Maintaining your Solar Water Heating System

  • -

Maintaining your Solar Water Heating System

Maui Oceanfront Solar PanelsSolar water heating systems usually require very little maintenance.  However, if you do that little bit of maintenance the system can last 50% to 100% longer.  The recommended schedule is an annual service and a major tuneup every 5 years.

 Annual Service

There are two parts to the annual service, tank/panel flush to eliminate buildup of calcites and dirt and system inspection.  The flushing method depends on which part of the island you live in.  If you live in a part of the island with a lot of dirt in the water the Complete Flush is needed each year.  For most of the island only the Short Flush is needed for years 1 – 4 and the Complete Flush every 5 years.

Short Flush of the tank and solar panels.

1.   Attach a hose to the hose bib located at the bottom of the tank.  Place the other end of the hose in a place where it can drain. Be careful not to damage plants with hot water. We usually place the hose end in a white bucket. Open the hose bib and flush for 2 minutes or until clear.  Repeat this on the 2nd tank if you have a 2 tank system.

2.   Attach a hose to the hose bib located on the pipe that returns water from the solar panels to the tank (the one without a pump on it).  Open the hose bib and flush for 2 minutes or until clear.

Complete Flush of the tank and solar panels.

1.      Turn off the circuit breakers that power the water heater.

2.      Unplug the solar pump.

3.      Attach a hose to the hose bib located at the bottom of the tank.  Place the other end of the hose lower than the bottom of the tank, in a place where it can drain without damaging anything.  Open the hose bib and flush for 2 minutes or until clear.

4.      Turn off the 3/4” valve that supplies cold water to the tank.  Open a hot water faucet somewhere in the house to allow air into the tank.  Leave the hose bib open until the tank drains completely.

5.      Open the 3/4” cold water supply valve for a few minutes to stir up more dirt.  Close the cold water supply valve and let the water drain out.  Repeat this until the water is clean.

6.      Turn off the hose bib and open the 3/4” cold water supply valve to start the tank filling up.

7.      Attach a hose to the hose bib located on the pipe that returns water from the solar panels to the tank (the one without a pump on it).  Open the hose bib and flush for 2 minutes or until clear.

8.      Close the hose bib and remove the hose.

Yearly System Inspection

Check for:

1.   Evidence of water leakage from tank, pipes, panels, or relief valve. Check the pipe/tank connections carefully. Cut the black pipe insulation back if necessary. Leaks in these locations are common and can destroy your tank.

2.   Proper system operation (pump running in day time only, enough hot water, electric bill still down).

3.  Loose wires and wire connections.

4.  Tightness of panel mounting bolts – try to lift or push panels to make sure they are secure.

5.   Dirt on panels – clean if necessary.

6.   Cracked insulation – replace or paint it as necessary.

If you are unable for any reason to do this yourself and need assistance, call a solar company that specializes in maintenance. Contact ECA for suggestions.

Major Tune-up

We recommend a Major Tune-up be performed every 5 years by a solar service company which includes the following:

Check system operation;  wash the panel glass;  inspect the entire system for leaks;  inspect insulation;  sensors and wiring;  flush heater tank;  flush solar panels;  inspect system design; replace the tank anode rod;  paint the roof insulation;  inspect all caulked areas & re-calk where necessary. Note: The magnesium anode rod slowly erodes away, sacrificing itself protecting your expensive tank. Sometime after 5 years it is totally gone and the tank starts corroding and leaks. It is very important to have it changed out regularly.