To join the expertise of the pool/spa and solar industries, the first standard for solar pool/spa heating systems was published.

The Solar Rating & Certification Corporation (ICC-SRCC) and the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals worked on the ANSI-accredited standard. Called the Solar Pool and Spa Heating System Standard, it is meant, in part, to ensure that the work of manufacturers and on-site installers reinforce each other.

“The solar industry did the solar water heating systems, and the pool industry built the pools, but there wasn’t a lot of overlap between the two,” said Shawn Martin, a director of technical services for the International Code Council (ICC). “In most cases, they are two distinct industries that needed to be brought together to ensure that solar pool heating systems that are installed integrate properly with pools and that they both work effectively.”

While certain states have instituted guidelines and standards for their own incentive programs, and standards have existed for other solar applications, this the first national standard specifically for pool and spa solar heating. It was derived in part by some of those state-produced guidelines, Martin said, including documents from Florida, California and Oregon. “They each had a lot of really good information, but they all differed a little,” Martin said. “So we solicited the involvement of folks from each of the programs.”

The standard addresses manufacturing of the components that comprise solar pool/spa heating systems, as well as their installation, to allow for varying degrees of customization. “Sometimes they’re sold as a complete unit, but other times they’re sold as an engineered system,” Martin says. “You might buy the collector, and then the installer might get the other parts for it off the shelf so that the only time it comes together there is on the job site.”

Parts of the standard are meant to ensure that the solar installation doesn’t compromise any of the components or systems to which they connect. For instance, it states that if a solar system is tied to the pool’s or spa’s circulation system, the installer must make sure it won’t tax the pump or compromise flow for the pool or spa. Other sections say solar panels must be made of materials that will not compromise the water quality or degrade the roof.

Writers also considered safety. The language stipulates that solar systems with independent inlets and outlets must comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. It also specifies the allowable temperature of water exiting the outlets to make sure it doesn’t burn swimmers.

Other sections outline how to properly fasten systems to withstand windstorms, and how to allow for expansion and contraction of the components that occurs with varying temperatures.

“We found that the solar community knew solar very well, and the pool community knew pools and spas very well,” Martin said. “But there were precious few who knew both. This was an opportunity to help the solar community understand pool considerations and applications, and vice versa.”