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Old 11-23-13, 09:56 AM   #1
SimpleManLance
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Default My $125 solar hot water heater (StarPak Solar Systems)

I bought these back in 2010, I figured I would post it here seeing as i haven't done anything with them yet. I would really like to work on a plan so when spring comes i can actually do something with them. I am planning on doing a drain back system but im not sure how i want to do it. i dont know if i can use the 80 gallon tank because of how tall it will be sitting in my basement. Im hoping everyone can help me put together a plan to actually do it. I also plan using the hot water loop(currently not being used) i have in my wood burner to heat the storage tank in the winter.


2010
Quote:
For a while now ive been wanting to build a solar hot water heater like gary's $1k drainback SHW system. extra funds have really been whats holding me back. i turned to craigslist to try to some used panels, pumps or anything that might help save some cost on the build. after a long search i finally came across something good. well what i think is good.

its a Starpak Solar Systems solar hot water heating system. this company was out of Novi MI from 1975 to the mid 1980's some time. Novi is 20 minutes from my house so i thought that was kinda neat that these were made local. I tried to google them but came back with nothing useful. Anyways the stuff i bought off craigslist came with 2 4x8 panels, 2 pumps(one has the controls on it), 80 gal storage tank, furnace chimney heater, a coil that goes in the cold air return of your furnace, and most important the original instructions. the date on the panels say 1983 that a year older them me 8) the guy i bought them from said everything works and the only reason they were taken down was that the roof was getting replaced and he didnt want to put them back up.

Future panel location.



backside of the 4x8 panels.

i plan on pulling apart the panels this winter and making sure the insulation is still good and just checking out whats inside. I'm also not sure if i want to hook it up like it was intended too or if i want t make a true drain back. this kit is a drain back but when it drains back it drains right into a drain so in the spring/fall when the the nights get cold i will be wasting a lot of water at night because it drains the panels so they don't freeze.

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Old 11-23-13, 01:44 PM   #2
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Cool, thats a nice little setup. That should be able to provide most of your hot water needs! $125 is a killer deal too.

What do you mean it drains into a drain?
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Old 11-23-13, 06:36 PM   #3
SimpleManLance
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daox View Post
Cool, thats a nice little setup. That should be able to provide most of your hot water needs! $125 is a killer deal too.

What do you mean it drains into a drain?
I keep looking for more panels to add to what i have. Ive passed on some because i couldn't justify spending more money on panels when i haven't even used what i have.

It doesn't drain back to the tank. It drains it to a household drain when the panels get to cold. Then fills it back up when the panels are hot enough. So what im understanding is that there is always water in the panels if they are above freezing. If they drop below it just drains the water.
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Old 11-26-13, 08:29 AM   #4
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Lance, that type of system is called "drain down". Just make sure you have very good motorized or solenoid valves. The problem with these system in the past was that the valves would fail to open when the system shut off and the panels or piping would split. The other issue with them is that sometimes a LOT of water was wasted draining out. I have made a couple of these systems where I put a "low water cutoff" from a boiler high enough that the water only drained to remain in the heated area. That said, all this was 20 years ago and you might have an easier time doing a "drain back" than a "drain down" system. You would only need a heat exchanger by the looks of it.

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