Hey all, been a LONG time since I've posted, please forgive me. I'm in Tucson, AZ and recently we had some record low temperatures. Low temps for a couple nights in a row got down to about 18 degrees. Luckily my freeze protection in my automation system (easytouch) protected the main plumbing, but my solar loop wasn't part of that protection and I got some significant damage.
First, is it normal for the solar loop to not be automatically enabled during freeze protection? I'm assuming so since normally gravity fully drains the panels when they're not in use (in my case they hadn't been operated in about 3-4 months).
I suspected I had some damage when I saw some salt deposits on my 2nd story deck which is under the panels. I set the pool to heat via solar and sure enough I had a very impressive waterfall coming off the roof. When I got up there to inspect the damage, I was very surprise how extensive it was. My setup has 7 panels, with the feed PVC running from the side of the roof, all the way across the panels to the far side where it feeds the bottom corner, and then it returns from the opposite top corner (near the side of the roof where it goes down). ALL of the PVC from where the feed reached the top of the roof to the far side of the panels where it enters the panels themselves (roughly 30+ feet) was shattered. Not just broken in one or two places, but broken into MANY pieces. Some sections have weird breaks in them that spiral around the tube. Others are just broken into lots of little pieces. I take this to mean that the panels didn't drain worth a **** and the plumbing was completely full of water.
What I'm wondering is how liable the pool builder should be for this damage. When they first installed the solar, they had it plumbed to enter at the top of the panels and exit at the bottom. Information I found on the helicol website indicated that it should be the opposite: cold water enters at the bottom and hot exits at the top. I pointed that out to the builder and they came out and re-plumbed it. I think that contributed to part of the problem. Instead of re-doing all the plumbing, they added a couple of bends to have the incoming water (which was initially up-hill from the return) go over the top of the other pipe on top of the roof to reach the entry point at the bottom of the panel. That plus the fact that the plumbing doesn't reach the top of the roof even with the bottom of the panels. It reaches the top about a foot or two above the panel bottoms and then has to turn down. This creates some low-points in the plumbing which prevent that bottom pipe from ever draining by gravity.
One more thing I didn't realize is that the feed tube which goes across to the far side of the panels first, lays directly on TOP of the panels. Wouldn't this compress the small tubes which make up the panels, restricting water flow somewhat? I would have expected the feed tube to be immediately below the bottom of the panels so it didn't have to lay on them.
Is this flat-out WRONG plumbing installation that caused the freeze damage? Or would it not have made a difference? I have friends with solar heating in the neighborhood (pool built by same builder at around the same time) and they didn't have any damage from the freeze.
I called the PB and they are sending someone out at the end of the week. They say the panels are covered under warranty (the pool is about 3.5 years old) but the plumbing is not. I'm of the opinion that I shouldn't be liable for any repair costs if it was their installation snafu which caused the damage in the first place. I'm frustrated because they wouldn't even send someone out to look at it without a $80/hr (1 hr minimum) charge, PLUS a $50 extra fee because I don't live directly in town.
Do I have a leg to stand on here or is freeze damage typically NEVER the pool builders fault?