SolarAttic Solar Pool Heater
Attic Leak Concerns
Competitors often raise the specter of dumping your pool into your attic in order to sell a competitive pool heating product. Because of this, I'd like to fully address the number one objection a solar panel or heat pump reseller would raise in a sales pitch and use against our attic based attic solar pool heater technology. In addition, here is a discussion of solar panel pool heaters. And, here is a comparison of solar roof panels vs the SolarAttic solar pool heater.
So, are attic leaks a real concern?
Yes, it's true, the number one objection used against the SolarAttic solar pool heater by competitors who want to sell you on another technology involves using the emotion of fear to scare you. Probably with a statement similar to this: "You could pump your whole pool into your home if a leak occurred."
With over 30 years of experience and being the actual designer of this new attic solar pool heating technology, you might think SolarAttic would have something to say about it. And, of course, you would be right.
First, has there ever been a leak in the attic? The answer is yes. Second, has the leak been caused by our equipment and technology? The answer is no.
The first leak occurred in the founder's own home after he started up a test unit in the spring of 1986 after failing to winterize it in Minnesota. Duh! Followed by Oops! Guess I will have to winterize the system in Northern climates. He developed the winterization process and included a leak detection float in case the air moving assembly ever stopped moving air.
We can't prevent a pool owner from damaging their water coil like the founder did on his test unit by failing to properly winterize it. YET, there is no need to worry about winter freeze damage when the coil is blown out with air and some RV antifreeze is poured in to protect the bottom of the coil. This simple procedure adds about 15-30 minutes to the pool's winterization process and it thoroughly protects the pool heater in northern states that require winterization. This is the same process used to protect the plumbing pipes of Northern Cabins and RVs during winter and it has been used for decades.
What about condensate?
Moisture is normally maintained in vapor form in the attic because of our 500 feet per minute velocity of airflow across the water coil. As a result, there is little or no condensation created by our system under normal operating conditions. You would, if you inspected the base pan, observe some minor water stains from the little condensate that does occur and evaporates. This is the same as you would observe in the base of your refrigerator where a pan would collect and allow to evaporate what little condensate is normal.
BUT, what would happen if our air assembly stopped moving air? Well, then, in that case, our water coil would condensate profusely. The base of the pan is a one inch water tight tray. We have built into the unit a float switch that senses excessive water. When our system is run on AUTO with any solar controller, the float switch would rise and open up the circuit to the attic temperature sensor. This would tell the solar control system that there is no heat in the attic and it would simply shut the system off. That would include shutting the pump off if you chose to wiring the pump to the solar controller.
Crossing the dew point
Every once in a blue moon, someone in the dead of winter in Northern Florida will create operating conditions for our pool heater in which the dew point will be crossed on the psychometric chart [a complicated discussion] and the water coil will sweat and produce condensate. I can tell you that our leak detection system has performed great in shutting down the operation and alerting the pool owner with a flashing light on the solar control to check the heat exchanger. Ergo, our built-in safety feature to stop any attic leaks performs as designed and has proven itself in the protection of the attic and the automatic shut down of the attic system. Note: Crossing the dew point and activating our leak detection through condensate has only occurred in an area that does not winterize the system, but operates it during very cold weather to keep their pool pipes from freezing. The
solution after falsely tripping our system is to sponge out the small amount of condensate that tripped our float and then restart the system. A very easy task if it ever occurs. Note also, the only place this has been experienced is in Northern Florida during the dead of winter.
A changed design
The PCS1 first generation pool heater had its plumbing connections on the outside of the unit and they were not protected by our internal float. I had a doctor in Texas fail to connect his inlet pipe. If you guessed that the failure to connect the inlet pipe and then turning the pump on dumped a lot of water in his garage attic, you guessed right.
I can't help it if someone does something dumb. BUT, I did feel bad about the situation and wondered what I could do to prevent another intelligent person from making the same mistake as this doctor did.
As a result, when I designed the PCS2 second generation system, I bent the inlet and outlet connections ninety degrees and incorporated the plumbing connections inside of our cabinet. In that way, any poor connections to our water coil would be also be caught by our leak detection system. This type of design would have also caught the doctor's mistake assuming he connected the pipes inside our cabinet as we have designed.
No need for joints
We recommend using a continuous length of flex PVC pipe in the attic. In that way, there is virtually no need to have pipe fittings in the attic. The only fittings would be on the end of the pipe where it connected inside of our unit to our inlet and outlet manifolds. This prevents plumbing problems caused by improperly cementing PVC pipe together.
No pressure issues
All of the pipes used are rated at 120 psi. Our heat exchanger is tested at over 300 psi. And, your pool typically will operate between 10-25 psi. As a result, there should be no concern about pipes bursting in the attic. This is simply not possible. All pipes should be properly supported in the attic to prevent mechanical stress from causing problems. This is a common practice in plumbing.
Water coil construction
Our water coil is aluminum finned copper pipe that is 5/8 inch in diameter. There is about 120 feet of 5/8 copper pipe in the water coil, which is 5 inches thick. There are 9 individual circuits 3 rows deep and 9 rows high that are fed from a 2 inch copper manifold. This heat exchanger has a 20-year design life if pool chemistry is properly maintained.
After 10-years of operation, I obtained the original PCS1 heater back for examination of the water coil. It was used in Orange Park, Florida and had been online for 10 years. Virtually no degeneration of the water coil was observable and the unit is still in operating condition now sitting in a shed in Minnesota.
The copper concern
The concern over a copper coil construction is because of failed heat pumps using copper heat exchangers. They have a limited life of only 2-3 years and are unbelievably still being sold in Florida. The problem with the use of copper in heat pumps comes from their construction. Instead of 120 feet of 5/8 inch pipe, the pool heat pump has 12-16 feet of pipe.
In addition, the pool heat pump has HIGH TEMPERATURE, HIGH PRESSURE, and uses CHEMICALS inside the copper pipe. It also has exposure to running pool water 100% of the time.
A 20-Year Design
Our pool heater has the following extended life characteristics.
1. NO high temperature inside the copper
2. NO high pressure inside the copper
3. NO use of chemicals inside the copper
4. NO direct flame on the copper
5. Limited exposure to running pool water
Pool Heat Pump Construction
You can explore the design construction and our extended product life by reading our report on the construction of pool heat pumps and contrasting our solar pool heater design. Click this link for our report on Swimming Pool Heat Pumps (PDF file)
Failure to winterize
Several pool owners have failed to winterize their heaters in northern states where pools need to be winterized. In some cases, they were lucky and no damage occurred to the water coil. In other cases, the failure to winterize the system resulted in minor damage to the water coil and/or a minor leak inside the house. The damaged water coils were easily and inexpensively repaired by a local radiator shop.
The smitty pan
Smitty pans are another layer of additional protection used underneath any attic equipment. It is actual code in many cities like Sacramento, CA and others. A smitty pan is simply a pan of some type place under the attic heat exchanger. It is usually tapped and drained to the outside with a garden hose. These are common plumbing pans available at plumbing stores or from local sheet metal fabricators.
The no fear installation
When a system is a properly installed, there is little or no concern about attic leaks. If a leak occurred and you were operating on AUTO, the solar control system would simply shut the attic solar heat exchanger off and reroute the pool water back to the pool and away from the attic. If a leak occurred and you did not have an attic solar pool heating control control system, but had a smitty pan installed under the attic equipment, water would overflow into the smitty pan and be safely drain to the outside of the attic alerting you to check the attic system.
In twenty-five years
I have worked with this technology for over 25 years. As I write, some systems have been successfully operating for over 19 years. A huge amount of solar attic pool heater testimonials from these and other satisfied customers are available online including solar pool heater videos. SolarAttic is now on the THIRD GENERATION of the SolarAttic solar pool heater. In all of this time, I do not know of a single system where our heat exchanger has failed and created a major problem for the pool owner.
Don't let anyone scare you with thoughts of a leak in your attic or of flooding your attic with pool water. Such fears are unwarranted by the design of the SolarAttic solar pool heater. The SolarAttic solar pool heater is protected electronically when used with our solar pool heater automation equipment. And, when plumbing installations are done proper and winterization is done in freeze zones, there is little need to be concerned about an attic leak. Sales pitches from competitive products may conjure up the fear of a leak. However, such fear talk of our product reflects a profound ignorance of SolarAttic's new solar technology and its 25-year history of safely operating inside the attic.
75 West Veum
Appleton, MN 56208
Solar Without Panels