Troubleshooting Your Solar Water Heating System
Troubleshooting Your Solar Water Heating System

When hot water is used in a home, it is often difficult to know whether it was heated by the sun or by an auxiliary water heater.
Some solar water heating systems may have indicators which show when there is a problem, but many do not. This fact sheet is designed to help the homeowner determine whether or not their solar water heating system is working properly and, if not, some possible steps to remedy the problem. For those that are uncomfortable with small repairs, any reference to remedies requiring repair work should be referred to a repair contractor. Lists of repair contractors are available from the North Carolina Solar Center.
The first step in determining if a solar water heating system is operating properly is to turn off the auxiliary water heater. This is accomplished by turning off the circuit breaker to an electric unit or turning a gas unit to pilot or off. This test should not be attempted in winter months since the availability of solar energy is less and may cause a shortage of hot water even when the system is working properly. During periods of sunny weather and moderate hot water usage, most solar domestic water heating systems will
be sufficient to handle the water heating needs of a typical home. If the auxiliary unit has been off for more than a day and bright sun is striking the collectors, the piping to and from the storage tank should be warm to the touch (or very hot--BE CAREFUL).
This means that the collectors are supplying heat. If no heat is felt or significant shortages in hot water are experienced, it is likely there is a problem with the system.

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