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 in a cost-effective way, using free solar energy. The system works by collecting solar energy using collectors (tubes or flat panels) that are 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 its 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. Just like other solar-powered devices, solar water heaters 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 troubleshoot 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 is 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 then 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 the storage tanks. Since some parts of the solar water heater are usually exposed to the elements, it is vital to protect these parts 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 the 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, so as the smooth operation and expected performance.
Clean the collector glazing from the soil, dust, leaves, vegetation, and other foreign materials that can affect the performance or damage the components.
Make sure the seals are not cracked and damaged, and there is no fluid leakage.
Ensure that bolts and nuts of the supporting structure are not loose.
Repair any crack on the collector glazing or replace if needed.
Check the storage tank for leaks and make sure the valves are operating especially the temperature and pressure relief valve.
If the sediment build-up frequently occurs, replace the heat transfer fluid if it is rich in minerals (hard water), or install a water softener.
Add the insulation where it is needed to reduce the risk of freezing and low performance.
Check the pump, sensors, and controllers, clean and replace if needed so they can operate properly.
Sometimes, your heating system will work but doesn’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; thus, the water in the storage tank won’t get hot, and especially if there is no backup heater. 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). Make sure that there is no thermosiphoning 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 relieve 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 loose 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 your solar-powered water heater, and you hear an unusual noise coming from the pump, chances are that there is a sediment build-up on the pump’s impeller, which might be obstructing the impeller from rotating. Another possible cause of unusual noise in the pump could develop due to bearing failure. Also, make sure air is 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 loose 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. Another cause of 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 it can be 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? Share your thoughts with us using the comment box below