Somewhere between the many renderings, conference calls, and valve engineering during the water feature design process, it might seem easy to say some mechanical components of a fountain can be pushed to the wayside in order to save a dollar. We see it happen all the time – it’s to be expected, but often times it’s the most unassuming components cut during the design process that could mean more to your fountain’s overall operational strategy than at first glance. Basket strainers, vacuum switches, and neoprene connectors are all examples of easy items to overlook during water feature design, but these three components may be the line of defense your water feature needs to keep it operational.
Adding basket strainers and neoprene connectors takes up additional space, sometimes requiring larger rooms or bigger equipment vaults. The suction sumps already have strainers so the basket strainer is redundant.
Think of a basket strainer as your fountain’s best line of defense. Although suction sumps have strainers, these strainers can only catch debris larger than 3/16th of an inch in diameter. Any debris smaller than 3/16th of an inch, and any construction debris left in the pipe connecting the sump to the pump, needs a means to be captured before reaching the pump’s impeller.
A basket strainer has a finer mesh strainer capable of catching the debris that may otherwise get caught through to your pump, resulting in loss of flow or damage to the pump. Basket strainers are capable of holding a lot of debris. When basket strainers becomes filled with debris clamp style lid allows for easy opening in removing and clean the basket. You can then lift the basket out of the body, clean it, and replace it without shutting down your fountain system for an extended period of time. The entire process usually takes very little time. The amount of maintenance effort, fountain down time, and money saved during the life of the fountain more than makes up for the one-time cost of the extra component and a slightly larger equipment space.
The vacuum switch is just an alarm to signal the basket strainer is full and needs to be emptied. Since we have a maintenance staff that will be checking the system on a routine basis, there’s no need for a vacuum switch.
A vacuum switch is another early defensive player for your fountain. Vacuum switches can either be programmed to alert you to a problem (in this case, that your basket strainer is full) but more importantly, they can be programmed to shut off the pump till the issue is resolved. Both functions could be crucial.
Imagine having to add “thoroughly check all fountain pipes, sumps, and pumps weekly” to your maintenance staff’s already long list of tasks. Taking the time to check every possible blockage point in your vault can prove to be a waste of time and resources. There’s also a possibility that you can have a critical issue in between routine checks that you’d never know about until the next time the components are taken apart and thoroughly inspected. Having an automatic sensor helps pinpoint a problem and the location of the problem. The additional option to automatically shut off your pump in the event of a critical problem may give your staff the necessary time needed to catch and repair the problem before it escalates.
The pump components can fit together without a neoprene connector, so there’s no need for the added expense.
A neoprene connector provides critical vibration isolation for the piping system and pump. Although you can omit a neoprene connector and still have a functioning fountain system, you should first properly understand the neoprene connector’s function.
Think of a neoprene connector as knee cartilage. You could get by for a little while with little to no cartilage (painfully), but the constant pressure to hold up the rest of your body-weight will eventually break down the knee and surrounding leg bones until you can no longer walk. Now consider how much water a fountain pumps at any given time. The pressure surging through your pumps and pipes is similar to the pressure your body-weight puts on your knees and surrounding leg bones. Given enough time, shaft and bearings wear, as well as pipe and fittings degradation, can result from excessive vibration.
While we wish these were the only components that could make or break a fountain’s lifespan – they’re not. The best bet if you’re unsure about a component’s purpose or importance is to ask a water feature manufacturer about it. If you have more questions about these three components or any similar components, call our office and one of our team members will be able to help you.