Swimming Pool Winter Covers VS. Polycarbonate Pool Enclosure: The Ultimate Comparison

Between swimming pool winter covers and polycarbonate swimming pool enclosures; which one should you go for?

Do you have any reasons for your answer?

Well, there are a number of reasons why we cover our pools. Some of these reasons may include:

  • Extending the swimming season
  • Protecting the pool from bad weather
  • Swimming pool security and safety
  • Reduce maintenance costs

In short, your cover should meet this simple criteria.

I want to make this simple for you:

In case you plan to use your pool during all seasons while reducing operational costs; then your only option is a polycarbonate swimming pool enclosure.

Don’t worry, I will support this using 10 different reasons. It is important that you understand every reason, since they will help you when shopping for an enclosure.

I’ll start with:

1. The Structural Design of Winter Pool Covers vs. Pool Enclosure

You can review these two swimming pool accessories:

What is the difference between Swimming Pool Winter Covers VS. Polycarbonate Pool Enclosure

A swimming pool cover

Excelite retractable swimming pool enclosure

A polycarbonate swimming pool enclosure with its door opened.

What do you see?

Are they the same?

Clearly, you can see the swimming pool winter cover is flat. On the other hand, the polycarbonate pool enclosure has a dome shape.

Basically, you can see that the enclosure is spacious and you can swim when it is fully closed. This is not the case when it comes to the winter cover.

Therefore, you can describe a pool enclosure using three dimensions:

  • Width
  • Length
  • Height

At times, you may refer to the roof design too. That is, if you want to be very specific.

Where you can talk of dome, gable, hip, flat, mansard, etc. There are so many pool enclosure roofing designs.

On the other hand, you will describe a winter pool cover in terms of length and width. At times, you may also talk of the thickness.

In short, a pool enclosure and winter cover are two different accessories.

Now, let’s move to another distinct feature:

2. Price of Swimming Pool Winter Covers vs. Pool Enclosure

From the structure above, it is obvious that swimming pool winter cover is cheaper than a pool enclosure. This is because a pool enclosure requires more material compared to the winter cover.

There are different grades of winter pool covers. Still, a number of pool cover retail between $75 and $500.

However, polycarbonate swimming pool enclosures are more expensive that winter cover. A low profile enclosure costs $2,999.

Swimming pool enclosure prices

Above details of a retractable swimming pool enclosures – Price range, weight and material

I guess this is the reason why most homeowners opt for winter pool covers as an alternative. But, this is not a noble idea.

Why do I say so?

First, a winter pool cover is not safe (I’ll discuss that later). Therefore, you’re likely to pay high insurance premium.

Secondly, a winter pool cover does not have any long-term cost benefits. You’ll also learn more about this when I’ll be comparing the two products based on their life span.

Therefore, you’d rather invest in a pool enclosure. They are a perfect solution for your pools.

At the moment, the swimming pool enclosure cost has reduced remarkably. In fact, some enclosure that was over $6000 now retails at $2,999.

3.  Type of material used in Winter Covers vs. Polycarbonate Enclosure

Pool enclosures are constructed from two materials

  • A solid polycarbonate sheet

We use solid polycarbonate sheets as a glazing material (it cover the entire roofing structure and doors). You can learn more about solid polycarbonate sheet.

GP polycarbonate solid sheet

Samples of solid polycarbonate sheet

It is a strong, durable, shatterproof and lightweight material. Moreover, you can easily fabricate it to any shape.

A reason for the unique and customized roof shapes and designs.

  • Extruded aluminum rods

Aluminum forms the structure of the enclosure. It is strong durable, rust resistant and lightweight. Learn more about extruded aluminum.


Aluminum sections of swimming pool enclosure ready for shipping

You can fabricate it to any shape hence, the ability to make customized swimming pool shapes and designs.

On the other hand, swimming pool winter covers are manufactured from one piece of material. They have small holes at their edges.

You can use these holes to secure it on the swimming pool deck.

Depending on your manufacturer, a winter pool cover can be manufactured from vinyl material or a ply mesh material.

There are those reinforced with steel thou their strength cannot surpass that of polycarbonate enclosure.

Like the polycarbonate pool enclosures, they are also available in different grades and standards.

4.  Safety of Swimming Pool When Using Swimming Pool Winter Cover vs. Pool Enclosure

Swimming pool safety is a major concern, especially after the CDC report highlighting the increasing number of unintentional drowning.

Between swimming pool winter covers and polycarbonate pool enclosures, I will recommend the latter.

As you can see from the structure of the two accessories in the images above, with a winter pool cover, someone can still access the surface of the pool.

Furthermore, these winter covers hold very little weight. As a result, whenever kids or animals access the pool surface, they’ll definitely fall in the swimming pool.

Image result for a child drowning in swimming pool

Rescuing a child who had drowned in a swimming pool. Image source – Hospitality Risk Solutions

On the other hand, a swimming pool enclosure provides a complete barrier to the swimming pool surface. The enclosures have self-latching door mechanism.

A swimming pool enclosure with a complete door locking machanism

A swimming pool enclosure with a door locking mechanism

Therefore, no one can access the swimming pool area without the direct permission from the swimming pool owner. Again, the enclosure comes with some allowance (from the pool edge to the wall of the enclosure).

All these ensure your pool is 100% safe.

For a fact, this is the main reason why governments insist on having a swimming pool enclosure and not winter pool covers. You’ll also realize that with a pool enclosure, your insurance premiums will be low.

Let me be clear, winter covers only protect the pool from debris. It neither safeguards, nor provides security to your pool against any accidental injuries.

5.  Level of Security Depends on Whether You Use Pool Winter Covers or Pool Enclosure

Closely related to safety is the swimming pool security.

How well is your pool, secured from unauthorized persons?

Normally such individuals do not follow the stipulated swimming rules and regulations. Moreover, kids require appropriate swimming training and must not be left alone around the swimming pool.

All these may cause unintentional deaths.

To ensure your pool has the required security standards, it must be locked at all times. Therefore, what you need is a polycarbonate swimming pool enclosure.

6.  Which Accessory Extends Swimming Season; Winter Cover or Pool Enclosure

This is quite obvious.

Why do I say so?

First, let me remind you of the main purpose of swimming pool winter covers.

Winter comes with extreme cold and snow. During this season, people turn off their swimming pool pumps since they don’t want water to circulate in the pool.

Therefore, pool owners use this over-sized trap (winter pool cover) to protect the pool from snow and debris.

A mesh swimming pool cover

A swimming completely covered with a mesh cover

In short, you will not use the swimming pool during this period. So, there is no way it will extend your swimming season during winter and spring.

A polycarbonate swimming pool enclosure extends the swimming season. You can use your swimming pool throughout the year, irrespective of the weather condition.

During summer, you can open the enclosures. On the other hand, during winter you close the cover.

Remember, this is only possible if you have a retractable swimming pool enclosure.

The good thing is; even when the cover is closed, the space between the pool and enclosure surface is still big enough. Depending on the height of the cover, you can comfortably sit on the swimming pool deck with the cover closed.

During winter, your swimming pool enclosure will:

  • Protect the pool from cold weather, snow, debris and rain.
  • Help stabilize and maintain swimming pool temperature. This reduces heating costs
  • With LED light systems, you can even swim at night.


A swimming pool enclosure with LED light

Clearly, you have every reason to install a polycarbonate swimming pool enclosure and not a swimming pool winter cover.

7.  Life Span of Swimming Pool Covers vs. Pool Enclosure

Now that I have discussed the type of materials used to construct both accessories, I’ll make this simple.

A swimming pool enclosure is durable and has a longer lifespan than a swimming pool cover. This is quite evident from the warranty cover each accessory comes with.

That is, a polycarbonate swimming pool enclosure comes with a 15 year warranty. But, the structures can last for more than 25 years.

This is not the case for a swimming pool winter cover that comes with a warranty period of 3 to 7 years. The time frame depends on the type of winter cover.

Interestingly, there are winter covers that cannot serve you for more than 3 seasons.

In other words, for long-term cost benefits, I will recommend polycarbonate swimming pool enclosures.

8.  Best Time to Use Pool Covers vs. Swimming Pool Enclosures

I had mentioned this earlier. However, I want to make it clear for you to understand.

After installing a swimming pool enclosure, you can use it throughout the year for 25 years. Unlike the swimming pool winter covers that you’ll use during the winter season.

Still, an enclosure is convenient and reliable than winter covers.

9.  Installation Process of Pool Covers vs. Enclosures

Swimming pool enclosures are tiresome and demanding to install. You can use the pool enclosure installation manual to go about the entire process.

The good thing is that, this is a one-time process. Once you install it, there’s no need to worry about removing it during summer or winter.

In the case of swimming pool winter cover, it is easy to install. However, you’ll remove it when the season changes.

I think this quite a laborious and a boring process.

10.  Which Accessory Enhances Beauty to Your Pool?

It will be unfair to wrap up this article without talking about the aesthetic value of your outdoor space.

Though, I also think this quite straightforward. Let’s look at these two different scenarios:

Clearly, it is only a swimming pool enclosure that will enhance the beauty of your outdoor space and that of the pool.

With an enclosure, you can decorate pool by adding other enhancements. I think this is what every homeowner desires.


Clearly, you can see that a polycarbonate swimming pool enclosure has more benefits than swimming pool winter covers.

It guarantees security, extended swimming season, safety, reduces maintenance costs and enhances the beauty of the pool.

In case you’re planning to buy one, here is a Swimming Pool Enclosure: The 2016 Ultimate Guide for Pool Owners.

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