Solar Blankets for swimming pools are standard equipment for many pool owners. Pioneered in the 1970s, solar blankets caught on fast and are a staple of the retail and wholesale pool trade. Just what goes into a solar blanket and why are they popular when they don't last very long? This article will address these fascinating issues!
Solar blankets are essentially extruded polyethylene film. They are essentially an uprated version of the packing bubble that kids (and some adults) love to pop. The manufacturing process is relatively simple. Plastic resin pellets are heated to the melting point in an extruder. The hot plastic exits the extruder in two sheets of wide, hot film to keep the material flexible.
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The two sheets are passed over a rotating drum filled with holes to which heavy suction is applied. As the sheets come together under the hole-filled drum the suction pulls the warm plastic into bubbles that form the familiar bubble wrap look. The finished sheets are wound onto rolls. The rolled material is heat or ultrasonically welded to make wider sections. These sections are then cut to the necessary dimensions for all the different pool sizes out there.
Solar blankets provide two important benefits: evaporation control and passive solar heating. The evaporation control is a no-brainer. Spread a sheet of floating plastic on water and it won't evaporate very fast. The passive solar concept is also simple. The bubble-trapped air is an insulator and the warm summer sun provides the heat.