How to Install Solar Panels – an Overview

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How to Install Solar Panels? For those of you with a soft side for DIY, solar energy can become much cheaper by just installing it yourself. Below you find an overview of the necessary steps, but make sure that you follow all precautions and rules, so no harm is done to the equipment or any life. Remember that you deal with electricity and solar panels are heavy and dangerous during for example a storm if not attached well enough.

That said, if you are interested in installing the solar panels and system yourself, there is no better guide than the video course by Bob Nagy called “Solar Panel Installation Cost Lowering Diy Training Videos

So this guide about How to Install Solar Panels yourself can naturally only be a rough description, because every system is slightly different. So please always ask an expert and refer to the manufacturer’s manual with every step you take. Also remember that you are dealing with electricity, which can only be handled by installers.

STEP 1 – Solar Collector Installation

  • Open the Package – Carefully remove the Collectors from the package supplied by the manufacturer. Some of the collectors in the market are supplied in the form of rolls and hence you have to be careful while you actually open the package.
  • Segregate – Once the package is opened you have to identify and segregate the collectors into 2 groups, one group of collectors which have the coupling arrangement just to interconnect with other collectors and the second group which has coupling arrangement suitable to be installed at the end of the rows or for piping interconnection. (Check the Installation manual for Coupling and Connector drawings)
  • Put it on the Roof – Now you have to get the panels onto the roof and place them at their installation positions. Before you take them to the roof please make sure that you take it in a position with solar side of the collector on the top. Because if you take it reverse, then it would be a problem to again reverse it back standing on the roof of the building.
  • Interconnect the Collectors – now it is the installer’s task to connect the collectors with each other. To achieve this, it is necessary to connect the heads of the collectors by slipping couplings over the ends of the headers and firmly attach them by using clamps. Make sure that the clamps you are using are made of a high quality material like stainless steel.
  • Secure the Collectors – Then mounting clips are used to secure the collectors on the roof. Typically these mounting clips are made of high quality plastic or even metal.
  • Once your solar panels are firmly attached to the roof, it is necessary to further secure them against strong winds and other weather conditions by horizontally strapping them with tie downs and cross straps. This protects them from being damaged and damaging others. Please always refer to the manufacturer’s installation manual, also to make sure you use enough clips and straps.

STEP 2 – System Piping Installation

  • Inlet (Feed Water Piping) – Once the collectors are secured to the roof and are interconnected, the next step is to lay the pipeline that connects the pump which sucks the water from the pool and pumps it into the Collector.
  • Outlet (Return Water Piping) – Next step is to lay the pipeline that brings the heated water from the collector to the pool.
  • Pipe Straps / clamps – You have to install pipe straps running through the length of the pipe line which acts as anchor to hold and secure both the feed and the return pipe.
  • Piping Layout – Feed and Return pipe line layout is to be so designed in a way that the same quantity each collector in the should get the same amount of water pass through. So make sure that each line (return & feed) between the panels have approximately the same length. Though this often means extra costs, improved panel performance will compensate you for this big time.
  • Pipe Selection & Sizing – Selecting the pipe with proper specifications is very important. Improper sizing of the pipes can lead to heat loss due to radiation. The pipes that are used need to be a pre-insulated PVC pipe and should be able to handle the water pressure created by the pump.

STEP 3 – Controllers, Valves and Sensors Installation

  • Brain of the system – Once the collectors are installed and the piping is done, the brain of the system which is called the “differential controller” is installed. This controller unit has to be installed in a location where it is easy for the maintenance personnel to operate the controller & read the temperature values at various locations where sensors are installed. Also the controller unit should be protected against extreme weather conditions.
  • Temperature Settings – Then once the controller unit is installed and all the electrical connections are made the temperature difference is set in the controller. Differential Temperature controller works on the concept of temperature difference at 2 different locations. In this case the temperature of the water in the pool and temperature of water in the collector is sensed by the controller to take a decision whether the pump has to pump the water or not. Consult the manufacturer of the controller for specific instructions.
  • Sensor Installation – Two sensors are installed. One is the Low Temperature sensor installed at the drain plug of the pump basket or simply inserted into the pool to measure the temperature of water in the pool. Second is the High temperature sensor installed at the header of the collector from where the water is pumped into the pool.
  • Sensor wires – Once the sensors are installed, sensor wires are run anchored along the pipe line and connected to the controller unit.
  • Control Valves – There are 3 types of valves that are used in a Solar Pool heating system. One is the Check Valve which is to be installed in the feed water pipeline to the collector and allows flow of water in only one direction. Second is the Isolation Valve which is used to isolate the collector loop. Third is the Auto Flow Diverter valve which is used by the controller to divert the flow of water back to the collector.
  • Vacuum Breaker / Air Release Valve – A vacuum breaker is to be installed in the Feed water line which acts as a protection device in case of any air blockages in the pipe line. Opening of the vacuum breaker will release any vacuum pressure created due to air block in the pipeline.
  • Automatic / Manual Operation – The Differential controller has to set for Automatic or Manual Operation. This purely depends on the usage of the pool. If the pool is being used continuously throughout the year then it can be put on automatic operation or else if it is seasonal usage then on manual operation.
  • Auxiliary Heater – As an option if the owner prefers an Auxiliary Heating unit can be installed in the Return Pipe line back to the pool. In case the sunlight available is not sufficient for the collector to heat up the water then the AH can be used as alternative. AH can also be connected to the controller unit and can be set to operate automatically.
How To Install Solar Panels
How To Install Solar Panels

STEP 4 – System Trial Run and Testing

  • Electrical Connections – After the complete installation of all the components, electrical connections made to the controller unit and the pump are checked for any loose contacts.
  • Sensor Wire Connections – Sensor wires from the collector and the pool is checked for any loose contacts.
  • Water Leakage – The pump is put on trial run and the water is allowed to flow through the entire piping run and the collectors to check for any leakage in the water loop. If any leakage found is to be arrested.
  • System Run– The entire system is put on trial run for a period of 1 day to assess whether all the equipment like the Pump, controller are functioning in synchronization with one another.

STEP 5 – Pool Cover

  • Pool Cover – Depending on whether the Pool is a indoor pool or an outdoor pool, covers may be used to cover the pools to reduce heat loss or heat gain.

STEP 6 – Warranty, Operation and Maintenance Manual

  • Warranty – After all the equipment have been installed and the trial run conducted successfully, the warranty documents related each of the component of the Solar Pool Heating system should be handed over to the owner.
  • Operation & Maintenance Manual – A very well written O & M manual should finally be given to the owner which can be used as a tool for troubleshooting in case of any minor problems.

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