Best location for pressure switch?

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by Andrew P., Dec 29, 2006.

  1. Andrew P.

    Andrew P. Electrical Engineer

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Near San Jose, California
    I'm doing some handyman work for an acquaintance outside city limits. She has a private well, located about 120 feet from the captive air pressure tank next to her house, and the property is on level ground. She recently asked me to freeze-proof the exposed plumbing, as temperatures in the country often fall several degrees below temperatures in town, and she's had frozen pipes that didn't thaw until mid-afternoon. With an elderly parent living in her house, this situation is intolerable.

    Some years ago a short 120V heater cable was attached to the 1-1/2" galvanized pipe at the wellhead, where it is aboveground for about 3 ft. The plug for the cable is dangling free, and there's no place to plug it in. When my dad installed it for the lady about 15 years ago, he remembers that 120V AC continuous power was available at the wellhead then. I'm told that since then there had been a broken pipe, with the pump running nonstop and flooding a neighbor's driveway and garage. In the process of installing an emergency cutoff switch at the wellhead, a local pump service company moved the Square D Pumptrol pressure switch from the wellhead to the pressure tank location, so now only switched power is available at the well. I contacted the company that performed the work to learn why the Pumptrol switch had been moved, but have not been able to get an answer. (Perhaps it's so long ago that no one there remembers doing this job.)

    :confused: My question: Would there be any adverse effect to moving the pressure switch back to the wellhead, compared to having it next to the pressure tank? I'd expect a slight drop in pressure at the pressure tank due to flow losses in the pipe from the pump to the tank. It now operates between 42 psi (turn on) and 62 psi (turn off), according to the pressure gauge at the tank. If it wouldn't cause erratic operation of the switch and pump motor, that would the preferred solution, instead of having to dig a 120-foot-long trench to lay an additional cable for the heater. The present underground wire conduit is too small and too long to be able to pull additional wires through it.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2006
  2. sammyhydro11

    sammyhydro11 Previous member

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    You want to keep that switch as close to that tank as possible so it isn't subject to any eratic pressure variations. I would suggest keeping it at the tank. It sounds to me like you have a 6" well. That water line should exit the casing atleast 4' below grade so it doesn't freeze. If its on a well seal, I would suggest you have a well company come out and re route that line below grade and have a pitless adapter installed. That way the pipe will not be exposed to the open elements. Do you know how deep that water line goes into the ground and is that the only spot where it freezes? If it is the only spot then i would have a well company install that pitless adapter to hower deep the line is.The pitless adapter is a sealed fitting that connects the submersible drop pipe or jet pump drop pipe to the waterline.When there is a problem with the pump,footvalve,or jet assembly,it disconnects on the inside of the casing for service. GET THAT SECTION OF WATER LINE IN THE GROUND.

    SAM
  3. Andrew P.

    Andrew P. Electrical Engineer

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Near San Jose, California
    Thanks for the input, sammyhydro11. The 3-foot section of exposed pipe at the well is just part of the problem. There's a assortment of 1/2-inch copper pipe and some of the galvanized main supply pipe exposed at the pressure tank, but that will be easy to handle, since it's right next to the house wall and there's an electrical outlet for the water softener where one can plug in a heater cable.

    Winter nighttime temperatures in this area (near San Jose, California) rarely get down to 20°F. Most frosty nights are in the high 20s to low 30s, and temperatures usually get above freezing by mid-day. It isn't a question of trying to bury a pipe below the frost line, because the ground doesn't freeze here. That said, however, 20°F is enough to burst uninsulated, exposed pipes, or at least keep them frozen for many hours the next day if they're in the shade.
  4. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Although Sammy thinks he's an expert, it's apparent he's done all his well work in the North, sorry we don't use very many pitless adapters in Calif, or Ariz, and probably much of the South. The pipes are either insulated real good, or if exposed heat tape is used. Freeze levels below a inch are non-existant except in the mountain regions... Since there is no power, or only switched power to the pump, I would foam wrap the exposed pipes, which are probably Galvanized steel? And then build a plywood box, insulated on the inside with styrofoam, set it over the well head, that will protect the pipes down to single digits for an overnight cold spell, and basically that's all we have to deal with out here.
    Rancher
  5. sammyhydro11

    sammyhydro11 Previous member

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Andrew,
    i'm familiar with the area. I have a friend that lives on cottle rd. in san jose. I'm from the north east but go to california often and love the san jose area. Getting that line below ground will get it out of harms way and will also prevent freezing. Those wires exposed could also be a hazard. If you call your local well guy he can do the pitless and also install a well cap with the proper conduit for the wire. Everything can be sealed up and hassle free. Its not a big deal at all, its one less thing you have to worry about,and you have piece of mind.That line shouldn't be all that deep so that job can probably get done under 2 hrs by a licensed water well professional. Foam and plywood boxes sound good and all but plywood rots and its a spot for rodents and bees to nest,2 things that you want to avoid.

    SAM
  6. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Cost?

    Andrew,

    When you get a quote from your well/pump contractor, please let us know how much it would cost to put in a pitless adapter. And please time how long it takes him to stop laughing.

    Rancher
  7. sammyhydro11

    sammyhydro11 Previous member

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Now Now Rancher,
    i know you just got in from recess but its time to settle down and open your book to chapter 1: Water Well Plumbing Basics- Well Caps/Well Seals.

    Andrew,
    Rancher is having a hard time understanding certain basics that water well experts learn their first year as an apprentice. He has decided to start his apprenticeship through plumbing forums and i have decided to take him under my wing. But at times he lashes out like a wounded ally cat. So please forgive him.

    Rancher,
    quite down! Open your Ground Water and Wells book to chapter:13 Water Well Design/ Rancher: "You mean the big green book again?" Yes!/ Rancher: " But its too heavy". Do what i say so next week we can move on to Chapter
    15: Development Of water Wells. Rancher: "Moooo..Mooooo!!" Ok rancher,anymore cow noises out of you and i will send you to the principal!!
  8. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Sammy,

    The advice you have given Andrew is to call his local well/pump guy and ask for an installation that is not normal for this area, why don't you just tell him to call and ask for a price and be sure to bend over before he gets it...

    Rancher
  9. sammyhydro11

    sammyhydro11 Previous member

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Raaaaannnnchhhherrrr,
    you know we don't make little boxes in this class now. Put your foam can away and open that big green heavy book again,chapter 13: water well design/material selection. After that we will go out in the school yard and you can pull some levers on the drill rigs,ok? Do you need to use the bathroom? Rancher:Yes. Ok,heres a hall pass,come right back.

    Ranchers Teacher,

    SAM
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,534
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    switch

    The pressure switch should be at the point of least pressure change, and that is at the tank. Anywhere else it will be affected by the pump's discharge pressure increase when the pump is running, or the system's pressure decrease when water is being used.
  11. sammyhydro11

    sammyhydro11 Previous member

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    I agree with HJ,
    its a bad idea to have a pressure switch out in the open like that anyway. Its too easy for a child to take a pressure switch cover off and get electricuted.

    SAM
  12. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Alabama
    Gett'n a little stuffy in here... thank God I'm plumb dumb about wells... all I know is that I've seen switches and gauges mostly on tanks but sometimes on pumps and the whole shebang sits inside a little outhouse... before we got big time and got city plumbing Dad kept a light bulb on close to the exposed pipes in the well house when it got below freezing...and we never had a problem. I do know that much of the pipe above the well was covered with several inches of sand.
  13. Raucina

    Raucina Previous member

    Messages:
    515
    Rats!

    1] Forget any pitless adapters in San Jose- switch stays at tank

    2] Get a pig or a bunch of chickens

    3] Every time you empty a feed bag lay it over the pipes at the well head

    4] Hood from junked car in the yard over the whole mess [washing machine with guts knocked out works too]

    5] Leftover grain in feed bags attracts big family of rats and they provide about 6 watts of heat each [bob nh can provide more detailed wattages dependant on rat diameter] this is only an estimate.

    6] If rats dont show try cat food. San Jose is big on feral cats [techno-nerds guard their right-to- life] and they provide higher BTU's

    This is a well proven system in the mountains of northern California and certain parts of Kentucky, Slovakia and Poland.

    A cyle reduction type valve might help too, by extending pump run time ad-infinitum and building up huge back pressures down the well which should heat the outlet water.

    Give it a shot and write back! With savings on heat tape and pitless adapters you can take a quick Hawiian trip.
  14. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,534
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    rats

    How many btus are the three foot rats in Florida?
  15. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    If they can find a few of these they will get more BTUs and need fewer to achieve the same result.


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  16. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,317
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    The following is what I would do if I couldn't solve the problem with insulation. It isn't intended to be the optimum installation; it is intended to be an engineered solution to your problem.

    If I had the problem on my system, I would start by putting a pressure gauge at the well head where you will want to put the pressure switch. Then run the pump in the normal way. You will see that the pressure will rise to some level and then drop off when the pump shuts off.

    If that difference is only about 5 psi (certainly not more than 10 psi), then you should be able to move the switch.

    Install the switch and the gauge at the well head, and increase the on/off difference to 20 psi + the dropoff between switch shutoff and settled pressure. The maximum for the switch will probably be about 25 to 30 psi. You will crank down the little side screw on most switches to increase the differential.

    If you have a problem with oscillations at shutoff, you can install a very small bladder tank at the well, even an expansion tank such as used with a water heater (NOT the furnace type), precharged to about 40 psi.

    Put the heater cord around the switch and gauge as well as the pipe, and wrap it all with insulation. Use a thermostat so you are not overheating things and follow the instructions with the heater cable.
  17. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Actually what we do here is build a pump/well house, fairly cheap simple, the county doesn't require a building permit... you can store all your lawn/garden equipment in it, and if you need to pull the pump, just add a sky light.

    Rancher
  18. sammyhydro11

    sammyhydro11 Previous member

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    God,
    how i wish there were other well guys reading this forum because that is the most rediculous thing i have heard to solve this guys problem w/his pipe freezing. Build a shed over your well?? I mean i have come across pump houses before but the guy isn't looking for a place to store his garden tools and lawn mowers,he's trying to keep his pipe from freezing. Does anyone else see the simplicity of just installing that pipe underground,installing a water tight well cap,and at the same time running that wire up through a conduit and into the cap? Bob you're from New Hampshire,i realize the difference in weather temperatures from san jose to new england,but you come across the same set ups that i do and i know there is no difference because i have a cottage in Bristol NH. So wouldn't you agree that putting this pipe underground is the best bet? How is it that having a pressure switch and a tank outside is a good route??Why would you want a tank,a pressure switch,and a main line exposed in someones yard when the line can be underground,and the tank and switch out of harms way. That material outside spells hazard to me.I mean if the guy had no other spot for the tank and switch then i would say build a little shed but he does room. It just blows my mind,some of the stuff that i hear about certain things in these forums.

    SAM

    SAM
  19. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Freezing pipes

    1. Andrew needs to fix his friends well pipes so they don't freeze, she lives in San Jose, CA.

    2. Some well man moved the pressure switch from the well head to the tank, which is standard installation practice, however that eliminated the power to the well where there was heat tape installed to keep the pipes from freezing.

    3. Some guy in the North East thinks pitless well adaptors are both cheap and normal well practice in the SouthWest.

    4. Normal pipe insulation practice before the electric heat tape was to apply lots of insullation to the piping, and yes before the feed sack change to paper and now plastic, they were burlap and were commonly used by my father to insulate the water pipes around our place.

    No one has asked, so I will... Andrew, are the pipes currently insulated at all? Are they galvanized steel, or pvc, or poly?

    This is a forum for people that want to do the fairly easy repairs/construction on their own, without calling in the "Contractor" so, the responses we normally give are the easy to do, solve it yourself answers.

    Most handymen can build a well house, or a plywood box to insulate the pipe head, if you wanted to call the well contractor to install a pitless adapter, which most well men in California have probably never seen, then why would you be in this forum.

    My end to this thread!

    Rancher
  20. sammyhydro11

    sammyhydro11 Previous member

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Rancher(sam's student) if you were paying attention the customer stated that it was galvanized pipe. Now as far as my position and what i do for a living as a professional i only recommend a permanant,hassle free route, exspecialy when it comes to the elderly.It might not be the least expensive but it is professional and its done right.What you are recommending is that this guy installs that pressure switch 120' away from his holding tank,which is a rookie mistake,and then make a contraption made of plywood and foam.I don't care how much foam and insulation you use,without heat tape it will eventualy freeze.I realize its not general practice to install pitless adapters in that part of the country but in his situation it is a wise move. Also if someone is asking me for professional advice about a water well i'm not going to turn into "Home Depot Man" and give him unprofessional advice.Parts and labor i could do that job under 300.00 and i would guarantee no problems.People want that guarantee and professionalism when it comes to their water.I never read on this home page not to give professional advice or make sure your advise people to go the most cheapest route. Most of your advice that i have seen is no more different than suggestions from home depot customer assistance.every once in a while i will read something where you made sense. When people need me they look in the well section of the phone book. What section of the phone book are you in??

    SAM
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