Note: Some of the information in this article may be outdated. Learn more about modern solar pool heating panels here.
Comparing FAFCO solar pool heating panels to Heliocol is like apples and oranges. Both brands have been around a very long time (FAFCO invented the polymer solar pool heating collector).
I’ll break down the numbers, but make sure you read to the end for important caveats.
In SW Florida, the most popular Heliocol panel seems to be the 4’x10′ HC-38 solar collector. All manufacturers list a nominal size for their panels, and the closest FAFCO panel is also a 4’x10′ collector, however, FAFCO has three different brand options in this size: the Revolution, Sunsaver, and Sunsaver ST (split tube).
The FAFCO Revolution is their top-of-the-line solar panel, and beats competitors when it comes to a key metric, BTU output. The Revolution’s 1,064 BTU per square foot, as rated by the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), leads the industry. That’s easy information to find on FSEC’s website. On a cost and performance basis, the closest FAFCO option to the HC-38 is the Sunsaver ST. FAFCO’s lowest performance option is the Sunsaver ST, which is used primarily on tile roofs.
(Update: FAFCO’s Revolution brand solar panel is no longer manufactured)
But Wait, There’s More To It!
Ratings are only part of the equation. You can’t trust solar pool heater ratings without considering other factors.
Flow rate is extremely important when determining heat output from a solar panel. Up to a point, more flow means more heat overall. Heliocol panels (like iSwim panels), have a very low restriction, and thus more flow. FAFCO panels have the highest restriction on the market, resulting in less flow. On the other hand, the local Heliocol dealer uses 1.5 inch plumbing and the FAFCO dealer uses 2 inch plumbing. While FAFCO panels probably will perform better overall in most systems, that’s not always true.
You can’t look at the ratings in a vacuum. You need to look for the best system, not the best panel.