Solar water heaters are generally easier to maintain than a traditional electric or natural gas powered unit. However, they will require regular maintenance so that they continue to operate at the highest level of efficiency.
Periodic inspections would be a good idea in order to check if there are any issues, which are generally visible from the outside. Most of these can be done by yourself, but if there are significant repairs that are needed, it might be best to get in contact with the installer in order to carry out more in depth maintenance and repairs.
Regular Maintenance Issues
When you had your solar hot water heater installed, the installer should have provided you with a maintenance schedule. Generally, doing an inspection twice a year would be sufficient in order to keep the system operating at the highest efficiency, and operating for a long time. Here are some of the measures you can take to maintain the components of your solar hot water system.
- Ensure that the solar hot water heater receives full sunlight, and is not obstructed by any shading. Over time, the nearby trees may grow to cover the system, which wasn’t initially a problem at the time the system was installed. Also, if your neighbor has built any structures on their property, these might obscure tour solar water heater. In order to fix this, it might be possible to move the system in order to get it put it into the direct sunlight.
- Dust and dirt will collect over time on solar water heaters. This is a particular problem in regions where it is dry and with limited tree cover. Cleaning these with water every once in a while will help to keep the system operating at it’s highest efficiency.
- The solar tubes are protected by either glass or plastic, and it is possible for these to crack or become cloudy over time. This is a particular problem if the tubes are plastic, as they tend to yellow over time, and will need to be replaced in order to keep the solar hot water heater working properly. Make sure that the seals that contain the heating fluid are still intact and not cracked, and if they are cracked, they will need to be replaced.
- The plumbing, ductwork and wiring are all things that should be checked in order to make sure that they are still working properly. These components are the main parts that keep the solar hot water heater working properly, and if anything goes wrong with these, there could be some serious issues. Look for any fluid leaks where the pipes connect from the heater to your home plumbing. Also ensure that the wiring is connected to the appropriate connections, and that the wiring is not fraying.
- On top of checking the physical plumbing, wiring and ductwork, it is also important to check the insulation surrounding these components for any sign of degradation.
- Check your roof to ensure that the sealant that is used around the solar hot water heater is still attached, and ensure that the flashing on your roof is not cracked.
- Check the pressure release valve to ensure that it can still be moved, and that it is not stuck in either the closed or open position.
- Make sure that the pumps that move the fluid within the solar hot water heater are operating, and they aren’t making any unusual noises. In order to check this, you need to wait until the early morning in order to have the system turn on to circulate warm fluid. If you don’t hear any noises, either the controller is broken and not operating properly, or the pump has stopped working. In either case, call a technician who might be able to diagnose the problem and carry out the repair.your text here…
- The fluid within the solar hot water heater might need to replaced every once in a while depending on the fluid. Anti-freeze solutions are generally the fluids that need to be replaced most frequently. If water is being circulated instead of anti-freeze, checking the inside of the collectors for any buildup of minerals from your water is necessary. Adding a little descaling fluid to the solar hot water heater would be the easiest way to eliminate the mineral buildup, and should be done every few years.
- Check any storage systems that are used by your solar hot water in order to make sure that there aren’t any cracks or rust forming. Without fixing these early, this may cause serious problems the longer they go unchecked.
On top of checking the physical plumbing, wiring and duct work, it is also important to check the insulation surrounding these components for any sign of degradation. Check your roof to ensure that the sealant that is used around the solar hot water heater is still attached, and ensure that the flashing on your roof is not cracked. Make sure that you have the correct safety equipment for the job including work boots and safety goggles (if needed).
Biggest Challenge: Preventing Corrosion or Scaling
Scaling is a problem for systems which rely on liquid circulating within the solar hot water heater. Systems that are installed in regions with hard water (you might be using a water softener to reduce water hardness) are prone to experiencing scaling.
Systems that use glycol (or anti-freeze) can also experience scaling, usually in the heat exchanger where the heating fluid comes in contact with the water that is being heated. Scaling could happen anywhere in the system, in particular on valves and pumps. Preventing scaling is the easiest way to ensure that your system is operating at its finest.
If you aren’t able to install a water softener, it is best to add some descaling agent to your system to help clean out the system. For heat exchangers, it is usually easier to use sandpaper to scrape off the surface if the scaling is pretty thick.
This can either be rust or buildup surrounding any metal components in the solar hot water heater. Getting a system that has metals that are similar to one another, such as copper, bronze, or brass in the heat exchanger, and use a glass or plastic lined storage tank.
Prevention of Freezing
If you live in a climate where the temperature generally comes close to the freezing point of water, it is important to put some additional consideration into the type of solar hot water heater you choose. While there is generally insulation around the piping, this is usually to increase the efficiency of the system, and not to prevent the fluid from freezing.
The most common solution is to use an anti-freeze solution as the circulating fluid to heat your home’s water. Maintaining the right concentration of anti-freeze in your circulating fluid is the important consideration, as over time the concentration will decrease naturally. Having a solar hot water heating professional inspect the concentration every 3-5 years to ensure that everything is perfect.
Another solution if you live in an area that has colder temperatures is to drain the fluid within the solar hot water heater. As the fluid isn’t circulating at night, if the temperature falls below freezing, there is a chance that the fluid might expand and crack the tubes. To prevent this from happening, it is best to drain the water within the tubes in order to prevent this from happening.
Most modern systems come with an automatic detector which measures how cold the outside temperature is and drains the fluid in the solar hot water collector automatically. There are still some issues that might cause some problems.
Check the sensors once a year in order to make sure that they are operating properly. An automatic system should have a system in place in order to prevent a vacuum from forming within the system. A vent is typically installed at the highest part of the tube in order to allow air into the tubes to flush the fluid out of the system. Insulating the vent is a good way to ensure that it does not become frozen shut, and allows air to enter the system.
While inspections of solar hot water systems are easy to carry out on your own, it is typically best to have a technician install or modify your system in order to prevent any unexpected damages, and ensure that the problem is solve. Your solar hot water is a large investment, and it is important that regular maintenance is done in order to extend its lifetime. Check with your installer if they know any reputable technicians they can recommend to provide service to your solar hot water heater whenever you need it.