Monday, April 19, 2010

Bad Pump Seals Lead To 1 Hp Motor Bearing Failure

Having an engineering degree from a reputable college and keeping a real-world focus means that I can sometimes (but not always) avoid having to pay contractors for mechanical and electrical work that I am able to properly execute without hurting myself, blowing anything up, and not needing to be "rescued". So after I took Dr. Desert Flower to the airport on Saturday for her Scientific conference in DC, I made sure I had my cell phone charged, my employer provided insurance card handy, and took my tools out to my back yard to work on my swimming pool pump. The pump had been over-heating, and automatically shutting off on thermal over-load over the last week, after running for about 2 hours. The pump was (in retrospect) also running much more noisily this Spring than it had in the last 3 years. My hope was, I would find some kind of hairball wrapped around the pump impeller, or a dead beetle across the starting capacitor leads, or a bunch of dust over the windings - one can always hope.

So I downloaded the Hayward Pump manual here
link (found after searching for 10 seconds via Google) Pages 5 and 6 I found extremely helpful and enlightening. Dis-assembly went without any problems, both electrically and mechanically. Hayward makes a user-friendly product. Listening very very closely, I could actually hear the mechanical grinding of the motor's ball bearings, when turning the free wheeling motor shaft, fully disassembled.

Another minute of Google searching I found replacement motors and seals online here and here so I could understand what ball-park was a reasonable price, and where I might begin to be ripped off. I called my local Leslies' Pool Supply, (here) and spoke with the manager "Benny" who assured me, they could test the motor and capacitors if I brought them in. Into the car my motor went, and I drove the 2 miles to the Pool store. Indeed it was the bearings Benny confirmed, and they had a replacement motor - Great! But no replacement seals in the Phoenix Leslies' network. Benny assured me they would have new seals by Monday afternoon - so I brought my bad bearing motor back home, and reinstalled it, with the worn seals. I then took 4 hours to manually backwash the eight large cartridge filters with a garden hose, one by one - need to do that twice annually.

The filter head distributor had been leaking, so I thought "I'll seal it with silicone" and allow the silicone to "cure" over-night. I had applied JB Weld to it previously last year, but it continued to slowly leak over time, and eventually, became a steady trickle. I removed the JB weld with a flat head screw driver (carefully digging into it) and applied silicone in it's place. Then, kicked back, and watched the sunset.

Early Sunday morning, I figured I'd
- get some Hardware Store shopping done (insect barrier for the trunk of the lemon tree, epoxy & putty to fill the pool deck cracks, burlap drop clothes to pick up hedge clippings, a new spray bottle for applying 10:1 bleach since my last one was punctured by stray cacti needles)
- start up my rebuilt pump, and clean / skim the pool
- trim all the bushes in the front and back yards
- apply the insect barriers to the lemon tree trunk
- apply the crack filling epoxy to the pool deck's failing seal
- have some lunch
...but the best laid plans of mice and men...

Installing the rebuilt pump with bad seals was a Bad idea. A Very bad idea. Once I got everything hooked back up again, the worn seals failed, and the motor did not just leak water, it GUSHED water down the front flange of the motor. I turned off the breaker after just a minute of operation, spewing perhaps 5 gallows out via the blown seal. My pool was starting to accumulate debris on the surface, blown from the wind. The lack of water movement had initiated some black algae growth on the Eastern wall of the pool near the automatic pool leveler. This would not make it to Monday, without a big mess. The filter cover leaked like a sieve as well, the silicone caulk failing miserably. So I grabbed my downloaded Hayward Northstar Pool Owner's Guide, and headed to the Shasta Dealer, ready to pay an arm and a leg for the spares needed - my first born living out of state and no longer barter-able.

Shasta indeed had the spare seals, o-rings, and a $165 plastic filter cover - total injection molding costs perhaps $2, assembly $3, and design, distribution and marketing, perhaps $20, so a $140+ profit margin, thanks Shasta! Nice mark up!

Drove straight home, installed the cover and new o-rings, disassembled the pump and motor AGAIN, and headed back to Leslies' Pool. Benny was very helpful in installing the Shasta purchased seals onto the new Emerson motor he was selling me, and reassembling the impeller and diffuser with me. Back home, I installed the new motor and pump assembly, and it started up with no leaks. 430pm Sunday and I was at the same place I wanted to be 24 hours earlier. 2 hours later, lemon tree wrapped, trimmed, and shrubs shaped up, I was exhausted. 2 glasses of Malbec (posting later this week) and 2 blog postings later, called it an early night.

Had I not possessed a basic knowledge of electrical wiring, shaft clearances, torque, mechanical assembly, bearing function, hydrodynamics, and elastomeric sealing, I would have had to pay a contractor a hefty sum to do what I did "for free", costing me just parts, and gasoline to drive and get the parts. A day later, the 1 Hp Emerson pump motor is humming quietly, no more grinding noises coming from the bearings, and I know exactly why. The ants are fearlessly traversing the anti-insect wrap around the trunk (will be time for me to coat it in the anti-insect white paint that I also picked up).

One of the nasty prickly pears that lost an arm in my front yard, I foolishly transplanted, costing me a pair of leather gloves, old & worn out 40 waist sized work pants (that also had a bunch of silicone wiped on them from the o-rings), and multiple cactus needle finger sticks. I also planted 5 more lavender plants this weekend around the pool, bought for $2 each on clearance at Lowes... Miller Time? No, I'm old. Naproxin time. =)

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