Homemade Pipe Flare Tool for Solar Collectors


This page details how Kenneth made the riser to manifold joints for his collector absorber plates.



I decided on inch copper risers 6 inches apart with inch pipe headers. I saw a tool on the internet to draw a half inch flange out of a pipe and copied the tool using a Grade-8 fine thread bolt to make it. Grind the bolt into a bell shape with a 5/16 shank then grind it flat on both sides to 5/16 thick ,then cut the slot.



This shows the result of Kenneth's homemade Tee Extracting tool.  The tool "pulls out" what is effectively a
short Tee fitting in the manifold pipe that the riser is inserted into a soldered.


Click on pictures for full size





Here are some additional notes from Ken on the T puller in response to an email question:

Hi, James,

The bolt is a fine thread 1/2 inch, but you could use a 13 mm.

The drive hex I put on the end is for a 11mm wrench.

The "block" can be made with a hard wood (if you use a washer under the nut) by drilling a hole for the 3/4 pipe the lengthways, then drilling a hole for the flare to fit into at a right angle to the first hole about a 1/2 inch past the first hole.  Then drill thru for the J hook threaded end to fit thru finish by cutting off half the 3/4 pipe hole.

To use:

The J hook can be made with a hand grinder and a drill press by grinding the head of a bolt into a bell shape
then grinding the sides off.  Then use a cut off wheel to cut the slot. Use a hard fine thread bolt so that the J hook doesn't bend when used.
Any more questions?

PS, It helps to heat the copper pipe when pulling the tee.


Kenneth W



This Tee Puller is quite a neat gadget, and a good way to make the manifold to riser connections.  But, if you don't feel up to making this tool, there are some other alternatives:

- You can buy a commercial Tee Extractor, but they are kind of pricey -- about $230.


- For collectors up to about 6 ft wide, you can just use half inch copper for both the manifolds and the risers, and connect them using ordinary plumbing half inch Tees, which are cheap.  I've tried this and tested the flow distribution, and its fine.  Just make sure to tilt the collector for good drain back, as the half inch manifold will make the collector a little more sensitive to not draining properly and having freeze problems.  By putting two 6 foot collectors next to each other, you can have a common center feed, and returns on the outside upper corners -- this gives you 12 ft without a lot  of hassle.


- You can buy reducing Tee's that have the straight through pipe at 3/4 inch and the branch pipe as half inch.  Often the local prices for reducing Tee's are quite high, but www.PEXSupply.com has a good price on them.  Be certain when you order that you get the half inch on the perpendicular branch -- the PEX Supply catalog page makes it very easy to order the wrong one.  I used this method on my latest (just finished) collector and it worked fine.


- You can braise the risers into drilled holes in the manifold as Tom did on his collector.
Braising is basically a high temperature form of soldering, and produces stronger joints.  I have tried just soldering half inch copper pipes into a carefully drilled hole in 1 inch copper tubing using ordinary (420F melting temp) solder, and it turned out surprisingly strong -- it may be OK.  It took a 30 lb load applied 6 inches from the riser to manifold joint to fail the solder joint.  If you have or know of a case where just solder has been used on a collector and its been in service for some time, I'd like to hear about it -- gary...


So, lots of methods to choose from -- one of the benefits of having lots of people making collectors and trying new designs :)


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Gary March 22, 2010