There are many reasons why servicing a solar system is important. We have listed many of the reasons for solar servicing below
- Safety of the solar system
- Reliability of the solar system
- Efficiency of the solar system
- Minimise running costs and other financial matters
- Keep it working efficiently, save money and reduce carbon footprint
- Have a deeper understanding of the system
- Evaluate if the system may need adjustments/improvements
- Build a long term relationship with a company
Please read the following for a more detailed explanation of each of the individual factors.
Safety of the solar system
- The majority of solar thermal systems use a 240 Volt pump, so electrical checks are required.
- Risk of scalding: whether from exposed pipework, steam generation or excessive and unprotected hot water outlets.
- Security of the roof: checking that the panel is securely fixed. Often, when solar glass tubes fail, they can fill with water from condensation or leaks. The water can then freeze, so even a secure tube could potentially fracture and fall from the roof.
- Operation of safety release valves to ensure that there is a reduced risk of explosion or release of steam.
- Ensuring the sterilisation of cylinders to avoid any bacteriological contamination.
Reliability of the solar system
- Reliability of your solar water heating system is often more important than ultimate performance. However well a system works, if it does not perform consistently, it will be of little use.
- There are many simple aspects to a solar service that will increase the chance of your system running reliably. These include:
- top-up the pressure in either the hydraulic circuit or the expansion vessel
- test and adjusting the flow rate
- repair of leaks
- air removal
- adjusting the pump speed
- Comparison of the system’s condition to records that have been kept from prior inspections. This is important to determine if the system is running as efficiently as in the past and enables investigation / fault finding.
Efficiency of the solar system
Whilst reliability is critical to efficiency, there are a number of ways to significantly increase the performance of an existing system. These are:
- The adjustment of the pump speed to minimise electrical consumption and maximise solar heating yield.
- The closer the temperature of the panel is to the medium that it is heating, the more efficiently it will run.
- The solar thermal panel itself should generally be at no more than 10-15 degrees hotter than the appliance that it is heating.
- Tweaking the back-up heating schedule from other devices to reduce fossil fuel use and maximise solar gain.
- Fit insulation to ensure that the maximum solar heat is dissipated into the heat storage device.
- Fit insulation to keep the heat stored in a cylinder or thermal store for longer so it can be used when needed.
- Dirty panels do not work efficiently. Simply cleaning them can have significant effects on the solar system’s efficiency.
Minimise running costs and other financial matters
- The cost of planned preventative maintenance (PPM) is invariably less than repair costs.
- Fuel savings will be lost if a solar system is running inefficiently or not at all.
- Electrical running costs can be reduced if solar systems are pumped more efficiently.
- Protection of a high capital expenditure asset.
- A device such as a solar heating system fitted to a property that is running and in good working order is likely to increase the value of a property. However, if it is fitted and not working and has no service history, it is likely to have a negative effect on the property value.
- When a property is sold, surveyors may require a service history for a solar system to ensure that a system is in good order.
Measuring both the concentration and condition of solar antifreeze
- Many commonly available solar panel can easily heat to in excess of 250 degrees C.
- Most solar systems contain antifreeze (usually propylene glycol but on occasion ethylene glycol). Antifreeze has a very long life and can last many years if it is not regularly subjected to high temperatures. If, however, it regularly reaches temperatures in excess of 120, it’s life span is significantly shortened. As a consequence, it can lose it’s ability to function, i.e. not effectively protect from freezing and acting as a corrosion inhibitor for the hydraulic circuit.
- If the antifreeze is subjected to extreme temperatures, it will break down. This can have several effects including:
- losing freeze protection
- losing corrosion inhibition
- reduced pH values
- viscous deposits can form that can effect moving components
- losing of clarity which can affect visual flow indicators
- solid formation can cause mechanical blockages
The information above explains the majority of the technical reasons for solar servicing. However, possibly the most important part of a solar service, is help the user understand their solar system and their interaction with the system.
Understanding of the system
- An explanation of how the system actually works is critical for most users.
- By making some very small changes and teaching how to avoid heating the water before the solar has had a chance to heat, it can have a significant effect on the actual solar contribution.
- When the user understands how the system works, they can look for signs of any faults. These can then be reported and repaired far more economically than if they were to develop over time, leading to equipment failure.
- Often a user will routinely “over-heat“ water unnecessarily, using fossil fuels when the solar system had adequately heated it.
- There are many solar system that produce excess heat. This can lead to efficiency and reliability problems. Instead, the heat can often be put to use and generate savings elsewhere.
- Where solar thermal systems are under-powered or the hot water usage has increased, they may not produce sufficient energy. We can discuss upgrades and implement solutions.
- We can up-rate and upgrade a system with newly developed technologies and products that were not available or considered necessary at the time the original installation was initially installed.
Team work and long-term professional relationships
- As with any costly installation, building a consistent relationship with expert engineers is critical. The engineers understand in detail not only the make up and configuration of a particular system, but also how they are operated and how well they have performed.
- Reference to detailed records from past services enables comparison and analysis of the solar system performance.
- With each service visit and engineers explanation the users gains more knowledge.