Dead vacuum or DE Filter clumping?

c9pilotAugust 16, 2012

Hayward Navigator isn't working. Pool is just over a year old and vacuum is in the pool running around full time, except when we're swimming laps because it's in the way.

I was told by my PB that the little flapper feet wear out first because of the roughness of the PebbleTec, but the pressure seemed a bit low when I stuck my hand under the vacuum.

Note: Our vacuum has never been very strong and only runs around the bottom of the pool, not up the sides at all. Our neighbors' vacuum runs entirely up the sides of their little pool to where it comes out of the water up to the coping.

The local pool store guy asked me about how often I backwash my DE filter, and I told him that I've done it regularly every 3 months, about 4 times since we started the pool. And he said that the DE will clump up in the middle like a rock and backwashing won't help, and it needed complete cleaning every 12-18 months (my pool company never told me this during pool school). Then he showed me a picture on his cell phone of the inside of a filter with big chunks in it, and said it's a pain to clean out so they charge $125 to do it. Yikes. So he said to isolate the filter and check the pressure.

When I did that, the pressure was much, much stronger, but the stupid vacuum still didn't work, so I quite possibly have two things going on here.

So my questions to the experts:

(1) Is the DE filter chunking thing for real? (i.e. do I need to open it up and clean it all out and replace all the DE?)

(2) What should I check on the Navigator that fails first? Can I rebuild the thing myself? It just can't be that complicated, right?

Thanks for the help!


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The basic problem with any suction cleaner is: as a filter gets dirty the flow begins to diminish causing the cleaner to not function properly. Suction cleaners such yours were never designed to run full time. They were actually designed to be used a fews times a week for a few hours.
Most PB's use a separate suction line so the cleaner can be excluded from running the entire filter cycle.
The filter is pretty easy to clean. With the pump OFF, remove the top half of the filter by removing the band clamp or clamps. After you have exposed the top of the filter grids you should be able to see any bridging of DE between the grids. You can use a pressure nozzle to clean the grids by either taking the grids out of the tank or removing the drain plug from the bottom of the filter and washing the DE out the bottom. Add the appropriate amount of DE after you put everything back together just like you do after backwashing.
The feet and the flapper are the first to go. Probably easiest to take it the a pool supply and let them do the repair. Bench time is generally cheap if not non-existant when these PC's are worked on.
Filter size makes a big difference with suction cleaners!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 10:45PM
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DE filters, when backwashed, still leave some DE behind. Every year or so, it is a good idea to take golfgeek's plan a step farther.

Removing the grid assembly from the tank and hosing the grids helps a lot but removing the header that takes in the filtered water allows the grid panels to be separated. Note the pattern used to make the grid fit properly. There is one panel that is not as wide as the others so make note of it for reassembly. This allows a more detailed hosing off and inspection. It also allows the grids to be soaked in a degreasing solution to remove skin oils, lotions, etc... that can be absorbed by the fabric making up the panels.

I use a clean, large trash can filled mostly with water, a few cups of TSP or powdered, store brand, dishwasher detergent to degrease the panels. Let the panels soak for a few hours and hose them off. Most of the dinginess is now gone.

The panels should be inspected for holes in the fabric or, as is often the case with neglected grids, checking to see that the fabric isn't stretched and meeting each face on the inside. A space between the insides must exist or filtered water can't get through. Any panels failing this inspection should be replaced.

After the grid assembly is put back together and set in the tank, a full DE charge can be added. If you only backwashed, only add about 3/4s of a charge.

As for the slow Navigator, turn off the drain to increase the suction where the Navigator is plugged in. It will do a faster and better job after replacing the wings and feet.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 7:51AM
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Thanks for the help, Scott and golfgeek.

My hubbie felt around a little deeper inside the vacuum and found something obstructing it, so that was an easy fix, although I think the feet & wings still need replacing because it's definitely slower than a year ago with the same valve setting. (Bamboo makes for difficult landscaping near a pool!)

Sounds like the pool store guy was right and I'll need to do some maintenance on the filter. I suppose it's still easier than cleaning the cartridges each month, like my neighbor. Will definitely study your advice before taking the thing apart.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:44AM
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If your neighbor is cleaning his cartridges once a month, his filter is likely too small.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 12:14PM
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" If your neighbor is cleaning his cartridges once a month, his filter is likely too small. "...

or he has O.C.D

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 12:36PM
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I have the same system. I have NEVER backwashed. I never trusted that method to know if it was truly clean. I take the entire thing apart when the pressure gets 10 pounds over normal. It also gives me a chance to check for holes in the grids.

The very first time I did this, 5 years ago, it took about 2 hours. Getting those grids back together was a pain. However, I can now do it start to finish and have it running again in 30 minutes.

It might be once a month in the summer monsoon season, but my pool is sparkling every day!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 8:02AM
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