Such was our case. A pool heater seemed like a mighty fine idea. One problem, though, was that I didn't want to spend a fortune on a heater, nor did I want to make it any more complex that necessary.
I did quite a bit of research over the past three years or so. Not continuously, but every now and then. Kind of a casual, laid-back sort of research. Anyway, it seems that most of the heating systems out there, at least for in-ground pools, want several things.
One, spend lots of money. Two, use your main pump so you can move massive amounts of water. Three, it needs to be complex. Adding a system to the pool after it's up and running is hard.
Those three caused me pause. That's why research went on for so long. Well, one of the reasons anyway.
I began to think about the cost. Was there a way that I could install a pool heater without breaking the bank, and that wasn't overly complex and didn't require me to modify the existing plumbing unnecessarily?
I noticed in my research, that there was a wide difference in heater system prices for above-ground pools, compared to in-ground systems.
Little by little, I began to wonder why I couldn't adapt elements of an above-ground pool to my in-ground pool. I realized that there was no reason I couldn't do just that. The pool doesn't know if it's above-ground or not.
I was taken with the idea of using an above-ground heater, especially the long strip types, with narrow little tubes for the water to run through. I had the roof space available, so why not?
I had thought of using large vinyl tubing to heat the water, but putting it into coils, for some reason, seemed like a lot of work to me. I have a roll of about 200-feet of 3/4" black tubing, so that wasn't the problem. For some reason, I just couldn't get motivated to do my heater that way.
The more I thought about the issue, the more the strip appealed to me. The one that captivated my attention was twenty foot long by about two or three feet, and it only cost around $150.00 US.
Some time ago, David Wright and I went together on an order for a solar system. This consisted of a two-foot by four-foot solar panel, metal support frame, to attach it to a pole, and a small, low-volume 12-V d.c. pump. That was a good setup to order. The boxes containing the ordered bits sat in my workshop for several months.
The other thing I had done to get ready was a bit of pool modification. I didn't do it, but I had asked our contractor, Mario, to include two ports in the pool for a heater system, They did just that and ran it to the pump house. That was all. You can see in the photo below, the little holes I'm talking about.
Not those on the left. That's some troubleshooting that was going on to track down an internal leak connected with the waterfall. The ones I'm talking about are on the right side just left of the black power panel box. See those two little holes? That's it. That was the extent of the prebuilt for the heater.
So, when I finally did get serious about the pool heater, I bit the bullet and ordered a twenty-foot heater strip. I was concerned because a couple of the reviews of it had stated that the 'non-standard' fittings created major problems, and the people couldn't understand why they used such oddball fittings. I figured that I could cobble something together that would work. Half of what we work on down here is cobbled together.
Shift forward a couple of weeks and Easy Shipping to Belize shows up at our gate with the rolled-up heater and some other stuff. Wow. Time to get serious. Especially since I had the help of Denis Patterson, our neighbor from across the street.
Denis and Vivien, his wife, were staying in our Mennonite house since their house was rented long-term and they didn't want to disturb their tenants. Denis and Vivien are from Alberta, Canada, and are nice people (aren't all Canadians?).
|The Repair Shop|
It may not look like it, but this is the best TV, stereo, and water heater repair place in town. When Denis first took his heater there, they said, "No. We don't fix them things no more." Ok. So, Denis and I went on an adventure to find who could.
We tried Nairobi Rancharan's place. Nope, He doesn't do heaters, only refrigerators and auto A/C units. I've taken my Isuzu there. He thought there was a guy down the street by a vacant lot, and to the left, who did that. On we went.
Turns out after a couple wrong turns, that you had to go through the vacant lot to find this guy. Nope. This heater has electronics in it. He only repairs the kind with a pilot light. He thought there was another shop down by the little park near Memo's Auto Repair (who I've never used). Memo's looks more like a bar than an auto shop, but what do I know? A couple of guys sitting on a bench out front thought that this guy was a little past the park and to the left.
Turns out he was. He was upset that we got there early. He didn't open till 9:00 AM. But, to our benefit, (he was talking to us through his bedroom window), he put on some shorts and came out to talk with us. From the way he talked, he seemed more educated than some. He repaired all sorts of electronics and computers, but not heaters. He even had a website (E & L Electronics) and has a small e-store for parts. Who knew?
When he turned us down, we were at a loss. Denis decided to go back to the first place, with hat in hand and beg them to look at it. So, that's what we did.
|The TV Technician|
Now, keep in mind, this was the same guy who, the day before, had told Denis, that they no longer worked on heaters. It was like that conversation had never occurred.
|Here's the Stereo Lab|
The great end of the story is that the water heater guy called Denis the very next day and told him the heater was ready to go. Turns out the Solenoid had gone bad. Miracles do happen.
Now, on with the main story. Denis and I went up to Lano's Hardware and picked up several lengths of PVC tubing, fittings, glue, brackets and all that sort of stuff. I had also brought along one of the key fittings from the heater, expecting to spend some quality time figuring out how to cobble together something that would join the heater to my ½" PVC tubing.
I showed Vien (Mr. Lan's nephew, who runs the sales counter at the store) the fitting. He took one look at it after I briefly described what I wanted to do, and said, "I know what will work," and quickly disappeared into the back of the store. He returned with two fittings. One, a coupling, slid snugly over the fitting of the heater, and the other, a ¾" to ½" reducer. That was it. A perfect solution. A little epoxy, to ensure that it doesn't separate and we'd be good to go.
I had expected to spend at least an hour rummaging around trying to find something that would solve our problem. Sometimes, things just work out right, you know? Denis and I took our purchases and headed back to Casa Winjama and our project.
|Where the Heater is Going|
|Proposed Track for the Tubing|
|Over the parapet|
|Running Down the Roof|
|The Heater Laid Down|
|Looking the Other Direction|
The solar panel is in shade in the morning till about 8:00 AM. So, the pump doesn't start till then, but that delay allows the water remaining in the tubes to heat up so that when the pump does start, it's moving hot water to the pool.
|The Pump In Place|
I also installed a switch (the old-school looking round thing), in case we need to shut the pump off during the day. I also will be adding a 15-amp fuse to protect the pump motor, just in case.
Final words on the project. Yesterday was its first full day of work. For a couple of weeks now, the pool temperature has been hovering around 79℉, barely able to make it 80℉ during the day. Well, yesterday, the temp was up to 81℉. Not bad for one day's work. We think it will take two to three days to get the temp from 79℉ all the way up to 84℉. Perfect till summer kicks in.
Pardon me. I've got my trunks on, a cold beer, and I'm headed to the warm pool. life is grand!