Home Water Treatment Plant

Home Water Treatment Plant

Pump, filters, valve

Water in Chicago comes straight from Lake Michigan, and is pretty decent quality in general. Most houses do not have water meters, which I suspect leads to very little incentive to conserve water.  During the summer months, especially during lawn-watering season, it’s not unusual for our water to dwindle to a mere trickle.  A few spot measurements indicate that our water pressure is normally about 30 psi, but can drop to 15 psi or less at points during the summer.  In practical terms, this means that the shower stops if somebody turns on the kitchen faucet.

Meanwhile, my wife requested that I put in a system to remove chlorine from the water, for various health and hairstyle reasons.  Even with large, high-flow filters, this necessarily results in a pressure drop through the filters.

Cramped space

Pressure Reduction Valve

After a number of calculations, and toying with ideas such as placing the hose outlets upstream from the system so as to not bother filtering water that goes on the lawn (a bad idea for an active system, which could potentially draw water into the house from the hoses) I settled on a design which has worked beautifully for months.

In order from the inlet, the system consists of:

The order is important — placing the booster pump after the filters, for example, would mean that the pressure going into the filters could be as low as 15 psi, and therefore as low as 5 psi before the pump.  That’s too low — the pump would refuse to operate — or worse, become damaged.  Water can be pushed, but it can’t be pulled.

Booster Pump

Booster Pump

The pump adds 40 psi, so that if intake water pressure is 30 psi, the pressure at the first filter should be about 70 psi.  I’ve never measured intake pressure above 35 psi, and 75 psi is still comfortably below the filter housing maximum recommended pressure.  The pressure reduction valve ensures that intake pressure to the house doesn’t exceed 50 psi.  Measurements demonstrate that this is remarkably consistent, regardless of variations in intake pressure.

After all this, water in the house tastes pure and clean, the pressure is consistent and wonderful (we can water the plants, run the dishwasher and take showers at the same time.)

After all this work, the main thing I’d do differently is consider smaller filters.  The 4.5″ x 20″ filters are huge.  Each one holds a bit over 5 gallons, which is about 40 pounds of water.  I was primarily concerned with water flow and pressure drop, and bigger filters are better, but I doubt the difference would be noticeable for say, a 2.5″x 20″ filter, which would be a lot easier to change and handle.


Entreprenurial Steve in Profile

While working for an Internet startup, our founder, CEO, and perhaps most importantly, boss, was a dynamic, unusual personality whom I’ll call Steve. Entreprenurial Steve.

A bundle of contradictions, in some ways I felt perfectly aligned, and in other ways, his thinking was so foreign to me that I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it. In all the time we worked together, for example, Steve never let anybody else pick up the check for a meal, and he was generous about inviting us out.  During a period where nobody in the company had any money and we were essentially working for free, Steve didn’t hesitate to take us to lunch every day, and often out to dinner.

Steve had (at least) two BMW’s, which seemed like kind of a status thing, except that Steve wouldn’t hesitate to loan them to whoever needed them.  Our secretary borrowed one and managed to total it in the parking garage (yes, I’m still unclear on how this can be accomplished) and Steve simply shrugged it off, saying, “It’s only a thing.  The important thing is if you’re okay.”

Yet, when I stopped on the street to hand some cash to a homeless person with a sign, Steve was completely baffled.  “Why would you give your money to that guy?  He’s not doing anything for you.”

“Five dollars means a lot more to him than it does to me,” I tried to explain.  “He needs it more than I do.”

“That’s crazy,” said Steve, shaking his head.  “I’m sure you can do something better with that five dollars.”  Weirdly, he handed me a five.  “Here,” he said.  “Don’t give this away.”

At times, it seemed that Steve held the company together through sheer force of will, when paychecks were bouncing and vendors weren’t being paid, his optimism and willingness to do anything to get it done for our customers was infectious, truly believing that our next sale would put us on firmer financial footing (which it always did, for a while) and that stability and prosperity was within our grasp.

Steve always seemed to know who to pay.  Starting, I suppose, with the lawyers.  “Get the most expensive lawyers you can,” Steve once explained to me.  “Even if you have to skimp on everything else.”

Our lights were always on.  Our Internet connection always worked.  Our phones always worked.  Other than that, I’m not sure anybody was paid at all.

Occasionally, a process server would come by, and Steve would invariably be gone.  Otherwise, he always seemed to be around, and I have no idea how he managed it.

Although clearly uncomfortable with kids, my precocious daughter asked him if she could use a computer.  Without hesitation, Steve handed her his personal laptop, explaining that he was going to a meeting and wouldn’t need it until the next day.  She dutifully returned it to his desk before we left.

The next day, we had a meeting with a potential customer.  Our presentations and servers were all online, so there was little prep necessary except for connecting to the Internet.  Steve booted his laptop, and instead of the familiar Windows chime, the room was treated to:

“Uh ohhhh!” from the Teletubbies.

A number of people in the room clearly had kids.  Steve was thrown off kilter, but shook off his utter mortification and made an excellent presentation.  (We got the deal, and I suspect the unexpected presence of the Teletubbies made us seem more human than slick and polished.)

A week later, my daughter asked to borrow Steve’s laptop.  Without hesitating, he handed it to her, but paused before letting it go.  “Try not to leave anything in the drive this time.”