Finally, the Last Column on Pitless Adapters
You readers have probably been saying, “Ol’ Schmitt must have a fixation with pitless adapters.” This could be partially true, as I have been writing about them for 20 months with a few “side trips” to talk about conventions, safety and to honor a departed friend. This, readers, I promise will be the last column on pitless adapters — unless, and that is a big unless, someone asks me to expound further or has questions about these devices. As I wrote some time back, pitless adapters are, in my opinion, one of the four great advances the water well industry has seen in the last 60 years.
One question that has been posed to me is, what do I mean when I talk about a flipper? A flipper is the term I use for part of the internal body of some pitlesses, especially clamp-ons. Envision please a part that looks like an upside down L. If force is applied to the horizontal part it will create a force against the vertical part. So, if in a pitless we apply pressure to the extreme end of the horizontal part with a bolt, threaded rod or whatever, the flipper will pivot if a pin or hinge is included where the two sides of the L come together. This will force the vertical part of the L out against the casing and tighten a gasket or O ring against the other side of the casing, making a water tight joint. Those of you who use clamp-on pitlesses know exactly what I mean and you really did not need to read this paragraph. Others of you may be unfamiliar with this design, so now I hope you know what I mean by a flipper.
Speaking of clamp-on pitlesses, they could under some conditions have drawbacks. If the water being pumped is really aggressive, it can eat away at the casing where the inner and outer O rings are clamped to make a water tight seal. Today, with the popularity of non-metallic casing, this is not a factor. In the old days when we were using steel casing, this could be a very negative factor. We did not have a serious problem with this here in southern Michigan, but I can understand how it could happen.
One manufacturer figured out a neat way to get around this and had a design (and maybe still does) where the “breakable joint” did not use the casing. They designed the outer part of the pitless with a seat for an O ring that was entirely outside the casing. The inner part of the pitless, or the part that went inside the casing, was shaped like a T with the branch or side outlet made slightly tapered on its end and with a good sized O ring to make a tight joint in the outer portion. I believe the flipper on this design was even spring loaded so that all the installer had to do to connect the pitless was get the two parts lined up and the spring-loaded flipper would make the connection automatically.
I never did use one of these myself, but it was a unique design and would be great for an area with aggressive water — especially if the parts of the pitless were made of bronze or stainless steel. I’m not at all sure if the outer O ring was pressurized or not. If it wasn’t, it would not meet code in Michigan and other states.
Another unique design that was quite popular around here utilized a tapered piece of unthreaded pipe — and I believe it was stainless steel — that sat in a metal box outside the casing. This was an important feature, as Michigan code requires the internal casing be completely clear. These units, which I think were sold as a kit, included a connection for inside the well with a bronze fitting that slipped over the stainless steel “nipple” for a water-tight joint. There were two different designs, as I recall. One had the stainless nipple parallel with the casing and another had it at a 45-degree angle.
You may be thinking that connecting and disconnecting would be difficult, but it was really quite simple. All a service man had to do with this design was pull the drop pipe with the internal part attached up a short distance and move everything out into the casing, and it could easily be pulled out. The tapered nipples were in a steel housing and the idea was that the installer would cut an oblong hole in the casing with a torch, insert this housing in a little ways so as not to obstruct the casing inside and weld it on. I think the manufacturer even provided a guide for the torch so a nice, accurate hole could be cut.
Now, I believe this was designed to be welded in the field and whether or not the average pump man could do a good job of welding down in a temporary pit raises some questions. A certified welder could probably do this, but most well drillers and pump men that I know are not certified welders. A successful contractor in my area that has drilled a lot of wells bought many of these kits and welded them up on a bench, thereby making their own pitless adapters. I think most well and pump men could do a good job of welding on a bench. This design also eliminated fears of casing failure from aggressive water. It was and is a good design and a good product, although once in a great, great while it was difficult to get the parts to join up when connecting for what reason I do not know. That, readers, is the end of my tales about pitless adapters.
Checking my records from November 2015, exactly a year ago when I wrote my monthly column, I said the grass was still green and we were enjoying warm temps and deer hunting season with firearms has again started in Michigan. Guess what? That is exactly what is happening in 2016, a year later. My wife, Shirley, and I drove by a popular buck pole yesterday where hunters hang their trophies and it was completely empty. I think our warm temperatures in the 50s and 60s have prompted hunters to get the deer carcasses to processors quickly so the meat doesn’t spoil.
When you read this in January, we will probably be having a fun time plowing snow and getting good use out of our four-wheel drives.
For more John Schmitt columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/schmitt.