Chlorine Generator Manifold Repair

I’m in the process of installing a salt-water chlorine generator (model DIG-60 from AutoPilot) for my swimming pool.  As part of this, I need to plumb the salt cell in downstream of my filter.  The cell is part of a big inline manifold which includes a 3lb spring check valve.  The valve’s purpose is to limit the water pressure going through the salt cell, theoretically extending the cell’s life.  Anyhow, as I was preparing to install the manifold, I dropped it (don’t ask) and the check valve broke away from one of its adjoining tees:

Broken AutoPilot Manifold

Broken AutoPilot Manifold

What to do here?  The whole manifold is solvent-welded together, and the tees are attached to proprietary unions.  At first glance there appeared to be no way to fix it other than ordering a replacement manifold, at a cost of over $100.  By contrast, a replacement check valve can be had online for $15-20.  So I decided to think outside the box a bit.  The check valve is made by Flo-Control and is commonly sold as an air check valve for spa blowers.  It has a 1½” socket and a 2″ spigot, meaning one can either attach a 1½” pipe “inside” it, or a 2″ pipe “around” it.  AutoPilot ships it with 2″ tees cemented to either side, which attach to the pool’s plumbing.  My pool has 1½” plumbing, so I would ordinarily need a reducer bushing to attach to the tees on the manifold.  When the manifold broke, the 1½” socket end of the valve was left stuck inside the tee.  Eventually, it occurred to me that if I cut the other tee away from the valve, I could flip the tees around and cement a new valve to the intact ends. The other ends, with the remains of the original valve, would then accommodate my 1½” plumbing without the need for reducer bushings.  It seemed like a great plan, so I pulled out my trusty miter saw and cut the intact tee away from the old valve, leaving me with 3 pieces:

AutoPilot Manifold Parts

AutoPilot Manifold Parts

I then went online to look for a replacement valve, and promptly ran into another problem.  It turns out that this particular valve is sold in a bunch of different spring weights:  .75, 5, 10, and 15 pounds, to name a few.  The version that ships with the AutoPilot has a 3lb spring.  And here’s the problem:  I wasn’t able to find the valve with a 3lb spring anywhere.  It’s not even listed on Flo-Control’s web site.  They’re apparently made special-order for AutoPilot.

Makeshift check valve spring removal tools

Makeshift check valve spring removal tools

Undeterred, I wondered if I could remove the spring from the broken valve and reuse it in a new valve. With the help of a couple of makeshift “spring removal” tools I fashioned out of copper wire, I was able to extract the spring. As a proof-of-concept, I then replaced the spring with the help of some needle-nose pliers.  Encouraged, I went ahead and ordered an identical valve with a .75lb spring.  I chose the model with the lightest spring I could find, figuring it’d be the easiest to get out without damaging the valve.  The valve arrived a few days later, and happily, it was identical to the original valve, other than having a different weight spring and not being broken.  The lighter-weight spring easily came out of the new valve, and with a little effort I was able to insert the 3lb spring.  Turns out direction matters when re-inserting the spring:  it initially wouldn’t seat properly, but when I flipped it around it went right in.  With that, I had a working, non-broken 3lb check valve.  I then cemented the two tees onto either end of the valve, completing the repair:

Repaired AutoPilot Manifold

Repaired AutoPilot Manifold

All that’s left to do is plumb it in and make sure it works.  Assuming it does, my little accident (dropping the manifold) cost me a lot less than I had feared.

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