Wall-O-Water

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Wall-O-Water

For some time the water pressure regulator in the house had been acting up. It would allow pressure to build up to county pressure (about 120 pounds), so when you turn on a tap, there'd be a lot of pressure for a few seconds, until it hit the correct pressure (or perhaps a little below), and water flow would be normal. The flow was always a little less than I really liked. So it was finally time to replace the regulator.

In the original installation the main valve and regulator were straight-lined. The pipe came out of the wall, made a 90 degree turn, went into the valve then the regulator, then up into the ceiling. In addition to replacing the regulator, I also wanted to add a whole-house filter. Nothing too elaborate like a reverse osmosis system, but just a simple particulate matter and carbon filter. Home Depot had this GE GXWH20F for about $40, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

The GE unit is nice in that it was two useful features. One is a pressure release valve. This is necessary so when it's time to change the filter, you can unscrew the filter housing from the head. While I could just as easily turn the main water off and then open a hose bib, I just press the pressure release valve on the side. I have to have a bucket under it to catch the water from the housing, so it's no additional work (incidentally, a friend of mine and his wife had an unplanned shower due to a broken pipe due to failing to release the pressure).

The second feature is that it has a remote indicator of when it's time to change the filter. You might imagine this would be some high-tech bit of stuff that senses reduced filter flow or an accumulation of some chemical. No, in reality it's a blue LED with a 90 day timer. After 90 days, it starts blinking. Nothing more, nothing less. The filter cartridges are supposed to be good for 90 days or 16,000 gallons. We use about 2100 gallons (3 CCFM) a month, so our filters should last more like 6 months. Still, even the blinking light is a useful reminder.

The stock filter that comes with the unit is a FXWPC, which only removes sand, sediment and rust. I wanted something a little more effective, so I picked up a 2-pack of the FXWTC filters, which claim to filter sand, sediment, rust, soil, silt and chlorine. The water definitely tasted a little different, so I'm suspecting it's doing it's job.

One drawback to the unit is that it's horizontal mount only, so I had to re-work the piping arrangement to mount it. I figured while I was doing that, it'd be nice to have a pressure gauge on the inlet and outlet side of the pressure regulator. And since I had this filter in there, I should be able to bypass it completely, in case there was some sort of problem, or I wanted to replace it with a different model.

Over the course of a couple weeks, I bought CPVC pipe, elbows, couplers, valves, regulators, and what-not. I measured the distance between the original main valve and where I intended to cut the pipe near the ceiling. I measured and cut and glued, and pretty much got it all arranged like I wanted. One thing that didn't make be happy was gluing the water filter in, nor the idea of having to glue the whole rig to the existing pipe work.

Turns out Home Depot carries these neat little brass couplers called SharkBite fittings that you insert the pipe into about 1", and once they grab, it's virtually impossible to get the pipe out, unless you use the special tool that depresses the brown release ring. Then tend to leak just a little when there's no pressure on the system, but once pressure is present, the seal tight, and the pipe will probably break before would come out.

I used 5 of these couplers, 2 for the water filter (in case I wanted to remove the filter head for servicing, or to replace it completely), and 3 to join the rig to the existing house pipework. Now armed with a completed rig, I was ready to install it.

I wandered up to the street to turn the water off, and the first thing I found was that the meter box was nearly filled to the top with mud and crud. The meter reader would scrape just enough away to get a reading. The second thing that I found probably contributed to the flow issue is the valve at the street was about 30 degrees from the full on position. I cleaned out the box, turned off the water, and started cutting the original pressure regulator out. Used the couplers to put the new rig in, and turned the water back on.

And there was a leak. Seems that in the process of cutting the old regulator out, I torqued or twisted the pipe enough to cause the joint at the original water valve to start leaking. So I turned off the water, drained the system, disconnected the new rig (good thing I used those re-usable couplers!), and replaced the main valve with a new plastic body one. Put the rig back in, turned on the water, no leaks.

Now it was time to permanently mount it. So I turned off the water, attached some wooden blocks to the pipes with pipe clamps, marked where the bracket for the filter needed to be drilled, and disconnected everything. Remounted everything, glued the blocks to the wall, let it dry, and applied pressure.

It seems I have one VERY minor leak in one of the CPVC couplings. And to replace it would require rebuilding the whole thing. So it's just going to live with a slow leak until it either gets worse (leaks never get better), or I get totally disgusted with the imperfection.

Somewhere in this narrative, I left out where I turned on and off the water at least another half-dozen times during the testing and such. Seems like I had to rebuild an elbow section where the pressure gauge on the high pressure side because of clearance or something. It's about 150' uphill to the street. Not far, until you've walked it 10 times in 2 hours, carrying a 5 pound turn-off tool.

So now we have the water to the whole house filtered (which should help preserve the water heater and appliances), better pressure and flow, and I can keep an eye on the pressures. And should something need replacing (except for that leaking elbow...), I can pull the whole thing out for servicing, or bypass it completely.