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Robert Lamoureaux: Clogs in pool filter lines can be trouble

Posted: April 17, 2009 10:27 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hi Robert,
This is the first time I've written to you and I need help! I think I have a problem with my pool. The return jets on the pool are emitting hardly any water; the pressure is very low and my equipment is working very hard to keep up; the psi is always at 45 and it works loudly. This has not always been the case. Last summer, I replaced the entire skimmer, cleaned the filter spines, and checked for clogging in the jandy valve. The suction at the skimmer is still fine and leaves are being pulled into the basket. Could there be a clog between the jandy valve and the filter system on the return side? Thank you.
Dani L.

Hi Dani,
Yes, there is an obstruction on the return side somewhere in that line. It is very difficult to clear these lines because of the 90 degree fittings. These right angles make it almost impossible to clean them out. First try using a coat hanger to try and dislodge whatever is in there. You might get lucky but the wire will only go to the first 90 because it won't bend around the corner, and the blockage may be further in the system. If the coat hanger doesn't clear it, use a compressor and try to blow the line out with a burst of air.

The jandy valve has an intake and output. Take this valve out and place the nozzle to the compressor into the return line which is the output side. Stuff a rag around the mouth of the nozzle for a snug fit and air flush to see if that will clear the line.

If the compressor doesn't help, then you may just have to dig it up to find out where the problem is and cut and replace the line as necessary.

Hello Robert,
I'm with an HOA in Beverly Hills. We are waterproofing a planter and the contractor says we need a permit and it costs about $1,000. So, is a permit even necessary for planter work and if so, would it cost $1,000? Thank you.
Josette B.

Hi Josette,
Absolutely. Permits are required. Beverly Hills is very strict, and they want to be notified on any work that is being done.

Permit fees are based on the size of the job and are normally five percent of the job cost. With a $1,000 permit fee, the job cost would be around $20,000. The contractor would go into the Department of Building and Safety to get this permit and will probably charge you an acquisition fee for having to stand in line and for the time necessary for the permit process.

Depending on the scope of this project, architectural drawings probably won't be necessary for waterproofing, but he will have to explain the specifications of materials he will be using, drying times, and how the work will be done to the clerk. He will also have to provide proof of general liability, current worker's comp and vehicle insurance. In the old days, anyone and everyone could pull a permit. They would just walk in and ask for it. Now the cities are very strict, which is good. This weeds out all of the riff-raff contractors out there and ensures you are dealing with a legitimate, quality company.

If you are concerned about the cost of the permit, ask your contractor to attach a copy to the invoice. The fee is printed on the permit by the city.

With the City of Beverly Hills, in particular, they have huge water table problems. In that city, most of the subterranean garages have underground pumps to handle this water, which is passed through clarifiers, and then into the drainage system. The clarifiers are tubs that the water is directed through. The first tub catches the water and holds most of the sediments at the bottom. As it fills, the water overflows and drops into the second tub, which catches more sediments, then travels into the third tub before the water is discharged.

Bad waterproofing could not only damage the building, but may impede with their water table system so they want to be sure you will be using the right products. This is why they are so cautious and require permits for this type of work.

Hello Robert,
We have a detention basin that has standing water almost year-round. What is the best way to alleviate this? Thank you very much.
Kerry C.

Hi Kerry,
Depending if your city or county, you first have to go to your local authority to find out what their specifications are. Even if this basin is on private property, you can't arbitrarily go in and start backfilling or working in that area. It has to be engineered. You need specs to determine what kind of dirt and what kind of compaction they require, if it is allowed.

You may have a kangaroo mouse living there or some kind of a natural habitat that can't be disrupted. The city may have made provisions for special vegetation to be planted to prevent against erosion, so you have to check with storm control doing any work even though it is on your property.

Robert Lamoureux,
I was wondering is there any type of air conditioning maintenance I should do before the summer? Thank you very much.
Mark N.

Hi Mark,
Your a/c system should be serviced annually. The refrigerant being used is like the oil in your car. If you don't maintain that, the compressor will run hot, therefore causing the coils to burn up.

These days, only licensed a/c mechanics can buy the refrigerant. They will hook up the gauges to make sure that you have the proper amount.

While there, have them check your condenser unit. It may be time to have it replaced. Condensers are rated by SEER - Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. This rating is determined by the cooling capacity divided by the energy required to operate. The higher the SEER, the more expensive the unit is initially, but the higher the energy savings. It's a good idea to periodically wash the coils inside the condenser with a low pressure garden hose. These fins are aluminum so they will bend if you're not careful. Wash in the direction of the pattern these coils are set about every six weeks during the summer.

Make sure your copper condensation lines are well insulated. You don't want the sun attacking the cold air in these lines before blowing inside your home.

Also, I can't emphasize enough the importance of changing filters every couple of months. If you don't keep the filters clean, the dirt goes into the "A" coil, which is part of the air handler. When this coil is dirty, you have to disassemble the shrouds to clean it which is a monumental amount of time and expense for something that could be easily prevented with new filters. Whether you are running your air conditioner or heater, it is critical to keep the filters changed and the "A" coil clean.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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