This retractable swimming pool cover is made using the basic solar cover and winter cover that came with the Tuff Pool swimming pool package. The solar cover is just a sheet of blue bubble wrap. It sits right on top of the water. The winter cover is a tarp designed to be cinched around the outer edges of the swimming pool frame. Neither cover is a security cover.
We have always kept both covers on the swimming pool when it was not in use. This reduces heat loss from evaporation and keeps debris to a minimum. Up until now, we have just folded the covers back, much like folding back a huge quilt on a bed. It has been inconvenient. The combined weight of the covers got heavy about half way through the rolling/folding process. If only one person was attempting it, it took many trips back and forth from one side of the pool to the other. So, I usually interrupted someone when I wanted to open it for a swim.
However, recently, my engineer designed a hand crank, retractable system out of PVC pipe. He did use a few other odds and ends of materials, so here is a complete list:
- 4 inch PVC pipe (one 10 foot long piece, will be cut)
- 2 inch PVC pipe (one 10 foot long piece)
- 2 lengths of ½ inch PVC pipe (10 foot pieces cut to about 9 feet)
- 4 pieces of ½ inch PVC pipe
- 4 inch PVC coupler (x2)
- 4 inch to 2 inch PVC bushing (x2)
- 2 inch to ½ inch PVC bushings (x2)
- 2 inch PVC couplers (x2)
- ½ PVC T-connector
- 2 ball bearings (purchased here)
- pressure treated 2×4 lumber (2 pieces)
- heavy string
- ⅜ inch poly braid hollow rope
- 2 pulleys (from Lowes)
- PVC pipe glue
- various bolts, screws, and concrete fasteners as needed
The whole apparatus needed to span our 9 foot wide swimming pool and attach to the inside walls of the cement box that the pool sits in. The final length ended up being about 9.5 feet. He put it all together to see if it fit before gluing. (click on any photo to enlarge)
The first thing he did was cut holes in the pieces of lumber so that the ball bearings would fit it snuggly in those holes. He also drilled holes in both the wood and the cement. Then, he softened one of each ends of two pieces of the ½ inch PVC pipe. This would enable him to squeeze it into the ball bearing. He used a propane torch, but there are special PVC warmers that do this sort of thing without blackening the pipe and with much more control. He is still deciding if he needs one for Christmas. It is NOT recommended that this be done in the house, using a stove or oven, since the PVC may emit harmful chlorine gases.
He wanted the 4 inch diameter PVC pipe because he thought anything smaller would be difficult to get the swimming pool covers to roll up onto. But, then he added a length of 2 inch PVC pipe down the middle of that to add stability to the expanse. That is why the 4 inch couplers and bushings on the ends. In order to make this work, he had to cut away the lip inside of the bushings that keeps connecting pieces from slipping inside too far. Since he wanted the 2 inch pipe all the way through the 4 inch pipe, it was a barrier. He alternated between using a knife and sand paper for this operation.
He happened to have the ½ inch bearings on hand from fixing a spinning bike. He also points out that larger bearings can be quite a bit more expensive. That is why he chose to add more couplers and bushings to bring the end diameter of the pipes down to ½ inch. It should also be noted that in the photo there is an extra ¾ to ½ inch bushing because he accidentally got the wrong size one first.
Only one piece of ½ inch PVC pipe was needed for the side of the roller without the handle. The handle was made using the other 3 pieces and a ½ inch PVC T-connector.
To be able to manage both swimming pool covers at one time with the retractable system, he thought we should sew the two layers together at a few select points. To do this, we laid them out on the lawn. After trimming away a little extra of the blue bubble wrap, the ends were rolled together around a length of ½ inch PVC pipe. The tabs on the winter cover still extended some past the roll point. This would create a firm edge that would pull more uniformly. He then had me use heavy string and the largest sewing needle I could find in my stash to stitch through the covers at 4 locations, about 32 inches apart. On the end that would be attached to the retractable roller, he left the strings long enough to wrap a couple of times around the 4 inch PVC pipe. He drilled pilot holes into the 4 inch PVC pipe for 4 screws to tie the string ends to.
The pulleys were bolted into the far ends of the cement box and long pieces of the bright yellow poly braid rope were tied to the winter cover tabs that were still hanging out. Originally the rope traveled back up to the roller PVC bar, but that wasn’t working well, so now the rope does not double back up, but instead travels through the pulley to the end of the cement box. To close the covers, I go to the end and pull on the rope to bring it back down. The plan is to splice the rope together, so it will form a “U” around the pool when the covers are open.
Now, I can open and close my swimming pool easily by myself. (Closing was made even easier when he put in another part of the system to let me crank it closed even easier and faster. Click here to see that) This means going for a swim is less of a hassle and I will get better use out of my pool, which is the whole point of having one!