Well died, where to start?

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by tartrazine, Aug 25, 2012.

  1. tartrazine

    tartrazine New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Minnesota
    My well just stopped working and calling someone out is not in the budget right now.

    I believe it is a 160' well with a submersible pump. See picture below. I live in Minnesota.

    I had noticed last week that although it was working normally, it seemed to sound like it was cycling faster than usual. Then a few days later it stopped entirely. I went down to the basement to investigate, and where the control box and pressure tank were, there was a noise coming from the control box on left (relay switch?) "ting....tock......................ting....tock......................." at about 10 second intervals. Pressure gauge read zero. I turned the power off at the breaker as I didn't have time to deal with it. The house is on city water, the well is just for lawn and garden. It's an older well so I assumed the pump just went out and would need replacement.

    The next day I turned it back on to see if it was still not working, and it just continued making the noise, with no water. I left it on for a couple hours to see what would happen, outside faucet open, and some time later it suddenly started working again, and the sprinkler outside started going. It was going for an hour or so before I noticed. I went downstairs to look a it, and everything seemed normal, pressure gauge was at about 40. There is a ball valve there so turned it off to see what would happen, but as soon as I touched the valve actually everything went dead again, pressure gauge back to zero. I tapped on the pressure switch lightly, nothing. I've left it on, faucet to sprinkler open, for an hour so a couple more times, with nothing.

    I'm now hoping it's something easier than the pump to place.

    Does this sound like a problem with the pressure switch, or relay switch? I know how to use a voltmeter, turn off the power, and not electrocute myself.

    Thanks for any help that can be offered.

    well.jpg
  2. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,418
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    The tank probably has a busted bladder and is waterlogged, which is why you heard the pump cycling faster than “normal”. There is no such thing as “normal cycling”. If it cycles at all while you are running sprinklers, that is what caused your problems. When the bladder burst from “normal cycling”, the cycling is more rapid, and so is the destruction of your pump and equipment. If the tank is waterlogged, replace it. But don’t just replace it with another tank just like, and therefore have the same problem all over again. With a CSV, like the one in this picture, the pump won’t cycle itself to death while you are running sprinklers, and all you need is a 4.5 gallon tank.

    [​IMG]

    Then repair or replace that control box hanging on the wall before you look at the pump. If the repaired or new control box still clicks and buzzes with no water coming up, you will probably need a new motor as well. Cycling on and off is the main reason for busted bladder tanks, bad control boxes, pressure switches, and burned motors.
  3. tartrazine

    tartrazine New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Thanks for the reply.

    I shouldn't say that it was cycling faster than usual, rather it was making the ting...tock............. noise, which I thought at the time was it cycling faster but I don't actually know if it typically made this noise when it cycled on or this is was just an entirely new noise and that's why it sounded different.

    Does it make sense for it to be the tank when it has either been working normally, or off completely with no pressure at all? The CSV looks great for my purpose...but a new tank is only $120 down the street, if that is the problem. When I'm running a sprinkler it's usually throttled back to ~4gpm, instead of 8gpm totally open. The pump I assume is ~16gpm.

    If I wanted to check and see if it were a problem with the pressure or relay, could I just bypass the relay so it's wired directly on, then turn the power back on at the panel and see if it runs (and cut the power before the pressure gets too high)?
  4. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,418
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    You can manually bypass the pressure switch, but not the control box on the wall.

    Throttling the sprinklers back to 8 or 4 GPM with a 16 GPM pump is what causes you pump to cycle on and off. You might slow the cycling down enough for everything to survive if you had about three of those size tanks. But three tanks still wouldn’t stop the cycling like a CSV. And cycling is what causes the ting….tock, that means something has gotten too hot.
  5. tartrazine

    tartrazine New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Minnesota
    As for my problem at hand, if the noise is coming from the control box and it's likely bad, shouldn't I start with replacing that and seeing what happens? Do I need a specific control box if I'm going to change to a csv, or would that work with existing control box?

    As for the csv, my assumption as an amateur was that well pumps would usually put out ~15 gpm depending on pump and depth, and that most residential wells put out about 7-8gpm, and the pump was supposed to kick on, fill up the pressure tank, then shut off as that water is used, then turn on again when it's low to fill it again. And with constant water use, like a sprinkler, this cycling would be normal, and that having it throttled back to 4gpm would be less stress on the pump. Reading things like this give the idea that this is normal, and that SHORT cycling is not normal: http://inspectapedia.com/water/ShortCycleCause.htm

    What you're saying, VM, is that cycling is never normal? But how isn't water use always going to be intermittent, and typically less that the max capacity of the pump? As my well is for lawn and garden use only, what your saying certainly makes sense for my purposes. How does the csv work with an existing pump? Does it just vary the voltage like a light dimmer?
  6. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,900
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    You need to describe what is happening between the tick and the tock and between the tock and the tick as well as the pressure readings at the time.

    Then you need to take some voltage and current readings after the pressure switch and after the control box.

    I will let valveman go into detail on the CSV but essentially it acts to restrict the flow to 1 GPM or however many GPM you are drawing at the time through mechanical means. There is no varying of voltage.

    Given your current setup, the sprinklers should draw as much water as the pump and well can supply so that it runs continuous rather than cycle on and off.
  7. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,418
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    That page lists many of the ways something could fail and cause the pump to “rapid cycle”. “Rapid cycling”, only means cycling faster than it should according to the pump and pressure tank size.

    The following statement is the only thing I can find that addresses the cycling that happens when the amount of water being used is less than the amount the pump produces.

    “Depending on the water outflow rate at one or more plumbing fixtures it's normal for the well pump to cycle on and off.”

    While the pump cycling when the water outflow rate is less than the amount the pump produces maybe “normal”, it is still not a good thing. “Normal” cycling just means your pump system will be destroyed in short order as “normally” expected. Everything on that web page describes just how hard cycling is on your pump system. They do a good job describing how to keep your pump from “rapid cycling”. But they never address how to keep your pump from “normally” cycling itself to death.

    Rapid cycling will destroy your pump rapidly. Normal cycling is what “normally” destroys your pump.

    See this link for a graphic that shows the difference between so called “normal” cycling and a pump system with a CSV that does not cycle “normally”.

    http://www.cyclestopvalves.com/simple/home.php

    "Tick" is when the relay gets power and tries to start the pump. "Tock" is when the overload trips. Nothing happens in between.
  8. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,900
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Ja, probably... but according to the OP, first it worked, then it didn't, then it worked again, then it didn't, then he went off on a tangent about what is "normal" rather than focus on the task at hand. I just wanted the topic to go back to square one.

    Putting an ammeter will show if it's drawing too many amps and thermal overloading. A voltmeter would tell what the pump is seeing. An ohmmeter would tell something about the motor and/or wire. If zero water flows, it could be a locked rotor.
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