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Thread: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

  1. Back To Top    #1

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    Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    I dunno. I think I might have to give these a thumbs down.

    I have a rather large self installed setup on a steep 45 degree pitch garage roof. There are 8 2x20 panels and they are strapped down in 3 places according to the instructions. The panels are sloped from one end to the other according to what is recommended for drain down. So where are we at?

    1. The panels look ugly after first being installed. They like to ripple and not lie flat. A vertical panel installation wouldn't have this problem. Even after being installed a while they still aren't really great. When it gets real hot they ripple up and only flatten out when it's cool at night.
    2. The panels full of water are too much stress against the 3 hangers. This causes the bottom 5-6 rows of tubes on each panel to deform and seal shut. No water flows through these tubes but they still fill up with water. Come winter time, these tubes won't be drained out and many of these rows have leaks for me, especially near these stress points.
    3. The panels installed according to instructions simply don't drain down. I have to get on the roof and blow them out. The year before I figured out you can blow out 4 panels pretty well with a shop vac. Last year I decided to stay on the ground and attempt to blow out all 8 panels at once. Now that I just started the pool up it looks like that decision has ruined every panel. Numerous leaks everywhere.

    The first year I had one panel leak right after installation. Fafco sent me a new panel. I then had another panel leak and they just sent me a patch kit with the little rubber plugs. They have a 10 year warranty, so I am considering sending all of the panels back.

    Sorry but I'm pretty unhappy and I don't know if I'll try to save money on this stuff again. a 8 x 4x8 setup for only 256 sq ft would cost me over $2500 whereas this cost me just over $1000. That's a lot of $$ but I don't know if it's worth the frustration. I really thought I was getting nice easy to work with rubberized panels that would lay flat and drain down well but that isn't going to happen unless the panels are mounted by the strong headers and the tubes face vertically imho.

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    midtngal's Avatar
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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    Wow piku....I really hate to see this! I have just received my newly-purchased Sungrabber solar panels! I have bought 2 2x12 panels since this is going to have to go on my sunroom roof. They will get sun all day. I will probably install them myself with some help from the pool co. that is going to a partial opening for me. Do you have any advice that may help my experience? Anything I should do that you wish you had but didn't?

    I'd be intrested to hear how it goes with you returning them (if you do) as well. Because, like you, if they don't work right then that 10-year warranty will be the route I take as well.

    TIA
    Karen
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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    I bought a set of these a couple years ago as well and ran into the same issues. I installed mine on a custom rack. They would sag, never lay flat. I have pulled mine down and rolled them up. I don't think I'll be using them this season while I work out what I want to do. My dad suggested running a "ledge" under the length of the panels to support them and stop the sagging. I have also hear of installs using PVC to hold the panels down instead of the straps. I would experiment, but I really don't have the room, in my yard and I can't put them on my roof because of my solar electric install.
    15,000Gal IG Gunite\Color Quartz Plaster
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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    hmm interesting to hear views.... I was going to get some of these and build a PVC rack to sit on my flat roof, maybe it's best to just set them on the roof and forget the rack? they wouldn't drain but i'd be taking then down to store in the winter regardless.

    Anyone else have any opinions to share?
    23000, Sand, IG, Plaster, Century Pool/Jetted Tub Motor 1.5HP, Rainbow Lifegard Feeder Model 300

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    Here's some more fun! 2 of the panels were leaking pretty severely near the bottom stress points and you can even see the holes in the pipes. I tried to patch them with a plug kit they sent me unsuccessfully so I figured hey, 2 new panels = $150.. no big deal. I forgot how much of a pita it is to install these things.... and when I go the new panels ont he roof I found they are 2-3 inches LONGER than the old ones! Now I have 2 panels that have a nice bow in them because they are too long!

    I am now trying to find a solution to simply clamp the first 4 tubes of each panel in order to stop flow to the leaks in the center.

    Guys these panels aren't that bad and they work really well heating wise, but if you're going to install them you REALLY need to consider finding some way to distribute the weight of the panel across more than the 3 thin straps if you have a relatively steep sloping roof.. Mine is almost, but not quite 45 degree slope and the weight of the panels causes them to tear themselves apart at the strapping points.

    This has really been a huge hassle. Sungrabber should fix it for me but after 1 replacement panel they jsut sent me a plug kit and went on their way. So much for customer satisfaction. I'm thinking about pulling it all down and putting in a heat pump.

  6. Back To Top    #6

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    Actually here's an idea even, they should build a nice thick plastic mounting point onto the manifold themselves and the manifolds should be held with diagonal straps on either side of each panel. Those straps can then be hooked to some kind of constant tension clamp which will allow the panel to expand and contract with the heat and cold while still keeping it flat on the roof. The center support would be a 6" or so slightly bowed piece of plastic or aluminum that would distribute the stresses of the weight of the panels and water over a much wider space. This would almost certainly cause the panels to drain down more easily and reduce the risk of freeze and stress damage.

    Also every spring every band clamp on the manifold is *reallllllllly* loose. If you don't want leaks at the manifold you need to go tighten them all *every* year. Getting these panels means regular trips to the roof.

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    I bought mine three years ago. I laid landscape timbers out on the gound in a field behind the pool and put black plastic down. Then I just put the panels on the black plastic. It was out back, out of sight so I wasn't concerned with the aesthetics. But I'm looking to build a new shed and was wanting to mount it on the roof. Guess thats not going to work.
    27' AG

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    I really thought I was getting nice easy to work with rubberized panels that would lay flat and drain down well but that isn't going to happen unless the panels are mounted by the strong headers and the tubes face vertically imho.
    Why don't you mount them this way? It seems like it's the orientation of your panels that are causing the problems. Just my observation so take it as you will.
    15,600 Gallon, 16' x 32' In-Ground Vinyl Pool
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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    There is all kinds of very serious sounding warnings in the manual about NOT mounting them that way. Warranty void, etc. They even made me take pictures of my install before they honored the warranty. My guess is the tubes pull out of hte manifold when stressed.

  10. Back To Top    #10

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    Interesting. I guess it must be the type of panel then? My neighbor has fafco panels and they're mounted with the water tubes running vertically/headers horizontally. Mine are a different brand but also install in this fashion. That's really too bad to hear. I hope you figure something out
    15,600 Gallon, 16' x 32' In-Ground Vinyl Pool
    Pentair VS 3050 pump, Quad DE 60 filter and SunTouch controller
    8 gallon Liquidator, Aquatherm EcoSun Solar Panels, 2 wheel ThePoolCleaner

  11. Back To Top    #11

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    I would probably use pieces of perhaps aluminum U channel to distribute the load a little more widely. It'd be a lot cheaper if you could find some way to saw some pvc or abs pipes in half and use them as supports. Really that's all there is to it Even using a nice fat strap would probably help a lot. Next time around (because the panels DO work well enough), I would really go to town during the installation phase to make sure everything is good.

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    kenandshari's Avatar
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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    After much research lat spring, we went with 4' x 12' vertical mount panels and have had no issues so far. The horizontal mounting of the 20' panels does cause tubes to pinch closed and makes the panels sag. We learned about this in our research and that was one of the primary reasons we avoided the 20' panels. As I understand things, the reason for the horizontal mounting on 20' panels has to do with the ammount of pressure it takes to push the water up the slope from the botom to the top for a 20' run and the bursting strength of the panels themselves. Essentially, vertical mounting on a roof may cause tubes to burst from overpressure. You may consider mounting them vertically to relieve the pressure on the sides of the bottom tubes, but you would want a really shallow angle to limit the rise needed and reduce pressure on the tubes. If you can return them for a refund, you may want to look into the 4' x 12' panels that you can mount vertically on the roof. Another consideration is how many holes you will be putting in your roof for any changes you make. You can search our other posts for more on what we learned during our solar install and I'm sure someone out there is using the same panels you have and has even better advice for you. Best of luck.
    Ken & Shari
    Savannah, GA
    16' x 40' freeform fiberglass inground (Pacific model, mfg by Tallman Pools), 23k gal, 2" plumbing throughout, Intellichlor IC-40, Easy Touch controller, Intelliflow VS 3050 pump, Pentair Clean & Clear Plus Quad Cartridge filter. 4 Jandy deck jets (3/4" plumbing), Fiberstars color changing lighting, SR Smith salt friendly diving system, Interfab Wild Ride slide, Aquasol Solar Heat (5 panels 4'x12' DIY install automated with ET) RIP Nitro Wall Climber Mar 2011-Aug 2012, Nitro is survived by a Polaris 360.

  13. Back To Top    #13

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    Hrmm.. that's really interesting. I am running 8 panels on a steep slope roof which equates to 16+ feet without bursting any panels. I probably could get away with hanging them vertically from the headers. That sure would have been a more effective installation.. Oh well. There's no way I'm getting a refund from the ebay seller who sold them to me. Subgrabber doesn't care either. I'm stuck with them...

    On the bright side my pool is REALLY WARM.

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    mcoonan's Avatar
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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    piku,
    I have the Sungrabbers also. 2 that were bought about 5 years ago and 2 that were bought 2 years ago. Same issue, the new ones are longer than the old ones. I have not had a single problem with them leaking (other than leaking connections, but those were my fault) till this year (dang squirrels). A friend that has another brand has had leaks from his every year and that co. told him to put a stainless steel screw in the leaky tube right at the header. It worked even better on the Sungrabbers due to the fact that they have the "rail" connecting the header to the tubes. I used #6 x 1" SS pan head screws, ground down the head so they were just a little larger than the tube. Cut the leaking tube at the rail on both ends of the tube, (use a very sharp blade and rock-it to cut the tube be very careful not to cut the tube next to it) coat the screw with PL-4000 adhesive and screw it in. No more leak but you are down a tube or 2. ( or in my case 8 tubes but 4 of those were oops!).
    Mike
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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    installed 16 sungrabber 2x12 pannels on shingled roof with about a 25 degree sloap 2 years ago in NE Florida.The pannels face the afternoon sun and heats pool and hot tub very well. I have about 16 leaks and counting. Have been patching leaks with plastic steel, thus far they are holding. all leaks are on top so they can be repaired in place. all leaks are with-in 5" of the edge with several near the header. I patched 5 yesterday, today there are 5 more.
    JagMan1964
    George
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  16. Back To Top    #16

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    *sigh* I opened my pool a few days ago. I'm afraid to enable the panels.

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    kenandshari's Avatar
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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    We've now had the AquaSol panels up there for about a year. We've been running our solar for about a month so far this year and no leaks over the winter. Draining for Dec-Feb freeze potiential was really easy. Just leave the solar valve open for about 15 min to drain the panels and then close it so it bypasses the panels and turn the actuator switch off. "Opening" the system simply required turning the actuator switch back on and reprogramming the Easy Touch panel to use solar again. We've been using the pool for a few weeks now and even had a pool party Sunday. Pool has been at about 83-85 which is nice.
    Ken & Shari
    Savannah, GA
    16' x 40' freeform fiberglass inground (Pacific model, mfg by Tallman Pools), 23k gal, 2" plumbing throughout, Intellichlor IC-40, Easy Touch controller, Intelliflow VS 3050 pump, Pentair Clean & Clear Plus Quad Cartridge filter. 4 Jandy deck jets (3/4" plumbing), Fiberstars color changing lighting, SR Smith salt friendly diving system, Interfab Wild Ride slide, Aquasol Solar Heat (5 panels 4'x12' DIY install automated with ET) RIP Nitro Wall Climber Mar 2011-Aug 2012, Nitro is survived by a Polaris 360.

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    Where did you purchase the Aquasol collectors? I am thinking of getting them, and want to find the best price.

  19. Back To Top    #19

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    Re: Sungrabber panels 2 years later...

    Mine aren't too bad actually compared to previous years. 8 pinhole leaks and one gusher. Certainly not maintenance free.

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