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Thread: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

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    DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Hello all,

    This year I am not redoing my pool like I was originally going to but instead am installing solar. I've decided to go with Fafco panels sold by "neelypools" on ebay. I got a full system kit, 8 2x20 panels + installation kit with valves, check valves, etc + goldline controller for a little over $1K. I elected to do the installation myself which involves trenching, plumbing, running the wiring for the controller.

    Lessons learned:
    1. Working on a roof at or near a 45 degree pitch is terrifying. It's pretty unnerving to be constantly sliding.
    2. Most roofers would rather not install solar panels for pools.
    3. Tree roots are pretty annoying, especially when you're trying to not kill the aforementioned tree.
    4. Don't dig a trench a day before the biggest rain storm of the year
    5. Weight the panels flat in the sun, in the lawn for 24 hours. They're WAY easier to work with flattened out.
    6. The goldline kit doesn't come with wire to wire the thermistor that goes to either the panel or the plumbing.

    I'm providing quite the entertainment for the neighbors I'm sure. First I started trenching and plumbing a couple days before the panels came. I purchased 200 ft of 2" pipe, 60 ft or so of electrical conduit, fittings galore, pvc cement. I do have some experience doing pvc plumbing so I was well prepared for this part of the job. However, I've never done anything on the roof before. So I get the plumbing well under way, pressure tested it today and all is well and I can now start to backfill my trenches. Yesterday I got started on mounting the panels on the roof late. It's pretty unnerving drilling holes in my roof and I really hope I'm not signing up for trouble later on. There'll be plenty to monitor. After the first panel was installed I gave up for the night after not even being able to install the second. The second was left dangling. The next morning around 9am I started to work again and the roof was HOT HOT HOT. It was so hot that I slipped all around and couldn't do anything. I gave up right, then and right there and called every roofer under the sun. Out of 10+ only one would even consider taking the job. Another guy, a solar contractor over 30 miles from me also agreed to look into it. Then I looked into my other options which included an aerial boom lift rental and or a safety harness. I looked at the harnesses and while they could support my weight, they were a steep price at $130. I bought it. When I got home I read about them and found that you generally don't use a safety harness for support but as a last line of defense. Generally they're not supposed to be taut or anything. I bought a stud finder to find the joists underneath to mount the central support for the harness. Only - it couldn't work through the shingles. I was not going to probe my roof to find a joist so I returned the hoist. The boom lift would cost $500 or so delivered for 24 hours. The 2 roofers that called me back both estimated $1500. I wrestled with all of this for a while and have until about 10am tomorrow to make a decision on the boom lift. I decided to get back up there and try again at around 6pm. Much to my surprise the cool roof which doesn't get a tremendous amount of afternoon sun was very grippy and I felt a lot more comfortable. I was able to get 3 more panels installed so I'm officially half-way done!

    More to come - hopefully no broken legs.

    Pics to come in a few minutes.

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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Yeah, that roof work is a hoot! My hands and knees were raw from crawling on the shingles. Pretty precarious trying to take all the tools and parts with me up there. The heat in those shingles will be going to the pool soon.

    If you need to anchor a harness, you can run the rope over the ridge and anchor to something solid on the ground on the other side. You may have to tie the rope off at the ridge to keep it from being able to go off the ends too.

    If it's any encouragement, I picked up 9 degrees yesterday running the panels with the blanket on.

    I can see my lag bolts from underneath, and there is no hint that any water has seeped through any of them after a year. I pretty well filled the hole with roofing cement before I put the bolt in.
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    John,

    Where did you get your panels?

    Thanks,

    Kevin
    11000 Gals, Intelliflo, Sta-Rite Cartridge, Polaris 360

    Pool I built in my old house: my-new-pool-build-t4534.html

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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Kevin, I got my panels at bestbuypoolsupply.com
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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Piku, hows the install going. I shut my panels off today when the pool hit 90.
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Bah, I have been simultaneously as of wednesday digging for drainage. I rented a HUGE trenching machine from home depot capable of digging to 36" depth. 140 feet of solid piping to the storm drain for gutters at around 2ft depth and 60 feet of curtain drain at about 1ft depth. So annoying, but the trencher didn't really go straight so some of the corner fittings didn't want to go on too easily (but I made them work). The 60 feet of curtain drain required about 3/4 ton of stone hauled manually by wheel barrow and because my fiance was being a wimp I had to shovel it OUT of the wheelbarrow by hand while she held the soil fabric back. I've been working to break up the hard clay lumps to rebury the lines so that by the time it rains (tonight) my yard doesn't get completely ruined and the clumps don't get harder. I was only about halfway successful. So I've made very little progress on the solar. I did pressure test my underground lines (successfully) and backfill though. I still have to get 4 more panels hung, plumbed and plumb the pad. My pool is only 72 right now

    The whole point of all of this is so my 30+ year old house stops settling and so my pool stops overflowing with mud over the winter/spring.

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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Do NOT lay the panels out on your lawn in the sun, lay them out overnight in the dark instead maybe. 3 days later the grass under where the panels were is half dead

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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Quote Originally Posted by piku
    Do NOT lay the panels out on your lawn in the sun, lay them out overnight in the dark instead maybe. 3 days later the grass under where the panels were is half dead
    My panels called for me to mount the top straps with the panels still rolled up. While the panels were rolled up at the peak, I installed the cross-strap anchors. Then I removed the tape when I had them all mounted. As the sun warmed them, they all unrolled and laid flat on the roof.
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    One of the panels leaks Pics to come.

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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Here are pics of the final build...

    So yeah some ripples and the straps don't APPEAR to be straight because the panels are mounted on a slant per the instructions.




    Where water exits ground going to panels

    Plumbing to bring water to panels


    Here is the return plumbing - note the half can of glue dropped down the roof



    I should probably strap it down


    I needed to get done quick so I just dropped the return right into the pool for now. I'll plumb it to the bottom return later.


    Equipment - the line from the new diverter valve isn't level

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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Oh my. I was always under the impression that I had a 16x32 pool. I replaced my cover this winter and I got an 18x36 pool cover. I thought it was a little odd that it BARELY fit. I mean it was really way too small, especially lengthwise. I'm about to order a new solar cover so I figured I'd give it a measure. It's an ovalish free form pool with little half-moon cutouts. The length is at LEAST 40 feet, probably more like 41. The width varies between 16 feet at the shortest and 19 feet at the widest. So I can safely say my pool is roughly an 18x40 oval. 3.5 foot average shallow, 10 feet deep end (again, at least, it's REALLY deep with diving board), So average depth of 6.75 feet, I can reduce it to 6 feet safely and so my pool is _29,000_ gallons instead of 20,000. Which means the solar system I got is BARELY enough. It also means I need to order a 20x40 solar cover

    This goes a long way to explaining while the chemical additions I do never seem to make the difference poolcalc indicates they should.

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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Are you using the Goldline kit to replace the NSLU2/Arduino system? If so, could you say why? Install looks great so far, here's to wishing you good weather and a Trouble Free Pool to enjoy it in!
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Quote Originally Posted by New2Me
    Are you using the Goldline kit to replace the NSLU2/Arduino system? If so, could you say why? Install looks great so far, here's to wishing you good weather and a Trouble Free Pool to enjoy it in!
    I'm diverging a bit from the thread but...

    They are working in concert with each other right now. The solar setup is leaking from a couple places and in general I'm not too happy with the Fafco SUNGRABBER panels. Little did I know that fafco makes several different lines! Sungrabber is a bit of a pita compared to their traditional and more expensive line. Thankfully none of my now underground plumbing seems to be leaking. I've been wrestling with a few problems with the NSLU2/arduino system and I wanted to set something up that I knew would work ok at least temporarily. The NSLU2 originally had slugos 4.8 and the k2wrlz version of hte wireless driver for my usb wireless adapter but it didn't work right at all and would stop responding after a couple days. I finally got around to flashing the latest slugos with a proper driver and proper setup and it's rock solid now. I chose LM34's as temperature sensors but this was a very bad choice as they are highly affected by capacitance and I should be using 10K thermistors (just like the goldline controllers do). I also used the goldline controller because as a kit it came with 99% of what I'd need and the only thing I'd not use is the controller itself which isn't a terribly expensive part of the kit.

    Now that I have everything rock solid I've been developing (with some success I might add) a super modular version of the system that is suitable for sales and an open source release. The arduino itself will have a common firmware that is shared amongst all users of the system no matter what their configuration and it is now remote programmable using a simple protocol. It took a surprising amount of code in the arduino to implement the protocol but the tiny AVR doesn't seem to have any problem running it. The original control program was written in C and ran on the NSLU2 itself. The NSLU2 doesn't seem to be capable of running a full blown mono installation due to memory limitations. C is not really my forte and I wanted to use a modern language like C# so I installed a program that basically converts serial communications to socket communications and started working on control software in C#. I got that finished and now I am porting all of the functions to a web service so that one single application doesn't horde the one and only tcp connection to the arduino. I'm nearly finished with building a flash version of the touch screen interface which uses web service calls to control everything and get info. It's much better and more reliable this way. I've also been expanding my database schema so that basically everything will be defined in the database or using an administrative utility as well as a special actions table. So for instance, you setup your elements, a pump switch, a light switch, a pressure side pressure sensor. Then you can define in special actions that you want a pump check using the pump switch and the pressure side sensor. After this the system will check the output psi while the pump is running and if it's not between 5 psi and 25 psi for more than 10 seconds it shuts off the pump. It works very well. I run up into it a lot while I'm doing work on the system. I'll shut down the pump using the breaker and 10 seconds later I'll hear click as the system thought there was some kind of catastrophic failure and shut down the pump contactor. But yeah I'm working on the polish right now and basically I used the goldline system because I wanted to learn about how it functions and how the valve actuators work so I didn't break it because the actuators cost $$.

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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    I'm using the same 2x20 sun grabber panels and i noticed you have both ends plumbed together. My panels have some kind of divider in one of the collectors on each panel and the instructions say to just plumb the ends with those dividers together and then cap the ends with out the dividers in them. do your panels have the dividers? i like how you have yours plumbed. do you have any results yet?
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Yeah those sound like above ground version of the panels. I have the in ground version. They work pretty well. The water coming out of the outlet is just flat out hot on an 80 degree day. My pool is 78 right now but it's been rainy, cold and cloudy for days.

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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    tag
    Above Ground, 8,000 gallons, Hayward DE bump filter, Vinyl

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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Just wanted to follow up and see how you are doing with your Fafco Sungrabber panels? I'm researching panels and plan to purchase some in the next week. Fafco is popular around here, but the local retailers are a bit pricey - $300-400 for 4' x 12' Sunsaver panels, of which I would need 6. A cheap alternative would be to do the Sungrabbers at about 1/3 the price.

    Although it seems perhaps the Sungrabbers are a bit difficult to keep straight with their horizontal orientation, which honestly would drive me nuts. I can't stand to see things that are out of square, not level, sagging, etc.

    I've also heard the Sungrabbers are a bit thinner and lighter, and more difficult to work with than the more expensive models.
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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Hi, the panels are still working very well. The controller has never given me any kind of hiccup and works without issues. I had one hole on installation which fafco replaced the panel for me. I found another hole last fall just before closing so I ignored it. Fafco sent me some patch plugs for this but when I went to open this year the hole wasn't leaking and I couldn't find it! Maybe it self sealed Every now and then I have to get up there and tighten down the hose clamps here and there... they like to leak, but it's not a big deal if you installed them to begin with. I bought and installed several adjustable screwdown clamps and straps to pull the headers sideways and it's really smoothed out the panels a lot. They'll still wave out when it's hot but when it gets cold they are super flat.

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    Re: DIY Solar Build Thread with Pics

    Also my installation did NOT drain down properly. I had to get on the roof and blow the panels out. My shop vac could easily blow out 4 panels at a time and it wasn't that big of a deal. I had to get on the roof to disconnect the plumbing to blow out the underground plumbing anyway. As you can see, it's not even close to being installed below the frost line so all the solar plumbing needs to be blown out. My closing procedure last year seems to have worked. No apparent leaks.

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