using a winter safety cover instead of other pool cover systems like tarp and water bag pool covers. Using pool tarps is still an option if you are looking for a budget pool cover however the costs of replacing your tarp every few years combined with the cost of replacing multiple water bags every year due to leaks means that the price between these two pool cover options is closer than you might believe. If you consider the fact that safety covers are head and shoulders better than pool tarp covers you can see how it would be easy to justify the extra upfront cost of getting a safety cover for your winter cover.
Safety is paramount when it comes to owning a swimming pool and a winter safety cover is a substantial improvement over tarp covers in this regard. Tarps, especially with standing water that is sometimes frozen and appears to be "solid", are an extreme danger to small children and larger pets who might try to walk out onto it. A tarp, even when secured with water bags, will pull into the pool under the weight of even a small person. Any person or animal unlucky enough to venture onto the tarp will immediately find themselves enveloped in a most sinister way. Tarps are very unforgiving in that they almost immediately will wrap up their victim and even pulling the person from the pool can be a challenge due to the size of the waterlogged and folded tarp. You should never, ever walk on a pool tarp even if the surface currently appears to be solidly frozen.
As you can see there was some room on the table for improvement with tarp covers in terms of their potential for danger. Add to this the fact that water accumulates on top of tarp covers which quickly turns green and black from being stagnant and open to bugs, rodents and other visitors like ducks. In total tarp covers are not that cheap anymore (mostly due to the water bag replacement costs), are fairly dangerous, hold stagnant water for half of the year, and tarp covers also eat up a lot of deck space which really diminishes your ability to get the full use of your yard while the pool is closed. Pool safety covers all but solve these issues but there are a few different cover options to choose from:
Light duty mesh safety covers - The most cost effective (cheapest) pool safety covers are a light duty mesh product. Some manufacturers sell these as a 95% cover which indicates they stop 95% of the light from going through. Water strains through the cover while physical debris sits on top until it dries up and blows away. These covers are extremely strong despite being very light such that one person can easily pick up and transport this cover around as needed even if the pool and cover are large. The strength of the cover is enough to support the weight of your entire family, though it could be said that it is less strong than the heavy duty mesh or solid covers.
Heavy duty mesh safety covers - Still mesh which allows water and light to filter through, the heavy duty mesh covers allow less light as it stops close to 99% of light from penetrating into the water. This is useful during the spring when too much sunlight might encourage algae growth since the pool has been dormant for the winter and does not have any sanitizer in the water. The heavy duty mesh covers are much heavier than the light duty mesh covers which makes them harder to transport and harder to put on the pool.
Solid safety covers - The most expensive of the winter safety cover options are solid safety covers which, unlike mesh covers, do not allow any water to drain into the pool. Both water and physical debris accumulate on these covers totally isolated from the pool water underneath. This means that pools with solid covers do not suffer with stained water from tannins that pass with the water into the pool like mesh covers do. The down side to this is that as water accumulates on the pool cover you must use a pump to remove the standing water. If left for too long the weight of the water on the cover can stretch out springs and hardware as well as contribute to binding of the deck anchors.
All three of these are great options for covering your pool and the area that you live will make a difference as to which is the "best pool cover" since different pools have different needs. In areas that are too cold to swim in the winter, but not so cold as to experience freeze and thaw conditions, I think a solid cover can be a good option. In areas that have very cold winters I tend to lean away from solid covers as the snow load and standing water is an issue, especially since it is hard to pump off with temperatures at or below freezing.
I also find that solid safety covers are exceedingly heavy and hard to install. It takes some technique to get a solid cover on a pool, and a fair bit of brawn (from more than one person) and so I can image that the average pool owner with no experience with these would struggle greatly with this process. By comparison the light duty mesh is a dream...it basically crawls out of the bag and installs itself on the pool. Well maybe not quite that easy but it really is a night and day difference between a solid cover and light mesh cover.
Benefits of light duty mesh safety covers
- Cheapest pool safety cover option
- Limits access to the pool for the winter season
- Strong enough to support multiple people or pets
- Light enough for one person to pick up and carry
- Easiest of all pool covers to install yearly
- Can last more than 20 years (mine is 26 years old and still in use)
We were the first people on our block to have a mesh safety cover and our family pool business used our 20x40' pool and cover as a showpiece for decades. It is not guaranteed that you would get anywhere near to the same longevity as these first generation covers, but we are approaching three decades of use for our cover. Aside from an alteration to repair a panel that had ripped from a falling tree one year the cover is fully original and fully functional, though it will likely be replaced soon as it is starting to look worn. The trick to keeping your cover in good shape for such a long time is to store it properly during the summer to prevent rodents or pests from destroying it. For more information you can read this article about how to store a pool cover to learn more about what to do and what to avoid when storing a safety cover for the year.
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