Monday, April 30, 2012

Thermal Solar Pool Heater - summary

Since there's plenty of interest in the thermal pool heater that we made last summer, I thought I'd try and do a post just to summarize what we're using, and how it's holding up.  (My original post is here.)

Here's a silly MS Paint schematic of our system:
Simple schematic showing intake, pump, coils (2xparallel of 3 in series) and return.

Main components are the coils and pump.  The pump was picked up off this surplus site is:
Diamond brand; Model No 312233-01; Consuming 120 Volt and maxing at 7 Amps (nameplate), yielding 1/2 HP, in a CSA Enclosure 3, Made in Italy.  I see that it's available as of 04/30/12 for $95, though I seem to remember paying less.
This pump is MORE than enough power, but with two smaller pumps, we didn't quite have enough juice, so we figured we'd go a bit overkill on this one.  For those wondering, we don't submerge this pump, but rather, it sits by the side of the pool, and so the electric cord (which goes through a watertight gland) doesn't come into contact with the pool water).

Our roof is about 15 feet above the pool water level (note that we crest the apex of the roof, and the coils are on the far side, for sun exposure).

The pump is controlled on a time-of-day timer, though someday I'd like to trigger it with a light-activated system, or possibly a water-temperature-activated system.  On cloudy days, I try and remember to flip the switch on the pump itself, to prevent it from cooling the pool.
The timer is an all-weather system, with a rain/splash guard, not meant for submersion.
The one I bought is $11 from Amazon, click here to see it.
 The coils are arranged into two banks of three coils in series, the banks are in parallel, to slow the flow of water somewhat, to increase heating.  Our flow rate is measured at 15 L/min which is almost 240 gallons per hour.  In the summer, I've measured the temperature from the roof at over 130 F during startup, and continuous around 110, while incoming water is 80 degrees, so I don't feel the need to slow down the flow.  The coils are detailed in my past article, but since posting there, We spray painted the PVC pipe black, as well as the zip ties, to reduce with UV exposure weakening.  Also, a commenter recommended making the PVC crosses at different diameters (6 inches per side), so that it's easier to thread the flexible pipe onto the coil.  LOVE that idea, thanks Ariel!

What we failed to do was to glue the straight PVC pipes into the joiners at the middle of each coil, so that when we went to reposition them a bit, the coils became un-attached.  So if you do this, go ahead and use a primer and glue for PVC.  Totally easy, and worth the $5.
All of the water-filled connections are holding up just fine after all that daily cycling.  I had serious doubts about the push-to-seal type of joints employed by this pipe (remember, it's DIG corp, SKU # 642176 at Home Depot, $80 for 1000 ft).


Finally, go check out the 

Separately, we have a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel powering an attic fan to keep the attic cool in the summer.  This is a related effect to the above project, where the cool water from the pool actually cools the roof as well.  Bonus!  We enacted both projects at the same time, so it's hard to say which had a larger effect on the summer temperature in the house, but I would bet money that the fan had a larger effect -- it was noticeable.