March 15, 2013
Please be advised that our shopping cart estimates some products. These are mostly large items that require either freight delivery or can not be sized correctly shipping via UPS. We try to set estimates to be close to what actual shipping costs are, but there are times where we just have to guess.
When we get the order with estimated shipping on it, we determine the exact shipping charges and if it is under the estimate, we will ship it and adjust shipping charges to match the actual cost. We will refund the difference between what the shopping cart authorized and the actual cost.
If the actual shipping charges are more than the estimate, we contact you (via email and/or phone) to get your approval before we ship. If you paid with a credit card, we also have to get your credit card information, for our staff does not have access to your credit card information. We do this for security reasons.
The problem occurs when we can’t reach you or you provided invalid contact information. In this case we are stuck between a rock and shipping truck. If the order appears to be time sensitive, we feel badly that we have to hold up the order to resolve the additional shipping costs. You can help by providing correct contact information, making sure you listen to our voice messages and make sure our emails do not end up in your spam trap.
We continually work to improve our shopping cart in order to avoid this dilemma, but until we resolve it, be advised your order may be delayed.
June 1, 2011
Submersible Water Pumps, 2 or 3 Wire. What is the Difference?
Submersible pumps, the kind of pump that goes in your well or cistern, are available with two wire motors or three wire motors. There is also another ground wire which is not counted, so if you look at the pump the actual number of wires will be three or four. The two wire pump will have two black wires and one green ground wire. The three wire pump has a black, red, yellow and green wire.
You are probably thinking, “That’s nice, but what is the difference to me?” The main difference is the three wire pump uses a separate control box which includes a capacitor and relay to start the pump. The control box is located inside your house or pump house. The two wire pump does not use a control box. Everything is built inside the motor of the pump. All motors larger than 1 ½ HP are only available in the three wire version because you need the control box to start the heavier motors. Most residential pumps are smaller horsepower. Our top selling pump is just ½ HP.
Many years ago we sold mostly three wire pumps. We believed that having a separate control box above the well would sometimes save people the time and expense of pulling the pump when they experience a problem. If the problem is in the control box it is a simple and relatively inexpensive fix to replace the box, as opposed to pulling the pump and replacing the motor or whole pump. This is the main advantage of the three wire pump. Then, probably 25 years ago, a local plumbing contractor insisted he had far fewer problems with two wire pump systems. We slowly shifted to selling more two wire pumps and our experience seemed to agree with the contractor’s observations. Also, two wire pumps are less expensive, the wire used to install them is less expensive and the installation is easier because you do not have to wire through the control box. Of the pumps we now sell, at least 90% of them are two wire.
May 31, 2011
Which size wire and breaker do I need for an electric water heater?
The wire and breaker size depend on which heating elements are in your water heater. Find the watt rating for the elements. This rating is usually on a tag on the side of the water heater. It is also printed on the elements. You can find the elements on the side of the heater under a plate attached with one or two screws.
For elements up to and including 2500 watts, the minimum wire size would be 12 gauge. With 12 gauge wire, use a 20 amp breaker or fuse. For elements over 2500 watts you must use 10 gauge wire and a 30 amp breaker or fuse. It is important to match the wire size to the correct breaker or fuse. The breaker protects the wire from overheating. You can use 10 gauge wire for lower wattage water heaters. If you are running wire for a new water heater, it is a good idea to use 10 gauge so that you are covered for any water heater you might buy in the future.
You can find wire on our web site at:
May 14, 2011
How Do I Determine Which Element I Need for My Electric Water Heater?
If you run out of hot water faster than you used to, have only lukewarm water or no hot water at all, it is possible that one of the elements needs to be replaced. How to accurately diagnose a faulty element is a topic of another post. This post assumes you have already determined that you need new elements. It discusses how to determine which element you need and how to replace them.
There are two types of elements found in the majority of water heaters: a flanged element or a screw-in threaded element. There are some other types on older heaters, but they are becoming very rare.
Always turn off the power supply to the water heater and drain the water from the tank before working with the elements. Most water heaters have two elements while some have only one. The elements are located on the side of the tank behind a metal plate attached with one or two screws. Remove the plate. There will be two wires attached to the element. Loosen the screws and remove the wires. Don’t worry about remembering which wire went to each screw, it doesn’t matter. It will now be obvious which element you have. If you see four bolts, it is a flanged element. Remove the bolts and pull the element straight out. If you have a screw-in element, you will see a single large hex head on the element. A 1 ½” deep socket can be used to remove the element or you can purchase an element socket wrench.
The wattage and voltage will be printed on the head of the element. Some elements will have two different listings such as 3500W at 208V and 4500W at 240V. Use the larger number when ordering. You may want to replace both elements while you have the tank drained, even if only one is bad now.
Important reminder! After installing the new element, always refill the tank with water before turning the power back on. Open a faucet while you fill the tank to be sure there are no air pockets remaining inside the water heater. Since elements are made to be submersed in water, they will burn out in seconds if you turn on the power to the tank before it fills completely.
Other informational sources:
- A diagram of hot water tanks – from HowStuffWorks.com
- Good video on replacing an element. Note: this video does not discuss filling the tank with water before turning on the elements.
- Another source of how to change an element from Ehow.com
April 25, 2011
What is a limit switch and why does it shut off my furnace?
- Trane SWT 01635 thermal limit switch,
The limit switch is a small, silver bi-metal disc about the size of a dime or quarter which turns off the furnace if the temperature inside the furnace gets too hot (see another example) It is a safety device and should not be disabled or bypassed. Limit switches do go bad sometimes, especially if the furnace routinely overheats. However, you should try to determine why your furnace is getting too hot before you replace the switch. An overheated furnace is usually the result of inadequate air flow through the furnace or a furnace that is too large for the building. An overheated furnace is not only inefficient, it will shorten the life of the heat exchanger in the furnace.
The first thing to check is your registers. Make sure all registers are open and not blocked by furniture or other items. Be sure the filter in the furnace is clean. If you have recently added air-conditioning to your system, it may be possible to increase the blower motor speed. Get a furnace technician to do this if you are unsure how to safely change the speed.
If you have tried all of the above and replaced the limit switch but the furnace still overheats, the size of your ductwork or furnace is suspect. Do you have at least as much cold return air coming back to the furnace as there is warm air going to the home? If not, add more cold air runs or increase the size of existing runs. You may also need more warm air runs to get the heat away from the furnace. The main trunk or ductwork may be too small to handle the needed air flow. Call a trusted HVAC technician to do a heat loss and/or heat gain assessment for your house to see if the ductwork and furnace are properly sized.
More information can be obtained at the links below:
More about high limit switches at furancecompare.com
Interesting forum entry regarding limit switch on DoItYourself.com
April 25, 2011
Duct tape, ductboard tape, flex duct tape-what is the difference?
You might have heard the joke that all a DIY person needs is duct tape and WD40. If something is supposed to move and doesn’t, use the WD40. If it moves and isn’t supposed to, use the duct tape!
Before the advent of fiberglass ductboard and insulated flex duct, gray cloth duct tape was pretty much all we needed for tin ductwork and a million other uses around the home, and it is still great stuff to have on hand. Today there is also ductboard tape, sometimes called aluminum foil tape, as well as flex duct tape.
As the name implies, ductboard tape was designed to construct and seal fiberglass duct work. This tape is pressure sensitive which means you must go over it with a small squeegee to make a good seal. Ductboard tape is available with or without the UL 181 approvals. The UL 181 is clearly marked on the outside of the tape and must be used when the ductwork will be inspected. Surprisingly, the non-UL 181 tape has a higher adhesion rating than the UL 181 approved tape. Most of our local contractors prefer the nonlisted tape unless a job must be inspected. Our flex duct tape is a very sticky, black tape designed to bond, protect, hold and patch flexible duct pipe. Flex duct tape is not recommended for metal duct.
Now you can get the right tape for the right job. We will discuss the WD40 later!
April 25, 2011
You just had city water installed, and now your hot water tank is leaking out of the relief valve! The following information will provide steps to help you solve the problem.
The first rule to remember is that as water is heated, it will expand. Before getting city water you likely had a pump and cold water expansion tank in your house. As the water heater did its job, the expanded water would push back the line into the expansion tank.
It is common after installing city water to have no expansion tank and a check valve installed in the new waterline. When the hot water tank heats water, the expanded water has nowhere to go, thus building excess pressure and blowing it out of your water heater relief valve.
Wilkins Expansion tank - item 41-300
The solution is to install a small expansion tank on the cold water line above your water heater.
We carry an expansion tank for hot water. It is our item # 41-300, a Zurn XT-8. A tee fitting is required for the cold water line to go to a ¾ “ female pipe thread to accept the tank threads. You will need enough room for the tank to hang. It is advisable to have some support for the water line as well, to avoid putting undo strain on it, causing it to break and create another problem.
You may also want to replace the relief valve, our item 41-274, on your water heater as it may still drip after being opened by high pressure a few times.
Good article on expansion tanks from a code point of view:
Here is a link to Zurn’s installation document. for the XT expansion tank.
April 14, 2011
If I run out of water, can it damage my pump?
Submersible pumps are more susceptible to damage than jet pumps. Pumps are cooled and lubricated by the water flowing through them. The impellers of a submersible pump will quickly begin to melt and fuse together when the water level drops below the intake screen of the pump. Running without water even one time can cause the pump to lock up or seriously degrade the pump’s performance. A jet pump may run quite awhile without damage but they can also overheat. The impeller, diffuser, shaft seal or motor could be ruined. Because this type of damage is not from a defect in the pump, it is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
A low cut-off pressure switch will prevent damage in most situations but is not foolproof. A better solution is to install an electric pump protection control. The pressure switch turns off the pump when there is a drop in water pressure below 20psi. The pump protector controls sense a drop in electric current as the load on the pump drops when the well goes “dry”.
The low water pressure switch is suitable as a little insurance for a well that doesn’t typically have a problem with water level. We highly recommend the pump protector for low-producing wells. If your pressure switch drops out, you will have to wait several minutes or more for the water level to recover, and then hold the lever on the side of the switch up until the pressure increases above 20psi. The pump control is not only more reliable, it is also much more convenient. The control has an adjustable timer which can be set from two minutes to an hour or more. After the preset time, the control automatically restarts the pump. It sure beats getting out of the shower soaking wet and trudging to the basement to lift the arm on the pressure switch!
April 14, 2011
I am losing water pressure, how do I find the cause?
If you are connected to a municipal water company, call them. If you have your own water source, read on.
If you notice the pump is coming on or the pressure reading on the gauge is dropping when no one is using water, there could be a leak somewhere in your system or a check valve might have failed. Leaks can be in your house, underground or in the well.
Let’s check the easy things first – leaks in the house. Look at each toilet in the home. Lift the tank lid to see if the fill valve is stuck open and pouring water down the overflow tube. Some fill valves can be taken apart and cleaned while others will have to be replaced. It could be a bad tank ball or flapper allowing the water to leak from the tank into the bowl. This will cause the water level to drop in the tank and the fill valve will open to refill the water. Replace the flapper or ball. It is also possible that an outside faucet wasn’t turned off completely or the garden hose has developed a leak.
If nothing was leaking inside the house, an outdoor source could be at fault. Do you have a shut-off valve on the house side of the cold water pressure tank? If so, turn it off and watch the gauge. If the pressure is still dropping, the leak is between the tank and the bottom of your well or spring. The leak could be a cracked fitting, a hole in the pipe, a loose hose clamp, a bad o-ring in the pitless adapter or a bad check valve or foot valve. If the water source is a spring, replace the foot valve and the fitting. If you have a well and the well head is underground, start digging. If you have a well cap above ground, it will be easier to access. Remove the well cap or well seal. Listen for water spraying or hissing. Look down the well with a flashlight for leaks around the pitless adapter. If you do not see evidence of leaking pipes, you will have to pull the pipe out of the well. For a single-line jet pump, check the pipe for holes or splits and replace the foot valve and fitting at the bottom of the pipe. On a two-line jet pump system, check the pipe and pay special attention to the jet assembly (the piece that ties the two lines together). Look for a hole in the jet assembly and check or replace all of the fittings. Replace the foot valve. For a submersible pump, check the pipe and the fitting at the top of the pump. There is a check valve either just above the pump or built into the head of the pump. Replace the existing check valve or add a new check valve above the pump.
Check the pressure on the well side again. For jet pumps you will have to prime them by filling the lines with water. Jet pumps will not work if there is air in the pipe. Hopefully, the problem has been solved. If there is still a loss of pressure you might have a leak underground. Look for a wet spot in the yard between the house and the well which may indicate a leak. If there is nothing obvious in the yard, the most likely spot for a leak is at the foundation where the pipe enters the house. Dig this area first. The next place to dig is along the outside of the well casing to the point where the pipe attaches to the outside of the pitless adapter. If both of these areas are dry, the leak is probably somewhere else in the underground pipe. Other likely areas are under sidewalks or driveways. You may want to plug the pipe at the well or spring and do an air-pressure check to be sure the leak is definitely underground before digging up and replacing the existing pipe.