How Can I Get More Vacuum Where I Need it?

Consider this – you have just bought a new vacuum pump and you have determined that your vacuum lines are sized properly, but for some reason, one or two lines are just not performing at the levels you expected. Is there a solution to this problem? Yes there is! It is all about distributing the vacuum to where you want it.

If all of the vacuum lines are the same size and if all of the vacuum lines run directly to the releaser, then all of the CFMs for each line will be distributed equally across the system. If you have 4, 1 inch lines coming to a releaser powered by a 60 CFM pump, then each line would receive 25% of the vacuum or 15 CFM. According to theory that would be enough vacuum to run 1500 taps on each line. However, based on previous articles in this blog you realize that due to line loss this is not entirely true, but each line would still receive 25% of what is available. What happens when you have 1, 1 ¼ line used in a Wet-Dry system hooked to the releaser along with 3, 1 inch single lines.  This is where vacuum distribution comes in and the math starts.

Line Allocation
Each pipe diameter has a cross section area
Knowing this will give you the cubic feet capacity per minute for the pipe.
It will also allow you to assign a percentage of a vacuum pipes capacity to each pipe.

Area of the Pipe

¾”        .44 sq. inches              1 ½”     1.77 sq. inches

1.0”     .78 sq. inches                2.0”       3.14 sq. inches

1 1/4″    .1.23 sq. inches            3.0”     7.07 sq. inches

How do I determined what percentage of my vacuum is going to each line?

Let’s say in your woods you have 4 lines, three 1″ lines with 1/3 of my taps on them and one 1 ¼” over 1″ Wet-Dry operating 2/3 of the taps. Here is a simple formula determine vacuum

For the 1 inch lines .78 + .78 + .78 = 2.34.  For the 1 ¼ inch line = 1.23
Doing the math, 2.34 + 1.23 = 3.57 sq. inches

.78 ÷ 3.57 = .218 or each 1 inch line receives 21.8 % of the CFMs.  All together the 1 inch lines in this system are receiving 65.4% CFMs.
That leaves the remaining 34.6% CFM capacity for the 1 1/4 line.

Now you have 2/3 of the taps on the 1 ¼” Wet-Dry line only receiving 1/3 of the CFMs. You need to redistribute the CFMs to the largest number of taps. To correct the problem, you need to reduce the number of CFMs going to the 3, 1″ lines or you need to increase the size of the dry line on the Wet-Dry system. If you apply the math using the above information you can obtain the most economical solution.

For instance, if you installed a 2″ line in place of the 1 ¼” this would apply 60% of the CFMs to that line and 40% to the 3, 1″ lines. You could also bring all 3, 1″ lines together into a vacuum booster with a 1 ¼” outlet going to the releaser. What you would end up with in the second scenario is two lines coming into the releaser of the same size, each with 50% of the CFMs. Remember the wet line does not count as a vacuum line; its only function is to transfer liquid. The only other considerations are to avoid line loss from the vacuum pump to the releaser by using a 2″ or 3″ line and to account for all the CFMs used by releasers and other equipment on the system.

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

Tubing or Pump: How to Optimize your Tubing System’s Performance

When you install a vacuum tubing system, you need to understand a few basic principles that determine how air moves through a mainline. First you must consider line loss. Line loss is caused by the friction of air moving through the line. A general rule of thumb is that the narrower the diameter of the mainline, the slower the air removal at long distances. A smaller line will restrict the pump’s ability to quickly remove vacuum and recover from leakage more than a larger line. If you have a 1000 foot, 1 inch mainline attached to a 60 CFM (cubic feet per minute) pump, you will lose 50% of your CFMs within the first 200 feet. If you attach the same pump to a 2” line you will retain 50% of your CFM out to 1500 feet. Simply stated, air moves easier through a larger diameter line.

Mainline in Ohio State Mansfield Sugarbush

You also need to consider how a vacuum pump works. The measure of vacuum pumps efficiency is not actually how many inches of mercury (Hg) it can obtain but how many cubic feet of air it can remove from the line in one minute. Remember even the smallest vacuum pump can remove the air from an air tight system and obtain high vacuum if you give it enough time to work. But one also needs to remember there is no such thing as an air tight maple tubing system, so ability to recover from leakage quickly is critical.  Bigger pumps can remove air from the line faster but only if that air can move down the mainline quickly – which gets us back to mainline size. If the diameter of the mainline is too small, the air flow will be restricted by line loss.

So using an identical 1000 ft. mainline, how many taps can we run? Let’s consider a 1 inch line, 1000 feet long hooked to a 60 CFM pump. The 1 inch line will only allow 8 cubic feet of air to move through the line in one minute’s time at 1000 feet. If you follow the rule of 1 CFM for every 100 taps that would mean that you could not exceed 800 taps on that line, even though you have a vacuum pump capable of running 6,000 taps. The only way to solve this problem is to go to a larger diameter line. If you move up to a 1 1/4 line of the same length hooked to the same pump you would have 12 CFM available at 1000 feet into the woods. You could theoretically run up to 1200 taps on this line. The major problem here is that many producers feel that they can solve their vacuum problems by buying a bigger vacuum pump. The truth is that at 1000 feet with a 1 inch line, hooked to a much smaller 15 CFM pump, your system is still capable of transferring 7 CFM. If you replace the smaller pump with a much larger pump (60 CFM) it will only be able to transfer 8 CFM. A larger pump under a fixed scenario will not necessarily transfer more CFMs.

Yet another factor to consider is that most modern vacuum pumps are capable of maintaining a high level of Hg or inches of vacuum, but once a leak develops the vacuum level declines. It is now up to the vacuum pump to overcome that leak by removing the incoming air faster than it is entering the system. The pump must be able to do the job quickly to maintain an optimum level of performance (high vacuum). As demonstrated in the above example, a big pump can only be as efficient as the line capacity behind it.

Up to this point, we have only considered air flow through an empty line with no sap in it. What happens when we add sap? The optimum goal is to maintain 60% air and 40% liquid inside the vacuum line. What happens during peak flow when the ratio is often reversed? Under low flow conditions, there is very little liquid inside you mainline and air can move freely. Under peak flow conditions, sap builds up and air blockage often occurs. This blockage could be in the form of waves or even worse slugs of sap that seal off a portion of the line. This is a real problem especially on slopes of 2 % or less. The solution to this problem, especially on flat ground or where large volumes of sap are entering the primary mainline from secondary main lines is a dual-line conductor or Wet-Dry line. The bottom line conducts the sap and the top line removes the air from the system. The bottom line is sized based on its liquid capacity and the top line is sized based on air flow and CFM capacity. When figure the CFM capacity for a Wet-Dry system only consider the capacity of top line. The advantage of a Wet-Dry system is that you should never have liquid in your top line, that means that it will always transfer air at full capacity and the bottom line will have greater capacity to transfer sap.

To get a more in-depth description of how to install a vacuum system, including line loss charts for both single and wet-dry mainline, consult the New York State Maple Tubing and Vacuum System Notebook from Cornell University.

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

Vacuum: an Explanation

The concept of vacuum is the exact opposite of what most people think of when they see a pump and some lines. Most people think of air being pushed though a line, similar to a compressor with an air line. Air can be compressed to an infinite level as long as what is holding that air does not explode. With vacuum it is the exact opposite. Vacuum is pressure based on the force that the earth’s atmosphere exerts on all of us. This amounts to about 15 pounds per square inch of surface or 29 inches of mercury. This pressure is also referred to as barometric pressure. As the atmosphere fluctuates, we might know by watching the weather that barometric pressure goes up and down with changes in atmospheric air movement. If you remove air from a container, you will produce a vacuum inside that container. That lack of air creates a negative pressure that is measured in inches of mercury (element abbreviation Hg) and will never exceed the outside barometric pressure.  As molecules of air are moving toward the pump and that air is ejected at a volume over a period of time, in this case Cubic Feet of air per Minute (CFM), the capacity of the pump will determine how fast this will happens.

What we are trying to create inside our sap lines is the absence of air or a perfect vacuum. Most producers grasp these basic concepts they also realize that there is no way to maintain a perfect vacuum inside their sap lines. Damage from wildlife and aging equipment introduces air into the system. Even the tree allows air to be introduced. For this reason we always allow for 1 CFM of air movement for every 100 taps. The problem with most systems is that we are getting way more air into the system than we want. This puts a greater burden on the pump to remove the air. The speed at which this is accomplished is largely determined not only by pump capacity, but how the tubing system is constructed. Line length and diameter in relation to the pump and the amount of liquid in the lines has as much to do with it as pump size. Couple this with the fact that most producers are attempting to run at high vacuum (as close to the daily barometric pressure as possible). The problem with this is that it is counterproductive to pump efficiency. To go from 12 to 15” (Hg) vacuum requires 20% more system capacity, 12 to 18” requires 50% more system capacity and from 12 to 20” requires 80% more capacity. Placing your woods on vacuum can yield more sap per tap, up to a 50% increase; however, this greatly increases the demand on your pump and everything behind the pump – from the shed to the tree – has to be in optimum condition. You can see in one short paragraph there is more to running a vacuum system than simply hooking a line to a vacuum pump.

The simplest way to design a vacuum system is to start with a tubing system and then install a pump that will effectively handle the tubing system. First, you need to determine how many taps will be on each mainline. You need to know the slope of those mainlines. Sap flowing in a relatively flat woods will move more slowly than sap moving down a mountain side. Each line has a volume capacity for the liquid it is conducting. For example, a 1 inch line on gravity will conduct 50 gallons per hour on a 2% slope and 75 gallons per hour on 6% slope. A good rule of thumb is that you want no more than 40% of the space inside the tubing holding liquid. The rest is needed to move air. The vacuum line is dual purpose, but its main function is air movement which facilitates the actual vacuum effect. If the sap level rises to the point that it blocks that air movement then the vacuum level quickly drops off. This along with excessive leakage are the main reasons for vacuum level drop from the pump out into the woods. In other words, using too small a diameter line will result in lines running full of liquid and dropping your optimal vacuum levels. One of the best ways to overcome this problem is to use dual-line conductors, using the top line for air movement and the bottom line for liquid. The use of this type of system is vital in flat woods with very little slope. Getting your lines sized correctly is the first step in creating an efficient vacuum system. In the next post we will discuss the importance of vacuum line sizing and distribution.

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension