A Detailed Guide to Investing in the Best Solar Pool Heater for Your Home

Having a swimming pool at home may be a dream come true, but its operation and maintenance are quite costly. And pool heating is one of the most costly operational expenses. To cut pool heating costs, most pool owners opt to install a solar pool heater instead of using the traditional electrical or gas heaters. …

Having a swimming pool at home may be a dream come true, but its operation and maintenance are quite costly.

And pool heating is one of the most costly operational expenses.

To cut pool heating costs, most pool owners opt to install a solar pool heater instead of using the traditional electrical or gas heaters.

But does solar pool heating really work? What is the best solar pool heating system? How much would it cost? 

Read further as we discuss those solar pool heater questions and other topics that you’ll need to make the best choice in buying your solar pool heater.

Here is the summary of what we think are the best solar pool heaters:

Best For Small PoolsIntex Solar Heater Mat
Best For Medium PoolsUMA Solar Heliocol
Best For Large PoolsFafco Solar Bear Pool Heating System 
Most Certified BrandUMA Solar Heliocol
Best WarrantyUMA Solar Heliocol

Solar Pool Heating: The Hows and Whats

Does Solar Pool Heating Really Work?

A House Equipped With Solar Pool Heater And Solar Panels
Heat up your pool for cheap with solar pool heaters

Yes! Solar pool heaters can raise the water temperature to the ideal pool temperature range. And to fully believe this, we need to take a closer look at its working principles, parts, and benefits.

How Does Is Solar Pool Heating Work?

The Working Principle

The working principles behind the solar pool heating system lie in the subject area of thermodynamics. Mainly, heat exchange.

According to the laws of thermodynamics, energy is transferred from a higher energy region to a lower energy region. In this case, the high energy coming from the sun is being transferred to the low energy pool water. The energy absorbed from the sun raises the temperature of the water.

But you may ask, why not just leave out the water if the sun can automatically raise the temperature?

The answer to that is efficiency. You need to transfer the sun’s energy and heat to the water efficiently. And that is why you need solar panels or solar collectors in your solar pool heating system. 

Aside from solar panels or solar collectors, let’s further talk about the core working parts of a solar pool heating system.

Parts Of A Solar Heating System

Pump

In your pool heating system, the pump is responsible for moving the pool water into your solar collector and back to the pool again. 

You need to ensure that your pump in your pool system has the right specifications to meet your requirement. This will ensure proper water flow and proper working operations. The minimum pump capacity you need can be derived from the computation of heating capacity needed and the location of the solar collector.

Solar Collector

Like what we talked about previously, the solar collector is responsible for efficiently transferring the sun’s energy to the water.

A Small Solar Pool Collector
Place your solar collectors correctly to get the best results

The solar collector receives pool water from pumps. The most common installation interconnects the solar collector and electrical heater for backup or preheating purposes through the use of water tanks.

A solar collector is made out of tubes with fins to maximize energy collection. There are three common types of solar collectors. These are:

  • Flat-plate collector – This type is the most basic type of solar collector. It is a series of flat tubes coated with a black polymer to absorb the sun’s heat effectively. These are mostly used for a small swimming pool.
  • Integral collector-storage systems – These are solar collectors that incorporate an insulated storage tank into the tubes. These storage tanks have an electric heater or gas heater that gives heat to the pool water before entering the solar collector. 
  • Evacuated-tube solar collectors – This type is the most efficient type of solar heat collector. The copper or metal tubes are enclosed in a glass tube. These glass tubes are in a state of vacuum that prevents heat loss.
Evacuated-tube Solar Collectors
Choose the right type of solar collector for your pool
Valves and Filters

Valves are used in pool heating systems to control the flow of water in your pool system. Controlling the water flow based on weather conditions will increase the efficiency of the heat exchange.

Filters are used in solar pool heaters to prevent unwanted materials from entering your pool heating system, especially in the pumps and solar collectors.

What Are The Types of Solar Pool Heating?

There are two types of solar pool heating: active and passive.

Active Solar Pool Heaters

An active solar pool heater involves the use of water pumps in the system. This heater installation is used for swimming pools below ground and if the solar collectors are far from the swimming pools. 

There are two types of active pool heater. These are:

  • Direct system – This system transfers solar heat directly to the water. This type of system or installation has pool water directly enters the solar collector. 
  • Indirect system – This system transfers solar heat indirectly to the water. This type of system or installation uses a different fluid that enters the solar collector and transfers the heat to the pool water.

Passive Solar Pool Heaters

A passive pool heater doesn’t use a pump to circulate water. It uses natural convection to do its work. That is why this installation is best for small above ground swimming pools. Although it is much cheaper to use because it doesn’t have a pump, it doesn’t effectively transfer solar heat into the pool water.

What Are The Benefits Of A Solar Pool Heater?

There are many benefits to using solar pool heaters. One of which is lower cost, since you are using the sun’s free energy instead of gas or electric. You will still pay for the tools and equipment for the solar heater, but you will recover this in a year or two from the savings.

A Solar Pool Collector Installed On The Roof
Save 50% to 80% of money spent on pool heating by using solar pool heaters

Another one of the main benefits is using a solar pool heater is eco-friendly. Using solar energy doesn’t use up Earth’s limited energy resource. Thus it’s a win for Earth’s sustainability.

Another benefit would be government incentives. Depending on what state or country you reside in, you can get property tax incentives, income tax exemption, and income tax credits.

What Are The Cons Of Solar Pool Heaters?

Solar pool heaters are reliant on solar heat, and that is why it can be unsuitable for places that rarely see the sun. Also, solar pool heaters take up your roof space or yard space. So this can be unsuitable for homes that have limited space. Or homes that already have a solar panel installed on their roofs.

How To Select The Best Solar Pool Heater

When asked, what is the best solar pool water heater? One does not simply answer by saying: “Ah, this one is the best.” Instead, it is always dependent on the site conditions. 

That is why we must know how to select what is the best pool heaters for our home. You can find below five (5) steps on how to do so.

Get A Solar Energy Evaluation

Before buying a solar pool heater, one must first know the available solar energy in his home. It is done through tests that show if their location has enough solar heat to be able to raise the pool water temperature. 

Doing this first is crucial. Because it will prevent you from investing further in a solar pool heater if it is not feasible, this will also give you an idea of how much solar pool heater you need for your swimming pool. The result of this study can also be used if you are planning to buy a solar panel to produce electricity in the future.

Know Your Solar Heating Requirement

After getting your solar energy evaluation, what you need to do next is to know how much solar heat does your swimming pools need. Many things are taken into consideration when doing so. Below are some of them:

  • Swimming pool size (surface area)
  • Pool water temperature that you want
  • Record of local temperatures for a year
  • Solar energy evaluation
  • Solar collector specifications and efficiency
  • Usage of pool cover
A Solar Pool Cover
Use pool covers to heat up your pool faster

Knowing your solar heating requirement will give a general idea of how much solar heater you need. Knowing how much solar heater you need will also help you know how much surface area you need to allot for your solar collector. There is a rule of thumb for picking a solar heater or collector. The total surface area of your solar heater should be at more than half of the surface area of your swimming pool.

Determine The Location Of The Solar Collector 

In order to get the most out of the available solar heat, you need to optimize your solar collector position and angle. Below are some tips.

  • You should position your solar heater geographically to maximize the absorbed heat from the sun. 
  • You should also consider the roof angle if your solar heater is placed there.
  • The best tilt angle for your solar heater or collector is the latitude angle of your location.
  • You can ask for assistance from your solar heater supplier in determining the ideal location and orientation.
An Integral Collector-Storage Pool Heater On The Roof
Consider the roof angle when placing solar pool heaters

Know The Efficiency Of Solar Collectors In The Market

In your selection for a solar heater or collector, you should always include comparing the efficiency. Greater efficiency will lead to more heat generation per square meter. 

There are many sizes and installation plans available in the market. Carefully inspect each one and pick which one suits your needs the best. 

You will see the efficiency per area of a solar heater in its specification sheet. The unit of heat reflected in the sheet can be seen as Btu/(ft2-day) or MJ/(m2-day).

Another efficiency specification to look out for is the SEF (system’s solar energy factor) and the SF (solar factor). The solar energy factor (SEF) is the energy delivered by the solar pool heater system divided by the electrical or gas energy consumed. While the solar factor (SF) is the percentage, solar heating contributes to pool water heating. These efficiency factors are from the tests of credible institutions like the academe or the government. Take note of these factors because you will use that for financial computation.

Compare The Total Cost, Maintenance Cost And Return Of Investments

Before deciding to buy your swimming pool solar heater, you need to do one last checking. That is computing the costs.

You can choose the best financial option based on how long will the return of investments be. You can follow the guide below to check the ROI or payback period.

Payback Or Return Of Investments

To get the brand with the quickest return on investment, start off by adding the total initial cost of installation, parts, and labor. 

After that, generate the savings per month using the SEF or SF and the monthly cost of heating by electricity or gas. 

Then, divide the total initial cost by the savings per month, then you’ll get the value of how long is the payback or return of investments.

ROI/Payback = Total Initial Cost / Savings Generate Per Month

The Available Solar Pool Heaters In The Market

We have prepared below a list of the most reputable brands when it comes to solar pool heating systems. You can check out their profile and specifications below.

Fafco Solar Bear Pool Heating System

Fafco is one of the oldest and largest solar panels and solar collectors for swimming pools. They were around since 1969 and are still innovating today.

They are offering the Solar Bear Heating. One of the best solar pool heaters that you can find on the market.

The Fafco pool solar panels are made up of UV resistant polyethylene, and these solar pool heaters can be both used for in-ground pools and above ground pools. The solar pool heaters are easy to install and work well with all connection types except for Intex ones. You can install these on your roof or on the yard. 

The package comes with four-feet wide and twenty-feet long solar panels with 1-½” barb connections that are designed to provide 80,000BTU per day and can increase the temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It also includes 12 pieces of mounting caps, 12 pieces of the mounting base, six pieces of the mounting strap, one valve handle, and 20 pieces of rubber tube plugs.

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelFafco Bear
Size of Panels4 ft x 20 ft
Heating Capacity80,000 BTU per day
Temperature Rise10℉
Warranty10 years (cost covered decreases by ten percent every year)
Expected service lifeLasts up to 15 years
Price$279.00 to $329.00

Heliocol HC-50 Swimming Pool Solar Panel

Heliocol is made by UMA Solar, one of the most reliable brands for heating your swimming pool. They have been producing solar pool heaters for 40 years. 

The Heliocol pool solar panels are one of the best solar pool heaters that you can find in the market. The heating panels are patented and are made of UV stabilized polypropylene. So you can be sure of its safe to use and its reliability.

Your health and safety are assured because it is certified as surgical-grade by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). NSF is an international organization that tests products and grades them according to how safe it is for human use.

The Heliocol solar heating panels’ reliability and durability are also certified. It received the OG-400 certification from the Solar Rating & Certification Corporation (ICC-SRCC). The OG-400 certification means that the water quality, suction entrapment, and other aspects are not altered by the Heliocol solar panels and are safe for human use. 

The system of solar panels/heaters is made up of individual tubes molded together to form a single body. This seamless system design enables the maximum heat transfer from the sun to the pool water. These are suitable for use on both in-ground pools and above ground pools.

Although the installation takes up a lot of space, the heating capacity of the Heliocol solar pool heater is designed to provide heat at around 50,000 BTU per day. The Heliocol system can raise the water temperature of pools by 8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelUMA Solar Heliocol HC-50
Size of Panels4 ft x 12 ft
Heating Capacity60,000 BTU per day
Temperature Rise8-10℉
Warranty12 years
Expected service lifeLasts up to 20 years
Price$650.00

SmartPool S601P Solar Heating System

The SmartPool S601P is one of the best solar pool heaters that you can get for medium to large pools. With measurements of 4 feet by 20 feet, your pool will surely be kept warm throughout the swimming season.

The SmartPool solar pool heater is made up of the durable polypropylene material. So you can be sure that it will be long-lasting and will need little to no maintenance at all. The design of the pool heater features a direct flow system that evenly distributes pool water into the heating tubes.

The SmartPool S601P is also easy to install. For people who want to do it by themselves, there are manuals and instructions included. The pool heater package comes with valves, hoses, caps, brackets, and straps that you’ll need for the installation. 

The SunHeater S120U boasts a surface area of 80 square feet that is designed to efficiently capture the heat of the sun. If installed correctly, the SmartPool S601P can raise the water temperature of your pool by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The SmartPool S601P solar heating system is applicable for both in-ground pools and above ground pools.

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelSmartPool S601P
Size of Panels4 ft x 20 ft
Heating CapacityNone indicated
Temperature Rise6-15℉
Warranty5 years
Expected service lifeLasts up to 10 years
Price$250.00

SmartPool SunHeater S120U

Another one of SmartPool’s solar pool heaters, SunHeater S120U, is a great option if you are planning to buy a solar heater. 

The SunHeater S120U solar pool heater is made up of UV resistant polypropylene. That is why you can be sure that it will last longer and will require little maintenance on your part. The design of the pool heater features a direct flow system that evenly distributes pool water into the heating tubes. The SunHeater S120U also has a surface area of 20 square feet that are designed to efficiently capture the heat of the sun. Measuring 2 feet by 10 ft, the SunHeater S120U will heat up your pool as desired.

The SunHeater S120U is both suitable for inground or above ground pools. You also don’t have to worry if you have an existing pool pump because it can be quite easily fitted with clamps, adapters, and hoses.

For those who like to install it personally, the SunHeateer S120U is very easy to install and comes with the accessories needed. The pool heater package comes with a connection hose, clamps, adapters, and other fittings that you will need.

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelSmartPool SunHeater S120U
Size of Panels2 ft x 10 ft
Heating Capacity40,000 BTU per day
Temperature Rise6-10℉
Warranty5 years
Expected service lifeLasts up to 10 years
Price$150.00 – $160.00

SmartPool SunHeater S240

Another one of SmartPool’s solar pool heaters, SunHeater S240U, is a great option if you are planning to buy a solar heater for your large pool. 

You can be sure that the SunHeater S240U solar pool heater is durable because it is made up of UV resistant polypropylene. Like the SunHeater S120, the S240 design of the pool heater features a direct flow system that evenly distributes pool water into the heating tubes. 

The SunHeater S240U also has a surface area of 40 square feet that are designed to efficiently capture the heat of the sun. Although it takes up a lot of space than S120, the S240 produces double the heat.

The SunHeater S240U is universal. It can be used for both inground or above ground pools. You don’t have to worry if you have an existing pool pump because it can be quite easily fitted with clamps, adapters, and hoses.

For those who like to install it personally, the SunHeateer S240U is very easy to install and comes with the accessories needed. The pool heater package comes with a connection hose, clamps, adapters, and other fittings that you will need.

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelSmartPool S240
Size of Panels2 ft x 20 ft
Heating Capacity80,000 BTU per day
Temperature RiseUp to 10℉
Warranty5 years
Expected service lifeLasts up to 10 years
Price$230.00

Doheny’s Above Ground Pool Solar Heating System

Doheny is one of the most reputable brands when it comes to pool supplies. They have been in operation for around 53 years and took the initiative to innovate by building their own solar pool heaters.

The Doheny Pool Solar Heating System was designed for above ground pools. Each of the water heating panels is made up of polypropylene. Thus, making it durable and reliable for long-lasting usage. 

Each panel of the Doheny pool heater measures 2.5 feet by 20 feet. Rated at 40,000 BTU per day, the Doheny can heat up the pool water temperature up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. 

For those who prefer to install it themselves, the Doheny Pool Heating System is easy to install. It has all the accessories that you may need to do so. The accessories included are valves, hoses, clamps, and adapters.

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelDoheny’s Above Ground Pool Solar
Size of Panels2.5 ft x 20 ft
Heating Capacity40,000 BTU per day
Temperature Rise10-15℉
Warranty5 years
Expected service lifeLasts up to 10 years
Price$160.00 – $170.00

XtremepowerUS 2′ X 20′ Swimming Pool Solar Heating System

XtremePowerUS is an American company that sells a wide variety of products like power tools, pool equipment, and home improvements.

The XtremePower Pool Solar Heating System is an effective heater for the water in your pool. You can be sure of its durability because it is made up of high-grade polypropylene. 

The design of XtremePowerUS enables easy installation because of its quick-connect design. So if you want to install it yourself, there will be no problems. The accessories and fittings that you will need to connect the pool heater to your existing pool system are already included in the package.

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelXtremepowerUS 2′ X 20′ Solar Heating System
Size of Panels2 ft x 20 ft
Heating CapacityNone indicated
Temperature Rise10-15℉
WarrantyNone indicated
Expected service lifeNone indicated
Price$300.00

Intex Solar Heater Mat

Intex is a well-known brand when it comes to above ground pools, spas, and water floats. They have been operating for more than 50 years and is still creating new products to improve lives and improve the world’s sustainability.

One of Intex’s products that aim at sustainability is the Intex Solar Mat. The Intex Solar Mat is a solar pool heater that was created with the goal of reducing the usage of electricity and gas for pool heating.

The Intex solar mat is a pool heater that measures 4 feet by 4 feet. It is made up of polypropylene was designed to efficiently capture the energy of the sun and transfer it to the water of the pool. It can raise a pool size of 8,000 gallons by 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Intex Solar Mat is easy to install, and the package includes all the connectors and fittings that you will need to connect it to your existing pool system. It is also a great space saver when not in use because it can be rolled like a mat.

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelIntex Solar Heater Mat
Size of Panels4 ft x 4 ft
Heating CapacityNone indicated
Temperature Rise5 – 9℉
Warranty1 year
Expected service lifeLasts up to 10 years
Price$100

GAME SolarPro Solar Pool Heater

GAME is one of the most trusted brands not only as a producer of pool heaters but also as a producer of different pool and spa products. They are known for their innovative products and have been awarded numerous times for it.

The GAME SolarPro Curve is a solar pool heater that is designed for in-ground and above ground pools. These are best used for Intex and Bestway pools.

The design of the GAME SolarPro Curve pool heater is made out of 14 collector tubes. These tubes are made out of polyethylene material that is NSF rated, so your safety is guaranteed. The collector tubes also allow an equal flow of pool water that ensures maximum efficiency.

The curved design of the GAME SolarPro Curve pool heater enables it to catch the optimum amount of sunlight at any time of the day. The design enables a water temperature rise of 5 degrees Fahrenheit in an 8,000-gallon pool in 5 days.

This solar pool heater is small and is recommended for a small pool. The maximum pool size that this pool heater can accommodate is 12,000 gallons. 

The GAME SolarPro Curve is easy to install. The pool heater package includes a filter hose, an Intex pool adapter, Bestway pool adapter, hose reducers, collars, gaskets, and the main pool heater unit. 

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelGAME SolarPro Curve
Size of Panels3.6 ft x 2.3 ft
Heating CapacityNone indicated
Temperature Rise5℉ in 5 days
Warranty90 days
Expected service lifeNone indicated
Price$160.00

Kokido Keops Solar Dome Pool Water Heater

Kokido is a lifestyle company that has its focus on the global pool market. They design and manufacture pool tools and parts. They have been in business since 1990 and is still continuously growing today. 

One of their products is the Kokido Keops Solar Dome, and it is a pool heating device powered by the sun. It is made for use on a small above ground pool. The Kokido Solar Dome is also a space saver since it only measures 1.8 feet by 1.8 feet.

The Kokido Keops features an easy installation of parts. All the accessories that you need are included in the product package.

Solar Pool Heater Specifications

Brand/ModelKokido Keops Solar Dome Pool Heater
Size of Panels1.8 ft x 1.8 ft x 1 ft
Heating CapacityNone indicated
Temperature Rise5 – 10℉
Warranty30 days
Expected service lifeNone indicated
Price$150.00 – $200.00

Our Recommendations

From the list above, here is the list of solar pool heaters that we think are the best buy for solar pool heaters. 

Best For Small PoolsIntex Solar Heater Mat
Best For Medium PoolsUMA Solar Heliocol
Best For Large PoolsFafco Solar Bear Pool Heating System 
Most Certified BrandUMA Solar Heliocol
Best WarrantyUMA Solar Heliocol

Frequently asked questions

How much will I save in using a solar heater? 

If you are planning to integrate a solar pool heating system in your home, then according to a study by the US Department of Energy, you will save 50% to 80% of your gas and electric bills that were consumed by pool heating. 

Aside from that savings, there are also energy conservation programs where the state you live in will deduct your income tax due to the usage of solar pool heating systems.

How long is the return of investments?

The payback period or return of investments may vary depending on the conditions. Like how much heat does your pool need or how much rebates and incentives did you get from the government.

Usually, it takes around two to five years before the savings pay for the installation cost of the pool heating system.

How warm will the water get when you use sun-powered pool heaters? 

The answer is dependent on the condition of the water temperature and the available heat from the sun. But if optimum conditions are met, the water temperature will increase by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius alike.

Can you use solar pool heaters in winter?

No, you can’t use the solar pool heaters during the winter. The tubes, pipes, and other parts of your pool system will be damaged if you use them during the winter. The reason for this is that water expands when frozen at a certain temperature. Your tubes and pipes may become damaged due to this. 

An example of this is if you have ever left a glass or plastic bottle in the freezer. Then after a few hours, you’re left with a destroyed bottle due to the water expansion after reaching a certain temperature.

How do you install solar pool heaters?

The installation is quite straightforward, you just need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions included in the package you will receive. You also need to have the proper tools to be able to install the setup properly.

Usually, the problem encountered by people who install the heaters by themselves is the connectors. Always ready adapters and reducers before installation to prevent going to and fro just to buy the right fittings.

How do you maintain your solar pool heating system?

Your solar pool installation doesn’t need much maintenance. You only need to check for connection leaks and clogs once in a while. You can check the solar heater’s manufacturer to know what are the recommended maintenance checks that can be done.

Lastly, don’t forget to “winterize” the solar installation before winter. 

What is “winterize”?

Winterize means to prepare for winter. Your installation for the pool also needs to be winterized because you can’t just leave your solar collectors out during the winter.

What you need to do is to turn off the pumps to stop the water circulation in the pipes. Disconnect the pipes, collector, and other fittings in your setup.

Then you need to drain the pipes and collectors completely. The reason for this is that water expands when frozen at a certain temperature. Your tubes and pipes may become damaged due to this. A good example of this is if you have ever left a glass or plastic bottle in the freezer. Then after a few hours, you’re left with a destroyed bottle due to the water expansion after reaching a certain temperature.

After drying out the parts completely, store in a secure place. Then when winter has ended, you can reinstall your solar heater.

What other tips can you give before I install my own sun-powered pool heater?

The first tip is to plan out carefully. Just like the selection method mention above you need to undergo a series of steps.

Like what we’ve talked about above, to avoid wasting money you need to first check first the available energy from the sun in your location. You can ask for help or assistance from the local experts in your area to do map out or measure the available energy from the sun.

After measuring the sun’s energy in your location, what you need to do next is to know your pool heating requirements. Your pool size, desired pool temperature, local ambient temperatures, and other factors that affect it. Then before finally purchasing, you need to compute all the finances involved to know whether you will really benefit from this. 

The second tip is to check your local government laws what incentives they are offering for installing one. This way, you can fully enjoy the rebates and discounts on your taxes.

The last tip is to check your permits. You need to know what laws or building codes need to be followed for the installation and permits will be the proof that you are given clearance. This way we can avoid penalties and other possible infractions. 

Closing

Due to the continuously improving technology involved in solar pool heater system, raising your pool’s temperature doesn’t need to be costly. 

With benefits like large savings, contributing to Earth’s sustainability, and government incentives, you can never go wrong in investing in solar heaters.

So invest in a pool solar heater system now and reap the benefits. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section. We’d love to know about it!

Do you want to learn more about pool maintenance? Don’t worry, we still have a lot to offer. Below are some of the pool topics that will excite and educate you more about Pools.

Are you looking for the best heating system that is suitable for your home? Visit Energy.Gov to learn about heating systems and tips. Save money while not sacrificing comfort.

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About the author

Ruben Anderson

I consider myself a pool and gadget geek. On thepoolpassion.com I review anything techie that helps me run a pool more effectively and efficiently.

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