Solar pool heater idea thread - Ferrari Life
 
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post #1 of 18 Old 03-01-2011, 07:30 AM Thread Starter
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Solar pool heater idea thread

I’ve been kicking around the idea of installing a solar pool heater for some time but haven’t been real happy with the design of cost of the stuff I’ve seen so far. I’ve got an idea forming in my head for a relatively low cost/low maintenance solar pool heater install that I might give a try……which got me wondering what others have done?

Anybody got anything you’re happy with?

Anything you’re got and you’re not happy with?

I’ve got a south facing slope below the pool I’m thinking about laying about 3000-6000ft of ¾ black PE pipe on and call it done …but then all the detail stuff pops up like I really should have a smaller pump running more of the time, I need a controller to only send water to the solar when the sun is shining or it will be a big radiator not a heater, a smaller pump probably won’t run the rayvac correctly so that means a second small pump with its own controller. Details, detail……
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post #2 of 18 Old 03-01-2011, 08:31 AM
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I'M IN!!!!!!!!!

have several ideas but don't know the area you are in for terms of sunlight hours and direct Sun, but here are a few starters:

- Don't waste your deck area: Have hoses circulate water under the pool deck to absorb the heat [which makes it better to stand on BTW] and recirc back to the pool.
- IF you have those stainless handrails, do not neglect that as a great source of heat. We belong to a large resort with several pools and the hand rails bake and are too hot to hold. IF one would use the return water through those rails to both cool the rails and return the heat to the pool, I believe there would be a win-win and better use of a neglected resource.
- Cover your pool motor equipment for less heat resistance
- Use, a possible diversion valve to do the ol' heat sink idea: Your idea of using the Earth to capture and control heat.
- OF course use solar panels to capture as much as possible.

The draw back to heating is having a mechanism know when to use the panels and when not. Heat lost to wrong timing is bad as well.

We were lucky in our area, as drilling our well an additional 1,000 feet [expensive] resulted not only in more, cleaner water, but a hot spring, which is so common in the Sonoma/Napa Valley that industry on hot springs have been the norm for over a century. We had to install a 10' round tank to cool off the almost 100+F temp. BUT, installing a coil of pipe in the inner area, helped heat the pools return water: All year.
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post #3 of 18 Old 03-01-2011, 08:47 AM
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Just thought of something else that has lately been capturing my attention and perhaps more up your way: Sterling Engine. Not sure where, how, or such, but you certainly have the skills to mfgr one, and seems it may capture residual heat to manager other functions...food for thought.

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post #4 of 18 Old 03-01-2011, 09:43 AM
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my next door neighbor has a large black tarp kinda thing (sealed) on his roof. the water is pumped up there and trickles down through this material back down to the pool. Don't know how much sense it makes though. I can ask him about it if you are interested.

works like this:
http://www.backyardcitypools.com/Poo...ol-Heaters.htm



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post #5 of 18 Old 03-01-2011, 10:22 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wetpet View Post
my next door neighbor has a large black tarp kinda thing (sealed) on his roof. the water is pumped up there and trickles down through this material back down to the pool. Don't know how much sense it makes though. I can ask him about it if you are interested.

works like this:
Fafco SunGrabber Solar Pool Heaters for In Ground Pools
I almost bought a set-up like that a couple years ago…..then decided it was not a great fit to my application. I have limited south facing roof and my development HOA really frowns in ugly sh*t on the roof so would need to mount it on/near the ground which would mean creating a frame of some kind. I figured $5k-$6k all together as I need about 400-600sq-ft.

I think I could do 400-600 sq-ft of PE pipe for more like $2000-$2500 complete with the controller and everything else….I’m not certain it would be quite as effective as the sun grabber system, but it is way cheaper and probably more durable.

The first time I hear the idea of using the pool deck for the solar I loved it……of course that was AFTER my deck was in and made of travertine so it doesn’t get hot. Had I planned ahead for solar I could have put in pex pipe buried in a colored/stamped concrete deck that get really hot and had 800-900 sqft of hidden pool heater….but doing that now would be a $10k+ job and the pool deck would no longer match the whole rest of the hardscape.
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post #6 of 18 Old 03-01-2011, 10:39 AM
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I gave this some thought too when was statoinned in South Africa.

I had a quite simple idea but never turned it into more. Probably because that after I left there back Home I did not had a pool anymore.


Basically my "system" worked with a tiny solar powered motor with a tiny rotor that pumps up water and let it flow over a pretty large ( 10 sq ft?) black plastic sheet that floats on the watersurface. The flow is not controlled only but the solar power. The water flows over the black sheet and will heat up and than simply goes back into the pool again.

Althought the capacity is limited you can leave it on the surface always and as soon as the sun powers the tine motor the flow of warm water starts. The process keeps on going day in day out and this should raise the overall temp.

I never actually made calculations but i'm pretty sure it would help somewhat in raising the water temperature.
And it's pretty cheap to make and simple to operate. I saw the truckloads of cash already comming

I totally forgot about it until this thread came along.
Maybe I still could make one.....
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post #7 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 10:51 AM
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Put in a system about 6 years ago, and it is very disappointing. The BIG problem with solar heating for pools, is that when you REALLY need the heater, in the spring and fall you don't get enough sunlight to make them work, and end up using the gas heater anyway. I am using a passive solar systems the big black grid type that directly heats the water from the sun. My panels are 10" X 40 feet, and based on my gas usage before versus after, I probably save $20 a year. Given that I paid about $6,000 to put this in, it will pay for itself in only 300 years, not counting interest cost, and assuming it will last for 300 years. It also takes up a lot of space. Don't get me wrong, I like messing with this kind of stuff, but the payback is not even close! And don't get rid of your traditional heater as you will still use it. We are in Utah, and usually open the pool in April, and close it the end of October. April, May, September and October we get virtually nothing out of the solar system, and the heat comes from Natural Gas. It does contribute in June, July, and August, but the pool stays pretty warm all on it's own those months anyway. We have an auto cover that does a nice job of retaining the heat overnight.
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post #8 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 12:01 PM
 
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Pool Solar panels

Mark,

Do a search on Sungrabber solar panels by FAFCO. They are relatively inexpensive and effective. I own a micro pool and spa business and have installed these at one customer pool with good success.

Bill
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post #9 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 04:21 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by desotodave View Post
Put in a system about 6 years ago, and it is very disappointing. The BIG problem with solar heating for pools, is that when you REALLY need the heater, in the spring and fall you don't get enough sunlight to make them work, and end up using the gas heater anyway. I am using a passive solar systems the big black grid type that directly heats the water from the sun. My panels are 10" X 40 feet, and based on my gas usage before versus after, I probably save $20 a year. Given that I paid about $6,000 to put this in, it will pay for itself in only 300 years, not counting interest cost, and assuming it will last for 300 years. It also takes up a lot of space. Don't get me wrong, I like messing with this kind of stuff, but the payback is not even close! And don't get rid of your traditional heater as you will still use it. We are in Utah, and usually open the pool in April, and close it the end of October. April, May, September and October we get virtually nothing out of the solar system, and the heat comes from Natural Gas. It does contribute in June, July, and August, but the pool stays pretty warm all on it's own those months anyway. We have an auto cover that does a nice job of retaining the heat overnight.
Form all my reading I’m really surprised by how poorly your system is working for you?

You’ve got 400sqft of panel….do they face south? How big (sqft) is your pool?

The Sun is hottest June 21 so the heat from the solar should be the same on May 21 that it is on July21 and the same on April21 that it is on Aug21. My hope was to get the pool up to temp (85F is the goal) by the beginning of May (…the kids want to get in come the spring but don’t seem to care much about fall) and the stuff I’ve read says that is exactly what a solar system could do for me….but it doesn’t work until it works and it sounds like your experience says it doesn’t work.

My pool is 800sqft so the stuff I’ve read says 600-800sqft of solar panels will be required to get the pool to 85 (with a cover) by May1 here in PA.

We have a propane heater which costs something like 3 times more than running a NG heater….so it comes on for special occasions only. With just the cover the pool is 80+ early/mid June to late Aug/early Sept. My thought was to add the solar to get the 85F point early May…my son’s birth day is May3 and he’s just getting old enough to know he wants the pool for his party (and not old enough to understand that on May 3rd it might be 85 outside or it might be 55 outside) and that means a couple hundred dollars in propane to make it happen for the day. I was hoping a good solar system would make early May a much more sure thing with a lot less propane used.

I’d like to get rid of the propane heater too and replace it with a heat pump as the back-up to the solar. A heat pump would cost about ¼ as much to run as the propane costs……just another thing to add to the list…..but now you’ve got me thinking this maybe should be ahead of the solar since the heatpump is a sure thing on the energy savings.
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post #10 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 04:37 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I looked at those and got the material bill up to $5k-$6K…no wait that was the $3k-$4k stuff but I was concerned about the life expectancy and how serious a frame I was going to have to build to hold it (which is what drove the price up - we get serious wind here). Do you have any numbers on how it’s working temp gain wise for them?

I was also looking at system that mounts a radiator in the house attic (out of the wind) but my new house attic is vented pretty well and my house is multistory not a ranch like the houses in the examples (so less roof area) making me seriously doubt the effectiveness of such a system. Talking with a neighbor I mentioned the attic system and my concerns about it but he loved the idea and ran out and bought one (about $4k for the parts – he couldn’t find a contractor that would install it for him and take the risk that pumping 40-100 gal/min of pool water into the attic could bring). He’s thinking it gained his 3-4 degrees not the 10-15 degrees the manufacture was claiming (so my math was right) but he’s still happy with that gain I think
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post #11 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 06:21 AM
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Our pool is 20X40 and we have a tan colored auto cover. I would think that to get the gains that we want, we would have to at least triple the size of our system, and we just don't have the room for that. Our system is on the ground, not on the roof as we also have a multi-story home, and the pool is on a level below grade, so it is 3 stories below the roof, combined with the fact that the roof has many varied gables and pitches putting a solar system up there was not feasible. The other issue that you need to consider is that at night the system get's COLD. and although we are not running the pump to circulate it at night, the water stored in it runs into the pool the moment you turn the system back on. Now if you just like the idea of using solar and money is not an issue for you, I say go for it, but put in 50-100% more panels than the manufacturer tells you. It will NEVER pay for itself. You would be so much better off putting money into a heat pump or paying for natural gas. Just my 2 cents.
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post #12 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 07:33 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by desotodave View Post
Our pool is 20X40 and we have a tan colored auto cover. I would think that to get the gains that we want, we would have to at least triple the size of our system, and we just don't have the room for that. Our system is on the ground, not on the roof as we also have a multi-story home, and the pool is on a level below grade, so it is 3 stories below the roof, combined with the fact that the roof has many varied gables and pitches putting a solar system up there was not feasible. The other issue that you need to consider is that at night the system get's COLD. and although we are not running the pump to circulate it at night, the water stored in it runs into the pool the moment you turn the system back on. Now if you just like the idea of using solar and money is not an issue for you, I say go for it, but put in 50-100% more panels than the manufacturer tells you. It will NEVER pay for itself. You would be so much better off putting money into a heat pump or paying for natural gas. Just my 2 cents.
Our pool is the same as your and what I'm reading say 600-800 sqft of solar which is right in line with your guess that yours wants to be twice as big....if Utah and PA have similar temps and I think they do??

Do you have a controller for the solar? The controller should never let the solar supply cold water to the pool nor should it allow the solar to cool the pool by allowing circulation through the solar at night or when the sun is not out making heat. A controller is about $400 in parts with the valve and temp sensors.

The money is the only reason I’d even consider solar which is why I don’ have a system yet….I haven’t figured out how to do it at a price the makes sense. We don’t normally run the heater anyway so adding heat is a cost not a savings. I’m trying to justify the cost by looking at the extra use but……

Like you our house is 2 story, the pool is below the 1st floor grade and very little roof area faces south plus our HOA doesn’t allow roof mounted solar anyway. But I do have a south facing slope (that I would love to stop mowing) below the pool that I could easily put 800 sqft of solar on…if I could justify the expense. I’m think the PE pipe idea would mean a good working system for under $2500…..but I’d like to figure out how to do it for under $1000 and the controller alone is $300-$400
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post #13 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 07:42 AM
 
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While PA temps may be similar to some parts of Utah, I would think the insolation would be much less for most locations.
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post #14 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 09:03 AM
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Being the car guy tinkerer you are...

I have a buddy who lives in the sticks here in California and pretty much off the grid. After severe wind storms tore up his solar pool heater a few times he decided to move his system indoors. His garage (6000 sq ft) has an attic with no power ventilation at all. He strung a series of large truck radiators together in his attic and has a couple of small circulating fans to keep the air moving. Radiators in reverse... they are now heat exchangers for his pool and his attic and shop are cooler.

Rick
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post #15 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 10:55 AM Thread Starter
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Being the car guy tinkerer you are...

I have a buddy who lives in the sticks here in California and pretty much off the grid. After severe wind storms tore up his solar pool heater a few times he decided to move his system indoors. His garage (6000 sq ft) has an attic with no power ventilation at all. He strung a series of large truck radiators together in his attic and has a couple of small circulating fans to keep the air moving. Radiators in reverse... they are now heat exchangers for his pool and his attic and shop are cooler.

Rick

Using the roof as the collect seems like a great idea. I don’t like the idea of radiators that I know will corrode when filled with pool water and all the water that could mean in my attic. Also, in my case the attic heat is mostly lost out the ridge vent.

I think there is an attic solution….complicated a bit by the hip roof I have, but still possible and that is a long narrow heat exchanger up near the ridge. A long narrow heat exchanger is another name for a pipe I think which can be plastic to solve the corrosion issue. In theory this could be done for under $1000 but I need to think a about it a bit more……it would work better with plastic stapled to the roof stringers to get better and more controller air flow…..the hip roof means the corners need some type of manifold to grab the air from the vanishing stringers…then just how much pipes to use…more thinking.
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post #16 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 11:51 AM
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Don't know about you, but we run a saltwater system in our pool, so having metal involved in the scenario is a bad idea. Okay, I have no great pictures, but here is a shot when the pool and yard was just going in. We are on 1 acre so have plenty of room for lots of stuff. Our solar is up behind the pool on the upper level, south facing. We have a controller, but invariably when you kick it on, the water in the pipes under the ground have stored cold water in them. Also, my wife WONT get in the pool unless it is 91 or warmer, so we tend to keep it quite warm. Again, I am not saying you can't accomplish what you want, but to do it right is very expensive and PERSONALLY, it is not a payback.

Personally, I love to tinker with stuff like this as I am kind of one of those doomsday nuts who would like to be totally self sufficient! We have a big garden, orchard, greenhouse, chickens etc for food, and I have a 5000 gal buried propane tank that runs a back-up generator for this house just in case. I also have a wood burning fireplace that is plumbed so that I can heat the entire house with it if I need to.....I think you see where I am going with this. My whole point was, do it if you dig that kind of stuff, but don't do it as a cost effective way to pay it back. The original cost of the system will significantly outweigh the cost of buying gas (this is my opinion based on my personal experience) Now would I go and do it again? Probably, just because I love this kind of stuff! Now a heat pump will probably be my next adventure, I just need to find someone who can dig me some deep holes!
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post #17 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 02:24 PM Thread Starter
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Yes we have a salt system as well......although I keep wondering why. I also have an ozinator and I know I can switch off the chlorine generator and the ozone keeps the pool just fine but not so much the other way around. I tend to keep the salt at the low-end of the system spec and little to no chlorine in the water.

So you're thinking geo heatpump for the house? Ours is woring good. I'm thinking plain air heatpu,mp for the pool since the air is generally above 55F anything I'd want heat for the pool making the air unit more effiecent than a geo unit for that application....and way easier to install.
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post #18 of 18 Old 03-04-2011, 05:20 AM
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Yeah, I think the heatpump might be the way to go. Again, not sure about the $ cost payoff, but I like the idea of not relying on outside sources, especially if there is some kind of big natural disaster and regular services are not available.

My Salt water generator crapped out at the end of last season, so I need to get it replaced. Sounds like it may be a good idea to install an ozonator as well? It was a disaster last fall as our salt water chlorine generator kept telling me the salt was low in the pool, so I kept adding it. Turns out the salt level was WAY too high, just the generator had crapped out, and was not registering right. Well, the consequences of this was the high salt levels ate through the walls of the heat exchanger in my heater, leaked water onto the burners and my entire Natural gas heater is toast as well. So...I am looking for a new heater, salt water chlorine generator, and maybe an ozonator before spring.

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