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    Credit: Cover Pool Specialists

A pool cover may seem like an unnecessarily deluxe accessory, but it’s an extra that can save you a surprising amount of money by simply keeping water — especially if it’s heated water — in the pool.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 70 percent of an outdoor pool’s energy (or heat) loss comes through evaporation, as the water in your backyard aquatic playground converts from a liquid into a gas. Place a cover on that pool, and the heating costs can quickly drop as much as 70 percent.

But pool covers are important for unheated pools as well. When that water evaporates, even if it’s unheated, it takes those dissolved pool chemicals with it. Add a pool cover, and you may be able to reduce pool chemical use by 35 to 60 percent while managing your water bill more effectively.

What cover is best for your pool? It depends on many factors: your climate; the size, shape, and exact location of the pool on your property; the level of usage that your pool gets; whether it’s heated or unheated; and the maneuverability of the cover. (See “Cover choices.”)

You’ll also want to consider safety. Solar covers, which resemble bubble wrap, can help your pool stay warmer by collecting heat from the sun. But many aquatic safety experts worry that floating solar covers are dangerous to young children, who don’t realize that they cannot walk on the cover and slip into the pool. Adults who don’t fully remove such a cover before swimming in the pool are also at risk; they too can get confused if they accidentally swim into the covered portion of the pool and become trapped.

An alternative is a safety cover, which is a heavy-duty cover that can be used in the summer and winter. These covers, which protect your pool against winter weather, reduce the risk of an accidental drowning as well as the loss of water, heat, and pool chemicals during the summer season. They come in mesh and vinyl versions.