Pump cycling randomly and precipitous loss of pressure after 30 seconds.

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Gadgetrover

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I have a sandpoint well with 2" pipe, 1/2 horse shallow-well jet pump, and small pressure tank. The point is down around 18 feet. I have a check valve installed around 3 feet from the pump right before the pipe to the well enters the ground. The setup has been working fine for a number of years.

This year, I noticed the pump was randomly cycling (every 2-3 hours or so) on and off, running for a few seconds each time. I checked the pressure on the pressure tank (28#) and made sure water wasn't discharged from the air valve. Despite the pressure tank seeming fine, I installed a new tank, downsizing from a 4 gallon to a 2 gallon. The pump continues to randomly cycle and now, when I turn the water on, I have a normal stream, dropping to a trickle seemingly after the pressure tank runs out. If I continue to run water at this point, it seems unable to recover and continues to run at the low rate. If, however, I turn the water off for a few seconds and then back on, it runs at the full rate again until seemingly depleting the volume of the pressure tank.

Note that there is no sputtering or other indications of air in the line. I installed a new pressure switch on the pump but the problems continue. I replaced the pump and still the problems continue. I contacted the pump manufacturer (Wayne) who suggested a "pin-hole leak somewhere". I asked if it was taking in air, wouldn't there be some sputtering, etc.? They wouldn't address my question. They further said I needed a foot valve despite their instructions indicating the installation of my check valve was perfectly fine (not to mention the fact that it has worked well for many years). They suggested I hire a plumber (I am in the middle of a national forest and plumbers do not grow on trees.). All in all, a useless conversation.

I have, however, been suspicious of the check valve in that I replaced it a year ago. I am wondering if the check valve may be faulty and allowing water to to drop back down the line. Still, I would imagine air would have to enter the line to allow that and, as I mentioned, there seems to be no sign of air in the line. Further, I am thinking I erred in installing the smaller pressure tank (It was all the local store had.)

I am asking for opinions, wisdom, and advice as to what to try next.

One more question ... If I were to put a foot/packer valve down in the well pipe, how would I "winterize" the setup? Currently, I release the check valve and allow the water in the pipe to run down below the frost line.

Thanks!
 

Valveman

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The 5 gallon tank only held 1 gallon of water. The 2 gallon tank only holds 1/2 a gallon of water. Both of those tanks are way too small unless used with a Cycle Stop Valve.

If you close the valve after the pressure tank so no water can go to the system, the only other way water can leak down is from a bad check valve. You might also have a leak in the suction before the check valve, but that would not cause the pump to cycle back on. Sounds like you replaced everything except the check valve than was causing the problem.
 

Reach4

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One more question ... If I were to put a foot/packer valve down in the well pipe, how would I "winterize" the setup? Currently, I release the check valve and allow the water in the pipe to run down below the frost line.

How about putting in a tee where you transition down on the well. To winterize, open the tee, and clear the line between the well and the house. Then blow air in, via a piece of 1/2 inch PVC for example, to blow water out.

To blow, I expect a shop vac or leaf blower could work. Or suck with the shop vac.

Even easier than a tee with a plug would be to put in a full port ball valve. That could be plastic. Then instead of removing a plug, just open the valve.
 

Gadgetrover

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Valveman and Reach4, thanks for your help and suggestions. I will study the use of the cycle-stop valve a bit. Chances are that I will move to a 20 gallon pressure tank. If I do that, would I still need a cycle-stop valve?

Reach4, your suggestions for winterizing the system after installing a foot valve seem workable and since it seems I will be doing some digging, I may be exploring it further in the near future.

I did exchange the check valve and was excited to see some rust staining on the bottom of the brass valve, indicating a possible leak. I installed a shiny, new valve and ... Same problems except the union right before the check valve started leaking. I managed to get the union to seal but will probably have to replace it soon. In any event, when I turn the water on, it runs as it used to for 30 seconds and then slows to a trickle for as long as the faucet is open. I figured I would test going back to the original pressure tank (2 gallon to 5 gallon) and, to my surprise, it made absolutely no difference in the run time ... It still slows to trickle in thirty seconds. I would have expected at least a doubling of the time it took to slow down.

I've spent a lot of time and money at this point with virtually no gain although the new check valve holds the full column of water in the pipe down to the well point, so I know it works.

I am not sure if my problem could be caused by the point/pipe not filling quickly enough. It seems it could but I would also think there would be other "symptoms" if that were the case. If I can't find a less intrusive solution, I will dig up the pipe and try pumping out the well point with another pump by slipping a hose down the well point.

I should mention that my pressure tank is an inline tank, mounted atop the pump with a tee. The suction line is a short piece of pipe attached to union, attached to another short pipe, attached to the check valve, attached to short piece of pipe, attached to the pipe going into the ground. With the exception of the union, I have replaced all the suction side of things up to the pipe in the ground.

If anybody can come up with anything else to try, please let me know. My shoulders, knees, and back are not happy at the thought of digging an 8' or deeper hole.

Thanks again for the responses!
 

Gadgetrover

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Unions are bad about making a suction leak. I would remove the union if possible and just glue in directly.
Valveman, thanks! I have certainly had my share of issues with unions over the years. I will have to do some rethinking to remove it from the system but I think it is a good idea to do so. It is there primarily to facilitate winterizing things and to be able to swap parts out a bit more quickly. I think if I try Reach4's suggestion to allow water to run back down the system beyond the check valve, it would help remove the need for the union and I could seal things up better. Still, is it likely a suction leak in the union would be what drops my pressure after 30 seconds and does not allow the pump to recover pressure until I turn off the valve? Also, if the union was leaking, wouldn't there be air getting into the line, causing the water to "sputter" at the faucet?

I am trying to summon the energy to face tearing into the whole installation from pump shed to well point. I dug everything up around 7 years ago, pulled up two old sandpoints (one that was in use and another I found down there). I dropped a new sandpoint around 2-3 feet from the previous ones (I am now seeing folks suggesting at least 6 feet. Sandpoints have been sunk in that spot since the 1930s.), adjusted the depth for the maximum amount of water in the pipe, used a secondary pump and hose down the well pipe to pump out silt and debris in the point, and then reburied it all. The well point goes down around 15' beginning around 5' below ground level. I have a tee in the pipe around 5' feet below ground level. One "arm" of the tee goes to the point, the line to the pump runs from the bottom of the tee and I have a 4' pipe extending from the other arm, which is capped (was intending to put a pitcher pump on it but then figured it would just allow air into the line.

I guess the big question at this point is whether it is still likely my problem is due to a problem in the suction side of the line between the pump and the well pipe and the line leading to it? If not, then I better start digging. In any event, I will try to figure out a way to eliminate the union and see how it goes.
 

Reach4

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Slathering a joint with shaving foam can detect an air/suction leak. The foam will get sucked in. But I agree that an air/suction leak should cause air in the water.

A combination vacuum+pressure gauge could be useful in diagnosis. If there is a check valve between the pump and the well point, I guess a pure vacuum gauge would do the job. If you have a high vacuum, but little water, then the sand point is not connected to water. Putting in a gauge on the suction side is another potential leak spot, but you can be careful. Tape+dope on threaded tapered connections is good.
 

Gadgetrover

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Slathering a joint with shaving foam can detect an air/suction leak. The foam will get sucked in. But I agree that an air/suction leak should cause air in the water.

A combination vacuum+pressure gauge could be useful in diagnosis. If there is a check valve between the pump and the well point, I guess a pure vacuum gauge would do the job. If you have a high vacuum, but little water, then the sand point is not connected to water. Putting in a gauge on the suction side is another potential leak spot, but you can be careful. Tape+dope on threaded tapered connections is good.
Reach4, thanks for your reply and suggestions. I have, at times, out of desperation, sprayed all the joints with some of that rubber spray compound (I think it is called FlexSeal). I was thinking about trying it on the union to see if it makes a difference.

The new check valve is definitely holding the column of water in the entire underground pipe, all the way to the well point. I had disconnected the union, between the pump and check valve, a few times to try to get it to seat better. After reassembly, the pump pulled water almost immediately after making up the space between the pump and the check valve.

Your suggestion of a vacuum or vacuum/pressure gauge sounds like a great diagnostic aid. I am having some difficulty sourcing a vacuum or combination gauge, however. Further, I am wondering where/how best to install them on the system. Note that all plumbing from the pump to where it goes into the ground is metal, not PVC.

The sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, that part of me that doesn't want to spend a week digging, driving well points and buying new parts, is getting worse. Still, your vacuum gauge idea is worth a try.

Thanks again for you help!
 

Gadgetrover

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Reach4, I am awaiting a vacuum gauge. In the meantime, I bought a pressure gauge and noted the following:
* Pump cuts in at 30 psi and cuts out at 44 psi.
* Pressure settles to around 43 psi.
* Pump recovery time, from cut-in to cut-out ranges between 24 seconds and 28 seconds.

The pressure drop off is, not surprisingly, when the pump cuts in. Still, the pump seems unable to recover pressure until after faucets are turned off.

I did notice what sounded like water and air mixing in the pump although there is no sputtering or other signs of air at faucets.

I am still thinking, perhaps wishfully, your suggestion of a suction leak in the union is likely.

Any ideas or suggestions prior to getting the vacuum gauge?
 

Reach4

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A combination pressure and vacuum gauge would go on the output line after the check valve (on the pump side). A pure vacuum gauge would be before the check valve.

You would normally like to see the pump run around 60 seconds or more.

I have no actual experience with jet pumps... I just have done some reading.
 
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