Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2005-01-09
  Getting things right
I've been spending a lot of time out in the garage, what with moving the pump down into its new home under the workshop (where hopefully it won't freeze), then having to pump the entire space out when it flooded with water two weeks ago, then trying to run the pump last week on a generator when we were out of power for 40 hours (thanks to several feet of snow), then hooking the heater back up when we got a cold snap and the pressure sensor line froze, and finally this weekend cleaning the last bit up, hooking up new GFI plugs (cause the old ones stopped working when they got wet), and digging a sump hole for the sump pump.

Each time I go out there, to fix things, I keep thinking to myself, when am I going to hook up the TIG & MIG welders. Not anytime soon it seems. Such is life.

One addition I made when redesigning the pump plumbing, was to add a second larger pressure tank along side the original. This is to keep the pump from coming on so much, extending its life and saving some electricity.

Unfortunately I didn't have an gauge to test the air pressure in the tank when I got it (yes a pressure tank for water has air in it as well, that's the part that compresses and allows water to be stored), so I didn't know if it was doing anything at first. I later borrowed one from my dad, and when I was able to let the line pressure drop off to zero (leaving the pump off while the washing machine is going will do that), I took a reading and confirmed that there was plenty of air in there. Forty pounds in fact.

It occurred to me later that maybe this was too much air pressure, since my pump switch turns the pump on at around 20 and off at 35-40. Without going any higher, the pump would never be able to get any water into the new tank, since the pressure of the air was higher. Something wasn't right.

So today, while rewiring and digging, I left the pump unplugged again and ran the pressure out. I also found the directions that came with the tank. They were buried in the corner under some bags of electric parts, because I originally wasn't too worried about reading the manual on a steel tank. I mean, it just sits there, right? But now realizing there might be a little more to it, I checked to see if it had a pressure table, and sure enough it explained that it was pre-pressurized for high pressure systems, but for a lower pressure system, some of the air should be let out.

Ok fine, so I dumped about half the air out of it. The book called for dropping it to twenty pounds, but the other tank was charged at twenty four, and it was taking forever to let the air out, so I got it as low as twenty five and left it at that for now. I kicked on the pump and it ran for a good long time working its way up to twenty five quickly, then charging up the tanks for a while, and finally switching off after hitting thirty six or so.

So after describing to my wife all the other amazing and complicated things I had accomplished this afternoon, I explained that the pressure tank had been adjusted and should be contributing its additional capacity properly to the water supply.

"So it wasn't working before?" my wife asked.
"No, it was set for a higher pressure from the factory. I checked the directions at it needed to be lowered for our system."
"You didn't read the directions when you got it?"
"No."
My wife would of course have read the directions in their entirety and possibly have put together a checklist of steps for installation, as well as a list of items required to complete the job. My wife would never have to a second trip to the hardware store to get the right part (never mind the five trips I had to make to get the right fittings to hookup the gas stove in the bedroom).

But that's not the way a "Guy" does it. Us "Guys" never read the instructions, we don't ask for directions, and we love the phrase, "lets see what happens if we do this instead."

Luckily, even "Guys" are allowed to learn from our mistakes, so over time we become a bit more useful. I've learned that its easier to buy $200 in parts for a $50 job and return anything left-over (or heck, lets just keep it around for the next project, I'm sure we'll find a use for it somewhere). I'm even big enough to admit that my designs aren't always perfect the first time, like having a five foot deep hole with critical mechanical systems in it and no sump pump.

Hey, that gasoline powered industrial pump from the rental company had those four thousand gallons of water out of there in no time.

 
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