frozen well pressure tank system HELP

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by 357Hogleg, Jan 14, 2007.

  1. 357Hogleg

    357Hogleg New Member

    Messages:
    3
    I recently moved to a mobile home in eastern Washington. The prior owners did not set up the system as I would have, and as it is winter now, I have not had a chance to correct the following problems yet. The well head is wrapped in fiberglass insulation in a plywood shack about 20 feet from the mobile.
    The first evidence of the water system, from the shack to the mobile is an access panel to the water heater on the exterior of the mobile, just below the panel there is a 1 inch galvanized pipe coming up from the earth about 8 inches and turning 90 degrees into the skirting of the mobile, it too is simply wrapped in fiberglass insulation. I believe this 1 inch pipe runs straight across to the opposite side of the mobile to the pressure tank, pressure sensor, guage and drain valve, also exposed to the elements except for being wrapped in fiberglass insulation.
    The temperature here has recently dropped down to zero and below. The water flow has stopped and I was able to get it going again by taking the hair dryer to the pressure sensor/valve. This continued to happen so this afternoon I put heat tape on the pipe feeding the tank, including the sensor. The tape did not immediately thaw the frozen system, and I had to go to work.
    When I returned home, I still had no water. I opened the cover to the pressure sensor and the contacts were closed and the guage showed pressure (it showed zero before when I had no water). I opened the drain valve and had water there.
    I went to the "well shack" and could hear a motor running and feel the well head humming. There was still no water to the house. When the system was working, and you turned on a faucet you could hear and feel a pump come on under the mobile near where the plumbing is for the pressure tank. This is no longer coming on, you cannot hear or feel the pump under the floor, although the well head hums. Could it be that I have two pumps? One under the mobile and one in the well? could this pump under the mobile have a trip that needs reset?
    I ran a heater and a hair dryer under the pressure tank wrapped in insulation for 30 minutes in an attempt to thaw any obstruction, no affect. I also ran a heater and blow dryer on the 90 degree exposed pipe at the water heater access panel, no affect.

    I have 240 v at the breaker, the breaker is not tripped. I did turn it off before I sat down to write this as not to burn up what ever may be running in vain.
    I do plan to consolidate the well head and pressure tank in an insulated, heated well house in the spring. but in the mean time please help me get the water back on.

    Andy
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2010
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    It is obviously frozen and you need to find where, thaw it out and do what ever is necessary to prevent it from happening again. If you want to wait till spring then there is nothing you can do except wait till the spring thaw. Only turn on power to test the sysyem to see if water is flowing. If it is not flowing the pump will keep running and not turn off and could burn out. This is the hum / vibration you noticing.
  3. 357Hogleg

    357Hogleg New Member

    Messages:
    3
    obviously frozen?

    I appreciate your reply... however, how do you conclude that it is obviously frozen? yes, there is a hum at the well head, but not under the floor near the pressure tank. When the system ran properly I could feel and hear a pump under the floor near where the pressure tank is. I am wondering if this pump may need reset, is dead, or is there another reason why I am not hearing it come on.

    Thank you,

    Andy
  4. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I guess you could have had a problem after it froze but how do you know it is not frozen. If there is water at the tank and you can drain it down and it pumps back up then your problem is between tank and house. If you drain it down and it won't pump back up. it is between pump and tank. If you were having freezing problems you may still have them, do you know for sure that you don't? I would suspect that first. Even though you thawed out the switch you may be frozen else where. Try lowering the pressure and see if the tank refills. What is your on off switch setting?
  5. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    By the time you get this your pump may be toast. Since your pipes are froze and you said the pump was humming (running) but not moving water. Even though the pipes are frozen where they are exposed, the pump in the well is heating up to boiling temperatures and won't last very long like that. When a pump is running but not moving water you should shut it off as soon as possible.

    Insulation by it'self will not keep pipes from freezing, it just prolongs the cooling of the water once it stops flowing.

    bob...
  6. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    The well shack (pump house) is a perfect candidate to be heated with a 100 watt light bulb or 2, also they sell a device called a "thermo cube" that turns on at 35 deg, off at 45, perfect for protecting plumbing with heat lamps, or just regular bulbs. Heat tape on all exposed plumbing with insulation on the outside of that, heat tape is down in the 10 watt range, make sure the thermostat portion of the heat tape is exposed to the outside air.

    Good Luck

    Rancher
  7. Raucina

    Raucina Previous member

    Messages:
    515
    We have the 50 year freeze here in California. 3000 gallon storage tank froze first time ever. Every third house is without water. No fittings in the stores left. Brought my plumbing van home to keep the neighborhood from raiding it tonight.

    I had heat tape and 200 watts around a booster pump - outlet hose to pressure switch froze anyway - ran without an outlet and luckily the plastic union softened up and blew off - which flooded the whole plumbing assembly and thus defrosted the pipes enough to shut itself off on low pressure cut-out.

    Needed a 200,000btu oil heater to melt another part of the system.

    It can be a real challenge to find a freeze point under a mobile. Might have to open a heat duct or use an oil torpedo to heat the entire crawl space. Watch for fountains as everything heats up.

    Maybe if my wife had left that faucet open as I asked, I would have saved a lot of work.
  8. 357Hogleg

    357Hogleg New Member

    Messages:
    3
    You were correct, my pipes were frozen.

    I crawled under the mobile and ran heat tape on every inch of exposed pipe, also on the exposed pressure tank and the exposed pipe coming from the well head. I cycled the pump at the breaker every 20 min. and finally got water. No burst pipes, thankfully.
    The hum that I would hear under the mobile when the pump came on prior to this freeze, was pipe vibration, not a secondary pump.

    Thanks all for the help.

    Andy
  9. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    I wasn't referring to a second pump. I simply meant if you hear the pump running and no water is available, you may be nuking the pump.

    bob...
  10. eugene_NJ

    eugene_NJ New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    NJ
    frozen well pipe fix: steamer and hot water tank

    Last night the temperature was 1-3 F. and of course I did not let the water run slowly to a faucet.
    I solved the frozen pipe issue by using a mini-steamer made by Scunci, a red bulky electric steamer that holds only about 40 oz of water but very effective, my wife bought some time ago at CVS. FIRST make sure you SHUT OFF the electric switch of that pump!!! I attached to the steamer about 25 feet of 3/8 nylon clear tubing that I had in garage and turn it on tu build some steam (It takes about 15-20 min to have that "expresso" hot) after that I disconnected the black plastic pipe were it come to the pressure tank before the return valve.
    Let the little bit of water drain, have a low profile container handy and / or a bucket along with some rags, water spillage is unavoidable. Insert the tube from the steamer as far as you can go, mine went all the way almost. Steam will not come back but is going to bubble and make a gargling noise as is doing its job. I was not sure if this is effective so I connected with some flex braided hoses the drain of the water heater to the black pipe and let the hot water from the tank go back in the well pipe. For a proper drain / pressure, I had to let open one faucet so the air can come in the system in order to use the pressure of the water in the heat tank and it's own weight to drain. You might need to prepare ahead of time some couplings, hose, adaptors and so forth in order to have this done with minimum leaks. Let some hot water drain into the well pipe then for a split second turn on the electric pump. Do this few times and then live the drain from the hot water tank completely open to ensure the trapped air is out after about 10 min. turn the pump on and check it again.
    It worked for my pipes but I was lucky to have this adaptors and connectors handy.
    Good luck and invest in a steamer even a small one to have around, you never know when or what you can use it for.
  11. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    I used a rented steamer years ago in Michigan to thaw several lines that were 4 to 6 foot under frozen ground. That's the only way. You sure can't dig them up.

    bob...
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