Opinion on which solar heater to get

archer_310

Member
Aug 21, 2009
19
Niagara Region, Canada
I'm looking for a solar heater system for my 14x28 inground pool. I think I've narrowed it down to the Fafco sungrabber or the Enersol system. The Fafco seems to be half the price of the Enersol, but I don't know how they compare. Is there any/much difference? I know that the Enersol has rubber-like tubes which apparently is good so that they don't crack, and I think Fafco has something similar, but I can't seem to confirm this. Any opinions out there as to which system I should invest in?

TIA
 

chem geek

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
12,082
San Rafael, CA USA
Welcome to TFP! :wave:

I have 11 FAFCO SunSaver and 1 FAFCO Revolution panels that are now around 7 years old and they have worked very well. As for SunGrabber, I don't have experience with that but noted this website that indicates they are not as good for in-ground applications. I'm guessing that the panels may not have the same relief valves used in roof applications and are instead designed more for smaller above-ground pools where auto-draining of the panels may not be done, but this is just a guess on my part.
 

archer_310

Member
Aug 21, 2009
19
Niagara Region, Canada
The Fafco one is supposed to be for inground pools. Here is the info I have from this website (https://www.nationalpoolwholesalers.com ... 8x20_Panel)_up_to_14ft_x_28ft_--SKU_FAFSGI1428.html) that is selling them - it is supposed to be for a 14x28 pool:

This kit includes the system kit to properly install your solar heating system.

STANDARD FEATURES:

# 10 year manufacturer warranty
# Everything you need
# 4 - 2’ x 20’ in ground solar panel
# 3 - 60” mounting straps
# 9 - 2” x 1/4” mounting screws
# 2 - 1 1/2” rubber coupler
# 4 - 1 1/2” hose clamp


System Kit Includes:

# 1 - 1 1/2” ball valve
# 1 - 1 1/2” check valve
# 1 - Vacuum relief valve (VRV)
# 6 - 1 1/2” rubber coupler
# 2 - 1 1/2” male rib adapter (MRA)
# 1 - 1 1/2” x 2” bell reducer rubber coupler
# 14 - 1 1/2” hose clamp
# 1 - 2” hose clamp
# 1 - 1 1/2” rubber cap


Does this sound OK?
 

Bama Rambler

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jun 22, 2009
23,036
SouthWest Alabama
All I can say is that it looks good to me. From what I can tell, the panels built for above ground pools have a diverter molded into the header so if you're planning on paralleling the panels you don't want that so you'd want the inground panels.
 

danbutter

Well-known member
May 3, 2009
105
Bama Rambler said:
so if you're planning on paralleling the panels
I could be all wrong so please don't take offense, but I thought you were supposed to do the inground panels (ones with no diverter) in series...no?

I personally have a couple sungrabbers and they work well. Can't say much for longevity as they are only two seasons old. Do have a small leak in one, but I believe that was from the way the piping was installed that caused undue stress on one of the anchors holding the panels on the roof.
 

Bama Rambler

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jun 22, 2009
23,036
SouthWest Alabama
You have less head loss by paralleling the panels rather than plumbing them in series. Also each panel is only rated for a certain flow and by series them you're limited to the flow of one panel. By paralleling them the flow is additive. In other words a panel designed for 10gpm paralleled could only pass 10 gpm no matter how many you plumbed in series. If you had (4) 10gpm panels plumbed in parallel you could run 40 gpm total through them.
 

chem geek

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
12,082
San Rafael, CA USA
The FAFCO SunSaver and Revolution panels, like the ones that I have, come in 4'x8', 4'x10', and 4'x12' sizes. That's why I thought that the SunGrabbers were not so much for roof mounted situations as for ground racks usually used with above-ground pools.
 

archer_310

Member
Aug 21, 2009
19
Niagara Region, Canada
chem geek said:
The FAFCO SunSaver and Revolution panels, like the ones that I have, come in 4'x8', 4'x10', and 4'x12' sizes. That's why I thought that the SunGrabbers were not so much for roof mounted situations as for ground racks usually used with above-round pools.

The last link I inserted above didn't seem to work, so I'll try it again:
https://www.nationalpoolwholesalers.com/_Fafco_Sungrabber_Solar_Heating_System_for_Inground_Pools_(8x20_Panel)_up_to_14ft_x_28ft_--SKU_FAFSGI1428.html


If you go to this page, it clearly indicates that it's supposed to be for inground pools. I guess I should give them a call. I love the price of this thing - it's half the price of the Enersol system that they're also selling:
https://www.nationalpoolwholesalers.com/_Enersol_Solar_Heating_System_for_Inground_Pools_(16x10_Panel)_up_to_14ft_x_28ft_--SKU_ENI1428.html
 

lbridges

LifeTime Supporter
Nov 12, 2009
323
Indialantic, FL
I don't know where you're located, but I wouldn't give up on local stores and DIY kits from solar installers (unless you've already tried). I was able to pick up a system with 250 sq ft of panels, temp sensors, electronic valve & controller, 50 feet of 2" black pipe, black pipe fittings, roof mounting fixtures for pipe and panels (expensive since I have a standing seam metal roof and these were S-5 clamps), etc for $2400. A big plus for me is local support, YMMV.
 

danbutter

Well-known member
May 3, 2009
105
Bama Rambler said:
You have less head loss by paralleling the panels rather than plumbing them in series. Also each panel is only rated for a certain flow and by series them you're limited to the flow of one panel. By paralleling them the flow is additive. In other words a panel designed for 10gpm paralleled could only pass 10 gpm no matter how many you plumbed in series. If you had (4) 10gpm panels plumbed in parallel you could run 40 gpm total through them.
Ok ... a bit confused here...I thought the main pipe or header connecting them all would allow them to rather equally share the amount of water running through them. I would understand what you are saying better if the headers didn't connect all panels and one panel needed to be passed through entirely before water got to the second panel.

If you did parallel with multiple panels I would think it would be very tough to get the pipe lengths right to keep them all as efficient as the next one.
Have any diagrams to share so we can see how this is supposed to be done? I think all I have ever seen are pics of in series.
I am hoping to redo my setup and add more panels next season so now is the perfect time to find out what I thought wasn't the best way to do it!
Kinda scared of what my roof is gonna look like though. pipe wise I mean.
 

Bama Rambler

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jun 22, 2009
23,036
SouthWest Alabama
Ok, I think our definitions of parallel and series are different. Paralleling the panels means connecting all the inlet headers together and all the outlet headers together. That way the water flows in the inlet of all the panels at the same time and out the outlet of all panels at the same time, not through one, then through the next, etc. Kind of like the below example where each vertical line is a panel and the brackets are caps on the ends of the headers.

[ ┬┬┬┬┬>>
..│││││..
>â”´â”´â”´â”´â”´]
 

chem geek

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
12,082
San Rafael, CA USA
This link and this link and this link show diagrams of how solar panels for heating water are supposed to be connected. Notice that water enters the bottom of one solar panel but exits from the top of a panel on the opposite side. This way the total path length for water going through any of the solar panels is the same so the head loss and therefore pressure is the same so the flow rate is the same through all panels. If necessary, as shown in the third link, a full length pipe for either getting to the entry point of for returning from the exit point may be needed if your entry and exit pipes are to come off the same place on your roof. This link shows how NOT to hook up the panels because in this case the panel closest to the entry/exit pipes will get the most flow.
 

danbutter

Well-known member
May 3, 2009
105
Bama Rambler said:
Ok, I think our definitions of parallel and series are different.
Bingo. I was thinking more of electrical when talking series or parallel and that each panel would have to have its own source.

I had it right, just terminology wrong.
Thanks ya'll for helping me figure that out. :cheers:
 

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