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Thread: Solar Panels- What to look for

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    Solar Panels- What to look for

    I am in the process of buying heating for my pool. I would like to go solar due to operating cost. I am looking into Fafco and Heliocol but came across SUNSTAR solar collectors by Plastic Magen Industries.

    Any one heard or use these panels? Isn't Heliocol made by Plastic Magen as well?

    Since I live in Miami, high force winds are a major concern. I want a controller and would like to extend my season all year round. And price is of some concern.

    What should I be looking for?

    Also, I was wondering why they use surface area to determine how many panels are needed. Why wouldn't you use gallons of water? I can see a 30x15 foot pool having a deep end and have the same gals as a 20x40 4ft pool. Yet the industry norm is to get the same sq ft of panels as the surface of the pool.
    20x40 24,000 gal IG plaster/CircuPool RJ45 SWG/2 skimmer/2sp 2.5hp Jandy Stealth/340sq ft cart filter/600sqftHeliocol Solar Panels/6ft semi circlr tanning ledge/25ft deep end bench/5ft sheer descent/2 lion head water features/1300sqft travertine paver/2 Colorlogic lights/Hayward Navigator/3step 2ft raised bond beam

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    JasonLion's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Silver Spring, MD
    Almost all of the heat loss is through the surface, primarily through evaporation. Thus the rate of heat loss is proportional to the surface area. This rule works very well in the fall. There is some additional heat required in the early spring, that is proportional to the volume, to establish the initial temperature. However, the surface heat loss quickly becomes more significant than bulk heating as soon as the water gets several degrees above the average temperature, so the bulk heating rate can be ignored.

    By the by, more panel area always helps, but you don't usually really need as much panel area as the surface of the pool. It really depends on your goals. 30-50% coverage will extend your swimming season quite significantly. 100% coverage will very dramatically extend your swim season, all the way to year round in some sunnier areas. I don't like to swim when the air temperature is too cold, so the more dramatic extension of the season is not as interesting to me.

    PowerMat has some nice charts that can help you get a sense of what different size arrays can do and what some of the other factors to keep in mind are.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  3. Back To Top    #3
    The Florida Solar Energy Center has useful information on different systems and FAQ's on installation and other stuff. You can find the Center here: ... /index.htm

    In New Jersey, my system, which covers about 70% of my pool surface, gives me a month at either end of the season and much more comfortable water in the early season. In Florida, you can run the system at night to cool off the pool somewhat in the Summer, although I do not know of anyone who has indicated how efficient the panels are as pool coolers.

    19,000 vinyl pool, solar heat, .75 hp tristar, 48 sq ft de filter

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    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Valrico, FL
    I just had a solar heater installed as part of a new pool build. The solar collectors used are Heliocol. Heliocol, SunStar and even Powermat are made by Plastic Magen. These panels differ in one way from the Fafco panels: how they are joined together. The Fafco panels are joined together with a rubber hose and hose clamps. The Plastic Magen panels are joined with a plastic ring and an o-ring. I have been told that the rubber hoses on the Fafco panels require maintenance/replacement every year or so. Fafco does have a new panel which is suppose to increase the amount of heat collected for the same coverage area. These panels have dimples in the collector tubes.
    7,500 gal, IG pool, L shape 22' x 15', 1.5 hp pump, cartridge filter, AquaPlus SWG/Controller, Pebble-Tec liner.

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    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    San Rafael, CA USA
    I have had Fafco panels for 5 years now and haven't seen any problems with the joined rubber hose and hose clamps, but then again I have my local Fafco installer come out to winterize the panels (drain them, open them up in a couple of places, turn off the solar controller) and then startup again in the spring. So it's possible they are fixing things that I am not aware of, though I would think they would make a big deal about that to justify their maintenance expense (though it's pretty cheap).

    16,000 gallon outdoor in-ground 16'x32' plaster pool; Pentair Intelliflo VF pump; Pentair IntelliTouch i9+3s control system; Jandy CL-340 square foot cartridge filter
    12 Fafco solar panels; Purex Triton PowerMax 250 natural gas heater (200,000 BTU/hr output); automatic electric pool safety cover; 4-wheel pressure-side "The Pool Cleaner"

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    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    SF Bay Area
    chem geek,

    I inherited some Fafco panels and I'm not sure how old they are. I hadn't even considered the need for these to be winterized like you have been doing - mainly because of my own ignorance.

    We had several really cold nights last year (cold for us, at least, but I think those in the mid-west won't be very impressed :P ) dipping down into the mid-20's and one night even into the low-20's. I kept my filter pump running overnight and, if I recall correctly, did not activate the solar valves to send water through the solar panels. I did not detect any damage to the solar panels from this cold snap last winter, but then again I have not been on the second story roof to closely inspect the panels.

    My solar panels have a vacuum breaker to drain the panels when the solar valve is not activated. I am assuming that the panels are fully draining.

    I don't plan on winterizing these panels this winter either, but methinks that I need to troop up to the second story roof to inspect these panels in the near future.

    24,000 gallon inground freeform pool/spa circa 1983 (113 ft perimeter, 625 sq ft) with 350 gallon attached spill-over spa
    2007 2 HP, three-phase Hayward TriStar pump which is powered by an Ikeric VS-200 variable speed drive system
    1983 Laars XE Pool/Spa Heater Type ES 400,000 BTU, 1998 Hayward Super Star-Clear C-4000 cartridge filter (400 sq ft, 4 separate cartridges)
    1998 Polaris 380 pressure-side cleaner w/ 3/4 HP booster pump
    One skimmer :( and one PoolSkim :), One Supervision Galaxy LED pool lamp, Second story solar panels
    Hayward/GoldLine AquaLogic PS4 (replaced 1983 vintage dual circuit Intermatic timer)

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    I have spoken to both Heliocol and Fafco reps and I am looking at 12 (4x12ft) panels. My south facing roof does not accomadate all these panels actually due to the shape I can only fit 6 4x12 or 10 4x8 panels and I would like the remaining panels to go on the west roof ( by the way, can fit 20 panels in two row if I would like).

    One of those reps said it was better to place all 12 panels in two rows on the west, but from all the info from other threads, it seems like getting as much on the South facing side is better.

    I would I divert water to 10 panels on one side and 2 panels to the other side? And how can I measru or be sure the installers did it correcly?

    Also, is this a DIY project? I am very good at plumbing work, which according to some manuals is the hardest part of the job. I have "S" type cement tiles. One of the sales man said that they do not go through the roof only the tiles. Is this correct?
    20x40 24,000 gal IG plaster/CircuPool RJ45 SWG/2 skimmer/2sp 2.5hp Jandy Stealth/340sq ft cart filter/600sqftHeliocol Solar Panels/6ft semi circlr tanning ledge/25ft deep end bench/5ft sheer descent/2 lion head water features/1300sqft travertine paver/2 Colorlogic lights/Hayward Navigator/3step 2ft raised bond beam

  8. Back To Top    #8

    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Austin, TX
    The product I ended up going with was more to do with the installer then the product itself. In my price range, the only real options I had (which had installers locally) where Heliocol and Fafco. The salesman for Fafco was a true salesman and a bit rude. The Heliocol saleman was also the installer. He knew his product inside and out. I spoke to two other salemen in the area and they both recommended the Heliocol when they couldn't get their prices down to these two products. One can only research so much then one has to take a leap of faith. I say go with the product which has the best installer.
    20k Gunite/Prism Blue-Pebblesheen, Pentair Tagelus TA-100D Sand Filter, Heliocol Solar Water Heater, 2 bubblers and 2 waterfalls installed 2007, 3hp IntelliFlo VS Pump 011018 installed 2013, Aquabot Turbo T4 RC and Stenner 45MHP10 w/The Liquidator container installed 2012.
    Antigua Spa by Artesian Spas: 325 gl, 52 jets, 6 hp 2 sp & 6 hp 1 sp, Circulation System 24 Hour Whisper Pure, Ozonator, LED digital lighting, The Artesian Pillowfall installed 2007.
    Retired: 2hp Pentair Whisperflow, Legend Platinum w/booster pump, PH Adjuster

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