well pump ground wire

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by turbotech, Feb 22, 2010.

  1. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    Something about the ground wire dawned on me the other day after having my well pump replaced.
    The original pump that failed had 2-wire 12 gauge w/o ground.

    The new pump had 2-wire 12 gauge w/ ground. The installers simply connected the new ground wire to the well cap. They did not run it back to the pressure switch at the tank and to the electrical panel. Therefore, there still can be a voltage difference between the well case and panel / house ground rod.

    Did the way they wired to the well case meet code? It doesn't seem like it would to me.
  2. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

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    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    Ground is ground. It's grounded at the well and if your house is wired correctly it's grounded also.
  3. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    What is the purpose of this new ground wire?
    If a hot wire breaks and hits the well case then the ckt breaker will trip with the old 2-wire w/o ground.

    If a hot wire breaks and hits the well cap with the new 2-wire w/ ground then the ckt breaker trips. If the well cap was designed for a good electrical connection then the new 2-wire w/ ground wouldn't be necessary. Why not just run a good connection between the cap and casing instead of hundreds of feet of wire that could fail?

    If a hot wire breaks and dangles in the water then it would try to short out through the case........because after a couple of years the poor electrical connection from the 2-wire w/ ground cap to case is now an open and no longer connects the cap to ground.

    It just seems pointless to me at this time to have the extra ground wire which cost me an extra $650.
  4. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,236
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    All new pumps have an attachment for an equipment grounding conductor. For it to be properly connected, a new wire would have to be run from the panel to the well. Most pump installers do not replace the wiring between the well and the panel because it would be additional parts and labor that most customers would not want to pay for.
  5. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    I completely agree. The only proper way to connect the ground is from the pump ground wire to the panel. When they installed my new pump that had a ground wire they said they had to replace the existing 2-wire w/o ground with a new 2-wire w/ground.

    Since there was not an existing ground wire from the tank switch to the pump, they just tied the new ground to the well cap. It seems pointless to me why they would do this. They said they had to do this to meet code. All I could think is that there is no way it meets code just connecting it to the well cap. The existing 2-wire was in perfect shape. Yes, it is good insurance to install new wire.

    All grounds should connect back to the panel and the panel has the single point ground connection. That is the only proper way to do it. The way they did it causes ground loops which is bad.
  6. drick

    drick In the Trades

    Messages:
    392
    It would? How? There is no path back to the panel to complete the circuit an open the breaker. Sure the well case is grounded to earth but its not bonded to the panel. The current flow from a broken wire would be far too little to trip the breaker.

    -rick
  7. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

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    22
    Location:
    USA
    You are correct. My statement was wrong. I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that.

    Assuming a max. of 25 ohms at the two ground connections and a 0 ohm path (almost impossible) in the earth itself gives: 220 / (25+25+0) = 4.4 amps. That would not trip the breaker.

    What is the purpose of the new grounding wire? It still seems useless unless connected properly to the panel.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  8. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

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    4,369
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    That is correct but, how many years did it work without a ground wire?
  9. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    The original 2-wire w/o ground GOULDS pump was install in 1990 when the place was first built. So it lasted 20 years. The new Franklin pump ($1200) is a 2-wire w/ground pump. When they said the original 2-wire needed to be upgraded to w/ ground I was OK with it, but not happy about the $1.81/ft wire cost when I new it was online at $0.80-$1.00 / ft.
    I simply said to them to run it if that is what it needs to meet code. Then I saw them finish the install by connecting the ground to the well cap and buttoning it up. All I could think is that no way is that code and why did I just buy $650 worth of wire for nothing.

    It bothers me when I pay good money ($2500) for a job that isn't done right. I would have been content if they said "this wiring we are doing isn't right......you need to wire it to your panel". Instead, they said it now meets code and I am all set. I am normally a DIYer because of stuff like this happening. I consider the $2500 part of an education course. I learned what I need to pull and replace a pump. I picked up steel to make a tripod and a TEE handle this weekend. If I can help one relative or friend replace thier pump for 1/2 the cost of having a company do it then it will be worth the large cost I paid.
  10. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

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    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Another piece of Gov regulation to keep the mines running, resources wasted, and our hard earned money stuffed in a hole that is a living ground. Snipped off many a ground wire on new pumps, so arrest me! If a wire exists to the panel, by all means use it. That snipped wire will be loved by the destructive lawyers when some dope holds two 6 gauge hot wires in his teeth while stripping them.... not that the ground wire running in the ground would have kept him alive or his teeth from popping out. Its just about liability and no one willing to take any responsibility for being a dope anymore.

    And by the way a piece of bare 10g or 12g wire should be about 8 to 15 cents a foot. Give the guy 20 bucks to unroll it. $650?? platinum wire taped to the pipe by Donald Trump? Better yet, take it to the scrap yard and get 3 bucks a pound for it.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  11. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    When the pump started acting up I looked up material cost. I new what a pump assembly, wire, pipe, etc cost before the well company looked at it. I also tested and new the pump or motor or both was bad. I was unsure if the original 20 year old pump was in the hole.
    Overall, they did a good job installing the pump. They are a known reputable company. The wiring thing is the only black eye. The whole meeting code thing they gave me for installing the $1.81/ft => $650 wire. It was just 3 wire twisted 12 gauge stranded wire 600v submersible. I have no problem with them making a profit on the pump and other stuff (about $600), but I have a problem with them making $330 off of wire that they didn't install right. I believe a company should make a decent profit when doing a good job and/or being honest. All together, the profit was 2500 - (900+400+50+50) = $1,100. I think that is reasonable because it includes the cost of labor and equipment for 2.5 hours of work.

    The grounding thing is the highlight of it all. Yes, I believe a properly grounded 2-wire w/ground will last longer because it would handle a lightning strike better. Right now I have zero lightning protection.

    This brings me to a root cause for me thinking about this.

    What happens if this summer I do get a lightning strike on my pump? I call the insurance company and they look at the well cap and see the ground wire connected to it.............now I am liable because it isn't wired correctly. Is the company that just put the pump in going to cover the cost of the new pump & install. Probably not, they will say that lightning caused the failure. Round and round I go with the insurance and well company pointing fingers. So I get a lawyer and it costs me another $2500.........or I just say screw it and replace the pump myself because I get fed up with the insurance and well company.

    Either way I can't win. If the insurance new I installed it myself and wired it that way then I would have to eat the cost of the new pump. But will the company cover it because they wired it wrong?

    It seems every time I farm out work I get bad luck so something like the lightning strike this summer will probably happen. Every time I do DIY work it always works out fine because I take the time to read/research and do it properly.

    ballvalve,
    I can not and will not judge the way you are installing, but I ask this.......would you cover the cost of the replacement motor due to a lightning strike and the unconnected ground?
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  12. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,369
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    I don't think the ground wire makes any difference with lightning. Lightning can do whatever it wants to do. It can hit the ground a ½ mile from your well or any power lines, and still find your well as a ground rod and burn up the motor. Or it can hit right on the top of your well head and not hurt a thing. The extra ground wires didn't even exist until a few years ago. I put in tons of pumps before they came with ground wires. I cut off ground wires on the first few hundred I saw. Now I hook the ground wires up because they are there but, I can't tell they have helped a thing. And yes you can run just an extra single wire with the old 12-2, for pennies compared to replacing all the wire.
  13. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    Thank you. I didn't know the ground wire was a recent addition to the motor. I agree about the lightning strike being unpredictable. The ground wire can help, but it can't be a guarantee that it will save the pump.

    Is it common practice to replace 20 year old wire in a well? I work on a lot of car wiring harnesses so 20 year old wiring is nothing to me. I use it all the time if the insulation is fine and the wire is not corroded.

    I appreciate all helping me with this. Over the next few months I cam going to build some tools. Right now I have the parts for the TEE handle. It is 10' long right now but I am going to cut it down to probably 6' or 8'. I think 8' would be better.

    I have some of the steel for the tripod which I plan to hang a 1hp 12v winch on to do the initial lifting. The tripod legs are 1.5" EMT pipe. I also plan on making a 4' diameter wheel that attached to the well casing so that I can pull the poly pipe using my truck or ATV if space allows (it does at my house). Last, I need to make 2 pairs of vice grip poly pipe holders and a guide for putting the pipe back in the casing without marring it.

    I ended up with a Franklin FPS V-series pump. Originally, I had a Goulds pump. Is there really that much difference between the Goulds, Franklin, and F&W pumps? From an electrical point of view, I prefer the 2-wire pumps over the 3-wire at this point due to installment cost and failure rate.
  14. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    One other thing about the ground wire. When I do installs on a car that have dangling wires I use a piece of sealed heatshrink like the kind used on the well pumps. The kind which oozes glue when heated. I place it over the end of the wire. This allows me to be able to use the wire later on.

    I would recommend doing this on the ground pump wire instead of cutting it off. Just cut the wire so the copper is flush with the insulation, slip on heat shrink half way and heat until the end of the wire is sealed.
  15. thassler

    thassler New Member

    Messages:
    106
    Location:
    Tennessee
    I wouldn't think you wasted any money at all. If my pump makes it 20 years, I'll sure be replacing the 20 year old wire with it. One thing I did notice from your description is that you paid for about 360 feet of 12/3 ? I've no idea the power draw of your pump but if it's 8 amp or more you're looking at close to 5% voltage drop (assuming it's a 240V circuit).
  16. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    It is a 1/2 HP 240v motor. Using ohms law and assuming a .8 PF it is below the recommended 3% loss. Start up current will drop more. If you factor in the temperature of most of the wire in terms of resistivity then it gets even better.
    The 12/2 w/ground is fine for this app. in terms of current carrying capacity.
  17. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    Even with a SF of 1.6 for the 1/2HP pump it would still only max. out at about 5 amps during run. Starting current is probably about 20 amps. The 12-2 w/ground is fine for the length of the wire.
  18. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

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    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    A few points; Dont waste money on the tripod if you are pulling poly pipe at 360' you and a gorilla can do that pretty easy. MIght want to make a v block clamp if you want to take a rest. Tripod, car and or winch might be a good thing for America's funniest home vidoes. Duct tape and a file works on the well casing for sharp edges. Can't predict lightening, and never heard of anyones insurance covering it in a well. The ground wire is just one more path for that billion volts to run down the hole. Old control boxes had lightening arrestors, but I dont really know if they work.

    20 year old wire? All around us and in airplanes. Test it in the water with an ohmmeter and inspect it visually. Often still good. The faults come from sloppy install and poor splices, chaffing on well walls. Or swap it out and reuse it in conduit to run power to the chicken coop. I think UF cable is best down the hole, but some think you might sprout an extra gonad or need to start wearing a bra from some chemical in the outer casing.
  19. turbotech

    turbotech New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    I already bought the tripod pipe. It was $30 total. I have some scrap steel that I can make the top tie in point. A cheap 3000lb 12v is $50-$100. I figure I will have less than $150 into the tripod.
    I also have access to a case 580E backhoe that would work for pulling the pump.

    I was going to take some of the large worn-out vise grip pliers I have to make a lock to hold the pipe. I will weld on some pieces of 2" square tube and 1 1/4" steel pipe. The pipe will be cut in half to grip the poly. The 2" square will rest against the top of the casing.

    I think making the 4' wheel for pulling the pipe is overkill and just the winch setup will be fine.
    I talked to my brother and sister and their pumps are 600-650' deep. I will need the tripod setup for that. I calculate 1 1/4" pipe, water, and pump to weigh about 250-300 lbs.
    On average, how deep would the pump be set in a 600' well?

    I feel the same way about the wire. All the damage I usually see on the car stuff is due to improper installation or oil leaks destroying the insulation.
  20. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Your friends might have steel pipe at 650 feet. Thus your tripod better be able to pull 25' at a shot. Wear a hard hat or two and keep the kids in the house. Be sure your sister will still speak to you if you drop half the pipe string back down the hole! If thats an extendahoe with 21' reach and a good sober operator, that works too. If its poly and the water level is up high, I would try it by hand first. I would start with a bid from a contractor for pulling only - might save you some very costly disaster.
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