under high demand, intermittent loss of water pressure

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog. Water is life.' started by SlingBlade[LCD], Jul 9, 2006.

  1. SlingBlade[LCD]

    SlingBlade[LCD] New Member

    Jul 9, 2006
    Great forum - glad I found it.

    Here's the situation, I'll try to provide as much detail as possible.

    House was built, ~1988, we are third owners.
    On well system, with 300'+ well, unknown pump, new water pressure tank, new water softener (last two a little over a year old)

    Moved in about two years ago- have had very few problems w/ water supply.

    5 weeks ago, we started a major kitchen remodel. 1st week was demo. (the kitchen remodel may be important)
    4 weeks ago, the electrician showed up and began running new circuits for the changed kitchen layout.
    4 weeks ago, they also had to move a hot and a cold line back 4' to acct for a wall movement (so, both hot and cold lines were open for a bit, but probably not important?)
    4 weeks ago, we experienced what we believe to be a loss of power to in the finished basement (easier to trip breaker that governs basement outlets)
    4 weeks ago, we also began experiencing the following:
    a) under high demand (filling a tub, doing laundry) the water pressure will suddenly drop to zero.
    b) I thought the wife was nuts, but sure enough I went and ran the tub at wide open on cold for about 5-8 minutes, and it suddenly cut off. About two minutes would pass, and then the water would come back on. After another two minutes ,the water goes back off. And so on.
    c) So, I wait about an hour, then leave the cold water tap on full, and go watch the pressure tank gauge in the basement utility space.

    At about 36-40psi, the pump kicks on (can feel slight vibration on pressure tank) and the pressure rises back up to about 55-60psi. The switch clicks, and the pump goes off (stop feeling vibration). THe pressure then begins to fall as the cold water tap is drawing the pressure down. When it gets to the cutoff, the pump kicks back on.
    HOWEVER - this cycle will only go about 3 times. Upon the third or fourth pump on cycle, the pressure fails to get to the upper limit, but the pump cuts off anyways (thermal protect?). At that point it goes into the on 2 minutes, off two minutes state, and the water pressure from the taps follows suit (obviously), going on two minutes, then off w/ no water for 2 minutes. Keeps going like that.

    I have done the following:

    1. Consult w/ a buddy of a buddy who is apparently a "well guy". He checked over the amperage and voltage at the pressure switch at the base of the pressure tank. He said it appeared that he was getting about 15 amps, which was high. He said that normally when a pump is "getting shot" you might pull 30 amps, but that 15 amps was definitely over what it ought to be.

    He did notice that the only 14 month old pressure tank (State PumpMate Diapraghm Pump Tank Model SPMD20, old one was leaking when we moved in) appeared to have the new pressure switch set to 30/50. However it is supposed to be a 40/60 switch. He didn't understand why it had been lowered by the plumbers that did the tank installation work last year, and we agree that he should move it back to 40/60, which he did.
    We left it at that and I spent the rest of the weekend troubleshooting myself, not wanting to chuck out the $$$ for a new pump.

    2. Checked the bladder in the pressure tank
    I shut the breaker off to the well pump, opened up the faucet nearest the tank, and waited until the water ran out. Leaving the faucet open, I went and checked the schrader valve psi. (no water came out)
    I got 32 - ? (This was after the well guy left, but I don't think he checked this).
    My understanding is that it should be ~2# under the switch setting.
    So, I pumped it back to 38 psi using a good bicycle pump. Verified the psi twice, and recapped the valve, flipped the breaker back on.
    Ran the "run-down" test again, no effect, still 2 min cycling eventually.

    3. Let the sucker pump for awhile, see if the breaker gets hot.
    It was also suggested that possibly one of the dual breakers is getting hot under load - so i let the pump cycle for about 10 minutes after going into "2 min repeat mode" - the breaker seemed fine, no heat.


    Well: In excess of 300 feet. Not sure exactly, will pull county records tomorrow.

    Pump(s): (this is unclear)
    Older looking sticker on the breaker panel indicates
    Myers 2NFL1 9.6amp Date 0694
    Newer looking sticker on the breaker panel indicates
    Franklin Electric 2445089004, HP1, 230V RPM 3450, 8.2AMP, 9.8AMP
    (no install date)
    Its not clear if the Franklin is what is in there now.
    Apparently the year before we moved in (2004), there was a lightning strike which took out the pump and the owner replaced it himself, most likely with a Home Depot jobby (2003). No idea what he did or did not put in there.
    So, I may be on the 2nd or 3rd pump over the lifetime of this house.

    Water Softner and Whole House Filter:
    (I have replaced the filter diligently.)Its a Culligan model? capable of 9-10gals/min.

    So, here we are:
    During the week, its really not much of a problem. Its just the wife and me for the next 3-4 weeks (baby incoming at end of July!)
    Never seem to run out.
    But on the weekends with laundry, house cleaning, and additional showers, this is a problem. It will be worse with the new baby, I'm sure. Esp when mother in law comes in. Yikes!

    1. What the heck is going on? Why has the water system been rock solid, and now having issues?

    2. Could the electrician, while doing the kitchen rewiring, screwed up the volts available to the pump? I'm thinking it is way too much of a coincidence that the both the apparent decrease in power in the finished basement AND the pump problems start the same week the electrician comes out and tears open the panel?

    3. Are there any tests on the elec panel/pump/switch that myself or the electrician can do to check to make sure he has not effected the voltage to the pumps and basement? Is this even possible?

    4. Is it possible that the well is not producing as much as it used to?
    None of the neighbors having problem and plenty of rain over last 2 months. Again, this all seems mighty coincidental.

    Sorry for the industrial size post - but I wanted to get all the details in.
    Thanks in advance - much appreciated! (I guess you could say the "pressure" to fix this issue on, w/ the newborn coming and all) ;)
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2006
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Nov 12, 2005
    While I am not a well guy the first thing I would do is I would check the well water depth and then run the pump until it does it again then check the water depth again. If all checks out O.K. I would check the cut off switch contacts and if they check out O.K. zero in on the pump.
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  4. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Oct 20, 2005
    New Hampshire
    I can't imagine what an electrician could do to change the voltage to the pump, short of cutting a circuit or putting 115 Volts on the pump; and then it wouldn't work at all.

    You might not have correct air in the tank, or the pump may be losing capacity, or running out of water in the well. Make sure the air pressure and the water pressure are the same when there is water in the tank. If the gauges don't match, you will have to make an adjustment when you set the air and switch.

    If there is too little air in the tank, the pump will "short cycle" as you have observed.

    If the START pressure on the switch is below the air pressure, the tank will run out of water before the pump starts and water pressure will suddenly go to zero.

    Check the operation with NO water demand. Does the tank/pump hold pressure after the pump shuts off? If it doesn't, you have a leak somewhere in either the check valve in the pump, or in the pipe from pump to tank.

    Switches are usually adjustable. If the pump is not pumping as it should, you could go to a lower pressure level and see if the pump can keep up with demand.

    You might set the system up to operate from 25 to 45 psi. If you decide to do that, here is the process.

    1. Empty the tank of water and set the air pressure at 23 psi.
    2. Set the switch start at 25 psi.
    3. Using the secondary setting on the switch, set the upper pressure at 45 psi.

    Then, try to minimize use until you see if the well and pump are delivering water reliably.

    Observe the pressure after the pump shuts off and you are using no water. Does the pressure hold?

    Report back.
  5. speedbump

    speedbump Active Member

    Jul 15, 2005
    Water well and pump tech.
    Riverview, Fl.
    Since you said the pump shut off but the pressure switch points were still closed, I will assume the overload protector in the motor is shutting the motor down. This means the motor is pulling high amps or is getting hot. If a homeowner put in a HD pump this could be many things besides being an inferior pump. He may have used the same old wire which is not a good idea, he could have installed it too shallow where it runs out of water during heavy use. Your buddy already said it was pulling high amps. 15 amps is too high for a 1hp Franklin motor. It should be 9.6 or so.

  6. SlingBlade[LCD]

    SlingBlade[LCD] New Member

    Jul 9, 2006
    You guys are quick! Thanks.
    Won't be able to try the suggestions until I get off work, but definitely will.

    Stupid question....how do I check the well depth/water level?
  7. speedbump

    speedbump Active Member

    Jul 15, 2005
    Water well and pump tech.
    Riverview, Fl.
    You would probably have to pull the pump to get a reading. Dropping a lead weight with a fishing pole is the quickest and easiest way.

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