H2OwTo Pressurized Water Tank problem

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by Gary5579, Dec 15, 2010.

  1. Gary5579

    Gary5579 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    WV
    Mr Love,

    I hope you can help with this problem, as it has me and everyone I've talked to stumped.
    When I bought my house in 2001 it had an H2OwTo pump/tank system installed in the attached garage. The reason is that I live far above (in elevation) the main water line running through my community and it is necessary (so I've been told) to have this system in order to have adequate water pressure.

    Last winter my pump started kicking on all by itself, with no water running, and I immediately thought I had a leak somewhere. I checked all the toilets, under sinks, in the crawl space, and around the hot water heater and found no leaks. The pump would kick on every 15-20 mins in the beginning, then gradually went to every 5-10 mins. Then it went back up to 20 mins. My water bill showed higher water useage, but I could find no leaks. I'm no plumber but common sense told me it definitely wasn't a leak causing this yo-yoing time frame, but where was the water going? And what was causing the increased pump activity?

    I talked to several plumbers in my area and none of them had any experience with this type of system, so I managed by turning off the pump at the breaker and only using it when needed. Springtime came, along with warmer temps, and it stopped doing it all by itself. The water bill went back to normal, and all was fine...until this winter. It is now doing the same thing, only this time I have a small drip coming from the pump, which sits on top of the pressure tank, but its just a drip every few seconds. Hardly enough to cause the pump to kick on so frequently. The pressure switch is set at 30-50, and when the pump kicks on it runs up to 50, shuts off, and immediately starts bleeding off. In about 5 mins. it kicks on again, so it seems to be more serious than last winter.

    So my question is; why did it stop doing it when the temperatures were warm/hot, and start again when the temps turned cold? Could it be a bad pressure switch? A leaky bladder? And where could the water be going? Should I replace the entire system?

    Anxiously awaiting your answer....

    Thanks,
    Gary
  2. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,458
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    My guess is you have a bad check valve. Water is bleeding back so slowly that it is not spinning the meter backwards. But when the pump starts, the water is coming fast enough to spin the meter forward. So it looks like you are using water even though you are putting it right back into the city main. Time of year or temperature has nothing to do with it. If you are sure there is no leak, back through the check valve is the only other place water could be going.
  3. Gary5579

    Gary5579 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    WV
    Valveman, thanks for the quick reply. Your theory makes a lot of sense, except I just replaced the check valve and shutoff valve assembly last year because of leaking. And I made sure I had the arrows pointingt in the right direction. So they're still relatively brand new. The reason I thought water temperature had something to do with it is because this past summer it worked perfectly normal, no kicking on unless water was running. But when the temps got cold it started kicking on all by itself. And I haven't touched, changed, or done anything to it since last year when I replaced the parts, and it worked good after that. Could it be a bad pressure switch? Of course that wouldn't explain the higher water bill.... just trying to eliminate every possibility.
  4. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    IMO you have a water leak somewhere between the water meter and the pump. You test that by shutting off the water on the hose side of the pump and watching the pressure gauge for like 30 minutes. If the pressure falls, you have a leak between the shut off valve and the street.

    If the pressure holds, you have a leak past the shut off valve.

    I think that the leak stops when the temp goes up and starts when colder due to expansion and contraction of a fitting or split in a line etc.. Check the water level in all toilets so none is going up and over the overflow tube. Put food coloring in the tanks and see if it shows up in the bowls.
  5. Gary5579

    Gary5579 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    WV
    PROBLEM SOLVED! Don't know why I didn't do this before, but I took Gary Slusser's recommendation and shut off the water before and after the pump. On the house side, after closing the valve, the pressure still dropped after the pump kicked off, so I knew I didn't have a leak in the house.. which I had carefully checked out several times before and knew it probably wasn't the case. So I knew I was losing pressure on the supply side, which meant it was either a pump problem, a tank problem, or the check valve, which was Valveman's idea. So even though the check valve is still kind of new, I took the fittings apart and lo and behold, the flapper on the check valve was just flopping around inside. The pin that holds the flapper in place had come off and probably got washed into the holding tank, which may cause me problems down the road but I'll worry about that if and when it happens. So I'm on my way to get a new check valve and hopefully that will be the end of my problems. I appreciate everyone's help...this is a great place to come for advice if you're an amateur like me! Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!
  6. Gary5579

    Gary5579 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    WV
    I jumped the gun when I said "problem solved" when I found the broken check valve. Yesterday I put a brand new check valve on the incoming line and turned the pump on...the pressure pumped up to the limit, the pump kicked off, but the pressure immediately started bleeding back off. Same as before.

    So I've eliminated a leak in the house, and eliminated water running back down the line, so the only thing left is the tank and the pressure switch. Replacing the tank is going to be a challenge due to all the sweated on fittings, but the switch looks like it would be relatively easy to replace. But could that cause what has been going on? Anybody have any thoughts on this? Thanks!
  7. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,458
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    If the pressure is dropping, water is still going somewhere. Unless the tank or pressure switch is leaking water on the floor, your leak is somewhere else. Maybe that screw that came out of your first check valve, is now stuck in the new check valve.
  8. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,246
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    Try it with the main shut off valve (after the tank) closed to prove that the leak is not in the house. Maybe you have a fill valve or slab leak that you cannot see.

    How quickly does the pressure bleed down?

    Where is the check valve installed in relation to the pump and gauge? Pictures might be helpful.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  9. Gary5579

    Gary5579 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    WV
    Valveman, the only leak I have found is a drip coming from the pump, which sits on top of the holding tank. It drips once every 3 seconds (I timed it), but is hardly enough to account for the pressure to bleed off so quickly. The broken check valve was missing a pin, not a screw, that holds the actual flapper in place that blocks the water from running back down the line. That pin could have been washed into the holding tank but there is no way to tell. I just know it didn't fall out when I had the fittings apart replacing the check valve.

    Cacher_chick, sorry but I'm not able to provide pics, but I can explain the setup. First I'll take your points one at a time; The "main" shut off valve is on the incoming water line BEFORE the tank/pump assembly. It comes through the wall from the crawl space, which is the line coming from the meter about 1/4 down the hill at the main water line. From the wall, the shutoff is first in line, then on the other side of the shut-off is the check valve, then a short nipple, a threaded fitting, and then it 90's into the impeller end of the water pump. Then a line comes out of the top of the pump, 90s over about 6 inches, then 90s down to the midsection of the holding tank, where it 90s again and runs into the end of the tank. In the 6 inch cross section above (mentioned earlier), there is a T, that feeds the house/water heater. This section has a shut off valve going to the house. Also, in the vertical section running down to the tank, there is a T that comes out with about a 2 inch vertical line that the gauge is attached to. I'm not sure if you're getting a mental picture of this but I'm doing the best I can.

    The pressure bleeds down immediately after the pump kicks off, and the settings are 30/50. It takes approximately 4-5 minutes for it to bleed down to kick on the pump. Which, as I mentioned in a earlier post, the time has fluctuated in the past, going from 20 mins. down to 10, then back up to 20. And this past summer it worked normally. Not knowing much about these pumps I'm still trying to learn what makes them tick, and leak. lol But I'm thinking since I've replaced the check valve, the only things left are the pressure switch and the tank, and the switch would be the easier replacement. But I don't know if a pressure switch can cause these types of symptoms. Does anyone know if this is possible?
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,607
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    You are going the, "keep changing things until the problem is solved" route. You would not let a mechanic do that with your car, I hope not? Do a proper diagnosis, or have a plumber do one and find out WHAT is causing the problem before you change ANYTHING. If it were a tank problem, which is highly unlikely, it would have cured itself in a matter of hours or days, NOT a year. It is also not likely a pressure switch problem, or your system would become overpressurized when the pump ran when it was not needed. Until you really know on which side of the pump the pressure loss is, you are shooting blind.
  11. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You have a water leak that you haven't found yet.

    The drip at the pump sounds as if it is not enough of a leak to cause the pump to come on in the time frame you describe but... fix it and see if you cure the problem.

    A pressure switch can not cause this problem unless it is leaking water on the floor.

    A pressure tank can not cause this problem unless it is leaking water on the floor.

    Your leak is somewhere that you can't see the plumbing. Or the new check valve is leaking back down the hill to where the leak is.

    Shut the valve between the bottom of the hill line and the pump and see if you lose pressure, if you do the leak is on the house side of that valve, not down the hill.

    You could shut off the cold water to the water heater then and see if the pressure holds or fall. If it holds, the leak is on the hot side of the house. A T/P valve on the water heater maybe. Or on the cold water to the house which sounds as if you don't have a valve to shut that off. You should add one (after the pr tank) so you can.

    Or replace the tank and switch you think is the problem for a few hundred dollars on your Sat off and tomorrow you can start looking for the leak somewhere else. You may find that lost pin in the new check valve. Which would mean the leak is somewhere in the line going down the hill.

    If I'm understanding your description, your system has no non pressurized storage tank before the pump. That means you are trying to get more water out of the pump than the city is supplying. That creates a vacuum on the hill line when your pump runs. I so you may be sucking air through a leak and the air is trapped in you pr tank which if it is as it sounds to be, a non bladder type tank.

    How long does the pump run when it comes on?

    Have you been under the house in the crawl space looking for a leak?
  12. Gary5579

    Gary5579 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    WV
    HJ and Valveman, I have narrowed it down to a problem with the tank/pump itself. I have eliminated a leak in the crawl space, as well as a leak along the underground line coming up the hill to the house. I shut off the valve from the pump to the house, and pressure still bleeds off. So that elminates a leak in or under the house. I shut off the valve on the incoming (supply) line going to the pump, and the pressure HOLDS. I found a broken check valve going to the pump, and replaced it thinking I had solved the problem. Well the broken piece from the old valve that allowed the flapper to break loose, worked it's way back down to the NEW check valve, blocking it from closing all the way, so water was running back DOWN the line, causing it to lose pressure. So, thinking that solved the problem, I put it back together, but its still losing pressure. I've eliminated a leak, and a check valve problem. And I"ve talked to several plumbers and they're not familiar with this system, so rather than pay them by the hour to sit and figure it out I'm trying to fix it myself, along with the advice of professionals on this site.

    The pump runs long enough to build up the pressure from 30 to 50 lbs, about 15-20 seconds. The pressure bleeds off at a rate of about 6-7 minutes until the pump kicks on. But there are no leaks, as I have checked many times.

    I had also considered that maybe sediment is keeping the check valve from closing completely, allowing water to run back down the line, like it was doing when I found the broken piece in the new valve. So I've taken if off several times to check it and its working properly. So if its not a pressure switch problem, not a leak, not the tank, and not the check valve, then what else is there?
  13. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2010
  14. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,246
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    If you are using a flapper-style check valve, I recommend switching to a spring-loaded type.

    If there is a leak, there will be water coming out.
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