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New Water Tank (1 / 3) -- April 2004

Each of the photographs are between 15 - 35 K, so the page will load slowly over a modem link.

Index of pages About Me:

Cabin Renovation (summer 2010) New Shed (fall 2008) New Dog Yard (fall 2007)
Moving (fall 2008) Dog Yard Tree (summer 2005) Living Room (winter 2004) New Water Tank (summer 2004)
Siding (Aug 2001) Windows (Apr 2001) Water tank (May 2000) January 2000
December 1999 May 1999 Darwin Alexi
Ivan Moose 2002

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or Page 3

In-ground, leaking tank

The graph on the right shows the results of dipping our in-ground tank. The volume of water in the tank can be estimated by measuring the waterline on the stick. It apparently has a fairly large leak, as you can tell from the graph. Particularly telling is the water loss during the night (highlighted in grey). We weren't using any water and the pump never came on. Before the tank developed a leak, we consumed approximately 200 - 300 gallons of water each week. The period of this graph is less than three days, and we've already "used" more than 700 gallons of water. The red line indicates when the old tank was disconnected from the pump.

So, we need a new water tank. After my other experiences with our in-ground tank (See May 2000 for more details), I've resolved to never bury any sort of storage tank in the ground ever again. In-ground tanks don't freeze, and you don't see them, but you can't figure out what's going wrong either. And getting one in or out of the ground is beyond the level of a regular guy.

The tank shown on the left (or below left) came from Greer Tank and Welding. They're manufactured here in Fairbanks, and they delivered it about 3 hours after I ordered it. It's a 1,550 gallon tank, and it cost $995. It feels a bit like high density polyethylene (what a typical opaque Nalgene drinking bottle is made of), and despite it's large size (87 inches in diameter, 65 inches tall), it's pretty light. My wife and I were able to roll the thing about 500 yards from the driveway, around the house, around the dog yard, and up a pretty steep slope to it's current location.

New tank I put the tank on the flattest piece of ground I could find behind our garage. It's sitting on 2 full sheets of 1/2" plywood, just in case there's some sort of irregularity in the ground that could damage the tank. I've had people tell me you can put them right onto a gravel pad and fill them up, so they must be pretty resistant to penetration even when they're full of water. I didn't want to take any chances.

Overall siteThe image on the left shows the tank in it's temporary location. The eventual plan is to put the tank up against the garage in the back corner where the garage connects to the house. The tank will sit on a concrete pad, and I'll build an insulated shed around it. The vent pipe and fill pipe will extend out of the shed so the water delivery guys can access it without going into the building, and so any overflow won't wind up inside. The image on the right shows the layout of this area. The issues are the fuel tank (the big rust colored metal tank on the right), the exhaust pipe from the monitor heater, and the window in the garage.

Since the tank is just under 8 feet in diameter, the pad will probably be a nine foot square unless I decide to add some storage to the back of the building. Nine feet from the corner where the garage wall hits the house will eliminate the window. I'll also need to re-plumb the oil tank to the monitor heater, and may need to move the monitor itself if there isn't enough airflow in this area once the shed is built.

You may not be able to tell from the image, but the ground also slopes away from the garage wall quite a bit. Two retaining walls will need to be built to support the fill that the slab will be over. I've never done foundation construction, so I'm uncertain on how I will build these walls, or what sort of support and insulation will be under the ground when I pour the slab.

Bulkheads for fill and vent pipeFirst things first -- getting the tank, in it's temporary location, hooked up to the pump. The first problem was that the tank, as delivered, didn't include any fittings for the vent and fill pipe that the water company needs to actually put water in the tank. There's a big manhole cover in the top, with a smaller cover in the middle that serves as a vent to allow for expansion and contraction, and to prevent the tank from collapsing when water is pumped out. I needed to install two bulkhead fittings into the manhole cover that would allow me to screw in the two pipes. My water company said they prefer a 2" metal pipe for the fill tube, and at least 1.5" pipe for the vent. I got two 2" bulkhead fittings, which required drilling two 3" holes in the manhole cover. The image on the left shows the cover, and the two bulkhead fittings I installed (capped for the time being).

One piece of advice here -- if you buy a 3" hole saw, make sure that the mandrel that you get will fit into the chuck of your drill. I noticed (after I got home) that the mandrel required a 1/2" chuck. I was able to improvise a solution with a socket wrench, but it took a lot of effort to drill through the lid with nothing but a ratchet to provide the torque.

Fittings on tank outletThe outlet on my tank was a 2" female threaded opening. According to Greer, these are often 1.5", so make sure you take the plug with you to the plumbing store or measure the hole before you go. I went with a 3/4" ID water supply line, so the first fitting in the image on the right is a bushing that converts a 2" female opening into a 3/4" opening. The next fitting is a short 3/4" nipple, which connects to a shut off valve. After the valve is a plastic barbed fitting that fits inside the pipe and is held with a hose clamp.

I'm not sure what I think about making connections between plastic, galvanized steel, brass and then back to plastic, but that's what they sold me at Frontier Plumbing supply. The white gunk on the threads is basically Teflon tape, except in a paste that you paint onto the threads. A container of the stuff will last a lifetime, but be sure to purchase the kind that is designed for metal and plastic. I was pretty nervous when tightening all the metal to plastic connections, so we'll have to see if these joints leak once water is delivered to my new tank.

Supply line through garage wallThe supply line itself is 3/4" ID black poly pipe. It's got a 125 psi rating and won't compress under a vacuum. It's pretty thick walled stuff, so I suspect it might even survive a freeze without splitting like a copper line would. I went with plastic pipe mostly because in it's temporary location, the tank is pretty far from the house. I'd be buying a lot of copper tubing / metal pipe to get from the tank to the house, and making all the turns would have been pretty challenging. The poly pipe is flexible, but because it comes in a 100 foot roll, it's got pretty severe curve in it that's hard to eliminate.

I cut the pipe using a hack saw and then gently and gradually tried to take the curve out of the tubing by bending it across my body. I was able to relax the curve, but couldn't eliminate it altogether. It's possible that this action, in combination with a source of heat like a heat gun might have yielded better results, but I don't own a heat gun. Pipe connections are done with plastic barbed fittings and a screw clamp. A heat gun was suggested to me to make these connections easier. I used a jar of hot water as a substitute. I found that water very close to boiling worked pretty well, but it had to be pretty close to boiling to get the desired effect. It's also pretty hard to dip the ends into a jar of water once you've started making connections.

All in all, I think I made the right choice (assuming it doesn't leak at the joints), but when I move the water tank up against the house and into it's shed, I may re-plumb everything with copper. At that point I'll have all straight runs, and copper will be easier to handle than the poly pipe. A 100 foot roll of the poly pipe was only $20, so I'm not out a lot of money even if I do replace it later this summer. All told, the fittings, pipe and hole saw were just under $150.

One of the images on the left shows the pipe going through my garage wall. This'll be behind a freezer, and the garage is largely unfinished, so I'm not going to worry about the drywall. You can also see what the 90 degree fittings and screw clamps look like.

Pump installationFrom the garage, the tubing snakes along the wall, a couple inches off the floor in the garage, and enters the utility room through the wall. In this, I'm lucky that my utility room is on the other side of the garage wall, so I didn't need to tear out any drywall. A professional installation, done when the house was being built would probably put the supply lines in the wall in the garage, but frankly, I'd rather be able to see them. Again, it's the garage, so there's no real reason to try to hide them.

I need to make a 180 degree turn to reach the pump. The image on the right shows what the situation looked like before disconnecting the old supply line. The copper tubing in the image is the line that serves the house, and the canister is a coarse particle filter. The pump has a 3/4" ID threaded nylon nut on the end of it that you can see just to the left of my thumb in the photo. The old supply line comes in via a combination of black, copper and galvanized pipe, entering the pump with a street elbow.

At the end of the new water supply line is a barbed fitting with 3/4" pipe threads on the other end that will go into the brass check valve. A final short nipple will connect the check valve to the pump.

After all the fittings were attached, and we had water delivered to our new tank, I cut the old supply pipe, removed it from the pump, and replaced it with the new supply line. I turned the tank valve to on, plugged in the pump and let it run. So far I have no leaks in any of the tubing connections, nor at the pump, but there was a very small leak at the bushing that converts the tank outlet to 3/4". I've tightened this another full turn, so hopefully that'll stop the leak. As I said earlier, I was nervous about tightening the metal to plastic joints too tightly for fear of breaking the plastic.

The new tank is installed and so far everything is working perfectly!

To continue the story, with the dirt work, foundation and floor click: Next page.