Solar Hot Water Repairs: 4 Times They Went Horribly Wrong!

Ask anyone who’s had a solar hot water system installed and they’ll tell you that they’ve never looked back. After all, it’s by far the most cost-efficient way to heat your water, saving you up to 75% on your water heating costs.

What’s more, generous federal incentives mean that you can get installation subsidies and enjoy years of low cost hot water… All while getting the warm fuzzy glow inside that comes from knowing that you’re doing good for the planet.

Yet, while solar hot water systems are state of the art and easy to maintain, as with any form of technology it has its horror stories. From cowboy installers to have-a-go heroes attempting their own repairs, there have been times when solar hot water systems have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Let’s take a look at 4 particularly unfortunate solar hot water fails…

When naive consumer meets unrealistic claims

Let’s begin with a story from the USA. A customer had a contractor install a solar water heating system with a heating coil that connected to his HVAC system. For this he paid the princely sum of $18,000 USD ($25961 AUD). The contractor claimed that this system would heat his water while supplementing the heating load for his HVAC in winter. The system consisted of an 80-gallon storage tank with 2 solar collectors mounted on a steep, west-facing roof.

However, the system was neither heating his water nor reducing his energy bills.

Oh dear.

But when we think about it, it becomes clear that neither the customer nor the contractor knew what to expect from this installation.

A steeply-angled, west-facing hot water system will only produce at most around 80% of what would be produced by a south-facing hot water system. Plus, because it gets fewer hours of sunlight in the winter months, that customer can expect a lot of cold baths in winter. Plus, the angle of incidence is poor so what little sun did hit the panels would mainly glance off in the winter.

The customer responded in the most American way possible… He sued the contractor.

Lesson Learned: Know your expectations and do a little homework. Plus, there’s no such thing as doing too much due diligence on your contractor.

The customer who almost made a terrible, terrible mistake

We live in the “big box” era. Many cost-conscious consumers will instinctively search for the lowest priced version of what they’re looking for in a “big box” store or online. And while this might be fine for a Playstation 4 or even a laptop… It’s not the safest bet for a flat plate solar collector. Heaven knows where the customer found his solar collector but when he removed it from its packaging he found that there was no mounting system. At all. How did he expect to attach it to his roof? Glue it on?!?

Lesson Learned: Resist the temptation to look for solar hot water systems online and leave installation to the professionals.

The customer who cut his repair costs in all the wrong places

When something goes awry with your solar hot water system, you want it back up and running again as soon as possible. But in your zeal to get your solar hot water system back on its proverbial feet, don’t cut corners in ways which could come back to bite you.

One customer thought that he could save money on repairs by buying his own water pump on eBay and getting a contractor to install it. However, a substandard unbranded electrical pump can create more problems than it solves. In this instance, the pump limped along for a couple of weeks before dying again.

Lesson Learned: Always consult with your installing contractor before replacing parts… And be mindful of where you source them from.

Beware the dangers of self-diagnosis!

Speaking of electrical pumps; one customer, upon noticing that he wasn’t getting as much hot water as he should be, decided to perform a self-diagnosis. He diagnosed / assumed the heat pump to be at fault because that was the only visible component. So he replaced it… Only to be met with the exact same problem.

The trouble is that there are a number of less visible links in the chain which could lead to issues that are easily mis-diagnosed as heat pump issues. Floating sediment can impede thermal transference coefficients. Conductor-to-water couplings can be damaged or misaligned and collector panels can become insecure in their mountings.

Lesson Learned: Save yourself the potentially expensive guesswork. Always use a qualified technician for your repairs.

Why none of this will ever happen to you

Of course, none of this will ever happen to you because you use King Solarman for your solar hot water system installations and repairs. We have over 22 years experience in the hot water industry and can guarantee you quality service and workmanship at all times. We are licensed and Solar Endorsed professionals and are fully insured for your peace of mind. All of our repair staff are employed directly by us and are covered by our workmanship guarantee.