Earlier in the season I got solar pool heating. I have 8 2x20 panels on my garage roof facing South-Southeast and one tree that blocked them in the earliest morning hours (before like 8am). The panels are sungrabber panels from ebay which are an economy fafco brand panel. They are cheaper and a bit harder to work with than a standard fafco panel I'd say. I got them mainly because their design and sizing meant I could fill my ENTIRE roof area with them.
First, the panels are installed horizontally and not allowed to be installed vertically (and if you make a warranty claim they will want a pic of your install). This causes the panels to get a little bit of sagging or rippling here and there and though it's not an incredible eyesore it's annoyed me all year and I'll be trying to put a small strap on the edges to tighten them a bit to stop it. Their support said I can strap the headers back on one side to try to flatten them. I've not had any problems with wind. We've had some very strong wind storms and even the one panel that is rippled good isn't going anywhere.
After install I found one panel with a hole in it facing down (so the leak was hard to pinpoint). Their support asked a couple questions and promptly sent me a new panel. They didn't really care if I sent the one with a hole back so I guess I have a spare or something, not that I'd have enough roof area to add it on. If I did, you better believe I would! Later in the season the very lowest panel developed a pinhole leak that shoots a tiny stream of water about 1 foot into the air. I'll probably ask for another panel from them as my warranty is like 10 years I think.
The panels are heating a near 30,000 gallon 18x40 free form pool. The pool has a solar cover that was used whenever additional heat was desired. During august the pool stayed around 88 to 90 but never really got bathwater hot like I wanted to (to have a nice night party). Now that it's been cold (75-80F max days but usually more like 70F) the pool has managed to stay around 78F-80F max and it is still swimmable.
The whole problem with my entire theory is that my desire to swim in this cold weather just isn't there. I'm already not that warm to begin with and though a friend just closed his pool because it hit like 65F and mine is near 80F it's still not that tempting to swim. And so I fear I may have wasted $1000 on these panels because I think for me the most valueable setup would be solar panels to boost the incoming temp to a propane heater but then a propane heater to do the rest of the work when it gets cold like this. I just can't spend the money on a propane heater right now as the pool has 25 year old plaster and the house needs siding and windows.
I don't know really. It's been a cold year and I'm really disappointed in general that I've gone to this amount of work and used the pool so little due to the weather. Hopefully the impact is more dramatic next year.
As a "cheap" economy product though, despite whatever issues I've had, I'm overall satisfied. One thing is for sure that I've gotten a LOT of heat out of these panels overall without paying a dime in fuel costs and I get to feel "green". The goldline controller it comes with is a very boring product that simply works flawlessly without any drama, as a pool controller should. I plan to build the solar control into my main system for next year. I'll be developing and testing once I'm sure my swimming days are over. I also have the main house roof top. I could definitely extend and add additional panels to the main house roof if I felt daring. It would certainly help because I am at minimum spec panel area for my enormous pool.