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Thread: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some Help

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    Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some Help

    We put in a 29k gallon concrete IG last year (kind of lagoon shape 41'long by 18' deep and 25' shallow). It's around 750sq ft. The pool is on the east side of the house and from May through the end of Sept gets aobut 8hrs of sun per day. Needless to say, we had an 85+ degree pool last season without a heater or solar cover (south cetnral PA).

    This year I am definitely getting a sloar cover, but have been looking into putting in a sloar heater in a position where it would get sun approx 8hrs per day as well. My goal is to start the season earlier and end it a little bit later (last year swam into begining of Oct when the water hit 72).

    I am going to build a rack mount for the system as it would maximize the sun exposure. My big question is what system to get? Fafco seems to have a number of models that all have differing BTU ratings as does other makers. I am assuming these all come at different prce points. I gues what I really want to know is the BTU rating really accurate. If it is, then I could could buy less of the quality panels at a higher cost or more of the lower rated panels at a lesser cost?

    Need some serious help here as I would really like to get this started in the next couple of weeks. The sooner I can start heating the pool the better!
    29k gallon IG guninte lagoon shape.

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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    Check out http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/consumer/sol ... /index.htm They give independent ratings and a lot of information. Just be aware that their sizing recommendations are for people who want to heat a pool well outside normal swimming season, so don't get discouraged if you can't put up the square footage they recommend. Anything helps.

    I have 192ft2 for my 20X36 pool in Indiana, and I get very good performance. I run the panels for much of the summer so I don't have to mess with the blanket. They add on to the comfortable water early and late in the season really well. I've gotten distracted from my pool and gotten the water to 96 degrees with the cover on in September when the weather was barely breaking 80 for daytime highs.

    I used Aquasol panels made by Solar Depot. Bought them Here and have zero complaints. I installed them myself.

    If you are going to build a rack, you might want to consider expanding the idea of a rack into a pool house or covered deck of some kind. Raising the rack 8 or 10 foot in the air only takes a little more construction. That's what I did, and the shade and storage near the pool is a real luxury. The bathroom it provides is almost a necessity with young kids swimming, and it's nice for the adults who may want to consume a cold beverage or two while poolside.
    TFP Moderator
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    Isaac-1's Avatar
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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    I just went through a lot of this deciding on panels to buy for my ongoing roof top solar heater replacement project. We replaced the 30+ year old roof last year, and now it is time to install a new solar heater to replace to old worn out one that came down when we replaced the roof. If your going to tackle this as a DIY project, or even if your not I suggest looking at http://www.h2otsun.com/ and reading everything they have to say about solar panels and designing systems. There is a LOT of good information there, of course a lot is slanted towards their product, which is very good by all accounts, and I strongly considered going with them, but in the end decided against them due to price, their quote came in just under $5,000 for the panels, and I ended up getting 11 4x12 Techno-Solis panels for a bit under $2,700 from http://www.poolheatpumps.com (with luck they should arrive this week).

    Now for a couple of words of advice, first don't get too hung up on BTU ratings, all of the commercial panels are going to be in the same ballpark for equal sized panels. When doing my shopping in the end I had narrowed it down to the Techno-Solis vs a relabelled Aquatherm panel sold by Elm Distributing. The BTU rating on the Aquatherm was a little higher, but in the end I decided it was not worth an extra $250 to get what amounted to an extra 1/3 panel of heat out of my system.

    Speaking of relabelling, there is a fair amount of it out there in the industry, Elm sells Aquatherm's basic panel to the DIY crowd, Solar-Direct does the same for the Techno-Solis under the Vortex label, etc.

    Another thing to keep in mind, a lot of the solar panel industry is based on a race to the bottom line lowest price, which tends to result in lot a low quality solar panels on the market, and few that consider anything except how to make them cheaper.

    Ike

    p.s.

    You mentioned Fafco, they certainly seem to have a good product, the only thing I don't like is they only sell through their dealer / installer network and use a lot of proprietary parts (special header couplers, etc.), excluding their "bear solar" DIY solar panel in a box kits.
    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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    cramar's Avatar
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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    I installed some Fafco's last year, they are readily available online from a variety of locations.
    I got the Fafco Sunsavers, they are sold as in-ground pool model...I still don't get inground pool model versus above ground pool model or why a distinction is necessary, but I can tell you that the sunsavers are rated for freezing and are sold at a true 4' wide panel whereas the above ground pool models aren't rated for freezing and are actually sold in 2' widths, so if you get 4' x 20' you actually get 2@2'x20'

    The sunsavers are a very solid material and more than met my expectations last year, several times I had to turn them off as the water was on it's way to 90 degree bath water - not refreshing.
    Hooking them up is certainly DIY but it takes a bit of planning to get it all done properly and the hard plumbing was more work than I thought it would be - although not difficult.

    I looked at the Fafco Revolution panels but couldn't find an online dealer, I don't think the extra cost is worthwhile.
    My only complaint against Fafco is that all their product lines are difficult to understand if you really dig deep into them, there's a variety of panel types, configurations, accessories, etc.
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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    Thanks everyone. I did a lot of reading on this site and it seems pretty well agreed that the coverage of the panels is more important than the kind of panels. That being said, I found Fafco on ebay http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-4x20-FAFCO...#ht_1759wt_931 for $540 delivered. Was thinking aobut getting two of them which would give me 320sq ft for a 750 sq ft pool.

    As far as the AG vs IG, is there any real difference. They appear to be less expensive and since I am not roof mounting this I may not need some of the extras that come with a roof mounted system. I don't want to be too cheap, however money is always an object.

    Also, I am assuming these are perfectly fine to stay out during the wintering given that all water has been drained out?
    29k gallon IG guninte lagoon shape.

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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    The difference between in ground and above ground panels is mostly that above ground panels normally have the water inlet and water outlet both on the same short edge, while in-ground panels typically have the water inlet and water outlet at opposite corners. Depending on the manufacturer, the in-ground panels are sometimes made of higher grade materials, but that varies and often they are identical expect for the water inlet/outlet location. Opposite corners for the inlet/outlet is more efficient, but tends to be more work to plumb.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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    cramar's Avatar
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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    ......2 of your questions were already discussed.
    20' X 54" Sharkline Matrix Resin AGP, 9400 Gallons, Sta-Rite 1 HP Dynamo Pump, 150 lb Pentair Sand Filter, Gorilla Pad,
    Foam Cove, Taylor K-2006 kit, BBB method, 8'X20' Fafco Sunsaver Hard Plumb, DIY Fountain, Margarittaville Fiji


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    Isaac-1's Avatar
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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    The Fafco Bear system does seem to be one of the better systems in a box kits out there, but when you start looking at chaining 4 of them together it may be time to look at something else. Sure the Fafco Bear systems with their U shaped flow layout and integrated bypass valve mounted on the mid way on the header is a creative idea, and the simplified installation instructions may look good at first glance, but I am not sure the flip side of these is best for a DIY rack mount project as this means you will end up with 4 bypass valves likely plumbed inline to try to regulate flow / bypass rate with (adjusting it on each panel, not just once for the bank, unless you add your own bypass plumbing ahead of the system even then you get a lot of extra valves to worry about) and the simplified installation instructions may lack details you need to understand for a non standard installation. Then of course are the things this kit lack, for example it seems there is no vacuum relief valve and of course no automated controller to turn the panels on when the sun is out and off when it is not (well when it heats the panels above pool temperature or when it is below). Depending on where you live having an automatic controller may be a big deal, I know in the years I did not have one my solar panels were often not working at their peak level, either the panels would miss out on operating when there was sunlight or they would be loosing heat operating when they should not. The biggest cause of the later in my area was random afternoon thermal thunderstorms, cold rain on operating solar panels is never good for trying to warm a pool.
    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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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    So I called one dealer to discuss the soalr bears. If I leave the header valve diverters open, then it should act like any other 4ft solar water heater without the valve. At least that is what the dealer told me. She even recommended hooking them up header to header in order to be most efficient. As for the vacuum valve, since the system will be a little lower then the water level in the pool, I am not really concerned with having one. I will be installing a drain plug for the winter of course.

    The problem is, I can't find this good of a deal on other panels. I found Aquasol's but there are aobut $250 for a 4x12!
    29k gallon IG guninte lagoon shape.

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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    OK, so this is the last question I have and then I will stop bother you all about this I promise. Not wanting to spend a ton of money on Enersol or Heliocol (especially when the BTU ratings are all very similar), I have decided on two options.

    The first is the solar bear by Fafco which I can get $800 for 3 panels or 240sq ft. These have 2" headers (not sure if that is good or not). I can position the header valve so that I could hook them up like any other.

    The other is from Solarcovers.com. There panels are 5' each (2 2.5' panels per box). They are "generic" brand made in China for this supplier. They mount like any other. However, I could get 300sq ft for $700.

    I am a little hung up on the "generic" thing. I forgot to ask about there warrantee which I guess would make a difference.

    Any final thoughts from you all. I would like to pull the trigger today so I can ahve them installed and start reporting back some results by nest week.

    BTW, just opened my pool yesterday. Couldn't take lookind at the winter cover anymore. Water is a firery 45 degrees. Brrrrrrr
    29k gallon IG guninte lagoon shape.

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    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: Going to install a solar heater this year - Need Some He

    I'd go with the Fafco. They have 2" headers and are a well known mfg. The other's have 1½" headers and are of unknown quality.
    Dave J. TFP Moderator
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