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    Inground Pool Kits: Adding an Automatic Pool Cover

    October 14, 2013


    Automatic pool covers are a great accessory for our inground vinyl pool kits, especially for those DIY pool builders that have safety and heating cost concerns. Just about any of our inground pool kits can be built with an automatic or manually operated safety pool cover.

    autocover_workingHow do automatic pool covers work? They use a simple pulley principle. At one end of the pool is a large reel, like a solar blanket reel to roll up the cover when it is open. Along side of the pool are two straight tracks which house the rope and pulleys on the other end. As the cover is opened, the rope pulls the cover back and the rope is unwound from a small rope reel while the cover is wound up on a large cover reel. When covering the pool, the rope and cover reels spin the other direction, and the rope is wound up, while the cover is unwound.

    Pros: Automatic Pool Covers

    1. Safety: An automatic cover protects the pool with a solid barrier to entry. It can support the weight of many people and large animals. They are not completely safe however, and could be a hazard to small infants if the cover has several inches of rain water that is not pumped off with a cover pump. They could also create a hazardous condition if they are not completely closed or completely open. However, accidents are rare with automatic covers, and they are one of the best Layers of Protection you can add to your pool.

    2. Conserves: Automatic covers, when closed, conserve heat, chemicals and water. It's easy to understand that most of the heat loss is through the surface of the pool. Covering the pool with a heavy solid material keeps heat in the pool and reduces it's evaporation. Blocking the sun and wind, auto covers reduce pool sanitizer needs, and keeps water more balanced, conserving pool chemical levels, requiring less adjustment chemicals, clarifiers or enzymes.

    3. Protects: Keeping rain out of your pool will help you maintain better water balance. Rain washes a lot of gunk out of the air, particulates of pollution, allergens, phosphates, dirt and dust, even algae spores. Acid rain, or low pH rain, is common in suburban areas, and the more urban, the more pollution is absorbed into your pool water. These chemicals and contaminants do not filter out, and many aren't removed by your pool sanitizers. Some are a tasty food for algae and bacteria. Automatic covers help keep your pool water cleaner and more pure, which is not only healthier, but easier to maintain.

    Cons: Automatic Pool Covers

    1. Expensive: Automatic pool covers will add around $5-15,000 to your inground pool costs, depending on the size, and if you are trying to hide the cover reel and tracks. There are maintenance costs as well. Every 10 years, you can expect to replace the fabric, ropes, pulleys, and maybe the motor. These costs can add up to around $2500, every 10 years, so this must be figured in to the real cost of an automatic pool cover. I have come across more than one broken and unused automatic cover in my day, when owners decided not to spend the money needed for maintenance. In addition, automatic covers need adjustments and tweaking of the ropes and pulleys from time to time. This can be done by a handy homeowner, or you can call a service company every year or two.

    2. Shape Limits: Not really, not anymore. Nowadays, nearly any shape pool can be accommodated with different track and deck designs. The rope tracks can be laid on the pool deck, or can be hidden underneath the pool coping stones, or hidden in the deck or between deck layers. With a modified cantilevered pool deck, you can add an automatic pool cover to most of the freeform pool shapes we offer, and still have the rope tracks hidden. For the lowest cost, just place the tracks right on the edge of a mostly rectangular pool.

    3. Cleaning: There also is the task of keeping an automatic cover pumped off and clean. When an automatic cover pump is used all the time, your issues with water on top of the cover will be small. Leaves, however, should be hosed off or blown off as the cover is being removed, because although most will fall off into the cover reel box, some will stay stuck on the cover as it is rolled up. When it unrolls, some leaves will fall off from the underside of the cover and then fall off into the pool.

    Automatic Pool Cover

    1. Manual or Automatic?

    You could opt for the type of 'automatic' pool cover that isn't really automatic. This lowers the cost by around half, even more if you do not build a box around the reel, as shown in the pictures below. Automatic pool covers use an electric motor or a hydraulic motor, to turn the reel, so all you have to do is turn the key.


    2. On Deck or Under Deck Tracks?

    You can choose to mount your rope tracks on the deck, right on the edge of the pool, or you can run them underneath the pool coping. For the standard C-channel vinyl pool coping or brick pool coping, a combination track is installed that has a track for the vinyl liner, and a space for the rope track to be installed, just under the coping.


    3. On Deck or Under Deck Cover Reel?

    Most will enclose the cover reel, either above the deck or below deck. You can build your own box of wood, or buy a pre-made box from the pool cover manufacturer. For the sleekest design, a box is built into the deck, which houses the cover and rope reels and the motor used by automatic pool covers.


    These are the main decisions that will need to be made when considering automatic pool covers. You'll also be able to select from several colors for the cover material.

    If you are thinking about adding an automatic pool cover to your inground pool kit installation, give us a call. We helped hundreds of homeowner pool builders sort through the details of purchasing and installing an automatic pool cover when they build their own pool.

    Let us help you! Automatic Pool Cover Experts are standing by...  

    Chris Low
    SPP Pool Expert  

    Blog Author
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