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Safety Matters: Solar Collector Burn Hazards

Solar water heaters are becoming increasingly more popular in both residential buildings and commercial facilities. When the demand for a service rises, so will injuries in installing and maintaining that product. Stay safe during installations and general maintenance calls by understanding the risks of serious burns from solar collectors, especially those connected to a water heating system.

Don’t Get Burnt!

The risk of burns when installing or servicing solar systems is great not only because of the excessive temperatures involved in the process, but because of the high pressures associated with water heating. Be aware that solar collector burns may occur when:

  • Fluid applied to a hot solar system flashes and quickly turns to steam
  • To prevent this hazard, wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes face, eye and hand protection, especially when working in close proximity to the panels.
  • Of course, the safest solution is to avoid situations where fluid comes into contact with heat in the first place. For example, when the panels need to be cleaned after a long period without heavy rain, do not spray them while they are still hot. Wait until early morning or late evening when the modules are cooler—though keep in mind it may take several hours for cooling to occur.
  • Opening relief valves, charging closed circuits and filling storage tanks
  • Steam or hot water may quickly escape in these situations, potentially burning the face or upper body. Practise extreme caution when performing these tasks and always wear the advised PPE.
  • Solar collectors heat the water in the storage tank to temperatures higher than the thermostat setting
  • Though water in the storage tank may seem to be a relatively safe temperature, oftentimes the water in the tank is hotter than the thermostat indicates.
  • The best practice to eliminate the risk of scald injury is to play it safe—always assume the water, or any part of the solar system, is dangerously hot. Wear gloves when you know there is a chance you may come into contact with the storage tank water.
  • You touch the solar collector manifolds
  • It is true that most of the collector can be handled safely with bare hands. However, the collector manifolds are parts that can become intensely hot. Because of this, it is a good idea to wear gloves when conducting any work on the panel.

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The content of this document is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter. The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting legal advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly. © 2007-2013, 2019 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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