ASK THE EXPERTS: Replacing a Solar Storage Tank

Intermediate

Our Ford solar water storage tank has rusted and is leaking. What can I replace it with? I want to keep our system operational!

Deb Harden • via homepower.com

Although these Ford tanks likely had a lifetime warranty, that division of the company is no longer in business. Ford quit making tanks—heavy, stone-lined, 66-, 80- or 120-gallon metal-clad units with internal heat exchangers—in the late 1980s, so you probably won’t find one just like it to replace it. Instead, consider a glass-lined Rheem/Rudd tank with an integrated heat exchanger that’s about the size of your present tank—but replace it only if the rest of the system is in good condition.

If other major components in your present system are in poor condition, consider a new system if you have good local, state, or utility incentives to add to the federal 30% solar tax credit. A new installation may be able to use the existing piping system if made of copper tubing—and this should make the system less expensive.

Either way, contact at least two local installers to inspect the system and give you bids for repair or replacement. You can find installers through your local chapter of the Solar Energy Industries Association (seia.org); the American Solar Energy Society (ases.org); or the North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals (nabcep.org).

I’ve replaced a lot of tanks, and it is usually a half to a full day of work for two people depending on many factors—such as access and installation complexity. In a basement, removing a 120-gallon Ford tank can take three or maybe more people to do it safely; a tank swap in a garage is a snap compared to that.

For more details on solar water heating systems, see the many articles at homepower.com/solar-water-heating.

Chuck Marken • Home Power solar water heating editor

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