Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Watermaker solved

The source of all problems
It's been awhile since I last wrote a post in the blog. This task has been more on NaE.
I think the last time I wrote we were still in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Since then we've been through a lot, good and bad, but mostly good.
Right now we are still in St Thomas, USVI, where we returned after a brief passage through the BVI and St Martin. We returned to American land for several reasons, documents for the dog (Noel) and because we are here without visa problems. NaE, due to Thai passport, has problems in European territories, despite being married to a European and having a daughter with European passport. Anyway, that’s how the world is!
But this text aims to address a problem that has plagued us since the beginning of the trip and finally I was able to solve it. The watermaker unit never functioned as it should be and several times we had "experts" from the brand on board to try to solve the problem, always with diagnoses that led us to think about buying a new one! As that was out of the question for the next few months due to the lack of funds, I continued to insist on repairing the existing one.
This is a unit with several years from the brand PURR (now Katadyn) that produces 80 gallons (about 300 liters) of drinking water every 24 hours. When we started the journey I did the normal treatment that these units need after long periods of storage, replace all the seals of the pump and did the cleaning of the two membranes. Everything should then be ready to produce water under normal conditions. However, the machine did not produce as it should and, from time to time, with evidence of overheating, was stopping. The "experts" pointed to the pump, the most expensive part of the whole set! Only here would the 3-4 thousand dollars. But I always believed that the pump was good, no leaks and, when working, did good quality water and with a flow within expected parameters. Water quality also indicated that there was no problem with the membranes, another possible cause, and each one costs $ 600! There was another element in the set, an electric motor, similar to a starter. This, only to be sure, I decided to take it off and take it to a workshop to check, and it came with a positive verdict and without any failure. But even then it would stop from time to time and often. There was always an excess of heat in the switch area and in the electric motor, and I always suspected that was the source of all the problem, however I didn’t know the reason why.
Unit similar to the one on S/V Dee
After dismounting the machine i saw a small piece that I had never noticed that was part of the electrical system, located between the power cable coming from the batteries and before reaching the switch. It is nothing more than a circuit breaker that prevents overcharge, thus protecting the electric motor. I tried to remove it and replace it with a similar, slightly stronger but still within the limits of the electric motor, and the problem disappeared! After all was the ShortStop 15Amps that was damaged.
A possible bill of thousands of dollars settled with 20US$! After wasting 200 or 300 with the so-called "experts".
Another thing I learned was that watermaker from Katadyn (or PURR) don’t really need to use only parts supplied by the brand at a premium price. In the replacement and attempts to repair I ended up also replacing some of the high-pressure hoses. In the original version they are shapped to perfectly fit the space but I tried using hoses purchased at HomeDepot and they worked perfectly. I think they even work better because they adjust the angles avoiding opposing forces that eventually, over time, give place to leaks in the system.

The membranes themselves, which Katadyn charge $ 600 each may be substituted by the standard HomeDepot membranes, whereas high pressure pipes fit. This will be the next step!

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