Air in system and pump turning off

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by Brett_24, Sep 7, 2009.

  1. Brett_24

    Brett_24 New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Fairfield, PA
    I am attempting to help some friends (a couple) find the problem with their water system. I took a look at it today. Here is what I found.

    Pump: Franklin 1HP 230V Submersible (w/ control box near tank)
    Tank: Goulds V250 83.5 gallon
    Pressure Switch: 40/60 (forgot to check brand)
    Well: 240' with pump at 230'

    The pump and tank were installed (as replacements) in December of 2000.

    The owner stated that he knows the recharge rate of the well is slow (he said 1 gallon per minute). I don't know how he acquired that information.

    Here are the problems:
    1. Air is being introduced into the system.
    2. The pump will turn itself off allowing pressure in the tank to drop to zero.
    3. Pressure in the system drops at a rate of about 2 pounds per minute when no household water is being used. So pressure can drop to zero even if nobody is at home.

    I'm new at deep wells, so please tell me if I'm off with my assumptions that follow.

    Numbers 1 (above) indicated to me a leak in the system, or very low water level in the well.
    Number 2 indicated to me that the thermally-protected pump is shutting itself off.
    Number 3 seems to indicate a leak in the system (perhaps a check valve).

    I pulled the well cap and put my ear on top, thinking I would be able to hear any water splashing from a leak (if it were above the water level in the well shaft). It was perfectly quiet (very quiet neighborhood, so it was easy to listen).

    I read, I believe on this forum, you can drop a tethered float into the well to check the water level. I can't do that in this well because round spacers were used to keep the pipe and wires centered in the casing.

    My best guess so far is that the water level and pump level are about the same, and that the pump begins to pump a water/air combination, becoming mostly air, and the pump heats up and shuts itself off.

    This does not explain the drop in water pressure however, unless the check valve is bad (I'm assuming the check valve is at the pump).

    They told me that when they find the tank with zero pressure, and the pump not running, they lift on the activation lever (don't know the real name of the lever) on the side of the pressure switch, and that gets the pump going again.

    Again, I'm nothing close to an expert here, so if I'm way off please let me know.

    Thanks.
    Brett
  2. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    The lever on the pressure switch is a re-set. When the pressure drops below the switch setting it cuts the pump off, so that tells you that one of two things are going on. One, there may be a big leak in the incoming line, but I doubt it for a couple reasons, but mostly because occasionally the tank will come up to pressure and the pump shuts off. So that pretty much leaves it to the pump, pumping all the water from the well, pretty much what you have already figured out. Probably have to call a driller in for a solution.
  3. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Yes there is a leak. The pump is sucking air or it is getting in due to the leak and the air causes low pressure at the switch and it is a low pressure safety cut off type so when the pressure falls to about 20 psi (but at least some below the cut-in setting), it opens and that shuts off the pump. Or the thermal overload shuts off the pump and the leak causes the switch to shut off the pump.

    You need a pump guy or driller or only a plumber capable and willing to pull the pump (which most aren't) to pull the pump and check the water level in the well and fix the leak. Most leaks are caused by a bad check valve in/on the pumps outlet, then a worn spot in the drop pipe or, the o-ring in the pitless adapter or a leak at the outlet of a pitless adapter on the outside of the casing.
  4. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    Hey guys, I didn't know most of us won't pull well pumps, did you ?
  5. upper

    upper DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    154
    Location:
    Fresno, CA
    Friggin candy but plumbers:D Upper
  6. Brett_24

    Brett_24 New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Fairfield, PA
    update

    Thanks guys.

    I passed along your comments to the homeowners.

    I got a note from them this morning saying the pump stopped overnight, and they couldn't get it going again this morning. They called in a plumber today.
    Here is the relevant part of the note:

    "The plumber says the pump is bad – and possibly the switch on top of the pump and the pressure tank bladder may also be bad. He’s replacing the pump – and we’re putting in a variable pressure system which will replace the pressure tank downstairs with a box on the wall and a regulator in the well that will respond to pressure needs on-demand. Once they get all of that hooked up, they’re going to check for leaks between the well and the house.

    We’ll see how this new system works, but this guy’s telling me that we’ll be amazed. He says we’ll get pressure as if we were on city water. He also said that they hit water at 50 feet – maybe less ..."​

    Then I got this note (after the installation was complete):
    "We had everything running in the house at the same time – and the pressure never dropped below 65!"​

    I asked if the plumber had given an explanation for the air in the system. The homeowner seemed to think the plumber was blaming a bad air bladder in the tank. This didn't make sense to me.

    And what is a "variable pressure system"? It sounds like it kicks on the pump whenever water is demanded. It seems like that would be a pump killer. Am I missing something here?

    I still don't understand how air was entering the system. And I don't like not understanding things. Any ideas on this?

    Thanks
    Brett
  7. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,586
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    They are talking about a "Variable Speed Pump". And yes it has to come on ever time you rinse a toothbrush, or the ice maker fills. Not only that but the Franklin system actully goes on and off 45 times per minute to maintain the "constant pressure". This is about 65,000 times in 24 hours or 2 million times per month that the switch is making and breaking, the check valve is opening and closing, and the pump is ramped up and down. And yes this is a pump killer. However, because it is a "soft start" it may still last past the warranty period. I wonder why a pump company would be so aggressively pushing a product that cost more and doesn't last as long? Could it be "cash flow" or "planned obsolescence"? Nah they wouldn't do that would they?

    Constant Pressure is a good thing but, Variable Speed Pumps are the cash cow of the industry, and pump installers are falling for it left and right. Find a pump installer who has been using them over 10 years, and you will find someone who has found a better way to get "constant pressure" than using a Variable Speed Pump.

    Of course if the pump installer couldn't even tell them where the air was coming from, he is a long way from understanding a Variable Speed Pump. The pump manufacturers make it sound so easy. You don't have to know anything about pumps, just plug it in and it works. The less people inform themselves, the better it is for the pump manufacturer. I mean, how could manufacturers pay for their private jets if pumps lasted more than 5 years?

    I am just old. I am use to correctly sizing and installing pumps so they will last 20 or 30 years, and the customer gets their money's worth. I would never purposely design something to fail, so I have a hard time making payments on a jet and a beach house. I guess it doesn't pay to be an honest pump man anymore. I am going to stop trying to diagnose problems and just start replacing the pump anytime someone calls. People are getting use to throwing stuff away. No reason why they shouldn't be making a few beach house payments for me as well. All I have to do is start selling expensive stuff that doesn't last very long, which is what a Variable Speed Pump is designed for.
  8. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    "The plumber says the pump is bad – and possibly the switch on top of the pump and the pressure tank bladder may also be bad."

    A pump with a switch on top says they had a jet pump.

    To my knowledge there is no variable speed/constant pressure jet pumps but... that means they had to have a submersible pump installed; that is a major undertaking including running electric to the well but not a hint of that in the notes.

    The probable jet pump quit overnight but no reason was given by the plumber as to what was actually wrong with the pump. Yet a jet pump is very easy to troubleshoot to find out why it quit.

    Then the plumber thinks the pressure tank is bad and adding the air to the water. And yet air can not get down through the water in the tank and out the inlet of any type of pressure tank.

    Therefore it sounds to me as if the plumber replaced parts that were not shown to be "bad" and did that by selling a constant pressure pump and has now put them into a type of pump and controller that will fail sooner than a regular sub pump.

    A much better and problem free solution for constant pressure was a Cycle Stop Valve. Usual residential sizes are less than $250 and they are usually installed in the water line before the pressure tank.
  9. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    well then, that settles it. Even though the plumber bumbled around some and managed to get them unlimited water at good pressure, he is obviously an idiot that has no idea what he is doing. The notion that the supplied information is third hand and probably mis-understood by the homeowner, naturally does not come into play here.

    The control on the wall may very well be a Grundfos Smartflow control unit.
  10. upper

    upper DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    154
    Location:
    Fresno, CA
    Valveman is right on with the constant pressure systems in my area.Alot of 5 years and your out deals.A good installer is taking it in the askew....Upper
  11. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,586
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    He said he had a 1 HP Franklin submersible so I assumed the pump guy would use a Franklin Drive but, it had a Goulds tank so he could be talking about a Goulds Variable Speed Pump or Balance Flow. It could also be a Grundfos SQE or a Pentair Controller. I guess it could also be a version of one of these made by Red Jacket, F&W, McDonald, Monarch, Rhombus, Yaskawa, Mitsubishi, Square D, ABB, AC Tech, Allen Bradley, and the list goes on and on.

    This kind of makes my point for me. Every manufacturer and their brother is making and promoting their own brand of Variable Frequency Drive. Do you really think it is for the good of the end user? Do you really think all these manufacturers are diligently working on products that will make your pump system last longer and save you money? I think not! But if you believe these big manufacturers are looking out for your best interest, I have a really good deal for you on some beach front property in Nebraska.

    Wake up America!! It’s time to fight back! Don’t let them tread on you!!

    This is not just true of our political system but, our Domestic systems as well. We are like sheep, always obeying the biggest ads, and falling for the biggest lies. We buy the automobiles that have the sexiest adds, even though friends and Consumer Reports says it falls apart frequently and gets terrible gas milage. We pay extra for things in fancy packages because it says "Green", even though the generic version is identical and much more cost effective which is really "Green". We should read the fine print, not get glossed over by the hype. When you see masses of manufacturers pushing a certain product, you should ask yourself, who is really benefitting from this?

    Politicians don’t solve any problems or they would be out of a job. Manufacturers don’t spend millions promoting products that would save you money.

    One thing good about this day and age is the Internet. Knowledge is power, and people now have the ability to get the knowledge they need. You don’t have to stop at the paid adds on the right side of the Google page. You can look several pages down to find the fine print, testimonials, independent reports. Even go on forums and see what people with past experience have to say. There is so much information available that you have to filter it down to what is important. Then you can make an informed decision that will be good for you, and it will never be the same thing the manufacturers want.

    There are plenty of people who will just blindly take the car salesman or pump mans word for it but, the rest of will be more "Green" and save more money because, "we don't like not understanding things".
  12. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,586
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    Thanks Upper! I have heard this everyday for the last 20 years. It is what keeps me motivated to stand up and say, "the emperor is not wearing any cloths".

    For over 20 years they keep saying that the next upgrade will solve all the problems associated with the last model. There are just some things about Variable Frequency Drives that mother nature or the laws of physics will not allow to be fixed. All the band-aids and upgrades in the world will never be able to fool mother nature.

    The installers are taking the blame for these type systems, while the manufacturers are taking it to the bank.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2009
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