Solar water heaters have the potential of being an ecofriendly and cost-efficient way of heating one’s household water supply. The process is simple and does just what the name implies. This type of system harnesses sunlight, turning it into heat through a device called a Solar Thermal Collector.

Direct solar water heater systems

There are several types of solar water heaters on the market. While it’s true that these water heaters can work in any climate, some do work better in warmer areas.

Open loop

One of the most common types of Solar Water Heaters is called a Direct System, also known as an “active” or “open loop”.  The process for the Active system is simple: Water is circulated from the water tank, up to the roof to the Solar Thermal Collectors. The water is then heated in the collectors and transferred down to the water tank and into the household, ready, for use. This type of system is best for tropical climates, as it doesn’t require assistance in heating one’s water.

Closed loop

The most common Solar Water Heater, in the Direct System, is the Indirect or “closed-loop” system. These work best in climates where temperatures drop below freezing. This system uses a combination of sunlight and antifreeze to heat the water. Antifreeze is circulated from the water heater up to the Solar Thermal Collectors, heated, and then moved down into the heat exchanger, heating the water in the tank, indirectly. The cooler antifreeze is then pushed back up to the collectors where the process begins again.

Common Problems with Solar Water Heaters

Leaking

Probably the most common problem with a Solar Water Heater is leaking. The most plausible explanation for this is a leaky temperature and pressure relief valve on the solar heater. Do not try to repair this problem on your own. It’s better to call and have a technician come out and replace it. Another reason leaks can occur is because the piping in the solar panel has burst. This may be due to either freezing weather conditions or simply too much pressure in the pipes. It is best to call a technician to come and assess this problem as well. The problem could also be that the pipe fittings just need to be tightened.

Not enough hot water

The second most common problem is not having enough hot water. To address this issue you can do a couple of things.

Make sure the solar panel is in the correct placement on the roof, i.e. away from tree shading, facing south with the recommended tilt. Also consider if the solar panel size is correct for the household size. The amount of hot water that you use will help determine the size you need. Not having enough hot water can also be caused by a leaky or stuck valve. Make sure that if there is a back up storage tank, that the thermostat is set to the right temperature. Be mindful in the winter months that the solar panel is given an adequate slope, so the output end is higher. There could also be a system blockage. If so, all you need to do is flush the system until the flow is no longer blocked. The most important thing you can do is make sure that the solar panels are properly insulated.

No hot waterno hot water, water heaters

Finally, the third most often reported problem is no hot water at all. To avoid this problem, it is best to be preemptive. Make sure to maintain the absorber paint on the collector panels. If this paint deteriorates, it can cause the system to be less efficient. Make sure that the paint is both heat and UV exposure resistant. Also make sure to provide a small weep hole on the bottom of the collectors. When there is a lot of condensation inside the panels, the excess needs to be expelled so as not to affect the performance of the system.

Conclusion

Despite their drawbacks, Solar Water Heaters are a great option for alternative-energy conscious homeowners. If you are looking to save money, we’ve got everything you need to get you started on this eco-friendly alternative energy option for your home. Give us a call today!

Looking for ways to cut energy costs? New, more energy-efficient water heaters are flooding the modern marketplace. High on the list are water pump water heaters.

This article series starts an exploration of heat pump water heaters.

What is a heat pump water heater?

A heat pump water heater, or HPWH, uses surrounding air to heat water. It takes in air, heats it to a higher temperature and then channels that air into a water tank to heat the water. The HPWH can be a stand-alone unit, or it can be retrofitted on a water tank.

The Geothermal Heat Pump

The most common type of HPWH is a geothermal heat pump. The geothermal heat pump uses heat from the ground during the winter months. During the spring and summer months it uses heat from the surrounding air.

 

Controls

Most units come with control panels displaying multiple operating options. Below is a list of possible modes listed on the control:

  • Efficiency/Economy mode: will only use the heat pump to heat water when hot water is needed
  • Electric/Heater mode: Least efficient option, this will only use the electric element to heat water
  • Vacation/Timer mode: typically referred to as “sleep” mode, this is not on all HPWH models,
  • Auto/Hybrid mode: this is a default setting for everyday use of sustained heat

How the HPWH Works

The HPWH is a far more efficient way to heat household water because it using air already present in the environment.  A common analogy to explain how a HPWH works is a refrigerator. The refrigerator is designed to expel heat and create a cold place. In a similar way, the HPWH pulls in heated air, internalizes it, heats it to a desired temperature and uses that air to heat water for the household’s benefit.

Common HPWH Problems and Solutions

Winter Issues

One of the most common problems with a HPWH is icing up, especially in the winter time. The outside unit will often be covered with frost or maybe even a thin layer of ice. This is completely normal. When everything is working properly, the device has a built-in defrosting system that will help to take care of this problem. However, say the unit is covered in a thick layer of ice, or maybe the coils are surrounded by ice, and in a worst case scenario, the entire unit is completely covered in thick ice and heavy snow. All those problems could obstruct the transfer of heat from inside to the outside refrigerant which would continue to delay the HPWH functions. If this is left untreated, this could severely damage the unit beyond repair.

Here are a few ways to troubleshoot this problem before having to call in an expert:

  • See if your unit is activating its defrosting system
  • Make sure the outside fan is working properly
  • Check that the refrigerant level is where it is supposed to be
  • Inspect the outdoor unit for obstructions,  like ice or snow
  • Make sure there is no water leaking onto the unit from gutters or other places

Never chip away at the ice.

This could damage the fan coils in the device. Instead, use water to melt the ice. Try removing what may be blocking the air flow– like snow or ice. If the HPWH still won’t function, then it is time to call in the professionals to help sort it out.

Summer Issues

We explained above what to do when your HPWH starts icing up in the winter. You may find, however, that your HPWH is icing up in the summer months. If this happens, do not waste any time and call a professional right away. If the HPWH is icing up in the summer, there is a problem with the device itself and it should be looked at immediately.

Another common problem is when the HPWH is constantly running in the summer months. During winter, it may appear to be running all the time, however this is how the device was designed. The HPWH is not designed to consistently run during the warmer months, when the temperature is above thirty degrees. This could mean there is a serious service problem, such as:

  • leaky refrigerant
  • icing issues
  • a problem with the compressor
  • pump is too small for the household needs
  • improper insulation of exterior HP
  • unit is dirty and needs a good cleaning

Whichever the case, in a situation like this, it is best to call in an HVAC professional to help sort all this out.

HPWH: a great choice

Whatever other measures you take to help with energy efficiency, purchasing a HPWH is an excellent choice. Give us a call today to find out how we can help!

Owning a dishwasher is heavenly. Most North American households now have one, and they help families save time, water, and money. As our appliances and technology advance, they often become tougher on food stains, but also harsher on our dishware. Some of us have gotten so used to loading a dishwasher, it’s been a long time since we’ve stopped to question what exactly is dishwasher safe anymore. This article is a gentle reminder of what you can use in the dishwasher, to protect your dishwasher and your heavenly appliance.

You really can’t put food caked dishes in there.

Your dishwasher is not a garbage disposal and putting too dense of food in the dishwasher can clog the drain line of the washer and that would require a plumber’s removal. Scrape all the food off of your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Sauces are okay because they will become liquid enough, but fats and grease will not. Follow the same guidelines you do with your drain, with your dishwasher.

Don’t let paper labels go in the wash.

Labels from jars or on plates and dishware are not safe for the dishwasher for the same reason you can’t put food in there, they can clog the drain line.

Don’t place any glued dishware in the washer.

If once you broke a dish and tried to repair it with glue or an adhesive, this dish is no longer dishwasher safe. The heat can undo the glue or adhesive and wreak havoc inside. To save this dish, you’ll have to wash it by hand and still avoid keeping it in hot soapy water for too long.

Don’t put hollow plastics inside the dishwasher, such as plastic straws.

Unfortunately, putting hollow plastic in the dishwasher can lead to mold growth if water gets inside and stays too long without drying. It’s best to wash these items by hand and make sure they adequately dry out.

Insulated travel mugs should not go in the dishwasher.

Insulated travel mugs should not go in the dishwasher for the same reason hollow straws shouldn’t. They, too, can be penetrated with moisture and promote mold growth.

No wood should be placed inside the dishwasher.

Wooden spoons, cutting boards, and anything made of wood are not permitted for dishwasher use. To keep them in good working condition, you should always wash these types of items by hand and let them dry out quickly in an open air environment. There are even oil products marketed to keep them long standing, this is because they can warp, swell, and crack and lose their protective finishes if placed in the dishwasher.

Any dishes with metallic accents or actual silver flatware should not be washed in a dishwasher.

Because dishes are subjected to bouncing around and clanking together in the dishwasher with the force of the water, you will want to hand wash all these fine dining items to preserve their pristine quality. Just one cycle can ruin a dish with a silver accent.

Cast iron is not dishwasher safe.

Pots and pans made of cast iron need to be cleaned gently and carefully because the very use of them (for cooking) preserves them, and washing them in a harsh dishwasher could strip this coating that protects it.