A setback in the solar system

The plan for today was to refurbish an old solar hot water collector and make a video about the process for our YouTube channel. Unfortunately life had other plans.

I’ve been building low cost solar hot water systems with old collectors for years now. My experience is that they are rarely damaged internally and will give years of excellent service at a fraction of the cost of a new collector.

Finding a collector for the tiny house was a bit tricky because the most common sizes were under or oversized for the application, but We did find an appropriate panel eventually.

It was a little embarrassing disassembling the whole thing on camera and talking about how great old panels are only to find an unfixable riser tube blowout. I had to finish the video explaining the refurbishing process and pressure test rather than actually doing it.

We’re a bit disappointed because it will take time to find a new panel and soon our location will be shaded and I will have to wait until the spring to see how well the solar half of our system works.

Direct solar hot water has declined in popularity over the last few decades despite the fact that this remains and extremely reliable cost effective renewable technology. Many installers are turning towards upsizing photovoltaic arrays and using them to run heat pump water heaters which integrates well with grid-tied solar but at the cost of a dramatic increase in technical complexity and limited value off-grid.

Any reasonably intelligent 11-year-old could troubleshoot and repair a simple thermosiphon system like the one we are building, and with a bit of ingenuity they can be constructed from mostly salvaged materials.

Even a commercially built solar hot water collector system is still a great value. In fact the only reason I’m not purchasing a complete pre-fabricated system is because like so many things related to tiny house building, nobody makes a small sized system, so we have to build ours piece by piece.


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1 Comment

  1. Dion Bonnell
    October 24, 2019

    Hi Brian, I will stop over to see you H2O heater, I am building one myself for the Shower House….Dion


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