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Temperature Control Panels for B&W Darkroom.

Paul Klingaman , Feb 27, 2003; 01:32 p.m.

I'm currently building a darkroom in my basement, and considering water temperature control/filtration panels. I plan on doing processing of B&W films and prints only in this darkroom, max print sizes 16x20, max film size 4x5. In terms of volume, I plan on doing my personal work in this darkroom, and my B&W professional work (mostly weddings and portraiture). So volume will not be at the level of a professional lab, but a bit more work will be pushed through this space than normal...probably an average of 5-10 rolls of film, and maybe 25-50 prints weekly.

The units I'm considering purchasing are the Leedal wcp 15 economix, and the Delta model 15. I don't think I need much more than either of these two models seeing that a) I'll be using a jobo for film processing temp regulation, b) I'll be using an archival print washer to wash prints and c) this will be a B&W-only darkroom.

So in looking at the two units in question, I see converse likes and dislikes amounst them...

With the Delta panel, I like the filter size and the overall reputation of their products, but dislike the hot and cold valves used below the mixing chamber. Of course, the model 25 mixing chamber is great, but that's far above what I'd like to spend on this unit.

With the Leedal panel, all of the valves used seem better than on the delta, but the filter is smaller. A few concerns here...filtration is a bit more important to me than temp. regulation in my situation; will this filter do the job? Are replacement filter cartridges readily available for the filter?

If the filter is adequate in the Leedal, given the price difference (about 50 dollars) and the fact that the valves are nicer...I'd go with it. If the filter is inferior to the Delta filter, I may be swayed to add a couple upgraded valves to the unit and spend the extra cash. Or, if the Delta product is simply of a better build quality (I'm a sucker for longevity), I'd probably go with the Delta.

Does anyone have experience with these two units? If you could pass along your experiences and opinions, I'd highly appreciate your 2 cents.

Thanks, Paul

Responses

DK Thompson , Feb 27, 2003; 06:32 p.m.

Ha!, your darkroom sounds just like mine...fwiw, I work in a "work" lab by day, enjoy my own at night. I lucked out in finding an old Leedal water panel--similar to the model you describe. It's that one that had the panel & the single water filter, plus a couple of check valves. I picked mine up for about $50...BUT, I had to completely rebuild it. It looked like it had been yanked off a wall...still had sheetrock stuck to it. I pretty much canabilized it down to just the valves, and the mixer. Put a vacuum breaker above it and plumbed it in with couplings so I could eventually get it out if I needed to. Outside my darkroom (in a basement too), I put two water filters (Delta), one hot & one cold outside the room. So all water incoming is filtered with 25 micron, pleated cartridges. One sink has regular faucets--actually just ball valves. The other has the water panel--I run my print & film washers off this, and have a one-gallon tank line (another old stainless steeel Leedal line, with water jacket etc.) set up in this sink. I do b&w in this, and I also have a Printo processor....

Okay, I did all copper coming in, and assembled my own panel. Where I work, we have 3 water panels--2 made by Regal (Arkay) and one Intellifaucet. Each of these panels has a hot & cold filter prior to it. We have some nasty water, so we use 5 micron filters here. We run E6 with the Intellifaucet--works great, but needs to stripped down & cleaned about once a year or more. Keep this in mind--water panels need to be periodically rebuilt. You can buy kits for this from the manufacturers--with my old Leedal unit, I found the O rings at Lowe's actually....saoked the whole beast in CLR....incidentally, this is what Hass (Intellifacuet) recommends with their unit too. But it's a little more complicated with the electronics. Some people actually run the filters both before the panel and after. It just depends on your process and the water quality.

Let's see if I can answer this though. I think Delta makes great sinks, but have never used their water panels. I have used some other products other than the sinks, and found them to be so-so. They have a good flow meter though...

Leedal--like Regal/Arkay, California Stainless, Calumet etc. makes a great product. They've been around forever, and I've used their film drying cabinets, sinks, print dryers etc. One of my sinks is made by them as well--fiberglass. Leedal actually has a "seconds" catalog, where they sell off odd items. I used to get this and there were good deals on factory second sinks etc. All these companies have similar products.

My advice, would be to shop around and try to build your own. The filter on the Leedal unit, is a short model, and may or may not be good for your use. You can buy replacement filters from alot of photo suppliers, or maybe even home improvement stores. We use a taller filter--Ametek--and get them by the case from Calumet. Personally, I would use both hot and cold filters, but if you do this, you need to use filter housings that are rated for hot water. Most home stores only sell whole-house filters. I had an old dakroom though, where I just used one filter housing and had it hooked up with a coupling to the faucet. I ran a hose out the other side and used it like that. I set the filter housing in a bucket just to hold it up. Worked great, and was dirt cheap becuase the housing was leaky & it was a freebie....

Like I said, it depends on your water. But, if filtration is all you need, for $100 or so, you can get a kit from Calumet or Delta (Calumet uses Ametek filters & housings). The mixing valves are the killer...but all a panel is really, is the mxing valve and 2 incoming lines. Each one should have a check valve to keep the water flowing one-way. Then you'd have the outgoing line. You NEED the filters BEFORE the panel though, or else you'll be rebuilding the guts probably more than you'd like. I'd put it in so you have shut off--ball valves or something--and couplings before the unit, so if you have to get it out of there to service, you don't have to destroy your wall. Vacuum breakers are used as well, usually above the mixing valve.

Drop me a line if you want, I could go shoot a quick jpeg of one of the panels here if you want to see, or send you a shot of the one I have at home. 2 of ours are really oddball untis--one has a waterchiller running into it, and a way you can mix tempered & untempered cold water to the hot as well. So, it's like a maze of pipes and valves. The intellifaucet has a line running off it to keep the water flowing constantly for temp control (E6).

BTW--they get pricey, but nowehere near as expensive as the all stainless steel models. fwiw, a basic Intellifaucet is about $500. Oh yeah--IMPORTANT--look at the flow rate of the unit. Water panels are rated to be accurate at certain flow rates...usually in GPM. For home use, you probably want a low-flow...the fine print in the specs oughta spell this out. Hope this isn't too confusing.

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