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Thread: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

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    jjslinger's Avatar
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    winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Hi Everyone,
    Where I live, we don't close the pool for the winter, we just stop swimming when it gets too cold. We maintain the water chemistry, but it's much less work since the water is cold and things change more slowly. Anyway, I have a solar setup without the usual vacuum release valve, I just have a hose bib. Last year to winterize the panels, I simply opened the hose bib and shut off "solar" in the Easytouch. There was one surprise since I didn't know about the freeze protection feature in ET, and one cold morning water shot out the hose bib. Other than that, it worked fine and all was well in the spring.

    The hose bib is in the lower left corner of the panels in this photo (you can't see it too well, but that's where it is located):
    [attachment=1:19cruk0s]solar.jpg[/attachment:19cruk0s]

    To avoid surprises like that, should I also disconnect the electrical connector on the solar valve (just to the right of the filter)? Would anything be damaged if the system tried to activate the solar by accident with the connector disconnected?
    [attachment=0:19cruk0s]pad.jpg[/attachment:19cruk0s]

    As an alternative, what if I didn't drain the panels and just left the freeze protection activated all winter? We only get a few nights of freezing temperatures around here, and the days always warm up to above freezing. I guess the risk of that would be a power outage at a bad time?

    Thanks,
    Don
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    16K gal IG 16'x28' pebble since 2011; Pentair Easytouch; Sta-Rite Intellipro VS pump; Sta-Rite 400 sq. ft. cartridge (System 3); 6 Heliocol Solar Panels; Aquamatic Cover; Legend pressure-side cleaner with Hayward booster pump; TF100 Test Kit.

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    There is actually a switch on the actuator if you put it in the middle, it well no longer move automatically.

    I would drain the panels and switch off the actuator with the solar off.

    Posted from my Droid with Tapatalk ... sorry if my response is short
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    I would drain the panels. I'm not an expert on the panels, but to me it the panels would be more susceptible to freeze damage because they have less water for the amount of surface area. It takes cold temps and time to freeze water.

    The easiest way to keep the solar from turning is to follow jblizzle's suggestion.

    Also, I believe on the easytouch you can choose which circuits have freeze protection enabled.
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Thanks jblizzle and Dan-H,

    There is indeed a switch on the valve that I never noticed before, it's on the bottom. It has "ON1", "OFF", and "ON2" settings, it was set to "ON2". I am draining the panels and will set the switch to "OFF".

    I have also set easytouch to disable freeze protection on the solar circuit, but I like having the switch set to "OFF". I don't trust my knowledge of easytouch programming.

    Don C.
    16K gal IG 16'x28' pebble since 2011; Pentair Easytouch; Sta-Rite Intellipro VS pump; Sta-Rite 400 sq. ft. cartridge (System 3); 6 Heliocol Solar Panels; Aquamatic Cover; Legend pressure-side cleaner with Hayward booster pump; TF100 Test Kit.

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Glad we could help. Just remember it was on 2 next year. On1 would just result in the valve behaving opposite what you expect.

    Posted from my Droid with Tapatalk ... sorry if my response is short
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Dumb question but if there isnt a hose nib, theres a vacuum release valve right?
    So to drain, i would just turn pump off then the water should drain back to pool,(how long would that take 2-3 minutes?)


    then close both solar in/out valves then on automated valve put switch in middle to off...
    Then to open in spring, just reverse? ...
    Seems fairly simple, am i missing anything? I just dont want to damage anything.
    Thanks guys.
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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Theoretically, yes. But I think it may take much longer than a few minutes. I was very careful when I installed my current setup so that everything sloped to allow it to drain. I also added a drain valve at the far end. After having the solar off for a month, the weather was about to freeze and I went up on the roof and opened the drain. I was very surprised by how much water came out.

    If you have no drains, then just leave the valves open with the pump off for as long as you can ... like over night when the pump is off. Then shut the valves before you turn the pump on. Would not hurt to do this a few times as more water may settle out of the panels.

    Posted from my Droid with Tapatalk ... sorry if my response is short
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    I have the heliocol panels and just remove the cap at the bottom of the last panel after turning off the solar controller. Even though there is a vacuum release I was told that this is the way to make sure all the water exits the panel or at least there is sufficient airspace throughout to allow expansion.
    When my panels were installed they wouldn't hook up without the vac release valve, the installer said he's seen the vacuum created by draining, when the systems shuts off, totally collapse the pvc pipes.
    DONE, 20 x 40, inground gunite, 30" raised bond beam with 3 12" sheer descents, 8' diving board, pentair 420 cartridge filter, vs-3050 pump, intellechlor ic-40, auto cvr, Tahoe blue pebble tech, 6ea 4' x 12.5' & 2ea 1' x 12.5' helicol solar panels, legend robotic cleaner.

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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Quote Originally Posted by bobby1017
    When my panels were installed they wouldn't hook up without the vac release valve, the installer said he's seen the vacuum created by draining, when the systems shuts off, totally collapse the pvc pipes.
    I've been wondering about this, whether my installer did a sub-standard job by not including a VRV. So far, I have not had a problem, but if my pipes collapse I'm certainly going to complain about it. Perhaps a subject for another thread, but it seems like it might not be too difficult to add a VRV. From reading other discussions, I guess a small hole also needs to be drilled in the solar valve itself?

    Thanks,
    Don
    16K gal IG 16'x28' pebble since 2011; Pentair Easytouch; Sta-Rite Intellipro VS pump; Sta-Rite 400 sq. ft. cartridge (System 3); 6 Heliocol Solar Panels; Aquamatic Cover; Legend pressure-side cleaner with Hayward booster pump; TF100 Test Kit.

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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Quote Originally Posted by jjslinger
    From reading other discussions, I guess a small hole also needs to be drilled in the solar valve itself?Thanks,
    Don
    Not sure about this, haven't heard that before. As far as the relief valve its on the return from the panels right where it goes vertical, instead of an elbow there is a tee and the valve is on the top.
    DONE, 20 x 40, inground gunite, 30" raised bond beam with 3 12" sheer descents, 8' diving board, pentair 420 cartridge filter, vs-3050 pump, intellechlor ic-40, auto cvr, Tahoe blue pebble tech, 6ea 4' x 12.5' & 2ea 1' x 12.5' helicol solar panels, legend robotic cleaner.

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Adding the hole in the diverter helps the solar drain back down the solar supply pipes when the pump is off, even if the solar valve is closed automatically by a controller.

    Pentair also sells a solar 3 way valve that has a small check valve built into the diverter which is what I installed.

    Posted from my Droid with Tapatalk ... sorry if my response is short
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    I do have all pentair equipment, not sure about the valves though.

    Here is a pic of the vac setup.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    DONE, 20 x 40, inground gunite, 30" raised bond beam with 3 12" sheer descents, 8' diving board, pentair 420 cartridge filter, vs-3050 pump, intellechlor ic-40, auto cvr, Tahoe blue pebble tech, 6ea 4' x 12.5' & 2ea 1' x 12.5' helicol solar panels, legend robotic cleaner.

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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    So to make sure i dont blow up the filter, i just wait over night to drain to pool, turn both red valves, then leave controller off...can i leave the auto-valve how it is? thanks guys

    [youtube:3r12zf6u]GfxRaSG_cXQ[/youtube:3r12zf6u]
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    So its- close the 2 red valves ( panels inlet/return ) can i leave auto valve where its positioned at now?
    Thanks for any help.
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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Safest would be to put the switch on the valve actuator to the middle (OFF). That way the controller could not try to turn it on for some reason ... well it could try, but the actuator will not respond.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Yep its in the middle, but is the valve ok where it is? And do i close red vales?...
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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    Finally watched the video ... sorry about my assumptions ... and I just realized things were not as I thought, so I have to re-write what I had below.

    If you close the red valves then you have for sure isolated the solar (which is good if you think you have all/most of the water out).

    As far as your actuator, it is in a really weird position. With the red handles open, the water is going to the solar AND bypassing the solar. The tab on the handle (opposite the actually part you grab) should say OFF ... so you do not actually have the solar turned off. You would want the OFF on the bottom and the handle on the top to shut off the solar supply. So, sure the panel says the solar is off, but the actuator does not indicate that it is ACTUALLY off. Also, it is generally best to have the main supply (or outflow) from a 3-way valve to be in the middle as you have better control. Looks like your valve was not installed that way as the flow out of the filter enters the valve on the top and then would either go to the solar by going down or back to the pool going to the left.

    So ... the actuator does not appear to have actually turned the solar off. You could just shut the red valves and that would stop the flow as well, but does not solve the actuator orientation oddity.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Re: winterizing solar panels n. calif.

    If freeze protection comes on and circulates water through the panels why is it necessary to drain them? I have had the cap off up to now but would like to start the process of heating again with the weather warming. Since the panel elevation is higher than the pool, when the system is turned off the water drains back into the pool, I can tell when I take the cap off there is no / very little water. Since the system is nearly all air inside there should be plenty of room for expansion.
    DONE, 20 x 40, inground gunite, 30" raised bond beam with 3 12" sheer descents, 8' diving board, pentair 420 cartridge filter, vs-3050 pump, intellechlor ic-40, auto cvr, Tahoe blue pebble tech, 6ea 4' x 12.5' & 2ea 1' x 12.5' helicol solar panels, legend robotic cleaner.

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