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Thread: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

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    Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    Hello,

    First, I would like to say thank you to all contributors to this site. I have been reading threads here for a long time and find the material both informative and entertaining. This is my first post, so please bear with me if I screw anything up. I would also like to thank you, in advance for providing your opinions and help.

    Background:

    A few years back I worked for a pool company where I opened/closed/maintained customer's pools. I have a good understanding of the systems, pool construction, etc. I am not, however, an expert.

    Last fall (2014) my sister purchased a home that has an in-ground pool. I would estimate that the pool/filter/pump/heater is around 10 years old. I told her I would open it for her and I started this process 3 days ago.

    Pump/Filter/Heater Info:

    Pump = Hayward "Self Priming" Super Pump - C48K2N143B1
    Filter = Sta-Rite - T-240BP-1
    Heater = Hayward Comfort Zone

    Pool and System Info:

    I believe the size is 16' x 32' (but could be wrong). After removing the safety and winter covers I was happy to see that the water looked pretty good. It was not clear enough to see the main drain in the bottom. As I began removing plugs, I only found one return jet, surprisingly. The skimmer box has a suction outlet (where the vac hose would attach) and another hole that is plugged with an 1 - 1/2" Square Head threaded plug. I tried to remove this plug and it will not budge.

    As you will see from the photos the way they set up the plumbing is pretty crazy. There are NO in-line shut-off valves for the main drain, waste, or return (strange). The heater lines are cut and the water flow is bypassed. The previous owner said the heat stopped working so the did away with it. The PVC connections are not in great shape but I did not notice any severe damage or leaks.

    Problems:

    1. Skimmer Box Plug - I am not 100% sure on whether or not the square head 1 - 1/2" threaded plug in the skimmer box is supposed to be removed or not. Some pools have a Combo Box where the main drain line is tied into the front hole and the second hole goes back to the pump. Other pools have a permanent plug in the second hole because their main drain is not tied into the skimmer box. I have read that some people struggle to remove this plug and require a Basin Wrench to unscrew it. How do I know if this plug is supposed to be permanent or just frozen on and it needs to be removed (the main drain does tie into the skimmer box)?

    2. There are two PVC pipes coming out of the ground in front of the filter. One has a rubber coupler and is capped off and the other is more parallel with the ground and open. I assume one is waste. The waste line outlet off the back of the filter head is a flex line that goes down into the ground. What are these two lines coming out from the ground and why is one capped and the other open? Shouldn't there be valves on these PVC lines to open and close the flow?

    3. I tried for an hour to prime the pump and start the system and it would not prime. Yes, I checked the housing seal and it is in decent shape, the impeller is fine, the plugs are tight, ect. Could the plugged hole in the skimmer box be causing the pump not to prime? I do understand that there could be an air leak in one of the connections or lines. I also understand that there could be a blockage in the suction line from the pool. I used my hose to force water through the suction in the skimmer box, also used the hose in attempting to prime the pump. Am I missing something?

    Any help, suggestions and opinions would be greatly appreciated. Once again, thank you all very much!
    P.S. If you have any trouble viewing the pictures please let me know.

    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Isaac-1's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    I don't have any answer for you, but I will give you a bump and say sometimes pool plumbing is crazy
    Indoor 20x40 35,000 gallon vinyl pool with 1.5 HP 2 speed Jandy FloPro pump, Hayward EC75 Perflex DE filter, 11 4x12 Techno-Solis solar panels w/ Aquasolar controller, Aquabot Turbo T Robot Cleaner. Also LMI metering chlorine dispenser pump and HotSpring Jetsetter
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    Re: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    In my admittedly limited experience, an unused opening at the bottom of a skimmer would normally be capped from below at installation. If yours has a plug installed, then it's a good bet that that pipe leads to the floor drains. Why would they cap it? Perhaps the pipe to the floor drains developed a leak, and this was the cheapest way to "solve" the problem. Or perhaps they were simply clueless.

    Personally, I would find a way to remove the plug (hopefully they didn't glue it), verify whether there's a pipe behind it, and then keep an eye on the water level for a few days. If no leak, go ahead and install a float valve in that skimmer.

    Is there only one skimmer in this pool? I'd expect a 16'x32' pool to have two skimmers. My first thought about the capped pipe coming out of the ground was that it came from the "other" skimmer.

    If you want to try going high-tech, USB endoscope cameras are surprisingly cheap these days. You can use something like ManyCam on Windows to view the camera as you feed it through the pipe to see what is there. If a winter freeze has cracked the pipe, you may be able to see it.

    As for the pump not priming, my first thought is maybe that PVC union on the suction pipe, about 3' above the pump, isn't tight and is leaking air. My second thought is to put the garden hose into the skimmer, down the suction pipe, and try to seal around it, maybe with some foam rubber or something. Then let the water run until it overflows the basket at the pump.
    25000-gallon semi-public IG concrete/plaster pool, Triton II sand filter
    750-gallon semi-public IG concrete/plaster spa, cartridge filter
    Volunteer pool caretaker for my condominium complex

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    Re: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    You would need to plug the main drain hole in the skimmer in you were installing a Pentair vac-mate skimmer basket or similar unit.


    Not priming pump is 99% of the time suction leak, lots of things to check for this.

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    Mod Squad Jimrahbe's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    I suspect the capped pipe to the left of your pump is going to the main drain. If this is true, I'd leave the plug in the skimmer as is. To test this theory, I'd remove the plug at the bottom of the looping pipe going to the pump and then use a pressurized garden hose and inject water in the open hole in the skimmer and see if water is being forced out where you just removed the plug. If it does, I'd stick the plug back in and try priming the pump with the garden hose still running until the pump, hopefully, catches. As already suggested, I'd take a look at the union at the top of that rollercoaster input pipe.

    Jim R.
    Finished in 2015 - 17K Gal, IG, 20' x 25' Almost Rectangular Pool, Pebble finish, three rockport water falls. Pentair Equipment: EasyTouch 4, IC40 SWG, 3 HP VS Pump, CCP520 Cartridge Filter.
    TF100 with SpeedStir and SampleSizer, ColorQ Pro 7, Dolphin Premier Robot Cleaner, added Screen Logic 2, added small 3 person Calder Spa.

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    Pool Tool's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    My 16 x 32 has only one skimmer. My skimmer has the same square plug plugging the hole that could be used to connect the main drain. I can/have removed mine and it is connected to nothing! Just open to the pea gravel below. If you can't remove it by now, I would abandon trying as it could be glued in place and you could risk further damage.
    16' x 32' (21100 gal), vinyl, 1.5 hp Hayward SuperPump,
    Tagelus TA60/60D Sand Filter, Raypak 399K Digital Heater, TF-100

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    Re: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    Quote Originally Posted by TomBorg View Post
    In my admittedly limited experience, an unused opening at the bottom of a skimmer would normally be capped from below at installation. If yours has a plug installed, then it's a good bet that that pipe leads to the floor drains. Why would they cap it? Perhaps the pipe to the floor drains developed a leak, and this was the cheapest way to "solve" the problem. Or perhaps they were simply clueless.

    Personally, I would find a way to remove the plug (hopefully they didn't glue it), verify whether there's a pipe behind it, and then keep an eye on the water level for a few days. If no leak, go ahead and install a float valve in that skimmer.

    Is there only one skimmer in this pool? I'd expect a 16'x32' pool to have two skimmers. My first thought about the capped pipe coming out of the ground was that it came from the "other" skimmer.

    If you want to try going high-tech, USB endoscope cameras are surprisingly cheap these days. You can use something like ManyCam on Windows to view the camera as you feed it through the pipe to see what is there. If a winter freeze has cracked the pipe, you may be able to see it.

    As for the pump not priming, my first thought is maybe that PVC union on the suction pipe, about 3' above the pump, isn't tight and is leaking air. My second thought is to put the garden hose into the skimmer, down the suction pipe, and try to seal around it, maybe with some foam rubber or something. Then let the water run until it overflows the basket at the pump.
    Thank you for the reply. Yes, there is only one skimmer, which I figured there would be two as well. So if there was another skimmer that the capped pipe was for, and that skimmer is no longer in existence, that's the reason that pipe is capped. Correct?

    I would rather not go the high-tech route, although I have here'd of people using a camera for this purpose, and is a good idea.

    I figured there was either a leak in a union somewhere or a line was plugged, causing the pump not to prime. I checked that all the unions were hand tight but I may have missed that one. I'll check to make sure ALL are secured and tight. I put a garden hose into the skimmer as you suggested but I was not able to seal around it. By doing this the water pressure may force a blockage to break apart and then I would get proper flow.

    Great ideas and thank you for your input! I will try this tomorrow.

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    Re: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimrahbe View Post
    I suspect the capped pipe to the left of your pump is going to the main drain. If this is true, I'd leave the plug in the skimmer as is. To test this theory, I'd remove the plug at the bottom of the looping pipe going to the pump and then use a pressurized garden hose and inject water in the open hole in the skimmer and see if water is being forced out where you just removed the plug. If it does, I'd stick the plug back in and try priming the pump with the garden hose still running until the pump, hopefully, catches. As already suggested, I'd take a look at the union at the top of that rollercoaster input pipe.

    Jim R.
    When I first arrived at the site I removed that plug and I remember water coming out of that hole. I then plugged it to stop the flow. So this means the line from the skimmer to the looping pipe (at least to the point of the plug) is not blocked, correct?

    I will look at that union as suggested by TomBorg earlier and yourself. You two must have seen something that caught your eye on that union.

    Thank you very much!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Pool Tool View Post
    My 16 x 32 has only one skimmer. My skimmer has the same square plug plugging the hole that could be used to connect the main drain. I can/have removed mine and it is connected to nothing! Just open to the pea gravel below. If you can't remove it by now, I would abandon trying as it could be glued in place and you could risk further damage.
    I just spoke with my old boss at the pool company and he said the same thing you did. "It's plugged because it's not being used by the main drain, to tie into that skimmer line." The risk of future damage is exactly why I don't want to remove it. I'm glad to hear that you already did remove yours and discovered it does nothing. Thank you for the reassurance.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thank you all for your great input and advice. I am going to try your suggestions tomorrow and see if it will prime. I will post back with updates.
    Last edited by iceman21J; 05-27-2015 at 11:04 PM. Reason: Forgot that I removed the plug and put it back on when water was pouring out.

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    Re: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    Thank you all very much for you advice. A special thanks to TomBorg and Jim R. Turns out that the PVC union at the top of the upside down "U" was leaking air. I unscrewed the union adjusted the entire setup then screwed it back in as tight as possible. I then replaced the plugs on the pump, although this may not have been necessary as the plugs and their o-rings/gaskets looked fine. Finally, I tightened the plug (few inches above the ground) that Ts off from the PVC upright coming out of the ground on the suction side, fired up the pump and it primed right up. There is great suction pulling from the skimmer box.

    There is one small issue. The return jet into the pool has intermittent bursts of air. It flows very strong, then every 5 seconds there is a big exhaust burst of air. This means there is still an air leak somewhere correct? Getting good suction from the skimmer and the pump looks like its flowing well. I checked the gasket under the pump lid and that seems to be fine but who knows. I'll recheck all the unions again to see if that helps.

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    Pool Tool's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help - Extremely confusing In-ground system set up

    You might have resolved by now but do you see any bubbles in the basket leading up the burp of air? If not you may not have another leak, but instead air trapped inside your filter from the previous leak. Do you have a bleed valve on the filter to vent the air? I can't tell from the picture. If yes, with pump on slowly unscrew until you get a solid stream of water out then retighten.

    If no, with the pump off, remove the gauge from the filter then turn the pump back on until you get a steady stream of water from the gauge port/return. Then shut off pump and quickly reinstall the gauge, tighten it and restart pump.

    A quick check is to watch the gauge pressure - does the needle bounce around or act sporadic? A bubble of air will continuously contract and expand causing the pressure to fluctuate. With only water in the system the pressure should be pretty static.
    16' x 32' (21100 gal), vinyl, 1.5 hp Hayward SuperPump,
    Tagelus TA60/60D Sand Filter, Raypak 399K Digital Heater, TF-100

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