Solar water heaters are an important component in a house. They provide a constant supply of hot water for domestic or commercial use efficiently and cost-effectively, using free solar energy. The system works by collecting solar energy using collectors (tubes or flat panels) strategically positioned on the roof of a building and oriented for the best performance.
Today, solar water heaters have gained traction across the world due to their reliability and durability, including great ideas, available designs and kits, and advanced controllers.
Having basic knowledge about solar water heater repair is necessary if your water heater breaks down and you want to keep the expenses low. Like other solar-powered devices, solar water heaters can develop issues as time passes and elements start to deteriorate. If you are a homeowner and want to know about the common problems that are usually associated with solar water heaters, including troubleshooting them, then you are in the right place.
If your solar water heater was recently installed, keep in mind that periodic inspection and regular maintenance are needed to keep the system efficient and operational for many years to come.
But before we dive deeper, let's quickly take a look at what solar water heaters are and how they work.
Simply put, a solar-powered water heater is an assemblage of solar collectors or panels, pumps, controllers, insulated storage tanks, and connecting pipes. The solar collectors are positioned to trap the maximum solar energy and convert it to heat – for free. The heat is then absorbed by water and stored in storage tanks for use in the shower, dishwashing, and clothes washing application.
They are perfectly safe as they are equipped with solar panels made of tempered glass and temperature and pressure relief valves to control the water temperature and pressure. Plus, the system comes with a circulating pump to help circulate water in the system, from the solar panel to a storage tank. Since some parts of the solar water heater are usually exposed to the elements, it is vital to protect them from overheating and freezing.
Solar water heaters are categorized into several popular types:
Now, let's take a look at the five most common problems associated with solar water heaters and how to fix them.
As with any other devices, solar water heaters are also prone to problems, element failures that cannot be avoided, and situations that would lead to costly repairs.
The most common issues with solar water heaters are sediment build-up, corrosion of the metal parts, deterioration (aging, wear and tear) of the non-metallic, freezing (in cold climates), fluid leakage, and insufficient hot water supply or no hot water at all.
Some of the problems can be prevented with regular maintenance, such as smooth operation and expected performance.
Sometimes, your heating system will work but won't produce hot water. The cause of this problem is not far-fetched. During cloudy days or if the solar panel glass is broken, it won't trap enough solar energy. With not enough solar heat, water inside the storage tank won't get hot, especially if there is no backup heater, like electric heating elements. Another reason why your solar-powered water heater may not produce hot water is that the thermostat (in the heating element) may be faulty or set too low.
If there is not enough hot water, make sure that the solar collector is installed correctly and there are no obstructions. Check the sizing, tilt, orientation, and obstacles (shading).
Ensure that there is no thermosiphon overnight and there is no heat loss through the tank or plumbing.
Tip: Make sure all the components are working correctly (sensors, controllers, pump).
Fluid leakage is one of the major problems that your solar water heater can develop. In fact, it is one of the leading issues commonly associated with solar-powered water heaters.
This problem is usually caused when a collector glazing or pipe is broken, or when the pressure relief valve in the solar panels is damaged and open.
Another possible cause of water leakage in a solar-powered water heater can occur due to lose pipe fittings and thermal expansion.
Before you call a technician, do the following;
Note: Before you carry out any troubleshooting work, ensure you isolate the solar panel.
When you turn ON a solar-powered water heater, and hear an unusual noise coming from the pump, the chances are that there is a sediment build-up on the pump's impeller, obstructing the impeller from rotating. Another possible cause of unusual noise in the pump is due to bearing failure. Also, make sure air is not trapped inside the system.
The moment your solar water heater stops working, chances are that there are open circuits along the connection line. As with other wire connections, solar water heaters are also prone to lose connections with time.
This is another problem that homeowners need to be aware of. Solar panels can develop problems, so the collectors are not able to trap the maximum solar energy. One of the leading issues of the solar panel is broken glass. Since you cannot fix the broken glass, talk to your local installers to get several quotes, before deciding what to do next.
Another reason for solar panel problems could be that the coating or absorber paint has deteriorated. Furthermore, if there is condensation on the glass, it can affect the panel's performance and efficiency.
A solar water heater is a technology that has come to stay. Whether you want to take a warm bath or clean the dishes, a solar water heater can guarantee a constant source of hot water all year round.
When the system develops issues, the repair process should be on time and without spending too much money. It is good to know fundamentals so you can troubleshoot simple faults before engaging the services of a technician.
As seen from the troubleshooting guide, some problems are easy to identify and fix, while others, such as "no hot water" or "not enough hot water," require more work before figuring out what is going on.
What is your experience with repairing a solar water heater?
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