Simplified plumbing answer for panels


Well-known member
Apr 15, 2013
Beautiful Santa Rosa, CA
Hi All,
I am hoping to get a “caveman” understanding of the plumbing system for our pool, so I can correctly connect the passive solar heating panels that I have. Here are the details...

32 by 16 (by 52”) above ground Intex pool, installed on a leveled area on a slope/stepped site. The water level is about 1 foot above grade at the higher “step”, and the above ground pump (Hayward 1-1/2 hp) and old Pac Fab sand filter are at grade on the “lower step”
Currently, I have 4 4’ by 8’ panels and 2 2’ by 20’ panels that are atop a pergola, meaning the panels are about 13 feet above the pump and filter.

To add to the head pressure issue that I created, I also (stupidly) routed the plumbing so that the water needs to travel through one 2’ by 20’ panel before going though each 4’ by 8’ panel and finally though the last 2’ by 20’ panel before returning to the pool. As you might guess, between the routing and the head pressure, the return is a trickle...

I know that I need to change the setup. What I am hoping to learn is the amount of rise that is reasonable for the pump and what setup is better for the panels. We used to live at a house with an o ground pool that was heated by the same type of panels. The panels were on a flat-roofed addition and the pump and filter were about 9 feet below the panels (but still above the water line. The panels were plumbed in a manifold style, which I suspect will be part of the solution that I seek.

As always, any advice will be greatly appreciated!



TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
May 3, 2007
Pleasanton, CA
Pool Size
Salt Water Generator
Lift is usually not an issue. I am not sure of your exact pump model but a Hayward matrix has over 55' of lift, albeit at low flow rates. Generally speaking, a lift of half that amount can easily be tolerated (25'+, two story house). However, the series plumbing of you panels will affect that.


Well-known member
Apr 15, 2013
Beautiful Santa Rosa, CA
Hi Mas,
Thanks — that is great info! I didn’t mention before that the plumbing is mainly 1-1/2” pvc, but it sounds like the main issue is the path the water has to take. I will re-arrange the panels so that there is a “bigger” entry and exit for the water.

Thanks Again!
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