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How to address leaks in a maple tubing network for sap collection.

(Video below) Part 1: Identifying, validating, and addressing leaks in a maple tubing network for sap collection.

Alan Isabel, representative from LS Bilodeau and also an installer of tubing networks, shares some tips and tricks for addressing leaks. We know that "leak-proof" is synonymous with "productivity" for a maple water delivery network. According to the Acer Center (2015), the relationship between the amount of sap collected and the vacuum level is linear and ranges from 4 to 7% per inch of mercury (inHg) reached. Whether your system is gravity-fed (natural vacuum) or vacuum-assisted (pumps), addressing leaks is a key action to improve your yield per tap. You will not only observe an increase in the quantity of sap collected, but it will also spend less time in your tubing (higher quality maple water), and will be less prone to freezing in your tubes.

1- Identifying Leaks

In this article, we assume that you do not yet have a Magika monitoring system to assist you in leak detection (learn more). From the outset, it's much easier to start from the bottom and work your way up the lines than starting from the top. In other words, start from the pump station or the collector/reservoir that collects the water and move up the network, observing the behavior of the sap. This way, you can more easily confirm, as you move up the lines, whether the flow is restored or not during your repairs.

2- Signs and Indicators of Leaks:

  • You observe a loss of vacuum compared to the vacuum level at the pump station;
  • In your tubing lines, bubbles move very quickly (faster than 1 foot / 3 seconds);
  • In your tubing lines, bubbles do not move quickly enough (slower than 1 foot / 3 seconds);
  • There are "lots" of small bubbles in your tubing line;
  • Your connections or spouts make an air noise, seem to "hiss";
  • On the maple tree: you see that it is humid around the spout.

3- Fixing Leaks in a Gravity Tubing System

Yes, it's possible! Of course, if you have a pump available, it could really simplify your work by making leaks more obvious. If you can increase your vacuum, it will be much easier to spot leaks. See our article on this topic: Using the Vacuum Pump.

4- A typical case of leakage due to a connection

In a typical case of non-sealed tubing at a connection, you will notice that the flow is much faster than usual, and you will observe a backflow before the connection. In other words, you can see that air takes priority over water in the pipe.

5- Microleaks

When you observe a lot of small bubbles in your tubing, it is characteristic of a microleak, either a poorly sealed connection, a small notch in the tubing, or a spout that is not properly inserted into its notch, etc.

The initial fertilization experiments in the sugar bush have mostly been done with lime, and we know that the lime applied 25 years ago still has an effect today. Therefore, fertilization will probably occur much less frequently than in fields, where we often remove everything above the ground with each harvest, as in a cornfield; we take away many tons per acre. In the sugar bush, the amount we remove is much smaller, but combined with other factors, it eventually has an effect. If we don't react, we slowly deplete our soil.

7- Causes of leaks in your tubing

Several factors, more or less controllable, can affect the tightness of your tubing network:

  • Improperly stripped union, with a small notch near the cut;
  • A spout not well inserted or too hammered into the tap, which can generate cracks in the tree;
  • Improper tapping: deformed, too angled, drilled in an area of dead or rotting wood;
  • Wildlife can play tricks on you (rodents and birds can sometimes nibble on your lines);

In the same Maple Farm Playlist

How to Detect Leaks in a Maple Tubing System

Part 1: Identifying, validating, and understanding the causes of leaks in a maple tubing network for sap collection.

How to Detect Leaks in a Maple Tubing System : Part 2

Part 2: Examples of common leaks and repairs

A gravity tubing system on the 5/16 tubing size?!

A surprising experiment in a sugar bush in Estrie

Condition of use for the Guzzler diaphragm pump

A surprising experiment in a sugar bush in Estrie

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