Waterlogged galvanized tank, 45 PSI on the guage, no water at the drain

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by bruceha2000, Jan 4, 2014.

  1. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    Hi all,
    I awoke to no water today, not even a drip. The tank is galvanized and there is a sticker that says it has a Merrill float in it. The gauge on the side of the tank (about 2/3s up) shows 45 PSI but no water comes out even at the drain cock on the tank so I figured it was empty and the gauge was broken and something really bad was going on with the pump (3/4 horse, in well). I replaced the pressure switch since it looked kind of corroded but no change. If I force the pump to run, it trips the overload switch in the controller. I read about waterlogged tanks and not having a Schrader valve on the tank to force air in (there is one in the pipe on the pump side of the tank), I removed the gauge so I could replace that. Water blew EVERYWHERE (thanks for the shower and shoe wash) until I could cram the gauge back in and screw it down. I'm now draining it at a slow dribble into a bucket from the gauge fitting. It will take a LONG time to drain the top third of the tank at this rate and the pressure is 25 PSI so I guess the gauge isn't broken after all. So the question:

    If the water blows out the pipe the gauge screws into, why is no water coming out the drain? The drain cock is on the straight "side" of a Tee connected to a short pipe that exits the tank, the "up" side of the Tee goes to the house faucets. I can open the drain, see the valve clearly open, but not a drip of water.

    I'm hoping that if I can get the water below the gauge fitting, it will then drain out the cock, controllable with a hose. I can then take it off and make sure there is nothing blocking the pipe. That would be odd though, since the water was fine until today. Why would it all of a sudden be so clogged with "whatever" that NO water comes out??

    And if there is something fully blocking the "exit" pipe, it is going to be REALLY MESSY draining the rest of the tank by taking out the drain cock.

    I think I'll get a Tee and shutoff/drain I can connect to the small galvanized pipe where the gauge is fitted so the next time this happens (hasn't been a problem the 2 years we have owned the house), I can drain the water with a hose instead of a slow dribble.

    Thanks,
    Bruce
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,810
    Location:
    IL
    Sounds like something is clogging the drain. Can't you get the pressure down by turning off the pump and opening a faucet?

    After you get the pressure down, maybe you can unscrew the valve and spoon out the debris. Maybe you can suck some out with a tube taped to your wet-dry vacuum. And as far as getting air in there, I expect you could blow air in through the vent. However I would want to get the debris. Another idea is to blow air in to hold you over while you take steps to remove that tank and going with a common pressure tank. Just don't blow more than 60 PSI.

    These are just ideas, and I have never actually done any of them. Some may be bad ideas.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2014
  3. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,185
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Pictures might help. Are there any gate valves on the output side? Did not water spray out when you took off the pressure switch? I don't understand what you mean by force the pump to run.

    You can tell where the water level is by licking the side of the tank with a propane torch. Where there is water, moisture from the flame will condense because the heat gets carried away by the water.

    If the tank is waterlogged then the pump would short cycle. That in turn destroys the pump. If the overload in the control box is tripping, then that's a sign the pump may be shot.
  4. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    There is a 1/4 turn shutoff on the vertical pipe the pressure switch is mounted on and a gate valve between that and the tank. And yes, as I recall, water did come out of that since removing the switch actually removed the shutoff. I closed the gate valve on the tank side so I could put the shutoff back on the pipe. Guess I should have used 2 wrenches from the get go. But, as I said, I figured the tank was empty and the pump was not running for "whatever" reason. If you take the plastic cap off the switch you can carefully push the contacts closed. That runs the pump.

    I know now that that the pump was not running because there was pressure above the cut in point. I presume the pump overload tripped because the pump couldn't force more water into what now appears to be a full, not empty, tank. Both the old and new switches are 30-50. You learn a lot the first time you encounter a problem ;)

    There is a 3/4" galvanized pipe (about 3") on the output side that goes to a Tee. There is a drain cock on the "straight" side and a gate valve on the "up" side. Since NOTHING comes out the drain cock and NOTHING comes out any faucet, I guess that means there is something totally blocking the exit pipe INSIDE the tank?? I can't close the gate valve that goes to the faucets. I hate gate valves, what is wrong with a nice ball valve??

    Bruce
  5. craigpump

    craigpump Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,085
    Location:
    ct
    I would bet that old float is blocking the discharge.

    They used to use those things as a barrier between the water and air, the thinking was that it would prevent the water from absorbing the air and the tank wouldn't waterlog as quick....
  6. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,586
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    I’ll bet Craig hit the nail on the head. Also because there is a gauge 2/3rds of the way up, it could be screwed into an air volume control or AVC. Sometimes the little float on an AVC will fall off and block the tank discharge.
  7. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    I've come to the same conclusion. Somehow the round disk sank, tipped up 90 degrees and got sucked to the exit pipe. I don't know if it would float back up given no pressure and no water or I'll have to see if I can drag it out. If that is the case, I have to remove the pipe on the pump side since it is the only one large enough and doing it is likely impossible anyway. How would you roll it back up from the outside? What a PITA.

    Or, the "new bladder tank" solution, which given my luck will not be easy because the piping more likely than not won't work as is. Plus, the bladders fail and when they do, new tank ... again, and another many hundred dollars. I had that problem with the pressure tank on the furnace that was in the house when we bought it. Prior owners pretty much ignored it, water spewed every time the furnace ran and rotted the chip board under the slate. Of course that tank only cost $34 and took 5 minutes to put in. Idiots.

    After responding to LLigetfa, I think if I close the valve on the pump side and remove the new pressure switch (sigh), I can put a fitting for a tube on the top of that pipe and at least control the draining water AND get it all out from the bottom. Then remove the drain cock and see what I can see in the tank. I don't think I will EVER get done the things I need to so the house is habitable given every day seems to be a "fix something that has worked fine for the last 2 years" instead day.
  8. craigpump

    craigpump Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,085
    Location:
    ct
    Those diaphragms were really easy to install, put a little water in the tank, roll up the diaphragm like a newspaper, shove it in the hole.

    I don't know about getting it out. My first thought is that you would tear it to pieces and then have little bits floating around causing you problems down the road.

    You're better off putting in a new tank.
  9. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    Back in business. As it turns out, apparently the 3/4" pipe from the tank to the drain and domestic water was frozen. That is why I couldn't close the valve to the fixtures and nothing came out of the drain. I took the valve to the fixtures out (a nice guillotine valve) and found ice above, below and behind the disk. Using both the new 1/4" shutoff on a Tee under the pressure gauge and the drain valve once it thawed, plus many trips up the stairs with the 5 gallon bucket almost full (near zero out, not interested in draining water out the back door and making a mess of ice), the tank was drained.

    Now WHY the water IN the pipe was frozen when the water on the pump side was not (though that is a 1 1/2" pipe) and the water that hit the ground after I pulled the pressure gauge did not freeze, I have NO idea. In any case, it IS pretty cold down there in the rubble stone foundation basement. I also replaced the pressure gauge. It dropped from 45 PSI to 25 PSI when I had it partly out to drip drain the top of the tank. Once the water was below the level of the gauge, I pulled it out (boy did that help the drain rate) and it stayed at 25 PSI.

    I pulled the gate valve boiler drain and used the shop vac and a 1/2" tube to clean out what rust bits I could, then pumped the tank to 28 PSI and flipped the switch for the pump. Viola, water going in the tank. I let it fill a couple of minutes then drained that out and repeated the process a couple of times until the pretty reddish-brown (Crayola would call it "rust" ;) ) colored water was fairly clear. Then I pumped it back up and let the pump fill the tank.

    So far, so good. Since I had all those tiny (and maybe some 1/8") bits of rust, I figured a filter in the line was in order so I didn't crap up the new "on demand" water heater and the new faucets and toilets so I got a Whirlpool filter at Lowes and put it in the horizontal copper pipe. If anyone else does this, beware, the instructions are BAD BAD BAD! They say the copper pipe goes into the push fittings 3/4". WRONG! The O ring is 3/4" in, to seat the pipe you need almost another 1/2". The copper pipe on the inlet side is trapped between the fill and vent pipes for the fuel oil tank and can not move at all. Having carefully measured (as they instructed ;) ) and marking the 3/4" point to ensure I got the pipe in far enough, I was BARELY able to shove the copper far enough from the outlet side to stop it leaking on both sides after I discovered this but they are probably both still about 1/4" shy of seating against the plastic body of the valve.

    I have new 1/4" pipes and shutoff (due to some over exuberant tightening on my part) under the new pressure switch and added a new Tee and 3/8" tubing fitting, a new boiler BALL valve drain, a new gauge, water filter and pump cut off toggle switch by the pump panel. I fried the old one by accidentally shorting the old pressure switch (which I was going to replace anyway because the contacts were kinda cruddy) while testing it. No great loss, the pump is 240V on a 30A circuit and the toggle switch was only rated 10A at 240V and should never have been there anyway.

    I should be good for a while, right :) I will be replacing the stem in the shrader valve. I can see tiny bits of black and I need to screw the cap on to keep it from leaking.

    I do have two more questions:

    1) I tried the "lick test" LLigetfa suggested so I could see what the level is when "new" for future comparison but I must be doing it wrong or it is too cold down there as I saw no condensation. About where on the tank should the water level be when "new"?

    2) Why do you need to drain ALL the water, then re-pressurize the tank to resolve or keep it from getting waterlogged? Why can't you just turn the pump off, drain some of the water then push the pressure back up and turn the pump back on?

    At least NOW I know that draining and re-pressurizing the tank are a semi annual maintenance item (in the summer ;) ) to keep it from water logging. I only knew about the occasional draining of some water to remove "particulates" and admit I hadn't thought to do that since we bought the house 2 years ago. Given the prior owners apparently NEVER cleaned the fins on their refrigerator or the traps in the sinks, I really doubt they ever did any maintenance on the pressure tank either and I should have done this (had I known) as soon as we took possession.

    I also learned that if your condensate pump isn't running, a large wooly bear caterpillar might be blocking the float. :eek:
    I don't know how it got in there, unless it crawled down next to the tube coming down from the water heater. The other 2 ports have plugs in them.

    Thanks,
    Bruce
  10. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,810
    Location:
    IL
    I know that one. If there is water in there and some air in there also, the schrader valve will read the same pressure as the water. You want to set the air pressure with no water, so that water will only start coming in once it can overcome the precharge pressure.

    I am presuming your tank is the common kind with a bladder. If that waterlogs, your tank bladder is defective, and that usually means a new tank. (craigpump's comment about replacing a bladder is intriguing.) It is possible to postpone the proper fix by adding air, which will get absorbed away much sooner than 6 months I expect, but that is only a stopgap. The reason to periodically flush your pressure tank would be to get rid of dirt... and the needed for that would depend on your well.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2014
  11. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,586
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    After this last bought of “global warming” LOL, my first answer should always be… It’s Frozen!

    Yeah that is like taking your finger off the top of a straw full of tea. You have to let the air in before the water will come out. Oh and you need a new gauge.

    Normally putting a cap on the Schrader would be the wrong thing. The air is supposed to get sucked into the Schrader when the bleeder in the well opens. But if the bleeder, check valve, air volume control system isn’t working, you just have to cap the Schrader and manually air up the tank as often as needed. That is why I like bladder tanks. There is no air charge system to maintain.

    At low pressure before the pump comes on there should be about 30% water and 70% air. When the pressure is high and the pump shuts off it should be more like 50/50.

    You can do that. But your compressor will just work faster at low pressure, and you can tell you have enough air in the tank when it starts coming out the faucets.


    It is not a bladder tank.

    The old style floats they used in a standard air over water tank was completely different from a bladder in a captive air tank.
  12. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    That will be my first guess NEXT time ;) We had the long run of "global warming" with many inches of ice followed by an inch of sleet, then many more inches of ice followed by many days of lows below 0F, highs in the teens a couple of weeks ago. We have now had the longest "January thaw" I can recollect in the 34 years I've lived in Vermont. Usually it is just a few hours over the "required" 24 to count. It has been above freezing for days. And raining. And making a mess on the frozen ground.

    Yep, and hopefully I'll do the proper maintenance so the water doesn't get above the pipe for the gauge again and draining will be easy. And I did replace the gauge.

    Do all "in well" pump installations include a bleeder? I have on idea what is down that pipe.

    I was unaware that the Shrader would normally NOT be capped, good info. BTW, the Shrader is not on the tank but in a special fitting on the pipe coming from the well. Perhaps it also has a check valve in it? I saw something in the galvanized fitting when I replaced the 1/4" brass pipe. If it is a check valve, I don't think it is working. Water sprays out of the Shrader when I uncap and push the "toggle" on the stem P1140085.jpg P1140086.jpg
    I do have some PB Blaster and since there is a valve between the fitting and the tank and a union "upstream" of the fitting, if I have to replace that fitting, I won't have to drain the tank first. Sounds like a job for spring or summer if you tell me there is a failed check valve (possibly repairable??) in there.

    Should I need to replace the tank in the future, what are GOOD brands of pressure tanks? The reviews of whatever Lowes sells are really poor for longevity of the bladder.

    Thanks, I'll check in the summer when there is some chance of condensation. OK, not a chance but GUARANTEED.


    Given I'm using a small volume compressor - bike and car tires, not compressor powered tools, it sounds like a good idea to do the full drain. I think it took 15 minutes to get 28 PSI in the empty tank which I think is an 80 gallon. I figure I have enough air in the tank when the pressure gauge on the tank reads 2 PSI below cut in ;) I think I'll close the guillotine valve to the fixtures before doing maintenance. No good reason to run a bunch of air to them.

    Bruce
  13. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,810
    Location:
    IL
    You will have to let water leave the tank to get air in. The water will have to go somewhere. Maybe your plan allows for that.
  14. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,185
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    If you don't feel like dumping water, you can air it up a little at a time. Whenever the pressure is getting down close to kick-on, add enough air to raise it to the kick-off pressure. If the tank is not sweating to show you the water level, you can lick the side of the tank with the flame of a propane torch. The water acting as a heat sink will cause it to sweat more.

    A snifter valve is supposed to either have a checkvalve integrated or a separate checkvalve after it. If water squirts out when the pump is not running, then you have no checkvalve or a failed checkvalve.
  15. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,586
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    Like LL says, your check valve is bad. That check valve with the pressure switch on the tank side and the Schrader valve on the pump side is very commonly used with a bleeder about 5' down the well. But the bleeder can't bleed if the check valve up top doesn't check. When the check valve shuts good and takes the pressure off the bleeder, it will bleed the water down to the bleeder. Then each time the pump starts it puts a 5' pipe full of air in the tank. An Air Volume Control about 1/2 way up the tank (with the gauge screwed into it), lets any excess air out.

    Replace the check valve and you may not have to worry about adding air again for a while.
  16. craigpump

    craigpump Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,085
    Location:
    ct
    Replace those old galvanized fittings before they rot through and create a leak
  17. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    Looks like something I'll need to buy. All I have on the side of the tank (and it is about half way up) is a short galvanized nipple and 90 fitting that the gauge is screwed into. I assume the air volume control opens at some pressure above the tank pressure switch (50 PSI on mine)? Otherwise, there would be no way to get air pressure into the tank after draining but prior to turning the pump back on.

    Bruce
  18. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    OKaaaayyy .... With new galvanized? I guess if I need to replace the piece with the check valve, doing the other pieces at the same time wouldn't be too much work. Unless they all decide that even PB Blaster isn't strong enough to loosen things up which would fit my general luck of late.

    You may be able to see that the pump side pipe comes in from the left, turns a 90 toward where I took the picture, then 90 back to the left to the union, check valve fitting, shutoff, tank. Is there any reason it should be done that way? I ask because the tank is sitting on what I would generously call a "slap it together" support system. The house is built on ledge and the floor isn't close to flat where the tank sits. If I replace the pipe, I might as well move the tank "forward" (relative to the picture) a couple of feet where I can make a raised level surface to support it and turn it 90 degrees to remove that "U" (assuming there is no reason to have it and *I* can't think of one). Is there any "desired" distance from where the pipe from the well comes in and the tank or any reason it can't be a straight piece of pipe to the union and then the check valve fitting? I'll try to get a picture of the current setup tomorrow. You guys will gasp in horror :D

    I think I'll do it in the spring when it isn't so cold in the basement. Moving the tank a couple of feet to put it on secure footing won't mean messing with pipe I don't already want to deal with anyway because the pipe going to the fixtures from the tank starts as copper but has a cob job of connections going to:
    - the domestic supply (copper, then all new PEX)
    - black plastic to an outside faucet
    - a shutoff and drain which is connected to black plastic pipe going underground to the barn.

    All 3 valves related to the black plastic pipe are gates and in bad shape. It is a mess I want to clean up.

    Bruce
  19. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,185
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    There are two kinds of AVCs. One that lets air out and the other that lets air in. The kind that lets air out work in conjunction with a bleeder/snifter/check. The kind that lets air in has a line that goes to the pump.
  20. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    OK, here it is. Quite the "unique" support design, no? Yes, the big gray blob in the front right is ledge. Whoever poured the concrete floor chose a level and let 'er rip, the rocks that stick up, well they stick up. The largest part is about 3 times higher than this part. I can hear the people who originally dug the foundation probably 150 years ago.

    "Should we break up that huge chunk of rock so the basement floor is flatter? Only take a couple of weeks."
    "Nope."

    I could easily turn the tank 90 degrees and move it to about where the plastic bin is under the drain cock. I really can't imagine why someone would go to all the trouble with the bricks and angle iron rather than just put it on a relatively flat surface nearby and shim a LITTLE.

    I also noted that the fitting for the gauge is about 2/3 up, not half. Would an AVC go there or is that too high?

    P1170089.jpg P1170090.jpg
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