Archive for Plumbing

New blog category: plumbing

It felt like I was griping a lot about plumbing here, so I thought I would make it a new category and go back and classify old posts as “plumbing” if they were water related. So far, I’ve found 14 posts on plumbing problems – more than I’ve written about photography :-(.  That’s depressing.

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No water for you!

Yep, it has been a few months since we’ve had major water issues, so we were due. We had water before dinner, but when I went to rinse the dishes, we had no water. It seemed like the pump wasn’t working. I checked the breaker box, the breaker was fine. I went under the house with a multimeter and found that the pump controller was working and was sending power to the pump. So either the power is not reaching the pump, e.g., a root grew through the power line; or more likely, the well pump itself died.

I’ve got a plumber coming out tomorrow – I’m not screwing with the well pump. Now I’ve just got to rearrange my schedule to work from home :-/

Update 3/16 @4:30pm: the water is back on. My checkbook it a good bit lighter, but what do you do? It turned out that the well pump was shot and needed replacing 🙁

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Weekend update

Finished up a lot of little things this weekend. Nothing too terribly exciting:

  • Planted some herbs and covered them with hardware cloth to keep the squirrels out. Basil (lots of basil), thyme and rosemary. I was looking for sage, but couldn’t find any.
  • Fixed the water softener – the backwash drain hose was so old that it was leaking onto the floor every time the water softener ran. Unfortunately, I can’t find where the new hose should connect under the hose, so for now it’s draining into the utility sink.
  • Finished painting the upstairs hall. Back in October/November, K and I pulled off all of the 80’s-style wall paper. It’s been sitting bear for months, but for the past two weekends, I’ve been smoothing out the wall and painting. I’ve got the switch plates back up and it looks pretty nice. K’s already planning where she’ll start taking down wall paper next.
  • I’ve discovered a Heisenberg-like principle of plumbing: you can accurately identify either the source or the effects of a water leak, but not both at the same time. This week, I identified a musty smell and the mold that was causing it. Unfortunately, I could only identify the dishwasher as the source of the water. After running the dishwasher without the sound proofing at the bottom, so I could see the leak, I found that it didn’t seem to be leaking. My new theory is that a small leak, not near the mold, was creating excess humidity due to the heat of the dishwasher that was trapped by the sound proofing – but how to test? It’s like Schrodinger’s Cat.
  • Finally, I realized that my laptop hadn’t updated for DST, which is rather uncool. Poking at it a bit, I found out that yum was bombing out before completing the upgrade. The reason is that I did a ‘yum update’ instead of a ‘yum upgrade’ in order to go from FC5 to FC6. So I had a lot of FC5 packages lying around which then broke dependencies. After doing a bit of manual cleanup, I was able to run ‘yum update’ only to find that I had over 600 MB worth of packages that needed downloading. On the plus side, I went ahead and upgraded to the latest development version of yum which has a lot of the new optimizations. That at least made the 363 packages worth of dependencies saner to check.

Work is also okay. I ran a proposal for a lightweight authentication mechanism by the technical team and nobody found any major holes in it. It’s nice to have your ideas validated by the experts 🙂 . Next week kicks off my month with internal audit. I’m not really looking forward to that one, but then I suppose somebody needs to keep us honest. Besides, anything they tell us can only help get support for the policies we know we need.

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  1. The acid neutralizer has been in place for over a week – no problems yet. That said, I did manage to break a holding clip on my water softener while trying to figure out why there was extra water in it. Not a big deal, new clips are on order and the broken clip holds for now.
  2. Spinach Quesadillas! My standard quesadilla recipe calls for shredded Mexican cheese with a filling stuffed into a folded over tortilla and pan fried. I just tried a new filling: I took frozen spinach, defrosted it in the microwave and squeezed the water out of it. I then took a few table spoons of butter (okay, smart balance) and lightly sauteed some garlic. Then I added the spinach and used the result as the quesidilla filling. Yum!
  3. I’ve got a couple of extra posts coming tonight: sorry for the drive by blogging.

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Tempting fate

So, I’m going to tempt fate here and follow up on a post I made a few weeks ago. Last week, I received the replacement tank for my acid neutralizer. It didn’t look quite like the same tank I had, so I emailed the company. Turns out they had upgraded the tank to the slightly better molded polyglass as opposed to the wrapped resin tank. The big advantage is that the threads are machined, not made by wrapping around a mold.

On Saturday, I installed the tank (see the first picture) and plumbed in a bypass (second picture). I plumbed the tank head backward, like they told me, even through it felt wrong (I need to document that somewhere 🙂 ). So far (knock on wood), it all seems to be working. The tank hasn’t exploded, the water’s pH is up to neutral. I think we may be done!

dsc_0438_m.JPG dsc_0440_m.JPG

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bah! – updated

so Saturday night around 11:30pm, the acid neutralizer I just installed, exploded. Okay, it didn’t really explode, but the top popped off again. Spoke to the customer support, looked around a bit more and it seems that the threads on the tank were stripped. I’ll call tomorrow and see about getting a replacement tank 🙁

Update: I just received a call from the folks that sold me the acid neutralizer (I didn’t even have to call them back). Two interesting things: 1) apparently, the tank head they sent is a down flow head and the system I’ve got is designed to be upflow. Not a big deal, except that I have to reverse the inlet and outlet plumb lines as compared to what’s labeled on the head. Normally they send a note along those lines – this time they didn’t. 2) Given that one of the threads is stripped, they’re going to send me a new tank and an RMA to return the old one.

Believe it or not, even after all of the difficulties, I’m still very happy with the company (CAI Technologies). They seem to sell good products and a reasonable cost (about half what I could find elsewhere). If you ever need specialty plumbing, check ’em out.

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the right tool for the job

Back in September, I was doing a fair amount of plumbing. I installed a water filter, new hot water heater and an acid neutralizer. I never mentioned it, mostly because I couldn’t bear to think about it, but the stupid neutralizer never did work right and I finally just bypassed it in the water line. The problem seemed to be that I couldn’t get the fittings right, so they leaked and filled the neutralizer completely up with water. The instantaneous pressure in the line caused by turning off faucets in the house would then create a huge amount of pressure in the neutralizer and the top would pop off.

Today, I went out and bought a pressure tank to absorb that excess instantaneous pressure. But I couldn’t find my old standby for getting it installed: QEST fittings. Instead, I finally bought the PEX fittings: barbs, rings and the $100 crimping tool. That let me get the 1″ MPT to 3/4″ PEX fitting for the neutralizer instead of the crazy set up I mentioned here.

I’ve got everything connected and so far, so good. There’s even a 3″ head of air in the neutralizer that should limit the effects of any instantaneous pressure that the pressurizer doesn’t take care of. The really nice thing was how easy the crimping tool is to use. The parts are also cheaper and given the amount of plumbing I seem to do, that’s a big help.

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looking on the bright side

Turns out that there is at least one advantage of having constant plumbing problems – you often have the part you need. I had been noticing a leak under the kitchen sink. In checking it out, I found that the nut holding the drain in place was lose. As I tried to tighten it, the nut broke up in my hand.

Resigned to not having one of the dual kitchen sinks, I put a bucket under it and blocked it up. After dinner, we went on our walk and on the way back in, it occurred to me that I had a spare drain segment with a plastic nut. Installed the new nut and no more leak!

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memo to K

Dear K,

In the 13 years that we’ve been married, there has been one constant in our life – plumbing problems. Last night’s 3am catastrophic water heater failure coupled with the emergency reinstallation I had to perform this morning was the final straw. This memo is to inform you that if we ever buy another house, it is my intention to find a structure without indoor plumbing.

I recognize that this may limit our choices and may not be preferable from your perspective, however, after 13 years of water troubles, I see no alternative.

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i’m still here – sort of

Not much blogging over the past week. Mostly because I’m still dealing with slight water issues 🙁

After I hooked up the pH neutralizer, I found that it leaked. I had a 1 drip per 5 second leak where I connected the QEST gray connectors to the neutralizer. I tried tightening it. That didn’t work. I shut off the water in order to re-tape it and disaster. When I turned off the water, the transient increase in preasure blew a seal on the neutralizer. Not happy. How the heck do you return something w/ 150# of rock in it.

Called up the company, they told me that the seal on top was actually just an O-ring and that the top valve screwed down onto the O-ring. Apparently, the top valve was screwed on too tight and the slight increase in preasure caused it to unseat itself. No big deal, just screw it back down.

After that, I’ve been shutting off the well pump first, draining a bit of water from the lines and then cutting off the water. But I still had the leak. I tried more teflon tape. No luck. I tried even MORE teflon tape – still no luck. I even tried plumbers putty – that was even worse. Finally, I called the company and they said that you can’t connect the 1″ male threads on QEST connectors – they aren’t MPT (standard male pipe thread).

img_1967_m.jpgWent back to the store today, found a bushing that’ll take 1″ female pipe thread and drop it to 3/4″ pipe thread. Then I used 3/4″ MPT to copper compression fittings. A short piece of copper pipe, then the QEST connector to connect to PEX plastic pipe. The first one worked, but when I went to do the 2nd, I found that I had the wrong sized bushing! Some idiot (not me) put the wong bushing in the 1″->3/4″ spot. Another idiot (me) didn’t check first. went back, bought the right sized bushing and I’m in business. I’m sure there’s a better way, but it does work.

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