Saturday, November 26, 2011

Letting the days go by, letting the water hold me down. Letting the days go by, water flowing underground (Well Done Broke 13)

A couple of days went by and our well babying was getting mixed results. The water was still mostly clear, but not perfect.

In order to facilitate the removal of the silty water from the well, I did things like shutting off the valve from the new tank and taking showers that pumped directly from the well. I figured this would use up any silty water in there faster, as well as clean the silt that might have built up in our pipes and bladder tank beneath the house. Then, a night later, before taking a shower in our recently mortar reinforced tub (which feels VERY solid now, thank you very much) I not only shut off the valve, but I unplugged the secondary pump entirely, which I thought would force the bladder tank to keep the water pressure up and pump directly from the well.

I was mid-way through that shower when the water shut off. Soap in my eyes, I called for the wife. She said the well had probably run dry since the shower was pulling from it and not the tank. I protested that the well should not be dry, because we'd not yet tried to fill the tank that day, so there should be plenty of water in the well. We soon realized that the reason the water had shut off was only because the pump had not come on to pull more water from the well to replace that in the bladder tank beneath the house. I'd only had the water in the pipes and the bladder tank for the shower, a very limited supply.

It did not occur to me to just ask the wife to plug in the secondary pump and run open the valve from the new tank, which would have given me plenty of water to rinse with. Instead I used the jug of water she'd saved for such emergencies. It was extra icy from resting on the tile. I squalled quite a bit and didn't get all of the soap off.

I then went and stood in the garage with my wife and my heart broke as she had a little cry over the situation. This hugely expensive endeavor was proving to be an even bigger hassle than the well had been by itself. And it didn't look like we were going to have clean water by the time our Thanksgiving guests arrived. I pointed out that the situation was not an impossible one. We just had all the problems we'd had before with the well (the silt, sulfur smell, etc.) but when those problems had previously occurred to us, they had resolved themselves within a couple of days. We just had to keep babying the well, filling it gradually and the good water would return. Once we had a tank full of it, we would just be using that and letting the system gradually replace it as needed, allowing the well itself to remain in good health. We were the ones who'd screwed up by trying to fill it too quickly.

We eventually theorized that because the secondary pump was unplugged, this interfered with the sensors that would have caused the well pump to kick on and pull more water from the well. This theory was wrong, but that was what I initially thought. And my theory was backed up by the fact that when we plugged in the secondary pump the well pump kicked on and we suddenly had water again.

After that, whenever we needed the well to kick on, either to fill the tank or just to use in the house with the tank bypassed, we just turned the breaker on and off. Saved having to go in the crawlspace to hit reset.

That was Tuesday night.

I didn't call Dave on Wednesday. I didn't want to admit we'd drained the tank after he told us not to.

On Friday neither the wife nor I could get the well to come on at all. None of the usual steps worked. No breaker, no reset buttons, no unplugging and replugging. Nada. So I called Dave. He asked all the right questions to make sure we had everything set correctly. When none of that troubleshooting turned out to be the problem. To get the pump to come on, he told me to close off the valves to the tank entirely, then go run water in the bathtub until it drained enough water pressure to trip the well pump's sensors and cause it to come on. I did this, then leaned through the crawlspace door to watch the pressure meter on the bladder tank. It was around 65 psi. I expected it to decrease, but its needle began climbing to 70 then to 75. The meter had previously sat at around 45 psi. This was wrong.

"Have you changed your filters?" Dave asked.

"Yeah. I put in a couple of 2 micron filters," I said.

That, it seemed, was the problem. Two micron filters are great at filtering out tiny tiny particles, but they also therefore have much more limited flow than the 5 micron filters. The twos had now clogged with sediment and were hampering the flow and, therefore the pressure release of the system. In fact, the filter housing by the new tank was leaking water from its pressure release valve, which should have been the first sign of pressure problems. So I changed out both filters for 5 microns, then redid the tub water step. The pressure tank sat at around 50 psi this time and decreased as the tub water flowed. The pump kicked on and suddenly we had water again.

Dave was elated that we were able to troubleshoot this successfully. He also agreed with our notion of babying the well, filling the tank little by little.

Over the weekend, we continued to slowly fill the tank, but the water we were getting from it, while mostly clear, was a smidge sulfury and full of microscopic bubbles that dissipated within a few moments of pouring it. I then decided to give the well itself a two day resting period. Instead of pumping in only 100 gallons a day, we'd just close off the reserve tank entirely and live on the well water while it recharged. We didn't do laundry. We took very quick showers and we saved buckets of the water usually wasted while waiting for hot water to hit the tub taps to flush the toilets.

On Monday morning, our 500 gallon tank sitting at under 200 gallons, we ran water until the well pump kicked on, then took a water sample from the pipe within the reserve tank itself. It was crystal clear and smelled great. We immediately filled the tank to 300 and cut if off for the day.

We wound up going into Thanksgiving with around 400 gallons at our disposal. Each day, we'd let around 100 additional gallons into the tank, which helped us keep up with the demand. With eight additional people in the house (the wife's grandma bailed at the last second and our niece Katy couldn't get out of work and had to stay back in Kentucky) including a toddler and a four-year-old, we had plenty of dishes and showers and laundry to do. By the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we had around 100 gallons in the reserve tank. After most of the guests left, we filled it to 200 and have now started the babying slow fill process again.

Long (LONG LONG) story short, though, the reserve tank is a success.

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