WHAT CAN I DO TO QUIET SPRINKLER NOISES AND BANGS? Read More
Thumps, bangs, and knocks. After completing a landscaping project in the Fullerton area of Orange County, my customer called me about strange banging noises he heard from inside the house whenever his automatic sprinklers were on.
Does the noise occur when a valve closes? In other words, you hear the noise when one sprinkler circuit closes before switching to the next one. If so, these are four likeliest culprits disturbing your peace:
- Excessive water pressure. Test with a water pressure gauge at a hose bib, or at the washing machine. In Orange County, 40 – 80 psi is about normal. Over 80 psi is excessive. If this checks out, move on to number 2.
- Pipe size issue. If the water line (often the hose bib is tapped) feeding the sprinklers is only 1/2″ and the PVC used in the sprinklers is 3/4″, a short piece of 1/2″ PVC as a bridge to the sprinklers will eliminate the hourglass flow effect. If you’re still okay, go to number 3.
- Pipe attachment issue. If the line feeding the sprinklers run under a raised foundation house, verify that the pipes are secured properly to the beams. Otherwise, the pipes might be banging against the house whenever the valves open and shut. Yes, you get to explore the crawl space under the house! But don’t forget your flashlight down there, like I did.
- Water hammer effect. If you have passed the tests in 1, 2, and 3, you have found the issue. Water hammer is the sound of a water wreck occurring. Think of a freight train moving fast through a long tunnel with the end of the tunnel blocked with tons of rock. That’s what happens when the valve closes rapidly. If the valves were able to close slowly, like slowly turning off a hose, there would be no water hammer noise. But automatic sprinklers close quickly, snapping shut quickly at the end, causing the water wreck.
For less than $30, you can buy an excellent “water hammer arrestor” made by Precision Plumbing Products. When I installed them, it completely eliminated the noise. Tips:
- Buy the threaded model with a threaded T-fitting. It eliminates the need for cutting and soldering in a T-fitting.
- Install it upstream of the valves. In other words, the water flows past the arrestor before it gets to the valves.
- Install one as close as possible to the source of the hammer effect. If you have backyard and frontyard sprinklers, install one at each set of valves, as close as possible to the valves themselves.
Now, enjoy peace restored!
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT STAINS IN MY POOL OR SPA PLASTER?Read More
Stained and discolored plaster occurs normally as plaster ages, just as we all get wrinkles and spots as we get older! Generally speaking, unless you see blistering or cracks in the plaster, discoloration and stains do not mean that the integrity of the plaster is compromised. It just doesn’t look as attractive as new plaster. I suggest three options, from least expensive to most expensive, if you’d like to improve the appearance of the plaster:
SUPER STAIN TREAT
I have recently had success in Orange County with a new product called Super Stain Treat. A customer’s 30-year old plaster stains faded significantly with one treatment. The improvement was dramatic, and the customer was very pleased. It is critical to lower the pH and the chlorine levels prior to application for it to be the most effective.
The patented formula removes the most stubborn pool stains from every type of pool surface. One bottle of this powerful pool stain remover will treat up to 20,000 gallons. It is compatible with any type of pool surface. Here is the manufacturer’s FAQ:
Q: Will Super Stain Treat® work in any pool?
A: Yes. Super Stain Treat® will work on plaster, vinyl and fiberglass pool stains. In fact, it was originally designed for fiberglass stains. However, many of our customers told us that it worked equally as well on plaster and fiberglass.
Q: How does Super Stain Treat® remove stains?
A: This unique patented formula attacks the chemical bond of the stain with pool surface. This allows the stain to be dissolved back into the water.
Q: Will Super Stain Treat® prevent stains?
A: No. Super Stain Treat® is strictly for the removal of stains. While Super Stain Treat® does stay active to keep the stains from immediately coming back, for long-term prevention of staining we recommend you use Pool Stain Treat® every 60 days.
CHEMICAL WASH – about $400
This option requires that your pool and spa be drained. Acid is used to remove inorganic (i.e. metallic) plaster stains, and chlorine is used to remove organic stains (leaf imprints, algae, etc.).
The process takes about 3 days: one to drain, one to do the chemical wash, and one to refill and rebalance the chemicals. It is a more aggressive way to remove stains, and can dramatically improve the appearance. Whether you do it yourself or you hire someone to do it, be sure the water is drained into a p-trap; draining it into the street could earn you a city fine. Before deciding to do a chemical wash, review these questions:
Q: How old is the pool?
A: The realistic life of pool plaster is about 15 years. If the pool is about 12 years old or older, you may be smarter to hold off and get the pool replastered.
Q: Has your pool ever been replastered?
A: If your pool has been replastered, verify that there is no blistering or calcium bleeding from the plaster. If you can see what appears to be a blister, and if it sounds hollow when tapping it with the handle of a screwdriver, it cannot be acid washed without further damage to the plaster. If the problems are organic stains from algae or leaves, then a chlorine wash still might be helpful.
Q: What should I expect from the chemical wash?
A: The pool and spa will look better after the wash, but it will not look as if it were new again. There is only one way for that to happen…
REPLASTERING – starts at $4,000
Replasteringinvovles jack hammers, lots of labor, careful attention and professionalism. This is one of those investments that will bite you back EXPENSIVELY, if you make your decision based solely on price. A professional, high-quality replastering will look terrific, and last 10 – 15 years, sometimes longer. An unprofessional job may look good today, and deteriorate, crack, or stain in 2 or 3 years. Verify their C53 contractor’s license, bonding, and liability:
Most importantly, ask for Orange County references and go see what their work looks like after 5 years or more.
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY POOL OR SPA IS LEAKING? Read More
Evaporation is the “usual suspect” to pool water loss (in addition to splash out from swimmers or water features). Expect an evaporation loss of about 1/2″ to 1 inch during colder months, and 1″ to 2″ in hotter summer months. There is no way to prevent this, unless you cover your pool. But covering your pool, especially in the summer, is not a good solution. A covered pool provides an ideal warm and shaded environment for algae growth. So covering a pool helps your pool retain heat, but you may end up swimming in a warm, green swamp! Even very strong chlorine levels may not entirely prevent this from happening.
A plastic bucket can help you determine if a leak is also causing water loss.
- Bring pool water level to normal (middle of skimmer, the water inlet at the side of the deep-end of the pool)
- Shut off the equipment (and the autofill system, if your pool has one)
- Place bucket on the first or second step of the pool
- Fill bucket with pool water to same level as pool
- Use a sharpie or electrical tape to mark the water level on inside of bucket
- Turn the pump back on (but leave the autofill system off)
- After 24 hours, compare the two water levels
Here is a helpful video, compliments of American Leak Detection:
Embed this video https://youtu.be/U36G-LVproY
Check the marks. If the pool water (outside mark) goes down more than the the inside mark in the bucket, there is probably a leak. If it rained during the time you were doing the test, start the test over.
Pool and spa leaks can be caused by many things, and it is often difficult to find the source of the leak. Only use a professional leak detection service that is insured and reputable. Please contact me, if you’d like a referral.
HOW SAFE ARE MY POOL AND SPA COVERS? Read More
Virginia Graeme Baker was a 7-year-old twin sister and youngest of five daughters born to Nancy and James Baker IV, son of former Secretary of State James Baker III. All five girls had joined their mother for a graduation party at a friend’s house in June 2002. Virginia Graeme was enjoying the spa, and was discovered by her sister sprawled at the bottom. Her mother Nancy Baker jumped in, but she was no match against the force of the drain’s suction, entangling her hair and holding her underwater. Two men broke the drain in order to release Graeme’s body from the suction, but it was too late. Virginia Graeme was rushed to a hospital, dead on arrival.
During the terrible aftermath of grieving, Nancy Baker consulted with her father-in-law on the tragedy and decided to make pool and spa safety — particularly anti-entrapment drain covers — her mission. After more than three years of dedication and activism, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was passed by Congress to prevent others from ever having to experience the same horror experienced by the Bakers.
Safer circulation.Water must be circulated in a pool to keep the water safe and sanitized. The process of pumping water creates suction, and a risk to people whose hair, arms, or legs can be entrapped in the vacuum flow created by the pump. The anti-entrapment drain covers are now designed to reduce or eliminate that possibility.
How do you tell if your pool and spa drain covers are safe?It is nearly impossible to visually verify that the drains on your pool and spa are the safer drain covers by looking at them from the side of the pool. You will need to actually see and read the surface of the cover by 1) draining the pool and spa, 2) use a scuba mask to get close enough to them underwater to accurately read it, or 3) remove them and check them at the surface.
This is what you want to see imprinted on the cover: “ASME A112.19.8” refers to the Virginia Graeme Baker Act, and the last two numbers “07” refers to 2007. If your pool is over 5 years old, and has not been drained in the last 5 years, your drain covers are probably unsafe. The different types of safer covers sometimes have holes on the top, and sometimes don’t. But they must all carry the ASME A112.19.8 inscription. The cost of the parts is relatively inexpensive, and the labor is minimal. But I strongly suggest that you verify that you have the safer drain covers installed in your pool and spa, especially if you have children or grandchildren swimming in your pool.
Enlightened Idea: Be Green and $ave Green!
Energy Hog. Your pool motor is an energy hog. In fact, if you haven’t upgraded your pool motor in the last year or two, your pool motor likely uses more energy than all your home appliances combined! A fixed speed pump is only about 50% efficient, while variable speed pumps are 85 – 95% efficient.
Be Green. Think of it this way. A fixed speed motor is like driving your car with the pedal to the floor, all the time. Kind of like driving a Hummer. It’s inefficient, noisy, and not very green. It wastes energy, and your money. A variable speed motor uses technology from hybrid and electric cars that makes them more efficient, sustainable, and money saving. Kind of like driving a Prius.
$ave Green. These motors use less energy, saving a homeowner $50, $60, sometimes as much as $100, per month. This means that a variable speed pump will pay for itself as soon as 12 months. Most homeowners only need to replace only the motor. Why replace the pump if it is operating fine? So replacing only the motor pays for itself as soon as one year. If you need both a new pump and motor, it will take closer to two years for the pump and motor to pay for itself.
$300 bonus. SCE is offering $300 rebates on variable speed pumps and motors through the end of this year. Check it out at: http://www.sce.com/residential/rebates-savings/pool/pool-pump-motor.htm The City of Anaheim Utilities is offering $100 rebates for Anaheim residents. Solscapes also offers instant cash back on most installations.
More about how it works and the benefits to you:
- A variable speed motor weighs about half as much as your fixed speed pump. At 11 pounds, you can pick it up with one hand, due to its aluminum instead of steel construction
- A variable speed motor is quieter than a Prius in a parking lot. At 7 to 10 decibals – or half a human whisper – you won’t notice its running.
- Unlike traditional fixed speed motors, the variable speed doesn’t waste any energy being released through heat. The variable speed motor is cool to the touch, operating without wasted energy.
- Slower is better. I won’t explain the hydraulics Law of Affinity. Simplified, it takes far less energy to move water slowly than quickly. Think of it like this. If you drive 100 miles, will you use less gasoline driving 55 mph or 75 mph? At 55 mph, of course. That’s why we were stuck with the national speed limit of 55 mph! Even though the pump and motor will run longer, it will use fewer kilowatts of energy, saving you money on your electric bill.
- More durable. Slower running and cooler operation means less wear on the equipment. Permanent-magnet design in variable speed motors, instead of 19th century technology using brushes, are more dependable and efficient. And totally enclosed construction keeps dirt and other problems out. You can count on many years of reliable, money-saving performance.
Be Green and $ave Green!