Pump not pumping

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by colinml, Dec 25, 2010.

  1. colinml

    colinml New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    New York
    Earlier today (Christmas day), I decided I would change the whole house water filter. It's a Big Blue carbon cartridge type. I've done this twice before without incident. Today, set the valves to bypass, changed the filter, switched things back to going through the filter, and then decided to do one thing differently. I hooked up a hose to the hose bib installed immediately after the filter, and set the end of the hose in the floor drain. I started to run water through, in order to clear out the loose sediment from the filter, but after about 30 seconds, the water stopped flowing.

    I have spent the rest of the day trouble-shooting, but I am way out of my depth. Unfortunately, being Christmas, I don't have other options.

    I checked the breaker. I checked that there is power to the pressure switch, and that there is power to the control box on the wall nearby. The "control box" appears to be a capacitor and a relay (This is a submerged pump in the well 50 feet from the house, and the pressure tank and the electrical components I'm describing are in the crawlspace. The pressure tank is a Well-x-trol (Amtrol) wx-250, which has a bladder, and it is supposed to have 38 psi. I attached a bicycle pump guage to the top of the tank, and the pressure is 22 psi, (with the tank drained and zero pressure reading on the guage attached to the water line). The previous owner apparently replaced the pump, pressure switch and control panel, as the old parts were sitting on a shelf right next to the pressure tank. I tried installing the old switch, just to see. No go. No pumping. The old switch has a lever on the side to force the pump to run. Tired that. No go. I'm a little confused about which switch was the installed switch, because it looks like the previous owner changed from a 30/50 to a 20/40, but he may have replaced the original cover (which has these specs written on it). The switches themselves don't have any markings, so, I'm not absolutely sure which is the 20/40 and which is the 30/60. In either case, though, I think holding the "force" lever should have made the pump come on. I suppose that I can also try letting some air out of the tank, so it is below 20?

    And that gets me as far as I can get. My plan tomorrow is to see if I can find a new pressure switch and control panel (relay/...capacitor? Word escapes me. The little motor that starts bigger motors), and I have a call in to the well pump guy. He won't be back in the office until Monday. The thing that I can't understand is if the water filter change is somehow connected, or a coincidence. All the troubleshooting steps I've done are things I have found on the net. I really am not sure what I'm doing. Is there something else I should check? Is there some way to bypass the switches altogether, to see if the pump works?

    Any help would be appreciated. House full of people who would like showers and to use the bathroom in other ways.
  2. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,248
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    If the water filter or any shut off valves are before the pressure tank, closing them could dead-head the pump and cause it to fail quite quickly.

    Can you normally hear the pump running or feel the vibration in the pipe?

    Have you checked to see if the voltage from the pressure switch is making it to the well head?
  3. colinml

    colinml New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    New York
    Hi,
    The valves are before the pressure tank, but it's a bypass, so, while I could shut everything off, I don't. So, all I'm doing is switching the path to the tank. Either through the filter and then to the tank, or straight to the tank. I have not noticed the pump running before. As for checking the voltage, I have one of those things that beep and flash when held close to a live circuit, and I just now walked out to the well head, and got beeps and flashes, so I guess that means there is voltage at the well head. On my list of things to do is learn how to use my multimeter, but I haven't gotten around to it.

    Does this mean I have ruled out everything but the pump itself?
  4. colinml

    colinml New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    New York
    Sorry to reply to my own post, but I am hauling water from the stock tank in the sheep pasture to flush toilets, so I'm getting desperate here...

    If this were you, what would you do next? Does it make sense to try to find a pressure switch and the box with relay and capacitor at Home Depot, and replace them? Would that be the first thing the well/pump guy would do? Or is there a way to use a multimeter to confirm these are all operating correctly? Incidently, as soon as I determined that things weren't working, I turned off the curcuit to the pump, and I've only been turning it back on to test, like after I took the switch off and cleaned all the contact points.


    (edited...)

    Also, when I first read "deadhead" I assumed it was a general term for burning up a pump, but I just googled the term, and I see it can have a more specific meaning. Honestly, I don't understand what I've read so far (engineering sites), but I'll continue to read. Is it really possible I fried my pump in a matter of less than a minute or so? The plumber that installed the water filter didn't mention anything about the pump. He just said, "Turn off this valve; open this bypass valve; push this button to release the pressure in the filter cartridge housing; replace cartridge; switch valves back; run for 10 minutes before drinking." Could something in that cook the pump?

    (edited again for clarification...)

    Ok, I looked again. The raw water from the well comes to the house, then there is a "T." One side goes directly to the pressure switch (and then into the tank). The other side goes to the whole house filter. So, as far as I can tell, even if I shut off both paths near the whole house filter, the water could still flow in and out of the pressure tank. I see only one pipe attached to the pressure tank, so I'm assuming the water passes both directions through this pipe. This is correctly installed, no? Given this, I don't understand how my actions could have caused this. Driving me nuts trying to figure out what I could have done, or if there is something I can do to correct.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2010
  5. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,248
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    You are dealing with a 220 volt circuit and don't understand how the system works.

    I recommend you call in a professional pump installer to properly diagnose your system.
    Changing parts without understanding what is wrong is a waste of time and money.
  6. colinml

    colinml New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    New York
    Yes, of course you're right. As I said, I already called and left a message with the well/pump guy, but he won't get the message until Monday. I was hoping that someone who does understand how these systems operate could read what I have already checked and point out whether I missed something obvious, something that I could do without the need to understand the system. Like a reset button or something. I do appreciate the reply, and I'll just put on some more deodorant :)
  7. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Redo the process to take the cartridge out of its housing and remove it looking for a bunch of carbon to be blocking things, and then turn the power on to the pump and see if you get water. If not play with all the valves (open the closed and close the open but not all the way; leave them all open) and turn on the pump and see what happens.

    It sounds as if a valve is closed that should be opened. If you have any gate valves (round handle), suspect them to have broken when you used it last and the handle goes round but the gate is broken off the stem' the handle will not stop rotating either direction. A gate valve has a pronounced belly on the bottom unlike a regular stop valve. If there are any valves with a small knurled cap on the side, remove the cap and poke a toothpick etc. in the hole to clear it of dirt and see if you get water.

    If you don't get water turn the power to the pump off. Or before you do that, remove the casing cap and run the pump and listen for water spraying down in the well. Then turn off the pump if you can't get water. You could check proper connections of the wire nuts in the well, one may be loose. Of course you have the power to the pump off while doing that.
  8. colinml

    colinml New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    New York
    Thanks Gary,
    I checked the valves (the ones for the filter installation are PVC schedule 40 ball valves), but no luck. I'll follow up with the well/pump guy in the morning.
  9. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Hopefully you removed the carbon cartridge, they are known to break at times and plug things up.
  10. colinml

    colinml New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    New York
    Ok, so the well guys came out and installed a new pump (old one burned up). I had them also install a new control box and a new pressure switch and confirm that the pressure in the air bladder was correct for the switch. They drove away. I took a shower. We were happy for another 10 minutes, until my wife went to get a glass of water. Nothing. No water, no pressure in the tank. The well guys are on their way back, but I'm curious to know if anyone here has any wild guesses what on earth could be going on that would elude professionals? We've lived in this house for 8 months without any incident until this.

    later...

    Ha ha! Loose wire nut.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2010
  11. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,248
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    Hopefully the wire nut was not the problem the whole time or you just spent a lot of $$ for naught.
  12. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    In these economic and ethically bankrupt times, I would say the pump guy is listing the submersible on the famous e-auction site right about now.

    In my early days in HVAC repair, I was taught [forced] how to explain that a blower motor needed replacement, rather than the 4.49$ fix I would have used at my house.

    Lets hope it was a NEW wire nut on a NEW wire.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2010
  13. colinml

    colinml New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    New York
    I think I was not completely clear in my last post. I meant that the reason they had to come back was that a wire nut wiggled loose. Sorry I wasn't clear. I'm convinced that was the case, because it just makes sense. The water was on for 30 minutes, and then just stopped. They just didn't get the nut all the way tight, and the vibration of the pump caused it to come loose. It's happened to me when I've wired things. While it is certainly possible dishonest people could have discovered a loose nut and then replaced the pump, it doesn't really make sense that they would then intentionally leave the nut loose again because all that would do is raise suspicion that it was a loose nut all along. If they were crooks, they would have made darn sure that nut was tight. Anyway, I've worked with these guys before, and they treated me fairly.
  14. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    I've put on a fair number of wire nuts and don't understand how you get one to come off in 30 minutes with the pump running a few times while you shower... How a submersible pump vibrates a cable wire nut is hard to understand too.

    What this says to me is that those guys don't pay much attention to details and make sure that what they do is done right.

    And you wouldn't be the first guy that had a bad wire connection and was told that the pump burned up. Unless they showed you their testing that determined a bad motor, you really don't know if your pump was bad or not.
  15. Texas Wellman

    Texas Wellman In the Trades

    Messages:
    533
    Location:
    SE Texas-Coastal
    I've had em come loose, and they usually do within the first few cycles. Put a few thousand on like I have and you're bound to have one or two not make a good connection. Putting in a pump, splicing the wire together correctly, hoisting up several hundred feet of pipe, dealing with crawlspaces and well houses, setting the wellhead/pitless, hands get a little dirty and fingers get a little loose. The wire nut is usually the last thing to get installed, easy to get a bad connection.
  16. Texas Wellman

    Texas Wellman In the Trades

    Messages:
    533
    Location:
    SE Texas-Coastal
    BTW: had one one time like that where the pressure switch was not making good contact. Pulled the pump/pipe out of the hole, realized mistake, re-installed old pump/pipe/wire, and then fixed pressure switch. Only charged for the pressure switch, I ate the rest. The pressure switch was in a little "cubby hole" cut into a bedroom, very tight space and made it almost impossible to troubleshoot. Customer took me and my brother out for lunch, he said it was the least he could do.

    Regardless of the problem you still have a brand new pump and motor.
  17. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Yes, very sloppy work if a wire nut fell off. In wet areas, twisting the wires and then prefilling the nut with no-corrode paste or even vaseline will keep it working for the life of the motor.

    Paste on the screws and wires in a pressure switch has also saved many a problem from oxidation.
  18. Texas Wellman

    Texas Wellman In the Trades

    Messages:
    533
    Location:
    SE Texas-Coastal
    Never said the wire-nut fell off, just that it was not making good connection. Call it whatever you want, but after doing thousands, it happens.

    What good is the paste going to do if it's not making good connection? I don't think the paste is really necessary unless it's continually getting exposed to a splash type environment, like a marine application. The typical LB stays fairly dry if installed correctly. Buried, that's another story.
  19. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    I think that unless you are in Kuwait, you do the next guy into the box a favor with 1 cent worth of grease or no corrode.

    All the time I go into outdoor splice boxes and light fixtures and find them full of condensation, and the wire nuts often 'welded' to the copper. Or oxidized black, and the connection getting poorer each year. And we have hot and dry summers too.

    The old zinc - potmetal outdoor boxes came with black steel screws, and you may as well just forget trying to turn them, use a chisel. The ones that I greased or used paste on still unscrew after 15 years. There are some good anti corrode sprays on the market, and a shot in a pressure switch is good insurance. Pump houses are pretty much a marine enviroment around here.

    They do sell wire nuts with a silicone paste already in them.
  20. colinml

    colinml New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    New York
    Well, not sure what to say. Of course it's possible my contractor ripped me off. Of course it's possible that they are lazy, sloppy, and incompetent. It's possible that the pump they put in is 10 years old and they bought it off an on line auction site. It's possible monkeys might fly out of my butt. But we'll never know. I've been burned a few times. I am a big advocate of consumer education, combined with a healthy dose of skepticism, but there is no evidence of fraud here, so I see no reason to assume fraud. These guys called me back first thing Monday morning, and they had a crew at my house within two hours. They were professional. They didn't track mud through my house. When I called to tell them something was wrong, right after they left, they were back at my house within a few minutes, very apologetic, and quickly discovered and admitted their mistake. I used to be a cabinet maker. I consider myself to be honest and I was always very careful in my work. I did not manage to make it through my entire career without ever making a mistake. So I think what we have here is a glass half full vs half empty deal.
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