I came across a story about a project that Grundfos has underway in Europe. It seems that there are a lot of leaky water pipes in Europe, and the higher the water pressure gets, the more the pipes leak. That shouldn't be a surprise. The folks at Grundfos came up with what I thought was a neat idea for helping that situation (short of actually fixing the pipes). They put more pumps in parallel so that they could shut some down when the water usage is at a lower point. They control the pumps remotely with software that knows the tradiational amount of water people are using. The software teaches the pumps what to do from there, based on what the people are doing. I thought that was cool, so I wrote about it in the free e-newsletter that I send to my subscribers every Thursday morning.
One of the subscribers, John Brooks, lives in England and had this to say.
"The piece about Grundfos is old news here in UK - and the pack of trouble that came with it! Thames Water, the provider of most of the drinking water in London, has major infrastructure problems. The old cast-iron street mains, some laid more than 100 years ago, are breaking up and there has been a huge replacement job going on for the last several years. While there are still some fragile and leaky pipes around, reducing pressure is a cheap way of minimizing bursts and leakage loss, and that's exactly what Thames Water has been doing. Under legal statute, it needs to provide potable water at minimum 1 Bar at the street connection to a building. Trouble is, if the building is more than 30 feet high, the water won't make it to the roof tanks! Booster sets are an answer but then you also need a 'break tank' at or below street level before the pump. Where to site pump and tank, with many buildings in the centre of town, you may well ask. Pressure reduction is not a universal solution."
I love hearing from people in foreign lands. It keeps me balanced. I wrote back to John and told him about the water pressure problems we have here in New York City, and about these old-school wooden tanks that we have on most of the roofs. Look at any photo of a New York skyline; you'll see those tanks. Rosenwach made most of them, and they last forever. Galvanized steel bands hold the wood in place (no nails anywhere). The wood swells and that's that.
In London, John tells us that the water won't rise more than 30 feet. We get about twice that in NYC. If your building is taller than six stories, you'll need a pump to get the water to those upper apartments, and that's where the Rosenwach tanks come in. There will be a house pump in the basement, right on the cold-water supply to the building. Its job is to fill the tank on the roof. From there, everything just falls straight down. The cold water feeds directly to the faucets. The hot water works like this: The pump fills the tank with cold water. The cold water falls down into the boiler's coil (or the water heater). It gets hot and then rises up again to the hot-water taps in the apartments. Up and down and up again.
The best part of all of this is that the folks with the most money, those who live on the upper floors, or in the penthouses, have the worst water pressure you can imagine. They get soapy in the shower and can't get the soap off, so they get aggravated, and when rich people get aggravated, opportunity knocks.
When I used to work for the manufacturer's rep, we sold pumps, and lots of them. We had this standard, base-mounted, 3,500-RPM little beast that we'd tell the contractor to tuck under a sink or in a closet, or wherever the rich guy would allow. We'd also sell them a small pressure tank so that the little beast didn't start whenever the rich guy drew a glass of water during the night. And there'd be a pressure switch, of course, to turn on the beast when the pressure in the little tank dropped off.
That pump did a brilliant job of washing off the soap and it solved their problem. We made a nice business of it because we had come up with something that solved a problem. Funny how that works. You find a problem, come up with a solution, and folks buy from you because, most of the time, they'd rather have the solution than the problem. It was our way of not participating in recessions. We looked for problems.
When The Lovely Marianne and I started our business in 1989 (and this was before I had written my first book), I did a lot of in-the-field consulting. This was the continuation of my career as a Contractor Boy for that rep. I had spent years with contractors in and around New York City, looking for problems and finding business. When TLM and I struck out on our own, I would go anywhere and look at anything because we were hungry, and so were our kids.