Solar Power Pool Heater Systems – Choose the Collector Best Suited to Your Situation

When people hear “water heater”, they don’t think about a solar power pool heater what really comes to mind is their household water supply. But the terms solar power water heaters and solar energy water heater can also apply to swimming pools. As well as terminology, many solar power pool heater characteristics also apply to solar power water heaters used for the household water supply. The technologies and desired effect are the same in some cases.

For instance, you will find digital ICS (Integral Collector Storage) systems employed for both jobs in some but not all instances. While most solar power pool heater systems are basically the same, the way heat is collected, and the very collectors themselves, can be strikingly different. However, there are some commonalities you should remember regarding any pool heating collector you buy.

Understand the warranty and repair costs and liability of any solar energy water heater or collector BEFORE you buy. You'll need to know if you or the manufacturer will make repairs if the need should arise. And also be aware that you can't clean out mineral deposits from collectors once they build up. Hard water is “harder” on your system than soft, and the only way to clean out your system is with water treatment chemicals from a pool supply store. To save yourself these headaches, you can also add some type of filtration system to your water source before it reaches the collector. Let's take a look at some common solar collectors that are generally used to power a solar power pool heater.

Easily the least technical solar energy water heater collector on the market, and the least expensive, is a simple portable grid. This collector is made of flexible, molded plastic, and can be laid anywhere. Placed on your roof or anywhere on the ground that has optimal sun, a common size is 2' x 16', but different sized strips abound. They simply connect to your current pool pump and you are harnessing solar power.

A batch collector is the next technologically evolved collector. This solar power pool heater is simply a tub or tank mounted in the sun. When the water heats up, it can heat your pool. If you want to ramp up the heat in low-sunshine areas, paint the tank black, and add reflectors to maximize heat production. You can often double the heat production of this particular solar power water heater this way. Better yet is enclosing a black tank to prevent heat loss that would escape from a non-enclosed unit, and adding glazed windows to enhance the sun's natural powers. Simple to build and efficient without pumps and control panels, they are ideal for remote areas. 55 gallon drums make excellent low-cost, low-tech collectors.

Flat-plate solar collectors are rectangular boxes with an aluminum or copper “flat plate” collector painted black for maximum heat absorption and mounted on the bottom of the box. Several rows of copper tubes in contact with the collector plate are used to circulate and heat the fluid inside them. As sunlight warms the plate, this heat is passed to the pipes, and then to the water supply. The whole box is then covered with a plastic or low-iron silicon glass, or glaze, to minimize heat loss. This produces an incredibly efficient heat collector. There no moving parts, and the glaze keeps freezing from occurring. The only maintenance for this type of solar power pool heater is keeping the glaze or window free of debris.

They shed snow rapidly from the warmth inside, and don't mind wind and cold that causes other collectors some freezing issues. And if you add large diameter tubes from an ICS collector mentioned above, cold weather damage is almost non-existent. These are excellent solar power water heater collectors when you prefer to spread the weight out over your entire roof, because they can be used in parallel.

The last type of solar power pool heater collectors are evacuated tube collectors. Evacuated tube solar collectors are absolutely unaffected by freezing air temperatures and are expensive, both of these characteristics being due to their construction. They also perform great in wet, windy environs that cool other collectors down. This is due to their excellent insulating properties, another characteristic of their design.

Evacuated tube collectors comprise a row of hollow, glass vacuum tubes (envelopes). Copper rods or fluid-filled tubes (much like a direct, batch-type collector) are contained inside these vacuum tubes. These copper rods then connect to a huge copper tube in the “header”, which is enclosed and through which water or antifreeze flows. The copper rods heat up from sunlight, move this heat to the header, and from there into the fluid. Reflectors can be planted in the back of and around these tubes, increasing heat absorption.

This solar power pool heater collector system is so well insulated that the rods can get up to 250 degrees fahrenheit, and the envelopes are still cool to the touch. They also perform better than most on cloudy days, and on sunny days, the perpendicular placement of the tubes draws heat the maximum amount of time possible during the sunlight hours. However, this type of solar energy water heater does not shed snow very well, and are very fragile. Attempting to manually brush off snow or ice can easily damage or break them. Once a seal is broken, the vacuum is compromised. But a single element can be easily replaced, and the system's integrity restored. This is not the case with other collectors, where the entire collector system must be swapped out.

Solar power water heater collector technology varies in direct proportion with cost. Taking into account the above factors, you can easily choose the right solar power pool heater system to fit your needs and physical and meteorological circumstances.

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