Friday, July 8, 2016

Installing a Solar Heater for our Pool

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

Once I had finished Preparing a Base for our Above Ground Pool, I started the process of hooking up our 4 foot by 10 foot solar heater. The solar heater and pipes came with the pool but it needed some fairly major modifications to make it fit my setup.

The solar heater required a base tilted at a 45 degree angle to get the most sun out of it which was built with simple 5/4 by 4 deck boards (1" by 3.5") to which I nailed several 1 by 6 fence boards equally spaced apart.

One of the more challenging parts was to remove the original glued ABS and PVC fittings. A simple trick was to cut the fitting off, letting about a 1/4" stick out at the top, then smearing it full of ABS, PVC or transition cement and lighting it on fire. Because the glue/cement was only put on the part to be removed, that was the only part that was charred. The fire softened the old fitting and the glue which allowed for a a simple twisting off with a pair of needle nose pliers.

The trickiest part by far though was one of the fittings that was glued right into the solar heater because it was not designed to be glued, but to be used with an o-ring fitting held in place by a snap ring. Once I removed the old glued part and tried to glue a new 90 degree ABS fitting it kept leaking. The leak wasn't very big but any leak was not desirable.

The first thing I ended up doing is removing the glued fitting with the same technique described above, then using a flapper grinding disk I smoothed out the female fitting that was part of the actual solar heater. Next, I glued an ABS coupler fitting on a regular piece of pipe, chucked it up in the lathe and turned it down to the oversized female fitting (1.920" instead of the regular 1.900"). Then, I glued the new (bigger) pipe into the oversized female fitting of the solar heater and continued connecting it to the rest of the piping.

Unfortunately - although it did fix most of the leak - I still had some very slow drops of water coming out so I decided to take my soldering iron and a few strips I cut off of an old ABS pipe and "plastic weld" the fitting. This, again, reduced the leaking a lot, but I was still getting some very small sweat-type leaks.

The last trick I used to plug the holes was to take the leaking fitting, heat it up with a hot air gun, then slather on a bunch of ABS glue. As the fitting cooled down, it sucked the ABS glue into the small holes and permanently plugged up the tiny holes.

Well, that didn't work. AT ALL. I ended up giving up and buying a flexible ABS joint clamp made out of rubber for 8 bucks, screwed it tight and that was the end of it! Stupid holes!

All that was left was to paint the old PVC paint with some special Krylon (actually, it was the Home Depot Brand "2x coverage Rust-Oleum") paint that was specifically designed to go over PVC and other plastics.

After everything was done I measured the temperature and surprisingly, the solar pool heater managed to heat the water by 0.5 degrees Celsius and that wasn't even at high noon. I ran the heater during the day while I was at work and it heated up the pool from around 20 degrees to almost 27 degrees in just a few hours. I think we have ourselves a winner.


Finding the location for the solar heater
Trying to figure out where/how to position the pump
Close-up of the pump
First attempt at making the circuit work
Cutting up some lumber for the frame of the solar heater pat
More lumber cut up
The assembled frame
Laying out the fence boards on the frame
The finished solar heater pad
My boy inspecting the work
He approves
The installed pad
Another view
Getting ready to remove the glued PVC nipple
After the solar heater pad/platform was painted
Removing the PVC nipple part 2
Softening the old PVC with some good-ol fire
cleaning up the cut off PVC nipple
Another view
Preliminary installation of the solar heater
The leaking problem joint
Doing the final plumbing
Testing it out with the small pool
Another view
Another view of the solar heater and pad
Closeup of how I managed to hold up the solar panels

View from a distance
Getting ready to glue a connector fitting on a plain piece of pipe
The doubled-up pipe
Another view
Cleaning it up on the lathe
Turning a metal core so I could hold the pipe in the chuck properly
The temporary metal center installed inside the ABS pipe
Live center set, ready to turn down the pipe to 0.020" oversize
Almost there
The finished (oversized) piece ready to glue
The glued fitting
Stupid thing is still leaking (although MUCH slower than before
After plastic welding the joint with a soldering iron - still leaking!!!
After heating up the joint and slathering it with ABS glue - still leaking
After I've given up and slid a flexible coupling over the problem joint - finally leak proof!
Close-up of the problem joint
Chop saw
Table saw
Hack saw
Reciprocating saw
Metal lathe & accessories
Measuring tape
Nail gun
Extension chord
Paint gun
Cordless drill
Soldering gun
Screw driver
Socket set
Channel lock pliers

1-1/2" ABS pipe
1-1/2" PVC pipe
ABS & PVC fittings
Pipe clamps
Two 5/4" x 4 - 12' deck boards
Two 5/4" x 4 - 10' deck boards
Thirteen 1 x 6 - 6' fence boards
4 x 10 solar pool heater
Nails & screws
ABC/PVC/Transition cement

About $150.00 (not including solar heater and piping that came with it)

15 hrs

Not sure, but probably at least $600 to $800 bucks

It works great and heats up the pool in no-time


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