Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You know what I hate?

I hate uncertainty. I don't mean minor uncertainties, like what book I'll read next or whether I should have rice or macaroni for supper. I mean major uncertainties, where I don't know if something is going to be screwed up or not, and it really matters, and there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it.

Case in point: This morning. The installer guy is supposed to come and move the satellite dish and modem from Landlady's barn to the Secret Lair. It's one of those deals where you just have to leave open a slot between eight and twelve. He may be late, but most likely if twelve o'clock rolls around and he hasn't shown, he isn't going to. In fact, most likely he won't show up anyway, no matter what time it is, because that's the way things work around here with tradesmen. And while it'd be cool to have internet access at the Lair the truth is I don't want some stranger nosing around it, so part of me won't mind when he doesn't show up. Not showing up is pretty much par, so that won't upset me. It's the uncertainty: Will he or won't he? Only he knows for certain, if he does, which isn't certain.

Then there's the water thing. It's going from huge irritation to actual problem. This morning, after a night that should not under the most unlikely scenario have frozen anything, I woke to zero water pressure. Again.

Last time I lost pressure, the cistern was empty. There's no reason the cistern should ever be empty: I'm the only one using the water and I just don't use that much. It's a 2600 gallon tank: It would take months for me to use it up. It happened last time right after a couple of cloudy days, which meant the well pump wasn't working or at least not very much. This morning was also the first sunny morning in a couple of days, and when I checked the cistern it was virtually empty: An inch or two, just enough to keep the sediment out of the pipes. It wasn't full before the last cloudy spell, but I don't use that much water.

Therefore, beyond reasonable doubt, one of two things is happening. The system is leaking somewhere, or the water is draining back into the well when the pump isn't running. A one-way valve is supposed to prevent that last thing, but they fail. I've been over every inch of the system where there's any plumbing at all, indoors and out, and can find no hint of a leak. A thousand gallons of water usually leaves a sign of its passage, you know? It's not that hard.

Sometimes living off-grid is a pain in the ass. You either accept that going in or you shouldn't do it. I accepted it years ago. But sometimes the pain is worse than other times. Running water is such a delightful luxury: Even though I went without it for more than a year, just the past few weeks have spoiled me completely. This is not something I'm prepared to just live with, like I usually do. I've got to find and fix the problem.


MamaLiberty said...

Oh yes indeed... running water is one of those things well worth fighting for. I've lived a lot of my life with bad water, hit or miss wells and far too many years of hauling water in a tank... when I open that faucet, I want clean water to come out in relatively endless quantity.

I usually don't use more than 1,000 gallons a month in the winter, so I was shocked to see my water usage climb to 9,000 and more over the last few months. No garden, and no leaks that I could find... but it had to be going somewhere.

Finally, I discovered that there was a very minor leak in the upstairs toilet valve inside the tank. Hard to believe it could lose that much water, but I replaced it quickly. Now we shall see what the usage looks like next month. Luckily, I pay a flat rate for 1 to 35,000 gallons, so the cost has not been higher. I might have found the leak faster if it were, of course.

Good luck, Joel. Sometimes it is the most unlikely thing you can imagine. And sometimes it is so obvious you never think of it until all other possibilities are exhausted.

Plug Nickel Outfit said...

Out of 5 times of having seen a well pump pulled - I once actually did see a driller admit to an error (wires dropped - not attached correctly) and eat the cost of the pull and repair.

I once lived at a place that had a well and tank set-up that looked like it had been designed by Dr. Seuss. Best part was the 1/8 mile of unburied (often unsupported) 4" pvc running up a well bouldered hillside to the tank. Pump the water up a hill to let the hill provide the gravity feed! We always kept plenty of glue and couplings on hand and it was rarely 3 weeks would go by that someone didn't have to climb that hill and repair the pipe in the same spot that 1500 gallons had just spilled.

Good times!

gooch said...

Depending on the size and makeup of your one-way-valve a couple of taps with a hammer should free it up. [keep this up daily until the ship hits port and then replace the little devil.] rolls eyes

IF that is the problem then replacing it is next.
[landlady has enough frn's for a replacement valve maybe?] Given the finances replacing it and cleaning out the gunk and rust once every two or three years is not so hard when the replacement [or rebuilt version] is right there on the shelf just waiting to go to work.

I am most familiar with the largish metal valves that are made of iron or steel and will eventually rust away. Therefore I highly recommend the brass or acrylic plastic versions as replacements for that very reason.
I would also suggest putting in two unions to make replacement faster and easier. [one either side of the offending valve]
The process as described; break the two unions, pop the failed unit out, place new unit in and tighten unions. Go back to chore of the day. When time allows rebuild or replace 'backup' valve and place on shelf.]

Parts needed: One new one-way valve and two unions to fit the present piping.
A third union will make the job even faster because the replacement valve will already have its union halves installed.
[half of the union on each end]

IF you find the valve silted up inside then an easily replaceable inline filter is suggested.

Your [Landladies] Mileage May Vary