This was my first season as a pool owner and I managed to avoid doing any major damage to the pool or equipment until the tail end of the season (I'm in northern Indiana). Looking for some guidance on the best next steps. I'm still learning much of the lingo, so apologies if anything is worded incorrectly or in a confusing way. I can post pictures later when I get home from work.
Two weeks ago, we had the (gas) heater running and I decided to clean the leaves out of the pump basket. I normally shut the heater off but I forgot to do so this time. I let the pressure out of the lines and opened the pump lid. The heater did not shut off when the pressure went out of the lines. After cleaning the basket, I got distracted by my son in the yard before returning to the pump. When I got back to the equipment room, I noticed the flexible PVC line coming out of the heater was extremely hot and I immediately shut the heater off. All told, the heater was running with no pressure in the lines for 2-3 minutes. I let the heater and lines cool down, then turned the pump back on and let the pressure build in the lines.
By the end of the day, it was clear that I now have 3 issues: 1) the pressure gauge on my filter valve was stuck at 10 PSI and did not move, even when I turned off the pump altogether (apparently I fried it?); 2) there was a very small, intermittent drip from the connection where the water comes out of the heater (I later confirmed that there was a small pinched place in the seal where it had apparently melted); and 3) there was a small amount of water pooling in the dirt around the return lines, down where they go into the ground, when the pump is running. They then travel under a brick patio and the concrete apron, and connect to the return jets. I should note here that the equipment is in an enclosed room with a concrete pad, but there is a large square in the center of the room that is open to the ground, where the lines go into the ground, with plenty of room to dig if I need to do so.
Obviously the first two issues seem like much easier fixes than the third, although in the process of trying to figure out what was wrong with the pressure gauge, I over-tightened it and cracked the valve assembly (it wasn't a good day). I have a new pressure gauge and am planning on buying a new valve assembly over the winter. The lines that coming out of the heater unscrew where the seal is melted so I'm planning to fix the seal over the winter as well.
For the return lines, I couldn't tell based on the location and amount of water whether the water was coming up from underneath from a break in the lines somewhere in the ground below the equipment room, or if it was dripping down from the joints in the equipment room, where the glue had melted from the heat. There are only 2 return lines (there were others but they're no longer in use due to cracks/leaks), which are older black PVC and have hose clamps on them where they connect to an adapter, which is connected to other pipes near the heater. I noticed water dripping from around these joints and tightened the hose clamps. At first, that seemed to stop the dripping from the pipes and I was hopeful that would resolve the problem. However, the water continued to accumulate around the pipes accumulation of water. The accumulation is slow but steady. I dug down approximately 12-18 inches around the return lines but did not locate where the water was coming from. I started to hit backfill, at which point I stopped digging (the equipment room is in an addition that was added off of our detached garage). I turned off the pump and let the water flow away so I could see what happened when the ground was dry and I turned on the pump while the lines were exposed. With the soil dug out around the lines, it appeared that the water was coming up from below. The water level would only come up approximately 6-8 inches up in the cavity but no higher, even when I left the pump running. There is still some water leaking out from the joint as well but it does not appear to be much water since I tightened the clamps, certainly not enough to fill up the cavity below at the rate that it filled up.
I was hoping to close the pool this weekend, but now I think I need to get this figured out first so that, if there is a crack, it doesn't get worse over the winter. If it's just that the glue has melted around joints, I'd like to try to fix that now as well so that I am not worried about it all winter. I've called a couple of pool repair guys in my area but they are tied up with pool closings and won't be able to come look at it for at least 2 weeks.
Has anyone run into this problem before? Is it likely that a pipe would crack from overheating, even (at least) 10 feet away from the heater? Should I try to dig down until I find the leak? Wait for a pool repair guy? Call a regular plumber? Given how quickly the water starts filling the cavity, it seems to me that the leak is not far from where I have already excavated. I am really hoping that is the case because if it's a few more yards away, then we're under the brick patio. Any guidance is greatly appreciated!
Thanks in advance. Pictures to come.