General Information

Can Homeowners' Associations Deny Permission To Install Solar?

No! Florida Statutes prohibit homeowner's associations from preventing homeowners from installing solar energy products on their homes. This includes solar electric, solar thermal, and passive solar devices used to save energy. Fafco Solar can help you with educating your association if they deny you the right to install solar energy products.

More information is available from the Florida Solar Energy Center here.

Here is the text of the 2009 Florida Statute 163.04:

163.04 Energy devices based on renewable resources.--

(1)  Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter or other provision of general or special law, the adoption of an ordinance by a governing body, as those terms are defined in this chapter, which prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting the installation of solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources is expressly prohibited.

(2)  A deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or similar binding agreement may not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources from being installed on buildings erected on the lots or parcels covered by the deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or binding agreement. A property owner may not be denied permission to install solar collectors or other energy devices by any entity granted the power or right in any deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or similar binding agreement to approve, forbid, control, or direct alteration of property with respect to residential dwellings and within the boundaries of a condominium unit. Such entity may determine the specific location where solar collectors may be installed on the roof within an orientation to the south or within 45° east or west of due south if such determination does not impair the effective operation of the solar collectors.

(3)  In any litigation arising under the provisions of this section, the prevailing party shall be entitled to costs and reasonable attorney's fees.

(4)  The legislative intent in enacting these provisions is to protect the public health, safety, and welfare by encouraging the development and use of renewable resources in order to conserve and protect the value of land, buildings, and resources by preventing the adoption of measures which will have the ultimate effect, however unintended, of driving the costs of owning and operating commercial or residential property beyond the capacity of private owners to maintain. This section shall not apply to patio railings in condominiums, cooperatives, or apartments.

Having trouble with your Homeowner Association and approval for solar energy? Contact Us!

 

What Is The Best Way To Get Started With Solar Energy?

How you decide to get started with solar energy depends largely upon:

  • Your individual goals
  • Your home
  • How you use energy
  • Budget

If you have a pool, you may wish to start with solar pool heating for comfort and cost savings. If you use a lot of hot water, a solar domestic water heating system may be a good place to start. If you want to start to produce you own electricity, solar electric systems can take advantage of the Florida sun to reduce or eliminate your dependence on utility power. Solar lights provide natural sunlight without using electricity. Solar attic fans reduce attic temperatures, and reduce your home cooling costs. 

These and other products can help you get started with solar energy. Our knowledgeable sales professionals can advise you on what is best, taking into account your goals, home, usage, and budget.

Contact us today at (239) 574-1500 to get started with solar energy.

Does Solar Energy Require Me To Reduce My Standard Of Living?

Absolutely not! Installing solar energy, when done properly, should improve your standard of living and quality of life. For example, you can heat your pool with no additional operating costs! You can enjoy lower utility bills without reducing your total energy use with a photovoltaic system.

There are many ways to greatly reduce your dependence on traditional power sources by replacing utility electricity with solar energy products. That doesn't mean you should sacrifice your standard of living. Fafco Solar strives to provide you with practical and cost effective solutions that improve your quality of life!

Contact us today at (239) 574-1500 to improve your standard of living with solar energy!

Why Is Now The Best Time To Buy Solar Energy Products?

Solar energy prices are at an all-time low, and demand is expected to increase prices in the future. Now is the time to invest in your solar energy future.

More importantly, the cost of electricity is on the rise. The historical trend for utility electric cost is steadily increasing, and is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. Buying a solar energy system now is a great hedge against the prospect of increasing energy prices. As energy prices rise, so will the demand for solar energy products, making now the time to act!

Utility Stats
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration Electric Power Annual 2014, Released: February 16, 2016

How Many Solar Panels Can I Fit On My Home’s Roof?

“I have a 2,500 square foot house. How much solar can you put on it?”

It’s a question every solar professional has heard, and a question that is almost always answered starting with, “It depends on…”

I wish the answer was easy. Unfortunately, it does depend on… a lot! What shape is your home? What is the roof pitch? How is the home oriented, and what side faces south? What obstructions are present? Is it a hip or gable roof, a combination, or a hybrid roof design? Are there any obstructions that could cause shade like trees, chimneys, power lines, neighboring buildings, etc?

In order to determine the answer, we have fantastic tools available to help us figure out how many solar panels will fit on your home. We can look at aerial images, property appraiser data, take physical measurements, or even make a 3D computer model of your home! If you want to know how many solar panels will fit on your roof, don’t expect a quick answer in casual conversation. Give us a little time, tell us where you live, and let us come see your home so we can advise you properly on how many solar panels will fit on your roof!

Is Fafco Solar Licensed And Insured?

Fafco Solar is a licensed and insured Florida State Certified Solar Contractor, License CVC56701. Click on our license and insurance documents below to view.

NEVER hire an unlicensed contractor, and always check the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for contractor license complaints:

Verify our license here.

View license complaints (none) here.

 

Solar Attic Fans

What Are Solar Attic Fans?

A solar attic fan is a motorized fan attached to your roof that uses the sun to produce electricity that actively exhausts hot air from your attic.  An active exhaust fan is preferable to one that only spins when the wind is blowing. However, having a typical active exhaust fan can be costly to install because of electrician costs, as well as, the use

of additional electricity.

Need More Information About Solar Attic Fans?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Why Should I Consider A Solar Attic Fan?

It is a simple and environmentally sensible solution that can save you money. Powered completely by free solar energy, this sleek and efficient vent is both compact and quiet.

Fully operational right from the box, it installs easily, with no electrical wiring and no expensive electrician required. Removing excess heat from the attic will protect your roof and attic from premature wear, as well as, save on cooling
and heating energy costs.

Need More Information About A Solar Attic Fan?  
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Why Is It Helpful To Run Solar Attic Exhaust Fans?

There are many reasons it is beneficial to reduce the heat and moisture in your attic. The most significant reason is to reduce your utility bills.

When your air conditioner is running, the air passes through a space where the temperature can easily reach 140 degrees. By reducing attic temperatures by up to 40 degrees, the ducts run through a much cooler space, thereby reducing cooling loss.

Even in a well-insulated home, the rooms below are more easily cooled and retain their cold air longer by reducing the temperature of the space above it.  Additionally, lowering the temperature and moisture in the attic will extend the life of the air handler, insulation and roof components.

Need More Information About Solar Attic Exhaust Fans? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Much Will It Reduce The Attic Temperature?

There are different size fans depending on the size of your home.  However, it can reduce the temperature of the attic by up to 40 degrees.

Need More Information About Reducing The Attic Temperature? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

When Do They Turn On And How Do The PV Panels Work?

When the sunshine touches the PV (solar electric) panel, the fan begins to turn.  The stronger the sun, the faster the motor spins, exhausting more hot air.  It will continue to run at its peak until the sun sets.

Need More Information About PV Panels? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Is There A Solar Attic Fan Thermostat?

There is a thermostat available.  However, in our Southern Florida climate, 9 months out of the year, our days (sun) are very warm to hot. 

In climates where there is a significant winter, you would want to make sure that any heat buildup in your attic isn’t wasted and continues to aid the heating of your home.  In Florida, even if there is a cold night, when the sun is up, the air outside is warmer than the cooler nighttime air in the attic.  By exhausting the cooler air, the warmer air will be drawn in the attic giving your home an advantage to beating the chill.

Need More Information About A Solar Attic Fan Thermostat?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Solar Skylights

What Are Solar Skylights?

Imagine having a light in any dark space in your home.  This light would look like a typical light fixture, letting in an abundance of light, letting in no heat while using absolutely no electricity.

BeforeAfter

A dome is attached to the roof.  A metallic, shiny coated tube goes from the roof dome to the fixture at the ceiling.  All the benefit of the extra light without any operational costs makes good sense.

Need More Information About Solar Skylights? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Why should I consider a solar skylight?

Having a light on without using any electricity can only be beneficial.  There are no worries about forgetting to turn off a light switch, because there is no switch! 

Solar tubular skylights emit more light than traditional skylights because of the high reflectivity of the mirror‐like light pipe. They are designed with a sealed shaft which minimizes the transfer of heat or cold into your home, unlike traditional skylights which generate heat.

Solar tubular skylights scatter 100% of the natural light spectrum through the use of a diffuser, thereby eliminating the spot light effect common with the traditional systems.

Need More Information About A Solar Skylight? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

What Makes A Solar Tubular Skylight Different Than A Conventional Skylight?

A solar skylight is a tubular skylight with a dome on the roof.  A shiny metallic tube to reflect the light, and a fixture on the ceiling that looks very much like a typical light fixture. 

More conventional skylight provides a view but not too much light.  Despite the fact that conventional skylights can be beautiful, they are prone to leaking. 

A natural solar skylight comes with its own anodized aluminum flashing to prevent any leaking.  There is also a 25-year warranty on this product.

Need More Information About The Tubular Skylight? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Is There A Solar Light Kit To Create Light At Night?

Because the sun provides the light that the solar skylight produces, at night there is not light emitted.  However, if you would like to have light at night, or put the solar skylight where you have an existing conventional light in your house, we offer a “light kit”.  It uses your house’s electricity to give you an electrical light inside your solar skylight.

Need More Information About The Solar Light Kit? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Can A Solar Light Installation Be Added To A Bathroom?

A solar light can be installed anywhere in your home that needs light.  In addition to the optional electric light kit, there is an exhaust fan option available to replace, or add ventilation in your bathroom.

Need More Information About A Solar Light Installation?  
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Can You Turn Off A Solar Tube Skylight?

Up until recently, if the sun was shining, the light was bright.  Now we can suggest that the solar lights be used even in a bedroom because there is now a device (using a remote control) that will block the tube and “turn off” the light.

A solar light can be installed anywhere in your home that needs light.  In addition to the optional electric light kit, there is an exhaust fan option available to replace, or add ventilation in your bathroom.

Need More Information About A Solar Tube Skylight?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Solar Pool Heat

What is Solar Pool Heat?

A solar pool heating system uses the heat from the sun to heat your swimming pool using flat panels that are attached to your roof. The heat exchangers are a flexible polymer flat black panel.

The number of panels required is determined by the:

  • Size Of The Pool 
  • Direction And Space Of Available Roof
  • Desired Pool Temperature.

Need More Information About Solar Pool Heat?  
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Why Should I Consider Solar Pool Heating?

Even in Florida, standing water can be quite cold. When the sun is shining and it is warm enough to swim, it is common for the pool temperature to be too cold to be comfortable.

Solar pool heat can be used all year long to heat your pool using just the sun! Why pay for electricity or propane/gas to achieve water temperatures that can be reached free from the sun?

Need More Information About Solar Pool Heating? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Can I Use Solar Pool Heat And An Electric Or A Gas Heater?

Solar pool heat can be used in conjunction with any auxiliary heater. On very cold days, an additional heater can quickly reach the desired temperature.

Typically, a solar pool heating system is adequate for reaching the needed temperature year round in our exceptional climate.  However, if the pool is being used for guests or the home owners are only in town for a brief time and they want to utilize the pool in colder weather, an auxiliary heater can be useful.

The solar is still more economically beneficial. It will raise the temperature well above what it would be without any solar pool heat causing the additional heater to use less energy.

Need More Information About A Solar Pool Pump?  
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

 

Will I Need A Different Pool Pump?

Newer pool pumps (newer than 10 years) are normally adequate to circulate the water thru the panels. However, if a home is a high 2‐3 story or has numerous water features, a larger pump may be required.

Need More Information About A Pool Pump?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Can You Use Pool Solar Panels To Tie Into Water Heat For The House?

The solar collectors used to heat the pool are not rated for potable or drinkable water, so they cannot be used for both.  A domestic solar water heater must be installed independently from the pool heater.

Need More Information About Pool Solar Panels?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Many Solar Pool Panels Do I Need?

There are many variables that attribute to the required number of panels needed to heat your pool.  The largest variable is expectation.

Ideally, we would measure the surface square footage of your swimming pool and install anywhere between 80%‐100% of the pool square footage in solar panels on your roof. The roof space available and what direction the panels must be oriented can also affect the number of panels desired.

Need More Information About Solar Pool Panels? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Does The Solar Pool Panel Have To Go On The Roof?

A solar pool heater is most effective on the roof. However, if the land space facing south is available the collectors can be mounted on a fixed wood or aluminum rack.

Need More Information About A Solar Pool Panel?  
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Warm Can A Solar Pool Heating System Get My Pool?

Most of the year in our region, you can get your pool just about as warm as you would like it.  However, between January and March, we can experience cool days and some colder nights, causing our pool water temperatures to decrease. 

At this point the solar pool heating system will raise your pool temperatures between 10‐15 degrees above the Gulf of Mexico (or any significant standing body of water).  A chart of anticipated temperatures in the various times of the year is available.

Need More Information About A Solar Pool Heating System?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Are The Solar Collectors Attached To The Roof?

A system of stainless steel fasteners, tie down brackets, Eagle Claws, and Dacron straps are used to attach the collectors to the roof. The method varies with the type of roof.  A special sealant is used to assure no leaks.  This system of attachment exceeds the Miami‐Dade wind load codes.

Need More Information About Solar Collectors. 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Can The Roof Solar Collectors Be Installed On A Metal Or Tile Roof?

All of our solar items can be installed on either a tile or metal roof of all kinds. Our 40 plus years of experience has given us the expertise to provide a water tight seal.

Need More Information About Roof Solar Collectors?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Can Solar Pool Panels Be Installed Horizontally Instead Of Vertically?

Due to the required draining and flow of water, the solar collectors must be in the vertical position to allow for appropriate plumbing.

Need More Information About Solar Collector Installation?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

For Solar Collector Efficiency What Direction Should They Be Installed On The Roof?

The southern roof is ideal for maximum winter heat. The second choice would be the West. East and North can be much less effective in the winter when the heater is used the most. 

A chart explaining efficiency loss is available.  If the panels need to be installed in a less than ideal position, it can be compensated for with additional panels.

Need More Information About Solar Collector Efficiency?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Should I Buy The Cheapest Solar Pool Heating System I Can Find?

Like most products, you get what you pay for. Solar pool heating systems are expected to perform for many years, so selecting the right product and installer is critical. Selecting a cheap solar pool heater will not provide the best value. Price is only one factor when deciding to use solar energy to heat your pool. Other important factors include:

  • Performance of the solar collector. Fafco manufacturers industry leading solar panels with the highest BTU/area ratings. The Fafco Revolution panel boasts a 1,063 BTU/sq. ft. rating from the Florida Solar Energy Center. The more thermal energy a panel produces, the warmer your pool will be and the faster solar panels will heat your water.
  • Experience of the installer. Fafco Solar, a family owned business, has been installing solar pool heating systems in Southwest Florida for over 35 years. Fafco, Inc. is the oldest and largest manufacturer of solar pool heating panels in the United States. No competitor can match our experience with solar pool heating. To ensure a trouble free installation, select a company that you can trust.
  • Options. We are proud to offer two different types of solar pool heating systems with varying performance ratings, sizes and designs. Sunsaver ST separated tube design and our high-performance Sunsaver panels. Don't settle for just one option!
  • Service after the sale. We are there for you! Fafco Solar will be there to provide you with excellent customer service. Many customers return to us years or even decades later for other solar energy products after enjoying the savings and benefits of solar pool heating.

"Cheap" solar pool heaters are not in our vocabulary. Our prices are very competitive, but we focus on quality and service. Call 239-574-1500 and let us show you what Fafco Solar can do to earn your business!

Can I Install My Own Solar Pool Heater?

We will provide all of the materials and directions required for a DIY installation.  However, the savings is minimal by eliminating the installer’s labor costs, and the 12-year warranty can be voided if the installation is not precise.

Need More Information About A Solar Pool Heater Installation? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Will My Existing Pool Pump Work With Solar Pool Heat?

 

In most cases, your existing pool circulation pump will work fine with solar pool heat. All solar pool heat systems add back pressure to your circulation pump. Most of the increased pressure is from lifting the water to your roof and the pipe and fittings to carry the water to your solar panels. The solar panels themselves only add 2-4 PSI of pressure to the system.

Fafco Solar will evaluate your pump to ensure that is it adequately sized for solar pool heating.

Some competitors claim that our solar panels create excess back pressure on your pump. By design, Fafco panels use a unique subheader (FAFCO Patent 6038768) that makes for a rigid connection between the header and the collector surface - this is where many other brands fail. This subheader adds just 1-2 PSI of pressure. The difference is more than made up because our competitors' systems require a substantial length of extra pipe for the return line. Fafco's unique manifold system allows the feed and return line to be as close as possible to the pump.

For an independent technical explanation of solar pool heat systems, including pressure calculations, see Florida Solar Energy Center's Solar Swimming Pool Heating Systems documentation.

 

What Is The Solar Panel Warranty?

Effective January 1, 2014, Fafco Solar offers solar pool heating collectors with a 12-Year Limited Warranty and Limited Lifetime Replacement Warranty supplied by the manufacturer, FAFCO, Inc. of Chico, CA. 

Revolution and Sunsaver Solar Pool Heating Collectors installed prior to January 1, 2014 may have differing warranty terms. See your warranty statement for full details.

Need More Information About The Solar Panel Warranty? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Do I Protect My Solar Pool Heater From Freeze Damage?

Panels may be damaged by freezing when not fully drained.

Protecting your system against freeze damage is important, even in Southwest Florida where we do not experience many freeze events. The best, and only manufacturer approved way to protect FAFCO solar pool heating panels from freeze damage is to completely drain water from panels when temperatures approach freezing. Fafco Solar recommends that Southwest Florida homeowners completely drain solar pool heating panels if temperatures are expected to be below 45°F. Most systems are 100% self-draining, and no action is required except shutting off the system during freeze events.

The types of installations which are most prone to freeze damage are systems that have panels below the pool water level, or systems which have a piping configuration which does not allow for gravity drainage of the water. Some systems that are piped in a manner that does not allow automatic draining are equipped with a manual drain valve. This valve, if present, must be fully opened during freezing conditions. If you wish to operate your circulation pump and filter during freezing conditions, the solar pool heating system should be isolated by closing the isolation valves and bypassing the solar collector loop.

If panels are mounted flat on a roof (or less than 10 degrees of pitch), the manufacturer recommends that the panels are drained by removing the vacuum relief valve and end cap and lifting the panels to fully drain water from the system. Because this procedure involves getting on the roof, you may wish to have Fafco Solar do this work for you, but do not wait until freezing temperatures are imminent!

Note that operating your solar pool heating system during freezing conditions is not an acceptable freeze protection method per the FAFCO manufacturer's warranty.

Panels installed in accordance with the FAFCO installation manual are covered by warranty against freeze damage, but only when the system owner maintains the system consistent with the operator's manual. Proper maintenance includes ensuring that panels are fully drained during freezing conditions. If you have any questions, please contact Fafco Solar before freezing conditions are expected!

Call Us: (239) 574-1500

How Do I Maximize My Solar Pool Heater's Performance?

Solar pool heating systems are relatively simple in terms of how they work, and will operate trouble-free for many years in most circumstances with minimal maintenance. There are some things you can do to maximize your solar pool heating system’s performance, however.  

  • Use a pool cover, also known as a pool blanket or solar cover. 
  • Install an automated electronic solar controller. 
  • Keep your filter clean. 
  • Install a variable speed pump. 

Pool Covers   

Solar blankets keep heat and water in your pool. Pool covers are the single most effective way to improve the performance of your solar pool heating system. If you heat your pool with electricity or gas, you lose heat (money) overnight or when the pool is not in use. With solar pool heating, uncovered pools will have a lower starting temperature each day, resulting in lower maximum temperatures possible with solar heating throughout the day. If your pool starts off already-warm from the day before, the solar pool heat can work more effectively.  

It’s easy to lose 5 degrees of temperature overnight on an uncovered pool, and this effect is pronounced when night temperatures are low and as wind increases. One misconception is that the pool cover heats the pool substantially. While solar blankets can provide some heat gain to a pool, the most important effect is that it reduces evaporation. Evaporation releases heat from your pool. Refilling lost water is wasteful and puts more cold water in the pool!

Automated Controllers   

Automated controllers like the Pentair SunTouch maximize solar pool heating performance. Automated electronic controllers are used to “switch” your solar pool heater on and off based on some preset criteria. You can set a maximum temperature for your pool or spa, and the controller will turn the solar off when the set point is reached. More importantly, the controller will turn off your solar pool heater when the solar panels are unable to make your pool warmer. In fact, solar panels can cool your pool under a variety of conditions likely cloudiness, rain, shade, dusk, and dawn.  

Manually operated solar pool heaters rely on the owner to turn valves into the proper position manually, and it’s obviously impossible to constantly monitor and adjust the valves to maximize the solar panel performance. Manual systems rely on the existing circulation pump to operate only when the system is most likely to have solar energy available, but a simple timer can’t detect the weather! That’s where the controller comes in. The roof and pool temperatures are constantly monitored and compared, and a motorized valve switches the solar pool heater on and off as necessary, turning the system on when solar energy is available and needed, and off when there is no solar energy available to heat the pool.  

Sometimes pools have existing automation products. Various pool control systems from Jandy, Pentair, Hayward, and others are compatible with solar pool heating systems, and can easily be set up to control valves automatically. If your pool does not have an automation system, we can add one that does whole-system control, or just controls the solar aspect of your pool operation. Most controllers also have the capability of controlling variable speed pumps (see more on variable speed pumps below).  

Clean Your Filter   

Keeping your pool cartridge filter clean will improve solar pool heating performance. Actually, clean or replace your filter on a regular schedule. Clogged filters result in lower flow rates due to increased pressure on the outlet of the pump. Dirty filter cartridges can prevent solar panels from filling evenly and fully, and result in lower flow rates, which means less overall heat transfer to the pool. They also contribute to a common phenomenon called “bubbles in the pool.” We get this call very frequently, and it’s easily confirmed as a dirty filter by running the pool pump with the cartridge removed and comparing the system pressure or flow rate.  

Sometimes a filter that appears to be clean is actually heavily impacted with small debris. Your filter cartridge should be quite light, even when wet. If your filter feels heavy, you’ve probably got a clogged filter, and it may not be possible to clean it sufficiently. If this is the case, then it’s time to replace your cartridge. The lifespan of a cartridge depends on many factors like size and how dirty your pool gets. A filter can also become clogged from pressure washing pool decks or chemical treatments that precipitate solids which end up getting picked up by a vacuum.  

Variable Speed Pumps   

Variable speed pumps like the Pentair Intelliflo help optimize solar pool heating performance. They are the hot new technology in the industry.  These pumps use variable frequency drives and brushless motors to significantly reduce pool circulation and filtration costs. A positive side effect of the variable nature of the pump speed is that we can control how much water goes through the solar pool heating system, optimizing performance.

Manufacturer recommendations vary, but typical solar pool heating panels require about 4 gallons per minute per collector to reach optimum performance. Any additional flow results in marginal pool heating performance gains at substantial and unjustified costs to pump extra water. By installing a variable speed pump with a flow meter, we can “dial in” an optimum pump speed that balances the need for solar pool heating performance with pump operation costs.  

As a side note, many people assume that a low flow rate is better, allowing the water to spend more time in the solar panels getting warm. However, solar panels perform better (transfer more heat to the water) when operating at a lower temperature. Letting water stagnate in a solar panel just heats up the panel, reducing efficiency. The water coming out of you pool jets should be just a little bit warmer than the rest of the water in the pool. Relatively high volume with low, steady temperature rise is ideal.

 

How Do I Turn Off And Isolate My Solar Pool Heating System?

Pool plumbing can be confusing. Solar pool heating valves can add to that confusion. If you want to learn how to turn off and isolate your solar pool heating system with manual valves, you’ve come to the right place. The images and videos below show you how to turn the valves correctly to change the flow of water in your system.

To prevent pump damage, you must bypass the solar loop before isolating the system for service or repair. This article focuses on high-quality two-way and three-way valves installed by Fafco Solar. It applies to valves made by Pentair, Praher, Jandy, and Hayward – all work basically the same way. Note that this does not apply to basic red, gray, or blue handled ball valves, which are far inferior to the valves shown. Ball valves have different handle orientations, so this article should not be followed for those systems.

For more information on how these valves work, here is another video.

Note that the OFF tab on the valve handle always points to the pipe that is blocked. Your system may or may not have labels, but the important thing to remember is that the OFF tab is where the gate that stops water flow is located. 

 

Your valve configuration may be different, on the ground rather than the wall, or may not contain all of the pictured valves. If you have any questions about how to turn off and isolate your solar pool heating system, call Fafco Solar at (239) 574-1500.

Bubbles In The Pool With Solar Pool Heating?

Dirty Pool Filters Cause Bubbles in Pool With Solar Pool Heating

One of the most common questions about solar pool heaters is why bubbles are sometimes seen in the pool. Air enters the pool circulation system and comes out of the jets into the pool. Why does this happen?

First, it's important to understand whether the air is coming from the solar pool heating system or elsewhere in the pool circulation system. Bypassing the solar panels (turning solar pool heating off) can help determine if the source is the solar pool heater. If bubbles go away with the system off, it is likely that air is entering the vacuum relief valve on the roof. Air enters this valve when there is not enough water flow in the system to close the valve. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Your filter may be dirty. Even if you have recently cleaned your filter, fine particles may have accumulated, indicating it's time to replace the cartridge altogether. A filter that "looks" clean is not necessarily clean. You can check to see if a dirty cartridge is the culprit by running your pump with the cartridge removed and the filter housing reassembled. If the filter is too dirty, the bubbles will have stopped and the pressure gauge will have a substantially lower reading.
  • Running a suction cleaner can reduce the output pressure of the pump.
  • The pump is faulty or failing.
  • There is an obstruction in the suction or return plumbing that is causing the total system pressure (total dynamic head in technical terms) to be increased. Checking total dynamic head requires the use of vacuum and pressure valves on the pump and is best left to the pros.

If the solar pool heater is not the source of the air bubbles, you likely have a suction leak somewhere else in the plumbing. You can check the following:

  • Check the level of the water in your pool. Low water levels can allow the skimmer to suck air into the system.
  • A whirlpool effect in your skimmer basket may be drawing air into the system. This is more likely if the pool level is low.
  • Run a gentle stream of water from a hose over suction plumbing fittings and valves and see if the bubbles stop. You should see the bubbles reduced in the pump's filter basket.
  • The filter basket cover may be loose or the o-ring may be deteriorated. Again, running a gentle stream of water over the pump housing may reveal this.
  • Check that the bolts are tight between the pump housing and the pump motor. Air may enter the system at this junction. Again, running a gentle stream of water over the pump housing may reveal this.
  • Suction leaks can exist in plumbing that is not exposed (underground). Hiring a leak detection specialist may be required.

If these diagnostic steps do not solve the problem with bubbles in your pool with solar pool heating, call Fafco Solar at (239) 574-1500 and we will be happy to assist you.

How Do I Put My SunTouch Solar Pool Heating Controller in Service Mode?

 

If you have a Pentair SunTouch solar pool heating controller and need to shut off your pool pump to clean your filter, add chlorine tablets, or perform other service on your pool, you can use the Service Mode to shut off all pumps and be assured that pumps will remain off while you service your system. Check out this video to learn how!

 

How Do I Adjust The Clock On My Pentair SunTouch Solar Pool Heating Controller?

To adjust the clock on your Pentair SunTouch solar pool heating controller:

  1. Press Menu 5 times until Main Menu 5/14 Clock is shown on the screen
  2. Press the right arrow.
  3. Change the hour with the up/down arrows. 
  4. Press the right arrow.
  5. Change the minutes with the up/down arrows.
  6. Press the right arrow.
  7. Press the left arrow to return to the main status screen.

How Do I Get My Solar Pool Heater Ready For Summer?

With so many people in Southwest Florida preparing to head north for the summer, Fafco Solar is getting lots of calls from people with solar panels. How do you get your solar pool heater ready for summer?  

If you are not planning to use your solar pool heater in the summer, the most important thing you can do to protect your system is to drain and isolate it completely. Most of the systems Fafco Solar has installed, and all of the systems we have installed in recent years, have isolation valves that allow you to stop the flow of water into and out of the solar panels and roof plumbing. Just closing the 3-way solar bypass valve is not enough. There are two ways that water can continue to rise to the roof when the bypass valve is closed (through the return line if there is no check valve present and through a small hole in the 3-way valve that is present for daily draining purposes).

If you do not drain your system completely, water can stagnate in the panels and plumbing causing excessive temperatures. While usually not a problem, occasionally this leads to severely warped or swollen PVC pipe on the roof. Black pipe exhibits this problem more than white pipe, but extreme temperatures can also cause white pipe to discolor and warp. This phenomenon may be more pronounced in Southwest Florida due to our long, hot summers and numerous part-time residents. Roof plumbing issues due to improper operation of your system is not covered under warranty.  

Your system is likely plumbed to drain automatically when the pool pump is turned off, or a manual drain may be installed. To isolate your system, first turn your pump off, let the system drain completely for a couple of hours (or drain panels manually if necessary). If you are able, opening the lower header end cap on the roof is a fail-safe way to make sure your panels are completely empty. Once the system is completely drained, close your isolation valves. Please keep reading, especially if you have automated valves!  

It is critical that the 3-way solar bypass valve remains in the solar-off (bypass) position. If the 3-way valve is turned to the solar-on position and the isolation valves are closed, your pump will “dead head,” possibly causing catastrophic failure of your plumbing or pump.  

If you have an automated controller, there are multiple ways to turn your solar pool heater off, but generally speaking you can turn the desired temperature down as far as it can go. Some controllers have manual off switches. The motorized actuator on the 3-way solar bypass valve has a switch that can be used to stop the valve from turning. Unless you are very comfortable with your automation system and/or pool valves, it is not recommended that you attempt to isolate your solar pool heater for the summer without professional assistance. For a nominal charge, Fafco Solar can come out to fully drain and isolate your system and return after summer to start, test, and optimize your system.

 

Solar Electric Photovoltaic System

What Are Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems?

 

Solar Electric Photovoltaic Systems

Solar photovoltaic systems refer to a wide variety of solar electric systems.  They use solar panels made of silicon to convert sunlight into electricity. This electricity is typically added to your regular source of electricity (your utility company). 

The use of solar energy can reduce your reliance on other forms of energy to any degree you choose.  For some, a battery backup will allow power by solar without a grid tie. This type of application is especially useful where utilities aren’t available. Where utility power is available, it is often most economical to purchase a grid tie system.

Need More Information About Solar Photovoltaic Systems?  
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Why Should I Consider A Photovoltaic System?

Photovoltaics (PV) is an important energy technology for many reasons:

  • As a solar energy technology - it has numerous environmental and a financial/benefits.
  • As a domestic source of electricity - it contributes to the nation's energy security.
  • As a relatively young, high‐tech industry - it helps to create jobs and strengthen the economy.
  • As it costs increasingly less to produce and use - it becomes more affordable and
    available.

And there are many more reasons to do it now, not the least of which are all the incentives currently available.

Need More Information About A Photovoltaic System?  
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Much Does A Photovoltaic System Cost?

Figuring out how much a particular PV system will cost is a complicated process.  There are many variables.  The overall cost depends on a number of different factors: 

  • Size and Type of Installation
  • Solar Panel and Inverter Manufacturer
  • Roof Type and Mounting Method
  • Existing Electrical System
  • Engineering, Permitting, and Logistics

Other factors include solar rebates, grants, subsidies and other government incentives, which can significantly lower the overall price tag.  At Fafco Solar in SW Florida we are fortunate that our panel manufacturer and state and federal incentives cut our system prices dramatically.

Need More Information About How Much A Photovoltaic System Cost?  
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

What Is The Break-Even Point For A Solar Energy System?

There is no single right answer, but many systems pay for themselves between 5 and 15 years.  Much depends on the overall cost of the system, which is a product of the type and size of the installation and the incentives available. 

Furthermore, the break-even point is influenced by the price of electricity:  if your utility charges 12 cents per kilowatt-hour (all else held constant), your break-even point would come sooner than if you were only being charged five cents per kilowatt-hour.  This is because in the first case you'd be saving more money in monthly electricity charges:  each kilowatt-hour produced by your PV system would save you 12 cents, as opposed to five.

Need More Information About A Solar Energy System?  
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

What Kind Of Financing Is Available To Purchase A Solar System?

There are several different kinds.  More and more, companies and banks are working together to provide hassle-free loans to consumers interested in purchasing solar power systems.  We are fortunate to offer interest free financing and can help our clients to work with equity loans. 

Need More Information On Available Financing To Purchase Solar System? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

What Is The Estimated Energy Payback Period For Photovoltaic Systems?

"Energy payback" refers to the relationship between the amount of energy a solar panel produces and the amount of energy that went into its manufacture.  On average, the time it takes for a PV system to create the same amount of energy that went into its manufacture is anywhere from two to five years. 

Because well-made PV systems will operate for two decades or more, they generate far more energy than the amount that goes into making them.

Need More Information About The Photovoltaic Systems? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Do I Choose The Right Solar System Size?

The best way to figure this out is to discuss your particular needs with a photovoltaic professional and have him or her do a solar-power consultation.  Many factors can contribute to your decision.  What are your expectations?  Do you use other energy saving methods in your home?  What can your roof and budget accommodate?

Need More Information About The Right Solar System Size? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Will My Solar Electric System Work When Utility Power Is Out?

In Southwest Florida we are prone to hurricanes and storms that result in power outages. It is natural to want a backup to utility electric power, and common for people to assume that a solar electric system will provide backup during outages. There are generally two types of solar electric systems: grid-tied and off-grid. There are also hybrid systems. Hybrid systems allow you to have backup power during outages by using specialized inverter/chargers and a battery bank.

Grid-tied or grid-interactive systems connect to the utility power grid and do not provide backup during power outages. Your solar panels provide electricity to your home during the day with excess energy sold back to the utility company. Conversely, excess usage is purchased from the utility company. The benefit of a grid-tie system is that it uses a relatively low cost inverter, there is no costly battery bank required, and there is virtually no maintenance. A grid-tie system is also the most efficient use of the energy from your solar panels. The vast majority of solar energy systems sold today are grid-tied systems, which provide the best "bang for your buck."

Off-grid systems use a battery bank charged with solar power and an inverter to produce A/C power. There is no connection to the utility company. In this type of system, you are limited to the amount of solar energy your solar panels produce and how much storage capacity exists in your battery bank. These systems require a costly battery bank and limit you significantly to the amount of energy you can consume. The battery bank requires periodic maintenance and replacement.

A hybrid system uses a combination inverter/charger that can both charge batteries using your solar panels and sell excess electricity back to the utility company. This type of system provides maximum flexibility, and can even include a generator for even more reliability/redundancy (however, we do not promote fossil fuel burning generators). The greatest disadvantage is cost. The system components are significantly more expensive and complex. The battery bank requires periodic maintenance and replacement.

In conclusion, we often tell our customers to ask themselves how often they are really without utility power. A grid-tied solar electric system is what most people ultimately decide upon after weighing the alternatives.

Need More Information About Utility Backup Systems? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Can I Use A Backup Generator With My Solar Electric System?

While Fafco Solar does not promote the use of fossil fuel burning generators, we realize that it is often a cost effective and desirable solution to utility power outages, particularly during hurricane season. If your home has an existing whole house or critical load generator with a transfer switch (manual or automatic), we can install a grid-tied solar electric system without any problem. The solar electric system will supplement utility power and sell excess power back to the utility company. When an outage occurs, your generator will supply power to your home and the solar energy system will shut down to prevent injury to utility employees who are working to restore power to your neighborhood.

Need More Information About Solar Electric Systems? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Much Will A Solar Energy System Add To The Value Of My Home?

The rule of thumb is that a solar electric system will add $20 to your home resale value for every $1 of electricity saved annually by solar energy (source: National Appraisal Institute). This depends on the size of your system, the tilt and orientation, your cost of utility electricity, and other factors. Fafco Solar's sales professionals can advise you on how much a solar energy system can save you on annual electricity costs and how much a system may add to the value of your home.

Since electricity costs are expected to increase in the future, the value of your solar energy system will become greater, making a solar electric system the smartest investment you can make in your home. When you are ready to sell, home buyers will be thrilled that you made a good choice to hedge against higher energy costs.

Additionally, a solar electric system can set your home apart in a down real estate market, leading to more viewings and fewer days on the market. There is no question that income generating solar panels will be attractive to prospective buyers.

Need More Information About How to Increase the Value of Your Home? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Long Does A Solar Photovoltaic System Last?

A quality PV system will last well over 20 years.  The PV modules - the actual panels that sit in the sun everyday - can last 30 to 40 years! We use panels that feature an industry leading 25-year performance warranty. Inverters may require replacement during the systems life time, and typically have a 5 to 10-year warranty. We now offer SolarEdge Optimizers that are warrantied for 25 years! Additionally, we offer Enphase Microinverters that are warranted for 15 years with advance replacement. Enphase also tested their inverters to have a mean time before failure (MTBF) of 119 years.

We use all aluminum anodized rack components and stainless steel fasteners.

In other words, a photovoltaic system is a long-term investment that will reliably provide energy savings for many years.

Need More Information About A Solar Photovoltaic System? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Much Renewable Electricity Does A PV System Generate?

The larger the area of PV panels, the more electricity is generated.  A typical residential 5 kilowatt system, for example, may produce about 10,000 kilowatt-hours a year.  Over a 25-year lifespan, this comes out to be 250,000 kilowatt-hours. 

Many factors are involved in determining your PV system output. The weather, temperature, shading, tilt, orientation, and other factors can affect the performance of your system. We are able to use well established averages to advise you about system performance. Your system output will vary over time, sometimes significantly outperforming the averages and sometimes falling short. Because a grid-tied system is connected to two power sources (the utility company and the solar electric system) you will always have all of the power you need.

Need More Information About Renewable Electricity? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Will The Solar Panel Roof Top Attachment Affect The Life Span Of The Roof?

The greatest care is taken when securing the modules to the roof.  Different methods are used depending on the type of roof and roof attributes. 

A system of railings and mounting hardware are used to assure that all Miami Dade wind codes are met. In fact, Fafco Solar uses an additional rail mount in addition to the code requirements. These rails are ultimately attached to the roof trusses and increase the overall strength of the roof structure. The roof penetrations are as sound as the roof itself.

Need More Information About Solar Panel Roof Top Attachments? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Is Solar Panel Roof Mounting The Only Way?

Ground racks can be built to accommodate a PV system provided there is adequate land space facing the appropriate direction.

Need More Information About Solar Panel Roof Mounting? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Can I Have Solar Refrigeration?

A photovoltaic system is most often tied into the main distribution panel of the entire house.  Most times, electricity is generated and excess (power not used at this moment) is “sold” back to the utility.  Today's Energy Star rated refrigerators are relatively efficient. Powering a refrigerator using a traditional grid-tied solar energy system is the best option, because refrigerators require power at night when the sun is not shining. Whether you have a solar energy system installed or not, investments in efficient appliances are always a good idea.

Technology available today for directly solar powered refrigeration does not provide the convenience and efficiency required for the typical home. Batteries would be required to power a refrigerator when the sun is not shining.

Need More Information About Solar Refrigeration? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Solar Domestic Water Heater

What Is A Solar Water Heater System?

A solar water heater uses the heat from the sun gathered from thermal solar collectors on the roof to heat the water in a tank (or electric water heater).  The water is circulated and brings the heated water from your roof to the tank.  It is then ready for your household needs.

Need More Information About A Solar Water Heater System?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Why Should I Consider Solar Water Heater?

There is no question that we have an abundance of sun and heat in Southwest Florida.  Why pay for electricity to heat water when the sun will do it for free?  All you need is a small collector attached to your roof and a minimal amount of plumbing.

Need More Information About Solar Water Heaters?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Will I Have To Get A New Water Tank?

Fafco offers a glass rooftop collector that does require a special solar water tank that is 80 gallons to store more heated water. 

Need More Information About Working With Your Water Tank?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Is There A Smart Controller That Allows Me To Have Hot Water If It Is Cloudy Or Cold?

Once the solar water heater is installed, there is a smart controller that will turn on a heating element in your tank if needed.  Of course, the less this element is used the more the savings.  Try as we might, even Fafco Solar can’t make the sun shine all the time!

Need More Information About A Smart Controller? 
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Is The Solar Heated Water Be Safe To Drink?

Yes. There are two types of systems. 

  1. Polymer Solar Collector - Placed on the roof, it is a closed loop of heating water. The water from the panels is never mixed with the (drinking) water in tank. There is a heat exchanger between the heated water in the solar collector and the water in the tank.  
  2. Solar Water Heater -  Offers a glass and copper collector that circulates the potable (tap water) through the collector back to the tank and is completely safe to drink.       

Need More Information About Solar Heated Water?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

How Does The Water Get To The Solar Collectors On The Roof?

In both types of solar water heaters, a pump is used to circulate the water being heated to the solar collectors to and from the roof.  There is also an option of having a PV (or solar electric) panel to supply the pump with electricity.

Need More Information About Solar Collectors?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Does My Conventional Water Heater Really Use That Much Energy?

Yes. Of course the amount of energy used by a conventional water heater varies depending on the number of people using hot water in your home.  The household habits also have an impact.  The temperature that the water is kept, whether you launder with hot water, etc. make a difference.

About 30% of the average homes electric bill, without a pool, is spent on the water heater. This adds up very quickly.

Need More Information About Replacing Your Conventional Water Heater 
With A Solar Heater?
Contact Fafco Solar or Call 239-574-1500.

Should I Buy A Solar Water Heater Or Tankless Water Heater?

If you’re wondering what’s best, a solar water heater or a tankless water heater, the answer may be BOTH – or NEITHER! If you have an existing gas water heater that is in good repair, you may just want to add a solar water heater with additional storage capacity. If you have an electric storage water heater, you may want to retrofit your existing tank or add additional storage with a solar tank.

There is a great article about the choice between a storage and tankless water heater on the Green Building Advisor website here. You should check out this article to learn some of the pros and cons of tankless water heaters. When the question of solar comes up, the decision becomes a bit more complicated. How much storage do you need? Do you need an endless supply of hot water? How old is your existing heater? What are your usage patterns?

The beauty of a solar water heater is that you can preheat water for a primary heating source. By providing an electric or gas element with water that is preheated, you will drastically reduce or even eliminate the energy needed to reach the final desired temperature. In Southwest Florida, our incoming water temperature is around 77°F (Source: EPA). To heat a pound of water one degree, it takes 1 BTU of energy. One pound is 8.33 gallons. So, to heat a typical 50-gallon storage tank of water to 120°F, a typical desired set point, it requires 17,910 BTU of energy. That’s about $0.60 if you are an FPL or LCEC customer in SW Florida.

If you use a solar water heater to preheat water and store it in a secondary storage tank, you significantly reduce the amount of energy required to heat water with the primary heating element. If you have modest hot water usage, the water coming into the primary tank will always be preheated to some degree. It takes the same amount of energy to heat water from 77°F – 87°F as it does 110°F to 120°F. Any heating that you do with solar energy reduces your heating costs proportionally. You will only pay a fraction of the $0.60 required to heat a 50-gallon tank if the incoming water is warmer than 77°F!

When used with a tankless instant-on gas heater, solar water heaters often provide a water temperature that is higher than the desired set point. To deal with this, a tempering valve is installed for safety to avoid scalding. It also requires that the gas element is “full modulating,” meaning that the burner can go down to zero heating when the incoming water exceeds the desired temperature. In this case, there is NO cost to heat water – the solar water heater does all of the work! This significantly changes the economics of a tankless water heater, reducing maintenance and gas costs and extending the life of the heater.

In some cases, a tankless heater makes the most sense. In others, a traditional electric tank heater is the best choice. Adding solar water heating will reduce heating costs, and to what extent depends largely on your usage quantity and patterns. In most cases it makes sense to integrate solar with another heating source, and in some circumstances, solar water heating is not advisable. If you are a very light hot water user or only spend a limited amount of time at your Southwest Florida vacation home, solar water heating may not be the most economical choice. Larger households and people who eat and do laundry at home are usually heavy hot water users and benefit tremendously from solar water heating.

Since the decision depends largely on your particular circumstance, it’s best to get a free consultation from a solar professional. Your Fafco Solar sales consultant will ask you questions and find out how you use hot water and advise you on what solar can do for you!

Variable Speed Pumps

Do Variable Speed Pumps Save Energy?

 A variable speed pump will save a huge amount of energy. Here are some videos from Pentair that explain how the Pentair Intelliflo variable speed pool pump can save you up to 90% on your pool filtration and circulation costs!

Do Variable Speed Pumps Work With Solar Pool Heating?

The variable speed pump is a perfect match for solar pool heating systems, especially when an automatic controller is used. Without a controller the pump can be scheduled to run at optimum solar circulation speed when solar energy is most likely to be available. Adding a controller adds the capability of changing the pump speed based on the availability and demand for solar heating. This happens automatically. As your solar pool heating system turns on, the variable speed pump will adjust to meet the pressure and flow demands of your solar panels without exceeding the requirements and wasting energy.

Variable speed pumps with solar pool heating is a perfect marriage. Solar panels have an optimum flow rate that make them operate efficiently. With a variable speed pump we can "dial in" the perfect flow rate for your solar pool heating system and only run the pump at that speed when needed. This provides the optimal tradeoff between pool heating performance and energy savings!

With or without solar energy, the variable speed pump will pay for itself with energy savings. You can cut pumping costs up to 90% with this great technology while getting a far quieter and longer lasting pool pump.

What Is A Variable Speed Pump?

 

Variable Speed Pool Pump Fort Myers FL

A variable speed pool pump, also known as a variable frequency drive (VFD) pump, can operate at a wide range of speeds in revolutions per minute or flow rates in gallons per minute. Variable speed pumps save tremendous amounts of energy by circulating pool water only at the required speed to get the job done.

Traditional single speed pool pumps operate at a single speed: 3,450 RPM. A variable speed pump, which typically includes a brushless DC permanent magnet motor, can operate at a range from 450 RPM on some models up to 3,450 RPM. Most variable speed pumps are 2-3 horsepower, but can replace much smaller pumps because they can run at essentially any speed.

Savings come from operating the pump at a lower speed, but perhaps for longer periods of time. The physics of a centrifugal pump, known as Affinity Laws, result in an exponential reduction in energy used compared to pump speed and water flow. For example, cutting the flow in half with a variable speed pump might use one quarter of the energy! To get the same flow you could run the pump twice as long but your energy costs would be cut in half!