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Thread: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

  1. Back To Top    #1

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    Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    We have an installed vacuum cleaner line that connects up with the main filter pump's vacuum manifold via two Jandy 3-way valves (at the top is pool vs. spa, and on the pool side of this a second 3-way controls between skimmer vs. cleaner line). It would appear that there seems to be a problem with the cleaner line. We have a Zodiac MX8 that has worked pretty well in the past, but I just can't seem to get enough suction out of the line these days to keep the cleaner moving properly. We've gotten a huge amount of debris in the pool over the last month or so, and this seems to have diminished its functionality. When the MX8 is plumbed in the skimmer's suction line, the MX8 works great, but we only have one skimmer and I don't want to block its function. Further, I'd really prefer to not have to manually install the MX8 every day to switch between cleaner and skimmer function. The dedicated cleaner line should be the way to go.

    I think the cleaner line is not functioning properly and I'm wondering if it might be clogged or broken somewhere under ground. It starts at a 2" PVC line just below a large rock waterfall, and the rest of the line is burried, including some parts where it is under a concrete deck. Here's what I've done so far: After removing the MX8 line, I tried a 1-2" DrainKing where I placed the DrainKing inside the vacuum manifold via the pump intake (with valves set to open the cleaner line flow). I was able to place the DrainKing into the vacuum line by taking off the strainer basket lid on the pump and routing the DrainKing into the vacuum line to the pump inlet. I could not do this from the opposite end because the cleaner line starts off with a 90 degree elbow at its input side under the waterfall. I ran water through a large hose (we have pretty high water pressure), and this did lead to water flow from the cleaner line input. However, it was much less than I would have expected. No water flowed back into the pump's strainer pot, so the DrainKing seemed to seal that part of the line as expected. I did notice smaller debris coming out of the cleaner line's input, and this continued for several minutes, but no huge clogs were noted. I observed some air bubbles coming out as well. To try to increase turbulence in the line to attempt to eject a potential clog, I would place my hand over the input near the waterfall to block the water. This would lead to a buildup of pressure and then I would move my hand away. I did this for several minutes. I noticed that when I did this, many air bubbles would come out, indicating that there is air in the line. Given that I could completely stop the flow and then it would build up pressure, this definitely confirmed that there is air in the cleaner line since air, unlike water, is compressible.

    So at this point, I really can't tell if there is a clog, a breach in the line somewhere, or both. Like I said, there has been a large amount of leaves and stems in the pool over the last month. When I turn on the pump and route it completely to the cleaner line, the pump fills with air and loses prime. I can adjust the vacuum using the skimmer vs. cleaner 3-way valve so that the pump maintains prime, but to get enough flow through the cleaner line for the MX8 to function, a bunch of air from the cleaner line gets into the pump and makes it noisy and reduces its pressure.

    So, is there a way to test if the cleaner line has a leak somewhere? After trying the DrainKing for about 45 minutes of back flow through the cleaner line, it still seems to be clogged. Is there another approach to unclogging the line? BTW, if it came down to having the cleaner line redone, I would probably just go out and purchase a robotic cleaner, as I think this would be a cheaper way to go. While the cleaner line seems to be problematic, it does not appear to be leaking since the pool has maintained its water.

    Sorry for the long post, but I'm at wit's end trying to figure this out.
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    Your line is likely clogged, and it is a tough one.

    -You mentioned that you can feel the pressure building behind your hand when you seal the line at the pool wall, which would usually indicate that the line is sealed, and not losing pressure.
    Determining whether the line is intact and sealed is usually difficult for a homeowner to do, unless you are an engineer. If so, isolate the pipe, seal it, and put compressed air into the pipe, and watch for a pressure drop.

    You could try using the Drain King with a snake, but be very careful. Metal drain snakes can crack a PVC line if the clog is tough enough.

    Also, I love to go into the Jandy valve by the pump.
    Take the 8 screws off of the lid, remove the lid and innards completely, and run your Drain King into the pipe. You are losing some pressure from the valve allowing a little bit of pressure into your skimmer & MD lines, admittedly not a lot of pressure, but worth a try.

    I would drop the Drain King into the line directly, via the valve, and then replicate your procedure of sealing the pipe at the wall with your hand, until you can't hold it on anymore, and then pull it off suddenly. This creates a great deal of pressure on the clog. If you try that for awhile and still get no improvement, time to call a professional.

    We run a thing called a "bazooka" which is a 6-8" PVC pipe, 5' tall. It has a ball valve on the bottom for an instant open, and has a hose bib with a pressure gauge on top. After filling the bazooka with water pressure, hit the ball valve in one motion, and it will hit the clog with a lot more force than the Drain King.

    But I would not be worried about a cracked line, the debris coming out indicates that we are keeping debris in the pipe (clog) and the lack of water loss from the pool indicates the line is not broken.
    Also, the timing would be too good that as the pool gets full of debris, we also crack a pipe.

    Good Luck!
    -B.
    18,000 gallon in ground, plaster
    340 sq ft cartridge filter
    Jandy variable-speed 2 HP pump
    completed 6/29/12

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    How many suction sources are open when you are running the MX-8 through the suction line?

    When the suction line was run, was it done with a single piece of flexible tubing to sections of rigid pipe?

    Scott
    Owner of - PoolGuyNJ LLC
    Expert Pool and Spa Repairs, Renovations, and Augmentation. Helping people decide what is the right gear for meeting their needs. Expectations Set, Expectations Met, No Surprises.

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    B:

    Thanks for the quick response. I think you are probably right that the line does not have a leak, at least not a very large one. It surely does have plenty of air in it and I'm not sure how to eliminate that, especially while it has a clog in it. I know that the line itself is higher in some places than the vacuum manifold at the pump, so getting the air out of the line might be tricky. In any event, Home Depot sells a drain cleaner that uses pressure to unclog drain pipes and says it does so with water, so that's a possible way to go.

    BTW, I think my main drain is also clogged because I tried to use the DrainKing in the equalizer port at the bottom of my skimmer, and that did not work. It ended up causing the DrainKing to explode, as it didn't fit very far into the pipe and probably blew up like a balloon! I'll have to try another one, or maybe a snake.

    Thanks again for the tips.

    Craig
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    Scott:

    With regard to the number of open vacuum draws, there are three potential sources, skimmer, cleaner line and spa. I typically leave the spa drain closed during normal running (e.g. "pool mode"), and at the pump's higher speed it uses for skimming for 3hr each day, the suction is split between the skimmer and the vacuum. Note that at this speed, if I completely shut off the suction to the skimmer and the spa, the cleaner line cannot keep up and the pump fills with air and loses prime. I experimented with this a bit yesterday by running lower speeds. For example, at speed 2 (1750) on the Intelliflo, the strainer pot stays filled with water even if it is only pulling from the cleaner line. If I put it on speed 3 (2250), it first remains full of water, but soon starts to enter a slow oscillation where the pump fills with water (and develops stronger prime) and then loses water (and loses prime). So, the maximum flow in the line is somewhere between speed 2 and speed 4, whatever that might be.

    From what I can see, the vacuum line appears to be entirely made up of 2" white PVC. There are no observable segments that are flexible. BTW, both the spa drain and the skimmer are comparable runs to the pump in terms of length and pipe diameter. Neither of these stall the pump, even when run at full bore (3450 rpm), so I really do think this is a clogging issue. I spent more time yesterday (and another Drain King) trying to clean out the line again to no avail. I simply cannot get a snake into the pipes because they are plumbed with standard 90 degree elbows and these just don't want to work with a snake. There must be a better way!
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    So I came up with a solution to this problem. Considering that a pool pump is much better at making pressure than pulling a vacuum, I ended up plumbing a reverse flow circuit to backflush my cleaner line. If I had space, I would have done this between the pump inlet and the vacuum manifold. But, I didn't have space.

    Here's what I did. Our setup includes a separate 2.0 HP WhisperFlo pump that runs the waterfall. It has its own inlets in the pool wall and then returns the water via the waterfall. I plumbed the outlet of this to the suction side of the cleaner line near the vacuum manifold using two ball valves, one controlling the flow to the waterfall and one controlling the reverse flow to the cleaner line. As I was doing the plumbing, I did notice a bunch of junk near the Jandy valve (encircled because it is hidden) that switches between skimmer cleaner line. So I cleaned out some of that junk and snaked the other side. This removed some of the junk. The filter pump was off. I then turned the hidden Jandy valve to block off the cleaner line, and the ball valve to the waterfall open and the ball valve to the cleaner line closed. I turned on the waterfall pump to make sure it worked, and the waterfall worked as usual. I then turned open the cleaner line ball valve, and slowly closed off the ball valve to the waterfall return. I ended up running the water back through the cleaner line and I was amazed at the volume of water exiting the cleaner line input (where the vacuum line to the MX8 normally fits).

    See the picture...

    [attachment=0:1dkm5xzk]PoolPlumbingLabeledSmall.jpg[/attachment:1dkm5xzk]

    After running the system in this way for about 20 minutes, I turned the ball valves to completely route water to the waterfall, and shut off the waterfall pump. I then ran the main filter pump and slowly turned the hidden Jandy valve to orient suction to the cleaner line. This seemed a bit sluggish still until about a minute in and a big ball of leaves flew into the filter pump's strainer pot! After this, I opened the hidden Jandy valve so that all of the flow was coming from the cleaner line, and it worked like a charm. No more flow problems.

    This idea may seem a bit extreme, but if you are like me and lots of leaves end up in the pool, it might be worth trying this mod. If I had more space before the suction manifold, I could have routed the line in front, which would give me the option of reverse flow to each of the three inputs (e.g. spa, skimmer or cleaner line). Also, I could have run the output from the filter pump instead of the waterfall pump. But, the filter pump is brand new and was quite expensive (Pentair Intelliflo 010118), so I didn't really want to screw it up. But, it should work the same so long as the valves are configured properly. This only cost about an hour of my time and about $40 in PVC parts at HD.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    HAHAHA!!!

    I love it!!!
    That is (admittedly) a cumbersome way,
    but wow, does it work!!

    I gotta admit, for the time and money you invested, you can literally blow out that line in 5 minutes any time you like!


    Now that we have that issue resolved, let's talk about a leaf canister!
    Clearly your pool warrants it!

    I went looking through my 2011 Zodiac product catalog,
    and it looks like you will have a little bit more effort getting an in-line leaf canister installed than usual, on account of the funny twist-lock hoses.

    Look up Zodiac #W26705, that is a leaf can, though it is universal to all (other) suction side APCs,
    and also look up Zodiac #W77094.

    This looks like an adapter to take you from a female twist-lock hose, to a male standard APC hose.
    So perhaps (?) you could use the female of your twist-lock on one side of the canister ,and the adapter on the other?
    I was unable to fond a lot of data on getting a leaf canister on an MX8, but that is what Zodiac shows in the book for the MX8.

    Again,
    Kudos!
    -B.
    18,000 gallon in ground, plaster
    340 sq ft cartridge filter
    Jandy variable-speed 2 HP pump
    completed 6/29/12

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    B:

    Yes, it does look rather Rube Goldbergesque [url http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rube_Goldberg[/url]! You have to think about the flow to adjust the valves, but it's not too bad once you figure it out. It turns out that the way it is plumbed, it can also be used to reverse flow through the skimmer. I just have to turn the pool/spa valve to spa (this blocks the pool side suction), and then put the skimmer/cleaner valve to 1/2 way. Admittedly, this also causes flow to go to the cleaner side, but the flow rate to the skimmer is so great, it ended up coming out of the top of the deck! If I need more back pressure through the skimmer line, I can plug up the cleaner line with a plumber's ball (the kind that you stick into the pipe and then pump it up with a bicycle pump).

    There are a couple of additional benefits to the way it's plumbed. First off, the waterfall pump is a single speed 2HP and sometimes the flow is a bit noisy from the waterfall. If I close of the suction side 3-way to block flow to the cleaner line, then I can route some of the water back through the cleaner line to reduce the flow to the waterfall. At some point, I'll purchase a 2-speed motor, but for now, this should help to reduce the flow to the waterfall. Secondly, if for some reason I ever wanted a pressure side cleaner, I could just keep that 3-way closed and use the waterfall pump to drive the cleaner line backwards. It remains a cleaner line regardless, but I think it's pretty cool.

    BTW, the MX8 was working great today. It picked up a bunch of gunk out of the pool and continues to act happy. Now that I've got a way to purge that cleaner line, I hope it will continue to do so.

    Thanks again for your help!

    Craig
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    BTW, I have the Zodiac leaf catcher that I purchased at the same time as the MX8. It's never seemed to work very well. It tends to just send leaves right through. Perhaps I need to investigate to make sure it's set up correctly. I may need to plumb it differently. I wish there was another larger leaf catcher that I could plumb to the MX8. It seems quite small to me.
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    Craig:
    Is it not a sad state of affairs when you have to add a reference for the term "Rube Goldberg"?
    One can not necessarily assume that folks even get that reference anymore....

    Look up a Hayward #W530,
    it is the best large leaf canister. It is about 18" long, and has a large leaf bag inside, which is really robust.
    That is the largest leaf can I have ever found. If you need it, you need it.

    Take care!
    -B.
    18,000 gallon in ground, plaster
    340 sq ft cartridge filter
    Jandy variable-speed 2 HP pump
    completed 6/29/12

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    B:

    Thanks for the reference to the Hayward leaf catcher. That looks much more suitable to the task compared with the Zodiac. I wonder if any additional fittings are needed to connect it up with the hoses provided with the MX8?

    Thanks again...

    Craig
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    Zodiac #W77094, is an adapter that takes you from twist-lock to regular male APC hose.
    I assume the female of your twist-lock will fit over the other end of the leaf can, bu I am not certain.

    -B.
    18,000 gallon in ground, plaster
    340 sq ft cartridge filter
    Jandy variable-speed 2 HP pump
    completed 6/29/12

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    Re: Problem with cleaner vacuum line

    B:

    Picked up the larger Hayward leaf canister and fittings for the front and back to connect in line with the Zodiac hoses. Thus far, it appears to be working great. I'm impressed by how much larger it is vs. the Zodiac. I wish I'd known ahead since that Zodiac cost more than the much larger capacity Hayward. BTW, the pool looks incredibly clean today after a whole day of proper operation of the MX8. It's funny because with proper vacuum, this unit even gets rid of larger leaves, but it does so in a strange way. It seems to run across them several times, mangling them up into smaller pieces, before it finally vacuums them up. But, it works well for a suction cleaner. It just needs enough flow to make it happy.

    Thanks again for all of your help!

    Craig
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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