Breaker Tripping Intermittently

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by sawmkw, Feb 27, 2008.

  1. sawmkw

    sawmkw New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I have a 285' well with a submersible pump and a captive air tank. The breaker in the panel is a 15A two pole. It has been tripping intermittently so I replaced it, in kind, with no change in behavior. This began a couple of months ago and only happens periodically. We can go a week or more with no trips and then have 2 or 3 in a day. There is no rhyme or reason, often times it trips at night when there is no water being used or called for. It does seem that it happens more often when it has been raining but that may be coincidence. The well was drilled in 2000.

    I have built two houses and gut-rehabed one. I'm not a stranger to plumbing but have zero experience with wells and pumps. Right after we moved in I called the people who installed the well (from the phone number on the bladder tank sticker) and Daryl and his brother Daryl showed up tracking mud through the house and saying that they didn't remember what type of pump they installed. Needless to say I don't wish to call them on this.

    Is there something that I can check on or do before calling someone else? I have no problem getting out my checkbook but am not sure who to call or what to ask about. I don't want to pay for a new pump if I don't need one.

    TIA for your help.

    Scott
  2. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Disconnect the wire at the breaker, disconnect the wire at the well head. Use an ohm meter to meausure the resistance, between the ground and the hot wires, try to do this when it's raining.

    What is your wire protected by, direct burial? Gophers?

    Rancher
  3. krow

    krow Plumber

    Messages:
    906
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I'm not an expert on well pumps, but I think that the breakers tripping is an indication that the pump is starting to ware out. It probably will not be able to handle the head pressure much longer ( it can't be that much different than the sewage pump motors)
  4. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    It could be the well pump wearing out, but then it could be other things also, like the submersible well pump cable twisting and touching the well casing and causing the breaker to pop (I've had that happen before) so yes it could be the pump, but let's eliminate everything else first.

    Rancher
  5. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,284
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    With a tripping breaker the wiring is more likely than the motor, though either is possible.

    An amp-meter hooked up at the top of the casing will tell you if the problem is in the well or between the panel and the casing.
  6. sawmkw

    sawmkw New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Connecticut
    The wire appears to be in conduit although I would need to dig down a bit to verify that the contuit continues underground. We did have a woodchuck tunneling around that area last summer. I believe he has moved on now but at the time my wife wouldn't allow a more permanent solution to the issue.

    I could probably "scab" in a breaker at the well head as well. I would expect that that would assist in determining whether the wiring between the well head and the house is suspect. Thoughts?
  7. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Only if you by-passed the breaker at the breaker box, or it was significantly larger in size, and even then that may not work the way you want.


    Rancher
  8. sawmkw

    sawmkw New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Wouldn't measuring resistance only detect a permanent fault situation whereas this seems to be happening only periodically?
  9. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Which is why I told you to do it when it was raining. You can measure a high resistance fault on the Megohm scale, it will arc when it gets wet.

    Another trouble shooting technique, which requires more equipment, but is used extensively by the power companies, is what they call a thumper.

    I have done this and it does work.

    Do you have an electric fence charger that "zaps" i.e. not continous, if so disconnect at the well head and the breaker panel, connect the fence charger, to the two wires at the well head. Use a stethoscope (I used the one sold at the auto parts store with a steel rod on the pickup cup), then you can turn on the fence charger, walk the approximate location of the buried cable, listen at the ground, or in the ground with the probe, you will hear the thump as the cables arc at the place there is insulation damage.

    At this point I suspect woodchuck damage.

    Rancher

    ******

    Edit, the charger should be also hooked up b/t one hot at a time and the bare wire ground, because that would cause the breaker to also trip.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 28, 2008
  10. Raucina

    Raucina Previous member

    Messages:
    515
    You musts test amp draw first, clamp on an ammeter and compare running amps with the spec's. Dont start shooting gophers yet.

    Within specs or 20% above? [and considerably below breaker rating] Change the breaker.

    Still trouble, start checking pump wires to ground for leakage, and test between pump wires to the pump motor mfgr's specs. for motor winding condition.

    Save your shovel for last.
  11. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,284
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    amperage

    I like to use a graphing multimeter to observe the amp draw of a motor. In graphing mode I can expand the timebase out to a period of minutes, which allows one to cycle the motor, shake wires, etc. Often I will find the problem is a tiny bare spot in the wire insulation that is shorting to ground. It might only happen during periods of high moisture or vibration.

    Low quality clamp on amp meters are pretty inexpensive these days..........
  12. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    We have wires go bad in our area all the time. Most are two feet deep as per code not in pipe (some are far less than two feet also). The insulation degrades over the years and the wires go to ground. When someone says it happens when it's raining, that's a dead giveaway.

    bob...
  13. sawmkw

    sawmkw New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Answer Discovered

    When I took a good look at the well, I noticed that the pvc that ran down the outside of the casing was broken just below ground level, probably from settling. :eek: Someone in the last few years had wrapped black tape around the break but it was now pulled away from that too. :mad: It also appears that the wire runs in pvc couduit all the way from the well to the house. The wire type at the well head differed from what entered the house so there is obviously a splice somewhere in that pvc. Since it is awfully wet right now and rain is on the way, I wrapped the break in plastic and duct tape to keep the water out untill I can replace the conduit. That was yesterday and the breaker has not tripped since. Thanks for everyone's input.
  14. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,284
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    Thanks

    Thanks for posting a result... all to often we only hear the beginning of the story.
Similar Threads: Breaker Tripping
Forum Title Date
Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog Well Pump Tripping Circuit Breaker Aug 5, 2014
Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog Breaker tripping May 6, 2013
Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog Tripping breaker May 22, 2012
Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog Circuit Breaker tripping after constant cycling Sep 22, 2010
Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog Gould jet pump humming tripping breaker Aug 6, 2010

Share This Page