In Praise of Maier Hardware, Or How Dave Solved All My Water Tank Woes With One Insight.

As outlined in my previous post, I was stressed and stumped about how to best deal with my overflow drain on the water tank.

I needed to find an easy way to introduce air into the top of the tank (especially when the overflow line is in use, but generally at all times to offset any water removed from the tank).  At the same time, I didn’t want to use anything that might allow water to escape from the system.  I was in a bind.

My two solutions were to either put check valves on top of both the tank and the sight hose, which would mean that any overflow situations would have the pump putting pressure on the tank – something I was reluctant to entertain, especially with the factory specifically telling me not to do that.

My other solution was to have the overflow pipe just drain out into my drainpipe via a non-physical connection.  I would let the 1″ poly pipe hang into the 1 1/2″ abs drain pipe, and hope that it never backed up, and that fumes would be minimal if they travelled up the hose and hovered over our drinking water.

On Saturday I completed a few service calls, realized that I was going to be too late to attend the open mat time at the dojo I have recently been attending, and so headed directly to Maier Hardware to return my huge collection of poly pipe accessories (from previous complicated notions) and instead pick up the parts to allow me to install one of my above solutions.

Serendipidously, the owner Dave was there, and he was graciously willing to chat with me.  I usually feel like I’m intruding on him, as we chat for ages – so it was with some guilt that I began to explain my woes to him.

He reiterated his first solution to my problem.  A rather clever arrangement of an overflow drain that lined up with the kitchen sink and had some sort of brass bell that would ring when the water flowed by.  While a fantastic idea, I didn’t think it had long term appeal to my wife, nor did I think that it would work as good in practice as it did in our minds eyes.

Then he told me about a valve designed for P traps to prevent negative pressure from draining them.  This was nearly perfect!  He showed it to me and I got sincerely and really excited – it was readily apparent that his experience and thoughts were absolutely invaluable!  Then he pointed out that this valve still had a tiny spring loaded clip to close it, and as such, there was a decent chance that it would prevent the backflow of water from the tank to the well from completely emptying the pipe, and that perhaps a foot or so of water may remain in the pipe from the well.  This wasn’t a good thing, as my heat cable only extends a few inches above the surface of the water from the well, and so if there was water in the pipe outside of the well, it would be very susceptible to freezing.

Then he told me about his “first choice” of solution – extending a pipe from the top of the tank straight up in the air until it was higher than the pump had the capacity to pump.

With shock, I realized that this was very possible – I could easily put a T on the overflow pipe, and put more pipe there that ran between my roof rafters until it was up in the attic.  That would add on up to ten feet of stack – and the pump was probably already close to its limit of about thirty feet.  I can’t describe the feelings of relief and excitment at his tremendously insightful solution.

I felt terrible walking away with only the purchase of a T coupler, instead of my other items, as it turned out a net loss for him – he ended up refunding me $20 for the other parts I returned.  Then again, as if there was much doubt, he cemented in a dedicated customer (and some extra blog publicity).

Returning home, I boiled up a hot rag and wrapped it around the fittings on the top of the tank.  This softened up the poly pipe and made it easier to switch out the ninety degree bend for the new T coupler.

Swapping a T coupler for a ninety degree bend.

I installed about forty feet of poly pipe on this fitting and then with Donna and Kenny’s help, snaked it up into the attic and just over the collar ties.  This was a gain of about six or seven feet of head.

No shortage of pipe here!
And over the collar ties.

The remainder of the pipe I brought back downstairs and Kenny lined up the pipe outside into a bucket to catch any possible water that got that far.

Ready to catch any overflow – happily, he was disappointed!

I had a sip of bitters to settle my stomache, and then hit up the pump for five minutes, when clearly only four would be required to fill it.

My hands were shaking badly as I saw the water reach the top of the tank.  I heard the change in pitch, and then the rush of water down the drain.

The water moved up the sight hose until it reached the final bracket holding it to the wall, and then it stuck there.  It didn’t even rise to the sponge plug!

Donna reported that she could hear and feel water shaking the pipe, but none was able to come out.

I put the plugs in the sink drains just to be sure I tested it under all circumstances, and let it run for a full two minutes.  Nothing bad happened, and when the pump shut off, the water level simply dropped back to a full tank.

Cut to length and screwed to a rafter.  It will get boxed in when I finish the paneling.

Maier Hardware had saved the day with a simple, elegant solution that still has me smiling days later.

And thus, the water system is complete (until my low flow kitchen taps arrive, and other cosmetic issues are addressed).

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