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Monday, January 12, 2009

Forward Head Plumbing

Ok, I have heard a couple rumors over the past month that, with the economy the way it is, Dometic/Sealand, makers of VacuFlush, might be running a BIG promotion come this spring. And, it will be a manufacturer program that will not undercut dealers and distributors (contact your local dealer!). So, in hopes of taking advantage of the promotion, if it happens, I have started the hack design of the heads. Starting with the forward head, the picture shows the major components involved. I was hoping that one of their prepackaged HTS systems would fit, but that is not to be the case. The goal of the forward head design to such that there is not evidence of "complex" head machinery. That means a flush back splash panel behind the head behind which everything is wired and plumbed. None of the HTS systems will fit. The thing I like about the VacuFlush system is the "Tank Manager" component. Which is a keyed lock operated discharge system that can operate in fully automatic, manual, or "shut down" mode. In full auto mode, the system senses when the holding tank gets full and initiates the overboard discharge pump (IF the discharge sea cock is open for which there is a electric lockout switch). "Manual" initiates overboard discharge whether or not the tank is full (again if the sea cock is open). "Shut Down" mode turns off discharge altogether. The Tank Manager, as it requires a key, satisfies the US Coast Guard requirement for securing overboard discharge equipment in no-discharge zones when the system is in "shut down" mode (that is, if the only key is in possession of the captain). Next steps in the design:
  • design such that a Raritan Electro-Scan can be fitted AFTER the fact. This device essentially turns your head system into a "Sewage Treatment Plant" making it legal to discharge effluent over board. I say "after the fact" because I am undecided on this piece of equipment. Seems owners either LOVE or HATE it (due to breakdowns and/or maintenance). This device would make overboard discharge legal NOW, but if laws change...
  • rig a manual hand operated overboard discharge pump. Sticking with only an electric pump virtually ensures it will fail at the most inconvenient time. Don't ask how I know...
  • there will be a shower sump under the floor in the forward head. Plumb it such that the pump can be pumped into the holding tank, or direct overboard.
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Anonymous said...

I am firmly in the Electra San "hate" category. The boat I bought had one installed, and I had constant problems with odor that I fought with no avail with new hoses, gaskets, etc.

When I removed the Electra San -- to the huge amusement of my dockmates as I walked to the dumpster with a dripping sewage system in my hands -- and went to a standard holding tank, the odor problem was eliminated.

Also, during the treatment phase, my amp meter totally redlined -- these things use a lot of juice.

Paul Kessinger

The Incredible Hull said...

Greetings exalted one. Finally an area where we disagree. Vacuflush is stinkpot stuff, no place on a blow boat. Still as they say, its your boat.

Paul: Interesting about the Lectra San, I am still looking at one but am open to being educated. How old was your system?, was it a "scan" (old model) or a "san" (new model).



rj said...

Ok Gerry. You are not gonna get away a statement like that without providing some support!

So... Vacuflush is "stinkpot" because?????

Please, relay your experiences (or those you may have heard of).

I'm open. To be honest, it is being considered simply because I can get a REALLY GOOD price on the stuff. And I don't want a conventional manual head (been there done that).

Regarding the Raritan product. The "Lectra-San" is the old one. "Electro-Scan" is the new "improved" one. I just discovered it first came out in 1974! Primary complaints seem to come from those who repair them. Most causes for problems are user error (flushing something that shouldn't). Others problems seem to be malfunctioning electronics, poor salinity etc.

Current thought is I might install an Electro-Scan on one head, but not the other.


PS. Please refrain from addressing me as 'exalted one'. You should refer to me as 'hack', 'cause that is what I am LOL!

The Incredible Hull said...

Hi Rob

Got my san and scans mixed up. Ahhh the "good price" trap. Than sounds familiar and its probably the reason I have acquired a 5.5Kw generator. Ref the vacuflush, I have actually worked on one. I was begged, cajoled and finally bribed heavily to unblock it. It actually was not a major undertaking. Those things are well built. BUT..all that technology to move a turd 3 feet???? There was a funny postscript to the task but as this is a family blog...

Anonymous said...

Gerry and Rob --

Mine was the old "San", maybe the Scan is better.

I really think the odor problem was that it just wasn't treating the poop and remnants were always decomposing in the system. On the other hand, it drew a pile of amps during the cycle so you'd think something was getting zapped in there someplace.


rj said...

Usually, for "properly" installed heads, most smells originate from the decaying tiny critters in the seawater used for flushing.

For this reason, VacuFlush recommends using fresh water. This slightly complicates incorporation of an Electro-Scan as it requires salty water to do its job. I think I read that without salt, the electrodes can be damaged. Hence, the "salt feed tank" option for the Electro-Scan.

Apparently the newer units monitor salinity and will not work if there is too little or too much salt.

But I wonder that with VacuFlush (or Lavacs) as they use less water, therefore higher concentration of salt, might cause problems?


The Incredible Hull said...

Wow, I actually have an answer to the salt question. I read/heard from a used who kept a salt container in the head and if the system was being used in fresh water (e.g river/lake) simply dropped a spoon of salt in the bowl.

rj said...

Yeah, we stayed on a boat in USVI that kept a case of Morton Salt behind the head for use with the Lectra-San.