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The most common variety of valve found on pool plumbing is a 3-way valve, popularized by Jandy, and copied by Compool, Hayward and CMP. Robert Ortega, working for Purex was the first to patent a 3-way pool valve in 1980, but it didn’t catch on until Jandy introduced their first model, which was white in color.
Jandy valves are more expensive than ball valves, but their design allows one valve to replace two ball valves, making plumbing simpler and cleaner. 3-way valves are also easier to use than other types of pool valves and newer models require no lubrication. These valves can handle flow rates in excess of 150 gpm, with minimal resistance, and pressures up to 50 psi.
A removable lid makes these pool valves serviceable in the event of a clog or the breakage of internal parts. The 3-way design (shown) allows for plumbing flexibility and simplicity, and the valve is also available in a 2-way design. Another advantage of these valves is that you can plumb with pipe to the inside of the valve, or you can glue a coupling to the outside of the valve port, allowing you to plumb 1.5" or 2" with the same valve.
What can be confusing for combination valve users is what is happening inside the valve when they turn the handle. Notice in the diagram that the size and curve of the handle (#3) corresponds exactly with the size and curve of the diverter (#8) inside the valve body. Wherever the curved front of the handle is located, so will be the "door" of the valve. As you turn the valve handle, the diverter inside rotates in the same direction.
The design of the valve, allows you to easily control the flow from two pipes with one valve. One pipe can be completely or partially closed off, while the other port is fully open, or both ports (pipes) can be fully open at the same time. In effect a 3-way valve operates as a Tee fitting, with adjustable flow rates to or from each pipe attached to the valve. A simple pool may have one 3-way valve installed in front of the pump, to control the flow from the skimmer and main drain. In most cases, the valve is turned to halfway close off the main drain, while the skimmer pipe is fully open. This results in 25% flow from the drain, and 75% flow from the skimmer.
3 way or combination valves have a tab on the underside of the valve handle designed to limit the range of motion to 180 degrees. Sometimes these break off. Be careful not to accidentally dead head the valve, blocking incoming water flow into the port marked ‘Inlet”. However, deadheading the valve can be useful to block water flow when the pump is off, for repair or maintenance on the pump, filter or plumbing. You can loosen the lock nut and lift the handle about halfway to turn the valve past the shut off stop.
Important to keep older combination valves lubricated with a Teflon or Silicone lubricant. Newer valves, known as Never-Lube, do not need to be manually lubricated. Fill the grease cap on gray models with Magic Lube or similar lubricant annually. After filling the cap, thread the outer cap down to squirt lube into the valve body, onto the face of the diverter.
Valve actuators are motorized valve turners that sit on top of a 2 or 3 way valve. They are used with controller systems to turn valves automatically for certain functions, such as spa mode or solar heating.
If the handle breaks off of a three way valve, the valve can still be operated, until you buy a replacement valve handle. Remove the lock nut and pull off the broken handle. Wrap the diverter stem (#9) with cloth, and use gentle turning pressure with pliers.
Leaking valves (leaking air or water, depending on the location – suction lines or return lines), is a common problem with older valves. Replacing the o-rings on the diverter stem will usually repair this, or the diverter assembly can be replaced.
Cracked valves, from freeze damage or blunt force, can often be patched with an A-B type resin/hardener epoxy, although it may not be successful when the valve is on the pressure side (return side). You can buy the valve housing separately, without the lid and diverter assembly, but the price of the housing alone is nearly the same as buying an entire new valve.
Sticky valves can be lubricated with a Teflon based lubricant. Older grey Jandy valves will have a grease cap that can be filled with lube. Broken grease caps can be replaced, or plugged with a 1/8” NPT plug. Never-Lube valves are not supposed to need lubrication, but if they become hard to turn, the lid can be removed and lubricant smeared on the face of the diverter.
When replacing the valve lid after service or repair, align the word “INLET’ with the port where water is entering or exiting the valve, and be careful not to pinch the lid o-ring when tightening the lid screws. Use a star pattern to equally tighten down the screws. Overtightening the screws can crack the plastic ring around the screw.
For pools that are winterized, the valve connected to the main drain may need a replacement diverter at some point, to maintain the positive seal necessary for winterizing the main drain pipe.
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