Sunday, June 19, 2011

Story Problem

A 11.77m x 5.32m pool loses 10 cm of water in 36 hours.  How much water leaked out?

A staggering 626 liters!  Sorry to go metric on you but I can't imagine doing this 'story problem' with feet/inches/cubic yards/gallons.

By some miracle we were able to fix the problem with some careful research, some helpful children and a $10 packet of epoxy putty.

We had kind of assumed we had a leak but it was getting increasingly worse and increasingly expensive. Our fear was that it was in the water/pump/filter system.  Rather than call our house maintenance team (who have yet to return to fix the gaping hole in our roof from the bee-hive removal project), we took a week and did some research online, a few experiments in the pool.

The funniest thing was reading an online forum about pool maintenance (yes, I did that).  One guy was worried about losing 1cm in a week from his outdoor pool in the summertime.  Uh, Hello? but this was when I confirmed that losing 10 cm in 36 hours was more certainly abnormal, especially considering that it's winter.  I also knew something was seriously wrong b/c I had just added an entire bottle of dry acid in 36 h to balance the pH where the directions recommend adding a capful a week at the most -- and only if you need it.  I am not going to even try to calculate the $ lost to this leak in pool chemicals.  Instead I'll focus on the money we will save by fixing it.

The research.
We turned off the pump and started 'the bucket test' to see about cracks in the pool itself.  Over the 36 h the pool lost water but the bucket did not.  This meant that water loss was not due to evaporation (duh, but good to have confirmation). We dropped in some food coloring around the edges and did a visual inspection. This was the art experiment part of the project!  FPFJ did some performance art.....finger in the dye and then...absent mindedly....finger in the nose.....

The noticeable cracks in the concrete did nothing to attract the dye so we assumed they were superficial; the cracks in the plaster between the pool and the pool intake/filter were not.  After the 626 liters of water leaked out, we left the pool for another 36 hours and saw that there was no more water loss. This was a good sign - we could at least isolate the problem - the union between the concrete pool and the plastic water filter intake.

Despite a shopping trip that yielded only 2 of 9 things on our shopping list, we found epoxy putty that seemed (from the pictures, the instructions were in Afrikaans) to be the answer to the leaky pool.  FPFJ and I hung over the edge of the pool and poked our heads in the weir for an hour, squeezed the epoxy into the cracks and smoothed it out.

The epoxy putty cures underwater so we optimistically added 626 liters back in (it took a day and a half).  nearly a week later the pool is sparkling and the chemistry back in balance.  The best part is that we have not added a single drop of water.

This icy swim today and the opportunity to put in our air we can figure out where to patch THEM up!

Yes, this is really what it's like to live in "africa."  We have it rough....trying to patch our swimming pools and get through the Nutella shortage.  (this is going surprisingly OK - I even stopped looking for it). Everything about our life here is ridiculous lately.  from the hole in the roof to the hole in the pool.

Home leave soon...but soon enough? Can't wait for automatic dishwashers and central heating.

POOL UPDATE Jan 2012:  am realizing now how much money we lost just by trying to maintain proper pool chemistry with the constant water loss.  we noticed it right away but assumed it was b/c it was cold weather....but we got through the hot season and now even mid-rainy season all is well with very little input. we were regularly having algae outbreaks, mold problems, frogs (uh, we still have frogs), and annoying things like bright green and cloudy water.  but really, aside from the normal cleaning and monthly testing and adjusting the pool has been practically maintenance free.  too bad we didn't look into this 3 years ago!

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