I knew from the experience of having replaced the tank for our reverse osmosis system, that replacing a tank is a fairly pricey endeavor down here in Belize. I also had a pretty good idea that getting a bladder down here was next to impossible - or so I thought.
I went up to Lano's new warehouse/store up on the Northern Highway in Ranchito, just a mile or so from our house, to price what a new 35-gallon tank was going to cost. After climbing the language barrier with a couple of the new staff (some of Mr. Lan's relatives, who are new to Belize), I managed to talk to Mr. Lan.
He popped up from behind the bicycle counter at his new store, to greet me. His store is a huge affair, as far as Belize stores go. Not only is it a hardware store, but they sell a complete line of motor scooters and cycles, bicycles and parts. There's a Car wash (being set up), auto tire changing station, and a huge showroom upstairs like at the downtown store, but larger.
Anyway, I described to Mr. Lan what I was looking for and asked, on the off-chance, if he had a replacement bladder for the tank. To my utter amazement, he did. Only because he had just replaced the bladder in his pressure tank. In fact, he took me up to the third floor of his new building, where his new home will be, to show me the tank and his jet pump setup - which is what I want to go to after my submersible pump finally dies. A jet pump sits on the surface, in this case, on the top of his tank, not 55- or 60-feet down the well. An arrangement much more suitable for repairs. But, that's another story for another time.
On with the current story. I purchased the bladder, as you can see below. The bladder is made of vinyl, although it feels just like the latex surgical rubber tubing used in slingshots and I suppose, in some surgical applications as well. Anyway, it's quite thick, probably on the order of 1/8" with the lip of the bladder being close to 1/4" thick.
|New Water Pressure Tank Bladder|
In my search on-line, I had no trouble finding tanks and bladders and the cost for those items stateside was around $200 - $250 US. So, if you double that to BZD and add in the costs above, it's close to being a wash. Since I already had a good tank, I didn't even consider that option.
Here's the tank that needs the bladder changed. It sits in my well house which is located right next to the front gate of our place. The tank is known by several names - “pre-charged” tanks, “bladder” tanks, “captive air” tanks, etc. After working on it to remove the old bladder and replacing it with the new one, I have a couple other names for the thing. I'll leave those to your imagination.
|Water Pressure Tank at Start|
Incidentally, I also found out that you shouldn't use the same type of bladder tank for reverse osmosis (RO) systems as for your regular water supply pressure tank. RO tanks have bladders made of butyl rubber, much different than the vinyl we're going to use here. RO water is so pure that it wants to pull contaminants into it. If stored in the vinyl bladder of a pre-charged tank, the “elastomers” in the bladder will be pulled out of the bladder into the water leaving the bladder very brittle. What it pulls into the water can also be considered to be toxic.
Back to the story. Since this isn't the average run-of-the-mill project that one does everyday, I asked David if he'd like to come over and observe and maybe help. It's a good thing that he did, too. I was seriously deluded by some of the videos I watched on YouTube about changing your own tank bladders as to just how challenging this project was. It is NOT a one man project. At least the way that we did it.
The first thing we had to do was get the tank out where we could work on it. As I suspected, the tank was definitely "water-logged" as they say. That is, the whole tank was filled with water. We initially shut off current to the pump and then opened up a near-by hose faucet to drain off any water pressure in the system.
|Draining Waterlogged Tank|
|David Moving Heavy Tank|
|Waiting for Tank to Finish Draining|
|Nelson Supervising Draining|
Perhaps that scenario is where the advice on a couple of the videos I watched came into play. They said, for a water-logged tank, the only way to free things up was to poke a hole into the side of the tank. I suppose that would have done it, but then, I'm pretty sure that would have rendered the tank useless. I kind of wanted to reuse the existing tank so we didn't consider that as a viable method.
After we got the cover off, we were surprised to find this length of pipe connected to the underside of the cover. The blue end cap was loose and rolling around inside the bladder. I hadn't seen this in any of the videos I watched. I'm not sure what it does other than maybe it keeps the bladder from collapsing entirely.
|Underside of Tank Cover|
|Dave Attempting Removal of Old Bladder|
|Old Bladder Finally Out|
|Dave Filling Tank With Air|
You should have seen both David and me jump the first time the compressor kicked in while it sat inside the compartment. I thought we were goners for sure. After fixing the leak, we did at least move the compressor outside to protect what's left of my hearing.
|Tank Pressurized and Watered|
It wasn't long after all this that we had the tank filled with both air and water and functioning the way that it should. No more sense of rapid fluctuations or anything like that. I cleaned up the area, putting the gas cans back in the pump house, all the tools back in the workshop and joined David and Elizabeth, and Dianna on the porch for a nice cold one - richly deserved, I might add.
As for the other matter. It's a leak on the outfall side of my main swimming pool pump. I just can't seem to get the damned thing to quit losing water. Even after twelve or more wraps of Teflon tape, it still leaked. Mr. Lan asked why I didn't use galvanized pipe? He said he is using galvanized pipe on his water jet pump because of the potential for heat and vibration to easily warp the PVC fittings.
What I didn't know is that Lano's now carries a fairly wide assortment of galvanized pipe and fittings, and even has a man on his staff who can cut it and can cut threads. So this next week I'm hauling the length of pipe up to Lano's so he can have his man gin up some pipe and fittings that will be heat and vibration-proof and should solve my leak problem at the main pump.
There might even be a posting about all of that. Stay tuned for developments.