Updated January ’11:
Our teenagers can say “Bad” and make it mean a good thing.They say something is “Hot” while ol’ duffers like me remember saying something is “Cool”. So the three pump styles that are discussed below are either “BAAD” or “Hot” or “Cool” depending upon which generation you come from.
If you are taking the time to read this, you are probably someone who is trying to educate yourself about the various options that you have available to you for pumping water. Secondarily, you probably wouldn’t mind finding a company that keeps up with the latest, the newest, and the best, and who actually knows what to expect from pumps – because of real life, on the job experiences.
HISTRONICS ! (History and Hysterics)
We are the liaison between you and the manufacturers “projected wishes” otherwise known as engineering specifications. For the past two to three years the entire pump industry has been quietly going through major upheavals. Constant Pressure pumping systems are the coming thing. (These pumps are discussed later in this article.) Almost at an alarming rate, pump manufacturers are being bought and sold to better position themselves so that they can have the resources to compete. The costs of R & D, tooling up, production inventory, and marketing, with all of the changes, are too much for many of the smaller pump companies to handle.
The submersible motor company, Franklin Electric, still builds and supplies almost all of the submersible motors made, and up until recently, has only sold their products through OEM pump manufacturers. About thirty-five years ago, they came up with a motor design that uses epoxy to encapsulate the motor windings in their submersible motors. Instead of trying to use nontoxic oils like the other motor companies were doing, they used water to lubricate and cool their motors. It is a brilliant design that has worked very well, and has basically given them a lock on the market for several decades.
About four years ago, Franklin Electric developed and brought to the market a motor controller that operates submersible pumps at variable speeds while maintaining a ‘constant pressure’. This controller eliminates the need for many different sized fixed speed pump liquid ends which are built by the pump companies that they have supplied. The pump OEMs, being alarmed that a major percentage of their business was being diminished, started to develop and build their own motors and controllers, thus causing a huge struggle between the conglomerates.
A Family Squabble:
Then, in the fall of ’06, our primary pump supplier made a special trip up here to take us out to lunch to discuss why they were sending us Schaefer pump ends with the Franklin motors. They told us “the rest of the story”. Some of the current struggle was instigated by the Grundfos Corporation, who for years has tried break into the market to build motors and controllers for their pumps. But they are still a relatively small company. Then, it seems that a couple of years ago both Sta-rite and Goulds asked Franklin Electric for deep discounts on the Franklin motors for their pumps – or they were going to build and supply their own motors. Franklin Electric said the corporate version of “Bite Me!” and called their bluff and tried to withhold selling the two largest pump companies in America their motors. Of course, Sta-rite and Goulds went to court and got the court to make Franklin Electric supply their motors to them until January 1, 2007. Sta-rite and Goulds, normally deathly competitors, went together and franticly put together a company that builds motors for both of them. Sta-rite calls the motors “Pentek”, and Goulds calls the same motors “CentriPro”. (Over the past ten years we have found out that the information we have received from our primary pump supplier is the industry version of “The Word of God!”).
This is why for the past couple of years, Sta-rite, who had been offering an overlap warranty on the Franklin Motors for up to three years when paired with their pump liquid ends, had discontinued the three year warranty on the Franklin Motors. Now the motors come with only the normal one year warranty from Franklin Electric – if their pumps have Franklin motors on them.
Since Franklin Electric saw the potential of loss of marketshare due to all of the new generation motors headed for the market, they looked around, a year or so ago, and bought the company that had been making Jacuzzi pumps. The Jacuzzi pump, “The Sandhandler”, was an excellent professional grade pump that I wished I could have sold 20 years ago in California. It had a number of features that led the pump industry at the time. But, the Jacuzzi company was poorly run and had lost quite of bit of market share over the years. So Franklin Electric bought them and then upgraded the pump with the latest materials and production techniques and now is going head to head with Sta-rite and Goulds with their pump named “Schaefer”. In August of ’06, we installed the first of the Schaefer pumps with the Franklin motors (John Norris’s gallery well in the Lower Blanco). They seem to be very strong pumps.
The funny part to all of this is the full page ads being run in the industry magazines that explain how tough and excellent the brand new motors that Sta-rite and Goulds have ? ! Until late January of ’07, our first hand experience with these new motors was . . . none! Last fall, a Sta-rite salesman told me he was going to stop by and visit with us and show us the new motors and give us one to test. He didn’t. Called again said he was, ‘Bla bla bla.’ He didn’t. Called again and said he was going to send us a pump and controller for a well we were working – the perfect application. He didn’t send it. At the same time we were on a job where the excavator accidentally ripped the wires out of a $1000.00 Franklin Electric controller we had installed. We called Franklin Electric and although they had absolutely no responsibility to supply us with a new controller under warranty, we received a brand new controller the next day – no charge for the overnight shipping either! I called the Sta-rite salesman the next morning a 5:00 AM after stewing all night on why I hadn’t received his pump and controller he had repeatedly promised me, while I had Franklin’s brand new controller already installed on our other job. The poor Sta-rite guy actually made the mistake of answering his cell phone at 5:00 AM . . . He has never had, nor will he ever have again, a wake up call like the one I gave him! Amazingly he sent me a Sta-rite controller about a month later . . . his final revenge – keep reading.
So, I took my son, and took the time and the expense to go to the National Ground Water Expo in Las Vegas late in ’06. We looked at all of the new stuff and spoke to the Sta-rite people and told them what happened to us. They told us that the salesman that we had dealt with was no longer with them. We got cool pens and nick knacks from the Sta-rite people – no new motor. Hmmm. So January 5th, 2007, a new salesman from Sta-rite calls me up and asks me if he can send me a new pump and motor. Wow. I finally actually got a pump and one of their new motors with their new control box. Feburary of ’07, we found the perfect job to use this new pump / motor on – three blocks from our shop. We installed the pump and motor and will see how it holds up.
The bonus to the controller that Sta-rite sent me was . . . it didn’t work – but that’s the good part. The bad part was that it didn’t work on a weekend job, 50 miles away from our shop, with people fully expecting water as they moved their brand new airstream camper on their property. I was wanting to try this new high tec controller because there was a water line (an after thought by the client) that teed off before the controller, and the Franklin Controllers surge a bit in those situations. On top of it, there were no wiring instructions in the panel so I had to drive all the way back to the shop and get the wiring diagram that had fallen out of the box. Then when I was sure that it was wired correctly – it didn’t work. I drove all the way back to the shop again, loaded up and filled our emergency water pump trailer with water, and drove once again back out to the site with the trailer and hooked it up so the people could have water. I was glad that I didn’t have to take my commercial drivers licence exam blood pressure reading that weekend.
One more note. At this time we understand that the new motors do not have a valid UL listing and as per Colorado electrical code, should not be used on new installations. The other thing is that we have been told that the windings on these new motors are coated to prevent water getting to them. Not like Franklin, where the windings are fully encapsulated with epoxy that will ‘self heal’ the motor windings if a motor over heats and the windings become vunerable. Time . . . will tell all.
So NOW what?
As I walked around the booths in Vegas and saw all of the different high tech controllers and new motors, I was struck with the fact that the ‘good ol’ days’ are gone. For over thirty years pump installers have tooled around in their hoist trucks with three or four Franklin Electric motor control boxes banging around in the back of their trucks, a couple of twenty dollar pressure switches, and if the motor and pump were OK, anything else could be fixed with the parts on the truck. Those days are gone.
For twenty years we have had nothing but good performance from both the Franklin Electric motors matched with various brand liquid pump ends – and now with the Schaefer liquid pump ends. We are amazed that the two of the largest pump companies are willing to risk their futures on selling their pumps with a brand new untried motor – along with the controls that are also untried. So we agree with our pump supplier that for now, we are going to stick with the Franklin tried and true motor and controls – matched with the excellent Schaefer pump.
The end result is that by helping you understand some of the background of what is coming from the pump industry, you should realize the value of aligning yourself with an on-the-ground pump company like ours. You don’t want to be on the wrong end of the stick with either outdated, nonserviceable equipment, or new stuff that just doesn’t live up the razzle-dazzle that industry.