Intermitent pressure problem

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog. Water is life.' started by AlasKen, Jun 25, 2012.

  1. AlasKen

    AlasKen New Member

    Jun 25, 2012
    Type of pump?
    Submersible Unknown brand, 220V
    Two wire (no control)Yes
    Wire Size_________ Wire Length- ~150'

    Size of Pump? unknown
    Motor Horsepower? maybe 3/4 but have no info
    Pump Model #______________
    Date Pump Installed 1992

    Pumping from?

    Water Well
    Depth of well 185'
    Depth to water_________
    Pump Setting__________
    Pipe Size_________"
    Drop Pipe Material

    Well Recovery Rate 4+ gpm
    Well Casing Diameter 6"
    Rock Well
    Date Well Drilled 1992

    Well Casing Material
    Steel to 18' then rock

    Pressure Tank?
    Bladder or diaphragm tank (one pipe to tank) Yes, replaced in 2/2011
    Size or model of tank ____________
    Air charge in top of tank, with pump off and water drained____________PSI
    (check with car tire gauge)

    Pressure Switch Setting?
    Other- 25, 45 changed from 30-50 due to pump having difficulty making pressure.

    Pump Control Method?
    Cycle Stop Valve model #_________
    Variable speed control #__________
    Pump Start Relay (sprinkler timer, no tank)__________
    Manually turned on and off____________

    Pump Protection
    Cycle Sensor_________
    Low pressure cutoff switch (lever on side)__________
    Other None that I know of. Just the pressure switch

    Filters or Softeners - both
    Before or after pressure tank - after
    Type of filter- GE whole house with paper filter for sediment
    Bypass available for water softener which is in-line after filter.

    Water Used For?
    House Use, 3 baths, 4 adults, one 2 y/o
    High Flow Showers - standard Moen water efficient, unknown gpm?

    Problems Experienced
    No Water_________________
    Water only part time _______
    Water at all times but weak_____
    Air in water_______________
    Pressure surging___________
    Water Hammer (noise)______
    Too Much pressure_________
    Other - Intermittent low pressure and unable to hold pressure there is.

    Pump makes clicking or buzzing sounds________
    No Sounds______________
    Pressure gauge reading________psi

    Do you have, and know how to use
    an Ampmeter and Voltmeter - Some knowledge, volt meter no problem, ampmeter with some direction should be fine.

    Describe Problem

    I have family visiting, an extra 5 people. After the first day and 4 or 5 back to back and simultaneous showers and a couple of loads of laundry after dinner we had no water pressure, pressure gauge below pressure switch said 0, even after tap test. I flipped the breaker off and then checked contacts on pressure switch. They were closed. I went ahead and removed the wires (2 wire, 220V) to the pump. Flipped the breaker on and had 220 at the switch. Had 220 at the other contacts where the motor wires go. Turned breaker back off and installed the wires to the pressure switch and turned on the breaker. Water pressure climbed to about 20 lbs and then stopped. After a few minutes pressure rapidly dropped back to zero, within seconds, no water running in the house. Tried it a few more times same result. Walked away to do research on the issue. After leaving it alone for an hour or so I tried again. Pressure climbed to 30 and held. It wouldn't get high enough to open the contacts on the pressure switch which is normally open at 50 and close at 30. Ran some water through it and then flipped the breaker off, water pressure held. After some more time it would climb to 40 but still not open the switch. I let the pressure pump up then flipped the breaker to not burn something up. I do not understand why the pressure was not holding earlier. I have a check valve below the pressure switch and pressure gauge. I assume that I also have a valve at the pump down in the hole. I did tap the check valve I can see with the end of my screwdriver but don't know if that helped. After reading on this forum I understand that there is a persuasive argument that there should only be one check valve at the pump. The rational holds water with me, if you will pardon the pun.

    The next morning I tried the pump again by turning on the breaker. The pressure had held at ~40 through the night with the breaker in the off position as I was first up and no one had used water since I turned it off. The pump seems to be working a bit better. The pressure is holding and the pump is cutting on and off. I backed off the cutout pressure to ~45 and the cut in to ~28. It has continued to work for the last 2 days. I have asked guest to think "conserve" as they go through the day. But we are still taking 6 showers spread out through the day, multiple loads of dishes and laundry. I have watched the pressure pretty closely and see no obvious issues. Pressure climbs to 45 and holds, turn on at ~28, holds pressure with pressure switch contacts open.

    The well was dug in 92. Pump is original, installed in 92. Well info says it is 185'. I haven't had any problems with it since I moved in in 95. I believe it is a 3/4 hp pump. It uses a pitless but not sure how deep yet as I haven't opened the casing. I am also not sure of the drop piupe but assume it is black roll pipe. Well is about 90' from the house. Pressure tank, Pressure Switch, vertical check valve, filter and water softener are all in a mechanical room off of the garage in a walk out basement. 3/4 rigid copper comes in through the concrete basement floor and into the pressure tank/pressure switch. This is the second well for this house so I do not know how it is all connected outside as I did not own the house then.

    I plan on replacing the pump this summer after guests leave, mid July. I figure I have equal chance that the pump will last another year or another day. Either way it is time. I do not want to have to replace in the winter in Alaska.

    I am sorry for the length but wanted to try and supply some information. Please let me know if you need more. I will also research and try and answer some of th emissing quesions. Thanks in advance, AlasKen
  2. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

    Mar 15, 2006
    Pump Controls Technician
    Lubbock, Texas
    Hi AlasKen
    Thanks for filling in the details. I think you just need to conserve. Your well only has a 4 GPM recovery. A couple of high flow showers in a row and you have used up your reserve in the well. It sounds like you just pumped the well dry, and had to wait for it to recover. You might consider going to a cistern or storage tank with a booster pump to the house. This way you can fill the storage tank at 4 GPM for as long as it takes, then you will have 1,000 or so gallons stored that you can use at 10 GPM for a couple of hours.

    Instead of replacing the well pump, I would use it to fill the cistern tank, and put the money into storage and the booster pump. You can use a jet pump or a submersible in the storage tank to boost to the house.
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  4. AlasKen

    AlasKen New Member

    Jun 25, 2012
    Valveman, thanks for the reply. I see you are from Lubbock. I was raised in Eastern NM near Tucumcari. If I was there I would definitely have a cistern. As I am now in Alaska I am concerned with keeping it from freezing solid. I only have limited room and would have difficulty getting more than a couple of hundred gallon tank to fit. I would probably need to build a new structure. I think I will take your advice and move slow on this and see what happens. find out if we start spreading out showers will that solve the issue, allow for recovery time? I do have a couple of followup questions.

    Should I replace my pressure switch with one containing a low pressure cutoff? Mine currently does not. At least that would prevent sucking at a dry hole. Is this just a remove and replace?

    Any concerns with end of life on a 20 year old pump. Should I think of replacing it when the weather is warm? If I decide to replace my submersible pump I would like to explore my options. I currently have a generator that will run my well as well as other items in the house. I could have got a fuel sipping quite Honda generator that would use significantly less fuel but not run a 220V pump. Any thoughts on replacing the pump with 110V motor? I am currently running 2 wire for 220. I am hoping to continue using the same wire as it is buried and I don't want to replace it if I can get away without it. I am planning on replacing the pressure switch and gauge.

    I would prefer to do this replacement right, kind of "buy once and cry once". I don't want to throw money away but I do want to do it right the first time. I will be doing this myself with the help of my son who has some well experience although on a larger scale, i.e. oil field completions work. I was raised on a farm and have pulled my share of sucker rod, 2" pipe, as well as submersibles although it has been 35 years ago. I was the flunky and should have paid more attention to details. I did learn that it is wise to double check the bottom check valve to ensure it is not upside down before dropping it.

    Being kind of remote and hard to get to I find it easier to do things myself.

    Thanks in advance
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2012
  5. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

    Mar 15, 2006
    Pump Controls Technician
    Lubbock, Texas
    I know where Tucumcari is. Alaska sounds like a lot more fun.

    Even a couple hundred gallon storage tank can make a big difference when you have peak demands. Your well probably only stores 100 or 200 gallons at most. So an extra 200 gallons would double your storage. It can be set up to where the storage tank is used up first, then the well pump takes over until the well is dry. You could use up to 400 gallons as quickly as you wanted, then wait a couple hours before you could do it again.

    If the well pump can be lowered, that will give you more storage. You may be able to learn a few Green Acres tricks and just conserve enough to get by with what you have. Yes a low pressure switch is a good idea, it can save your pump. Or you can use a device that uses amps to protect from a dry well.

    You can run that 220 pump from a 115 generator if you use a buck/boost transformer. The transformer may cost $100 but it will save you from needing larger wire as you would with a 115 volt motor.

    You don’t want to drop a check valve with a submersible, and changing out a 20 year old sub is a crap shoot. The old pump might be on its last day, or it might last another 20. But unfortunately, the same thing can be said of a brand new pump.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2012
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