There are basically two types of pool covers: safety pool covers and
floating pool covers. Safety covers are designed primarily as a physical barrier to
prevent children from falling into the pool water. As an indirect benefit, safety covers
often help keep the pool water warm. Floating covers, as the name implies, float on top of
the water and are designed primarily to heat the pool water utilizing solar energy.
Floating covers are not safety covers. However, both types of pool covers tend to keep
leaves and other debris out of the pool, reduce heat loss, and reduce water evaporation.
The following is a description of pool covers which you might consider purchasing and
recommendations as to their acceptability.
Floating Pool Covers
As the name implies, floating pool covers are designed to float directly on the water
surface and are not securely anchored. Floating pool covers range in style from a bubble
type cover to a plastic blanket. Those which are made of plastic sheets with air bubbles
throughout are often referred to as "bubble covers". Some floating covers are
designed to be held down with sand bags or other weights placed on the deck. However, such
covers are not necessarily securely anchored.
Floating pool covers are considered by many pool safety experts to be inherently
dangerous. For example, toddlers are attracted to them like to toys. They are typically
opaque or translucent, not transparent, thus making it difficult, if not impossible to
clearly see what is beneath them. Secondly, when placed upon the water the cover gives the
appearance that it can be walked on; especially to the eyes of a small child. Because they
are normally not securely attached to the pool, floating covers can collapse under the
weight of a child and possibly result in suffocation.
Tests have shown that floating pool covers will return to their original position within
10 to 20 seconds after something has fallen underneath them, thereby concealing a
potential drowning victim. There have been documented cases of children being trapped and
hidden from view under such covers who were not found until brain damage or death had
In addition, pool bathers have been known to fold back only part of the floating cover and
swim in a half-covered pool. Bathers can become disoriented, swim under the cover, and
become trapped underneath. In one case, both a mother and her two children drowned when
they became trapped underneath a floating pool cover while swimming.
To reduce the risk of a floating pool cover, you should:
1. Make sure your pool cover meets or exceeds the ASTM Standard
Performance Specifications for pool covers.
2. Always remove the pool cover completely before entering pool.
3. Always remove standing water from the pool cover.
4. Always cover the pool with a safety cover per ASTM standards when
not in use.
Automatic or Semi-Automatic Nonrigid Pool Covers
These are typically vinyl or fabric covers which operate on a track system which is
installed on the deck or under the coping. These covers generally operate mechanically.
When installed on the deck, the track system can become a tripping hazard, and when
installed under the coping, the track may make the coping too thick to be an acceptable
handhold. In addition, the track may serve as a trap for debris. There have also been
problems with the placement of the automatic reel system. A safety pool cover which
features these potential health and safety problems may not be suitable for use on pools
and spas. Covers whose designs overcome these health and safety concerns should be
evaluated in order to determine compliance with these guidelines and applicable local
ordinances, zoning requirements, state laws, and deed restrictions and requirements.
Anchored Fabric Covers
These are typically held in place by anchors sunk into the pool deck. The cover is
stretched tightly across the pool and attached to the anchors by straps sewn into the
cover. A special tool us normally needed to remove the cover from the anchors. In general,
the deck anchors can be made flush with the deck so that they do not create a tripping
However, there are types or anchor systems which protrude above the
deck, creating a deck obstruction. Anchored pool covers are acceptable as long as all
anchors are retracted so as to be flush with the deck when the cover is removed from the
As pool cover technology changes, cover systems that differ from
those described in this document may be proposed for use on pools and spas. New types of
cover systems should be evaluated in light of the criteria outlined in these guidelines.
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