Supply line froze, after thawing water runs back into well when pump stops...

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by frankier, Jan 4, 2014.

  1. frankier

    frankier New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Maine
    Short version:

    I have a shallow well (20' deep with 5' of water in it) with a submersible pump (I don't know the manufacturer) on it's side in it, there is 1.25" black plastic from the well, to the pressure tank that is on the second floor of my house. There is a 30/50 pressure switch on the T to the tank.

    On New Years day I realized that something was amiss when the pressure started dropping as I was washing dishes. I finally figured out that I had an ice plug in my supply line just before the elbow that goes to my pressure tank. I melted that ice plug, put everything that I had taken apart back together and turned the pump on, I had no leaks at any of the joints I had taken apart, but after the system reaches 50 psi, the pump shuts off and I can hear a gurgling, then some of the water runs back down the supply line to the well (I assume). My pressure gauge still reads 50, and I can get probably 10 or more gallons of water out of the system before the pressure drops to 30 and the pump kicks on, then the cycle repeats.

    My thought is maybe an air leak at one of the joints I had taken apart while looking for the ice plug but I've tightened them down as much as I dare (there are plastic joints/elbows in the system.) There are no water leaks anywhere that I can find...

    My other thought is maybe there is a check valve in my pump that got damaged when the pump tried to force the ice plug out before I discovered it? One of the initial things I discovered when I started investigating was that the supply line had come disconnected at the elbow in the shallow well before it goes into the ground...

    Sorry, but I'm not a plumber and maybe haven't described this properly...I have a call into the person that installed this system but thought maybe I could get an answer here faster...

    Thanks so much!!! If there is info that I've inadvertently left out and would be useful please let me know...

    Frank
  2. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,838
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    My guess is the pressure shot up when it froze and split a pipe or pushed apart a fitting. It is possible that the pressure could have damaged the checkvalve in the pump. Either way, you will likely need to pull the pump to fix it.
  3. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,383
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    While the pipe was frozen at the top of the well, the pump continued to run until it melted the pipe that screws into it. I am guessing that your pump is barely hanging from the drop pipe and you need to be careful pulling it out. Sometimes when this happens you have to pull the pump by the wire because the pipe comes loose when you start to pull.
  4. frankier

    frankier New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Maine
    Thanks for the replies!! Maybe the fact that the supply line came apart at the elbow right above the pump helped to "save" it a little? I'm thinking that the pump didn't run very much since I hadn't washed many dishes when I noticed the pressure was down, and once I figured out there was an issue I shut off the pump at the breaker...I then only turned it on for a minute or two when I was trying to figure out the issue...

    If I get a response from the plumber I'll work with him to pull the pump and see what we have...supposed to warm up a little bit up here in Maine for the next day or so, then back into below zero temps...

    I've been planning on replacing the pump sometime next summer since it's over 20 years old and is the only remaining "thing" I haven't changed in the house since I bought it...I was hoping to make it to this summer since it's brutally cold out right now...
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2014
  5. frankier

    frankier New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Maine
    I've got a call into the 2 plumbers that are in my area but am not confident that I'll hear back from them for a week or more...I can pull the pump myself but wouldn't know how to go about determining if the check valve is bad in it or if it's something else...plus they're forecasting below zero temps again this week here...

    As a temporary workaround to get my system back up, knowing that I'm going to be replacing my pump this year but wanting to do it when it's a little more reasonable temperature out, would it be completely stupid to put a second check valve up right before the pressure tank to keep the water from flowing back to the well assuming that the internal check valve in the pump is bad?

    I read the sticky on this forum about the issues with water hammer by having a second check valve in place...and realize that it's not the recommended thing to do but I'm trying to figure out if it would do major damage to my system...

    I don't use a lot of water in this house since it's just me, except for a load of laundry a week and a short shower each night...and right now I'm probably getting 10 gallons or more before the pump turns on even with some of the water flowing back after it shuts off...that's still a mystery to me that it's holding that much water in the pressure tank if the check valve is gone, when the pump clicks on I hear a little gurgling in the pressure tank but no air comes out of the faucets when I turn them on...and the pressure will hold at 50 until I start drawing it down...
  6. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,383
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    Adding a check valve won't hurt anything as a temporary fix. I am just afraid it is a melted or split pipe in the well instead of a bad check valve. I hope the extra check valve helps, but it will need to be pulled as soon as you can get to it.
  7. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,838
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    The checkvalve in the sub may rely on gravity to be fast-acting. With the pump on its side, it may simply be lagging due to sediment.

    If you can add a checkvalve at the top of the riser pipe inside the well, that would be preferential to adding one at the tank. If there is one at the tank and the pipe between the well and tank were to leak, there could be contaminated ground water entering the line.
  8. frankier

    frankier New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Maine
    Thanks guys for not taking my head off at the question about adding a second check valve :)

    I went down into the well to recheck the elbow that came apart at the top of the riser pipe, I added some teflon tape to it and tightened the clamps up real good to make sure I wasn't getting any air in the system from there...while down in the well I took a closer look at the pump. It is sitting on a couple cinder blocks on its' side (apparently this plumber likes to do them like that and it's been that way since installed at least 25 years ago or maybe a little longer).

    I think if I put some hip waders I can tilt the pump up enough to at least be able to look at the pipe as it goes in to see if it is split or has been melted....assuming either case, any idea what I would need to temporarily fix it, a coupling, maybe a short piece of pipe and a few clamps? What is the adapter that would go from the pipe and screw into the pump in case that got busted?

    I can put a check valve at the top of the riser pipe, I think I would need a brass elbow with barbs on one side to connect to the pipe, threads on the other side to connect to the check valve, then a coupling with threads and barbs for the other side..not quite as convenient as doing it inside but I'm getting used to throwing the ladder down the well...

    They're saying it might get into the 30s tomorrow (and rain) so that sounds like a good day to go buy some supplies, both for a split/melted pipe and for a check valve and try to fix this thing...

    The previous owner had increased the depth of my well by digging out and putting vertical boards all around the outside, there are now a bunch of roots growing through those boards that I'm definately going to have to remove before putting a new pump in...one reason that I'd like to wait until its a little warmer...

    Thanks again for all the help!!!

    Frank
  9. craigpump

    craigpump Member

    Messages:
    856
    Location:
    ct
    You don't use Teflon tape on a fitting that is being inserted into a pipe, you warm up the pipe with a torch, insert the fitting and then tighten up the clamps.

    Verticle boards & tree roots
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