New Pool Pump

Earlier this month, I started work on replacing our pool pump, and as I write this, it’s mostly finished. I’d file this project under things I’m happy I did once, but wouldn’t want to do again. A hot swap of the old pump, with no plumbing or electrical changes, would have been quick and straightforward, but I completely redid the intake plumbing as well as the pressure-side plumbing between the pump and the filter, so that I could add unions (plus, the old pump had 1.5″ connections and the new pump has 2″ connections). Everything needed to be rewired as well, as the old pump was single-speed, and the new pump is variable speed (VS). The old pump used to be scheduled and switched on and off via the Autopilot SWG controller, but with a VS pump, it’s the other way around: VS motors have on-board electronics that control the pump schedule, run speeds, etc., as well as an auxiliary load circuit that will switch the SWG controller on and off as needed. The project was rather all-consuming for a week or so, as I really wanted to get the pool water circulating sooner than later so that it didn’t turn into a giant swamp (the longer you wait to Chlorinate in the spring, the more of a pain it is to get the water cleaned up for opening). I also wanted to make sure the pump, which cost upwards of $1200, actually worked.

The plumbing part of the project was the most challenging, but it went rather well, thanks to very careful planning and measuring. I built a platform for the pump out of scraps of Trex, and the biggest challenge was getting it level. While the pump doesn’t need to be level to work properly, it makes it a lot easier to get the pipes to align cleanly. I used the platform and some plastic shims to get the intake union lined up. I think a better solution might be to add adjustable feet to the platform, so I might do that for next season.

In my earlier entry, I mentioned that the suction pipes from the pool came out of the ground at different distances from the house foundation, meaning that if I wanted the pump exactly perpendicular to the wall, I’d have to either add extra 90° elbows, or use a specialty adjustable elbow on the intake. It turned out that in practice, it wasn’t really worth bothering with this — yes, the pump is not perfectly square to the wall, but the angle is so slight that it’s hardly noticeable. So, I got to save my adjustable elbow for a future project.

The other challenge was dealing with the water in the pool. A very rainy March/April had left the pool full to the brim, and since the pump intake is slightly below the waterline, water was constantly trying to overflow out of the main drain suction line once I cut the old valve out. I didn’t want to drain water out of the pool, because it’s convenient to have the water high for vacuuming to waste during opening. So, I had to figure out a way to keep the water at bay while I glued new valves to the suction line. I ended up taking a #8 winterizing plug and flipping the bolt around so that the wing nut was on the narrow end of the plug. Then, I jammed the plug down the pipe, tightened the nut, and glued the valve on. Once dry, I was able to pull the plug out through the valve body. Flipping the nut and bolt made this possible (in the regular orientation, the wide end of the plug would have gotten stuck).

Compared to the intake, the pressure side piping was a piece of cake — just some careful measuring. Unions made things easier, but it’s still a challenge making sure everything lines up, and I had to be careful not to drip PVC cement on the union threads or mating surfaces, which can be easier said than done.

I was rather nervous about starting the pump for the first time, but it worked just fine, and there were no leaks (I was fairly confident about the intake side, as it held water for a couple of days while I was working on the pressure side). The only real issue I had was unrelated to the pump — the handle shaft o-rings on the filter multiport valve were leaking. I ended up taking the valve apart, flipping and re-lubing the o-rings, and adding some teflon tape around the notch in the shaft where the o-rings sit. It seems to have stopped the leak.

I’ve been running the pump for the past few days to add chemicals and also break the pump in and observe how it works. I still need to wire the auxiliary load side to get power to the SWG and the pool cleaner booster pump. Then, I’ll need to figure out the minimum pump speed that I can use to get effective chlorination, as well as the minimum speed needed to effectively run the pool cleaner. But the end is definitely in sight for this project.

This and that

Yesterday, I participated in my first organized run in almost 22 years: the inaugural Open Gate Gallop. I ran the 8-mile route from the Guinness Brewery, into PVSP, out to the swinging bridge via the Grist Mill Trail, and back via River Road. It was a great time. As a long-time solo runner, it was interesting to run with so many other people. Even though it wasn’t a timed race, it was hard to resist trying to run fast. As a result, I clocked in at 9:25/mile, which I’m pretty sure is the fastest I’ve ever run any distance 10K or over. I’m not particularly competitive, but I like the fact that most of these runs support good causes, so I might try to do more of them. Last 4th of July, I was tossing around the idea of running in the Arbutus Firecracker 10K, but decided to find a geocache at the top of a pillar instead. If I don’t do something similar this year, the 10K might be fun.

Today, I took my first Sunday morning bike ride in 3 weeks, a 30-miler to Odenton and back. Due to travel and bad weather, it was only my second or third bike ride in the past month or so. I do expect to pick up the weekend rides as we get into the warmer months. The wet weather this year has made for horrible mountain biking conditions, and there’s more bad weather on tap for the second half of this week, but I think I’m going to try to sneak in a mountain bike ride on Tuesday morning.

Lastly, I didn’t have much time today to work on my pool pump replacement project, but I did get home in time to glue up the T-junction for the new suction piping. After due consideration, I decided to run each of the two vertical 1.5″ suction pipes directly into a 2-way Pentair valve, then into a 2″ elbow, and then into a single 2″ T fitting. The challenge was gluing everything together so that the T fitting ended up level, in spite of the suction pipes not being perfectly vertical. I think I managed to pull it off.

PVC Joinery

It’s finally time to replace the pool pump. The old pump, a Leslie’s-branded Hayward Super Pump II, came with our house in 2001, which makes it at least 23 years old. It had only a couple of minor issues in all that time, but the motor is finally starting to give up the ghost. The replacement pump has a variable speed (VS) motor, the pros and cons of which I tossed around for a good while before ultimately taking the plunge. I’m hoping it works well, lasts a while, and saves us some electricity. But before I can see how it works, I have to install it. As part of that, I’m redoing all of the plumbing from the intake to the filter, with the main goal being to add unions so I can take the pump inside over the winter, and also eliminate a couple of 90° elbows. This might seem easy on paper, but, of course, there have been some “gotchas”:

  1. The intake lines from the skimmers and main drain come out of the ground at different distances from the house foundation. One of them is about an inch closer than the other. The old pump was plumbed with two extra 90° elbows joined with slightly different lengths of horizontal PVC. If I left it like that, I wouldn’t have room for a union on the intake. To plumb it the way I want would require installing the pump at a non-perpendicular angle to the foundation. While not the end of the world, I don’t think it would look good. I bought a rather unique adjustable PVC elbow online which I’m going to try to use to get the pump at a better angle to the wall. Once I get the initial intake plumbing in place, I’ll see how everything fits together in practice, and decide whether I need to use the adjustable fitting.
  2. There is a lot of water at the main drain intake pipe, probably because the pool level is so high after all the rain we have had recently. I’d prefer not to drain water out of the pool, so I’m going to need to plug the line somehow to keep the pipes dry while I glue them up. I’m thinking about just stuffing a rag or something down there, but I need to make sure I can retrieve it after gluing everything together.
  3. The pool equipment pad is not level. It slopes away from the house to the tune of about an inch drop from the foundation to the edge of the concrete. As a result, the old pump was not level either. That didn’t bother it for all those years, but I think it will be easier to do the piping if the new pump is level. I have some scraps of Trex lying around that I plan to use for a pump platform, and I’m thinking I can just rip a strip of Trex to the appropriate width, and screw it to the front edge of the platform to level it. Then, the only challenge is getting the height of the pump to match the height of the intake plumbing.

I think I’ll start by fitting the intake piping together, starting with the tee that joins the skimmer and drain lines. I have less flexibility with the vertical positioning of the intake pipe than I do with the pump itself, and once the piping is glued in, it’s impossible to adjust. The pump, on the other hand, can be raised or lowered by adjusting the height of its platform.

Once the intake plumbing is finished, then I have to run the outflow line to the filter, and then the electricity. But, first things first.

Drippy Park Run

We seem to be stuck in a humid, overcast, drippy, chilly weather pattern after Ophelia passed through on Saturday. With schools back in session today, I decided to shake my Tuesday morning running routine up a little bit. I drove and parked the van on Levering Ave. near the viaduct, and ran into Patapsco Valley State Park, following River Rd. out past the swinging bridge to near the former Bloede Dam site, and back on the Grist Mill Trail. It ended up being about 7 miles, but if I wanted to, I could extend it to 8 or 9 pretty easily. I may start doing this more often on school days, as it seems to be a good way to avoid school-related running inconveniences (mainly traffic). As for the run itself, it was okay, but not great. I’ve been dealing with an extremely mild G.I. thing the past couple of days, which slowed me down a little bit, but I think the main thing was just the dreary weather and the wet feet.

This weather also brought an abrupt, early end to our 2023 pool season. I had hoped to get a couple of swims in after I returned home from Minneapolis, but it wasn’t to be. My final swim of the season was September 15. Hopefully, next year will be better, but as this year illustrates, September weather can be fickle.


Still dealing with some off-and-on nerve pain in the ball of my right foot, which cropped up around the third week of August. It’s close to the same area where I had a neuroma back around 2016-2017, and while I can’t rule that out, the symptoms aren’t quite the same. In 2017, when I saw a podiatrist, I got a cortisone shot in that area, which I don’t think did me any long-term favors. Oddly, it seems to bother me most when I’m sedentary, and in particular, in bed when I wake up in the morning. It’s just a generic kind of aching pain, and the nerve feels kind of “weird” when walking barefoot and when swimming. Running does not bother it at all, but I’ve aggravated it a couple of times while climbing. On Monday, I did a bunch of lead climbing, and I could tell I tweaked it on the first route I climbed. This morning, I climbed 6 routes on top rope, and had no problems. I was really careful with the foot, sticking to mostly overhanging routes with juggy holds, using the bad foot mainly for balance and trying to avoid putting too much weight on it. I also wore a metatarsal pad on the right foot, which I think helped. It definitely helps while walking on the treadmill and with static standing. It looks like I can keep climbing for now, but I’m going to need to baby it like this until the issue clears up. I suspect I’m going to have occasional issues there for the rest of my life, and the key is going to be to manage it to prevent flare-ups. The silver lining here is that the whole experience with the neuroma is what convinced me to start wearing minimalist footwear and “Correct Toes”, which was a long, tough transition from conventional footwear, but absolutely worth it in every way.

Notwithstanding our current September heat wave, pool season will be winding down for us in just a few short weeks. According to Apple Health, I took my 48th swim of the season this afternoon. That’s about 20 fewer than this time last year, but I never intended to match last year’s total. My first swim this year was June 2, so I’ve managed to average about one swim session every other day this season. That average will drop a bit, as I’ll be missing a week this month due to travel, but all in all, I’m pretty happy with how the season went. I’m swimming more strokes per session this year as well (703 strokes for 2023 vs 651 for 2022). One really weird statistic: for the first time in the 22 seasons we’ve owned the pool, this is the first year that nobody outside our immediate family has been in it. Times have definitely changed since the days when we used to throw a massive pool party every summer…

This and that

My dream of running 10+ miles on Saturday mornings is going to have to wait at least another week, as it’s still oppressively humid out there. Today, I settled for 10K, and probably sweated out about 30% of my body weight. If I’m able to consistently run longer distances through fall, winter, and next spring, then I’ll figure out what I need to do to keep it up this time of year. At a minimum, I’ll need a way to carry 1.5 to 2 liters of water, as well as a strategy to replenish electrolytes lost through sweating.

On the pool front, after malfunctioning twice so far this season, my SWG temperature sensor has been working correctly for the past several days, but I now have a tri-sensor simulator that I can use to troubleshoot it the next time it acts up. For now, though, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I just ordered a new Skimlite R16C leaf rake to replace my old one that I bought in 2007. That’s right — the old one lasted 16 years as my only leaf net. It had a few holes in the mesh, but was still usable. Recently, though, the frame has started flopping back and forth, which is inconvenient enough that I finally took the plunge and ordered a new one. They are not cheap ($70 in 2007; $100 in 2023) but they are made to last, and when you consider that the cheaper nets only last a season or two, the Skimlite basically pays for itself over time. I expect that this will be the last one I ever need to buy.

Late-season swimming report

It’s that time of the year where I’m wondering where summer went. I figure we have at worst 4 weeks of swim season left, and at best 6 weeks. Our record for latest swim of the year (October 9), was set in 2007, and still stands after 16 years. Will it ever be broken? We’ll have another shot at it in a few short weeks.

I would guesstimate that I have been getting in the pool and swimming laps about 4 days a week on average this year, which seems like plenty to me. It’s less frequent than I swam last year or the year before, but I’ve got more going on nowadays than in 2021 and 2022. I am still swimming with a tether, and tracking the workout by counting strokes. I typically do 720 strokes, which consists of 3 sets of 60 breaststroke, 60 freestyle, 60 butterfly, and 60 backstroke, in that order. It takes me a little over 30 minutes. This is the first year I’ve swum backstroke regularly, and it is still decidedly a work in progress. For some reason, I struggle with coordinating the arm movement and the leg kicks. It reminds me kind of like trying to pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time. I also occasionally splash water into my nose, which is not the most pleasant sensation, and staying straight (with the tether perpendicular to the pool wall) can be a challenge. I expect that I will improve over time, but it may take a couple of seasons.

We have a new winter safety cover this year. The old one lasted a long time — I installed it in fall 2002, and we used it through this past winter. It was in rough shape by then, and we really should have replaced it last year, but I’m not going to complain about getting 20+ winters out of it. The covers have more than doubled in price since 2002, but with any luck, this will be the last one we have to buy while we’re in the house. Next season, it’s looking like I may finally have to replace the pump. The current pump is a 1hp Hayward Super 2, and the previous owner installed it, so it’s at least 22 seasons old. It’s on its second impeller and second or third shaft seal, but now, the motor is finally starting to go, so I’m going to have to replace it before it gets loud enough to annoy my neighbors and then eventually freezes up. I may try to take care of that in the early spring, but I first need to decide if I want to swap out the entire pump, or just the motor, and then there’s the question of whether to go with a variable speed (VS) motor. Lots of stuff to think about there.

Morning Update

Not a pleasant morning at all here in central Maryland, so I opted to run in the pool. More storms later today in this already extremely stormy and wet summer. How long until autumn again? 😀 I’ve written before about how the benefits of owning a pool don’t quite make up for the expense and hassle required to maintain it, but I will say that it’s great to have the pool as an exercise option on days when I don’t feel like doing anything else outdoors. If the storms hold off long enough, I also hope to get out to swim later this afternoon.

I’ve settled on this recipe for what remains of my bag of dark roast beans I bought last May:

  • Beans: Lost Dog “Mocha Sidamo” Ethiopian dark roast
  • JX: 2.5 turns (75 total clicks, or 25 on the grind chart)
  • 80°C water
  • 14 grams coffee / 180 grams water (around 1:13)
  • One new paper filter (pre-moistened)
  • Recipe: “Basikairoo” (inverted: add 50g water, swirl aggressively for a few seconds, top up to 180g starting at 1:00, invert at 2:15, press for 30s starting at ~3:00)

This is only slightly tweaked from when I first brewed this recipe. It produces a good cup fairly consistently, with only slight variations in strength. I wonder if the length of time spent “swirling” makes any difference in the finished product. The recipe specifies 3 seconds, but I haven’t been timing it.

This and that

I had hoped to take a bike ride this morning, but ended up sleeping until almost 9:00. It was probably just as well, as it’s very hot and humid today, and would have been a rather sweaty ride. The reason for my oversleeping was that we got a call around midnight from our alarm monitoring company because of a “trouble” condition. Turns out that the newer Vista panels have “trouble” reporting enabled by default, while the older ones didn’t, and I didn’t think to turn it off when I programmed the new panel. Earlier in the evening, I had popped the cover off one of the wireless contacts to check the battery, which caused the zone to go into “trouble”. I’m not sure why the alarm company called at the time they did, but it does confirm that reporting is working! The panel is still showing “AC Loss” this morning, in spite of the power being just fine. When I get to messing with it again, I’ll try unplugging it, running it on battery for a few minutes, and plugging it back in, to see if it resets. If not, I may try swapping out the transformer, and if none of that works, I’ll contact the alarm company.

The pool SWG is still reading an abnormally high temperature today. At least it’s consistent. When I get to messing with that, I’ll try re-seating the tri-sensor cable and see if it corrects itself. I may also pull the tri-sensor itself out of the manifold and take a look at it. If none of that works, I’ll test it with the tri-sensor simulator to narrow down the source of the problem, and contact my Autopilot dealer to see what he recommends. This is a rather easy issue to work around, either by calibrating the temperature reading down, lowering the Chlorine output, or turning off the setting that automatically adjusts the output based on the water temperature. Assuming I can’t fix this easily, I’m inclined to ride it out for the rest of this season, and buy any needed replacement parts over the winter.

I brewed yesterday’s dark roast coffee recipe again today, exactly the same way, except I used 180g of water instead of 200g. Truth be told, I didn’t notice much of a difference from yesterday. It was a pleasant cup of dark roast. I have enough beans to make 7 or 8 more cups, and I’m probably just going to be boring and stick with this recipe until they’re gone.

Broken stuff

The abnormally-high temperature reading on my pool’s SWG that I noticed 10 days ago is back. This morning, it was reading 94°F when the actual water temperature was 80°F. The reading was consistently about 14-15° too high every time I checked today, all the way up until 7:00 or so, when I went out to swim. I’m going to try disconnecting and re-seating the cable that connects the tri-sensor to the controller, and I’ll take a look at the contacts to see if they’re dirty or oxidized. Maybe it’s just a bad connection. I went ahead and ordered a tri-sensor simulator, which is a little widget that plugs into the controller and generates a fixed temperature, salt, and flow reading. If cleaning and re-seating the cable doesn’t do the trick, then I can use the simulator to determine whether the problem is with the tri-sensor or the controller.

In other news, we are preparing to get rid of our landline phone service, but before we can do that, I have to convert our security system to use cellular and/or internet monitoring. The problem is, the panel’s firmware was too old to work with the new communicator, and to make a long story short, I had to swap out the entire panel. It’s kind of amazing that the panel is still in production, and is practically identical to the version that was produced 21 years ago when I originally installed it. All I had to do was move all the wires over and then reprogram the new panel (a tedious, but not difficult, job). That was today’s project. Now, the weird thing: the new panel works perfectly, except for one thing: for some reason, it thinks it doesn’t have AC power. The alpha keypad flashes “AC LOSS”, and the fixed keypad says “NO AC”. This is normally what it does during a power outage, when it’s running off the battery. Get this, though: it does this even with the battery disconnected. So, if it doesn’t have AC, I don’t know how it can possibly be working. Induction? Hamsters? Who knows. The voltage from the transformer is fine: I read 16 volts AC at the transformer itself and the connection terminals on the panel. I’m wondering if maybe I can just ignore this, as everything seems to be working, but I’m concerned that it may not be charging the battery. If it’s not, I’ll find out in the next few days once the battery runs down. As a last resort, I may try unplugging the panel to simulate an actual “NO AC” condition, and seeing if maybe it resets itself when I plug it back in. But I’m not holding my breath, as the problem has persisted through several power cycles. I’m also going to reread the manual and see if there’s anything I missed with the initial setup. If all else fails, I’ll contact my alarm company, and see if they have any ideas.