Solar Pool Heating

  Downloads


Automatic controller spec sheet
Solar Pool Heating - A buyer's guide
Merlyn - Solar Pool Heating brochure
Solar Collector Warranty

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a solar pool heater work?
How much does a solar pool heater cost?
Will I need another pump?
How much maintenance is involved?
How much could I save?
How long does a solar pool heater last?
How do I know if my house would be suitable for a solar pool heater?
How big are the panels? How much space does it take up on my roof?
What is the ideal orientation for the panels?
How are the panels attached to the roof?
How will the panels affect my shingles?
What happens when I have to change my roof?
Can I install a solar pool heater myself?

How does a solar pool heater work?

A solar pool heating systems ties into the pool plumbing after the pump and filter with valves to divert flow to the solar collectors where the water picks up heat, returning to warm the pool.

The diversion valve can be a manual 3-way valve or an automatic valve. With the manual valve, you need to make sure the warmed pool water doesn't run through the collectors at night (which will cool the pool) -- timing your pool pump to run only during the day is one option to avoid this occurrence.

The automatic option uses a small computer, sensors and a motorized valve to control the diversion process. A sensor on the roof tells the controller when heat is available, a sensor in the pool return line tells the controller the baseline temperature of your pool and it compares these inputs to the user-controlled temperature setting to decide whether or not to send flow up to the collectors.

A roof is typically the best place to put collectors, but they can also be ground mounted on racks.

You can read up in much more detail in the NRCan guide Solar Pool Heating - A buyer's guide

How much does a solar pool heater cost?

The cost of a solar pool heater will vary based on the size of your pool (surface area) and the site conditions.

The following are general price guidelines for a fully installed system with automatic control.

- a small inground or small-medium above ground, up to 14x28     $2,500-$3,500
-
average inground pool, 16x32                                               $3,500-$5,000
- large inground pool, 18x36 to 20x40                                              $5,000-$6,500

In the case of self installation, subtract $700-$1000. Automatic control as an option is worth approx $550.

Will I need another pump?

Generally not. Most pool pumps are actually well over-sized for the job they do. Except in rare cases the existing pump will function well at powering the solar system. A small, old, 1/2 HP pump may have trouble if you have 2 stories or a really long plumbing run ( >150' one way).

How much maintenance is involved?

Very little. The only major concern is prior to winter, making sure that there is no water left up in the panels or plumbing -- just as you would protect your regular pool plumbing. The collectors and diversion valve must be drained. In most cases you do not need to go on the roof to drain the panels (for some installations this may be necessary), any underground lines need to be blown out and the diversion valve must be left open to avoid any trapped water. In spring make sure everything is closed up and the system is ready for another year's operation.

How much could I save?

If you had a natural gas heater running to keep a 16x32' pool at about 82F, a properly sized solar heater would save you about $800 a summer. For propane or electricity the number will be higher by up to 40%.

How long does a solar pool heater last?

A well designed solar pool heating system with quality collectors, plumbing, hardware and installation should function reliably with little or no maintenance for about 15 years. Our panels are carry a full warranty for 10 years, and we put a 5 year warranty on labour. The design of our panels is such that you can flip them over after 8-10 years and expose a fresh face to the elements to extend the lifespan. The warranty on the electronics, should you choose automatic control, is 3 years.

Durability is the major difference between cheap panels that you find rolled up in boxes in a pool store and a contractor grade collector. The difference comes down the thickness and grade of material used in the panels. Almost any collector will provide more or less equivalent amounts of heat, but you pay more in the long run by going with (and replacing) a cheaper grade product.

How do I know if my house would be suitable for a solar pool heater?

There are a few basic points to consider.

1) solar pool heaters need fuel, sunlight, do you have roof area (or space on the ground) facing SE to West without much shading?
2) solar pool heaters need a lot of room, do you have at least 50% of the surface area of your pool available on the roof or ground?
3) Do you have a feasible way to get the pool water from your pump to the panels through 1.5 or 2" pipes?

If the answer is yes to all 3 then yes, a solar pool heater will be feasible.

How big are the panels? How much space is needed on the roof?

The standard sizes of the panels are 4' wide, by 8,10 and 12' long. Through special order we can obtain 14 and 16' collectors, however 12' are generally the most cost effective size to use in a system.

What is the ideal orientation for the panels?

The ideal direction for the panels to face is directly South. The next best is to the West, then to the East. North is a bad idea, period.

The tilt angle from horizontal is not critical for this application, but a lower angle (20-40 degrees) is preferred over a higher one (>50 degrees).

How are the panels attached to the roof?

The panels make good sails, so we must be careful to fasten them securely to the roof. We use a heavy duty outdoor grade nylon strapping and stainless steel lag screws to run across the panels. Panels are fastened with 3 runs of strapping. All fasteners are driven through roofing sealant to guarantee a leak free installation. The panels do not have to be removed for winter, and are designed to stay up on the roof throughout their service life.

How will the panels affect my shingles?

If you install a good product that doesn't suffer prolonged leaks you are actually prolonging the life of the shingles the panels cover. We've seen this many times when removing old systems when it came time to replace the shingles -- the shingles under the panels are in the best shape. In some areas where there are many trees around it is a good idea to keep leaves and debris from collecting at the top and bottom headers and becoming compost-- this can be accomplished with flashing or the odd bit of maintenance.

What happens when I have to change my roof?

If the roof needs to be redone, the panels will need to be removed and replaced after the work is complete. The removal process usually takes 2-4 hours and the replacement takes 3-5 hours.

Re-roofing is not a major concern but it does make sense to have a roof that is in good shape.

Can I install a system myself?

Yes, a handy homeowner can install a solar pool heating system. To ensure success one must be familiar with basic plumbing, carpentry, roofing and electrical practices. Installation for a homeowner would likely take a full weekend. If interested, Merlyn does provide a service for self-install, we can deliver a supply of PVC pipe, fittings and the proper solvent glues for putting it all together. We will pick up the excess and only charge you for what was used.

Incentives

Currently there are no government incentives toward the purchase of a solar pool heating system.

 

Prices

The cost of a solar pool heater will vary based on the size of your pool (surface area) and the site conditions.

The following are general price guidelines for a fully installed system with automatic control.

- a small inground or small-medium above ground, up to 14x28     $2,500-$3,500
-
average inground pool, 16x32                                               $3,500-$5,000
- large inground pool, 18x36 to 20x40                                              $5,000-$6,500

In the case of self installation, subtract $700-$1000. Automatic control as an option is worth approx $550.

th Western Ontario:  Ontario Feed In Tariff: CREW Solar Bulk Buy 2009

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