Poolside Chat Episode 54: Do I need an air pillow under my pool cover?

PSC Ep. 54: Do I need an air pillow under my pool cover?

In today’s episode of Poolside Chat, Rob and Matt tackle another common swimming pool question:
  • Do I need a winter cover air pillow?

I’m about to winterize my above ground pool. Do I need to place an air pillow under my winter cover? 

We strongly recommend using an air pillow under your winter cover. The first reason to install a winter cover air pillow is to protect your pool from expanding ice. When you don’t use an air pillow, the cover sits right on top of the water and the ice will want to expand outwards. That’s not good because that’s going to affect your pool liner.

Your pool will respond like a soda can in the freezer; the walls begin to bulge. With the air pillow in place, the water will freeze but exert it’s pressure inwardly onto the winter cover air pillow.

The second reason is a water weight distribution. The air pillow prevents water from pooling in the center of the cover. Instead, the weight of the water is evenly distributed around air pillow. This weight distribution can prevent the cover from sinking or tearing. It also makes it easier to pump out sitting water.

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48 thoughts on “PSC Ep. 54: Do I need an air pillow under my pool cover?

  1. I believe the 50-55 gallon drum will do the trick as long as it’s air tight. Put a few holes around the edge of barrel and tie on to your pool so the barrel is centered in your pool. Should outlast most of us and are kids. My first year will do follow up
    After this year. It’s plastic should take over 100 years or longer before it deteriorates! Cheap! Go to local restaurant ask them if they have any 50-55 gallon soap drums. I’m sure they will be more then happy to get rid of them.

  2. Maybe I’m an amateur so hear me out. Wouldn’t a cover that has a decent amount of rain waiter already on it, act in the same manner as an air pillow (as it relates to ice expansion). The rain waiter on the cover is creating a barrier between the walls of the pool.

    1. Hey everyone we have 3 plastic sealed barrels taped ( gorilla tape) together which we float to the center and tie off on two sides to keep it centered… this way you don’t have to worry about the pillow popping or not being tall enough! Works much better!!!

      1. Ths sounds like a great solution. Do yo use two barrels on the bottom and one on top of them for height? May I ask the size of your pool? I wonder if this arrangement would work for us with a rectangular pool 8m x 3.5m. Maybe I would need more barrels.

  3. I have a 24 x 15 oval above ground pool here in NJ for 10 years. I had a pillow the first year I covered it and it deflated after a month or so. I haven’t used one since that first one and never had any problems. I have a little $15 pump for a fountain to get rain/snow off the cover every so often. There has been times when the ice is solId enough to skate on or so it seemed. Never had any problems. Even a pool guy once told me pillows really don’t do anything other than keep water and leaves more to the sides to get them out.

  4. I tried using the pool pillow pal for the first time this year. Easy to install and worked great for the first month. Now my pillow is still inflated but has become dislodged and it is up against one of the sides due to some very high winds – that’s Wisconsin for you. I would rather not try to recenter – what is the likely hood of damage to the walls? Above ground pool.
    thank you

  5. I partially inflated ours and slid it under the cover after loosening it. Then pumped the pillow up to around 80%. Used a skimmer net to push the pillow in where I wanted it. I actually just ordered two more pillows because the ones I ordered were not enough so hoping this will do it.

  6. Following the pillow instructions, after initially I started covering my pillow with a winter cover TOUCHING the water all around this “island” and struggled with removing the huge amount of water/snow/(and especially)ICE all winter long, I realized that on, or above, winter cover, the water is a troublesome during winter. So, for YEARS I started to use 3 long pillows in my 12 x 18 oval a.g. pool and cover them with winter cover that comes like a dome over them to down around pool. beyond the surrounding pool’s edges (no more “island/s”). Rain, snow and leaves always slided down leaving the “dome” clean until spring.

    Now I discovered that the pillow HAS TO be and “island” surrounded by (icing) water. Not clearly why. Can somebody clarify this requirement for (certain) winter covers (they say that warranty is voided if cover comes OVER and not ON water)? Thank you.

  7. Use trashbags with old 2L Soda bottles with small slits in most. They don’t pop like air pillows, ice compresses them, but they’ll rebound. They’ll last the entire winter. Some may take on water, all of them won’t. Random bottles floating around the edge and stairs offers additional protection. Free.

    1. Essentially, you’re just filling a bag with trash and putting it in your pool. I’d go with the inner tube solution before this. I understand the bottles would be cleaned before putting them in the bag, but I can’t get past knowing it is a bag of trash (recyclables) floating in my pool.

  8. Message: My name is Tom, interested in ordering
    so i wanna know if you accept master card or visa card payment over the phone, and also i will recommend a shipping company to you for pick up at your location too delivery address. i hope to hear from you soon Tom

  9. The previous owner of our house/pool had four 33-ish gallon plastic drums under the deck. I had no idea what they were for the first year and I went through a number of useless and expensive air pillows. Once I figured out that the gallon barrels were all tied together in a line, the light bulb finally clicked on. So now I have a train of four large plastic jugs that are tied off at each end of my 18 x 33 foot pool. And these things will NEVER wear out like those awful pillows.

    I just closed my pool yesterday, because I try to get every single day out of it that I can each year, and today I noticed it on one of the barrels has partially sunk. So word to the wise – make sure that your barrels are sealed tight each year. 🙂

  10. Water will freeze and expand. Once it totally freezes outward, it can only freeze downward, where there is unfrozen water.

    If the pool totally freezes downward, it can only expand upward. And since the pool is completely open on top, any other expansion will occur upward and not outward. Put a glass of water in freezer and it will not crack.

    I havnt used a pillow in 3 years with no issues, except for accumulated leaves and rain/snow water. This is the only consideration I would give for pillow use.

  11. Pool pillows are a scam. How are they to prevent the ice from expanding outward against your pool wall when they float on top of the water?? When the rain and snow accumulate on top that pool pillow will not prevent the cover from sinking, just where the water may be. I have not used one in Wisconsin on 28′ above ground with no problems.

  12. My pool pillow broke already. First time in 9 years this happen. It’s only November in Illinois should I replace it?

  13. I don’t know how they were made back in the days, but today’s pillows are just a scam. $5 or $25 ones act the same: they pop or deflate before the weather gets really cold. Is it possible to replace the pillow by a floating ring made of a dozen of empty jugs for example?

  14. I’ve had really good luck using a blow up exercise ball. They are pretty sturdy. I’ve used the same one 3 years in a row.

  15. There has got to be a better way! Every pool pillow I have paid good money for, centered in my pool and covered has popped or deflated before the ice even starts! Waste of money, they’re not made very strong. Have used an inner tube, but would like to have something that works as it should. Suggestions?

      1. Look on YouTube for above ground pool drain, you just install a drain at the return inlet that penetrates the top of your pool cover.

    1. Tom

      I put a string of one gallon plastic jugs (Bleach jugs work great) about half filled with stones to make them sink about half way. Run a line through them and tie off each jug then run the jugs length wise down you pool and tie each end of the string to a rock. Close your cover. If your pool freezes the jugs will collapse and absorb the pressure. Been doing this for years without a problem.

  16. I did not like them. No matter what we did the wind would blow them over to one side.. We got this drain that you put in the center of your cover and attach to the return opening. When the water fills it up it drains outside of your pool into the yard.

    1. Marie, where di you get the drain? That sounds like an excellent choice for me here in California where I have no snow but winter rain when we aren’t in a drought! Thanks in advance!

      1. I got one last year that worked great. Got it at my local pool supply store. It’s like a mini-sump pump. You attach a garden hose to the end of it. It’s electric so need to plug in to outside plug and then run the pool over the edge of deck. It would automatically stop when water went down. I would have to bring it in during extreme cold but personally I think air pillows are for extra money and not really helpful. Sorry just my personal opinion.

        1. I thought that too but I’ve haven’t use a pillow for a few and now my liner is straight anymore doesn’t lie flat inside! So I just always use in a pillow
          Now!! Before it gets worst

    2. Is there a trick to getting your pillow under your winter cover.i just bought a new pillow Friday and covered my pool Saturday as nd the pillow is deflated.how can i get a nother under the cover without taking off the cover

      1. I partially inflated ours and slide it under the cover after loosening it. Then pumped the pillow up to around 80%. Used a skimmer net to push the pillow in where I wanted it. I actually just ordered two more pillows because the one I adore were not enough so hoping this will do it.

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