IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
MODERN CONVENIENCES FOR THE FARM HOUSE
Transcribed by Debbie Clough Gerischer
THE WATER SUPPLY
For domestic purposes the water must be clear, pure, and palatable; the essentials being freedom from disease germs, turgidity, color, odor, and taste.
Springs and Wells. - Of the various sources of supply springs usually rank first and deep wells next in desirablility. The character of the water in a shallow well depends upon its past history and present environment. If it has traveled long distances through the soil without encountering organic impurities or taking up objectionable mineral salts, or if after possible pollution it has been filtered and purified in its travels, its quality is probably excellent. But shallow wells near barnyards or privy vaults should always be regarded with suspicion. It is well to remember that the price of pure water, wherever you go, is everlasting and unremitting vigilance.
The danger of using the ordinary shallow well is known to everyone. To locate a cesspool and a well on the same small piece of ground is almost impossible without contaminating the water. Slop water of any kind should never be thrown near the well. The top 4 or 5 feet of the well casing should be laid up in cement mortar to prevent water flowing in without first filtering through the ground. A sewer pipe or wasted drain near a well is dangerous because such a pipe or drain is seldom water-tight. If a sewer pipe must be run near a well, castiron pipe should be used.
The carelessness that will locate the barn on higher ground that the well and take no precautions to divert the surface drainage is almost as deplorable as the use of the cesspool or privy vault. To keep the earth clean in the vicinity of the water supply is of the greatest importance and requires constant watchfulness.
There are localities where the only available water supply is obtained by storing the water which falls from the roof of the house during rainy weather. In other places the water is so hard that rain water is desirable in the laundry and bathroom.
Construction. - The size of the cistern needed will vary with the size of the family, the length of the dry season, and the number of plumbing fixtures supplied with the rain water. This cistern may be located close to the house for convenience and should be built of good, hard brick, with walls not less than 8 inches in thickness, laid in Portland cement mortar. The bottom should be laid with two courses of brick well bedded in the cement mortar. If the water is to be used for drinking or for cooking, a filter chamber should be added by building an 8-inch partition wall after the bottom has been paved. This wall should be built a little higher than the outlet of the overflow pipe. The walls of both compartments should be plastered with a good coat of cement mortar, composed of one part good Portland cement and two parts clean, sharp sand, excepting 10 or 12 inches of the bottom of the partition wall (4 or 5 courses of brick, which are laid together without cement) for the water to pass through. The water from the roof is collected in one compartment and is pumped from the other, the filtering material being put in the first compartment. An overflow pipe should be provided on the side of the cistern which the water enters, the opening of the overflow pipe being fitted with a fine strainer to exclude insects or vermin. A cut-off should be placed on the rainwater pipe leading to the cistern to divert the flow to the outside when necessary, as, for instance, for a short time at the beginning of the rains to exclude the dirt collected on the roof and in the gutters.
The cistern may be built of concrete, and may be either round or rectangular. The round form is the more difficult to build, but it is the stronger. A description of the method of building a rectangular concrete tank is given under "Disposal of sewage" (p. 27).
Use of a pump. - A small force pump, placed at one end of the kitchen sink, with the suction pipe reaching to the cistern, is a convenient means of getting the soft-water supply if the more expensive method of using a gravity tank or a pneumatic tank and piping the soft water to the sink, wash basins, and bath tub is not desired. If a gravity soft-water tank is placed in the attic it can have a direct connection with a rain-water leader which will keep the tank full during the rainy season. This connection must be supplied with an automatic cut-off which will send the water to the cistern when the attic tank is full. The force pump can be connected to the tank and used to fill it in dry seasons.
To have a constant water supply in the kitchen and bathroom it is necessary to have some means of storing it under pressure. An elevated tank which will deliver the water by gravity may be used, or a pneumatic tank which will deliver it by air pressure. The labor saved by having the water carried to the house, barn, and garden will soon pay for the storage tank, while the value of adequate fire protection and the healthfulness of sanitary plumbing can not be estimated in dollars.
Location of the tank. - If the gravity system is chosen, the tank for the storage of the water may be in the attic or on an outside tower. If a windmill is used for power, a small tank can be supported 20 to 40 feet from the ground, on the same tower. These tanks can be constructed of wood or of galvanized steel, and of capacity varying from 300 to 2,000 gallons. If a larger tank is desired, a tank on an independent tower should generally be used with pipe connecting to house and barns. When the storage for the house supply is in the attic, too large a tank should not be used, as water is heavy (62.5 pounds per cubic foot) and there is danger of overloading the attic floor unless it has been especially designed to carry the tank.
Kinds, construction, and cost. - Attic tanks are constructed of wood lined with zinc or lead, of galvanized steel, of cast iron, and of wrought iron. Such tanks should always be provided with an overflow pipe to carry off the water if the float valve fails to shut it off when the tank is full. If of iron, or steel,, a galvanized steel tank pan with a drain connecting with the overflow pipe should be placed beneath the tank to prevent damage to the floors and ceilings from condensation of moisture on the outside. The water supply is regulated by means of a float valve which cuts off the inlet pipe when the tank is full enough. The size of the tank will be regulated by the power used to raise the water as well as the amount required by the family. The hydraulic ram or the windmill will require only a small storage tank, as they are so easily set going. If an engine is used, a tank that will hold a two or three days' supply would be more convenient and economical. A closed steel tank, fitted with a water-seal air valve, may be used in the attic with the overflow pipe leading to the stock tank in the barnyard. This insures a constant renewal of the water. There is one farm in Illinois where the water supply is forced to an attic tank and the fall of the surplus operates a water motor for lifting the cistern water to another tank in the attic, and then the surplus water goes to a tank in the haymow of the barn with an overflow pipe to a stock tank in the barnyard. This illistrates how well the head can be made to save the heels.
If all the plumbing fixtures are on the ground floor, the closed steel tank for the cold-water supply can be placed in the kitchen or bathroom. If desired, the entire water supply can be made to pass through this house tank and so the house supply will be always fresh. With a closed tank there is no danger from overflow.
A tank like this, 12 inches in diameter and 4 feet high, will hold 24 gallons and cost about $16. An open galvanized steel tank can be made or can be bought ready-made. A ready-made one with a capacity of 100 gallons will cost about $8, while a 500-gallon tank will cost about $16.
Sufficient pressure to force a water supply wherever desired in a farmhouse may be secured at all seasons by means of a pneumatic tank built of steel plates and located in the cellar, or in a small building erected over the well, or even buried in the earth if desired. It is superior to an elevated tank because the pipes and tank can more easily be made frost proof in winter and the water will be cooler in summer. It is closed to dust and light and has the additional advantage of resting upon the solid ground.
Principle of action. - Water is pumped into the bottom of this airtight tank, and as the water rises in the tank the air above it is compressed. The expansion of this compressed air will force the water through the supply pipes at the bottom of the tank to points where the water is required. The pressure is increased by pumping more water into the tank and decreased by drawing water off. A 15-pound pressure will raise water to a height of 22 feet, a 10-pound pressure to a height of 22 feet, etc. The correct amount of air can be supplied and maintained by an automatic air valve, by a pump that forces both air and water into the tank at the same time, or by a hand air valve. The last method is not self-regulating, but if water is supplied to the tank by a hand force pump, it will not require much more attention to regulate the air pressure also.
Power; cost. - The water can be forced into the pneumatic tank by the same means required to elevate it to a gravity tank, i. e., by a windmill, gas engine, hot-air engine, hydraulic ram, or by hand. From ten to twenty minutes a day with a good hand force pump will furnish a moderate supply. If more than 100 gallons a day are required, it is better to use some other means of pumping. If an engine is used, a large tank is more economical, and twenty minutes' pumping twice a week should furnish the supply. With a windmill an automatic regulator should be used, which will throw the windmill out of gear when the pressure reaches a given amount and start it again when the pressure is relieved.
The prices vary with the different manufacturers. A tank 30 inches in diameter and 10 feet long, which would supply the needs of a family of five, is listed at from $101 to $138 (subject to discount). The expense for repairs to an outfit like this is very slight and the time required for pumping varies with the power used.
Neighbors can frequently combine and put in one large plant for supplying water to several houses. This decreases the cost to the individual and gives a greater pressure in case of fire. The greater the horizontal distance the water is carried the larger the pipes should be to lessen the loss of pressure by friction.
What will be the most convenient and economical means of forcing water into the storage tank depends upon the situation in each case. The source of the supply, the amount required, the need of power for other purposes, the available, the amount required, the need of power for other purposes, the available fuel, and the cost of labor will all have a bearing on the matter. The hydraulic ram and the windmill have the advantage of operation without fuel, but the ram requires at least 18 inches of waterfall, while with the windmill the daily supply of water is not always subject to control. The gas or hot-air engine requires fuel and attendance, but the supply is more easily regulated.
The Hydraulic Ram
The hydraulic ram can be used to fill the storage tanks if the source of supply is a spring, flowing well, or running stream from which enough fall to supply the power can be obtained. Its use is practicable with a fall of only 18 inches, but with greater heads water can be forced to higher elevations and to longer distances. The head can be increased by damming the stream or by sinking the ram into a pit, if a drain can be secured to keep the pit free from water. The relation between the height of the spring, or source of supply, above the ram and the elevation to which the water is to be delivered determines the proportion of water raised to water wasted. It is not economy to increase the fall more than is necessary to supply the required amount of water, as the durability of the ram will be lessened. The amount of water procured by means of a ram from a very small fall makes a good supply because the ram is always going.
It is not necessary that the water which is pumped should be the same as the power water. Pure water can be delivered by the use of impure water without danger of mixing by means of a compound ram.
The size of the ram to be used will depend upon the amount of water power and both the amount of water required and height to which it is raised. The water can be delivered into an elevated tank or a pneumatic tank as desired and the overflow can be utilized by a water motor for pumping cistern water, shelling corn, or in any of the other numerous ways of saving hand labor.
The length of the drive pipe depends upon the fall to the ram and the height to which water is delivered. The delivery pipe will be governed by the conditions usual to water pipes. After the pipes are laid it is well to leave them uncovered until they are given a test in order to discover any leaks. The attention required by a ram is very little. A visit of inspection twice a week may be necessary. The mechanism is simple and, as the wearing is only in the two valves, the expense of maintenance is small. A small ram can be installed for $50 or less (pipe not included), and will be found a useful means of furnishing a water supply in many cases.
A good and simple way of securing a supply of water is by the use of a windmill. When the machine is properly constructed it will pump large quantities of water, and, like the rain, without cost, as the wind is free and the cost of repairs is very small. The tower should lift the wheel 10 or 15 feet higher than the tallest obstruction. The galvanized steel tower has almost entirely taken the place of the wooden tower, and is proving very durable. A combination tower which carries both a windmill and a storage tank is furnished by some manufacturing companies under the name of "suburban outfit." This outfit gives ample pressure for ordinary requirements, and can be made frost proof by inclosing the exposed pipes in two or more wooden casings with air spaces between, the outer casing being of matched boards and painted. A combination pumping and power mill is also manufactured, at a small additional cost,m which will pump the water, grind the feed, shell the corn, saw the wood, and do the washing and churning with no expense for fuel; but the wind must blow.
If the windmill supplies a tank in the attic the supply is regulated by a tank float which shuts off the supply pipe when the water reaches a certain height and admits water again when the water level of the tank is lowered. An expansion joint should be used on the supply pipe to prevent the overstraining of the joints due to change of temperature. The same pipe that delivers water to the tank may be used to supply the house fixtures. If the windmill supplies a pneumatic tank an automatic pump should be used which will throw the wheel out of gear when a certain pressure is reached, and, when water is drawn, the reduction of the pressure will throw it in gear again.
The cost of installing a windmill will depend upon the depth and character of the well and its distance from the house and barns, upon the height of the tower, upon the elevation or pressure of the storage tank, and upon the amount of water required each day. These items vary so much with the individual cases that it is unsatisfactory to attempt to give even general figures. Any manufacturer of windmills will furnish an estimate upon application.
Gas or Hot-Air Engines
Small gas or hot-air engines are now manufactured for the express purpose of pumping water from cisterns, springs, or wells to elevated or pneumatic tanks to furnish supplies for houses and barns. One advantage of the engine over the hydraulic ram or the windmill is that the water can be pumped when it is wanted, and the size of the storage tank can be more accurately determined. An engine can be selected which will burn any kind of fuel - natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, coal, or wood. Such engines do not require an expert to run them, and , like the power windmill, can be used for driving other light machinery when not needed for pumping water.
The arrangement of the pipes to carry the water is governed by the same conditions as when other power is used. No more elbows or sharp bends should be used than are absolutely necessary, as they cut down the capacity of the engine; and when the water is to be pumped through a great length of horizontal pipe it is well to increase the size of the pipe.
The cost of a two or three horsepower engine will be from $60 to $130. The cost of the fuel is very small, as a half hour's pumping a day will furnish the average supply of water.
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