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Thread: building my own solar heater

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    building my own solar heater

    I am in the process of starting to building my own solar heater. We live in Michigan and would just love to be able to get an extra couple off weeks of pool time in the spring and fall. I had my design completely planned for using cpvc piping, but while at Lowes purchasing it, the worker talked me out of it saying that after one season, it will become very brittle and break . Have any of you made one using cpvc, and if so, was it successful?

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    Re: building my own solar heater

    From any way you look at it the Lowes guy is correct, home brew Solar heaters are more expensive and much less efficient that purchasing panels off the internet.

    Look at this: Amazon.com : Fafco Solar Bear Economy Heating System for Above-Ground Pools : Swimming Pool Solar Heaters : Patio, Lawn Garden

    While that price may seem high, I'm sure with a bit of work you can beat it.

    With most homebrew systems, you feel warm water coming into the pool, but the pool temp doesnt go up much.

    Additionally, If you have a solar heater you need a solar blanket, otherwise ALL YOUR HEAT will go away at night.

    So while there are tons of youtube videos in the end most don't make a significant difference in temperature. Some I've seen I don't think actually make any difference in temperature.
    22k gallon IG pebblefina, Jandy 1.5 HP VS, Jandy CV Cartridge filter, Fafco solar panels, Polaris 360 supply side cleaner, waterfall

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    Re: building my own solar heater

    There are numerous threads where people built their own. While they are all interesting and work to varying degrees, I don’t believe I ever saw one that would beat the efficiency/cost effectiveness of the retail versions unless you got the materials for free for some reason. People often underestimate the surface area needed to raise the water even one degree. The retail mats are generally not that expensive and they have already done the math on what you need under several different conditions, just plug in you pool size, panel orientation, where you live and how much rise you want and they can suggest a number of mats needed.
    12,300 Gallon, IG PebbleFina, 3 ft sheer, 2 Jandy nicheless LED lights, Jandy Pro 1.5HP VS pump (A.O. Smith Motor), PB4-60 Booster pump, Polaris 280, Jandy cv340 cartridge filter, Zodiac Z4 control panel W/iAquaLink, Stenner pumps for chlorine & MA connected to WiOn WiFi switches, TF-100. You can support TFP with AmazonSmile just click the link!

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    Mod Squad pooldv's Avatar
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    Re: building my own solar heater

    Solar heat is all about square feet of surface area facing the sun. One 12x4 solar panel is 48 sf. Do the math on how much pipe it takes to get 48 sf. I disagree that CPVC will break down in the sun after 1 year. I have quite a few CPVC valves and fittings that are on their 5th summer in the Texas sun.
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    Isaac-1's Avatar
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    Re: building my own solar heater

    We get questions like yours all the time, and like the others have said you just can't buy and build anything that is nearly as efficient as the commercial panels unless perhaps you can get the tubing for free, even then you will often be plagued with leaks, inefficiency, both in terms of heat generated and operating cost. As to the commercial panels out there, they come in a wide range of products from the Fafco Bear, or Eco-Solar products often found on Amazon which are designed for seasonal pool use, to much more solidly built (or flexible as the case may be) panels designed for permanent roof top installation, such as the Vortex panels sold by Solar Direct. (as well as many others by Aquatherm, Fafco, Heliocol, H2otsun, etc.)

    However regardless of how you go about it, don't fall for the various gimmick dome, arch, spiral, etc. products out there, solar heat is about two things, sufficient surface area of the panel and sufficient water flow through the panels. The simple fact is there is only so much heat in sunlight, and modern commercial solar heaters when set up in optimal conditions are around 90% efficient at extracting that available heat. The idea is to heat a lot of water just a little bit, not trying to get peak outlet temperature with low water flow. As a rule of thumb you need 50-75% of the surface area of your pool in solar panels in order to get effective heating (less will still do some, but is sort of like trying to heat your house with one little cube heater, sure it is better than nothing, but you will never be truly warm)
    Indoor 20x40 35,000 gallon vinyl pool with 1.5 HP 2 speed Jandy FloPro pump, Hayward EC75 Perflex DE filter, 11 4x12 Techno-Solis solar panels w/ Aquasolar controller, Aquabot Turbo T Robot Cleaner. Also LMI metering chlorine dispenser pump and HotSpring Jetsetter
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    needsajet's Avatar
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    Re: building my own solar heater

    Welcome to TFP! Good to have you here

    +1 to the posts above. You'll be spending money sending water through the system, and reality is that the properly designed panels give you lots of surface area with reasonable friction loss.

    You've probably seen systems with 1000's of feet of black pipe which sounds like good common sense, but it takes power and electricity to push the water through it. To heat a pool with solar, you need to move a lot of water through the panels. Solar systems work best with high water flow and a small temperature increase coming back to the pool.

    My two cents is to buy recommended panels and save your DIY time for installing them on your roof and doing the plumbing. It's good fun as well.

    +1 to the pool cover as well. Some people get more from the cover than they do from the heating system.
    12k IG salt; glass beads in plaster; K-2006C, K-1766, CCL, and Aussie 4in1 (HTH); Pentair Eco800 1.2HP VS; Zodiac SWC 1.3 lb/day (25 g/hr); 25" filter recycled glass; OKU solar panels; 1/2 HP solar pump; Rebel (Warrior) pool cleaner; FlowViz; prior pool AG 10k | Read Before Posting to get the best possible advice | ... and this helped me a lot!: TFPC for Beginners

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    Re: building my own solar heater

    Last comment from needsajet hits home with me. I am very anal about out pool solar blanket. While it is a pain in some respects, ask me how much I have used my propane heater this year! Granted, our pool gets a lot of direct sunlight, so once that cover is off, i get good solar gain, and by putting the cover on each night, I trap much of that heat. There are times when our pool has gone to 88! I live in Ottawa, Canada. The biggest value for a solar heater for me is to extend the swimming season, but I am not convinced it will be worth the investment....


    68,000litre, IG vinyl, LorentzPS 600 Solar Pump & 1/2 HP Tristar, Sandfilter, Aquarite T-15 SWG
    20000 gallon, IG, SWG, Sand Filter, Hayward 1/2HP + Lorentz direct solsr PV pump

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    Re: building my own solar heater

    Quote Originally Posted by tlevy View Post
    Last comment from needsajet hits home with me. I am very anal about out pool solar blanket. While it is a pain in some respects, ask me how much I have used my propane heater this year! Granted, our pool gets a lot of direct sunlight, so once that cover is off, i get good solar gain, and by putting the cover on each night, I trap much of that heat. There are times when our pool has gone to 88! I live in Ottawa, Canada. The biggest value for a solar heater for me is to extend the swimming season, but I am not convinced it will be worth the investment....


    68,000litre, IG vinyl, LorentzPS 600 Solar Pump & 1/2 HP Tristar, Sandfilter, Aquarite T-15 SWG
    random but since i saw this subject i figured i would comment. i have owned my pool for 2 years now and the solar cover was always a headace for me so, i ended up building a 4by8 box which i attached it under my shingles and ran 400 black irrigation line. i have hard plumbed my pool so that it would work off my pump. its been 2 months now and i have had no issues and my water is right around 85 everyday. i did install a union and 3 valvesne going to the roof one going to the pool and one to the ground for when i want to drain the system. im new to this but i am a major diy person so, i wanted to give it a try. with materials, i spent about 120
    2015 built myself~15x30x52(15k)AG,vinyl liner~Hayward166t (16'' sand filter w1 Hp pump) Hayward sp1580 power-flo lx series~taylor2006 test kit

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    Isaac-1's Avatar
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    Re: building my own solar heater

    Coming from someone that once had a similar black irrigation line setup, real commercial panels are MUCH better, not only in heat output but also in less wasted electricity trying to pump water through a highly restrictive set of tubing.
    Indoor 20x40 35,000 gallon vinyl pool with 1.5 HP 2 speed Jandy FloPro pump, Hayward EC75 Perflex DE filter, 11 4x12 Techno-Solis solar panels w/ Aquasolar controller, Aquabot Turbo T Robot Cleaner. Also LMI metering chlorine dispenser pump and HotSpring Jetsetter
    I use and endorse TFtestKits TF-100 from http://tftestkits.net
    ~Remember TFP counts on your donations to keep this site ad free~

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