Testing for Leaks at the Pitless Adapter

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog. Water is life.' started by Mark Weiss, Jun 5, 2018.

  1. Mark Weiss

    Mark Weiss New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2018
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    I'm having the same problem that another member posted about here: https://terrylove.com/forums/index....-cycling-on-without-water-use-in-house.46866/

    However, the last time we had the black pipe split, about 2 years ago, we had a gyser of water in our driveway whenever the pump kicked on. I spliced in a new section after digging a huge hole to access it, and it was fine after that.

    I noticed about a month ago that our pump would cycle once in a few hours, even with no water use.
    I put in a new pump and a new brass nipple between pump and drop pipe in 2008. It's a submersible about 220' down. That's about 60' from the house where the 1" black pipe enters.

    The pump cycling has gotten more frequent, now about ever 15 minutes. So I shut off the main valve to the rest of the house, and it still loses pressure. There is a leak somewhere between the tank and the pump.

    There IS a check valve at the feed to the tank, but who knows how well it seals.

    In 2008, the original 1" iron nipple developed a hole and we noticed that we'd run out of pressure if the washing machine an shower were both in use. When I pulled the pump, I found the bad nipple and replaced it with brass, hoping that would last longer, as some brass fittings elsewhere in the house seemed to outlast the iron and copper pipes used.

    In the past, I've had cracks in the black pipe underground and when the pump was off, it would suck in sediment, so when the pump started, we'd get brownish water at the taps. This is not happening this time.

    Now that I've described the system, here's my question: If I have a leak at the bottom of the drop pipe, I should be able to feel a negative pressure or suction if I pull the Pitless adapter and put my hand over it after cycling the pump on and then off, right? If I don't feel suction there, then that suggests the leak is in the pipe from the Pitless to the house or somewhere along that length and just isn't bad enough yet to cause wet ground.

    I think if the leak is down the well, either drop pipe or nipple, I'd feel suction when I put my hand over the Pitless adapter. Is that a valid test for this kind of leak? If I have a leak down the well, I'm going to need to hire a couple of guys to help me pull it all out of the well so I can repair it. I used to have friends that could help, but they are no longer in the area (everyone moved to Florida), leaving me with no helpers. I need to diagnose this with a high degree of certainty before I hire help to pull the pump.
     
  2. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

    Joined:
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    Occupation:
    Pump Controls Technician
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    The check valve at the tank is bad, or the pump would not be cycling. Replacing the check will stop the cycling, but will probably cause one of two other problems. Either you will start getting air in the faucets, or water hammer on pump start. Pulling up the pump to check for suction on the pitless won't be easy, but would work, Actually just pump water up to the removed pitless and shut off the pump. If the water in the pipe falls back any, there is a leak or a back check valve down hole.
     
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  4. Mark Weiss

    Mark Weiss New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2018
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    Thanks for confirming my thought on checking at the Pitless. I figure if there's a crack in the drop pipe (plastic) or the brass nipple has rotted through, I should feel suction if I put my hand over the opening on the flange just after someone shuts off the pump.

    I suspect a problem with a nipple or drop pipe because it also seems that tank fill times are longer than before.

    The check valve in the house is a PVC valve. Do these wear out? Perhaps I should have replaced it when I redid the tank tee piping last spring.

    How long do the brass nipple last, compared to iron? The first nipple was iron pipe and it rusted through after 26 years. I had hoped the brass would last quite a bit longer. My hunch is the drop pipe split somewhere from motor torque at startup. We used a lot of water since our inlaws moved in with us in 2009. With six people in the house, the toilet flushing every few minutes, water running, wash loads, etc. The well water is a tad acidic here. But all that torsion is probably taking a toll on the drop pipe.

    I don't relish the idea of having to bring all that 220' of pipe plus a 1.5 HP pump motor out of the well. Last time we did it, we had two construction guys who were friends help with pulling it up and putting it back down.

    If I have to pull it, I will probably replace the pump and the drop pipe, even though the pump is only ten years old.
     
  5. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

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    Pump Controls Technician
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    Do not use plastic check valves. And there should be no check valve at the tank anyway. If you can't see the water in the pitless, it has already drained back and you have a leak down hole. Acidic water and screwing two dissimilar metals together cause them to rust out. Brass usually last longer that steel.
     
  6. Mark Weiss

    Mark Weiss New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2018
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    In 1997, I tore out all the copper plumbing in this house and replaced it with PVC because I was having pinholes develop in a copper pipe several times a year. When I redid the tank, I did the same thing, went to all 1" PVC except, reluctantly, brass/bronze for the tank Tee as that's all that I could find.
    I put the check valve at the tank because the original installation that a well digger installed had one at the tank.

    So this leaves four possibilities:

    1. foot valve in the pump is bad (not likely, 10 years old)
    2. brass nipple rotted out (not likely, 10 years old)
    3. drop pipe is split (more likely, 45 years old, though no evidence of a problem in 2008)
    4. black underground pipe is developing a leak (though I don't see any wet ground--it may be too slow to cause a flood)

    Weather permitting, I plan to pull the Pitless adapter and hang it over the well casing and observe the water level and try to feel if there's negative pressure after turning off the pump.

    I've timed the pump cycling. It mostly comes on in 21 minute intervals, though once it came on in as short as 11 minutes. Pump runs about 10-13 seconds before upper limit pressure reached. No one in the house using water. If tank fill times increase, I would suspect a leak down in the well. Had that happen in '99. When I first installed the pump, tank fill time was about 8 seconds. Of course that varies with the amount of precharge so not a good indicator without knowing initial precharge and what it is now.
     
  7. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    Try removing the well cap and listening down the casing. Also observe around the pitless. Either look at night using a bright flashlight, or reflect the sun down the casing.

    13 seconds is too short. This is not the cause of your problem, but it is an additional thing to address.
     
  8. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

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    Pump Controls Technician
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    Yeah 13 seconds is way too short. And every 21 minutes is way too often. My guess is the pipe is split, as this is caused by the pressure surge from having the extra check valve at the tank.
     
  9. Mark Weiss

    Mark Weiss New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2018
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    When the pump was new, and all drop piping was in good condition in 2008, tank fill time was 8 seconds. The fact that it is now 11 seconds suggests that the pump is less efficient now, or the system is losing pressure somewhere.

    Thanks for the suggestion about listening down the well casing. I have a search light I can aim down there to get a good look at it.

    This system has always had a check valve at the tank. The company that installed the well in 1973 put it in there.

    One of the things that I think put additional stress was the fact that the tank tee was done wrong originally, causing water from the pump start to collide with water going the other way to the faucets. I used to feel this collision when using the garden hose--when pump would kick on, the pressure would drop and surge quickly, causing the hose to jerk a bit. I changed out the 43 year old tank tee setup last year and put in a modern one according to the recommended configuration. This eliminated the slamming action when the pump kicks on.

    How does a check valve at the tank cause the drop pipe to split? Does it not open immediately under spring pressure when the pump kicks on?
     
  10. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    It's a CT thing. Some states prohibit a check valve at the precharged pressure tank fed from a submersible well pump. Some require it. https://terrylove.com/forums/index.php?threads/submersible-pumps-and-multiple-check-valves.26301/

    The argument for forbidding that is that the check valve may allow a vacuum in the underground piping, and that contamination can be sucked in.

    The argument "for" is that the check valve serves as a backup to the under-water check valve so that a leak does not cycle the pump. https://terrylove.com/forums/index.php?threads/is-check-valve-at-pressure-tank-necessary.65972/

    Some check valve can have the ball and maybe other innards removed, which will let the housing remain, but still let the pressure tank help maintain pressure in the piping.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
  11. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

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    8 or 11 seconds of run time is terrible. I can't believe your pump lasted more than 1 year. What size tank and pump do you have? And how long does the pump stay off before coming back on?

    A lot pressure builds up between the two check valves when the pump starts, and the resulting surge of water crashes into the second check valve just like a boxer punching you in the nose as hard as he can. The water hammer between the two check valves can have pressure spikes that are 5-10 times higher pressure than your pump can even build. Pipe rated for 200 PSI is seeing spikes of 500+ PSI, which is how a second check valve causes the pipe to split, which is happening a lot since your pump cycles every 8 seconds.
     
  12. Mark Weiss

    Mark Weiss New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2018
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    Normally, the pump would stay off for many hours in between fills. But when running the garden hose, I'd say it cycles on about once every 3 minutes and runs for 10-12 seconds until the pressure drops to the cut in level. The tank is a Flotec 82 gallon equivalent draw down pre-charged tank. I check the charge annually and add air as needed.

    Thanks for explaining the check valve operation and how it affects pressure and turn on.

    A few minutes ago, I pulled the cap off my well casing and listened down inside. Silence. Then I caused the pump to switch on and again listened. All I heard was a hum of the motor, but no other sounds. It's dark down there! I rigged up a searchlight by lashing it to a hand truck parked up against the well casing, but I can't get the light to stay on the adapter. The glare off the casing makes it impossible to see the adapter in the shadow. I need to get the lighting worked out so I don't have trouble putting it back into the adapter after I pull it up.

    I put the handle on the Pitless and wiggled it a bit and water started to come out of that joint. As I started to pull up a bit, I got sprayed with water. It's under pressure. That means the tank pressure is pushing hard against it, which means the check valve isn't working at the tank.

    I noted that the check valve is sched 40 PVC and is mounted vertically in this installation. So gravity is working against whatever spring is inside keeping it shut. Water from the well comes into the side of the valve that is up-facing. If the spring rotted out, then the valve cannot shut anymore.

    Going to depressurize the system and try to pull the Pitless and check the water level in the drop pipe after lunch.
     
  13. Boycedrilling

    Boycedrilling In the Trades

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    Sep 30, 2013
    Location:
    Royal City, WA
    In your last post you said you have an 82 gallon precharge tank. The actual working storage of a tank this size is between 20 and 25 gallons, depending upon the pressure switch settings.

    You also said that while running the garden hose that your cycle time is about 3 minutes and it “runs for 10-12 seconds until the pressure drops to the cut in level”. Not really sure what you are trying to say there. Is the 10-12 seconds how long the pump is running in that 3 minutes or is that how long it is off in those 3 minutes?

    Either of those two cases is not good. Assuming the pressure tank really is good, which I doubt. If the pump is only running for, let’s round it up to 15 seconds, that means that the pump is producing 40 gpm, plus the amount coming out of the hose. So over 50 gpm. If the pump is only off for 15 seconds, that means that your hose is flowing 40 gpm. As Mr Spock would have said, That is not logical.

    So I really really doubt that your pressure tank is good. I highly recommend you go to a cycle stop system.

    If your pitless adapter was leaking, you would have heard the water spraying immediately upon removing the well cap, unless it was just a drip. More likely you have a fitting somewhere, probably underground, that is leaking a gallon a minute or less. Slight possibility the leak is in the check valve at the pump.

    Could even be a toilet tank valve. Put some food coloring in the tank. Wait a couple of hours without using it. If the water in the tank has cleared up, or the water in the bowl gets color, there’s your leak.
     
  14. Mark Weiss

    Mark Weiss New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2018
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    My vision is really bad and I can't see the text on the computer screen that well. What I meant was the pump runs 10-12 seconds and is off for 3 minutes when the garden hose is wide open.

    I was never impressed with the drawdown on this tank. Not even CLOSE to 82 gallons. My toilet uses about 5 gallons of water per flush, and that's enough to make the pressure drop from 60PSI cutoff to 40PSI cut on. A better tank is on my TO DO list eventually. But it needs to be a low boy form factor due to space limits. Recommendations for a tank that will last 20 years or more are welcome.


    I pulled the Pitless adapter up and hung it over the edge of the well casing. If I stick my finger inside the adapter flange, I can feel water in there. A minute later, the water level had not changed. So I guess that leaves the underground piping having a very slow leak of 5 gallons over 20 minutes.
     
  15. Boycedrilling

    Boycedrilling In the Trades

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    The actual water stored in an 80 to 88 gallon bladder or diaphragm tank is 20 to 25 gallons. It will vary according to your pressure switch setting.

    If you want to get into the science of pressure tank drawdown, Boyle’s law is the principle involved. One brand 80 gallon tank will not hold any more or less than another brand of the same size tank at the same pressure.

    Some brands actually use the amount of water stored as the model number. For example the Flexcon fl28 is their model number for their 82 gallon tank.
     
  16. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

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    Retired
    Location:
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    A garden hose typically uses between 2.5 and 5 GPM, so a 20 - 25 gal. drawdown for 3 minutes calculates to 7 - 8 GPM, unusual for a garden hose. Measure out the GPM with a 5 gallon bucket and a stopwatch to see what your actual GPM and gallons of drawdown are. Once you know the drawdown, timing the refill will get you the pump fill rate.
     
  17. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    "Flotec 82 gallon equivalent drawdown" is a 35 gallon tank.
    So expect drawdown closer to 8 gallons.

    Measuring would put a real number on it.
     
  18. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Joined:
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    Retired
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    That would put 3 minutes closer to the 2.5 GPM lower end estimate of a garden hose.
     
  19. Boycedrilling

    Boycedrilling In the Trades

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Location:
    Royal City, WA
    A garden hose without a sprinkler or nozzle on the end, connected to a frost free yard hydrant WILL flow in excess of 12-15 gpm. So the only accurate way to measure flow is to measure how long it takes to fill a 5 gallon bucket.

    After reading reach4’s last post, I checked on flotec’s specifications. Yes their designation of a “82 gallon equivalent” is misleading. What they are saying is that it is “equivalent to a 83 gallon hydropnuematic tank”. It is only a 35 gallon tank. Below is the actual water storage rating at various pressure switch settings.
    • Tank Capacity: 35 Gallons
    • Equivalency Rating: 82 Gallons
    • Drawdown with 20/40 Switch: 12.7 Gallons
    • Drawdown with 30/50 Switch: 10.7 Gallons
    • Drawdown with 40/60 Switch: 9.3 Gallons
     
  20. Mark Weiss

    Mark Weiss New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2018
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    Filled the bucket in 48 seconds. I have 1" commercial hose and the valve is a ball valve, which does not restrict flow when it's wide open.

    Yeah, the tank looks like it can hold 25-30 gallons of water. I need to experiment with the precharge. Maybe it's not enough.
     
  21. Boycedrilling

    Boycedrilling In the Trades

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
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    Royal City, WA
    5 gallons in 48 seconds is 6.25 gallons per minute.
     
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