Country Maple Farms Shelburn MA Jim and Angel Bragdon
Mar 9, 2014

Vacuum Pump


It was another super busy weekend here at Country Maple Farms.  We put out about 1,075 taps (thank you to all the people who helped us!), we built about 80 or so new taps, we put out gathering tanks and we set up our vacuum pump.  All together we have about 2,000 taps out.  Read on more to learn about our vacuum pump.

 

The vacuum pump helps pull the sap out of the trees.  When using vacuum there is a special kind of tap that goes into the tree.  It is called a check valve.  It has a little ball on the inside of it.  When the vacuum pump is turned off it prevents the sap from flowing back into the tree.  This helps keep the bacteria out of the tree.  Anyway...  There is probably more than one way to set up a vacuum pump.  I am going to try to explain how we set it up.  We have the vacuum pump and the releaser.  Here is a picture of the whole thing set up.

On top of the sap tank is the blue releaser.  To the right is the vacuum pump with the gas can on top of it.  The vacuum pump runs by a little Honda motor.  I don't know the specifics about either of those things.

Here is a picture of the releaser from a different angle.  This angle will make it easier for me to explain how this all works.

The little Honda motor runs and spins the belt that is connected to both the motor and the vacuum pump.  This is what creates the vacuum.  From the vacuum pump there is a large black pipe that runs to the white thing Jim built that is hanging from a tree (you can kind of see it in the first picture).  Then from there it goes to the top of the releaser.  This white thing is just in case moister or sap builds up in the line that goes from the pump to the releaser.  You don't want sap getting to the vacuum pump.  There is a ball inside that will float up to the top and block the air flow and thus blocking the sap from getting to the pump.

At this location we have four main lines running into the releaser.  You can see the lines running into the releaser in the above picture.  Here is a close up of what it looks like inside the top section of the releaser.

So, when the pump is running it is pulling vacuum on the trees helping the sap run into the releaser.  This means that inside the releaser there is also vacuum.  In the larger section of the releaser there is a plastic float.  When the float reaches the top of the tank there is a couple of things that happens.  The flapper valve that is at the top of the bigger tank closes and keeps the vacuum in the upper section of the releaser and in the pipelines.  This allows the flapper valve at the bottom of the larger tank to open up and let the sap fall out into the sap tank.  Here is a video of the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank opening and letting the sap fall into the big tank.

When the tank gets empty the upper flapper valve opens back up which creates vacuum in the lower section causing that flapper valve to be sucked closed.

Here is a video of the sap running into upper section of the releaser.

What makes this work really well is having pipelines that do not have any air holes in them.  If we lived in a world without squirrels this would be much easier.  For some reason squirrels like to chew on the pipeline.  Once the vacuum pump is up and running if you go out into the woods where the pipeline is if there are leaks you can hear them.  You then follow your ears to the leak and fix it.  Sometimes when you are tapping the trees you make mental notes of where there are leaks so you can go back and fix them if you don’t have what is need to fix it then.

Here is one last video of the releaser from a little farther away. 

Let us know on Facebook if you have any questions about this.  We would be happy to answer them!

UPDATE!

The last time I was where the vacuum pump is I remembered to take a picture of the white thing in the tree.  Here it is...

The pipe on the right is coming from the vacuum pump and the pipe coming out of it on the left is going to the releaser that is on top of the sap tank.

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