As with any cottage of a certain age, there are a number of quirks that have developed over the years. In the beginning, everything is well-organized or at least planned out and then over time little changes accumulate and it helps to have insider knowledge on how things work, or why things got to be the way they are. I’ve occasionally thought of putting together a “Cottage Book”, a history of our cottage, startup and shutdown procedures, things that are likely to go wrong from time to time and how to fix them. Not sure if and when this fabulous book might make an appearance on the best sellers list, so instead I’m thinking a series of “Cottage Tips” might be more expeditious in terms of sharing my experiences.
Tip #1: The water pump is running, but nobody is using the water.
This is not a good sign, especially if the pump is running frequently and nobody in the cottage is using any water. This is one reason why we turn the pump off when nobody is there. A runaway water pump will burn out sooner or later, and we’re all kind of used to having water on demand, not to mention the cost of replacing the pump. So, what to do? Well, somewhere in the waterline system there is a leak causing he pressure to drop and therefore the pump to kick in. If the leak is inside the cottage, you probably know this already by the water running all over the place. This generally only happens at startup when the lines have not been drained properly and freezing water has burst a pipe. But what if this is mid-summer and things have been fine up to now? Well, if there is no flooding in the cottage, check the area around the pump. Over the years metal pipes have corroded and cracked causing leaks.
No leaks here either? Hmmm, more investigation required. The next most likely culprit is the intake line and foot valve. I’d check the foot valve 1st. This little brass valve at the end of the intake line has a little spring-loaded plunger that keeps the water from draining out of the intake line when the pump is not running. When the pump runs, the valve opens and allows the water to enter. The part that is not too visible is the rubber O-ring on the plunger. Over time, it can get cracked and worn out and start leaking. In some cases, it can break and just “disappear” as it did this year (2013). There are spare O-rings in the shop and it’s a simple job to take the foot valve apart and replace the ring.
First close the valve to the house, just to avoid draining the whole system. Unplug the pump, and drain the pressure off using the hose at the pump. Take the foot valve off the line, remove the plunger, replace the O-ring, re-assemble and re-prime the intake line and plug-in the pump to re-pressurize the line. When the pump stops and the line is fully pressurized, have a look at the foot valve and ensure there is no water spraying out and it’s not making any hissing sounds, which would indicate that it’s still leaking. Assuming all is good, replace the foot valve screen, and take the end of the line back out into the deep water straight out from the dock. Easy eh? Oh yeah, don’t forget to open the valve to the house so you can enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Not the foot valve? Check the rest of the intake line to the pump, and then check the line between the pump and the house, then look around under the house for leaks. Still can’t find the problem? You have a real mystery on your hands. Keep looking, something will turn up sooner or later.