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Solar Pool Heater | Types of Solar Collectors Heating Pools

Solar panels for pool heaters are an excellent way to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint. They also provide a comfortable environment for swimmers and sunbathers, whether or not its swimming season or pool season. Read through and discover how pool owners can benefit greatly using this system.

Article Overview

Solar Panels for Pool Heaters: What Are They And How Do They Work?

A solar pool heating system uses the solar radiation or solar energy to heat water in your swimming pool. The process works by absorbing sunlight through glass panels, which then heats up the water inside of them. This heated water can be used for several different purposes within your home or business. For example, you could use it as hot tub water, spa water, shower water, laundry water, dishwasher water, etc. You may also want to consider using this type of system if you live somewhere with extreme weather conditions that would make traditional gas-powered systems impractical.

solar pool heater

The Benefits Of Solar Pool Heating Panels

There are many reasons why people choose to install solar pool heating panels over other types of pool heating options. The most common ones are:

They save money on electrical energy costs

If you have an electric bill every month, installing solar panels for pool heaters will help reduce those monthly expenses significantly. In fact, one study found that homeowners who installed solar panels for pool heaters saved $1,000 per year on average! That means that after just five years, you could pay off the entire cost of the installation itself. If that's not cost effective, I don't know what is.

You don't need any kind of fuel source

Unlike conventional pool heating methods like propane tanks, solar panels for pool heaters require no additional fuels at all. Instead, these devices harness solar energy directly into usable heat. As long as there is enough sunshine during daylight hours, you won't ever run out of hot water again.

You get more control over how much heat you generate

With standard solar heaters, you only know what the water temperature will be when you turn it on. However, with a solar pool heater, you can actually adjust its output based on where the sun is shining throughout the day. So instead of having to wait until nighttime before you start enjoying warm water, you can enjoy it whenever you want.

Your pool stays cleaner longer

Because solar heaters aren't powered by anything but natural light (solar radiation), they keep dirt from building up around the unit. And because they don't produce harmful chemicals such as chlorine, you never have to worry about cleaning your pool afterwards.

solar collectors heating pools

Types of Solar Collectors for Solar Pool Heater

The most common types of solar collectors heating pools are listed below.

Glazed Collectors

These are the simplest and least expensive way to go. A glazed collector consists of two pieces of glass separated by air space. When exposed to direct sunlight, the glass absorbs some of the heat and transfers it to the surrounding water. These units usually come in sizes ranging between 1/2″ thick and 3′ wide. Additionally, they’re available in both single pane and double pane configurations.

Unglazed Collector Systems

These systems consist of one or two large sheets of tempered glass covered with black paint or other dark material. A metal frame holds the glass together while allowing air circulation between them. This allows sunlight to pass into the space behind the glass but prevents any direct contact between the glass and the pool surface. As long as there is no direct exposure to rain or snow, this type of collector will last indefinitely. However, because they do not allow much airflow around the edges of the glass, they tend to get very warm inside. Also, since the glass does not provide insulation from the elements, they must be protected against windblown sand and dust. To protect the glass, some manufacturers recommend placing a sheet of clear polyethylene over the top edge of each panel.

Unvented Collector System

Among the types of solar collectors, this one consists of a single piece of glass mounted directly onto the roof of the house. It has no internal structure except for a small hole near its bottom center. Air flows freely through this hole, so the glass doesn’t become too hot. Since there is little thermal mass to absorb excess heat, this type of collector requires frequent cleaning to prevent overheating.

Vented Collector System

In addition to having a vent at the base of the unit, vented collectors have another opening located above the main vent. The upper vent helps keep the interior cooler by drawing cool air up through the holes in the glass. Vents like these help reduce condensation buildups on the glass that reduce efficiency and cause corrosion problems.

Heat Exchanger Collectors

Heater units with a heat pool pump circulates water through pipes filled with antifreeze solution. When exposed to the sun, the antifreeze absorbs heat and becomes superheated. Then the antifreeze passes through coils within the pipe walls, transferring the heat to the circulating water. Some heaters use a separate refrigerant line to remove heat from the water after passing through the coil. Others combine both functions into a single circuit.

Transfer Fluid Collectors

Some heater units use a special fluid called “transfer” instead of plain old tap water. Transfer collects heat from the sun and transfers it to the pool via tubes embedded in the floor of the pool. Water enters the tube through openings along the side of the pool. Once the water reaches the end of the tube, it travels through a series of fins until it exits the tube again. Fins increase the area available for heat exchange.

Fluid Flow Control Valve

Many solar panels for pool heaters come equipped with a built-in flow control valve. This flow control valve automatically diverts pool water away from the collector when the pool temperature gets too high. Most are adjustable; you simply turn a knob to set how much water should bypass the collector. If your system includes fluid flow control valve, make sure you read the instructions carefully. You may need to adjust the settings periodically if you live in an extremely cold climate.

Other Types Of Solar Collectors Heating Pools

There are many other types of solar heaters besides those described here. For example, electric resistance heaters work well in colder weather. Electric heaters also require less maintenance than gas-fired models. On the downside, however, they don’t produce nearly enough energy to power most residential pools. Solar panels for pool heaters are more efficient than electric pool heating systems, and they’re easier to install. But they aren’t suitable for all applications. Check out our article about different kinds of pool heaters for more details.

types of solar collectors

What Kind Is The Best?

The best kind of solar pool heater depends largely upon what pool size you own and whether you want to cover only part of the pool. A typical home swimming pool measures 50 feet wide by 75 feet deep. That means you could fit three 25-foot sections across the width of the pool. Each section would contain two rows of panels, making a total of six panels per row.

If you plan to cover just half of the pool, you’ll probably find that four collector panels per row works better than five. The extra panel will provide some redundancy against shading. However, if you have a large pool, consider installing at least seven panels per row. This way, even if there’s no shade over any particular portion of the pool, you still get plenty of coverage.

If you decide to go with a larger number of panels, remember that each additional panel means additional cost as well as complexity. It might not seem like much money now, but adding 10 or 15 panels to a small pool installation could easily run $1,000-$2,500. And that doesn’t count labor costs! So keep this in mind when planning your project.

Another factor to take into account is the type of roofing material used on your house. Roof shingle roofs tend to shed their granules during winter months. As a result, they often block sunlight from reaching the collectors. Flat roofs, on the other hand, usually stay intact throughout the year.

Finally, think about the amount of space between the panels. Ideally, you’d place them so close together that they touch. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, you must leave room around the edges of the pool to allow access to plumbing lines and electrical outlets. Also, you shouldn’t put panels directly under windows because they’ll collect condensation inside the glass panes. Instead, position them above the window frame.

When choosing a model, look closely at its construction materials. Make sure its made of appropriate, high-quality materials. Some manufacturers use aluminum frames instead of steel ones. Aluminum tends to corrode quickly, especially in saltwater environments. If you choose one made entirely of metal, make sure it has been treated properly to prevent corrosion. You should also check the manufacturer’s warranty period. Most warranties last anywhere from 5 years to 20 years.

You may need to purchase special equipment to operate your system. These items include filters, pool pump, valves, controllers, wiring harnesses, etc. Be sure to shop carefully for these components. Many companies sell generic products that won’t perform up to par.

Solar Pool Heater Installation | Solar Collectors Heating Pools

Before beginning any job, read the instructions in the installation kits included with your product. Then follow the directions exactly. Don’t skimp on quality parts; otherwise, you risk damaging your unit.

When mounting the units, try to avoid placing them too low down. Otherwise, you’ll have trouble getting them level. To do this, first measure the distance from the top edge of the pool water deck to the bottom edge of the lowest panel. Next, add 1 foot to this measurement. Finally, mount the solar pool heater panels so that the tops of the panels line up with the new height mark.

Also, pay attention to how high the solar pool heaters sit off the ground. Too far away and you’ll lose efficiency. Too near the surface and you’ll likely experience problems with algae growth.

Once installed, test your system regularly. Check the pool temperature gauge every day. Make adjustments if necessary. This will help ensure maximum performance.

If you’re installing more than one panel, consider using an expansion tank. The extra volume allows you to increase capacity without having to replace the entire system.

Maintenance & Repair

The best way to maintain your system is to inspect it periodically.

Do this once per month. First, remove all panels and clean each one thoroughly. Use soap and warm water. Rinse until no dirt remains. Dry completely. Now, apply a thin coat of oil. Allow the coating time to dry overnight. Repeat this process monthly.

Inspect the connections frequently.

Clean them with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly. Inspect the wires for signs of wear. Replace worn connectors immediately.

Repair leaks promptly.

Water seeping out of joints or cracks can cause serious damage to your system. Fix leaks within 24 hours.

Keep track of maintenance records.

Keep copies of receipts for repairs and replacements. When filing insurance claims, attach proof of service.

Warranty Information

These types of solar collectors heating pools come with a limited lifetime warranty. However, most manufacturers offer extended coverage periods. For example, some extend their warranties for five years after the original date of sale. Others provide protection for ten years. Still others cover the life of the building itself.

Some manufacturers even offer free replacement parts. But don’t expect everything to work perfectly right out of the box. You may need to make minor modifications in order to get things running smoothly. If you encounter difficulties, contact your manufacturer’s customer support department. It should be able to assist you.

If you’re interested in learning more about solar pool heaters, contact us today so we can show you exactly how these systems can benefit your life. We, DCS Sacramento Solar, offer free estimates and consultations across Sacramento and neighboring places.

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