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Thread: Untangling the Equipment

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    Question Untangling the Equipment

    I've got a pool and am taking ownership of it, rather than having a Pool Guy do it. Yay!

    I have a pool shed full of plumbing and equipment, and only a vague grasp of what it is and what to do with it. Any information you can add or processes you can share on how things should be done would be very much appreciated!

    Here's a picture of the equipment shed. It has doors, lights, and a roof and isn't just outside. That's nice, isn't it?


    (Clicking the picture will take you to Flickr, where you can zoom and get the huge original photo, if you want more detail.)

    Here's what I know:

    Electrical boxes:

    The black box at the topmost is the controller for the solar heating on the roof. It has power and works. It has a couple of thermostats and operates the leftmost of the three valves to turn the solar on and off as appropriate.

    There are two grey boxes below and slightly to the right of the solar controller. One is a timer for the Polaris pump, the other the timer for the filtration pump. They're simple electric motor times with triggers on them, and they both work. I know which is which and how to set them.

    Below and slightly to the left of the solar controller, in a black box is an older electric timer which I have no idea what does. It's turned off.

    Below the two pump timers is another black box, with another timer that I have no idea what it does. It's turned off.

    The white box below and slightly to the right of the pump timers is a 110v timer. It controls the outlet below it which has nothing plugged into it. Maybe it was the Christmas lights or something. It doesn't do anything now.

    The beige box on the left, at about the level of the bottom of the pump timers is a pair of switches. They look like ordinary light switches behind an outdoor cover. I think they control the pumps; I'm not sure if they're before or after the timer. Hopefully after, so you can force the pumps off and work in safety. I'll find out, that's straightforward.

    Plumbing:

    The two black pipes that run straight up the wall go to and from the solar heating panels on the roof. I've had the leaks in those repaired and they work; they're in use and we have warmer pool water because of it. Yay!

    There are three valves at the end of those pipes. The leftmost one is controlled by the solar controller to open or close the solar. The other two are manual values to shut off the input and output of the solar as needed. Closing both of the manual valves and switching the solar controller to "off" disables the solar heating.

    Only barely visible in this picture, behind the rightmost of the solar valves is an ordinary hose valve. I believe this is used to drain and winterize the solar system. There's another like it on the far side of the peak of the roof. Opening both should allow the whole system to drain via gravity. (Or make a huge mess if you don't close the valves, and pour pool water out my roof. Entertaining but stupid.)

    The big black dome on the right is probably familiar to several of you; it's a Sta-Rite System 3 cartridge filter. The pressure gauge is on top and does work; the system was off when I took this picture. You can't see it in this picture (look here if you really want to) but the drain from the filter is plumbed.

    To the left of the filter are two pumps. The central one is the main filtration pump. It's a old single 3hp motor (information plate, if you want to see) and it's noisy. It works well, though.

    The rightmost pump is a booster pump, also old (dated April of 1995) and noisy which runs the Polaris pool cleaner. The cleaner drags around slowly when the main pump runs, but this booster makes it really fly about, occasionally breaking the surface and flinging water about. It's funny.

    There's also a couple of what I now know to be Jandy back-fill valves.

    Operation:

    I know how to set the timers, and how to start and stop the pumps.

    I've seen a YouTube video on how to clean the filter. (You can see there's a little moisture; the filter drips a bit.) It doesn't look hard.

    Open Questions:

    I don't know how to drain the pool if I need to. How is that done?

    I don't know how to use the main drain; everything appears to come from the skimmer, and I don't see a valve. How do I use the main drain?

    When the main pump runs, there's a tremendous wash of water in the clear cap of the pump basket; it isn't full, but looks like a waterfall. Is that normal?

    The filter drips. Is that likely to need a new o-ring, or will a little of the spray silicone sort it out?

    What have I missed?

    What other maintenance is needed that I haven't figured out?
    18,000 gallon in-ground gunite pool, built circa 1965
    single speed pump and booster (old, probably mid-1990's), driving System 3 cartridge filter, old Polaris crawler, and rooftop solar.
    TF-100 test kit.

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    Mod Squad zea3's Avatar
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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    It is interesting that there is no shut off valve going into the main pump, just a backflow valve to prevent the pump from draining back into the pool when it is off. Since I can only see one line going into the pump that means the skimmer and main drain are plumbed together, or the main drain has been sealed and you are only pulling water from the skimmer. What does the skimmer under the basket look like? One opening or two? Anything that looks like a "flying saucer" down in there?

    Your pumps should always be filled with water with no visible air pockets. Your main pump is too low either due to a partial blockage in the line or a substantial air leak on the suction side. You can test for a leak by drizzling a little water over every joint in the exposed pipe leading into the pump. Watch for water being pulled into the pipe joint. That will be an air leak. Since you have no shut off valve to the pump, turn off the pump and use a winter plug or a tennis ball to close off the opening in the bottom of the skimmer. Then take the top off of the pump strainer basket. Inspect the o-ring on the lid for swelling and cracks and lube it well with silicone pool lube. Replace the o-ring if it is worn. Fill the pump with water and put the lid back on tight. Also make sure the drain plug on the pump strainer pot is snug. Unblock the skimmer opening and turn on the pump. The pump will fill completely within a few minutes with no air pockets if you have found the source of the air leak.

    What part of the filter is dripping?
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  3. Back To Top    #3

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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    Fascinating information about the pump. I'll have to see what I can find out.

    The skimmer looks like this:


    (Again, click to go to Flickr, where you can zoom if needed.)

    The blue opening at the bottom is the output to the filter. The vacuum hose fits there.

    The white flap above it does look like it covers another hole. Not sure if that goes anywhere. I'll get a screwdriver and check tomorrow.

    It is possible that the main drain had a separate line which has been lost. The pump equipment was moved from one location to another, and if they just ignored it or capped it, it would go nowhere. I don't know where it was, so can't check there.

    The filter is dripping around the seal where it opens. There's a lot of calcium build-up all over it, so I suspect it's had a slow seep for a while. The photo showing the filter's plumbed outlet shows it clearly. I don't know if it was sealed with the silicone pool lube when it was cleaned, and I have no idea when the o-ring was last changed. It was new in 1995... that's the last I know, and only by inference.
    18,000 gallon in-ground gunite pool, built circa 1965
    single speed pump and booster (old, probably mid-1990's), driving System 3 cartridge filter, old Polaris crawler, and rooftop solar.
    TF-100 test kit.

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    Divin Dave's Avatar
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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    I will bet money the main drain is plumbed into the skimmer, under that flap. Open the flap if you want water to pull from the main drain.

    I have a tendency to agree with you, the light switches are probably to cut power to the pumps. Wont hurt to try them and see.

    Regarding the pump flowing into the basket. In addition to what Zea said, turn on the pump, then go look in the skimmer. If there is a voretex in the skimmer, then your water level in the pool is too low. (a 3 HP pump is a big pump and pulls a lot of water. It will vortex on you quick if the water gets a bit low).

    As for the unused timer, if you have a pool light, that timer might be what controls it ?

    As for draining the pool. It's seldom you need to completely drain it. But if you do, a sumbersible pump is the way to go for doing that. They are pretty reasonable to rent at Home Improvement stores and equipment rental stores.

    If you were to use your pool equipment to do a parital drain, the most likely way of being successful of doing that is to vacuum to waste. You would need to plug all of your returns in order for that to drain below them, and make sure your vacuum hose going into the skimmer is tight tight tight and doesnt let in air.
    Divin Dave,
    IG Vinyl, 15' x 30', 3 1/2' - 6' deep, Oval, ~15K gal, Intelliclor IC40, Intelliflo VS pump, Clean and Clear 420 Filter, auto-fill-disabled, Retrofit LED Color Light, Dolphin Nautilus Robot, TF100 Test Kit, Taylor K1766 Salt Test Kit, Tftestkit Pressure Gauge.
    www.tftestkits.net Experience- it's what's learned just after you needed it most !!

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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    We share a bit of the same equipment and I'm with Dave on the MD being plumbed to the skimmer and then the skimmer back to the pump. Mine was done that way (read about my Fake Main Drain...I wonder if Apache Pools built your pool as well? LOL ).

    I recently gutted my pool (and backyard) and redid just about everything including the pool equipment area. Since you're local, I'd be happy to help you out and/or show you my equipment arrangement. Everybody seems to have things done just a bit differently...always an education.

    Do you know what kind of solar hearing you have on your roof? Fafco, perhaps? Heliocol?
    ----Chris----
    25k IG/Spa Figure 8, 18x36, Pebble Sheen Blue Granite, Sta-Rite S8M150 Cartridge Filter, Pentair 460805 400k BTU Heater & 011018 IntelliFlo VarSpd
    Liquidator, Fafco Solar Heat, Polaris PB460 Booster Pump w/280 cleaner, Katchaleaf Cover, TF100 Test Kit, FAKE MAIN DRAIN

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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    Quote Originally Posted by Divin Dave View Post
    I will bet money the main drain is plumbed into the skimmer, under that flap. Open the flap if you want water to pull from the main drain.

    I have a tendency to agree with you, the light switches are probably to cut power to the pumps. Wont hurt to try them and see.

    Regarding the pump flowing into the basket. In addition to what Zea said, turn on the pump, then go look in the skimmer. If there is a voretex in the skimmer, then your water level in the pool is too low. (a 3 HP pump is a big pump and pulls a lot of water. It will vortex on you quick if the water gets a bit low).

    As for the unused timer, if you have a pool light, that timer might be what controls it ?

    As for draining the pool. It's seldom you need to completely drain it. But if you do, a sumbersible pump is the way to go for doing that. They are pretty reasonable to rent at Home Improvement stores and equipment rental stores.

    If you were to use your pool equipment to do a parital drain, the most likely way of being successful of doing that is to vacuum to waste. You would need to plug all of your returns in order for that to drain below them, and make sure your vacuum hose going into the skimmer is tight tight tight and doesnt let in air.
    I'll give the flap a little exploration this weekend. Hopefully it is the main drain.

    I've seen the vortex in the skimmer - and you're right, the big pump will create a heck of one. I'm keeping the pool high enough to prevent it.

    There's a single light switch for the pool light. It's in a stupid place, but it's just a switch. We did have a set of sprinklers we didn't know we had come on at 4:00am on Saturday night, so maybe one of those timers is those and I accidentally started it. I'll try the two on the wall - if they are kill switches for the pumps they'll be pretty obvious.

    Plugging my returns will be a challenge, as they're just holes in the side of the pool. No threads or anything. No way to direct them. A submersible pump will be the easiest if I have to do the whole thing. I hope not to this year.

    Quote Originally Posted by Agent99 View Post
    We share a bit of the same equipment and I'm with Dave on the MD being plumbed to the skimmer and then the skimmer back to the pump. Mine was done that way (read about my Fake Main Drain...I wonder if Apache Pools built your pool as well? LOL ).

    I recently gutted my pool (and backyard) and redid just about everything including the pool equipment area. Since you're local, I'd be happy to help you out and/or show you my equipment arrangement. Everybody seems to have things done just a bit differently...always an education.

    Do you know what kind of solar hearing you have on your roof? Fafco, perhaps? Heliocol?
    I saw your Fake Main Drain thread and had noticed you're in San Jose. I hoped my pool wasn't done the same way when I saw that! Mine's a little older and I have no idea who the builder was. Haven't found a name anywhere.

    I will fiddle with it this weekend. If there's a plumbed opening under the skimmer flap, I think I'll hook my vacuum hose to it and see if I can get air out the main drain. Either that or just open it and see if someone in the pool can feel water moving - that'll be hard, as it's on the bottom. Bubbles would be easy to see, and it should refill with water as it's entirely below the water level.

    I also plan on cleaning the filter this weekend. I want to find some of the silicone pool spray, and maybe even make sure the local pool store has the 21" o-ring on hand in case the one in there is toast. I'd like to stop that little drip, and if all it takes is a new o-ring and some sealant I'll be pleased.

    I do not know the manufacturer of the solar panels. I climbed up and looked, and they're entirely unmarked. They don't have the Heliocol twist in the middle. I just had one of the panels replaced - I should have asked what they used. They didn't have any trouble doing it or getting parts, so it's probably a common one.
    18,000 gallon in-ground gunite pool, built circa 1965
    single speed pump and booster (old, probably mid-1990's), driving System 3 cartridge filter, old Polaris crawler, and rooftop solar.
    TF-100 test kit.

  7. Back To Top    #7
    Agent99's Avatar
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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    Quote Originally Posted by Lou Erickson View Post
    I saw your Fake Main Drain thread and had noticed you're in San Jose. I hoped my pool wasn't done the same way when I saw that! Mine's a little older and I have no idea who the builder was. Haven't found a name anywhere.

    I will fiddle with it this weekend. If there's a plumbed opening under the skimmer flap, I think I'll hook my vacuum hose to it and see if I can get air out the main drain. Either that or just open it and see if someone in the pool can feel water moving - that'll be hard, as it's on the bottom. Bubbles would be easy to see, and it should refill with water as it's entirely below the water level.

    I also plan on cleaning the filter this weekend. I want to find some of the silicone pool spray, and maybe even make sure the local pool store has the 21" o-ring on hand in case the one in there is toast. I'd like to stop that little drip, and if all it takes is a new o-ring and some sealant I'll be pleased.

    I do not know the manufacturer of the solar panels. I climbed up and looked, and they're entirely unmarked. They don't have the Heliocol twist in the middle. I just had one of the panels replaced - I should have asked what they used. They didn't have any trouble doing it or getting parts, so it's probably a common one.
    I hope your MD is in good shape! If you see stuff accumulating down there, then either the suction on it is quite low or it has been shut down for whatever reason. Running on skimmer suction only is no big deal, however. My pool is just fine without the MD.

    If you have a drip from your filter, try tightening the 8 (you should have 7 or 8 clamps) clamps when the pump is off and see if that takes care of it. In fact, each day after the pump is off, try tightening those clamps. The constant pressure/depressure of the system can loosen them over time. That o-ring on there is pretty tough and should last a long time but they don't last forever. Leslie's might have them on hand. When I reinstalled all my stuff, I replaced every single o-ring on the filter to give it a fresh start but I did order everything online. Most online places have a nice blow-up of the filter to make it easy to know what you're ordering. Do you know WHICH Sta-Rite cartridge filter you have? There are only 4 models as far as I know: S7M120, S7M400, S8M150, or S8M500.

    I actually found a crack under the filter near the bottom threaded plug and filled it with epoxy on both the inside and outside. So far so good on that repair holding up.

    Yeah, Fafco and Heliocol are pretty common. I have the Fafco panels on my roof; they've been up there since 2005 and work wonderfully to warm up the pool although I did have a couple leaks and so had two of the lines plugged on two separate panels. No biggie.
    ----Chris----
    25k IG/Spa Figure 8, 18x36, Pebble Sheen Blue Granite, Sta-Rite S8M150 Cartridge Filter, Pentair 460805 400k BTU Heater & 011018 IntelliFlo VarSpd
    Liquidator, Fafco Solar Heat, Polaris PB460 Booster Pump w/280 cleaner, Katchaleaf Cover, TF100 Test Kit, FAKE MAIN DRAIN

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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    This was a busy weekend, so both the filter and the MD got left alone. I want to have some silicone on hand to put on the filter's o-ring before I open it, and that means a trip to a Pool Store - unless silicone grease as used in plumbing will work. I have some of that handy. (For fountain pens, of all things, where a little goes a LONG way.)

    I've also discovered a bunch of dirt on the bottom of the pool. Apparently, my Polaris has been working really well, because two days after it stopped there's a bunch of crud down there.

    I don't know how to tell what model of Polaris I have. It doesn't have a date or a model number. It is blue on top, white on the bottom, and has three wheels. They all look about like that, don't they? This one notes one patent number, that it's from Polairs Pool Systems, and tells you to call them at 800-VAC-SWEEP. It's old enough there's no URL. It also notes that it's unique shape is a trademark.

    The hose from the pressure outlet on the side of the pool runs along - leaking a little at several points - to a slightly pear-shaped jet in the hose about four feet from the sweeper itself. That pear-shaped thing has cracked badly, and all the pressure escapes there.

    How do I get the thing out of the pool? The Pool Store says they have parts, and they probably do. I suspect a new hose and whatever this jet is would set it right, and that's probably less expensive than a new one or a shiny robot. (The shiny robot would remove the need for the booster pump, though.)
    18,000 gallon in-ground gunite pool, built circa 1965
    single speed pump and booster (old, probably mid-1990's), driving System 3 cartridge filter, old Polaris crawler, and rooftop solar.
    TF-100 test kit.

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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    Looking at YouTube suggests the pear-shaped thing is the reverse valve. It's cracked. The little things in the middle of the hoses are swivels. Some of them leak. And the floats don't seem to any more. So maybe it is definitely new hose time.

    A picture on the Internet led to an article describing how to identify your Polaris. I have serial number K508118, which is apparently a Polaris 380. The bag attachment shown on that page (2 1/2" diameter, square clips) looks like mine, too. So yay, parts are available! It also looks like I can get just the case for the reverse valve; is that worth the hassle?

    I haven't figured out how the wall fitting works, or if this one is okay.

    Oh! I did try the two switches on the pool room wall - they are power switches for the pumps, so I can make sure they're off before I do anything to them. That's good!
    18,000 gallon in-ground gunite pool, built circa 1965
    single speed pump and booster (old, probably mid-1990's), driving System 3 cartridge filter, old Polaris crawler, and rooftop solar.
    TF-100 test kit.

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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    I opened the flap in the skimmer, and it looks like there's plumbing there, but I can't see any evidence that it's actually causing any suction at the main drain. Hmm. Not sure how to tell if it's working.
    18,000 gallon in-ground gunite pool, built circa 1965
    single speed pump and booster (old, probably mid-1990's), driving System 3 cartridge filter, old Polaris crawler, and rooftop solar.
    TF-100 test kit.

  11. Back To Top    #11
    Agent99's Avatar
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    Re: Untangling the Equipment

    I would just get a brand new hose and reverse valve for your 380. I have a 280 and I've rebuilt mine a few times over the years and just recently got a brand new feeder hose (complete with all new floats and swivels and such). I also put a new tail sweep on it. It works like new and really does do a nice job. You might look into rebuild kits for your Polaris and pick one up to have on hand. It may well need it one day.

    The connection on your pool wall for this cleaner is simple enough: just untiwist it to remove it and it should come right out. It is not threaded into the pool wall as there is a separate fitting that does screw into the fitting that is embedded in your pool wall (1/5" NPT threads). It does contain a pressure-release valve (large black circular dot/dome on the bottom) and if that leaks, you'll want to replace the whole thing. It also likely has either a blue or red disc that serves to adjust the water pressure the cleaner sees. You're suppose to time the number of wheel revolutions in one minute (somewhere between 28-32 for my 280...dunno about the 380) and if too high or too low, you change out the disc or remove it completely.

    There are two ways to tell if your MD is working:

    (1) Debris around it doesn't last and/or
    (2) Block the skimmer suction: lower the pool water [not recommended] or block the flow of water into the skimmer [jam something into the opening] and see if water continues being sucked through the bottom of the skimmer.

    You could try shoving a hose or electrician's tape or plumber's snake and see how far in it goes. It may stop quite suddenly or it might make it all the way to the MD.
    ----Chris----
    25k IG/Spa Figure 8, 18x36, Pebble Sheen Blue Granite, Sta-Rite S8M150 Cartridge Filter, Pentair 460805 400k BTU Heater & 011018 IntelliFlo VarSpd
    Liquidator, Fafco Solar Heat, Polaris PB460 Booster Pump w/280 cleaner, Katchaleaf Cover, TF100 Test Kit, FAKE MAIN DRAIN

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