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Old 05-16-12, 01:13 PM   #1
Daox
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Default Pressure testing old solar hot water panels

I'm looking for ideas on how to pressure test my solar hot water panels. I have 10 panels that need testing. So, I was thinking I'd get some expanding rubber plugs to plug the 1" copper header pipes (non-threaded), and fill them with air and put a pressure gauge on it. The only thing I've really been able to find are some rubber test plugs. The mcmaster number is 2644K18. They seem to have a bypass tube on them that I can hook up a pressure gauge to and also some form of filling valve. But, they say they aren't rated for air pressure!

A bit more searching shows a plug that can handle 100 psi, but it is a little over $20 per plug. I was hoping to get away for less than that I suppose. It also doesn't have the bypass to add a pressure gauge or filling valve.

So, I'm looking for other ideas.

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Old 05-16-12, 01:27 PM   #2
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A bit more digging I found some plastic plugs that look like they'll do the job for a decent price.

2439K43 - normal plug, good to 130 psi, $7.24/ea
2566K13 - with bypass, $18.84
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Old 05-17-12, 12:13 AM   #3
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what about 3x 1" sharkbite caps and the tool to release them instead of plugs?

they also make a pressure gauge fitting that can be removed easily. Not sure how that compares price wise. 1 end goes on the panel and on the other end rig something up to get your air compressor onto it.
http://www.cashacme.com/prod_sharkbite_gauges.php

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Old 05-17-12, 07:41 AM   #4
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Oooh, I didn't think about sharkbite connectors. Thats not a bad idea. I'll check into that.
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Old 09-16-12, 08:41 AM   #5
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I finished up washing up the panels for now. They're all sitting on my porch now waiting for pressure testing, and some other work.



For the record, this is the test setup that I am using. I got all of my parts off of mcmaster.com.

2439K43 - 3 Each - All-plastic Test Plug, With Solid Stem, For Pipe Id .98" To 1.2"
2566K13 - 1 Each - Plastic Test Plug With Bypass Stem, For Pipe Id .98" To 1.20"
4089K61 - 1 Each - Multipurpose Gauge, Plastic Case, 2" Dial, 1/4 Npt Bottom, 0-100 Psi
53175K29 - 1 Pack - Miniature Bolt Hose & Tube Clamp, 304 Ss, 19/32" To 43/64" Clamp Dia Range
5633K23 - 1 Ft. - Hose For Push-on Fitting, Buna-n/pvc Blend, Black, 3/8" Id X 5/8" Od
44605K152 - 1 Each - Low-pressure Blk Malleable Iron Thrd Fitting, 1/4 Pipe Size, Tee
47865K21 - 1 Each - Brass Ball Valve, 1/4" Npt Female Connections
5350K36 - 1 Each - Zinc-plated Steel Barbed Hose Fitting, Std-wall Adapter,3/8" Hose Id X 1/4" Npt Male Pipe
6534K46 - 1 Each - Industrial-shape Hose Coupling, Plug, Znc-pltd, 1/4" Nptf Male, 1/4 Cplg Size
44615K412 - 1 Each - Standard-Wall Blk Steel Threaded Pipe Nipple 1/4 Pipe Size X 7/8" Length, Fully Threaded


This is the setup. I am missing the 1/4" nipple between the tee and ball valve in the picture because I thought I had one on hand and didn't.





The test plus come in two flavors. One has a hole through the center of it so you can connect other things to it. The only problem is it doesn't have any type of standard fitting on the end of it. I decided to just go with a rubber hose of the same diameter. It is clamped over the threads and did leak so I put some silicon gasket maker on it and that sealed it up. I'm not testing at any crazy pressure 15-20 psi, so it doesn't have to hold up to much. I'm planning on testing each panel overnight or so to check for small leaks.





The test plugs are pretty simple, insert them and screw the handle and they expand and fill the pipe.





Here is the full assembly attached to a panel and also attached to my air compressor. You do have to be careful while filling the panel. The ball valve can shove a ton of air in there quite fast. I blew out a test plug twice already, but it works.





Right off the bat I tested the panel below and found a few problems. First off, is this crack in the pipe. It looks like it burst from water still being in it to me. I'm going to have to repair it. I'm not exactly sure how to do it. The current idea is to solder or braze a patch plate over the tube and then pressure test it to see if it held. Other ideas are welcome. Keep in mind that this system will be charged to 5-10 psi, heat will increase that as the water heats up. But, its not going to see any crazy high pressure.





I also found another area of leakage. All of the panels have this setup on the lower left and upper right. Its a rubber hose/coupling with two hose clamps. Half of them are old and cracked. So, I'm going through the panels and removing them.

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Last edited by Daox; 09-16-12 at 08:43 AM..
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Old 09-16-12, 11:03 AM   #6
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I had simply used some copper end caps for testing and silver soldered in a tire stem removed and cleaned up from an old steel rim. The pressure guage was on the other cap with a brass cap silver soldered and drilled thru. I'm not a very big fan for the rubber hose and clamp. This way I would solder the caps on, screw the schader valve and pressure gage charge it and leave it for an hour. Even going to this extreme I had one riser tube with a small weeper that I didn't find in the test. It may had only pressented itself after the rigors of the installation process. I had to cut the glass off and re-touch the silphos soldering.

For Daox's repair of the split tube the silphos solder make the repair neat. It fills gaps nicely. Just squeeze the split tube together and solder it up. Unfortunately this would need a oxy-acetilene torch.

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Old 09-16-12, 11:07 AM   #7
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One last tip I had used muriatic acid to clean the glass. The low iron glass I had received was used and had a film on it that window cleaner wouldn`t touch. The muriatic (hydrochloric acid) work extremly well followed by dish wash soap.

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Old 09-17-12, 09:10 AM   #8
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If you think they are good and want to pressure test them to higher pressure I would solder unions on, using each half on each end of the panel, then make up a cap and tire valve on unions as well so you can test each panel to 60psi or so, they should be good for 100psi or more.
What are you going to do about the missing glass?
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Old 09-17-12, 11:06 AM   #9
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I have the glass pieces for them. I do have to come up with some mounting system for them though. Its just a bent aluminum sheet frame and there are the glass sheets and a rubber gasket that goes around the glass edge. I have to make up some mounting tabs/brackets and find a good way to secure them to the panels. It looks like they originally just screwed into the fairly thin aluminum which is no good IMO.
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Old 09-17-12, 12:30 PM   #10
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I just used a good silicone caulking to mount the glass.( just like an automotive windsheild) You will never need to remove it. even if you do a utility knife will do it.

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