Tuesday, 16 Jul 2024

Pool Auto-Fill Care & Repair

Swimming pool auto-fills, also known as automatic water levelers, play a crucial role in maintaining the optimal water level in pools, spas, and fountains. Especially popular in the warm and arid regions of the United States, these devices ensure that pools always have the right amount of water. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of auto-fill valves, how to handle leaks, and the importance of regular maintenance.

Swimming Pool Auto-Fills or Automatic Water Levelers

Auto-fills are essential devices designed to automatically maintain the water level in pools, spas, and fountains. They gained popularity in the 1970s in the sunbelt pools of the southern United States. The first auto-fill devices were invented by American Products and PoolMiser. Although the design of the poolside canister hasn’t changed much over the years, Pentair introduced a new model T40F with a familiar FluidMaster-style float valve.

Old Style and New Style Auto-Fill Valves

There are two main designs of auto-fill valves that are technically not interchangeable. The Brass Valve and Float connects to the incoming water supply near the top of the canister, while the vertically oriented FluidMaster AutoFill Valve connects at the bottom center of the canister. However, some Brass Valve canisters have a bottom center port, allowing for the installation of the new style valve by moving the water supply line to the center-bottom of the canister.

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If you want to replace the entire unit with the newer style, be prepared for an arduous task. This process involves excavating around the cylinder, carefully cutting the equalizer line and water supply line, removing the old canister, and securing the new canister firmly. After reconnecting the lines, it’s essential to pressure test and ensure that there are no leaks before backfilling or pouring new concrete. Another alternative is to fill the old canister with concrete or install a new wireless autofill in your pool filter area.

Leaking Pool Auto-Fill?

Leaks can occur in several places in a pool auto-fill, causing significant water loss. Improperly winterized cylinders or buckets can crack, but this can often be repaired with Pool Putty. If an auto-fill valve starts malfunctioning, it can lead to leaks through the overflow line or around the lid. Additionally, excessive rain can cause the cylinder to overflow, mimicking a leak.

The most concerning leaks are those around the incoming water supply line and the outgoing pool equalizer line. Ground movement or pool instability can crack pipes or fittings, resulting in underground leaks. Failing to winterize an auto-fill can also lead to cracks in the water supply and equalizer lines.

In severe cases, you may need to shut off and temporarily abandon an auto-fill. Disconnect the water supply, plug both ends of the equalizer line, and use an extended plug or a W1084 plug for standard 1.5″ equalizer lines.

For proper winter protection, pool auto-fills can be winterized by plugging the equalizer line on the pool side and draining the cylinder using a hand siphon pump. Shut off the valve to the water supply line and completely drain the supply pipe or blow it out with air. To protect the cylinder from ice expansion, pour a quart of non-toxic pool antifreeze into the auto-fill cylinder or place a bottle half-filled with antifreeze inside the chamber. Alternatively, if the auto-fill canister is dry, place a 12″ square of heavy plastic between the lid and the frame to block rain and snow melt.

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Pool Auto-Fill Maintenance

Keeping your pool auto-fill operating correctly doesn’t require much effort. The main thing is to check on it occasionally to ensure it’s still functioning as intended.

Auto-fill floats may occasionally need adjustments to maintain the optimum water level. T26 Brass Valves have a small wing nut for float adjustment, allowing you to set the float to a higher or lower maintained water level. Newer FluidMaster style valves are adjustable by squeezing the clip to slide the float higher or lower on the guide rod. You can also adjust them by turning the valve to raise or lower the height of the float.

FluidMaster style valves may need occasional cleaning of the shaft to ensure the float slides freely. Debris and scum can cause the float to get stuck, either in the always-on or always-off position. Additionally, FluidMaster valves have a screen located in the base that may fill up with sediment over time, reducing water flow. If the screen is damaged or missing, debris can clog the valve. To clear internal valve blockages, flush out with water in the reverse direction or replace it with a new T29 Autofill Valve.

Wireless Auto-Fill Devices

A new type of pool auto-fill devices has hit the market in recent years. These wireless systems include a sensor affixed to the pool tile line. When the sensor detects dryness, it signals a solenoid valve to open, releasing water directly into the pool return line. Unlike traditional systems, all the equipment is located above ground at the pool equipment pad, making troubleshooting leaks or problems easier.

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Wireless pool auto-fill systems are available from Kona Labs and the Jandy Levelor Water Leveler system.

Thanks for reading!