In my last column, I wrote about a rather unique pitless adapter — actually a pitless adapter and pressure tank combined. I failed to mention the matter of air control on these tanks, and so I will hold off on covering the advantages and disadvantages of this design as I write a bit about air control.
The first of these tanks that we ever used, we being my father and myself, were intended to be used with a drop pipe bleeder system. As I have written in earlier columns, this system consisted of a check valve with a snifter valve installed in it, the check valve being placed right below the pitless and some sort of bleeder 10 or more feet down the drop pipe. On each cycle of the pump, supposedly the drop pipe drained dry between the check valve and the bleeder, and the air in it was forced into the tank on the start of the next cycle. As way too much air was supplied by this method, if indeed it worked, any tank connected to a system with this type of bleeder or bleed back had an air release that bled off excess air.
On the pitless adapter tank, or PAT as we commonly called them, the manufacturer had developed a neat little air release that went down through the 1.5-inch air tube that ran from the top of the tank only and stopped even with the top of the pitless. This air release was connected to and suspended by a .5-inch pipe that provided the exit for excess air, and then through a special plug threaded to the top of the air tube. This plug had a small vent hole angled down at a 45-degree angle in an attempt to keep dirt and other unwanted material out of the system.
As with almost all these bleeder systems used on whatever type of pressure tank, the iron-laden water here in Michigan soon plugged up the works and the system did not work. So the manufacturer developed a floating wafer or air disc just like we used in “regular” tanks. This worked better than the bleeder but still required service every now and then. Usually, this happened after the tank became severely waterlogged and blew the starting capacitor on the pump. These tanks were, of course, designed strictly for use with a submersible pump. That probably goes without saying but, again, you never know.
The manufacturer then came up with a really unique solution to the problem of air-water separation, which is the cause of most water logging. Each of the PAT tanks was shipped with a bag or several bags of what the manufacturer called stars. The stars were white plastic pieces shaped somewhat like a flying saucer. They were small enough to be dropped down the air tube and, once in the tank, supposedly distributed themselves evenly creating somewhat of a barrier between the air and water. Oh yes, the manufacturer also supplied a plastic cage that was inserted into the outlet pipe or fitting so that the stars could not go into the water system and really plug things up. The amount of stars supplied varied depending on the tank size, and with these the last thing one did before capping the air tube was pour the stars down that tube. The stars could also be used in a conventional tank. Whether using the floating wafer, which actually was a rubber disc with a flotation ring on it, or the stars, by precharging the tank with an air compressor a much longer air-charge life was realized. Charging was done through the air tube through a regular tire-like valve, as the cap of the tube had several tappings where one could include a pressure gauge and a rain-type pressure switch if desired.
Overall, this tank had some unique features and was an interesting design. I don’t know if they are still made; I haven’t seen a new one at a supply house in many, many years. As I wrote last time, installers really liked or indeed loved these tanks and others hated them with a passion that is hard to describe. The feelings were and are like Chevrolet versus Ford versus Dodge when it comes to pickups or John Deere versus Case IH versus AGCO in farming. The brand you use in these cases is the best and the other fellows are pure junk. As I wrote in my last column, these buried tanks really did have some advantages and some serious disadvantages.
With the advent of captive air tanks, these buried tanks or PATs became less and less popular. I believe the folks making captive air tanks developed tanks that could be buried directly in the earth and, as I recall, had some extra protection for corrosion from the outside. One method of this protection was an extra thick coating on the outside of the tank and the other was to encapsulate the tank in Styrofoam that was in sort of a box. These were relative small tanks that were installed next to a regular pitless adapter on a tee in the discharge line. I personally never used one for a number of reasons and I don’t think they are made anymore, but I could be wrong.
As I write this about two-thirds of the way through the month of April, our lawns are greening up nicely but I have yet to do any mowing, which you readers may have guessed is one of my favorite activities. Well, at least sometimes it is. It is 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside today, a Monday, and last Tuesday morning Shirley and I returned from trip to Virginia where we visited our daughter and her family via Amtrak. When we got into our car at the Ann Arbor Amtrak station in mid-morning it was 35 degrees inside it. Or only 48 degrees colder than it is today. That is Michigan weather — if you don’t like it, just wait a day or two it will be all different. We thought it would be warm in Virginia and it was just about as cold as Michigan, although they did not get the snow we had while we were away. I guess my friend and fellow writer, Porky Cutter from Virginia Beach, Va., cooled it off so us northern folks would be comfortable.
Till next time, work safely and hard and try to enjoy a little bit of every day.
For more John Schmitt columns, visit www.thedriller.com/schmitt.