Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How Not to Bypass a Frozen Water Line

As both of my readers know, trying to get water has been an ongoing issue here. We waffle between having trouble just getting liquid water, and then when we do, we have issues with whether or not it is potable (so far, not completely).

When we returned from vacation, we were really disappointed to receive our latest water test saying: "Overgrown - heavily contaminated with bacteria often found in the environment. This condition interferes with the detection of coliforms or E. coli that may be present in your sample." This really surprised us after the previous two tests had said there was no bacteria to be found at all!

We also returned from vacation to find that somehow a very long section of hose had been frozen solid, in spite of that hose being open to drainage at both ends.

It looked pretty much impossible to thaw this length of hose, so Grandpa and I wisely decided to just bypass it with a length of RV hose. (One should not use regular garden hose for drinking water, in spite of our childhood memories... I believe at one time they actually used lead to soften the hose, and that it still contains stuff that you don't want to drink from.)

We still needed to thaw out about 25' of my original hose, which we opted to try by running hot water over it.

We pursued this for a few hours before Grandpa packed it in. I then had the genius idea to pour hot water in one end of the hose, and then try to suck it out the other end - I could picture the hot water seeping past the ice chunks, melting them quickly and freeing up the hose.

Alternating between sucking and then letting the water and ice run out, I quickly reduced my upper lip to a slab of meat. Duckface anyone?

It did eventually work though - the last chunk of ice fell free, and I hooked up the hose and fired up the pump! Exciting!

Soon a trickle began to flow out into our yurts. Then, it progressed to slower trickle. With patience, it returned to a trickle.

After staring at the drops for a good half hour, I looked down the well - it looked like it was frozen pretty solid on top, but there seemed to be good water underneath.

I began disconnecting the hose in various spots to see where the flow was restricted. Imagine my delight to discover that it was the bypass hose!

While I'm no engineer, I have thought this through a bit after the fact. For starters, to go from a 1" diameter hose to a 1/2" diameter hose probably restricts my flow about 60-70% right out of the gate. Now I also suspect that the walls of the hose are not as ridgid as those of my pipe, which likely absorbs lots of the force of the pump, further reducing my ultimate flow. While the pump has been admirable at pumping water this height and distance, it isn't producing residential water pressure.

So there you have it. I simply have to thaw the frozen pipe. Today I will likely cut free the remaining length of pipe and try to find a way to get it into the yurts without too much craziness.

Once I have it running again, I'm not completely sure how to prevent the situation from recurring. I somehow suspect that it was because on my final pumping, I only pumped one bucket of water, perhaps not enough to ensure all the ice in the hose had been melted out.

I also notice that once the pump is disengaged, the suction of the water dropping back into the well holds water in the hose leading to the yurts for a few minutes. Perhaps I can try to blow down the hose after each use to ensure no water is locked in place.

Hopefully I can talk about something else soon!

 

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