Infloor cleaning system, troubleshooting tips and maintenance desired

proavia

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Feb 6, 2015
1,465
Chandler AZ
Yeah - having the manual helps for if you wind up with a left over part after you take it apart and re-assemble. :laughblue:

You can leave the valve in the cleaner position if you choose. That's were mine stayed 95% of the time. BUT - do play with the valve to get a better idea of how the plumbing works. And as Dodger recommended, certainly label each pipe near each valve so it's easier to remember what does what.

I'm betting the system will work better once you complete the SLAM Process.

Based on system manufacturer, some heads rotate during the time they are extended and some rotate to a new position each time the pop up goes thru an extend/retract cycle.
 

PaigeMark

Silver Supporter
Jun 13, 2019
84
Tulsa, OK
Up until a week or so ago the infloor cleaning system "worked". That is the floor jets would pop up and do their dance. The wall jets would synchronize and switch on/off around the pool. I wouldn't call the result fully clean but it did reduce the areas needing vacuuming.

That was then, now I dont see the wall jets changing, one seems permanently stuck on. I don't see the pop-ups popping. As the pool is new to me this season, I have no idea if it was troublesome to the house's prior owner. A black thingee, buried in the ground, says it was made by Paramount. I assume this is the controller / valve unit, that uses water flow to do its job, akin to a simple water timer or sprinkler system.

Does anyone have any tips, or links to tips, to T/S this plumbing Rube Goldberg device? Do these things require periodic maintenance, that the prior owner may have skipped?

FWIW the system only worked when the Pentair VS pump was set at high speed. That pump setting has not changed.
I just found this and it helped me figure out quite a few issues I was having with my pool. If you have the same system, it may help you, too. It goes into more detail about the In-floor cleaning system as a whole...not just the valve information. https://www.1paramount.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CycleanInstallManual.pdf
 
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IaMac

Well-known member
Jun 17, 2019
53
Central NH
I had time today to open up the water valve/timer/distributor and found nothing much amiss. I was concerned that it was going to be a hotel for algae but that turned out not to be the case. Indeed it all looked good and worked without much manual input effort. I cleaned surfaces and sprayed some silicone oil on the gears and working parts and re-assembled. Lo and behold all the pop-ups and wall jets worked. They continued to do so even after I put the mystery valve (upstream) back to halfway position. I'm not full of faith in that this will continue to work, as I did very little work, meaning to me that its borderline functional with the valve at halfway.

FWIW I did figure out which jets are controlled by the above timer/distributor and it's different from what I had thought. There are 9 pop-ups on the floor and the 6 in the shallow end work in pairs, with a small amount of overlap (off -> on). The last 3 pop-ups, on the slope to the deep end, work as a triple. The wall jets at the deep end act as a pair and a triple, meaning the sequence goes:
floor pop-up pair #1
floor pop-up pair #2
floor pop-up pair #3
floor pop-up triple
wall jet pair #1
wall jet triple

Those with long memories will say "Hey, there's more wall jets! " and they'd be correct. There's a single jet in the shallow end right by the entry stairs. Water to this jet is controlled by the mystery valve upstream of the timer/distributor. That is you can shut off all supply to the pop-ups and associated jets and have it all come out that single jet. That says to me that the balance of the mystery valve should be more timer/distributor with just enough left to send some watrr down to the single 'stairs' jet.

There are 2 more jets that bless a seat at the deep end and they run off the aux pump, which also does the 3 water fountains, the slide and diving board. I had not expected this! A Sharpie was used to label all the lines.

Thanks to all for the info and manuals, I will say that the water timer / distributor isn't all that hard to disassemble and understand. Anyone with just a modicum of mechanical ability should be able to tear one apart and put it back together. As AvE might say "any skookum machine can be torn apart and put back to working order".

PS - I added a cheap pressure gauge on the timer/distributor and the highest pressure I saw was 17 psi, with the mystery valve hard on to the timer/distributor. So this system works despite it running on lower than 'spec' pressure. Call that conservative design margin? The head loss from filter to timer/distributor is on the order of 10 psi ! I can see why a bypass valve, across the heater, is called for. I don't have one and am lucky this works.

Some pics can be provided if requested.
 
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Dodger

Silver Supporter
Sep 17, 2017
601
Silicon Valley, CA
Great job Mac. Sounds like you are well on your way to mastering your pool and being able to tinker enough to get things inspected and working.

17psi may end up being enough. Or you may find that pollen/dirt/sand gets sprayed into neat little "I need to be manually swept" piles after a few cleans, which can mean that the pop-ups are under-spraying the distance they need to reach the full overlapping circles.
 

jonpcar

Bronze Supporter
Jun 1, 2016
407
Gilbert, AZ
Wow, @IaMac it took me almost 25 years to actually spend some time to figure out the intricacies of my IFCS and understand them like you do. Congratulations and great job by @Dodger, @proavia , and others. These guys have helped me out a number of times.

There's a single jet in the shallow end right by the entry stairs. Water to this jet is controlled by the mystery valve upstream of the timer/distributor. That is you can shut off all supply to the pop-ups and associated jets and have it all come out that single jet. That says to me that the balance of the mystery valve should be more timer/distributor with just enough left to send some watrr down to the single 'stairs' jet.
@Dodger, you know what I am thinking when I see that, haha...IaMac if you ever decide to add automation to your system you can almost certainly increase the efficiency and IFCS effectiveness, your system is perfect for it. It is also makes it extremely convenient. It looks to me like you already have all the equipment you need in place, except for the valve actuators themselves to control the valves (I think ~$100 each). Depending on your desired setup you would need 1, 2, 3, or possibly 4 (IFCS, spa, waterfall) to control all possible options.
 
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Rich D

Bronze Supporter
Aug 3, 2018
300
MA
. There's a single jet in the shallow end right by the entry stairs. Water to this jet is controlled by the mystery valve upstream of the timer/distributor.
That one sounds interesting. How much more pressure to you get to the in floor heads when you close that one? Could that one be meant to be run just for low speed skimming?
 

jonpcar

Bronze Supporter
Jun 1, 2016
407
Gilbert, AZ
That one sounds interesting. How much more pressure to you get to the in floor heads when you close that one? Could that one be meant to be run just for low speed skimming?
My thought exactly, along with other potential advantages...but valve actuators are would be required...I’m not familiar with the ET4 system that the OP has, but i imagine that it has support for 3, possibly 4 valves.
 
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Rich D

Bronze Supporter
Aug 3, 2018
300
MA
My thought exactly, along with other potential advantages...but automation would be required...
Well.. Automation would be great of course However I have been manually operating my valves to achieve better skimming this year and it has made a huge difference. I found during high pollen and windy days if Run the VS pump at 1500 rpm all day with the main drain shut off so it is just pulling from the skimmer it will keep the surface mostly clear. If I think it will be a very nasty day I will also put the IFCS to pause on one of the zones in the opposite end of the pool then the skimmer, which pushes all the junk down to the skimmer better. When I get home I switch it over and just have the have like 90% floor drain and 10% skimmer and run it at 3425 rpm for 2.5 hrs to give a good cleaning.
 

PaigeMark

Silver Supporter
Jun 13, 2019
84
Tulsa, OK
I had time today to open up the water valve/timer/distributor and found nothing much amiss. I was concerned that it was going to be a hotel for algae but that turned out not to be the case. Indeed it all looked good and worked without much manual input effort. I cleaned surfaces and sprayed some silicone oil on the gears and working parts and re-assembled. Lo and behold all the pop-ups and wall jets worked. They continued to do so even after I put the mystery valve (upstream) back to halfway position. I'm not full of faith in that this will continue to work, as I did very little work, meaning to me that its borderline functional with the valve at halfway.

FWIW I did figure out which jets are controlled by the above timer/distributor and it's different from what I had thought. There are 9 pop-ups on the floor and the 6 in the shallow end work in pairs, with a small amount of overlap (off -> on). The last 3 pop-ups, on the slope to the deep end, work as a triple. The wall jets at the deep end act as a pair and a triple, meaning the sequence goes:
floor pop-up pair #1
floor pop-up pair #2
floor pop-up pair #3
floor pop-up triple
wall jet pair #1
wall jet triple

Those with long memories will say "Hey, there's more wall jets! " and they'd be correct. There's a single jet in the shallow end right by the entry stairs. Water to this jet is controlled by the mystery valve upstream of the timer/distributor. That is you can shut off all supply to the pop-ups and associated jets and have it all come out that single jet. That says to me that the balance of the mystery valve should be more timer/distributor with just enough left to send some watrr down to the single 'stairs' jet.

There are 2 more jets that bless a seat at the deep end and they run off the aux pump, which also does the 3 water fountains, the slide and diving board. I had not expected this! A Sharpie was used to label all the lines.

Thanks to all for the info and manuals, I will say that the water timer / distributor isn't all that hard to disassemble and understand. Anyone with just a modicum of mechanical ability should be able to tear one apart and put it back together. As AvE might say "any skookum machine can be torn apart and put back to working order".

PS - I added a cheap pressure gauge on the timer/distributor and the highest pressure I saw was 17 psi, with the mystery valve hard on to the timer/distributor. So this system works despite it running on lower than 'spec' pressure. Call that conservative design margin? The head loss from filter to timer/distributor is on the order of 10 psi ! I can see why a bypass valve, across the heater, is called for. I don't have one and am lucky this works.

Some pics can be provided if requested.
I’m learning a lot about my own system while following you so thank you for sharing what you’ve learned so far. I’ll be taking my in-floor valve apart to investigate soon. It seems to be working well but I want to know more about the rotation set-up. My system is missing the recommended bypass valve across the heater, too. It seems to be working, too, so maybe we’re both just lucky. Thanks, again, for sharing!
 

proavia

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Feb 6, 2015
1,465
Chandler AZ
@IaMac - glad you got it working - good job! Sounds like the water valve was sticking and you opening, cleaning, lubing it resolved the issue. Could have been a small piece of debris or possibly the internal parts wearing. And now you better understand the inner workings of your system.

For both you and @PaigeMark - a heater bypass would be beneficial for a few reasons.
  • Allow VS pump to run at lower RPM (saving electricity) and still have same volume of water on the return side
  • Allow you to continue to run you system in the event of heater issues
  • Allow you to winterize the heater prior to closing the pool for the season
A Jandy 3-way valve, Jandy check valve, some PVC pipe, a few fittings and a little time would do it.
 
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jonpcar

Bronze Supporter
Jun 1, 2016
407
Gilbert, AZ
Well.. Automation would be great of course However I have been manually operating my valves to achieve better skimming this year and it has made a huge difference.
I guess I should have stated...automation is required if you want to do things automatically haha. I'm pretty lazy and would could never commit to changing valves manually. But with regards to your stated benefits of making those changes, Rich, you are exactly right. I see the same advantages you do.

For both you and @PaigeMark - a heater bypass would be beneficial for a few reasons.
Gene's "heater bypass" is one of the four valves I was thinking about and precisely for the reasons he stated. But I don't have a heater on my system.

Here are the other three I would recommend, but I believe some on the boards think of me on the fringes of this issue....haha. I am obsessed with energy efficiency and IFCS effectiveness.

1) Waterfall Actuator (1) No brainer and no controversy...figure out where you need to put a valve to run your waterfall automatically. I had one for 25 years and never used it because it required manually going back there to change the valve. In addition, due to the way it was implemented, it always had a green pool of algae in its basin because there was not a way to regularly run chlorinated water through.

Actuators (2) & (3) would control your suction and return valves to the pool as follows. This ties into what Rich said. For cleaning using the IFCS, set the suction valve to FULL bottom drain and the return to FULL popup system. Adjust your pump (through trial and error over a period of weeks/months) to the lowest RPM (and PSI) that it can run and still clean the pool to your satisfaction. This is the spot at which your pool IFCS system is most energy efficient. Run it 2-3 hours a day (more or less TBD) to "clean" your pool

At other times set those valves so that FULL suction comes from the skimmer and FULL returns goes to that "single jet" you discovered. These would be the positions for "low RPM filtering/skimming/chlorinating". You would run your pump 6-8 hours a day at low 1200-1500rpm to accomplish those tasks. It is almost free to run your pump at those low rpms. BUT, if the returns are forced through the popups, it will not be as "free" or as energy efficient. My popups introduce quite a bit of "head" to pump operation...at the same rpm, there is a significant difference in the gpm forced through the popups vs what can be returned through the "wall returns". Yours may be different. On the suction side, at the skimmers work much better (with full draw) and there is less "head" introduced into the system as well.

The (4th) valve and actuator, as Gene talked about, would allow you to bypass the heater, reducing the PSI throughout the system during both cleaning and skimming times. More Efficient!
 
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IaMac

Well-known member
Jun 17, 2019
53
Central NH
Right now the main pump runs from 8am till noon at 3450 RPM. It then runs at 2600 RPM for 6 (?IIRC?) more hours and finally at 2000 RPM for the rest of the 24 hr period. This has been mostly to give the questionable SWG enough time to do it's job (which it ain't, but that's already another thread) and do a SLAM (in progress).The aux pump is only on if kids are using the pool (and SLAM part-time).

Re: the existing "automation" the ET4 controls the mains (AC) power to the main pump ( but isn't linked to set it's speed), the aux pump, the FO lights and the heater. These are all basically timer options, you can set a schedule for on/off and not much else except for the SWG and heater. The latter gets power if the water temp falls below the ET setpoint. But here's where it gets stupid IMO. The heater has to its own setpoint, which can be different from the ET. Presently if I want one touch control the heater has to be set Uber high so whenever AC comes on, the propane comes on per the ET setpoint.

The intellichlor does have a comm link to the ET so it's setting and data is available via the ET front panel. But as far as relays go I believe that's it, all used up. An ET8 would have more and there are more buttons on the front panel. Whether these can be used by the existing microcontroller on the existing PCB ... I don't know.

Frankly this all has the look and feel of something designed in 90s, at best. As an EE who tinkers with all sorts of stuff I can make a better system for $100. And that would have a WiFi hotspot for remote control according to my untimed needs, like heater control when I want it and not on a set schedule and temp. Pentair wants some ungodly hundreds of $$s to add the equivalent to the existing system. Sorry Pentair, but that ain't never going to happen ! Alas I've already got a few side projects ahead of this in the queue, so that's likely a winter project. Which is fine, I need the time and experience to learn more (like automating the water analysis).

I may have to look into servo valves at that time. I assume they are expensive because ... pool. I guess I should be happy that I sold the boat, as pools rank behind them in costs/hobby but not by that much. :,-). I'm glad I never took up flying !!

I saw the filter pressure doing a dance after I had cleaned it and did the "service" on the in-floor valve/distributor/timer. I'll have to make better notes as to what the highs and lows were and how they correlated to the other (new) pressure gauge and in-floor activity. Will post when time permits.
 
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IaMac

Well-known member
Jun 17, 2019
53
Central NH
Or you may find that pollen/dirt/sand gets sprayed into neat little "I need to be manually swept" piles after a few cleans, which can mean that the pop-ups are under-spraying the distance they need to reach the full overlapping circles.
What I've found so far is that the shallow floor is swept fairly clean, it's the deep end that accumulates "dirt". The drain there is supposedly designed to suck stuff in but I've found that even light debris will sit just a few inches away and ... just sit there. I have the 3way valve that splits the suction between the drain(s) and skimmers (2) heavily biased in favor of drain flow. Heck I've even set it for fully drain (no skimmers) and I couldn't tell the difference.

I note that there's a safety (?) drain at water level but I've not felt any water flowing into it. Can I use some food dye to visualize the flow (or not) into the drain(s) ?

Also any thoughts about wall jets that oscillate akin to the floor pop-ups? Do these "sweep" the walls any better than fixed jets? Or do you still have to brush the walls at the same period anyway?
 
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Dodger

Silver Supporter
Sep 17, 2017
601
Silicon Valley, CA
As far as the deep end stuff, one thing I'd take a look at is to see if the pop-up heads in the deep end are spraying far enough. Watch the pressure at the new gauge you installed to see if it is the same pressure as the other zones or if it is a few psi lower.

I think you've got the right idea to play with your intake valve between drain & skimmer. You are lucky, I don't have such a valve.

Not sure what you mean by safety drain at the water level. I'm wondering if it might be the intake for your aux pump, so you'll only see dye going in when that pump is on.
 

IaMac

Well-known member
Jun 17, 2019
53
Central NH
Not sure what you mean by safety drain at the water level. I'm wondering if it might be the intake for your aux pump, so you'll only see dye going in when that pump is on.
If a picture is worth a thousand words...

Have a look at the 1min mark in the video linked to below. It shows a SDX "safety" drain. The pool installer explained that it was there in case the main drain became clogged.

FWIW my system looks just like the one shown except I don't have the oscillating return jets. And it certainly doesn't suck in debris with the authority shown in the video. I wonder if I can get a hand held flow meter, akin to a handheld anemometer ?

 

Rich D

Bronze Supporter
Aug 3, 2018
300
MA
I have the exact same set up. I have never seen the mechanics of the safety drain so I do not know how it works but it is simply there in case the floor drain or skimmer become clogged as a relief. I have never checked mine However any mechanical device can fail. You could test it to see if you might be loosing suction through it with some dye. This safety drain should be submerged at least 1.5- 2' so I am not sure what you mean When you say "drain at water level" ?

I do not think my main drain will suck things in like the sales video either. last year I was going off the recommendation of the PB and running my pump at 2950rpm for 4 hrs which was only putting 14 psi on the Gauge on the water distributer. It was cleaning well but not great. This year I Called paramount tech support and was told I needed 20 psi on the gauge and to try 2.5 hrs cleaning time , that required 3425rpm which actually was slightly less amphrs. I did notice it cleaned better. The one thing it has the most trouble getting is bark mulch..
 
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IaMac

Well-known member
Jun 17, 2019
53
Central NH
This safety drain should be submerged at least 1.5- 2' so I am not sure what you mean When you say "drain at water level" ?
Hopefully I can add a screenshot and pics all in one post here. The SS is from a PDF kindly provided by PM above. It shows a diagram of the SDX in relation to the main drain and other plumbing. In my case the pic shows the SDX (located under the diving board) being just below the waterline. ATM the top of the grill is at the waterline due to splashbout. Perhaps that was an installation error? No doubt there's some rule or regulation I can look up if I cared to.

Lastly the bottom pic shows the orientation of the main drain opening and the pop-ups (highlighted) on the down slope. I'd have thunk that the drain opening would have been pointed elsewhere, but what do I know. I do know it doesn't suck like the video. Note that there are no pop-ups on the deep floor to direct debris towards the main drain.
Screenshot_2019-06-24-08-00-24-731.jpeg

SDXandDeepFloor. jpg .jpg

MainDrainand3popups.jpg
 
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PaigeMark

Silver Supporter
Jun 13, 2019
84
Tulsa, OK
I have the exact same set up. I have never seen the mechanics of the safety drain so I do not know how it works but it is simply there in case the floor drain or skimmer become clogged as a relief. I have never checked mine However any mechanical device can fail. You could test it to see if you might be loosing suction through it with some dye. This safety drain should be submerged at least 1.5- 2' so I am not sure what you mean When you say "drain at water level" ?

I do not think my main drain will suck things in like the sales video either. last year I was going off the recommendation of the PB and running my pump at 2950rpm for 4 hrs which was only putting 14 psi on the Gauge on the water distributer. It was cleaning well but not great. This year I Called paramount tech support and was told I needed 20 psi on the gauge and to try 2.5 hrs cleaning time , that required 3425rpm which actually was slightly less amphrs. I did notice it cleaned better. The one thing it has the most trouble getting is bark mulch..
I have the same system. Thanks for sharing that paramount suggested the 20psi. My system seems to work best at 3425-3450 for a shorter period of time. It is still long enough to have the entire system of jets go through it’s rotation at least once on my pool. I’ve set it to run at that speed during the off-peak hours for my electric company. I don’t have a lot of debris going into my pool so it’s tough to tell sometimes how well it’s working. When I brush, I just sweep anything I can see towards the floor drain and it eventually gets removed. However, it is working well enough that there is no need for a vacuum or robot cleaner.

I have three of those SDX drains and can’t figure them out. Interesting that one is connected to the in-floor system.
 

PaigeMark

Silver Supporter
Jun 13, 2019
84
Tulsa, OK
Looking at the placement at the waterline, do you get air in the system at all? It looks like the SDX isn’t completely submerged.

Also, could you rotate the floor drain at all? I’m not sure if that’s possible. The wide opening of my floor drain faces the downslope of my pool so that those jets seem to push debris straight to the floor drain.
 

jonpcar

Bronze Supporter
Jun 1, 2016
407
Gilbert, AZ
What I've found so far is that the shallow floor is swept fairly clean, it's the deep end that accumulates "dirt". The drain there is supposedly designed to suck stuff in but I've found that even light debris will sit just a few inches away and ... just sit there. I have the 3way valve that splits the suction between the drain(s) and skimmers (2) heavily biased in favor of drain flow. Heck I've even set it for fully drain (no skimmers) and I couldn't tell the difference.
Mac...this demonstrates why I have resorted to the solution I have...100% draw from bottom drain when running the IFCS. 100% skimmers when skimming at low speed. Attempts to "split" the difference are tough, like electricity with two parallel paths (say 1ohm & 10ohm, you are an EE like me, haha), you know where the bulk of the electricity/water is going to flow...its like that with the valves. I did a LOT of experiments with mine.

The SDX is a question mark...if it is always OPEN, then you will never be able to completely "draw" from your bottom drain. If the SDX only "kicks in" when there is a blockage of the main drain for safety reason, then you WOULD be able to make your bottom drain as effective as is possible. In any case...for the IFCS to be most effective, draw from the bottom as much as you are able.

I think you've got the right idea to play with your intake valve between drain & skimmer. You are lucky, I don't have such a valve.
Like Dodger, I don't have this valve...and have gone through hoops to "create it". It's been worth it.

Mac, I realize you are in the discovery/debug mode...but hopefully your "pool pump run times" can change dramatically when you get everything to your liking. Yours are on the very high end (both RPMs and run times) of most of us who really "know" our IFCSs. But, your pool is much more gallonage than most with an IFCS as well.

.....Frankly this [ET4] all has the look and feel of something designed in 90s, at best. As an EE who tinkers with all sorts of stuff I can make a better system for $100.....
Finally, sorry about your ET4...it sounds much less capable than my assumption. I have a Hayward Ecommand 4 and assumed it would be comparable. Mine works, but due to many factors (including experiments with my IFCS), I will be replacing it with a homebrew solution soon (within the next 6 months)...for many of the various reasons you mentioned, in addition to just being able to "tinker" more, haha @Dodger.
 
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