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Solar Thermal Systems FAQs

I Am Installing A Drainback Solar Thermal System How Do I Facilitate Proper Drainback?

I am installing a drainback solar thermal system how do I facilitate proper drainback? In order for your system to “drainback” when the pump shuts off your collectors and piping must be sloped at 1/4″ per 12″ of run.  Be aware that visually your collectors will not be parallel with your roof ridge.

How Do I Determine Sun Angles Throughout the Year For My Location?

How Do I Determine Sun Angles Throughout the Year For My Location? The University of Oregon provides a free online tool that does just this. Plug in your location and this tool will provide a PDF with precise sun data. With this information you can determine the appropriate distances to place your arrays so as not to shade them during certain parts of year or day increasing the efficiency of your system. Check it out at http://solardat.uoregon.edu/SunChartProgram.html. Sample Sun Path Diagram  

Do I Need To Mix The Glycol I Purchased From SunMaxx With Water?

Do I Need To Mix The Glycol I Purchased From SunMaxx With Water? No. You can commission your system with glycol strait out of the container. Our XMaxx Glycol Solution is not only premixed with distilled water but also made with bio-based raw materials and uses 20% less energy to produce than standard propylene glycol!

How Do I Mount Solar Collectors To A Metal Roof?

How Do I Mount Solar Collectors to a Metal Roof? SunMaxx makes it easy! No need for roof penetrations. We have clamps that mount directly on the seam of a metal roof, making installation quick and painless!

What labels do I need for my solar hot water system to pass NYSERDA inspection?

What labels do I need for my solar hot water system to pass NYSERDA inspection? If you have purchased your system from SunMaxx, we have a PDF with the appropriate labels that you can print on a color printer, laminate, and cut apart. Each label has a designated location. Ask your sales rep.

What labels do I need for my solar hot water system to pass California Solar Initiative (CSI) inspection?

What labels do I need for my solar hot water system to pass California Solar Initiative (CSI) inspection? If you have purchased your system from SunMaxx, we have a PDF with the appropriate labels that you can print on a color printer, laminate, and cut apart. Each label has a designated location. Contact your sales rep.

How can I connect an air compressor to my pump station to pressure test my solar thermal system for leaks?

How can I connect an air compressor to my pump station to pressure test my solar thermal system for leaks? Our pump station’s fill valve has GHT hose threads on the outside. You can easily make an adaptor using the following three fittings, which can be purchased at your local hardware store or plumbing supply. Schrader valve x ¼” male NPT Reducing Bushing, ½” NPT Male x ¼” NPT Female Hose fitting, ½” NPT male x ¾” swivel GHT female Use Teflon tape on the NPT threads of the Schrader valve and bushing in constructing the adaptor. When attaching the […]

How should I test my solar thermal system for leaks?

How should I test my solar thermal system for leaks? After a solar thermal system has been installed, it should be tested for leaks before it is charged with heat transfer fluid. Leak testing should be done with air pressure. Air pressure can detect even small leaks that would be difficult to detect with liquid, because the liquid would evaporate as it leaked. Even tiny leaks are critical, because loss of fluid over time would change the system operating conditions and decrease performance. For more information, watch our webinar on air pressure testing.

My sensor cable is only 4 feet long. How do I wire it from the controller all the way to the collectors?

My sensor cable is only 4 feet long. How do I wire it from the controller all the way to the collectors? First off, when wiring to the collectors, make sure you use the high temp sensor (usually black or red). One end of the sensor cable has the sensor, which needs to be at the hot end of the collector array, and the other end has crimped wires that fit easily and securely into controller slots. So, the best thing to do is cut the sensor cable in half, and use each half where it is meant to be […]

How Can I Match Up Collector Connections On A Roof With The Rafters?

How Can I Match Up Collector Connections On A Roof With The Rafters?

Can I connect my pool to my solar hot water heating system?

Yes you sure can. Using the pool as a heat dump in the summer is very easy to do and very beneficial, not only to your wallet but a warm pool makes a happy wife. We have many clients that are doing this very thing with their “extra” energy from the solar loop, especially for solar combi-systems.  Here is how you do it: You will need a stainless steel shell and tube heat exchanger, a motorized, three port valve and some extra piping. Ask you sales rep for a schematic to help you. Using the three-port valve on the hot […]

What can I do with excess energy in the summer?

Three choices- Steam, Drain or Dump.  For most places in the US, there will be more solar gain in the summer than in the winter. This occurs during a time when your load is lowest, so that means EXCESS HEAT. You must deal with this if you are to design and/build a solar thermal system that stands the test of time. Steamback system- this system design will allow for the steaming of your heat transfer fluid during times when the pump is off. Normally this is somethin you try and avoid, but if designed properly you can use the steam […]

How long does it usually take to install a typical Solar Hot Water System?

Well, this all depends on many things. But for an average home with average difficulty level and experienced installer shouldnt take much more than two full days. I have seen some that were installed by two men in one full day and others that take a week. If you are using a pre-packaged system, such as the Heliomaxx Kits from Sunmaxx, they are designed to be assembled and commissioned with the utmost efficiency. A DIY’er can take on an installation by him/herself as long as they are comfortable with a little roofing and some minor plumbing. For homeowners, it is […]

How long does it usually take to install a prepackaged DHW kit?

Well, that all depends but usually 2 workers can install a simple DHW kit and have it fully commissioned within 3 days. There are some cases where only 2 days is required and some days more. Our Heliomaxx kits are designed for simplicity and we expect that you shouldn’t really need more than 48 total hours for a job and could be as low as 32.

Do I need any experience in electricity to install a solar water heater?

No, you do not. In fact, if you purchase a pre-packaged kit from Sunmaxx, the pump station (which is has the controller and pump  built in) simply has a 3-prong plug that you insert right into a 110v wall outlet. The only thing that you would need to do is to insert the sensor wire into the appropriate location on the controller. Luckily the sensor wire is non-polar so you can’t mess it up (knock on wood).

How do I know if my system is performing the way it should be?

First of all, your system performance will be measured by BTU’S produced, NOT by temperature achieved. The simplest way to accomplish this is by following this method: 1- Record your solar tank temperature first thing in the morning, before the solar pump turns on. 2- be sure that no one uses hot water during this day. 3-Record your solar tank temperature at the end of the “solar” day 4-Perform this calculation to determine total btu’s produced Change in tank temp Deg F x Total gallons in tank x 8.3 = total btu prod/day 5-View the SRCC certificate for estimated performance […]

How do I size a solar hot water system for my household?

Typically, an american average consumption of 20 gallons of hot water per day per person can be used to size systems. There are some variations in that however so we need to be careful about just using rules of thumb. For most of the Sunmaxx TitanPower Flat plates and Thermopower Evacuated tubes will yield about 2 gallons of hot water per FT2 of collector. Therefore, we can say that for a family of 3, we would recommend about 30 ft of collector. This estimate will vary depending on the part of the world you are from. If you live in […]

Can I tie a solar thermal system into my existing system?

Yes, you sure can. There are very few systems in the US that will not accept a solar thermal upgrade, The only exception would be a steam system. Whether you have forced hot air, boiler with baseboard, sub-floor radiant, in-floor radiant or wall heaters you can very easily integrate a solar thermal system upgrade. We have systems that are designed for every possible option for you, the only question is- are you ready to start saving money and lower your carbon footprint?

Simulating Performance of Solar Thermal Systems

Solar thermal systems will behave differently depending on a few variables such as, the obvious, location but also angle of tilt (slope off horizon), orientation angle, temperature of inlet fluid and also daily ambient temperature. We can calculate the efficiency of collectors for various times throughout the day but given the dynamic nature of production vs. consumption, it is better to use simulation software to accomplish this. At Sunmaxx, we use Polysun Simulation Software . By using this software, we can very easily ascertain the estimated performance during the course of the year. If you are looking to get some […]

Reducing fuel bills and increasing solar thermal output

Q: What is the best way to reduce my fuel bills by incorporating a solar thermal system? A:Reduction +Reduction = Reduction This should come at no surprise to any of our readers but the single best way to save money on energy bills is by reducing your consumption. It is surprising to me still, to find that at least 90% of homeowners that purchase a solar thermal system to reduce their energy bills have made no other provisions for energy reduction. By simply changing shower heads and turning set point temperature by 5 degrees, a homeowner can reduce their DHW […]

Keeping propylene glycol from freezing in my solar thermal system.

A: How do I prevent my glycol from freezing during those rare deep freeze nights? Q: Your glycol, although rated for very low temperatures may be un-pumpable at a temperature higher than you expect. This can cause you system to overheat when the sun comes out in the morning. To prevent this you can activate the antifreeze function in your SmartMaxx controller. This function will turn the pump on as soon as your sensor 1 reaches a pre determined temperature, say -5 degrees. This will run only for a few minutes and then turn off, thus keeping your glycol above […]

How do I remove air from my system?

Question: How do I remove air from my system? Answer: Take a deep breath and let all your air out… of your Solar thermal system One of the biggest issues with a successful commissioning is air removal. Any time you spend with this detail will be time well spent. Air pockets become entrained within your HTF and like to find places to hide. Air pockets can form between your HTF and the inner wall of piping (especially with flexible piping) and can only be removed through persistence and time. Here are a few things you can do to help this […]

Do I need to use glycol if I live in an area where I only have a few days of freezing per year?

Question: Do I need to use glycol if I live in an area where I only have a few days of freezing per year? Answer: If you live in an area that doesn’t get below freezing often (less than 5 days per year) it is possible to get away with using water instead of glycol. In order to make sure that the water doesn’t freeze you need to have your controller (ie. SmartMaxx DHW-Plus) run with freeze protection. The freeze protection setting monitors the collector temp and when it goes below a specified temp (40 F) the pump will kick […]

What is the most appropriate delta T for Northern climates?

Question: What is the most appropriate delta T for Northern climates? Answer: 17

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