How to Fix a Solar Water Heater


Solar water heaters are very simple devices and a only minimal level of plumbing skills is required to perform maintenance on them. The primary heater box is lined with copper, PVC or other type of pipe, which can be patched or replaced by the average do-it-yourselfer in about an hour.

Things You'll Need

  • Pipe repair kit
  • Replacement pipe
  • Screwdriver
  • Determine the problem and trace leaks to their source. The radiator pattern of most solar water heaters will have many bends on the interior pipe; these seals can break and leak. Look through the clear plexiglas lid to see the leaking section of pipe.

  • Turn off the water source to the solar water heater. Allow the system to drain.

  • Take the solar water heater off its mount. Disconnect the two pipes on each side. Some residual water may run out as the box is moved.

  • Remove the pslexiglas top to gain access to the pipes inside. Allow the pipes to dry completely.

  • Repair leaking pipes or connections. For metal or copper pipes, repair could be as simple as a daub of suitable sealant applied to the hole or split. More extensive repairs may involve cutting and replacing the section of pipe. PVC pipes will most likely leak at the joints, where the glue holding them together can corrode or fail. To repair a pipe by replacement, cut the pipe above the leak and seal a new section of pipe in place with pipe coupling adapters. Some repairs may involve welding the pipe together, but this can lead to leaks in the future when these welds corrode.

  • Repaint the new section of pipe to match the black color of the rest of the piping.

  • Replace the solar heater box to the mounting location, reconnect it to the source and test the function over a 24 hour period. A full cycle of heating and cooling will test the repair in actual use conditions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Taking the time to clean the plexiglas while it is removed can increase the solar heater's performance.
  • Do not work on the heater until it is empty, as the water is very hot.

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