Become a TFP Supporter Pool Math Forum Rules Pool School
Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

  1. Back To Top    #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Central FL
    Posts
    80

    Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

    My wife and I had a pool built about 2 years ago just north of Orlando, FL. At the time, we didn't think we would need any type of heating system because we have a west-facing pool and get all of the afternoon sun. Unfortunately, between the high roof line on the one side and high trees on the other, our pool doesn't get much sun at all. Last summer, the water temp never went above 84-85F. This season so far, we've had plenty of 85-95F days, but the water temp will not go above 81-82. I had family over on Memorial Day weekend, and though the air temp was in the high 80s/low 90s, the water temp barely hit 82F. My guests who were brave enough to venture into the pool commented on how cold it was through chattering teeth. This prompted me to immediately begin researching pool heating solutions, with solar being the clear choice. My equipment is on the southwest corner of the house, and there's a nice, large section of southern-facing roof on the side of the house which is not visible from anywhere around the house. Absolutely perfect. I did my research and had reps for the big three come out to provide quotes. We got quotes for Heliocol, Aquatherm, and Fafco, in that order. We determined our budget to be around $4K, give or take a few hundred.

    Initially, the Heliocol solution seemed best, with fewer penetrations, the monolithic panel without gaps, and the clamp/o-ring couplers instead of the hose clamps. Unfortunately, the Heliocol salesman seemed more interested in bashing the competition than praising his own product. He initially quoted us a price for 9 panels, but I told him that we didn't need 100F water or to swim year round, so we settled on 6.5 panels in a single bank. We have a Pentair 2 speed pump, and he said that the SolarTouch automation system they offer would not work for us. We decided on a manual system to keep costs down. The final number came in at $3702.50 for 6.5 panels with manual valves.

    We then had the Aquatherm dealer come out to give us a quote. He explained how he offers 3 panels, the UltraSun, EcoSun, and SunSwim. The main difference were the warranties, which were 20yr, 12, and 5, respectively. Unfortunately, I couldn't find as much information online about the Aquatherm panels as I could about Heliocol and Fafco, so I was somewhat leery of them to begin with. I also didn't like the fact that they use the coated metal straps. Metal rubbing on plastic just doesn't seem right to me. The quotes for 7 panels of the three tiers were $4261, 3561, and 2861, with an additional Hayward controller for $395. Unfortunately, I cannot find ANY 20yr warranty information on the UltraSun, so I think the dealer extends the warranty himself.

    Finally, tonight we had the Fafco dealer rep come quote us. We were looking at the Revolution panel with the dimples. He gave his sales pitch, showed us samples of the big three, and explained in great detail how they attach their Dacron straps to the roof with waterproof adhesive/lag bolts. This made me feel much better about the extra roof penetrations, and told me that the other guys were somewhat blowing smoke. In the end, the Fafco dealer quoted us $3800 for 6 regular SunSaver panels (12yr warranty), including a $500 Fafco instant rebate, a free (normally $195) pool cover, and a free ($590 value) Pentair SolarTouch which he stated WILL work with our 2 speed pump to open/close the solar valves. It just won't affect the pump speed unless we upgrade to a variable. Makes sense. This price also includes a 10% discount for "standby installation", which means that if they're going to be in the neighborhood doing another install for a pool builder, they can call us with a day's notice to come install. As my wife is a stay-at-home mom, this was perfect and kind of sent us over the edge. The other nice thing is that Fafco guarantees in writing that our pool will be above 80F from March 7th until November 15th. If the system doesn't perform to this standard, they will come out and install a 7th or 8th panel free of charge.

    TL;DR: We want solar heating for our pool. Spoke to Heliocol, AquaTherm, and Fafco. Quotes as follows:

    Heliocol: $3702 for 6.5 panels, manual valves, no pool cover
    UltraSun: $4656 for 7 panels, Hayward automation, no pool cover
    Fafco: $3800 for 6 panels, free SolarTouch automation, free pool cover, 12deg rise guarantee/80deg water from 3/7-12/15

    So tell me friends, what would you do?
    17x34' 13400gal freeform gunite IG pool, DB Tahoe Blue, cartridge filter, Rainbow 320, ClearO3 ozonator, 1.5HP 2sp Whisperflow, Intellibrite 5G Color LED, pavers, screened enclosure, Liquidator, 6x Fafco SunSavers, SolarTouch

  2. Back To Top    #2
    Isaac-1's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    SW Louisiana
    Posts
    6,711

    Re: Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

    I have read over your message a couple of times, and am finding it hard to come up with a detailed reply as there are so many topics here, so instead I am going to mention some random bullet points.

    1, Watch out for the fine print on those warranties, many of them are written so that you have to pay freight on the replacement panels, or the may be prorated for if the failure happens after X years, they let you buy the panel at 50% of list price, which may be similar to what your discounted price is now.

    2, Fafco, Heliocool, and Aqautherm are all big brands, all seem to offer quality products, but approach the way they market their products somewhat differently, Fafco and Heliocool seem to both use a locked in dealer network system (perhaps with some variations), Aquatherm seems to sell through more independent dealers, they also sell a lot of their panels through private label programs, Elm Distributing, and Aqua Sol being a prime examples, this may account for you finding less review information on them. The private label marketing lets them somewhat play multiple parts of the market, but also lets them shift warranty burden to the private label company, this lets them sell the identical panel under a different name with different warranty coverage at different prices. Lets say you have panel A that cost $100, and has a 10% failure rate at 5 years of age, and 20% failure rate at 10 years, etc. If you sell that panel at a lower price with a 5 year warranty you make money, but to allow you into the market for people thinking they are getting a premium product, you can also sell the same panel with a 10 year warranty, but under a different name for $150, and still cover the extra 10% of increased failures.

    3, Your comment on Helicool and bashing the competitors fits right in with what I have seen on their web site, just look for yourself it is compare A to B competitor and never about what makes A good on its own.

    4, You noted the spiral flow panels, when I was shopping for new panels a few months ago I found several comments online about failure in these tubes where the spiral flow dimples are, it was enough for me to remove them from consideration.

    5, You mention concern about coated steel straps vs poly straps, in a correctly installed solar panel (at least according to some installation manuals) these straps are an emergency backup attachment method and should never touch the plastic panel except in extreme wind situations. Instead they should be a fraction of an inch above the panel.

    6, On the whole O-ring coupler, vs hose clamp, I can see benefits to the O-ring systems, but hose and clamps do work, and they don't lock you into a proprietary system that you can only get from one dealer.

    7, Now down to price, WOW, I know every market is different, but WOW, by comparison I did mine as a DIY project with professional roofer doing the roof top work, I paid about $2,700 delivered for 11 4x12 Techno Solis panels, plus about an additional $1,000 -$1,250 to cover plumbing, additional hardware and about 9 hours of roof top labor for one roofer and one helper. I probably spent an additional 8-10 hours with the help of my college age son prepping the panels (laying them out, adding fittings to one side, painting the PVC pipe for UV resistance, running the ground level plumbing and replumbing the pad)

    8, Speaking of Techno-Solis you might want to check them out, as they make their panels in the Tamp Bay area, which could be a BIG advantage for you in terms of freight cost if you ever needed to replace a single leaking panel.

    9, I am not sure what to make about the comment about the Solar Touch Controller not working for you.

    10, I would strongly suggest getting a solar controller system if at all possible, even a cheap $300-$400 one is far better than manual control, my solar heater is now on its 3rd or 4th incarnation (had the roof replaced last year so all new solar panels this year), you likely have summer thermal thunderstorms like we do, which just SUCK the heat out of running panels that may be on a simple timer.

    That is all I have for now
    Ike
    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
    I use and endorse TFtestKits TF-100 from http://tftestkits.net
    ~Remember TFP counts on your donations to keep this site ad free~

  3. Back To Top    #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Central FL
    Posts
    80

    Re: Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

    Thanks for the reply Ike! I know my OP was long, convoluted, and confusing. There was a lot of information to disseminate and I had to do it in a hurry to put my kid down for the night. Sorry for being all over the place!

    1, Watch out for the fine print on those warranties, many of them are written so that you have to pay freight on the replacement panels, or the may be prorated for if the failure happens after X years, they let you buy the panel at 50% of list price, which may be similar to what your discounted price is now.

    I did notice they pretty much all had the %50 off normal cost after 12 years (or whatever the warranty term is.) I'm quite alright with that, as it's better than having to shell out full price again should the system fail catastrophically a year outside of warranty. Of course, the 50% would be at the price 12+ years from now, so I'm sure it's all a wash. Another thing about most of their warranties is that it is transferrable should we ever sell the house. Nice touch, I'd say.

    2, Fafco, Heliocool, and Aqautherm are all big brands, all seem to offer quality products, but approach the way they market their products somewhat differently, Fafco and Heliocool seem to both use a locked in dealer network system (perhaps with some variations), Aquatherm seems to sell through more independent dealers, they also sell a lot of their panels through private label programs, Elm Distributing, and Aqua Sol being a prime examples, this may account for you finding less review information on them. The private label marketing lets them somewhat play multiple parts of the market, but also lets them shift warranty burden to the private label company, this lets them sell the identical panel under a different name with different warranty coverage at different prices. Lets say you have panel A that cost $100, and has a 10% failure rate at 5 years of age, and 20% failure rate at 10 years, etc. If you sell that panel at a lower price with a 5 year warranty you make money, but to allow you into the market for people thinking they are getting a premium product, you can also sell the same panel with a 10 year warranty, but under a different name for $150, and still cover the extra 10% of increased failures.

    That makes a lot of sense on the AquaTherm panels. I can see, however, how all that could give someone a headache.

    3, Your comment on Helicool and bashing the competitors fits right in with what I have seen on their web site, just look for yourself it is compare A to B competitor and never about what makes A good on its own.

    Yeah, I must say that it kind of left a bad taste in our mouths. I can understand pointing out why your system is better than the other guy's, but that really shouldn't be the basis of your sales pitch, especially when your panels output the fewest BTUs of all of them!

    4, You noted the spiral flow panels, when I was shopping for new panels a few months ago I found several comments online about failure in these tubes where the spiral flow dimples are, it was enough for me to remove them from consideration.

    I hadn't thought about this initially, but my wife did bring it up. It was enough of a concern for us to decide on the regular non-dimpled SunSaver panels over the Revolution ones.

    5, You mention concern about coated steel straps vs poly straps, in a correctly installed solar panel (at least according to some installation manuals) these straps are an emergency backup attachment method and should never touch the plastic panel except in extreme wind situations. Instead they should be a fraction of an inch above the panel.

    I agree that they shouldn't touch the panels in a proper installation, but what are the chances that the installer tech is going to get them all exactly right? I could definitely see them just strapping them down without the same level of care that a DIYer would exhibit. The dacron straps do need to be replaced every 4-5 years, but I think I can swing the 80 bucks for that.

    6, On the whole O-ring coupler, vs hose clamp, I can see benefits to the O-ring systems, but hose and clamps do work, and they don't lock you into a proprietary system that you can only get from one dealer.

    The big deal with the hose couplers/clamps, as Heliocol LOVES to bring up, is that they must be re-tightened every year or so. The other guys basically say that it's not true at all and it's just what Heliocol says to talk up their own coupling system.

    7, Now down to price, WOW, I know every market is different, but WOW, by comparison I did mine as a DIY project with professional roofer doing the roof top work, I paid about $2,700 delivered for 11 4x12 Techno Solis panels, plus about an additional $1,000 -$1,250 to cover plumbing, additional hardware and about 9 hours of roof top labor for one roofer and one helper. I probably spent an additional 8-10 hours with the help of my college age son prepping the panels (laying them out, adding fittings to one side, painting the PVC pipe for UV resistance, running the ground level plumbing and replumbing the pad)

    That's not bad at all for that number of panels, but I prefer the peace of mind of having it done professionally by a really good local dealer. I definitely don't need anymore home projects right now!

    8, Speaking of Techno-Solis you might want to check them out, as they make their panels in the Tamp Bay area, which could be a BIG advantage for you in terms of freight cost if you ever needed to replace a single leaking panel.

    Yeah I will read up on them some more. I did look into them briefly, but I decided not to DIY so I stopped.

    9, I am not sure what to make about the comment about the Solar Touch Controller not working for you.

    Yeah, I understand that these things interface with variable pumps to raise the speed when the solar is opened, but I can keep using my digital Intermatic timer to run the pump on hi/lo cycles and use the SolarTouch to open/close the solar valves as needed.

    10, I would strongly suggest getting a solar controller system if at all possible, even a cheap $300-$400 one is far better than manual control, my solar heater is now on its 3rd or 4th incarnation (had the roof replaced last year so all new solar panels this year), you likely have summer thermal thunderstorms like we do, which just SUCK the heat out of running panels that may be on a simple timer.

    I think at this point, we've pretty much decided on the Fafco setup with all of the extras they're providing. I think in the end it really does boil down to BTU/cost.
    17x34' 13400gal freeform gunite IG pool, DB Tahoe Blue, cartridge filter, Rainbow 320, ClearO3 ozonator, 1.5HP 2sp Whisperflow, Intellibrite 5G Color LED, pavers, screened enclosure, Liquidator, 6x Fafco SunSavers, SolarTouch

  4. Back To Top    #4
    Isaac-1's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    SW Louisiana
    Posts
    6,711

    Re: Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

    I would agree that Fafco looks the best out of the choices presented, I am not sure about your comment regarding Techno Solis and DIY, while they are sold to the DIY crowd (mostly as private label through Solar Direct, but also under the Techno Solis name as mine are), their primary market still seems to be through a dealer / installer network.

    Ike

    p.s. As to the hose clamp issue, one of our members here commented the other day about starting to have his first leaks on a set of panels he installed about 5 years ago, leaks were solved by tightening the hose clamps. Need for this may depend on climate though as well as material the hoses are made from.
    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
    I use and endorse TFtestKits TF-100 from http://tftestkits.net
    ~Remember TFP counts on your donations to keep this site ad free~

  5. Back To Top    #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Central FL
    Posts
    80

    Re: Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac-1
    I would agree that Fafco looks the best out of the choices presented, I am not sure about your comment regarding Techno Solis and DIY, while they are sold to the DIY crowd (mostly as private label through Solar Direct, but also under the Techno Solis name as mine are), their primary market still seems to be through a dealer / installer network.

    Ike

    p.s. As to the hose clamp issue, one of our members here commented the other day about starting to have his first leaks on a set of panels he installed about 5 years ago, leaks were solved by tightening the hose clamps. Need for this may depend on climate though as well as material the hoses are made from.
    Wow, I didn't even see that they were dealer-based. I just looked and found my local Techno-Solis dealer, "Discount Pool Service & Repair." They don't have a website and I really can't find any information on them. I know most panels will heat my water just as well as the others, but I want to be able to call the company when something does go wrong and not have to worry about them coming out to fix it. As for the hose clamps, paying 80 bucks every 5 years for a "tune-up" doesn't seem like too big of a deal to me. ****, I could get up there with a ratchet and give 'em a little twist myself if needed.
    17x34' 13400gal freeform gunite IG pool, DB Tahoe Blue, cartridge filter, Rainbow 320, ClearO3 ozonator, 1.5HP 2sp Whisperflow, Intellibrite 5G Color LED, pavers, screened enclosure, Liquidator, 6x Fafco SunSavers, SolarTouch

  6. Back To Top    #6

    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Central FL
    Posts
    80

    Re: Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

    Last night I gave my local Fafco dealer the green light to go ahead and install their system on my roof. They will be out tomorrow! It's been in the mid-high 80s with lots of sun lately with a few spats of heavy rain, and the pool temp refuses to budge from 81-82F. Maybe I'll be able to get my wife into the pool finally!
    17x34' 13400gal freeform gunite IG pool, DB Tahoe Blue, cartridge filter, Rainbow 320, ClearO3 ozonator, 1.5HP 2sp Whisperflow, Intellibrite 5G Color LED, pavers, screened enclosure, Liquidator, 6x Fafco SunSavers, SolarTouch

  7. Back To Top    #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Southwick, MA
    Posts
    211

    Re: Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

    Good luck!!!!!

    81-82 is warm for me, I can not stand warm pools, the whole point is to cool off.

    Then again I am in New England, your in Florida.
    24X44 IG Vinyl Custom Shaped Pool, Starite S7M400 Cartridge Filter, Starite Sumpermax VS Pump, built July 2015, TF-100 Test Kit, Pentair Intellichlor IC40 SWG, NG Starite SR400 Heater, Easytouch with Screen Logic, Magicstream Laminars, Bullfrog A7 Spa

  8. Back To Top    #8

    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Central FL
    Posts
    80

    Re: Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

    Quote Originally Posted by Carnut12
    Good luck!!!!!

    81-82 is warm for me, I can not stand warm pools, the whole point is to cool off.

    Then again I am in New England, your in Florida.
    Thank you! They came to install the system today. Pool temp was 82F at startup (12:30pm) according to the SolarTouch, and 2 hours later it hit 86F before a wicked rainstorm moved in. Being from Philly, I used to think that 81-82 was comfy. Living in Florida now, I think my blood has thinned to the point where 88ish is perfect!
    17x34' 13400gal freeform gunite IG pool, DB Tahoe Blue, cartridge filter, Rainbow 320, ClearO3 ozonator, 1.5HP 2sp Whisperflow, Intellibrite 5G Color LED, pavers, screened enclosure, Liquidator, 6x Fafco SunSavers, SolarTouch

  9. Back To Top    #9

    Re: Solar Quotes - I think I now have an ulcer! [LONG]

    Side note... I find it is the difference between air and water temp that leads to the initial "chill" when getting in the pool to a degree. If the air temp is 80 and the pool is 82, it feels slightly warm. If the air is 95 an the pool is 85, it feels cool to almost cold. YMMV.
    45' x 65" Rectangle, 85,000 gallons, marcite, 3 - 2hp Pentairs, sand, AutoPilot Professional 4 cells, Aquacheck Digital Reader, Aquachek Salt Water Chlorine Generator Test Strips (amazon has best price for 40 count!)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •