How Do I Lay and Plan PVC Pipe Installation for Solar Collectors?

You need PVC pipe to carry water to and from your solar panels. Plan your pipe route, along with the number of joint fittings you will need, well in advance of installation so that you can run the pipe in the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing route. This involves planning where to place your solar panels, as well as planning for pipe burial if necessary. You can connect your solar collector to your hot-water heater or to a swimming pool.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Ladder
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • 1-inch drill bit
  • Keyhole saw
  • Strap iron
  • Screws (5/8 inch)
  • Silicone sealant
  • PVC glue
  • Brush
  • Hacksaw
  • 2-inch PVC joint fittings
  • PVC adapter
  • 2-inch PVC pipe


    • 1

      Plan your solar loop. This is the pathway you will need for water to move into and out of your solar panels. If you have placed your panels on your roof or on a specially built structure, you will need to pump water up through PVC pipe to the solar panels. You can count on gravity to carry water from the collector to the pool or hot-water heater. Examine the path you need for your PVC pipe, and determine whether the pipe will be hidden enough from view along corners of your structure. If the pool is set away from your building, you should bury PVC pipe that runs from the pool to your structure. For a water heater, you can run PVC pipe through a garage wall to the heating unit.

    • 2

      Make a pipe list. Using the length of your PVC pipes as a guide (most come in 8-foot lengths), determine how much pipe you will need to complete your solar loop. Note where you will have to cut shorter lengths and write down how many of those lengths you will need.

    • 3

      Make a fitting list. Everywhere your pipe connects to the pump, other pipe or the solar panels, you will need a PVC joint fitting. Start at your pool or water heater where the pipe will connect to the pump. Count the number of fittings for connections and turns that you will need for your pipe. Simple joint fittings will connect two pipes together. You will need corner fittings to make 90-degree turns.

    • 4

      Dig any trenches you will need before attaching pipe to the pump. Trenches may be necessary for running pipe from a pool that is far from your structure. Drill two holes in your garage wall if you are running pipes to and from a hot-water heater. Use a 1-inch drill bit to start the hole and a keyhole saw to enlarge the hole to accommodate your PVC pipe. Also, note where you will have to use metal straps to hold pipe to the side of your building. You should plan to place straps no more than three feet apart.

    • 5

      Attach a fitting to the pump by brushing the inside of the fitting with PVC glue and placing the fitting over the pump outlet. If the pump outlet is less than 2 inches, use a PVC adapter between your pipe and the pump outlet pipe. The pump can be connected to an outlet from your swimming pool or to an outlet from your hot-water heater. Connect your first pipe by applying PVC glue with a brush to the inside of the fitting and the outside of the pipe. Insert the pipe immediately. If you are connecting to a pool, continue adding pipe along your trench until you reach the building. For a garage water heater, run the pipe through a hole in the garage wall. Add a corner fitting and add one length of pipe running up the corner of the building. Immediately strap that pipe in place by drilling holes in the building and screwing a piece of strap iron into the building and around your pipe. Screw the remaining end of the strap iron into the building. Cover screws with silicone sealant to prevent leakage of rain into the building.

    • 6

      Add more pipe lengths until you reach the edge of the roof. Connect a fitting to the solar panel opening. Coat the inside of the fitting with glue and attach your last pipe.

    • 7

      Attach a fitting to the solar collector where the water drains from the lowest solar panel. Attach a pipe length running down the corner of your building. Secure this pipe with strap iron. If connecting to a water heater, add a 90-degree fitting when you reach the hole in the garage wall and continue adding pipe until you reach the heater. Add a fitting to the water heater's inlet pipe and connect your final pipe. For a swimming-pool connection, continue adding fittings and pipe until you reach the ground. Add a 90-degree fitting and another pipe that you lay in a second trench. Continue running pipe and fittings until you reach the pool.

    • 8

      Check all connections by running the pump. Fill in the trenches or add insulation around the hole you cut in the garage wall.

Tips & Warnings

  • Place the first row of solar collectors near the lower edge of your roof so you can connect PVC pipe while standing on a ladder instead of on the edge of the roof.
  • Connections between panels should not be made with PVC pipe. Use the copper connectors that come with your solar system.
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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images

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