Mention solar pool heating panels, and the image that typically comes to mind is that of a roof-mounted system.

But as with anything, there are alternatives.

Ground-mounted installations may be desired if a rooftop proves particularly challenging — either because of the material it’s made of, or a steep slope, or a lack of Southern exposure. The panels then are simply affixed to fortified poles in the yard.

For Brett Marshall, who works on design and engineering for Swan Solar in Lake Forest, Calif., the site possibilities are virtually limitless.

“We did one where there was a steel RV structure the homeowners had built,” he says. “It was like a big steel trellis structure they parked the vehicle under. And we just put the panels on top of that.”

Another option involves integrating a solar collector with the pool deck. In this configuration, tubes embedded in the dark-colored deck concrete draw heat from the solar-warmed deck, which in turn heats the pool.

It’s a unique approach, to be sure, but at least one industry veteran isn’t completely sold on its effectiveness.

“Those systems do gather passive heat from the deck,” says John Kennedy, owner of Elite Solar Services in Sarasota, Fla. “But they’re not as efficient. And we know the concrete will crack and shift and move. I’ve seen them, but never done one. They just don’t work like putting up a panel on the roof.”