Whether you have a Fafco, Heliocol, or Aquatherm brand solar pool heater, there will come a come when you need a repair, and eventually it will come time to replace the system. But how do you determine whether it is time to repair or replace it?
Solar pool heaters from major brands, including the iSwim brand we offer, are warranted for 12 years to the original owner. As a result, you would expect that they should last at least that long and replacement should not be due until the panels exceed 12 years in age. However, a variety of issues may bring you to the conclusion that it is time to replace your system before that time period. You may find that solar panel repairs involving non-warranty (not manufacturer defect) issues are becoming costly, and a new system with a new warranty is preferable.
The main reason you would consider repairing a system over replacing it is to resolve a minor leak. Repairing solar pool heating panel leaks is fairly straightforward. All brands have a preferred method of plugging panel body tube leaks. This is the most common leak repair and is quick and cost effective. Leaks in the header pipe of an individual panel usually requires panel replacement.
Leaks in the PVC pipe plumbing are also a reason you may consider a repair. PVC pipe is relatively easy and inexpensive to fix, and leaks usually occur at joints. In some cases, especially with black pipe, you may have warping, sagging, or burst pipes caused from stagnating water from improper drainage.
Panels that are causing roof damage due to sub-par installation techniques is a good reason to replace a system before damage becomes serious. PVC pipe or panel couplings digging into the roof membrane is a serious issue that we avoid using our exclusive roof protection system.
Improper or sub-par installation can exacerbate leak issues. Not following the manufacturer’s recommended installation method can result in catastrophic panel failure where replacement is really the only option. This usually stems from lack of proper substrate or racking systems under panels that require it.
When we are asked to evaluate a repair or replace decision, we look at the entire system. Plugging leaks in one place often leads to additional leaks in other areas in a short period of time. Chasing leaks is an annoying, frustrating, and costly course of action. A visual inspection of the system, how it was installed, the type and age of the panels, and other clues lead us to a recommendation to repair or replace a system. Often we are asked for a replacement quote when a simple repair is advisable, allowing a system owner to limp along with a very old system. Other times, what appears to be a simple leak could be an indicator of a larger problem that will continue to result in costly and repeated repair services.
If a system is older than 15 years, in all likelihood we are going to recommend replacement, but there are cases where panels can last substantially longer. Buying a new system with a new warranty and newer methods and products is something we ask people to consider any time we find poor installation methods and products. Throwing money at a system where there are other problems unrelated to the reason for a call is not a good idea. We will work with you to determine the best course of action in your situation.
If you do decide that replacement of your system is necessary or preferable, there are some important considerations:
- What happens to the original attachment points? You definitely don’t want the contractor to use the same attachment points, which may have lost efficacy over time. More importantly, I can’t be sure that others did the job right. Sealing up the old attachment points, especially in shingle roofs, is critical to avoiding roof leak issues in the future. In cases where we are just removing panels, we usually leave the existing anchors and fasteners in place, as disturbing them is not the best course of action. That is not an option usually when replacing panels, so we have developed an exclusive method using flashing material and premium sealants to positively protect your roof when installing a new system.
- You may need more or fewer panels to achieve desirable results. The original installing contractor may have undersized your system for pricing reasons or we may be able to offer a panel with better performance to reduce the required number of panels.
- We never reuse plumbing and valves unless they are premium serviceable valves, 2 inch plumbing, and in pristine condition. There are very few cases where we reuse anything in the solar feed and return plumbing. You really want a new system, not just new panels.
- If you have a working automation system, we can reuse motorized actuators and sensors to help keep your replacement cost down.
In the worst cases, we see serious roof damage caused by improper or sub-par installation methods by other dealers. Our #1 concern when installing a system is protecting your roof. That costs money and takes time, but we do not cut corners. In rare occasions we need to have a difficult conversation with a homeowner to explain that their roof has been damaged beyond a simple repair by a shoddy solar pool heater installation. In those cases we advise that a licensed roofer come to assess and repair the damage. Fortunately, this is pretty rare, but it does happen. When it does, we can provide a replacement quote with proper materials and methods that will prevent recurrence. We can also provide a written assessment and replacement quote to your insurance company.
As for avoiding roof damage in the future, we have by far the best solution to protect your roof against abrasion and leaks. Nobody else even comes close. Again, it is our top priority.
If the roof is at the end of it’s useful life, complete roof replacement is the best option.
Removing Solar Panels for Roof Work or Replacement
We get lots of calls for removing and reinstalling a system when roof work or replacement is needed. If your roof has met it’s limit and needs replacement, removing solar panels is relatively easy and affordable. The decision whether to reinstall them or replace them is similar to how we address issues with the solar panels themselves. If the system is older, reinstalling the same panels is not advisable, as the trauma from handling aged and brittle panels during removal and re-installation can be a penny-wise and pound-foolish decision.
Even panels that are younger and still under warranty may not have been installed well, causing us to seriously consider whether re-installation is the best course of action.
The main reason to consider replacing the system after roof work is that the panels themselves are only a part of the cost of the system. You will need to replace all of the roof plumbing and fasteners anyway. If you are going to incur the cost of reinstalling panels and all of the associated hardware, it is worth considering getting new panels with a new warranty. If the plumbing and valves from the roof line down meet our quality standards, we may be able to salvage that and save you money.
When It’s Time to Replace Your Solar Pool Heater
All good things come to an end. A solar pool heater that has provided you with over a decade of service has most certainly paid for itself in energy savings and enjoyment. When the time comes to replace your system, rest assured that we will give you good advice and an excellent product that will outlast the competition and protect your roof. The decision to replace a solar pool heating is not an easy one, but you can trust us to give you an honest assessment and work with you based on your particular circumstance.
If you are in need of solar pool heater repair or replacement, contact us today for a free assessment!