The sun is there for all – are we missing an opportunity?

The sun is there for all – are we missing an opportunity?


By Rory Macnamara 

Solar equipment is not just selling or buying boxes. Selection is critical and must suit the application.

Our focus here is for domestic hot water storage. Both the engineer and plumber must appreciate the opening sentence as SANS 204 clearly states, *“… a minimum of 50% by volume of the annual average hot water heating requirement shall be provided by means other than electrical resistance heating, including, but not limited to, solar, heat pumps, heat recovery from other systems or processes…”

The article does not get into the vested interests of the Technical Committee/working groups that industry is subject to, but rather what is in place now and must be applied now.

SANS 10400 XA then details the requirements of Hot Water Supply, **“…if solar water heating (SWH) systems are used, these shall comply with SANS 1307, SANS 10106, SANS 10254 and SANS 10252-1.”

The water installation in buildings must comply with SANS 10252-1 and SANS 10254. Let us just look at the standards that apply excluding PV and excluding the electrics of a domestic system if applicable. Furthermore, there are requirements for roofs with the maximum tank on a roof being 250ℓ, but the engineer will design for that. Just avoid dumping a 500ℓ tank on a domestic roof! (Your Personal Liability will not cover the damages!)

The point is, your reference to install a solar systems is not a grubby photocopy of one section of a standard placed on a social media page. (Breach of copyright, by the way, so beware guys!) A plumber must look at the big picture all the time:

The reference to Editions indicates amendments that have been made since its initial entry to the market. When fully reviewed it will reflect another year and so on as with 10106.

We are speaking of domestic here as larger installations requiring an engineer’s input would be a rational design. Such an engineer must be registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) and plumbers must be registered with the professional body for plumbing, the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB).

Nonetheless the reference to 10400 XA and 204 reinforces the plumber’s responsibility to the environment and the correct understanding of the big picture we referred to earlier.

We now move to SANS 10106 for a more detailed approach. Again, it is critical and essential that every plumber has the complete current version. Sure, it costs money, but imagine if your doctor stopped reading and knowing the law that pertains to him. Tell me the same principle does not apply to a plumber who must keep up-to-date with ever-evolving technology. If you are running a business properly, the cost of acquiring such material must be part of your annual budget. IOPSA and PIRB offers webinars, some free, and those that aren’t are in depth and worth the money.

Every standard has normative references which are described as “indispensable.” It is a moot point whether these are listed for information only or whether they are a must.  Indispensable is defined as ‘not subject to being set aside or neglected’ and ‘obligatory’ or finally ‘absolutely necessary’.

The standard describes the requirements to cover preventing damage, manufacturer’s advice shall be followed, the instruction booklet given for in SANS 1397 shall be given to the homeowner/user of the solar water heater and very importantly 4.7 where any provisions of this standard cannot be applied, the installation shall comply with the details given in a rational design…”

Under Assembly the standard states that: The SWH shall comply with SANS 1307.

Control components and drip trays comply with SANS 10254, where water temperature supplied to terminal fittings is higher than the requirements of SANS 10252-1, tempering valves that comply with SANS 1299 shall be used to achieve the requirements of 10252-1.

Under the Operation and maintenance, repair, or replacement these are subject to SANS 1307 and SANS 10254, respectively. The tone throughout is “SAFE and EFFECTIVE” operation, discharge and repairs easily done.

Any non-compliance can be noted on the COC issued by the professional body, PIRB.

As per 10252 all pipes must be insulated according to 10252-1. The standard provides an annexure that indicates the ‘usual freeze areas and resistance to freezing must be in accordance with ASTM E 1056.

The solar collector 5.3

Before installation, a deemed to satisfy or rational design by a competent person must be provided. This section refers to the collector itself, orientation, outlet positioning supports, access to components for maintenance and repair.

***The orientation is critical obviously and this is the solar collectors shall be true north with maximum allowed deviation toward East or West. Annexure A is part of the standard which outlines design considerations and positioning of the collectors.

The Storage Container 5.4

This section looks at the storage capacity, discharge pipes, drip tray positioning, secure fixing of container, conditions that could provide an opportunity for legionella to develop, temperature settings. (It is worth mentioning the importance of understanding that a compliant installation will ensure less chance of legionella’s developing, whereas a non-compliant installation opens the door for this disease to run amok.)

Section 5.5. Safety devices and functional control devices covers pressure control, flow control and safety devices e.g., T&P valves, thermostats, tempering valves, check valves and isolating valves amongst others.

Of vital importance in the standard is Commissioning and testing

Upon completion of the installation of a solar system the following steps shall be taken in commissioning or testing of a solar system (or both):

The remainder of the standard provides drawings showing the different systems which we will not reproduce due to copyright.

Certificate of Compliance (CoC)

Two CoC’s may be required, namely a Plumbing CoC issued by a professional body for plumbing (PIRB), and an electrical CoC if electrical work has been undertaken.


As stated earlier, the problem lies with unqualified and incompetent people designing and installing solar. Another factor is that over or under specifying does not help, so the manufacturer’s instructions must be followed.

The following list are the focus areas for the solar course. Now it seems that there are two courses that a plumber can follow:

  1. The QCTO Occupation one which will take from nine to 12 months to complete and which is far more detailed and intensive.
  2. The CETA Unit Standards based on which takes four days.

(Ed’s comment: This may well count as another reason why solar has earned its bad name. How is it possible that there are two courses and with such a massive time difference to train on the same product/system? My understanding is that QCTO is top of the pile and grants accreditation on training courses to which SETAs must apply.)

Domestic Solar Water Heating Training Course

 Title: Domestic Solar Water Heating Systems Training
 Description and summary:
 1. Understanding Solar Energy as a Source of Heat.
 2. Understanding Water with Reference to Solar Water Heaters.
 3. Tools and Components for Solar Installations.
 4. Understanding Solar Collectors.
 5. Different Types of Solar Systems.
 6. All about the roof.
 7. Preparing for your Installation.
 8. Installing Solar Water Heating Components, Pipes and Fittings.
 9. Maintaining Solar Water Heating Components, Pipes and Fittings.
 10. Fault Finding and Troubleshooting.
 11. Analysis of SANS 1307 and SANS 10106. 
 Provide training to Plumbers, qualifying them to be registered as Designated Solar Installers.
 Provided courtesy of Electrolux - Kwikot


The purpose of this article is to highlight aspects of the standard rather than just reproducing it, which would serve no purpose at all, apart from the fact that it is subject to copyright, but to show the huge responsibility that the plumbing sector has in terms of energy efficiency, application of the 50% alternative required in 10400 XA as well as the remaining standards that crisscross the work of a plumber.

As a professional plumber one must strive to do the best job that results in a satisfied customer and no call backs. It is call backs that eat into or swallow up any profit one made with the first call.

*SANS 204 4.5.2 Hot water services, section
**SANS 10400XA-4 Requirements, 4.1 Hot Water Supply section 4.1.1.(b)
***5.3.5 of SANS 10106

Click here for the latest issue of Plumbing Africa