Pressure valve releases in freezing weather

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by jmericle1, Jan 19, 2007.

  1. jmericle1

    jmericle1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Help! Wellhead pressure relief valve shoots water all over my yard

    I have a rural system less than a year old consisting of a 400' well and 2500 gallon storage tank.

    One pump sends water from the storage tank to the pressure tank, no problems there.

    The other pump sends water from the well uphill to the storage tank 100 feet horizontally, 25 feet vertically. Pump is triggered by a float in the storage tank (runs only when tank level drops to a certain point).

    This system works fine in the Summertime. Every couple of days I hear the water pumping from the well into the tank.

    In the wintertime when it's around freezing the pressure valve at the top of the wellhead starts releasing pressure when the well pump is running. The guy who built the system says it's because it's encountering more than 75 PSI while trying to pump up to the tank.

    Why would this only happen in the Winter? The well guy suggested the check valve was freezing. Strange part is when it warms up to about 40 degrees the pump will operate and fill the tank but at the same time is releasing pressure and spraying water all over my yard. It's like the check valve is only partially opening.

    Questions:

    1) Is it normal for a check valve to only partially thaw, allowing it to both allow water through and create back pressure?
    2) Is it possible the cold weather makes the water heavier and harder to pump uphill?
    3) Right now the pressure valve release sprays on the yard. Would it be smart to run a connector so the released water flows back into the well? I've read conflicting opinions, some say the pump in the well is not designed to have water dropping on it from above
    4) Anything else could be going on here?

    Thanks very much.


    Jim M
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2007
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,487
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    valve

    #1 and #2, NO!
    #3. Once the water leaves the pressure valve it is no longer considered "potable water" and therefore should not be injected into the well.
    4. Yes there is something else going on, but we cannot tell what without being there to observe the conditions when it occurs and test it.

    Incidently, even if the check valve were partially frozen, it would thaw almost instantly once water started flowing through it.
  3. jmericle1

    jmericle1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Thanks very much.

    This is helpful. We'll see if the problem goes away again when the weather warms up. Thanks.
  4. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    Another thing with pressure relief valves, if they are old. Once they pop, they don't always seat back completely and may trickle water from now on.

    bob...
  5. jmericle1

    jmericle1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Unfortunately my pressure relief valve is not adjustable. I think I'll just set up a rig that diverts the released water down the hill when it's cold.
  6. Raucina

    Raucina Previous member

    Messages:
    515
    Put in a new adjustable pressure relief valve or another one set to 125. You must have a spare 10 or 20 bucks laying around....
  7. jmericle1

    jmericle1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    My well guy said not to exceed 75 PSI or I could blow out the underground piping from the well to the storage tank (about 100 feet). It's not the cost or effort, I'm certainly willing to replace the valve but not if I risk damaging the underground portion.

    I believe the underground is 1" PVC.

    Thanks to everyone for the input.
  8. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    I'm wondering what kind of pipe is underground that would blow out with only 125 lbs. on it.

    bob...
  9. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    PVC, schedule "A" (if they still make it) or schedule 125

    :D Rancher
  10. jmericle1

    jmericle1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    I have no idea. They system is less than a year old, was built totally to code and inspected by the county. My well guy just said not to plug the exit hole on the pressure valve because that could cause a world of other problems. I realize I didn't specifically ask about a higher PSI pressure relief valve but since it works fine in the Summer I'm tempted to attribute it to the effect of cold on the spring inside (mentioned above). The only thing I can think of that would increase the friction is there are six 90 degree bends between the well and the tank.

    I'm really impressed with how knowledgeable you guys are on this subject. Thanks again.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2007
  11. mmws

    mmws Junior Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Grass Valley, CA
    Most relief valves commonly used on wells today are made in China, hence the $8.00 price! Once these valves relieve, and yours probably has because the brass check valve is the first thing to freeze, they seldom work properly again. Just replace it. A quality Watts valve of 75# rating should be more than adequate. Then insulate everything.
    By the way, the relief valve is doing what it is supposed to do, relieve the pressure from the pump when the pipe freezes. Do not let anyone talk you into moving the valve to somewhere else in the system, or you may lose your pump.

    MMWS
  12. Raucina

    Raucina Previous member

    Messages:
    515
    Speaking of the China curse, I have a whole pile of Stainless steel chinese fittings [bushings, unions] Look great, shiny and clean, nice laser stamp with 450 psi rating on them....

    trouble is that if you use a 3 foot pipe wrench to tighten them along with the best permetex pipe dope they still spray water at you. Just what the doctor ordered after a few hours crawling in some half frozen muck under a house.... the pleasure of going back and doing it again with US nylon or galvanized or brass.

    Looks like Wong Long Dong made mine in the year of the rat on a monday.

    450 PSI must be your blood pressure as they spray water in your face.

    Not as bad as the Chinese 3/4 brass nipples that are under size so that water heater connectors blow off after a month or so.
  13. Raucina

    Raucina Previous member

    Messages:
    515
    Got gauge?

    It occurs to me that nobody asked if you have a pressure gauge near this relief valve.... quick mystery fix if you get a gauge near the valve and observe it when it releases. Report back!
  14. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    It's not a check valve, it's a pressure release valve (PRV). Codes in many areas require the PRV on a well to be 75 psi. Once they blow/leak, they rarely seal and will leak at lower pressures. You either had a bad one or an increased pressure problem the first time it leaked. You should replace it.

    Although it has nothing to do with this problem, yes water is 'thicker', the viscosity increases, the colder it gets (it actually goes to a solid [ice] if you get it to and keep it below 32*). That's why water temp is critical to a RO and why a softener's resin, or a filter's mineral (some of either), can/will be backwashed out of the tank as fall progresses in to winter (in the northern hemisphere) IF this is the first winter since it was installed AND there is no top basket.

    The 1" PVC with many couplers and elbows wasn't a good choice; the pressure loss will be high; which means higher pressure in the line. You should install a pressure guage at the PRV and see how high it goes.
  15. jmericle1

    jmericle1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Fixed it (for now)

    So I was up at the house this weekend, temperatures in the 60s. Looked into the PRV and poked the seat with a stick and it re-seated so no more spraying. I believe the over-pressure was 100% due to the frozen check valve.

    Will look to get a higher quality PRV (Watts) soon. Also noticed the check valve is PVC. I thought it was brass. Would I be better off replacing it with a high-quality brass check valve? Do either have a greater chance of breaking when frozen?
  16. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Since you have a PVC check valve and it isn't busted, it wasn't frozen.

    Brass won't break as quick as plastic, but your plastic isn't busted, so there's little sense in replacing it.

    Replace the PRV, they rarely reseal after blowing the first time.
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