Type of solar heater and repair possibilities

BB_Sacramento

Well-known member
Aug 14, 2015
63
sacramento/CA
I'm trying to find a company to repair the leaks in this solar pool heating system on the roof, but one solar company I called told me it's a "mat" style - which they don't repair. I'm attaching a photo of the system. Does anyone know if this IS a mat style and if so, can leaks be repaired, and if so, by who? I think this system is less than 8 years old. The places I called are solar companies and they sound like they just want to sell a new system.
 

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Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
6,904
Central California
I only know my system, which is not mat, but I can guess. Yes, they probably want to sell you a new system, but that doesn't mean they're wrong. And eight years isn't great, but they don't last forever. Mine is the best you can buy (I think) and will likely poop out in 20 years or less. That's the sun for ya!

Have you determined where the leak actually is? System's most often leak in the connection between the manifold and the PVC pipe that connects. Some are connected via radiator hose type complings, others use an o-ring. Those could be easily fixed, DIY. If the mat is leaking, or the leak is where the mat connects to the manifold, that's going to be tougher. You could fool around with some sort of patch, but that's going to be iffy given the system is under pressure, and subjected to a lot of heat and wild temp swings.

Here's the more important thing to consider. Is this a one-off situation, that is worth repairing, or is this just the first symptom in what will be an endless number of new leaks, indicating end-of-life for your system? In other words, even if you can pay someone to fix it, will you get a new leak in a day, or week or month, so when do you draw the line in throwing good money after bad?

I installed my Heliocol system myself, for about $3K and saved about $7K by doing so. Heliocols are just hundreds of 1/4" tubes which can be cut out and plugged if/when they leak. The manifolds connect using o-rings, but those are well protected from sunlight, so are not subject to leaking like the "radiator hose" type connections. Since you have the plumbing to the roof in place already, just replacing your mats with new panels might not be that bad, cost-wise. And every repair expense you "waste" now could be put into the new system.

Not what you wanted to hear, but just my 2 cents.

First things first, see if you can find the leak and determine if that's actually in the mat, or somewhere else that you might be able to fix yourself. And in defense of the solar guys, you can't really blame them for shying away from fixing someone else's product, one that is eight years old and starting to fail. That's asking them to take on liability they don't need, for a job that's not going to generate any sort of decent profit.

Alternately, have you researched the panels themselves? Do they carry a warranty? Can you contact the manufacturer to see what they can offer? Maybe they'll send you a new mat. I think my panels have a 12-year warranty. I recently wrote an Email to Weber complaining about my ceramic-coated grills. They're shipping me brand new stainless grills (a $150 upgrade from what I own) for free. That was worth an email! :) Never hurts to ask!

And if it turns out your panels only have a 1 or 5 year warranty, that kinda clues you in to their quality level and answers the question about what is reasonable for their life span. Maybe you've already gotten three years more than you should have...
 
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BB_Sacramento

Well-known member
Aug 14, 2015
63
sacramento/CA
wow thank you for the kind reply! We have not climbed a ladder to view the leaks closely on the roof, we only turned it on and saw water pouring onto the roof in more than one location. We've never had or used any solar heater before. Your information is really valuable. I will try to figure out the brand and look into the age/warranty and check the leaks closer too.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
6,904
Central California
If you find that more than one mat is leaking, and/or in more than one place, then that's a pretty good indication that you're at end-of-life and repairing, if even possible, is just postponing the inevitable. And from the sound of it, that wouldn't postpone that much at all.
 
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