Are you considering a solar pool heater for your pool heating? Good choice – solar heaters for pools are the environmentally and economically responsible choice for pool heating. Installing a solar pool heater is the perfect DIY project for the pool owner. Unlike gas pool heaters, which require qualified personnel to make gas and electric connections, putting together solar pool panels can be done in an afternoon.
Above Ground Pool Solar Panel Installation:
There are two types of solar systems for aboveground pools, the Solar Arc pool heater, (upper right) and the Universal Solar Heater. Both are extremely simple to install; you can set up your own aboveground solar panels in under an hour.
- Shut off pump and plug the skimmer and return line in your pool to stop water flow.
- Choose the location for the panel(s), where they will receive at least 6 hrs of sun per day. A southern-facing direction, unobscured by trees is best. Solar Arc heaters should not be roof mounted, but the Universal solar system can be installed on a roof top (see below).
- The Universal Solar pool panels can be installed flat on the ground, but if you can build a small rack from wood, to mount them at a 45 degree angle, (bottom right) your solar panel(s) will absorb more sunlight.
- Connect the return hose from your pump into the solar panel inlet, to bring the cold water into the solar heater.
- Connect the return hose included from the solar panel outlet, to bring the warm water into your pool.
Both solar systems are modular, that is – you can connect additional panels to each other. Out of one solar panel and into another. They can even be installed in different locations, or you can pipe your water to a remote location, it needn’t be up against the pool as shown in the pictures.
In Ground Pool Solar Panel Installation:
Installing an inground solar pool heater will take more time than the aboveground units, because you need to do a little plumbing, and you will have more panels to connect together. Consult our solar panel chart to order the suggested amount of solar panels, which will be close to 50% of your pool’s surface area.
As illustrated in the pictures on top of the page, you don’t have to mount these solar panels on the roof of your house, if you don’t have a suitable roof location that receives at least 6 hours per day of direct sun. You can build a rack somewhere in the yard, or even on the back of your fence. It need not be next to the pool pump, although the further away from the pump, the more you will spend on plumbing pipes running to and from the panels. You can build a patio gazebo, providing a shady spot for relaxation and an out of the way location to mount your solar panels.
- Unbox your panels and connect them together. Panels have separations to allow you to wrap around roof vents.
- Secure the panels to the roof with the included hardware. Attach the cross straps to hold down panels in high winds.
- Cut the return pipe after the filter, and glue on a one-way check valve and the 3-way diverter valve, included in the Solar Controller package.
- Connect another pipe on the opposite corner of your solar panel array. Run this exit pipe parallel to the top of the panels.
- Run the exit pipe off of the roof or rack towards the return line that was cut in step 3.
- Before connecting the exit back into the return line, glue on a one-way check valve, to prevent water from entering the panels in the opposite direction.
- After the check valve, connect the exit pipe back into the return line.
Solar Controller Installation:
A solar controller allows you to set a temperature dial, and includes a Valve Actuator, or automatic valve turner, to send water up to the solar panels only when conditions are optimum for gaining solar heat. When heavy clouds pass, rain begins to fall or night time sets in, the actuator will turn again, bypassing the solar panels. For best results with your solar pool heating system, I highly recommend installing the optional Solar Controller.
- Mount the Solar Controller box on the wall or a sturdy post.
- Connect power to the box, either 240V from your breaker box or you can connect a cord and plug the box into a grounded outlet.
- Drill a hole into the pipe before the 3-way valve, insert the water temperature sensor and clamp it to the pipe.
- Clamp or silicone the second sensor next to the solar panels, to monitor the panel temperature.
- Connect the wires from both sensors into the solar controller box.
- Remove the handle and 4 lid screws from the 3-way valve, and mount the valve actuator on top of the 3-way valve.
- Connect the wire from the valve actuator into the solar controller box.
- Set the temperature dial and test the system.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Will I need to up-size my pool pump to push water up to the roof?
A: I have installed dozens of solar systems and never had to upgrade the pump. As long as you have a 3/4 hp pump or greater, you should have no problem, even pushing the water up 2 stories. You will notice that the filter pressure will rise 2-4 lbs on the pressure gauge, but most pumps can handle the extra resistance without a problem.
Q: I have a pressure-side pool cleaner, will this conflict with it’s operation?
A: If you have a booster pump type pool cleaner, it is recommended that you not operate it at the same time as the solar pool heater. The Solar Controller has a booster pump override to shut off the booster pump when the valve actuator opens to send water to the solar panels.
Q: Can I mount the solar panels on 2 different sides of the roof?
A: Yes, after exiting the first panel set, run a pipe to the second panel set, and so on, then back down to connect to the return line.
Q: Do I need to install the Solar Controller?
A: It is recommended for best results. If it starts to rain, or heavy clouds form, sending water to the solar panels will cool the water, and reverse the heat gains made earlier.
Q: What If I need to remove the solar panels to replace my roof?
A: The panels can be removed in a few hours, no problem.
Q: What about winterizing my solar panels?
A: Solar panels are installed with a slight pitch toward the exit pipe, with a air-lock valve on the opposite corner, to allow complete drain down during fall closing. If pitched correctly, there should be no need to “blow-out” the panels with air, although you can easily do this if you wish.
As always, if you have any questions about using solar to heat your pool – you can always reach me, or any of the other solar pool heating experts here at 800-983-7665!
SPP Pool Expert