Friday, October 22, 2010

Here are some quick links to find your way around

Yes, I am doing the occasional update.  Because of the minimal input, things are not laid out as slick as they could be, so here are a few quick links to help you find your way around:

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Solar Water Heating Is Brilliant For Wellington ! " Yeah?

The Burning Hot Debate!

For the Affirmative we will hear:
Brian Cox Representing The Solar Industries Association

“Solar water heating systems are a smart investment and can be installed in new buildings, in your current building with connection to your existing hot water heating system, or with a complete replacement high efficiency hot water cylinder. Solar systems are inexpensive to install, provide free energy once installed, and reduce overall water heating costs. …”

For the Negative we will hear:

Gary Moller

The Cynical Consumer

“Gary Moller is the creator and owner of which documents his research into solar water heating systems. It includes numerous examples of faulty installations in Wellington and elsewhere. … “

“Gary Moller thought he was doing the right thing by installing a domestic solar water heating system (SWH). Four years and four replacement SWH later, he concluded that these devices were doing nothing for the environment other than creating expensive landfill material.” … "Out of sight - Out of mind" - a cynic's slogan for the SWH industry.”

Who Is Right?  Who Is Wrong?

Come To The Debate.  Judge For Yourself

I Hope To See You There!

Date: Thursday 21 October, 5.30. p.m. - 6.30. p.m.

Location: Wellington City Council

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An expensive failure of a Solahart SWH installed 06/2003

I have attached a photograph of a cylinder that recently failed in propery I am managing.

The cylinder has completely failed at approx "10 Oclock" leaking steam and water, cylinder installed 06/2003.

Property probably on irrigation water and anode never changed.

An expensive failure probably due to hard water and no maintence.

I would be interested in any info you may have on water pretreatment to prevent an early failure in the replacement just fitted.

Thanks "G"
Gary responds:
On a recent cycle tour of Vanuatu I saw one after another of this design rusting away on rooftops. They were everywhere. Scandalous that this continues despite all of the adverse publicity.

I am particularly disappointed with EECA and the Consumer's Institute. Both of these organisations are well aware of the problems for some years and have even inspected the rusting panels that were once on my own roof top. Yet, they continue to enthusiastically promote this technology without giving the consumer any real advice about how to differentiate between the trashy systems and the quality ones.

The photo of the Solahart is revealing:
  • There is no lagging of the pipes which would result in huge heat loss particularly at night and during winter. It would be interesting to see the state of the lagging on the pipes to and from the house appliances.
  • Copper overflow pipe outlet is directly onto the roof iron. This will cause galvanic corrosion of the roof.
  • You can see hints of roof iron corrosion surrounding the system. SWH systems need to be galvanically isolated. It appears this is not.
  • You can see that the panels themselves are corroded white and there are signs of condensation. These should be black - not white and inside and outside of the glass clean.
Quite obviously, this SWH unit is unsuited for the job and the owner should have a warranty claim for replacement. Warranty is about 5 years in most cases; but there is the promise that these will perform without trouble for at least 10 years with their ROI anywhere from 10-20 years.

"G"; the Solahart you have here is only good for the landfill. The entire system needs to be replaced.

Only replace it with a system that is closed glycol circulation with a heat exchange unit. Solar water heating systems that are not closed circulation should be banned. They scale up quickly and rust out.

It is just plain nuts to place a hot cylinder on the roof of a building. It is the worst place for heat loss and corrosion.

The problem you have in throwing out the current SWH system, as many owners have discovered to their dismay and horror, is they face thousands of dollars relocating the hot water cylinder and re-routing plumbing. Some houses do not have alternative space for the cylinder.

Have a look around - There are good systems out there. Do not go for the cheapest. Go for an established brand and buy quality. Do not skimp on any part.

I have an AMK on my roof and it has performed two years without a hitch. However the NZ agents have gone broke! I have no idea what to do other than hope we do not need repairs for several years.

The best system so far, in terms of quality and absence of consumer complaints is Chromagen.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gary, who do you recommend for installing a solar hot water system in Nelson?

"Hi gary I am taking the wonderful step of building a new home, I wish to put in a evacuated tube heating system we have a three person home, who sells a good brand ie stainless tank and actually knows what they are doing. We live in Nelson
Regards James"

At present this is the only service that I am prepared to recommend at this point in time:

The reason why I am prepared to 
recommend this company is it has had solar water heating systems installed for several years and I have received no complaints about them which is not something I can say about a lot of others.  I have seen several of their installations which are examples of quality and craftmanship.  As far as I know, all are still performing as good as the day they were first installed.

Photo: A quality Chromagen in Wellington installed by Infinergy several years ago and performing as good as the day it first went in.

I have met the owners of the company several times and find them to be of good character and absolutely devoted to the environmental merits of solar hot water.

Flat panels vs tubes?
I now have a tube setup which has been working faultlessly now for the best part of a year.  In comparison with my earlier flat panels, It is producing less overall hot water than the flat panels in their first year before they began to rust out.  While I am very happy with them, I can not say they are any better than flat panels for our setting.

Our monthly electricity bills for 2008 averaged about $45 with the peak being $84 during mid winter.  We have almost halved our electricity use as compared to 2007 with reliable solar water heating being central to this.

Sadly, the company that supplied our AMK solar tube setup has gone broke, so I will not recommend them
 (of course!).  I am now faced with the issue of servicing and spare parts.  Damn!

I think the best thing to do is to go with a firm that has been around a long time and which has a good track record (Infinergy is one and there are others).  Please look through this website and you will see the sad stories of many installations that leave much to be desired.  Also have a read of the BRANZ reports on this site.  While they are mostly to do with flat panels, please bear in mind that most of the installation issues apply equally to tubes as to flat panels. I am aware of performance issues with some tubes and these performance problems will become more apparent as these newer installations age.

Other sources of good information
I can't really think of any.  I believe that the Consumer and EECA websites are generally unhelpful for the consumer and best ignored because they conveniently avoid mention of the quality and warranty issues that have been raised on this website.  They lull you, the consumer, into a sense of false security and nudge you in the direction of some products with known issues.

Whether you go tubes or flat panels is not the issue - the main things to look for are:
  • Track record with solar water heating systems and known to be a viable company that is not going to go bust in a hurry
  • Quality of the product (avoid the cheap stuff).  Be prepared to pay good money for good products and services and reap the long term benefits
  • Ensure it is a closed loop heat exchange system
  • Quality of the installation work and the provision of ongoing after sales service
James, the best time to install solar water heating is when building a new house, so go for it.  This is the most cost effective time to do the work because retrofitting is more costly and more technically challenging.
Let us know how you get on.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Edwards Solar Water Heating (SolarTech): A lesson in Customer Service

On 25th of November 2005 we were offered a number of options for Edwards solar water heating by Enertech an installer for Edwards. We chose LX180-180L stainless steal cylinder,double jacked cylinder-glycol in panel ( titanium bronze) @ $152 a month interest free for 36 months,excluded building consent $170.00 & timer $150.00 ( timer essential and know fitted ) this price to include plumbing installation, and electrical connection.Next followed an unbelievable long wait for the building consent by the A.C.C. Finally on the 30/03/06 installation was completed The warranty card states What to do if you suspect any problem with your Solar Water heater?your first point of contact is the above installer(Enertech Systems Ltd) if you are not satisfied the installer is dealing with the situation contact us (SolarTech) directly.
After about a year I was contacted by the E.E.C.A. who wanted an independent engineer to audit the installation and report to both my self and the installers, this I agreed to. eventually I received a letter from the E.E.C.A on 28th Jan 2008.with the audit findings :- 'essential Actions, Collector needs to be adequately attached to the roof (through purlins or rafters) note my council L.I.M. report states I'm in a high wind area.
important action, outside insulation needs to be protected with weather resistant membrane(ie paint,pvc tape, denso etc. priority important.
installation of TPR drain pipe.... recommended
protect insulation outside with a weather resistant enclosure...important
recommend tree shading in winter be trimmed...note By some strange coincidence on the 16th February I received a curt letter with a demand for a further payment of $520.80 said to have been overlooked.
Eventually In approximately May2008 I contacted SolarTech expressing my concern that these defects had not been rectified. They promised to bring the matter to Enertech's attention. About a fortnight later I again contacted SolarTech expressing my concern. They promised to have some one from Enertech contact me.
This didn't happen so I E-mailed Edwards in Australia asking if anyone had any concern about customers problems. eventually I was rung by SolarTech who mentioned outstanding monies along with promising to have someone from Enertech contact me.
Eventually someone rung to discuss the outstanding monies, at this time I asked for a detailed, itemized costing breakdown for the entire installation showing where the $520.80 fitted into the costing. I was told they were unable to do this but it was all on the computer?? I had only payed $4951.20 and that the $520.80 was the unpaid deposit. normally we don't proceed with an installation until the deposit is payed it must have been overlooked in your case.
I then pointed out I had a signed agreement with a finance company for $5472.00 and he agreed that this was the total installation cost.
I agreed to provide copies of all my documentation 15 pages which I have done but of course I am still waiting for some customer service.
This experience has put me off solar water heating and I believe I will be dead and buried before the system has payed for its self.
(Name supplied)
Gary Moller comments:
The owners of the companies mentioned in the letter above are invited to respond with their side of the story.

The Edwards solar water heating panels shown in this article are typical of what is seen after just two years in situ. There is no evidence that I know of that gives any confidence that panels of today are any better than those of one or two years ago.

This is one of several cases around the country that have come to my attention. These cases can only be described as poor service by the sellers of Edwards solar water heating systems. I will publish more examples later when I have time. I am not aware of any having had any success with resolving installaton and warranty issues despite years (Not months) of trying.

The same can be said of Solahart. Of the dozens of installations with warranty issues (refer to the many examples on this website). I am aware of only one installation in which parts were replaced. As far as I know everybody else is either still trying or have given up. Sola60 was better at resolving warranty issues.

The greatest disappointment about this ongoing situation is the inaction by the Consumers Institute, the Green Party and EECA to go into bat for these consumers and countless thousands of others who have faulty and underperforming solar water heating systems. Is it because they are all party to the $15 million promotional campaign to get consumers to put these dodgy machines on their rooftops? Do they really want you to know the truth? Please refer to the other articles on about these organisations and come to your own conclusions.

Come on Greens, EECA, Consumers Institute: Write in and give your take - I want to be fair to you. Representatives of the Sloar Water Heating are always welcome to state their response. That few ever have is a disappointment.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gary - Have you looked into evacuated solar tubes?

Dear Gary,

There are no cases of evacuated tubes having issues in your website. I am concerned that your website generalizes on all solar water heaters whereas these issues cannot happen in the tube system. (They do have other issues if overheat is not treated right).

On your articles both TV3 and the Nats have it wrong I have since talked to Nick Smith on this, we have put through a small amount under the government grant scheme and received the $500 back. The issue is not over priced solar (I do not think you will find a wealthy solar company in NZ) and it is generally 30% cheaper to install solar in NZ than in Aus. The issue with the grant scheme is the formula for calculating the threshold is flawed making the payback longer than it really is, and, installation in New Zealand is expensive (a plumbers hourly rate is typically $65) therefore the install costs are typically around $1700.

Anyway maybe you should look at the evacuated tube system as an alternative to solving the problems you are highlighting


John Wilson
Sunshine Solar