Solar Pool Heaters
How Solar Pool Heating Works
The solar system is designed to efficiently take full advantage of the sun's radiant energy to heat your swimming pool.
• A. Select and set the amount of heating desired.
• B. The automatic comfort control unit senses the changes in both sunlight and water temperature and diverts water to the collectors when solar energy is available and desired to maintain pool temperature. The system functions without the use of any additional electrical energy.
• C. Your existing pool pump now circulates water through the solar collectors.
• D. The solar collectors, heated by the sun, immediately warm the flowing water which is then returned to your pool.
Solar Pool Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ
1.) WHERE CAN I MOUNT THE COLLECTOR? As long as you have an east, west, south, or flat roof, that is not shaded in mid-day, you have a location for YEAR ROUND SOLAR POOL HEATING. If not, they can be ground mounted on a rack or flat on the ground. Even a north roof will work from March 21 to October 21. During the winter, a south facing roof is the best location with a west or flat roof being the next best location. We offer a free site survey to help you pick the best location.
2.) HOW MUCH SUNLIGHT (SOLAR WINDOW) IN HOURS PER DAY DO I NEED? You only need the middle six hours of the day for solar pool heating. In fact, 90% of your solar radiation will fall in a four hour period. For example, if your collectors are facing South on a flat surface or north roof, 90% of your solar radiation will fall from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM; East, 90% from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm; and West, 90% between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm.
3.) WHO IS LICENSED TO INSTALL SOLAR POOL HEATING? Florida law forbids all but licensed roofing contractors or CVC solar contractors from installing solar on your roof. Other licensed contractors such as the old solar CW license, all pool contractor and pool service licenses and all county RX licenses can pull a permit for solar work on your roof, but they may NOT perform the actual work - they will have to subcontract either a professional roofer or a CVC licesned solar contractor.
In addition, it is only the professional roofer or CVC license that can guarantee damage on your roof or in your home as a result of a solar installation as they carry specialized insurance for this purpose. To have a copy of proof of our insurance faxed or mailed to you, please call Scarborough Insurance at 352-377-2002 in Gainesville, FL.
YOU COULD LOSE YOUR HOME - if the contractor you hire does not carry Worker's Compensation. No one doing solar installations on a roof can excempt themselves from Worker's Comp. You will be responsible for any and all damages arising from an incident involving an improperly licensed contractor installing solar on your roof.
In Summary, many State Licensed Contractors can pull a permit for solar pool heating. However, only a CV State Licensed Solar Contractor or a State Licensed Roofing Contractor is allowed to perform roofing work related to solar pool heating AND to carry independent completed operations insurance - against damage to the home AND contents of the home AFTER installation (Florida State Law Statutes 489.114 and 489.105).
4.) HOW DOES IT WORK? You set your timer so that it will filter your pool at the same time of day your solar collectors are receiving solar radiation. This is typically from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Your pool pump can easily circulate the water through solar panels. Your automatic controller diverts the pool water to the solar collector to be heated after if goes through your filter, instead of returning directly to the pool. During mid summer, some open unscreened pools run the pool pump at night instead of the day to use the solar collectors, in reverse to cool the pool down, if the pool gets too hot during the day. The automatic solar control allows you to set the high limit to your own comfort level.
5.) DO I NEED AN AUTOMATIC COMFORT CONTROLLER? Yes, if it is important to swim from mid September through mid May. From May to September, the air temperature during the day will be higher than the pool water temperature. Even if there is little solar radiation, the solar pool system will still pick up heat from the air. However, from the middle of September to the middle of May, the outside air temperature often will be lower than the pool water temperature. If there is little solar radiation (a cloudy day), and the solar system is operating, you would actually be dropping your pool temperature. An automatic controller assures you that your solar system will only gain heat and will not cool your pool when you don't want it to. An automatic control also has a high limit for summer time heating. It's most important function is daily comfort control of the pool temperature.
6.) HOW LARGE A SOLAR SYSTEM DO I NEED? Generally speaking, you will get a 3oF rise from each 20% of the pool surface area that you put up on equal area of solar pool collectors. For example, if you put 512 sq. ft of solar collectors for 512 sq. ft of pool (16 x 32 ft), you will get 16oF rise in the pool temperature. If you install 256 sq. ft (50% of your surface area) of solar pool collectors you will get a 8OF rise in your pool temperature. The 3o F rise per 20% of pool area is based on the state of Florida's collector rating at 1,000 BTU's per sq. ft of collector area. A collector rated at 900 BTU sq ft would need 11% more collector area. Do not accept any rating except those by the Florida Solar Energy Center. You can easily add more collectors over time.
8.) ARE THERE OTHER BENEFITS TO SOLAR POOL HEATING? Yes. Your attic insulation gets saturated with radiant heat from your roof deck that increases your air conditioning bill. Collectors mounted on the roof will considerably lower your air conditioning cost and increase comfort by putting the sun's radiant heat into your pool instead of you attic. Your property value and resale value increases according to Better Homes and Gardens, much more than an unheated pool.
9.) WHAT WOULD IT COST TO HEAT MY POOL WITH A FOSSIL FUEL POOL HEATER? According to the STATE OF FLORIDA ENERGY CENTER, the following cost can be expected to maintain either a screened or open 16' x 32' pool, (512 sq. ft of surface area) at 80oF for 9 months, 10 months, or all year. Call (407) 638-1015 and ask for State Publication FSEC-IN-81-4.
SCREENED UNSHADED POOL IN NORTH FLORIDA
FUEL PRICE MAR-NOV FEB-NOV ALL YEAR
Natural Gas $0.75/therm $1848 $2381 $3571
LP Gas 1.70/gal. $4554 $5875 $8813
Electricity 0.08/kWh $4043 $5125 $7889
Heat Pump 5.5/COP $735 $932 $1398
OPENED UNSHADED POOL IN NORTH FLORIDA
FUEL USED PRICE
Natural Gas $0.75/therm $1628 $2131 $3260
LP Gas 1.70/gal. $4013 $5253 $8003
Electricity 0.08/KWH $3562 $4664 $7136
Heat Pump 5.5/COP $648 $848 $1297
Cost comparing a solar heater with a regular pool heater makes solar look even better when you consider the fact that a gas heater will cost $1600 to $2000. A heat pump that is sized right (minimum 96,000 BTU's per hour by ASHRE standards for 14 x 28 to 18 x 36 pools) will cost as much or more than a solar system. However, it is definitely cheaper to operate than LP gas - by more than 80%! A Heat Pump's simple pay back versus LP gas is 2 years and 5 years for natural gas. Solar has the advantage of allowing you to start with a smaller system and being able to add more panels later. You must start with the right size heat pump because it can not be expanded. Solar systems can cool pools in the hot summer. All systems require a pool cover in the winter months to heat the pool to the 80's.
10.) WHAT ABOUT MAINTENANCE? A solar system requires very little or no maintenance since there are no burners and no moving parts. A gas heater or heat pump requires far more maintenance and typically lasts only one-third the life span of a solar system. Solar systems' warranties are typically more inclusive and much longer (12 years plus) than warranties for gas heaters (5 years) and heat pumps (typically 10 years). Always check how long the manufacturer has been in business (at least 10 years) and what local warranty services are available.
11.) CAN I ADD ADDITIONAL SOLAR POOL PANELS LATER WITHOUT PAYING MORE THAN I ORIGINALLY WOULD HAVE FOR A LARGER SYSTEM? Yes, we have standard pro-rata pricing which allows you to increase the number of solar pool collectors after the initial installation with no penalty for starting with a smaller system. You pay the same total price for 400 sq.ft. even if you start with 200 sq. ft this year and add 200 sq. ft next year.
12.) WHAT ELSE WILL HELP EXTEND MY SWIMMING SEASON? A solar pool cover used with solar system can give you an extra 5oF rise when used overnight and an extra 10oF rise when used 20 hours a day. Solar heating and covering a pool is like putting a lid on a pot of water that is heating on a stove - the same heat makes the water hotter and holds the heat longer. Pool covers are a big help in extending the season in the early spring and late fall and for winter swimming. A cover will not benefit a pool as much without heating the pool. We also carry commercial quality reel systems which make using a pool cover easy enough for one person. Pool covers are important when nighttime air temperatures fall below 50oF in the winter.
13.) WHAT SHOULD i LOOK FOR IN CHOOSING A SOLAR COLLECTOR? First remember that solar pool panels are modular - they come in 4 x 8's, 4 x 10's, and 4 x 12's. They are required to be tested outside at the Florida Solar Energy Center and be given a low temperature rating - typically 850 to 1060 BTU's per sq ft per day. The total system energy output is the actual square footage times the Florida Solar Energy Center's rating. THE TOTAL BTU's, OR ENERGY OUTPUT OF THE SYSTEM, IS THE BOTTOM LINE IN PURCHASING A SOLAR HEATER FOR YOUR POOL. (see below)
Sq. Ft. of the Solar Collectors X Florida Solar Energy Center Rating X 16 =_____F rise in pool temperature
Sq. ft. of the pool 1000 BTU/sq. ft.
EXAMPLE: 15x30 pool using 400 sq.ft. collectors rated at 950 BTU/sq.ft.
400 Sq.ft. of collector area X 950 Rating X 16 = 13.5 EF rise in pool temperature
450 sq. ft. pool 1000 BTU/sq. ft.
Make sure the collector has a warranty against freeze damage. Make sure you use an American manufacturer that offers a 12-year full replacement warranty with a 50% lifetime warranty after the twelfth year. If you expect a meaningful warranty, make sure the manufacturer is backing the warranty and that the manufacturer has been in business at least 10 years in the United States. Make sure the entire collector is made of heat extruded plastic that is all thermally welded and that there are not parts made of molded plastic - this is what distinguishes value from price. Make sure the entire mounting system, straps and fasteners are stainless steel. Do not use nylon or plastic that will only last a few years.
14.) WHAT IS A COMFORT CONTROLLED POOL? You would not buy an air conditioner without a thermostat to control the temperature. An automatic comfort control allows you to set the perfect pool temperature for the time of day or night that you wish to swim. For example, during intense humidity and direct UV solar during the summer, most people prefer to swim in the morning or late evening. The unregulated pool will be too cool unless the automatic comfort control regulates the temperature. Comfort control is important during your swimming session because it will double or even triple the amount of time you are able to enjoy your pool.
15.) HOW MUCH DOES A COMFORT CONTROLLED SOLAR POOL HEATING SYSTEM COST? As a general rule solar pool heating can easily triple the amount of comfortable swimming time. The cost of a solar heating system will vary between $1800 and $6000 dollars depending on the total BTU energy rating of the system needed to answer the following questions:
1.) How big your pool is in square feet? _____
2.) How much do you want to raise the temperature? _____
3.) How many months out of the year do you want to be able to enjoy your pool? summertime only? spring, fall, and summer? or all year?____
4.) How complex would the installation of solar pool heating be at your home?_____
NOTE: SOLAR SYSTEMS ARE EXEMPT FROM SALES TAX IN FLORIDA
The importance of installing the right solar collectors for your climate and the disadvantages of installing Loose Tube and Subplenum Collectors in North and Central Florida is explained below.
ECS uses Solar Industries’ Solar Apex collectors designed for heating during the late fall through early spring when air temperatures are colder than pool temperatures. This exclusive design maximizes the effects of solar radiation while minimizing the effects of air temperature and wind cooling.
Beware of foreign loose tube collectors that take advantage of each collector tube being surrounded by air. This is a distinct disadvantage in North and Central Florida from October through April when air temperatures are often colder than pool temperatures. If the wind is blowing more than 3 mph the end result is cooling of your pool rather than heating.
Another disadvantage to loose tube collectors is that they trap fallen pine needles and live oak leaves under the collectors. This is detrimental to asphalt and metal roofs.
DAMAGE & POOL PUMP STRAIN -
If you live in North Central Florida, you should also avoid subplenum collectors because of freezing.
Unlike Apex collectors which efficiently drain back into the pool every time the pump cuts off, subplenum collectors have a poor design to handle freezes because they hold water in the risers. The Ocala/Gainesville area averages 20 to 22 freezes a year. The only way to be 100% sure of freeze protection for subheader collectors is to run the pump during a freeze – and that’s no guarantee during a hard freeze if the utility company rolls a blackout.
Avoid subplenum collectors with a small pool that only needs five or six collectors as this may put too much backpressure on your pump. Backpressure will shorten your pumps’ life.
All ECS collectors are 100% guaranteed to drain down or back into the pool when the pump cuts off.
Beware of any company that demands a current utility bill to validate a warranty. This means that only the original purchaser of the system can use the warranty – in other words, their warranty is non-transferable. Quite a detriment if you plan on selling your house, or increasing the equitable value of your home.
ECS offers a fully transferable warranty.
Some companies sell collectors whose normal sizes are smaller than stated. For example, one company’s collector’s size is actually 6% smaller than they advertise – a 48-ft collector is actually only 45-ft.
ECS collectors are always the full size advertised.
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