Solar Panel Questions

pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
126
Northern Illinois
#1
After doing some research (including speaking to a couple of plumbers) it looks like a properly sized gas heater or heat pump is out of the budget for now. That being said, I would like to try a couple of solar panels this year. Our biggest challenge, however, is where to put them. House roof is out as we have a steep two-story roof which I refuse to go up on. That leaves either some sort of deck roof/pergola or a ground rack. Here is an aerial picture of our backyard:

View attachment 59053

Here are some pictures of your backyard:

Facing east (toward back of yard)
View attachment 59054

Facing east (toward back of yard) along south side of lot
View attachment 59055

Any suggestions?
 
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pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
126
Northern Illinois
#2
Here is one of my ideas without the utility area. Basically some sort of a roof that would be attached to the pool deck. Ideally it would pivot so people on the deck could get some sun if desired.
 

pooldv

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Aug 10, 2012
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pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
126
Northern Illinois
#6
As I research, I've come up with a few more questions:

1. Are the FAFCO Solar Bear panels the best panels for the price? Any sites with exceptionally good prices?

2. Is there a way to automate the panels so they "turn on" when the temperature reaches an optimal point and shut off when it drops to a certain level?

3. Any good sites that explain all the different set-ups, tips etc? The vendor sites seem to be somewhat lacking.

Thanks!
 

pooldv

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#7
I did pretty much all of my research on Solar Direct's website. I was happy with the info provided and the panel pricing, install kits and warranty so I didn't shop around much. Yes, it can be automated. I use a Pentair Solartouch to turn on solar and ramp up the pump speed when heat is available and turn it off when the pool reaches temp or solar heat is no longer available.
 
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pmsmith2032

Well-known member
Jan 11, 2011
126
Northern Illinois
#8
Thanks pooldv.....much appreciated!

Does anyone have the FAFCO Solar Bear panels? How are they? How do they compare to the Vortex panels? The FAFCO panels calculate at $3.48 per square foot while the Vortex standard panels calculate at $5.00 per square foot.

Will my Hayward 1HP Powerflo Pump be adequate to handle two (160 sq ft) or three (240 sq ft) panels?

How important is it to automate the panels? For those that don't have them automated, what kind of schedule do you use? I'm looking at the Hayward GL-235 controller if I do automate. Any experience with it?

I'm assuming I should paint the plywood on the rack the panels will be mounted on black to optimize heat retention, correct?

Thanks as always!
 

pooldv

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#9
Falco panels are good, plenty of folks use them. Yes, your 1hp pump is plenty, especially for a ground rack. Yes, painting it black will help.

I ran my panels the first year without a solar controller. I would check the weather every day and decide if I should open the valve before work or not. Most days it worked fine but, some days I would lose a lot. Rain, clouds, wind on solar panels will cool the pool quickly. In fact, we run ours at night in August to cool the pool to 92ish. So, to sum up, we did have decent heat gain without a controller but there were days where we lost a lot of heat, sometimes 10°f or more. Once I added the solar controller it was nothing but warmer all the time. I wouldn't go without a solar controller.

The GL-235 is probably the most common solar controller out there. Lots of folks use it and it works great.