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Thread: Using pool pump for fire protection

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    Using pool pump for fire protection

    I love this forum. Here's a slightly different kind of pool problem.

    I live in a high risk fire area. Three years ago a fire swept through, and destroyed 32 out of 200 homes in the area. My next door neighbor's house burned to the ground. I was lucky, mine survived with very little damage. After that experience I became very committed to making my house as fireproof as possible.

    One of the things I did was install a 2" sprinkler line on the hillside behind my house. There are 10 sprinklers about 50' down the hillside mounted 6' off the ground. All I have to do is turn a valve, and my 2 hp pool pump starts pumping the water from my pool to the sprinkler line. The system works great. It can dump about 5000 gallons per hour onto the hillside behind my house. I figure if I have to evacuate again, I can turn it on and leave.

    It does have the disadvantage that if the power fails it won't work, but all of our utilities are underground, so I'm not too worried about that. Plus the entire 300' sprinkler line cost me about $300, so I consider it cheap insurance.

    I need to make sure that I'm only drawing water from the deep end drain, and not from the pool vac inlet, or the skimmer (so I can utilize all 22k gallons of water in my pool). I have a valve that controls the amount of suction between the pool vac and the skimmer, so the pool vac inlet is easy to turn off.

    I have a skimmer with two inlets in the bottom. My understanding is one goes to the main drain, and the other goes to the equipment. I believe what I need to do is somehow connect the two skimmer inlets together. Does this sound right?

    I was thinking I could build a little u shaped pipe with some kind of quick disconnect fittings. The problem is the two threaded holes in the bottom of the skimmer are only about an inch apart, so there's not enough room for that.

    Any ideas? Does somebody already make a product to do this? Maybe just a length of flexible pool vac hose would do the trick.
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    You are probably fooling yourself as to what your setup can do. Once the water gets a foot or so below the skimmer, even if the skimmer is plugged or bypassed, the pump will probably lose prime due to the lift required to pull water out of the pool. You can't come close to emptying an inground pool with the pump.
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    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    You should be able to use a diverter in the bottom of the skimmer that will automatically seal off the skimmer and pull only from the main drain when the level gets low in the skimmer. If you can get it to seal well then you should be able to pump most of the water out of the pool that way. Most inground pumps are designed for a suction lift of 8 to 10 feet or more. Depending on the pump you have, and how well you're able to seal any leaks in the suction line, you may be able to get the level of the pool pretty low with your pump.
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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    I have completely emptied my pool with the pump, by pulling from the drains. Just FYI
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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    Quote Originally Posted by Bama Rambler
    You should be able to use a diverter in the bottom of the skimmer that will automatically seal off the skimmer and pull only from the main drain when the level gets low in the skimmer. If you can get it to seal well then you should be able to pump most of the water out of the pool that way. Most inground pumps are designed for a suction lift of 8 to 10 feet or more. Depending on the pump you have, and how well you're able to seal any leaks in the suction line, you may be able to get the level of the pool pretty low with your pump.
    I didn't realize what it was until you mentioned it, but I already have a diverter that I think will work the way you describe. It sits over the two inlets. It has a round, hollow piece that normally floats, but when the water level falls it should connect the two inlets (main drain and equipment) together and seal off the skimmer. I'm going to try sealing the pool's skimmer opening, run the skimmer dry, and see if the pump stays primed.
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    The diverter should have an adjustable gate that moves to cover the hole on the bottom. It allows adjustment as to how much water is taken from the skimer and how much from the main drain Slide it to completely cover the hole and it draws from the bottom drain. Open it all the way and it draws from the skimmer.

    Speaking as a retired Fire Chief, I would make sure I have removed any brush from a large area around the house. There is also a product that you can purchase that can be mixed into a water-gel that can be sprayed on the outside of the house to help protect it before you evacuate. Some searching on the Internet should turn it up.
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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    Quote Originally Posted by chiefwej
    The diverter should have an adjustable gate that moves to cover the hole on the bottom. It allows adjustment as to how much water is taken from the skimer and how much from the main drain Slide it to completely cover the hole and it draws from the bottom drain. Open it all the way and it draws from the skimmer.

    Speaking as a retired Fire Chief, I would make sure I have removed any brush from a large area around the house. There is also a product that you can purchase that can be mixed into a water-gel that can be sprayed on the outside of the house to help protect it before you evacuate. Some searching on the Internet should turn it up.
    Thanks Chief, you're absolutely right. The first 50' of my slope is landscaped with fire resistant red apple ice plant. The sprinkler line is at the bottom of this landscaped area.

    The next 75' of slope is cleared and cut back every year, but there are still dozens of Walnut trees, and lots of bushes. This is what the fire sprinkler line is wetting down.

    When the fire moved through 3 years ago (Freeway Complex fire in So. Cal), everything burned up to the ice plant and then it stopped.

    Like I said, I'm not even sure how useful this is, but at $300 total cost, I decided why not?

    I keep 5 gallons of Barricade Gel on hand for dowsing the back side of my house. I still have a wood patio cover and balcony, but plan on eventually replacing it with a fire resistant material like TimberSil.
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    Quote Originally Posted by chiefwej
    The diverter should have an adjustable gate that moves to cover the hole on the bottom. It allows adjustment as to how much water is taken from the skimer and how much from the main drain Slide it to completely cover the hole and it draws from the bottom drain. Open it all the way and it draws from the skimmer.
    The chief's right about the diverter. And, as an earlier poster said, I, too, have drained my pool almost empty this way (inadvertantly).

    However, this year, when I was trying to drain the pool to a foot or more below the skimmer, it didn't work as well. That's when I used your own idea - a length of flexible pool vac hose hooked into the skimmer suction line, with the vac head sitting on the pool floor near the main drain. Worked like a charm.
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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    I agree with what you've done, I'd do the same if I was in your situation.

    However, I'd get a generator or a gas-powered pump. Even if your utilities are underground, very often they kill the high-voltage lines in a fire area.

    I'd also teach everyone in the family and any trustworthy neighbors how things will work; you may not be home or able to get home if a wild fire breaks out.
    16K freeform gunite with spa; Pentair 4000 DE filter; Century Whisperflow 1 HP; Pentair Minimax heater.
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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    UPDATE: I blocked the water inlet into the skimmer to see if the diverter would work, but it must leak because the pump lost prime in a couple of minutes.

    I ended up making my own u-shaped pipe to connect the two skimmer inlets together. I bought a 12" length of gray, threaded, 2" PVC pipe, cut it in half, and screwed the two pieces into the bottom of the skimmer. Then I took two 90 degree elbows, cut 3/4" off one end of each, and then connected the short ends with a 1" length of pipe. (I had to shorten the elbows because the inlets in the skimmer are only 1" apart). I dry fit the elbow assembly over the pipes in the skimmer. It works great. It's not quite as easy as I would like, but it only takes a couple of minutes to do everything.

    Thanks for the help!
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    I agree with richard, I would simplify things and get a pacer gas pump and plumb it into your sprinkler system. I use them for closing pools and they are very reliable and can do about 9 to 10k gallons an hour. Then you don't have to worry about electrical failure. Also you might want to google some stuff I saw on tv. It was water mixed with a foam that they sprayed on houses and it would insulate the building from neighboring fires; working far better than just water.
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    Re: Using pool pump for fire protection

    on http://www.markurban.com/ there was some plumbing schematics one showed a 2 way valve on the pump outlet going to a standard springler hose cabinent you would see in a public building. Good idea He's the guy who made that "flow reversal valve" Unfortunalty he passed away, there was a small thing about it at the top of the page.
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