If you don't like rants, then please skip this post...
I just spent a silly amount of time getting the tank plumbing and electrical system back in order.
I mentioned earlier that one of my Pentair heater units started leaking. It leaked - slow, slow drip - from where the main light blue tube is inserted in the dark blue base. Fortunately I've got unions and ball valves everywhere in the tank, so with a few ball valves turned, and unions unscrewed, and a little too much cursing, was eventually able to extract all four Pentair units (three heaters, one UV) from the stand.
In the process I learned a valuable bit of info. Though Pentair sells horizontal mounting hardware - which I use - it's not necessarily the best orientation for the units. I drained all the water out before I began removal. But mounted horizontally, about 1/3 of the water they hold does not drain. It pools in the unit. So extraction was a very wet and messy process. Though I would never recommend these products to anyone, if you do buy them, you should consider vertical mounting if you don't want a mess during maintenance.
Once I got the units out I discovered that 2 out of the 3 heater units were broken. There is a small diameter tube inside the larger tube of the unit, that is used to channel the inflowing water to the top (or far end if horizontally mounted) of the unit, so that the water flows along the length of the heater before it flows out the bottom. On 2 heaters these tubes had come detached from where they attach to the base inside the unit. Upon inspection it appears that Pentair had originally attached them with something that looked like rubber cement, a glue that degrades over time. I determined the parts were actually ABS plastic, and used ABS cement to glue them back and got what feels like a really strong bond. They'll hold now!
Likewise the UV was also coming apart. Inside the main tube is a long sheet of plastic that is rolled up and against the walls of the larger tube. It appears to be an extra thickness of plastic to keep light from leaving the main light blue body of the unit. Whatever the purpose, it was coming unstuck from the tube. Again, ABS cement solved that problem.
As for the leak - where the main blue body tube is inserted in the blue base - I was shocked at what I found. From the brown glue residue where the two pieces join, it looked like the same glue I found to have failed on the inside of the heaters. I took a dremmel with a grinding bit and ground down the seam where the large tube was inserted into the base. My intent was to expose fresh, clean unglued plastic on both pieces to cement over the seam. To my shock just the lightest grinding exposed unglued gaps between the large tube and the base. It's as if when Pentair built these things they just inserted the big tube in the base and ran a bead of glue around the join. That's as opposed to covering the inside and outside with glue (cement) and then insterting one into the other - as you would to get a strong seal with PVC. I was shocked, and decided that if this leak could happen to one unit, it could happen to all of them.
But foolish me... when I removed them from the stand, I lost track of which heater was the one that leaked. I could only narrow it down to one of two. So for those two I ground down that join and applied a generous amount of multi-purpose cement (PVC, CPVC & ABS), not being sure of the two materials. Followed up by a generous 2nd coat after two days of curing. And finally followed up with several reinforcing wraps of "WrapIt Repair" branded self-fusing silicone tape. Great stuff that, get some and see.
On the other heater and and UV, I did not grind the joint, but just reinforced the seal. That was with a generous bead of "Goop" branded plumbing sealant around the seam, and again wrapped with the silicone tape.
So with all that done, you would assume I could just wedge the units back in the stand, screw together the unions, turn a few ball valves and I'd be good to go. Right? Not so! The Pentair website makes this this statement on their website - "Compression coupling allows easy installation and removal of heater. Accepts 1" or 3/4" diameter aquarium heater.
They do NOT accommodate "easy
" installation of heaters. So that very little compression would be required, I bought heaters that are exactly 1" in diameter. But I spent hours. Yes HOURS, trying to get the heaters back in without leaks. By building up the diameter of the heaters with more of that silicone tape (great stuff!), I was eventually able to get it leak free. But it was a massive PITA. And wet.
As for the electrical system, a few weeks ago the tank's GFI circuit started tripping. Not all the time though. It was odd. Through the process of elimination I finally determined that it was being caused by the Aquamedic dual electronic ballast that powers my two MH pendants. It was toast. Fortunately I still had the magnetic ballasts that came with the pendants. I had originally purchased that electronic ballast because I did not want to hear the buzzing sound of the magnetics. But I don't hear it now - except when they first start up. So I don't know if when I got the electronics I had not given the electronics a chance to warm up. Or maybe you don't hear it over the noise of the reef tank in the same room. Either way I don't hear the buzzing any more.
However, there is no room for them in the stand. The single electronic ballast that they replaced was much, much smaller, and mounted on a side wall the stand. They can't go there. And the floor of the stand is FULL. So they'll just have to reside on the floor beside the tank. I hate it, but have no choice - short of buying a replacement electronic ballast.
And if that were not enough, I had not one - but two - failures on one of my Ocean Clear filters when I was replacing filters. IMO they are responsible for the failures of my Pentairs. You might ask "What does Pentairs leaking have to do with Ocean Clear filters?
Answer? Shock and vibration.
To replace the filters you have to unscrew the ring that holds down the lid. And that requires a mallet. That's right folks, a hammer is required to open and close Ocean Clear filters. I know it seems unbelieveable. But years ago when I called Ocean Clear to see what I was doing wrong... why I could not get the lid to seal without leaking, I was told in no uncertain terms that a hammer was required to get a good seal. And sure enough, no amount to lid re-alignment, rescrewing, or tighening was suffecient to stop the lid from leaking until I took a rubber mallet to it.
And in the process of tightening the lid until it no longer leaked - after replacing the filter last week - the pressure gauge fell apart. I guess there's only so much wacking with a mallet that a filter can take. So that had to be replaced. But it gets better...
On the Ocean Clear filter lid is a small plastic plug that is used to vent air out of the filter. As the filter is filled with water you unscrew it a bit to bleed air out until the filter is nearly full of water, then you close it by tightening the plug. In principle. In actual fact, the plug does not plug very well. And I personally cannot hand tighen it enough to get a good seal. Every time it requires pliers. Not wanting to break it - it's only plastic - I've always given it a tiny turn with the pliers, see if it is still leaking, and if so, repeat the process until the leaking stops. Well, last time, the last tiny turn both stopped the leaking and cracked the plug. Amazing. So that too, required replacement. And when the replacement was required turning way too hard with the pliers too, I concluded the problem may not be the plug.
Indeed, with close inspection with a magnifying glass, it was clear that a manufacturing defect in the lid itself was the problem. There was excess plastic in the area where the seal is made that should have been removed somewhere in the finishing process of the product, but was not. Two minutes with a little careful trimming with an exacto knife, and it seals easily now. No pliers required.
So everything is fixed now. Humpty Dumpty is back together. I've got heaters that heat, filters that filter, and lights that light. And the water is all staying in the tank where it belongs.
Sorry for the rant. I guess now I can turn my attention - at long last - back to the reason why all this silly equipment exists: the aquascape.