Advice needed: plumbing in a DIY ground solar system and later a SWG.

Cindy Colbert

New member
Jul 24, 2019
Winchester, IL
We bought our home with pool last year (1st time pool owner here) and wow what a challenging yet fun filled learning curve it's been.
Due to lots of shade and no heat source installed , last fall I quickly began researching options. Limited funds led me to try connecting several longgggg black garden hoses to a return line laid out on the patio. I was impressed with a gain of 5-8 degrees per day. Added a solar cover and flimsy reel (frustrating) but it's huge help was win-win. The combo kept our pool open long after everyone else around here had closed.

This spring I slowly replaced regular black garden hose with what's now 3 diy solar rings made from 1/2" drip irrigation hose (2 are 500 feet each and the 3rd is about 450 feet).
Because these have proven to make a huge difference but I don't like the hoses hanging over the pool side, this past week I've extended the landscape next to the pool where sun hits from about 9:30 AM - 5:30 PM, will make two additional 500 foot rings for 5 total and am wanting to plumb these in directly ... but slightly nervous about tackling the plumbing and setting this up right the first time. Don't get me wrong, I want to do it but as a newbie to pool plumbing and solar water flow I need advice so as not to totally goof this up (I'd prefer to keep the hubby happy with me ;-)

Most all of the solar plumbing directions I've found have to do with roof mounting ... I'm not real certain what changes are necessary when laying it on the ground such as shown in my photos?

Shown are photos of my current set-up. Because the SWG will go where the chlorinator currently is next year and there's not much room there to install a bypass ... I'm wondering if I should extend the equipment platform and scoot the filter to the right? This would allow room to add and a bypass and a check valve (do I really need that there?).

Please correct, critique and make suggestions (with links if allowed) to my potential plumbing equipment needed list. Listed items in order from filter to pool return:
  1. check valve
    • (after filter and/or should this be after the bypass on the solar loop… and do I need this since the water’s not going up)
  2. 3 way solar bypass valve (Can this be sideways to divert water down to solar loop or straight to pool?)
    • Due to funds I may have to start with a manual valve that an actuator and solar controller can be added to it later.
  3. Shut off / Isolation valve to drain system (reduce pipe collapse)
  4. ??? Do I need some sort of a Vacuum relief valve here to allow air to enter when solar is switched off? Or might this potentially lead to problems with air locks in the rings?
    • Is it possible to add something here to disconnect for winterizing or to attach air compressor to force water out of lines?
  5. Feed Line to solar rings (I installed cool feed at slightly lower level than hot return. Current’y using garden hose but would like to increase size when plumbing to the main system).
  6. Not sure what to use connecting the feed and return lines to the solar rings. Having trouble finding something like the Y connector linked to but that works with this hose and reduces to 1/2 inch. Suggestions?
  7. Solar return line check valve after rings and before tying in to main pool return: is this needed? I’m guessing it prevents the main pool return from entering the solar backwards?
  8. Connecting Hot Solar Return Line back to the Main Pool Return Line (before the chlorinator).
    • Do I need to use another 3 way valve -OR- a T valve?
    • Should I lower the portion of main pool return line after the solar bypass by angling it down so the when the solar return line feeds back into it, there’s not as much lift?
  9. After solar system …?… and before main pool return if there’s room … considering adding a Heater bypass valve (in case we add a heater in the future). What would I need to use for that?
  10. Am I missing anything and/or is any of it overkill for my ground set-up (verses traditional roof mount) that can be eliminated?
  11. The SWG I'm hoping to add next year is the Circupool Core55. Does anyone have experience with these? Pro/Cons?
Other question:
In the photos you’ll see a gray handle valve immediately after the pump but before the filter (it’s actually to the left of the pump). The prior homeowner told me not to ever turn it on but didn’t say what it was for. I’m guessing this might a diverter going to a 2” pipe that’s extruding on the opposite side of the pool coming up thru the patio (where a slide could be added later) however I’m not sure of that and if it is going to a future slide location… why wouldn’t it have been placed after the filter? If it is to the potential slide location does it matter that it’s not filtered?


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TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
May 3, 2007
Pleasanton, CA
Pool Size
Salt Water Generator
My first suggestion would be to forget about the DIY panels and go with commercial panels. Because of the high head loss in the loops, the flow rate is going to be lower and thus less efficient than commercial panels. The cost of the irrigation line is usually more than commercial panels as well. So by the time you are done with it, the cost/BTU is usually higher in DIY panels than it is for commercial panels. Plus many of the issues you are struggling with disappear.

But if you want to go down that route, here is what I would suggest.

1,4,7 If the loops will not drain on their own, then no check valves or VRV is required.

2. Yes, this is a must. You can adjust for 100% to 0% flow through the panels or to the pool.

3. Optional. No collapse will happen with your setup. But you might want them if the panels ever spring a leak.

5 1 1/2" is sufficient.

6. Another problem with DIY. You might be able to find a barb fitting that will work with a bushing to upsize to 1 1/2" pipe.

8. Just a standard TEE is sufficient. Also lift will not be an issue here or for almost any solar install.

9. So is the flex going to be with hose clamps or glue. If the former, I would not be concerned at this point. If the latter and you want isolation, two 3-way valves are the best way to bypass and have full isolation. Three two valves can also work.

10. Can't think of anything.

11. Can't comment.

The gray handle is probably a drain to waste but that should be on your multi-port filter as well. Redundant.
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