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The DBHX 6000 drainback reservoir from Radco comes with an internal heat exchanger, heat-transfer fluid pump, domestic hot water pump, and differential controller. Mounting drainback reservoirs as high as possible within the conditioned space reduces total head, and thus the load on the HTF pump.
Heat Transfer Products offers drainback reservoirs with or without integrated heat exchangers.
The Taco 009-F is a typical high-head pump suitable for heat transfer fluid circulation to the solar thermal collectors in a residential DHW drainback system. IntermediateThese popular, proven performers offer simplicity, reliability, and flexibility in system design.
Most locations in North America are subject to at least one freeze per year, making freeze protection necessary for SHW systems. While this article will primarily focus on residential domestic hot water systems, many options exist for system configurations, ranging from pool heating to space heating and combined domestic hot water and space heating. A differential controller, which monitors the water temperature in the tank and the collector temperature.
A heat exchanger to transfer heat between the drainback loop and the end-use water (unless it is a pool system). Having an unpressurized HTF loop means that numerous components required in pressurized systems are not needed.
Drainback systems are often superior for space heating because of that same potential for overheating.
Although some drainback systems use a blend of antifreeze and water for enhanced freeze protection, many use only distilled water as the HTF. Because the HTF is in the reservoir and the collector is empty  when the pump starts, the pump has to overcome more static head to lift the HTF from its lowest level to the highest point in the system. Many drainback systems use a second pump to circulate the end-use water through the heat exchanger in the reservoir, adding to the amount of energy required. To facilitate HTF drainage from all the plumbing that is exposed to potential freezing—including the collector, exterior piping, and plumbing in unconditioned spaces such as an attic—it is critical that they slope downward to drain. A common “fix” for a poorly plumbed or aging drainback system is to add propylene glycol to the water, ranging from 30% to 50%. Scale buildup inside the heat exchanger can also be an issue, since minerals precipitate out of water as it’s heated. If the heat exchanger is located inside the drainback tank, the HTF level must be high enough so that the coil is submerged while the system is pumping. Many prepackaged drainback systems locate the drainback tank on top of the storage tank, which can reduce the head—and thus the pump size—for the system. Access to the fill and drain ports in the drainback tank should be considered when designing the system, so that the HTF can be checked and topped off if needed. Larger space-heating systems often use custom drainback tanks, with options for multiple heat exchangers.
Alternate Energy Technologies, Energy Labs, Heat Transfer Products, and Radco are just a few manufacturers that make drainback tanks for residential applications. Trendsetter Solar Products and Morely Manufacturing make large, unpressurized tanks for use in space heating applications or for large-capacity domestic water systems.
In domestic drainback systems, the Taco 009 and Grundfos UP26-64 and UP26-96 are popular HTF pump choices because of their proven durability and ability to lift the HTF 30 feet or more in an unpressurized loop. If the pump is not adequately sized, it may be able to pump HTF into the collector, but will have difficulty completing the circuit and exiting the collector.
Brian Mehalic is a NABCEP-certified PV installer, with experience designing, installing, and servicing PV, solar thermal, wind, and water-pumping systems. Protect your solar water heating investment by properly supporting your collectors with a durable rack system. I want to build a solar-powered hot tub, and wonder how to keep the water at a constant temperature of about 103°F? This all depends on the size of the SunMaxx Solar Hot Water System you need, your application and the cost of installation and balance of system components from outside sources. Generally, if you have some basic plumbing knowledge, are comfortable working on the roof, and can handle some minor tasks, it is likely that you could install your SunMaxx Solar Hot Water System yourself.
Despite the relative ease of installing a SunMaxx Solar Hot Water System, SunMaxx still recommends that a trained plumber or solar installer install your solar hot water system, particularly if your system is for radiant heating, or a particularly large domestic hot water system. There are several different ways that SunMaxx Solar Hot Water Systems can be used to provide home heating – offsetting the amount heating oil, propane, natural gas or wood that you use. In-Floor Radiant Heating – a series of PEX Tubing Loops are installed under your floorboards. Baseboard Radiator Heating - this type of heating uses baseboard radiators which transfer heat throughout the rooms where they are located.
Forced Hot Air Heating – this is one of the most popular forms of heating, and many homes today already have these systems in place. This is a calculation that is made using the price of your heating fuel and how much hot water you use. PV, or Solar Electric, uses the energy trapped within sunlight to generate an electrical charge. SunMaxx Solar Hot Water Systems are used across the United States and around the world for nearly every water heating application imaginable.
SunMaxx Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors are built with series of clear glass, vacuum sealed tubes with a special selective coating that allows solar radiation to pass through from the outside and traps it inside.
Rinnai draws on years of experience in providing the best in hot water for Australian families.
Prices include FREE delivery within NSW. (Please contact us for prices of delivery to other areas of Australia).
Our full-time, in-field service technicians are extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the equipment we sell. This is our iron-clad commitment to you: If you have a problem, an HWP or AMS team member will help you work it out. Proper support is required, as the reservoir and other components may weigh 100 pounds or more, depending on the volume. Some systems are pressurized, using glycol or other types of antifreeze to prevent freezing; others, such as the failure-prone draindown and recirculation systems, use motorized valves and additional controls. A heat-transfer fluid (HTF, usually water) contained in an unpressurized, closed loop is pumped through the collectors and is separate from the end-use water being heated through a heat exchanger. This could be a domestic hot water tank, a several-thousand-gallon tank for a space-heating system, or, in the case of a pool system, the pool itself.
When the collector temperature exceeds the storage temperature by a set differential (number of degrees), the controller activates the HTF pump. The draining of the HTF into the reservoir creates the characteristic gurgling sound of these systems, due to the air space required in the unpressurized reservoir.
The heat exchanger is often inside the drainback reservoir, and a second pump circulates domestic water through the exchanger, which is immersed in the HTF. An expansion tank, check valve, pressure gauge, and an air vent are not required, though a pressure-relief valve may still be installed.
Space-heating systems require enough collector surface area to generate useful heat during the coldest, shortest days of the year.

Water has superior heat-transfer abilities compared to glycol, adding a slight boost to system performance.
A standard, two-pump, residential domestic drainback system can easily use three or more times the amount of power to operate the pumps compared to a single-pump, pressurized glycol system. Any low points, whether due to improperly sloped or sagging piping, can trap water, defeating the freeze protection. The drainback reservoir volume should be checked periodically, and topped off if fluid is low.
Though rare, relays in the differential controller that operates the pump(s) can fail, causing the pump to continue to run and circulate fluid through the piping and collectors. Although the actual amount of water released by a freeze-caused leak will be limited to less than the volume of HTF in the system, damage to building materials and contents of the building can occur, and bursting can damage the absorber plate in collectors, requiring potentially difficult and expensive repairs. In cold climates, the system may even be designed to use an antifreeze mix to increase the reliability of the freeze protection. Its capacity should be at least twice the volume of the HTF loop, including the volume of the collectors. Consult the manufacturers’ spec sheets for collector volume, as well as for the recommended system capacity for a specific drainback reservoir. In some cases, the drainback reservoir is placed in a different location than the storage tank—for example, the storage tank may be in a basement, while the drainback reservoir is on the ground level or second floor.
A sight-glass can be installed on the HTF loop plumbing, level with the top of the reservoir. Many domestic hot water systems use a separate, special drainback reservoir that contains a heat exchanger. Another option, which also requires two pumps, is to use an external heat exchanger and a 10- to 20-gallon electric hot water tank as the drainback reservoir.
A large coil of stainless or copper piping submerged in the reservoir tank is used to transfer heat to the storage water; additional exchangers are used to provide heat to a specific location. While there is the option of using a standard hot water tank as the reservoir, or to use a storage tank with integrated heat exchanger (with the HTF filling the tank), specialized tanks and even complete, packaged systems are available. Some are complete, plumbed systems with the drainback tank mounted on top of the storage tank, and the pumps and controller included. Designed to be used with an external heat exchanger or a storage tank with an integrated exchanger, this drainback “tank” is merely a bulge in the plumbing. These (relatively) high-head, cast-iron circulator pumps use more energy than those in pressurized systems. During hotter months, this can result in a collector full of HTF that quickly boils and releases steam, reducing the loop volume. Common choices are the Taco 006 and the Grundfos 15-18 SU, which use much less energy than the high-head HTF pumps, and are easy to service or replace if necessary. We are particularly pleased to bring you Bosch's Gas Boosted Solar Hot Water systems, which not only provide an environmentally friendly alternative, but also deliver large savings on your gas bill. What you pay for a SunMaxx Solar Hot Water System is an investment, like investing in the stock market – however, with SunMaxx Solar Hot Water, there is no chance that your stock will go down. However, many can purchase and install a SunMaxx Solar Hot Water System for domestic hot water for a family of 4 at under $5,000. If you have a particular local plumber that you work with and trust, we can assist that plumber in installing your SunMaxx Solar Hot Water System.
In fact, Pool Heating is considered one of the most affordable, efficient and cost-effective uses of Solar Hot Water Systems today. You know better than anyone how much money you spend on water heating every month and year – just by looking at your hot water bill. For these climates, we recommend that customers use SunMaxx Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors. SunMaxx Solar Hot Water Systems do not only work with direct sunlight, but also with Solar Radiation. This charge can then be stored and used to power any number of electronic and electric devices. Whether your application is residential, commercial, industrial, municipal or agricultural, SunMaxx Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors and Flat Plate Solar Collectors are perfect for the job. This 360 degree collector design is the key principle advantage of Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors – it allows for great absorption earlier and later in the day when the sun is at odd angles for most solar collectors – leading to increased overall system efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The Rinnai range of Gas Storage Hot Water Systems can recover water back to full temperature at a fast rate, reducing the need for larger capacity systems. One of our staff members will contact you to arrange a convenient time for the installation. (Please note, installation prices are based on a standard install and are subject to site inspection). We employ in-house troubleshooters, who will talk you through problems by phone or, in many cases, on site. There’s always someone on call, in case of emergencies, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But the beauty of a drainback system is that freeze protection is passively provided by gravity’s ever-reliable pull. In some cases, a DC pump, powered by a PV module, acts as the controller—when appropriately sized, the PV module receives enough sunlight to operate the pump when there is enough heat in the thermal collector for it to be worthwhile to circulate the HTF. Most pool-heating systems circulate the pool water through collectors, eliminating the need for a heat exchanger.
Though any equipment cost savings, might be negated by the expense of the drainback reservoir, installation costs can be lower because the installation is simplified to some degree.
If the pump fails or the system shuts off because it has reached its high limit, the system pressure will increase and can actuate the pressure-relief valve.
Using water as the HTF also allows for the use of single-wall heat exchangers, which are slightly more efficient and usually less expensive than double-wall varieties. For example, a pump in a glycol system may use about 85 watts, while the total for the two pumps in a comparably sized drainback system may be 260 watts or more. If the slope is insufficient, a vacuum can result in the HTF loop, which will also prevent it from fully draining.
If the volume of HTF is too low, it may result in reduced or even no output, and possibly damage the pump. Pipes can sag over time, or may have been poorly installed and improperly sloped in the first place; low spots in the plumbing can trap water and prevent it from fully draining, defeating the freeze protection of the system. Because the glycol will leave a film inside the collector when it drains, it is very common to see the HTF mix become brown and acidic over time. Eventually, the heat exchanger may become completely clogged, rendering the system ineffective and causing the motor in the end-use water’s circulator pump to overheat. It must be able to hold enough fluid so that, when pumping, the pipes to the collectors and the collectors themselves are full. The pipe length and diameter will differ on each installation and can be calculated as shown in the pipe sizing table.
This makes it easy to check the HTF level when the system has drained back into the reservoir. The reservoir tank, typically ranging in size from 7 to 15 gallons, has collector supply and return ports for the HTF loop. The electric element is not hooked up—the tank is used to simply hold the required volume to fill the HTF loop when pumping and provide an air space for the system to drain.

A separate reservoir is still required for the HTF, but only a single pump is needed to circulate the HTF through the collectors, the heat exchanger immersed in the storage tank, and back to the reservoir, completing the circuit. A backup heat source, such as a boiler, can provide additional heat to the end-use water, activating automatically if a sufficient temperature is not being attained by the solar thermal part of the system.
Comprised of several large-diameter (4”) copper tubes plumbed in parallel, the “tank” provides a simple and easy-to-install reservoir available in 5- or 7.5-gallon capacities. Whatever pump is used, it must allow the reverse flow of the HTF back into the reservoir when the pump turns off; the majority of small circulator pumps do this, but verify that there is not a built-in check valve in the pump (an option in some models), as this will prevent the loop from draining.
As HTF is lost and the loop volume is reduced, it becomes less likely that the pump will be able to complete the circuit, resulting in more steam being produced and more HTF loss.
Or is "one freeze", simply an hour during a year when air temperature is below 0 Celsius (32F)? Over a number of years, your SunMaxx Solar Hot Water System will save you enough money in heating costs to completely pay for itself once or more over. Additionally, we can arrange your installation through our growing network of SunMaxx Solar Hot Water Installers across the United States. Heating a pool or spa can require a significant amount of propane, natural gas or electricity, and as energy prices continue to rise, it is becoming a more and more unnecessary and unaffordable expense. Of course, most Americans find that just heating water accounts for nearly 20% or more of their annual energy bills.
During a significant portion of the year in these locations, the sun is at low angles in the sky, the days are extremely short, and the temperatures are often freezing, or barely above. Even on cloudy days, there is ample solar radiation, which allows SunMaxx Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors to provide significant performance, even in these conditions.
Solar Hot Water, however, is also known as Solar Thermal, and used the tremendous energy trapped within sunlight to generate heat – this heat is then transferred by any number of mechanisms to water. The solar radiation then heats the copper heat pipe within the Evacuated Tube, which transfers its heat upward where it is passed to the water moving through the manifold through the specially designed condenser.
If a break occurs in the HTF loop plumbing, it will leak more slowly than if it was pressurized. This can result in the system operating at reduced pressure, requiring additional HTF to be added. During the non-heating season, glycol systems may require covers for some or most of the collectors, a heat dump, a second heat load (such as a pool), some combination of these options, or even draining the system entirely for the season.
Some installers will plumb multiple pumps in series, but if one pump fails, the HTF may not make it all the way to the top of the collector and out the return piping, leaving it vulnerable to freezing. In some cases, the additional energy required—which could be nearly 2 kWh per day for a domestic system during high-production days—makes it prohibitive to install drainback systems in off-grid applications. It is recommended that larger piping be used to reduce the head caused by friction, which, for the same flow rate, decreases as pipe size increases. As with a pressurized glycol system, periodic testing of HTF acidity should be followed with its replacement as needed. Depending on local water conditions, occasionally flushing the heat exchanger with a chemical descaler or a compound such as muriatic acid may be necessary. Also, enough fluid must remain in the reservoir to ensure that the HTF level stays above the pump’s inlet so that it does not suck air.
Using a transparent flow meter as the site tube allows the flow rate to be verified and fine-tuned if necessary. A second set of ports connects to the internal heat exchanger and is used to route water from the storage tank to the heat exchanger in the reservoir. The Copperstor tank is heavy when full and, unlike a reservoir tank that sits on the floor or on top of the storage tank, will require more support than that provided by the piping that runs to and from it. The number of years that it takes for a SunMaxx Solar Hot Water System to pay for itself is known as the Payback Period. Or, any trained solar energy installer in your area would be happy to perform your installation.
However, a heated pool often provides the benefit of being to swim earlier in the spring and later in the fall in all locations, and even all year round in some locations.
When you take Home Heating into account as well, overall heating at your home can cost 40% or more of your annual energy bills. Because of their design, SunMaxx Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors are particularly well suited for these conditions – their unique 360 degree collection area makes them very good at capturing sunlight at many angles, increasing the period of optimum absorption, and their incredible freeze protection, coupled with a closed-loop glycol system provide adequate freeze protection for all but the harshest temperatures. However, the performance of the Solar Collector will be less than it is on a bright, sunny day.
Many of them are long-time employees, each with deep knowledge of installation, operation, and maintenance issues. Furthermore, there are no motorized valves to fail, and the system does not rely on electricity to maintain freeze protection.
Furthermore, glycol can become acidic when repeatedly overheated, risking corrosion to the piping and other components in the system. Scale buildup can also occur in the collectors, which is why distilled water should be used as the HTF. If air bubbles get stuck in the pump—a condition called cavitation—the pump must work harder to move the fluid.
Models with heat exchangers typically range in capacity from 7 to 20 gallons; models without exchangers are available in larger sizes.
In, fact, Solar Thermal technology is much further advanced that PV technology today – a typical PV panel has an efficiency of 14 – 20% where a Solar Hot Water System has an efficiency of 80% or better – this makes Solar Hot Water Systems one of, if not, the most cost-effective and affordable uses of Solar Energy available today. If the power goes out, the pump shuts off and the HTF drains from the collectors back into the reservoir. Drainback systems simply drain the collector because the pumps shut off when the system’s high limit is reached. This is especially critical in systems that lose HTF over time due to evaporation, since this results in mineral deposits being concentrated in the collectors, which is especially problematic for the narrow riser tubes. This can cause the pump to overheat, increasing the possibility of premature failure, and cavitation can even completely stop the flow of the HTF. One circulates the HTF, which bathes the heat exchanger through which domestic water is pumped by the second pump. Large, combined space-heating and DHW drainback systems can heat water very quickly in the summer when there is no space-heating load and all of the production is focused on the domestic water.
Furthermore, if the reservoir is undersized, the HTF can operate at too high of a temperature, reducing the efficiency of the collectors. If the reservoir is too large, the HTF may operate at too low of temperature, resulting in a poor heat exchange efficiency between the HTF and the end-use water. Larger heating systems with big reservoirs are usually installed so that the pumps can run independently because there will be usable heat in the reservoir after the HTF loop shuts off. Likewise, the HTF loop may have to circulate for a while at the start of the day before there is enough heat in the reservoir for the space-heating loop to circulate.

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