Question about repairing 'ancient' Solar Hot Water System

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Question about repairing 'ancient' Solar Hot Water System

Postby AussieDan » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:09 pm

G'day folks. First off, story time. My father has built an entirely green energy house (or thereabouts) 30 odd years ago. 48 solar panels attached to rotors that follow the sun's path across the sky. Another 30-odd that don't move, which are just lit across the roof. A pelton wheel and a wind turbine. All which feed 18-odd dry cell batteries that make up our 240v system. Anyway, somewhere along the way through its construction he was given a really sweet deal on this Solar Hot Water system:



Now I know what you're thinking.. WOAAAAAAHHH! THAT THING THERE IS A DINOSAUR! Looking at it is like looking at probably one of the oldest Solar Hot Water systems in the world bahahaha. It's basically fossilised.

Well back in the day (30-ish years ago) my dad didn't care about hot water. He was fine having cold showers whilst living in the house he was building around him. A friend of a friend gave him the aforementioned sweet deal on the system. It was a system that had fallen off the back of a truck. (Hence the dents on the sides etc), so my dad picked it up for $850 AU, ~20.. or was it 30 years ago...

I know the system is old, so very old. I know I've probably got buckleys in being able to do a single thing to improve its working order. However I'd like to know if there is some way to repair it a little so it works better. :'D

As it stands, the system does indeed still produce a good amount of hot water. After a day or two of really nice sun, the water is definitely quite hot. Though generally my dad is forced to use the gas hot water system he has (which is quite new), and even 30-ish years later he still doesn't care much for having hot water ever, for anything other than washing dishes (and even then he doesn't care). :lol: I did give him a 'scolding' though for getting a new gas system before a solar system. But it was in the days when Australia had just dropped the solar rebate... and was basically giving green energy the 'middle finger'. Sad to say that T.A. is basically doing that again

Anyway, so I was thinking, rather than go out and spend anywhere from $2000-3500 or whatever on a new system that will last well.. the next 30 years (hopefully). Maybe there was even something small I could do to this system to just increase the amount of hot water that we get. I don't mean, increase the actual size of the tank, (thus the amount in that way) but I mean the amount of actual hot water before it just starts to go cold. Now I know you're thinking Get out of town man, that thing is busted! But the thing is, my dad is 62, I'm 23. I've got him enough Christmas presents this year already (including flying half way across the world to see him) and neither of us have the money lying around to just buy a new system. I'm actually only here for another week or two.


As you can see from the first picture one of the two glass panels is smashed. It just exploded one day about 7-8 years ago. )The above picture is one of the panels still intact) I was actually standing on the stairs very near to where the system is installed. I was talking to a friend when we heard what almost sounded like a bomb going off. The roof was covered in little shards of thick glass and we spent the whole day cleaning up the mess. The other (right-hand-side) plate of glass has still lasted. I guess the one that broke just got too hot and suffered too much wear from the sun. Ever since then it's definitely lost half its power. Used to be that even on a weeks worth of overcast the water was enough to boil you instantly. Now you'd be lucky to get it lukewarm on a string of overcast days.

This isn't really a priority in his life, but I'd like to surprise him with something that might make a difference, that he didn't know could be done to make the system work better. I've fixed enough things in my life that looked well beyond repair. So I figured, what the heck! I know how to use the internet. I'm sure someone knows someone who knows someone who might have a few ideas.

Now, is there seriously anything I could do to improve this ancient system at all? Even so far as covering the bottom in aluminium foil or something. Any way to just increase the amount of heat, so my dad can save on the amount of gas that he uses. Anything that could make the water stay hotter, for longer so he isn't running out of solar hot water so fast, and then being forced to swap back to gas. Basically anything that would be price-friendly enough for me/us to bother with, over just getting a whole new system. He's spending enough on gas as it is...

My dad will eventually get one. But he's really the kind of person who much of the time, won't budge unless someone sticks their foot up...

Anyway. You get the point. Any ideas? If not, lets just marvel at how old yeller is, and that she keeps on keeping on. (Well most of the time).

Thanks for reading.
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Re: Question about repairing 'ancient' Solar Hot Water Syste

Postby Gordon-Loomberah » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:33 pm

Welcome to the Energy Matters Forums Dan :)

You could replace the glass, I did on an old flat panel system, (it's more than 30yo) which I gave to my SIL a few years ago when I put an evacuated tube system in here. Make sure you wire brush the corrosion off the absorber and paint it flat black before the new glass goes on though. I just used regular float glass, and couldn't notice any performance difference between it and the special (expensive to buy) glass originally on it. Replace all the corroded copper pipes before they cause a loss of water, and the brass fittings if too corroded as well. Put UV resistant insulation on any hot pipes too, or shade the insulation.
Perhaps a new pressure-temperature safety release valve may be in order too. Loomberah weather and astronomy including live solar radiation intensity and UV + Gunagulla aquaponics, organic eggs and cherries
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Re: Question about repairing 'ancient' Solar Hot Water Syste

Postby davidg » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:38 pm

Posted a suggestion on the ATA forums. ;)
SPS Standalone Power System/Hybrid specialist - Store the Sun!
SELECTRONIC SPMC482-AU, 8.2kW's of Arrays
Selectronic Certified AC-Coupled Fronius 8.2kW Inverter
1900Ah 48V Bank

An OTT Genset for a house.
PVOutput Stats

Sparkys light up your life :)
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Re: Question about repairing 'ancient' Solar Hot Water Syste

Postby trebla » Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:04 pm

I had a similar solar thermal panel (SolaHart L series) damaged by water after a hail storm broke the glass - not noticed at the time and left for several years. A couple of years ago, for about !/2 the cost of a new panel, the plumber replaced the glass and fibreboard backing and insulation, cleaned it up a bit and used a bit of stove black . As good as a new now.

There is no serious technology in these panels, repair is really a DIY job. The system has now been up and operating since the house was built in 1979, with only one service carried out when the damaged panel was repaired. Being on rainwater probably helped the longevity, and at the moment it looks like it could be good for another 35 years. Electric OP booster for winter, <100kWh/year. Never been short of hot water.
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Re: Question about repairing 'ancient' Solar Hot Water Syste

Postby Smurf1976 » Wed Dec 24, 2014 5:37 pm

AussieDan wrote:A pelton wheel

Now you've got me excited.... :D

Is that still running too?
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