10 May The Photo That Saved Us $120
Yep, that photo just saved us $120.
It’s a valve from our watermaker, known as the Clean/Prime valve. It’s leaking and needs to be replaced.
So we called Katadyn, the tech support guy gave us their part number. I asked if it was something we could buy locally and was told “No, you need to order it from us.” He transferred my call to the parts department. It would cost $157 + tax and shipping. YIKES! I said I wanted to think about it.
The handle on the top said Swagelok but didn’t show a part number. We didn’t want to remove the valve until we’re ready to install the new one — the watermaker is working, although water seeps out and air in around the valve.
I couldn’t see the sides and bottom of the valve, but I could get my camera in the compartment. I couldn’t really see what I was aiming at or whether the camera was even focused, but I took a slew of photos and then brought them up on the computer, where I could enlarge and enhance the “good” photos.
Lo and behold, I found the part number. Checking the Swagelok website, it certainly looked correct. I called the south Florida Swagelok dealer . . . he had the part for $98 + tax and shipping. Okay, better.
But I decided to plug the part number into Google . . . and found an Ebay shop selling surplus Swagelok parts, including this one. Got it — new in original packaging — for $38, no tax and free shipping. Over $120 less than buying from Katadyn. Sold!
UPDATE: We received the valve and Dave installed it. Works perfectly!
Lesson: if a part seems high-priced from a proprietary dealer, you may be able to find the part number on it somewhere . . . 5 minutes with a camera to take pictures and enhance them can help a lot . . . and with the original manufacturer part number, you’re not locked into a single source.
P.S. For things like this, I generally have better luck with my Olympus Tough TG-4 (it’s a high end waterproof point-and-shoot that I love) than my phone. The “real” camera has much better close-up focusing and low-light capability. Years ago, I wrote about my predecessor camera, the TG-2 . . . I’ve since had a TG-3 and now a TG-4. Highly recommend it — has image stabilization, and can use filters. It also earned its keep when we had minute cracks in a fuel hose (read about it here) and in a deck-fill o-ring (see that story). Check it out on Amazon. Unless you’re going to use it for SCUBA, you don’t need the underwater package (the camera itself is waterproof to 50 feet).