Finally we get to the point – installing the pump. This just goes to show you how long a journey it was … at the end of this post there will be an image of joyous water flowing 🙂
However as I write these words we are are at the peak of winter (soon the hardest part of winter will be behind us) and we have no running water due to freezing problems. I will try, in this post, to address what we did, what should have be done and what we will be doing to fix this problem so that hopefully, next winter, water will continue to flow.
What We Did
The pump was installed on the concrete stage set for it in the concrete box. It was bolted down (though we’ve seen been advised that it is enough to place it on the screws without actually bolting it down – it was a pain to close the bolts and a pain to open them when we had to take the pump out for thawing). The pump is bolted to an expansion tank.
A ribbed flexible hose runs from the well, through a mechanical filter to keep debris from going into the pump. The pump outlet drops to the floor where it is hooked up to a 3-way flow junction. One (the only one connected at this point) goes to the main house, another is designed for a future connection of the barn and a third is for a water supply in the field.
What We Did Wrong
This is easier to demonstrate with a diagram.
The frost-depth in our area is 80cm. When we did the digging we went to somewhere between 100cm and 110cm. We thought that would be enough margin – and it was. However it you look at the diagram you will see that the physical characteristics of the pump bring it to way above the required depth for frost protection. The pump itself sits on top of the expansion tank. Its inlet is at its mid-height (the expansion tank and then some) and its outlet comes out on top and reaches even higher then the pump itself. The result is such that water reaches as close as 40cm from the surface … way too high to be protected from frost.
Once frost gets hold in one component of the system it quickly sucks energy out of the entire system and ice spreads throughout. The entire system froze: the pump, the plumbing next to the pump, the entire pipe running from the bottom of the well to the pump (even though the water in the well has not frozen), and some of the pipe (we don’t know how much) leaving towards the house.
What We Should Have Done
We should have taken into account the pump itself. We should have dug deeper (at least another 50cm) so that the pump inlet would be at just above floor level and inline with the passage-hole of the pipe from the well into the concrete box. This would have kept everything below frost depth.
In addition it would have reduced the need for bending the pipes. The less bends and the softer the bends are – the better flow there will be through the pipes.
A similar problem exists in the junction box – the 2nd concrete box (please excuse image quality).
The main supply is split into two flows – one for unfiltered water in the field, the other for indoor use. Indoor water is passed through a filter (for hard-water deposits – not yet to our satisfaction) and then split into three valves – one of which is currently used and goes to the house. Here most of the plumbing is at floor level – so it should be frost resistant (however since the system has been out of use for a couple of weeks it too has frozen). However the filter is installed again way too high – way into the frost depth risk.
Having the filter indoors would have protected it from frost and would have made it easier to maintain – however we would then filters in other future stuctures where the water supply may go.
What We Will Do
I don’t expect that we will be redigging the bottom of the concrete box – as that may destabilize the concrete itself.
The entire well assembly was taken apart. The pump and plumbing attached to it was brought indoors to thaw.They have since been returned to their place and properly insulated with mineral-wool. A sheet of mineral wool covers the entire pump and will be removed in spring to prevent overheating.
Using rags soaked in hot water I’ve managed to defrost at least the beginning of the supply pipe that exits the well assembly. However since water does not flow out of it I am assuming that it is still frozen deeper inside. I don’t know what to do about that.
The long pipe running from the well has been pulled out and is slowly thawing indoors.
The junction box, after it’s thawed out, will also be insulated with mineral-wool – all the plumbing and the filter.
Pump Doesn’t Pressurize
When the pump is unable to pressurize (when its main valve is shut so that it’s isolated from the supply line) there is a very good chance that the problem is with a no-return valve which should be installed at the end of the pipe that is lowered into the well. This valve keeps the water from flowing back into the well (gravity) when the pump is inactive.
We purchased a special set of pipe with a fitted valve – and the valve failed. When it leaks the pump loses its priming (=when it is initially filled with water until the entire pipe down to the water level is filled with water) and cannot pressurize properly.
I would suggest keeping a spare valve at home – this seems to be a relatively common problem (I guess they don’t make valves like they used to).
Finally, we had a problem keeping the pipe running into the well properly oriented and in the water – it got twisted (because it was too long) and floated. So, first thing is to get it to the right length – general wisdom seem to be that it should be ~60cm above the floor of the well.
The anchoring solution came from our neighbor – tried and true Romanian villager know-how.
He first destroyed one of our buckets by drilling holes in it. Then he placed a rock in it. The hose itself is tied to the two sides of the bucket. This way the supply pipe will never touch dirt, will always be immersed in water and will always be properly oriented. How cool is that? 🙂
Great joy came when we finally had water flowing from a pipe near the entry of the house 🙂
Next up is getting the water into the house 🙂