Adding Solar Heating

spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
35
Roseville, CA
This will be the second year of having a pool. Last year made all the difference in surviving the covid madness here in CA. Good family time! We used a solar cover and I'm surprised how well that worked, we had 85+ water during most of the swimming months until the ash/smoke haze from the fires killed our swim season in September.

While I've read a few posts, I have a few solar questions for anyone that has expertise and experience.

1. We have two bids, Heliocol and FAFCO panels. Our only choice is a North facing roof, but at least there are no trees or building structures in the way (south roof has PV, west and east roofs are smaller/odd angled). One company says that we need 9 4x12 panels and uses a 100% of pool SF due to the north facing roof. One company says we need 7 4x12 panels, they use an 85% figure for E and N facing roofs. The 85% calc is actually 7.5 panels so I'd probably kick that one up to 8 panels. But these are basically the same products with slight differences in engineering design and mounting hardware used. I already did a deep dive on Heliocol vs FAFCO and both sides have their sales pitches. Not sure it matters in real life usage. The Heliocol looks to be a neater install in terms of the look and connections. Other than cost, is there any downside to 9 panels versus 7 or 8 in terms of pump requirements or other issues?

2. While we are used to using a cover, I'm hoping we won't have to use one for the prime summer months. Wifey likes 85 degree water or higher, as a reference.

3. My understanding is that the solar install will hook into my Pentair EasyTouch and I don't need a separate solar controller. Is it true that if properly set up, the system basically works hands-free and only operates when the water temperature through the solar panels is optimal/beneficial (meaning, the system won't be on when conditions would actually cool the pool).

I debated adding more PV and using a heat pump, but it doesn't appear my location in conducive to that - no real benefit and definitely a higher cost.

I appreciate any input so we do all that we should with this solar install. Trying to get it done this winter so we'll have full usage this year. My only fear is that I spend 6k on a system that only marginally improves heating due to the north facing roof.

Doug
 

ping

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jun 24, 2011
3,144
Long Beach, CA
Heliocol or Fafco panels are both good name brands, no problems with either company. I'll get back to question 1 at the end.

There might be three months at best that you can go without a cover to maintain the 85 degree temp in the morning but unlikely. It might start out around 82 in the morning.

The Pentair automation should work fine.

Back to question 1. Installing on a north facing roof as you know not ideal, there are companies that will not install them on a north facing roof. If you do decide to install them, get as many on the roof that it can fit. You might get a month earlier swim time with the panels compared to without them and the season will only be extended about a month to month and a half with the panels.

Personally I wouldn't bother installing the panels on the north facing roof. As a side note some panel couplings have worn some of my shingles on the roof. I haven't had a leak and don't expect to, but I will have to replace the roof a bit earlier than without the solar panels.
 

spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
35
Roseville, CA
Thanks for the feedback. Last year, we kept the pool cover on almost all the time to get get max temps. So the questions for a 100% sf solar install on a 32.4 degree pitch North facing roof are:

1. Will I be able to maintain high 80s water temps with only having to use the cover overnight on the summer? Keeping the pool uncovered during the day would certainly be an improvement. I get tired of looking at the blue cover.
2. Will solar combined with pool cover get me 85+ in May and September?

If my situation doesn’t extend the front and back of the season by weeks no matter what I do, it’s less appealing. I didn’t realize how much of a hit north facing is (and when I started looking into solar, I thought east facing was an option). I thought it just meant spending money on 9 panels instead of 6. My neighbor has NW facing panels and loves his.

I don’t want to spend money on something that only marginally improves what I’m able to do with a solar cover.
 

AZAA

Silver Supporter
Apr 9, 2020
82
Gold Canyon AZ
Pool Size
5850
We bought our home 3 years ago and it came with a small inground pool with a Helicol 8-panel system. Our panels face dead south. We like to keep the pool around 85 too. We are in Arizona but only 6 months of the year so we route the water around the solar system in the summer when we're not here. If your water gets TOO hot in the summer I understand you can run the pump a few hours during the night to actually COOL the water. As far as a heater goes...I've considered a heat pump for those months that the solar will not bring the pool up to temp. Even using a bubble-blanket every night and many of the days, we are unable to use the pool from mid November to around mid February. That's a long time to stay on top of pool chemicals, brushing and regular maintenance when you can't use it. You're north facing panels will only exacerbate that. The solar will help, but if you like using your pool, I expect an auxiliary heater is in your future.
 

spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
35
Roseville, CA
I'm only looking for May to September, and whatever we can get in late April and early Oct. The questions is whether 430 sf of North facing panels for a 425 sf pool will provide 5 to 8 degrees higher temps at any time of year compared to what we get otherwise would get with bubble cover alone. How many more days do we get into the sweet spot of high 80s water temps?
 

spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
35
Roseville, CA
The solar provider has revised their design and will be placing the panels on three sections of roof: west, east, and a small portion south. That should give me the performance I am seeking. The north roof is too steepE0996575-13EA-4532-BFED-C469893CC80C.png to be of use.
 

CRUSH-IT!

Gold Supporter
Jul 29, 2017
43
orlando, fl
Pool Size
24000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Turbo Cell (T-CELL-5)
decide if you like the aesthetics of panels on your roof facing the street.

The more roofs you perforate... The more roofs you perforate.

Look at your latitude and figure the incident angle of the sun at different months. You won't get squat on a south facing roof in the winter but summer in california is probably adequate. I would consider more panels on fewer roofs... (south facing) The install will be easier. I would try to avoid three roofs. Its a lot to ask to expect the installer to plumb these to achieve even flow so they are efficient. It would require a sh!...load of plumbing snaking around your roof. Additionally they will almost certainly have to be plumbed in series not parallel. This will notably increase frictional loss and pressure required. Some of the FAFCO panels (sunsaver.. i think... perhaps all) are "high resistance" panels.
5 panels in parallel require 5 times the flow but have the same resistance as one panel at the same flow... (GOOD THING). 5 panels in series have five times the resistance for the same flow... (BAD THING). I strongly encourage you to consider putting a couple more panels on that south roof and skip the other roofs unless you are in northern california. heliocol is a "low resistance" panel. I would go with heliocol. It would be easy to plumb the south roof. If you put enough panels in parallel Fafco would work as well but I would not choose them. I have had trouble with warranty claims with FAFCO. They would give me the panel but the shipping charge was not covered and exorbitant. READ THEIR WARRANTY. I cannot say my personal experience is representative but I have had numerous Sunsaver panels fail in short order on my house. I am installing Heliocol in a couple months. I have never used them before but they sound good to me.

Thoughts?

Chris
 

CRUSH-IT!

Gold Supporter
Jul 29, 2017
43
orlando, fl
Pool Size
24000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Turbo Cell (T-CELL-5)
Better idea....

put some type of structure out back. (gazebo, shed, barn, etc and put it on that roof.
 

spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
35
Roseville, CA
Thanks for the insight. There really is no better option. I'm in Sacramento area so I think the panel locations should work fine. The panels will be Heliocol. Splitting to three roofs isn't ideal, I know, but there isn't room in my yard for any structures. The pool takes up most of the space (not seen in picture as pool was installed less than a year ago). I don't know about serial vs parallel - but I will find out.
 
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