Solar Panels installed by non-professional

knew2pools

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Jul 12, 2022
20
Fallbrook, CA
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300000
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Hayward Aqua Rite (T-15)
Hello, 1st off I want to say how much I appreciate this site and all the people who contribute their time in making it great. I have learned a ton since I found it. So thank you.

Here is my issue this is the 2nd season of owning the pool and amongst a lot of issues the Solar Panels trouble have been top of the list. I believe they were installed by the previous owner's handyman, according to the neighbor's, and there is some funky things about them that I didn't realize until I found this site. Here are the issues
1. Right now to turn on the solar I need to walk down and manual turn them on by the valve in the attached picture.​
2. I feel like the plumbing isn't done right and there is no way to drain the water out of the panels unless I takeoff a end cap.​
3. I have this controller but I don't think the handyman hooked it up when he moved the solar from the roof to the rack.​
Ideally I would like to have it setup so it was automated to shut off and on. So any help or advice would be so appreciated.​
*The far left valve controls the flow to the panels​
PXL_20220729_004405493.jpgPXL_20220729_004515519.jpg
 

Dirk

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Hey, welcome to TFP. We'll get you sorted out. First:

PXL_20220729_004405493.jpg

Are you working on the solar valve? Why are the screws backed off? It's obviously leaking, or used to. You probably know: there are o-ring kits that will likely fix that right up.

And since that valve does not have an electric actuator mounted to it, then no, your solar controller is not hooked up. Your panels should drain at the end of each day, not just at the end of the season, so if that is not occurring then that's another indicator that your system is not plumbed correctly.

You might study this diagram to see how much of your system adhere's to the typical way a solar system is plumbed.
fig1.png


Note the valve labeled "Motorized 3W Valve." I think that's what the handyman didn't know to use. That's what's missing from your system. If it is also missing the "Bypass" valve, or the two isolation valves (the two red-handled PVC ball valves in the picture above), that is OK, none of those are all that necessary. I'll go over all that with you.
 
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mknauss

Mod Squad
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May 3, 2014
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Laughlin, NV
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Why are the screws backed off?
I suspect there was an actuator there, and those screws are from the actuator. Do NOT tighten them, they will crack your valve. Whomever took off the actuator did not replace the screws with proper ones for the valve.
 
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Dirk

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I suspect there was an actuator there, and those screws are from the actuator. Do NOT tighten them, they will crack your valve. Whomever took off the actuator did not replace the screws with proper ones for the valve.
Ah, great catch Marty. That explains the presence of the controller. It was once all working, but then someone started taking things apart. That controller looks pretty sad, perhaps it no longer works, so the actuator was removed to make manual use of the valve easier/possible. And maybe that's why the valve is leaking, because it's missing the seal otherwise provided by the missing original shorter screws.
 
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mknauss

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Actuator probably died and they did not know how to fix it, and they are over $150 a piece now.
 
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Dirk

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Ah, there's the actuator, laying on the ground just to the right of the filter pump inlet. Marty, can those be repaired?
 

Dirk

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So, @knew2pools, depending on how you answer the questions in the diagram I posted, I think we've identified that your plumbing is probably OK, except for maybe the draining. And that might be a relatively easy DIY fix. But first step is to see which of your solar controller or your solar valve actuator is not working, or if they both went down.

Marty has pointed you to an article about the actuator. If you can get that working and reinstalled, perhaps after replacing your solar valve's o-rings (might as well, since they do require periodic replacement, and that valve is halfway apart already). Once that is wired up, you can try firing up the controller to see what happens. If you determine it no longer works, we can try to troubleshoot it at that point.

Have you determined that your panels do not drain after using them, when you turn off your main filter pump? You'd likely here water coming down the pipes. First I should ask, are the panel up high, like on a roof? Or ground mounted? Can you post a picture of them? You'll also need to find your vacuum breaker. There are many kinds, usually they are mounted near the panels. Do you hear any croaking sounds when your panels drain (if they drain). Your breaker might look something like this:

Heliocol Vacuum Relief Valve for SwimJoy, SwimLux & Heliocol Solar Pool Heaters, 3/4 MPT - HC-121NW

or it might be semi-hidden in the manifold of one of your panels, like this:

Vacuum Relief Valve Attachment Set for Solar Pool Heaters - 1.5 I.D. Header
or this:
Vacuum Relief Valve for Solar Pool Heating Systems (Fits Rubber Coupling Solar Pool Heaters) - 1.9 (1-7/8) O.D.
 

knew2pools

Member
Jul 12, 2022
20
Fallbrook, CA
Pool Size
300000
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Plaster
Chlorine
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SWG Type
Hayward Aqua Rite (T-15)
HI great info. Your right on all the captions that is the valve, the pipe to the solar, and the return from the solar. The other day I added the manifold to the top of my panels. There was solar on the roof but at some point a rack was built that is about 10 ft from the equipment.. I almost sure it doesn't drain out. There is hose valve that is plumb in on the return side of the solar panels. I tried to add a picture but it the file is too large. I will try to get another picture so you can take a look. Thank you again.
 

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knew2pools

Member
Jul 12, 2022
20
Fallbrook, CA
Pool Size
300000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Aqua Rite (T-15)

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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The other day I added the manifold to the top of my panels.
Sorry, I don't understand what this means.

There was solar on the roof but at some point a rack was built
So all of your panels are on the lean-to in the pic you posted?

There is hose valve that is plumb in on the return side of the solar panels.
That is typical. It's used for draining the panels for the winter.

I almost sure it doesn't drain out.
When you first turn the valve to engage the solar panels, do you see a large amount of bubbles coming out of the returns in the pool? If not, then your panels are not draining each day.
Is it worth trying to repair or should I just buy a new one?
The reason I suggested you try to determine what is working and what is not was to be able to later advise you on what to buy/replace. If both the actuator and controller are bad, and can't be repaired, or you just want to start new and have the budget, there are bundles available (controller, actuator, temp sensors) that would likely offer a bit of a discount. But if you can get either or both of the existing components working, by maybe just swapping in a replacement part or a fuse, then that could be a significant savings. You could end up spending a lot of time and money trying to repair the unrepairable, or you might be able to restore your entire system for a few bucks and save hundreds. There's no way for us to know unless you're willing to do some troubleshooting. Up to you.
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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Here's an example of a bundle. If you got four bills burnin' a hole in your pocket, you could put the whole hunt'n'peck troubleshooting behind you and just replace everything new. This particular bundle includes a proper three-way solar valve, which would also solve the panel draining issue. I can explain that further if you're wondering about that.

It'd be tricky to replace the three-way valve, because of the way the old one is glued in there, but it's probably possible. I'd have to give that some thought. If the existing valve's body is Pentair, it's possible the new guts from the bundle would fit. That's just a hunch on my part. If that were the case, the replacement would go pretty smoothly.


I don't have any direct experience with that vendor, I just did a quickie google search. You could shop around. And there are other brands and models to consider, if you're the type that likes that sort of research.

Or, if you think you might someday want to automate everything, then the more complex automation systems include solar automation, so you might want to investigate that before investing in a stand-alone solar controller that you won't need. The bigger automation systems also are sold in bundles that include actuators. Lots of ways to go on this.
 

knew2pools

Member
Jul 12, 2022
20
Fallbrook, CA
Pool Size
300000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Aqua Rite (T-15)
I don't understand what this means.
Sorry, I meant the other day I installed the vacuum breaker the lower one of the 2 types you showed. I installed it on the topside of the last panel, which would be the return.

So all of your panels are on the lean-to in the pic you posted?
Yes correct any other picture was too large to add that showed the solar panels
When you first turn the valve to engage the solar panels, do you see a large amount of bubbles coming out of the returns in the pool? If not, then your panels are not draining each day.
No bubbles.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
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Nov 12, 2017
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Central California
Pool Size
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Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
Sorry, I meant the other day I installed the vacuum breaker the lower one of the 2 types you showed. I installed it on the topside of the last panel, which would be the return.
OK, check that off the list. I'll be busy this weekend, but I left you with enough to think about in posts #13 and #14.
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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Central California
Pool Size
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No bubbles.
That means the panels stay full of water 24/7. The three-way solar valve is supposed to allow the panels to drain. Yours is either the wrong type, or malfunctioning. Probably the wrong type, that's a common mistake made by DIYers. A proper three-way solar valve, appropriately named a "solar drain down" valve, has a small one-way valve inside it that allows the panels to drain, but doesn't allow any water to travel in the other direction. Some installers will drill a small hole inside a regular three-way valve to mimic the drain-down behavior, but then the water can move either way through it. I don't have any experience with that, I've only read about it. Mine is a true drain down valve. So you could either swap yours out, or attempt the DIY drill-a-hole modification. Someone probably has made a YouTube on how to do that.
 

1poolman1

In The Industry
Jul 14, 2014
2,623
Sacramento
Hello, 1st off I want to say how much I appreciate this site and all the people who contribute their time in making it great. I have learned a ton since I found it. So thank you.

Here is my issue this is the 2nd season of owning the pool and amongst a lot of issues the Solar Panels trouble have been top of the list. I believe they were installed by the previous owner's handyman, according to the neighbor's, and there is some funky things about them that I didn't realize until I found this site. Here are the issues
1. Right now to turn on the solar I need to walk down and manual turn them on by the valve in the attached picture.​
2. I feel like the plumbing isn't done right and there is no way to drain the water out of the panels unless I takeoff a end cap.​
3. I have this controller but I don't think the handyman hooked it up when he moved the solar from the roof to the rack.​
Ideally I would like to have it setup so it was automated to shut off and on. So any help or advice would be so appreciated.​
*The far left valve controls the flow to the panels​
View attachment 441287View attachment 441289
Missing a water temp sensor or it is bad (red light). Don't see one in your plumbing.
If the array is below the equipment it won't drain. Not a lot to do. Be sure it is empty in the Winter. Though not ideal, I have installed two systems like that with no issues. House was too far away.
Flip the small switch on the actuator either up or down, not middle position. If it moves you likely only need the sensor to get the system working. If not, be sure it is actually plugged in inside the control. If it still doesn't run probably needs to be replaced. Though not available any more, those Lx220s are excellent solar controls.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
10,035
Central California
Pool Size
12300
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
Missing a water temp sensor or it is bad (red light). Don't see one in your plumbing.
If the array is below the equipment it won't drain. Not a lot to do. Be sure it is empty in the Winter. Though not ideal, I have installed two systems like that with no issues. House was too far away.
Flip the small switch on the actuator either up or down, not middle position. If it moves you likely only need the sensor to get the system working. If not, be sure it is actually plugged in inside the control. If it still doesn't run probably needs to be replaced. Though not available any more, those Lx220s are excellent solar controls.
Good catch @1poolman1. I did not think to ask if the array was above or below the pool, only if it was on the roof or not!

@knew2pools, are your panels above or below the pool?

@1poolman1:

sensors.jpg

@knew2pools, can you take a picture of what that stainless steel hose clamp is doing (like showing the opposite side of the screw)? Is it holding a temperature sensor with a wire coming out of it leading to the solar controller?
 

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