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bennelson 11-02-10 10:32 AM

Just got a heat exchanger tank
A while back, I was driving through a side neighborhood close to my home.

One house there had the older style roof-mounted solar water heater panels, the type that are vertical-axis parabolas that track the sun, and heat a water tube in the middle of the mirror.

For some time, I had noticed that the covers on the collectors were damaged. When I was going past this time, the collectors were removed, they were down in the side-yard.

Somebody was de-commissioning their old solar system!

I stopped in to see if there was any chance for me to pick up some used equipment.

"Ted" answered the door. He's a retiree and Korean War vet. He's slowly working on fixing up the house to eventually sell. The solar setup hadn't worked in some years, so he was having it removed. Most of the parts were to be taken in for scrap metal value.

I asked if I could take a look at what was still in his basement, and see if there was any salvageable component.

The AC pump and motor were completely corroded - rusted to junk. Hovever, there was a heat exchanger tank that didn't look too bad!

I offered to remove the tank in exchange for me keeping it. He agreed, but said that his son-in-law would have to come over first and disconnect the heat exchanger tank.

That was some months ago.
I got a call the other day that the tank was FINALLY disconnected, and that I could come get it any time.

I headed over there with my pickup truck, handcart, and a winch.

The tank looked to be in a little worse condition than I remembered it. Maybe my excitement of possibly getting a free tank just made it look that much better!?

The tank was now disconnected - three of the ports were simply unthreaded, but two of them were chopped off with a hacksaw! I hope I can just solder on some pipe extensions to make those work!

Also, the tank still had some water in the bottom of it. I had to carefully tilt the whole thing to get the water to dump out onto the concrete floor and to to floor drain.

Even drained of water, the tank weighed about DOUBLE what I expected it to!
Now I happen to be a 6' tall male, about 180lbs, and consider myself fairly strong and capable - but this tank is 2' in diameter, 5 feet tall, and weighed enough that I could barely tilt it, let alone LIFT it, as I found out at the very first stair step.

I laid 2x10 planks on the stair case, and ran the hand-cranked "come-along" cable to the handle of the hand-cart the tank was on. The idea was that I could pull the tank up the stairs, on the planks as a ramp, rolling with the wheels of the hand cart.

It was slow, but worked. Until the tank got half-way up.
That's when it rotated just enough to slip off the one plank.

Great, now I have a 400 lb steel tank, on a cart, dead center of a staircase - obstructing the whole thing. Did I mention that this was the only access in or out of the basement? And that Ted was still IN the basement?

(explicative deleted.)

Long story short. It took quite a bit of monkeying with levers, figuring angles, and trying not to crush myself or the old man, to get it out of there.

This was a concrete stairwell that lead from the basement to the attached garage. In the end, I attached the come-along to the rafters of the garage to get the right angle to slide the tank up.

The whole thing took about two hours all together. Two sweating, cursing hours...

I finally got it out, and loaded it in my pickup truck. When I got back home and was unloading it, the tank slid over and hit the ground pretty hard. That left a ding in the top of the tank.

I hope it was all worth it. I still don't even know if the tank holds pressure, and those two cut connections are questionable.

Here's a few photos of the tank.

More photos at:

Daox 11-02-10 10:39 AM

Haha, Ben, you always have an interesting story to go along with your projects. :D

It doesn't look that bad to me. Could use a good clean out I'm sure though and a test to make sure it doesn't leak. If you do those two things and it still works I think you found an awesome deal!

st2288 11-05-10 08:28 AM

I am thinking about using a marine heat exchanger..should be cheap when I get it used..

Daox 11-05-10 09:19 AM

marine heat exchanger?

st2288 11-05-10 10:14 AM

they come with 4, 6, 10 gal. and used in a boat.
with a heat exchanger inside..should cost about 300-400 . most of them have double tube construction since they are circulating anti-freeze.

Daox 11-05-10 10:17 AM

Can you find a picture of one of these?

bennelson 11-05-10 10:52 AM

Sounds like an external heat exchanger.

External heat exchangers can be good in that they are a separate unit from the thermal storage tank.

The downside is that they usually have less surface area, and often require a second pump.

If you can find and repurpose equipment from other industries, which will work for a project, great! However, I have found that anything with with the word "boat" or "marine" in the title always means it costs more! :eek:

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