Pool Air Pillow Alternatives: A Must-Know for Pool Owners

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During the winter season, pool owners often seek effective methods to safeguard their swimming pools. One of the most popular solutions has been the pool air pillow.

Designed to sit beneath winter pool covers, these air pillows act as an ice compensator, absorbing the pressure exerted by expanding ice.

Pool Air Pillow Alternatives
Pool Air Pillow Alternatives

By doing so, they prevent potential damage to the pool walls and ensure that the structure of above-ground pools remains intact.

However, while air pillows have been the go-to for many, they are not without their drawbacks. Some owners find themselves dealing with deflated pillows midway through winter, leading to concerns about the safety of their pools.

Additionally, not every pool size or type may be suited for standard air pillows. This has led to a surge in interest in pool air pillow alternatives.

In this article, we dive deep into these alternatives, exploring their pros and cons, and offering guidance on how to make the best choice for your pool.

The Top Pool Air Pillow Alternatives

Top Pool Air Pillow Alternatives
Top Pool Air Pillow Alternatives

When it comes to finding the perfect pool air pillow alternative, there are several options that pool owners have experimented with over the years.

Let’s delve into these alternatives and understand what makes them stand out.

What Floats?

Many pool owners, tired of the recurring costs and occasional unreliability of traditional air pillows, have turned to a simple solution: using floats. Now, we’re not talking about any float; the choice is crucial.


  • Cost-effective: Many times, you might already have a float or two lying around from the summer months. This means no additional expenses.
  • Easy to set up: No need to inflate the pool float with an air pump or any specialized equipment. Just place it under the winter pool cover, and you’re good to go.


  • Durability concerns: Not all floats are made equal. While some can withstand the harsh conditions of the winter months, others, especially those from dollar stores, might not fare as well.
  • Size limitations: Depending on your pool size, a single float might not offer adequate protection. You’d need to ensure the float is proportional to the pool’s size for optimal protection.

If you decide to go down this route, ensure you monitor the float, especially during the initial days of the winter season. This will help you gauge its effectiveness and make changes if necessary.

Homemade Specialties

Homemade Specialties
Homemade Specialties

For the DIY enthusiasts out there, creating a homemade pool air pillow alternative can be both fun and effective. One of the most innovative methods we’ve come across is the plastic bottle air pillow.

How it works:

  1. Save plastic bottles from pool chemicals or beverages throughout the summer.
  2. Ensure they are cleaned, dried, and have their caps tightly secured.
  3. String them together to create a sizable ‘plastic ball’ or structure.
  4. Place this structure under the pool cover as you would with a traditional air pillow.


  • Cost: This method is almost free, especially if you’ve been recycling your bottles.
  • Environmentally friendly: A fantastic way to upcycle and reduce waste.
  • Customizable: Depending on your pool size, you can adjust the number of bottles used.


  • Time-consuming: It can take a while to collect enough bottles and then assemble them.
  • Durability: You’ll need to ensure the bottles are firmly strung together to avoid them dispersing under the cover.

Using bottles of the same size and shape can increase the stability and effectiveness of this method.



A rather ingenious solution some pool owners have discovered is using foam insulation as a pool air pillow alternative. This method involves creating a floating foam structure to place under the winter pool cover.

How it works:

  1. Purchase thick sheets of foam insulation. Stores like Home Depot or any hardware store should have them in stock.
  2. Tape these sheets together to form a sizable block or shape tailored to your pool’s dimensions.
  3. For added protection and durability, wrap the foam structure in plastic.
  4. Position this foam block in the center of your pool, beneath the winter cover.


  • Longevity: A well-made foam block can last multiple winter seasons without needing replacement.
  • Sturdiness: Unlike air pillows that can deflate, or floats that might get punctured, foam offers consistent support throughout the winter months.
  • Maintenance: Even if the plastic wrap gets damaged, replacing it is straightforward, ensuring the foam remains protected.


  • Initial cost: While foam insulation sheets aren’t overly expensive, there’s still an upfront cost involved.
  • Storage: During the warmer months, you’d need to store this foam block, which might be cumbersome for some.

When constructing your foam alternative, ensure the edges are well-taped and sealed. This prevents water seepage, which could reduce the foam’s buoyancy over time.

This foam alternative offers pool owners an exciting middle-ground between DIY solutions and store-bought products.

While it might require a bit of initial effort, the pay-off in terms of durability and peace of mind can be substantial, especially when protecting your pool walls during those cold winter days.

Why is Protecting Your Pool Essential in Winter?

Why is Protecting Your Pool Essential in Winter
Why is Protecting Your Pool Essential in Winter

Every pool owner knows the joy and relaxation a swimming pool brings during the warm summer months. However, as winter approaches, safeguarding this prized possession becomes paramount.

But why is there such an emphasis on using air pillows or their alternatives?

Winter’s Impact on Pools:

  • Water Expansion: As temperatures drop, the water in your pool begins to freeze. When water freezes, it expands. This expansion exerts significant pressure on the pool walls and liner, potentially leading to cracks or even structural damage.
  • Stress on Pool Walls: Without a buffer, like an air pillow or its alternative, the expanding ice can push directly against the pool’s walls. This can be especially concerning for pillows for above ground pools where the walls are exposed on all sides.
  • Pool Cover Protection: Apart from the walls, ice can also damage pool covers. As ice expands, sharp edges can form, potentially puncturing or tearing the winter pool cover. An air pillow or its alternative acts as a cushion, preventing direct contact between the ice and the cover.

Role of Air Pillows and Alternatives:

Air pillows, and the alternatives we’ve discussed, play a crucial role as ice compensators. By occupying space and providing a buffer, they ensure that as ice forms and expands, it pushes against these buffers and not directly on the pool walls or covers.


  1. Safety: By reducing the direct impact of ice, these solutions safeguard the structural integrity of your pool.
  1. Cost Savings: Repairing pool walls, liners, or covers can be expensive. Proactively using an air pillow or an alternative can save pool owners significant amounts in potential repairs.
  1. Peace of Mind: Knowing that your pool is well-protected, especially during the harshest winter months, allows pool owners to rest easy, looking forward to the next swimming season.

Protecting your pool during winter isn’t just a chore; it’s a necessity. Whether you opt for traditional air pillows, floats, homemade specialties, foam, or any other method, the key is to ensure consistent protection throughout the season.

By doing so, you’re not just preserving your pool but ensuring countless more days of fun and relaxation in the years to come.

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How to Position Your Pool Air Pillow Alternative

How to Position Your Pool Air Pillow Alternative
How to Position Your Pool Air Pillow Alternative

The placement of your pool air pillow alternative isn’t just about aesthetics; it has functional implications too. Many pool owners harbor misconceptions about this, so let’s set the record straight.

Common Misconception:

A widespread belief is that centering the air pillow or its alternative perfectly will aid in keeping the pool cover clean.

The idea is that this central position facilitates the flow of dirt and debris to the sides, allowing for easier cleaning. While this might sound logical, it’s not the primary reason for using an air pillow or its alternative.

The True Purpose:

  • Ice Pressure Distribution: The main goal of positioning your pool air pillow or alternative in the center is to distribute the pressure from freezing ice evenly. As water turns to ice and expands, the centrally located pillow or alternative ensures that the pressure is directed towards it, rather than exerting force on the pool walls.
  • Protecting the Pool Cover: A centered positioning also ensures that the pool cover is elevated slightly in the middle. This means that as ice or snow accumulates on the cover, it’s less likely to directly press against the cover’s surface, reducing the risk of punctures or tears.

Steps for Optimal Positioning:

  1. Inflate or Prepare: If using an air pillow, ensure it’s inflated using an air pump but not overly so. For alternatives like floats or foam, ensure they’re in good condition and ready for use.
  1. Positioning: Place the pillow or alternative in the center of the pool. If your pool is oval or rectangular, try to align it with the longest central axis.
  1. Secure the Cover: Once positioned, lay the winter pool cover over it. Ensure the cover is secure, with the pillow or alternative underneath remaining in place.
  1. Monitor: Especially during the initial days of freezing, keep an eye on the positioning. If you notice any significant shifts, adjust as necessary.

While central positioning is generally advised, the exact placement can vary based on pool size, shape, and the specific alternative you’re using. Always prioritize even distribution of ice pressure.

Ensuring the proper positioning of your pool air pillow alternative is crucial for optimal protection during the winter months.

It’s a simple step, but one that can make a significant difference in the health and longevity of your swimming pool.

Conclusion: Making the Right Choice for Your Pool

Winterizing your swimming pool is more than a routine task; it’s an essential step in ensuring its longevity and your investment.

As we’ve discussed, while traditional air pillows have been the staple for many pool owners, the world of pool air pillow alternatives offers a plethora of options, each with its unique set of benefits and considerations.

Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast leaning towards a homemade specialty or someone looking for a durable and long-lasting solution like foam, the key is understanding your pool’s specific needs, the challenges posed by the winter months, and the solution that aligns best with these factors.


  • Protecting your pool walls from the pressure of expanding ice is the primary goal.
  • Ensuring your winter pool cover remains intact and free from potential damage is equally crucial.
  • The positioning of your chosen solution plays a significant role in its effectiveness.

Incorporating the knowledge from this article and combining it with a bit of research and perhaps some experimentation will undoubtedly lead you to the perfect solution for your pool.

After all, as every pool owner knows, the effort you put into maintaining your pool during the off-season directly translates to the enjoyment and relaxation it offers during the summer.

Here’s to making informed choices and looking forward to many more seasons of splashing fun!