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Thread: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

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    Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    Pool inspection report says $550 to replace this 1979 Fafco solar controller that is stuck in the ON position.

    Is swapping this controller out something a DIY pool owner could handle? I've replaced bath/kitchen plumbing fixtures as well as light switches and electrical outlets before.

    What are some suggested brands/models I should be looking at?

    The rooftop panels are Heliocol and were replaced around 2000.

    Thanks,
    Ed
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    19k gal IG gunite w/ spa, Sta-Rite IntelliPro VS, Sta-Rite System:3, Polaris 3900 Sport w/booster pump, Heliocol, EasyTouch4

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    Solar controllers are not that expensive, but from that picture I can not tell how your system works. Do you have a Jandy-like 3-way valve with an actuator connected to it already? What about the 2 required temperature sensors?

    While replacing a modern controller would be almost plug-n-play, in your case you may need a new valve, actuator, controller, and temp sensors.

    Although you say the panels are fairly new, so it could be a simple swap.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Re: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    Thanks for the reply.

    The two valves in the below pic are the supply and return for the panels. The left foreground of the photo is the gas heater and the right side is connected to the filter. I'm guessing the black piece in the middle is a sensor? But since the valves to the roof are manually controlled, not even sure what function the controller has.

    Apologies, still a noob!
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    19k gal IG gunite w/ spa, Sta-Rite IntelliPro VS, Sta-Rite System:3, Polaris 3900 Sport w/booster pump, Heliocol, EasyTouch4

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    Can you provide a full picture?

    If those are the valves to the solar, then a solar controller can not actually do anything.

    That does look like a sensor of some type, but no idea for what.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
    18k IG pebblesheen pool, Hayward ProLogic P4 w/ T-15 SWG, Pentair 1HP 2-speed Superflo, Hayward 6020 DE filter
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    Re: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    That is called a pinch valve. there is a bladder inside that inflates, and pinches off the flow, and forces water to the panels.
    The controller controls the water that flows in and out of the pinch valve. Check the three tubes that come out of the controller, and confirm that one line goes to the pinch valve, one goes to the suction side of the pump, and the third to the outlet or pressure side of the system. Sometimes when the controller fails, the "pool guy" would cut the tubes and fold them over to stop the leaking. So if you have no tubing from the controller, that is where the problem is.


    How it works:

    When there is a call for solar, the controller opens the ports between the pressure side and the pinch valve, causing the bladder to inflate and pinch off flow, forcing water to the panels. When the call for solar ends, the port between the pinch valve and the suction side tube opens and draws the water out of the pinch valve opening it up to allow water to again pass through.
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    Re: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    That is a really old system. If you get a new controller, that may not totaly fix it as you can have a rupture in the bladder. So you will have spent 500 dollars and system still wont work. Is the 550 for replacement with same? Or whole new (different) system?

    Make sure with the repair guy that $550 is for a working system, compared to $550 for part replacement.
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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    Wow ... very interesting. Thanks Pool Clown!!!
    Jason, TFP Moderator
    18k IG pebblesheen pool, Hayward ProLogic P4 w/ T-15 SWG, Pentair 1HP 2-speed Superflo, Hayward 6020 DE filter
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    Re: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    Thanks for the very helpful replies. Been working on getting the house ready for move in, so I haven't had a chance to followup. Just looked at some of my pics and notice what I'm guessing to be a sensor on the suction side of the pump, where the spa and pool drain lines join right before the pump strainer. Will have to trace out where the other sensor is.

    As you can tell, the entire system is dated. I'm definitely looking to update/upgrade a few pieces (pump, plumbing, controllers).

    The Leslie's store manager I talked to this past weekend suggested moving to a SunTouch system to replace the Fafco along with my Intermatic (main) & Paragon (booster) timers. Sounds like a Pentair SolarTouch or Hayward Goldline product could replace the solar functions of the Fafco, but the idea of controlling pump, vac, and solar all-in-one is enticing.

    If I'm looking to replace the pump at the same time, which pump/controller combo would you recommend?
    Current motor says 1.5hp and SF 1.3.
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    19k gal IG gunite w/ spa, Sta-Rite IntelliPro VS, Sta-Rite System:3, Polaris 3900 Sport w/booster pump, Heliocol, EasyTouch4

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    Re: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    I've located where each of the 5 cables from the Fafco controller goes, but need help figuring out what each one does, and which solar control system (or automation system) would be appropriate to replace this.

    Appears to be two gray cables which I've circled in yellow, and three black cables indicated in red.
    Y1) Goes down a vertical pvc pipe, might be a roof/panel sensor?
    Y2) A sensor after the filter and check valve, before the outlet to solar
    R1) Suction side where the spa and pool drain recombine before the pump
    R2) Pressure side (?) of pump, before the filter
    R3) Pinch valve to control flow to the solar panels

    I get the feeling that all of this will need to be replumbed (with unions for pump serviceability) when I upgrade the pump, and rewired when I replace the solar controller.

    The SunTouch is sounding like the right candidate. But wondering what other options there are. Thanks!
    Attached Images Attached Images
    19k gal IG gunite w/ spa, Sta-Rite IntelliPro VS, Sta-Rite System:3, Polaris 3900 Sport w/booster pump, Heliocol, EasyTouch4

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    Re: Fafco solar controller stuck in ON position

    The three red circles are the water tubes associated with the bladder control.
    -The one on the white pipe near the pump is the suction tube.
    -The one on the copper pipe is the pressure tube.
    -The one on the pinch valve supplies, and withdraws water from the bladder (valve).

    The two yellow circles are the sensor wires:
    -The one nearest the filter is the water temp sensor
    -The other near the pinch valve looks like it may go into that 1/2 or 3/4 pipe near the solar line and that is for the temp (sun/no sun) sensor up on the roof.

    You may have another option while not as fancy as the sun or solar touch, is the Helomatic control. This controller is much more user friendly. Consists of an auto(with thermostat), on, and off controls, but unfortunately does not control the filter pump. It does however, include a delay for the cleaner pump for when the solar cycles on.
    Factory Warranty Station for:
    Jandy/Zodiac, Pentair, Sta-Rite, Raypak, Polaris,
    and Paramount pool cleaning systems.

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