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Pool Covers: The Differences, Benefits & How to Buy

By Team Royal - Updated On: 09/22/23

You want to cover your pool. But why? And how? The options can seem overwhelming. We’re here to simplify the information! First, there are really only three types of covers to choose from! See, easier already!

We’ll cover the benefits each cover has to offer to help you make the best decision for you and your family!

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Keep in mind that all cover options will help to keep debris such as dirt, leaves, and twigs from entering the pool. Covers also reduce the amount of sun-grown algae in your pool as they provide a shield from Mr. Sun’s rays. This keeps your pool cleaner and quicker to jump back into after the cover comes off!


Winter Pool Covers


A winter cover is essentially an incredibly large tarp that goes over your pool and sits on the water in the winter time to help keep out debris. The cover is held in place by water bags, which will need to be replaced often.

Winter covers are initially the easiest to install and the most cost-effective choice upfront. However, these covers will only last between 1-5 years (depending on your environment and care) before needing to be replaced.

The key difference is, unlike safety covers, there are no safety benefits to winter covers. In fact, they can cause incredible safety concerns if a person or animal wonders onto the cover and becomes entrapped or ensnared once engulfed in the water.

Winter Cover Advantages

  • Keeps the Pool Clean
  • Blocks Out Sun
  • Product Cost is Comparatively Low
  • Easiest Initial Installation
  • Quick and Easy Availability

Winter Cover Disadvantages

  • No Safety Features
  • Potential Risk for Children and Animals.
  • Poor Durability.
  • Both Water Bags and Cover Needs Replaced Often
  • Visually Unappealing

NOT-SO-FUN-FACT: Have you heard of the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine? It states that landowners may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on land if the injury is caused by an object on the land that is likely to attract children. That means that if your pool is not properly secured you- as a pool owner -could be held liable for injuries or even accidental drownings of neighborhood children and youth, even if they trespassed onto the property.

One of the main benefits of a safety cover (traditional or automatic) is the additional security that you provide for your family and pets but also to your neighbors, unintended guests, and wondering wildlife (which can claw/ruin a vinyl liner attempting to get out of the pool).

Safety covers are made of a stronger, more durable material than winter covers in order to ensure the desired safety components. These covers are able to withstand between 485 – 4,000 pounds! This makes any brand of safety cover much more likely to long outlast a winter cover.

Lastly, after initial installation, safety covers are very easy to remove and reinstall season after season, typically only taking a few minutes for average size pools. Let’s look at the two types of safety covers- traditional and automatic!

Swimming Pool Safety Covers


Traditional safety covers are either woven mesh or solid vinyl which are secured to your pool’s deck with straps to anchors around the entire perimeter of your pool in order to close your pool for the cooler season. Safety covers also prevent accidents as they provide extra protection for children, animals, and unintended guests.

While winter covers may require maintenance during the winter to remove leaves and water, safety covers typically require very little attention.

The main deterrent for not purchasing a safety cover over a winter cover is almost always price. However, keep in mind that a winter cover is only initially more cost effective upfront. In the long run, a safety cover, which on average lasts 12-15 years, will cost about the same as needing to replace a winter cover over the same course of time. If you take into account the added expenses of frequent water bag replacements, cover pumps, and the increased labor of springtime cover cleaning, a safety cover can even be cheaper in the long run.

Safety Cover Advantages

  • Keeps Out Large Debris
  • Safety- Will Prevent Access to Pool
  • Visually Appealing
  • Low Maintenance
  • Durable and Long Lifespan

Safety Cover Disadvantages

  • Higher Costs Compared to a Single Winter Cover
  • Custom Covers Can Take 3-4 Weeks to Create
  • Installation Requires Tools and Moderate Labor

Pool safety covers come in two main types: mesh safety covers and solid safety covers. Both types of safety cover material provide protection for your pool and guests, however each has its own advantages:

Mesh Safety Cover Advantages

  • Lighter and Easier to Handle
  • Rain and Snow Pass Through the Mesh into The Pool
  • Leaves and Large Debris Are Collected on Top
  • Less Expensive Than a Solid Safety Cover

Solid Safety Cover Advantages

  • Blocks 100% Of Sunlight Preventing Algae Growth Which Can Stain Your Pool
  • Easier Spring Clean Up as Dirty Water is Kept Out
  • Prevents Fine Debris from Entering the Pool
  • Stronger More Durable Material


Automatic Safety Covers


Automatic safety covers are intended for daily use instead of just seasonal usage. This comes with many advantages right off the bat. What other covers can only offer in the winter- automatic safety covers offer every day making them good examples of you get what you pay for.

There is no safer way to cover your pool than with the daily use of an automatic safety cover! These covers ensure that all the sides of the pool are sealed preventing any entry into the pool resulting in extreme peace of mind whenever your pool is not in use.

Covers minimize evaporation; minimizing evaporation on a daily basis can help to lower your water bill over the course of a swimming season as you won’t be constantly adding water to the pool to make up for the lost volume!

Auto covers also help to keep your pool clean much more often and by keeping dirt and debris out of your pool on a regular basis, you have the additional added benefits of:

  • Reducing the need to run your filtration system (energy saving!)
  • Decreasing the expense/usage of chemicals & chlorine required to keep your pool clean
    • Using a pool cover can reduce a pool's chemical consumption by 35 - 60%
  • Dramatically reducing the costs of service routines by needing them less often

You can potentially save up to 75% of energy used to filter and treat the water by covering your pool when it is not being used! Also with reduced operating hours, your equipment lasts longer! Your pumps/motors need replaced less often and filters require less frequent cleanings which in some cases can also conserves water!

Here’s a big money saver! If you heat your pool to extend your swimming season, an automatic safety cover will keep a vast majority of that heat in the pool when you are not using it! This will result in you not having to reheat your pool as often, dramatically reducing heating costs. Furthermore, covering a heated swimming pool at night will retain heat instead of losing it overnight when temperatures drop.

All the energy saving benefits of automatic pool covers won’t do you any good if your pool is never actually covered. Which is why the majority of auto covers utilize a simple activation switch to roll on and off your pool in less than 2 minutes! This quick user-friendly design has made auto covers the most used pool cover product on the market!

Automatic safety cover technology can be installed on just about any shape/size pool, even existing irregular shaped pools!  They can even be installed in a way that makes them virtually hidden when not in use! Even when covering the pool, the fabric comes in a wide variety colors to help enhance the overall look of your pool area!

Auto Cover Advantages

  • Keeps the Pool Clean Daily
  • Blocks Out Sun Daily
  • Provide Daily Safety
  • Visually Appealing
  • Durable and Long Lifespan
  • Saves Money in the Long Run
  • Reduces Energy Use & Helps Hold in Heat
  • Helps Minimize Pests in the Pool

Auto Cover Disadvantages

  • Higher Upfront Cost
  • Higher Replacement Costs
  • Can Cause Pools to be “Too Warm”
  • If Installing on An Existing Pool May Need to Re-Deck
  • Additional Parts to Replace- Ropes, Pulleys, Etc.

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When it comes to the pool ownership experience, there is an amazing feeling that comes with flipping a switch and clear swimmer-ready water is revealed. No leaves. No insects. No need to haul out the poled pool net for half an hour while your children constantly ask if they can get in yet. When you have an automatic cover, you have a warm clean pool at a moment’s notice.

Regardless of your cover choice, a well-maintained pool is essential for a well-enjoyed pool. We hope that this article has provided you with the information needed to make the best decision for your specific pool needs!

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Here are some additional resources for swimming pool covers: 

Filed Under:

Safety, Pool Covers, General