WATERLOGGED!

As you may remember from last week’s article, I’ve rested up and recovered from all of the “what-not” of the “ber” months. Feeling much better and more active, I went out and tackled some leaky hose bib problems that have plagued us for a while. hammockTalk about feeling proud!  I certainly felt a sense of accomplishment and well-being after replacing those hose bibs completely.

Every day since, I relax knowing that we are now leak free. It should be a while before the “stuff” and “junk” in the water supply wears away the little rubber washer in the valve, starting the leak process all over again. I’m prepared, though. I bought a good supply of those washers – enough to last longer than the repairman! If I was still a Boy Scout, I’m sure that I would have earned my “plumber’s helper” merit badge. “Be Prepared!” – that’s me.

So much for plumbing problems for this year, or so I thought.

WHAT’S THAT SOUND?

So life goes on in our leak-free environment. While it felt good to do a little physical labor, I find that in my “advancing years” I’m a little better at doing things with my head rather than with my hands. Being a CPA and running a tax accounting firm is more my speed. I don’t need a toolbox. All of my tools fit onto a small “thumb drive” that easily inserts into my laptop computer. Lugging my toolbox around cannot even begin to be thought of as a chore. The greatest difficulty in handling my toolbox is making sure I don’t forget it or lose it.

Now that income tax season is starting up, you’ll find me at the keyboard of my computer, entering data here, calculating taxes there, and so on.  Yes, I even take breaks to write articles. (That’s something a plumber can’t do with the best tool in his box!) It’s all cranial, with a little eye-hand coordination tossed in.  Easy, peasy,….

Flowers from WowPhilippines

soundI was distracted from my number-crunching bliss last evening. Pointing and clicking away, I was disturbed by the sound of the well pump running. That’s a normal occurrence here in the evenings. We use well water to water our lawns and plants around the house. The pump ran for a while, then shut off. Water pressure was maintained, and all was right with the world.

“Wait a minute,” I thought, “that pump is running again.” With that thought, another break from work was initiated. Maybe it just seemed to have “cycled” too quickly. When I work on taxes, I truly get focused and ignore everything else around me. Perhaps I just “missed” the time that the pump wasn’t running. Another quick listen, and nothing.  The pump shut off, again. Okay. Moments later, there it was again. I needed to evaluate this.

I listened for about five minutes. In that time, the pump cycled on and off about four times a minute. Now, that’s not right. Not only “not right,” it could lead to a costly adventure at the hardware store. Replacing a pump motor that burned out due to excessive running is an expensive endeavor.

DEJA VU, ALL OVER AGAIN

I’ve lived through this experience before – many times. There’s a problem with the well water system, and the solution will only come with manual labor and plumber’s tools. Having achieved my “merit badge” last week, I was ready, willing and able to take this problem on. “What was the problem?” you may be asking. The problem is a “waterlogged” pressure tank.

pressure“What kind of gibberish are you trying to feed us now?” might be your next words. Well, it’s not gibberish. If anything, it’s jargon. Simply put, it means that there is more water (and, more importantly, less air) inside the pressure tank than there should be.

“But don’t you want that tank filled with water?” some doubters may counter. The answer to that is yes, but up to a point. You want air in there, too. Unless you’re operating on a pure “gravity-fed” water pressure system, you need a little something to push that water out of the tank, through the pipes, and out the faucet or shower head. That something is air.

As water is pumped into the pressure tank and takes up volume, that air inside is compressed into a smaller area, increasing the air pressure. It’s that air pressure that forces the water back out of the pressure tank. If you start off with too much water and too little air, the pressure at which a pressure switch controlling the pump will be reached quickly, and the pump shuts off.

Since the volume of air wasn’t much to begin with, pushing the water out of the tank and the subsequent drop in pressure will occur just as quick. The pressure switch will sense low pressure, turn the pump back on, and the cycle goes on. (See the chart.)

THE SOLUTION

We’re not fortunate enough to have a water pressure tank that employs a bladder (as shown in the chart). If we did, the fix would be simple. Just pump some air into the tank via the air fill valve at the top of the tank. Any method of pumping air works, from an air compressor right down to a bicycle pump. Just pump away until the air pressure is a couple of PSI (pounds-per-square-inch) less than the pressure switch’s cut-on pressure.

airBut, as I said, we’re not so lucky. We have a galvanized tank without bladder. That means totally draining the water from the pressure tank, and letting the outside air get into the tank using the same route(s) that the water took on the way out. You’ll hear gurgling noises – when they stop, you’ll know that air has replaced water to its maximum extent.

Once the entire tank is void of water and full of air – which, by the way, is at the same pressure as your surrounding environment (1 atmosphere) – then the tank can be refilled via the pump and cycled a couple of times to make sure all works well. (Sometimes draining the tank also drains the pump – in which case, you have to “dabble” a little bit to prime the pump once you’re ready to fill the tank.)

I’ve finished my task of “recharging” air into the tank and, once again, I’m feeling good. Time for a gold star on my merit badge. I even passed the “straw boss’s” inspection with flying colors. So, in closing, …

I hear some muttering out there: “So, how did the pressure tank – which is sealed – lose that air to begin with? We think you’re pulling our leg!” The answer to that isn’t complex. Remember that the air inside the tank is compressed. Well, air and water mix pretty well. The built-up pressure in the tank forces the air against the water, causing the two to mix or to aerate the water. Since well water is devoid of air more than surface water , it aerates quite easily. Once aerated, the air escapes with the water when you turn on the faucet.

There you have it. Plumbing and physics, all in one article.  Think I’ll go take a nap.

Post Author: PaulK (202 Posts)

Paul is a CPA and a retired tax accountant, having served companies and corporations of all sizes, as well as individuals, in public accounting practices. Prior to what he refers to as his "real job," he served a 24-year career in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer. It was during this career that he met and married his OFW spouse of 35+ years, Emy, while stationed in London, UK. (Though he pleaded for the assignment, Paul never received orders to the Philippines.) A "Phil-phile" from an early age, Paul remembers his first introduction to the Philippines in the primary grades of a parochial elementary school where, one week each year, children donated their pennies to purchase school supplies, food and other necessities for Filipino children in need. That love for Filipinos continues to this day. Calling Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte--in the far northwestern part of Luzon--home (just about as far away from Davao as one can be while still being on one of the major islands) Paul prefers a more relaxed provincial life style, and willingly shares a different view of the Philippines from "up north"!


Comments

  1. Bill S. says

    Fortunately we use the bladder tanks almost exclusively here, but have noticed an awful lot of systems there just use gravity systems, and have always wondered what kind of water pressure they had at a faucet.

    Just curious Paul, but since it sounds like kind of a pain in the butt to have to drain out all the water in the tank, especially if its a few hundred gallon tank like many are that I have seen there. Any reason why you couldn’t drill a hole at the very top of the tank, and install a tire valve in it, depending on the gauge of the SS, and most likely its not as thick as a wheel, you could use a large flat or fender washer to fill-in for the thinner gauge SS of the tank, between the inner and outer grommets on the valve, then just pump a few psi of air into the tank when the air charge runs low.

    • says

      Hi Bill – With gravity fed water systems, you have to do a little calculation to come up with the water pressure (in PSI):

      - First is determining height – measuring the elevation difference (in feet) between
      - – (A) the lowest level of water in your water tank, and
      - – (B) the highest level of use of the water (e.g., the highest faucet).
      - Second is do the math – [ (A) - (B) ] x 0.433

      Example: (A) – (B) = 70 ft. PSI = 70 x 0.433. PSI = 30.

      The answer will be the available water pressure in PSI. Went through this drill when building the house. If the water tank can’t be placed high enough. a booster pump needs to be put into the line.

      As to your solution – it probably would work just fine. Bur, having an aversion to work, modifying the tank and then pumping the air sure sounds like work to me! :lol:

      • Bill S. says

        Thanks for the formula Paul,what does the constant of of 0.433 represent ? 30 psi. would be fairly good water pressure for just gravity only, but on an average house, one story or two, it seems it would be next to impossible to get a water tank 70ft. high in the air to get that kind of pressure, any way short of sticking it on a tower and creating a quite effective lightning rod. So with a distance of 12′-15′variation more the norm 5-7 psi would be all I would get, so then the pusher pump it sounds would be necessary in most home applications.

        As for the work part, I will need to find something to occupy my time there, or I will go more nuts than I already am. Blogging is of no interest to me, plus with the kind of stuff I just wrote to you about, who would want to read my blogs anyway. Woodwork is what I have done for close to 40 years now, and had hoped to bring a select few machines with me, but the more I read, it sounds like a table saw, jointer, planer and a few others would all be considered as industrial or manufacturing equipment, which it sounds like, are not things I can bring with me, I could easily fill-up a 40′ container with just things I cant bring, but as for the household goods, it would be just as easy to replace most of them with new stuff once we get there, but from my searching here, I have not been able to find one source for anything other than portable power tools, like Makita, Bosch, etc. even looking at websites in Manila, I have not found a place that sells this type of machinery.

        • says

          Hi Bill – That 0.433 is just a constant that has been pared down from a larger equation that, among other things, deals with the conversion of foot-pounds of water, etc. Too d-e-e-p of water for me!

          Over here, the woodworking is all by hand. No fancy big equipment, just hand tools. The better woodworkers use simpler tools – takes time, but the results are really pretty nice.

    • says

      Thanks, Steve. That “constant” sticks in my head from days of trying to figure out how to fabricate a gravity fed water system without a booster pump. Was an impossible task at this location, so went with the well, pump, and pressure tank.

  2. John Heitz says

    Good article and explanation. We have a simple pressure tank at our house and that happens. So every month or so when the tank is low or empty because of brown out or something like that. I just open the drain plug on the bottom of the tank, drain the water, then run the pump again for a few seconds which gets some of the sand and stuff out of the bottom. I do that a few times. Then put the plug back in and fill the tank and then back in business.

    • says

      Hi John – Depending on usage, my system can go anywhere between 6 – 12 months before it’s waterlogged again. Despite that, I (like you) do a periodic draining at 6 months to get rid of sediment and other junk that accumulates at the bottom of the tank. It’s good preventive maintenance – keeps the system from becoming waterlogged, keeps the tank free of sediment build-up, and saves the pump motor from excessive running.

  3. Hudson says

    Paul, I was thinking, If you add an extra valve to isolate the line comming from your pump, then add a TEE with another valve just before it enters the tank, you can keep the pump from loosing its prime. Then all you have to do is shut the valve going to the pump, open the valve comming off the TEE to drain the tank. Just a thought.

    • says

      Hi Hudson – Sounds like work to me! :lol: Yes, I thought about that but more along the lines of that valve coming off the TEE being for air intake. I have a pipe exiting the bottom of the tank for a drain. The time-consuming issue with my process is how long it takes to get air into the tank. I switch the house’s feed from the municipal water line to the tank, open all of the faucets and hose bibs, and use them to get that air moving.

      Trouble is, the lines feeding those faucets and bibs have to drain themselves before air can pass. I’ve learned that I need only open the outside hose bibs as opening faucets in the house and in the dirty kitchen really doesn’t help any.

      The true solution? Let someone else do it! :lol:

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