Well Pump Breaker Intermittently Trips

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog. Water is life.' started by FarmerTyson, Aug 14, 2019.

  1. FarmerTyson

    FarmerTyson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2019
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Hey Guys,

    I’ve been replacing and upgrading my pressure tank and filtration system at my house. I’ve also purchased a new CSV (thank you, Cary) but have yet to put it in due to not enough time in the day :).

    My old system was a 20gal tank with a 30/50 switch. I put a new 44gal tank with a 40/60 switch. I can’t tell what the size of the pump is, but I know it’s a two wire system - three wires running down to the pump and there was an old Franklin Electric box that was gutted and did say 1/2hp 230 volts on it, so I’m assuming it’s a 1/2hp pump?

    I replaced everything on Saturday and everything seemed to be working fine. Come Monday morning, however, I had no water pressure. Turned out that the break had tripped. I finally got it going again but had to make some adjustments to the switch. For whatever reason the cut off had drifted past 60psi. After that all had been working fine until just now.

    I was just washing dishes and noticed that the pressure seemed low. Sure enough, the breaker had tripped again!

    There isn’t any real rhyme or reason to it. In both scenarios, there wasn’t a ton of water demand, so I have no idea why this could be happening. The only similarity, but am hesitant to even say because I don’t know when the breaker tripped was that on Sunday night, the dishwasher was running and now this evening, the washing machine had finished its cycle. But again, I have no idea the timeline or if this is just coincidental.

    The only thing I’m thinking is one of two things:

    1. My pressure switch sometimes drifts above 60psi and the pump can’t keep up and draws too much, tripping the breaker. Although, when I just checked it now, it cut off at 60 psi. Can a cheap pressure switch drift like this? It’s an Everbilt bought from Home Depot. I have a square D switch on order with a low PSI cut off. Seems like this brand comes up more often than not.

    2. I really really hate to think this one because I don’t have the money now to replace, but could the pump be going bad? In reading a bunch of other posts, this doesn’t seem like something I can replace. The well has a stamped tag that says 665 ft deep with static water level at 39 ft. I would imagine this is too heavy for me to lift or do myself.

    I did also replace the outlet and cord for the switch, but used 12gauge, 300v SO cable, which was bigger than what was previously in place.

    Is it possible that the pump can’t keep up with the 40/60 switch? Why would I just now beginning to get these issues?

    Is there anything I can test?

    Any help is greatly appreciated. This has me quite distraught just thinking about having to replace this pump.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    1. Having the pressure go higher would not cause the breaker to trip.

    You want to measure the current through one of your wires while the pump is running. Use a clamp-around ammeter. What is the current?

    Also, what is the amp marking on your breaker?

    Does the breaker blow in the first 10 seconds of the pump running, or is it later in the run time?

    2. The pump may be mounted much shallower than the well is if the water level stays high.
     
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  4. drick

    drick In the Trades

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    Just because your pump can hit the 60 psi cutoff when the well is full doesn't mean it can after you have been drawing water from it for a while. How many GPM is the pump and how fast can the well recover? If you are drawing water out of the well faster than the well can recover it gets harder and harder for the pump to hit the 60 psi cutoff because the pump has to do more work lifting the water out of the well. This leaves less horsepower available to build pressure.

    The well may be 665ft deep but its unlikely that a 1/2 HP pump is at the bottom of it. My guess is either there is a 1.5 HP or greater pump at the bottom of that well OR a 1/2 HP pump is 100-200 feet down in your well. ...Or maybe some other pump in between at some other distance to the bottom.
     
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  5. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida Broad-Wing Hawk

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    Oct 28, 2009
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    Orlando, Florida
    How old is the pump? What size is the breaker? Does it cover two breaker slots for 220v? Not sure from your description if this is a 230V or 115v motor. You stated that the wire you upgraded it to 12 gauge and it is larger than the old wire, therefore the old wire was 14 gauge? I'm assuming you have a 115v motor. If it was 14 gauge then then breaker is 15 amp rating and this small motor is drawing current exceeding or near the 15 amps, more so as you near 60 PSI. That will cause the breaker to trip. I would set the pressure at the old setting 30-50 PSI or put back the original pressure switch and see what happens. It is also possible that the breaker is out of tolerance. After years of the pump running drawing current near it's limit, and thousands of power cycles, breaker can lose calibration and pre-trip below it's rating.

    From a google search;
    Taking the 1/2 hp, 230 V example, when delivering 1/2 hp to the pump it draws 5.0amps. However, if that same motor operates at its service factor of 0.8 hp (1/2 x 1.6) it draws 6.0 amps. In most installations, motors operate near the Maximum Load.

    For a 115v motor you double the amp for the one breaker and you are near 12 amps. At this level the breaker starts to warm up and when it gets hot enough even below 15 amp it can trip. Ambient air around it and even a load on an adjacent breaker can keep thing warm. I'm not saying you have this problem but it does happen. Do get a clamp meter and measure the current as Rach suggested
     
  6. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2006
    Occupation:
    Pump Controls Technician
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    All good advice above. However, a breaker tripping is usually a bad breaker or a short in the wire. If the pump was struggling to shut off or the water got too deep for the pump it should trip the automatic overload in the motor, not trip the breaker. Use an ohm or megger meter tot check for a short, and replace the breaker if there is no short.
     
  7. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2011
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Normally the amps a pump draws is in proportion to the GPM it moves rather than the feet it lifts, so if a pump dead heads due to dropping water level, the amps should drop, at least until the pump overheats.
    Drawing high amps could be from a wire chafed bare. Put a clamp-on ammeter on it to verify the high amps and then an ohm meter or megger as Cary suggests.
    IMHO, pressure switches with low cut-off are more of a nuisance than benefit. If you want to protect the pump, use a Cycle Sensor.
    https://cyclestopvalves.com/pages/cycle-sensor-pump-monitor
     
  8. FarmerTyson

    FarmerTyson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2019
    Location:
    Durham NC

    Thank you very much for the reply!

    I don't have a clamp-around ammeter, but will be picking one up today - it's been one of those tools I've been meaning to get, guess now is the time :). I'll reply back once I get the opportunity to measure it later today.

    On the breakers, it says 15 amp, so 2-pole 15-amp.

    The breaker doesn't seem to trip until later in the run time. But there doesn't seem to be any reasoning behind it.

    Ok, good to know. 665 ft of cable, piping, and pump would be impossible to lift by hand I think.

    I did just talk with our farrier and he said about the same thing. Luckily he's replaced pumps in the past and offered to help and directed me to a great supply house that he's always gone to. So worse case, this makes me feel much more at ease!

    I'll reply back later tonight with more details.

    Thanks!
     
  9. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2011
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Between shoeing horses, he works on wells? A divergent sideline...
     
  10. FarmerTyson

    FarmerTyson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2019
    Location:
    Durham NC
    2019-07-25 14.38.44.jpg
     
  11. FarmerTyson

    FarmerTyson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2019
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Thank you for the information!

    The pump appears to be 11 years old - it's stamped with 2008 and it's the only one I can find. So I'm assuming this to be the newest one.

    The size of breaker does cover two slots with 15amp breakers, so a 230v system.

    Sorry for the confusion, I replaced the outlet and the cable leading to the switch. This was 14 gauge 300v, SO cable, but for 30 cents a foot extra, I definitely wanted to go a bit more stout. The wires leading out to the pump are 12 gauge, 600v. So I think that should be good?

    Is it possible to adjust the 40/60 down to 30/50? Or better question yet, is it advisable/ok to do so? I still have the 30/50 switch, so worse case, I can try to put that back on - probably easier in the long run anyways.

    I'm actually starting to think, that maybe the breaker needs to replaced. Would it make sense that with my new 40/60, it's drawing more amps than the 30/50 did and with it being out of calibration or a little wonky (is that an industry accepted term :)), maybe it's pre-tripping.

    Definitely will get a ammeter as all are suggesting.

    Will report back later tonight!

    Thanks!
     
  12. FarmerTyson

    FarmerTyson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2019
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Awesome, thank you!

    I know it's not an impossible coincidence, but I have to think that it's more the breaker and not the cable. The cable seems new(ish), run in conduit, and never had this issue until I change the switch. Maybe I'm wishfully thinking it's the breaker as that's like $20 and 15 min worth of work when compared to running all new cable!

    If I did want to check the continuity and ohm it out, what's the best way? Should I disconnect all connections and then tie two conductors on one end and then on the other end, test continuity through those two? So for example, wire nut black and red wires together at the well head, then at the pressure tank, land my leads on them? (With power disconnected of course :)).

    Thanks!
     
  13. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

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    Feb 6, 2011
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    Retired
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    I would put back the old 30/50, not because of the pressure setting but because the new one is inconsistent. BTW, the switch should be making/breaking both legs so all 4 contacts. If the pump dead heads at 60, then running it at 50 should help.

    It is obvious that the well casing is used as storage to draw down when demand exceeds supply. If you need more storage, you will need a stronger pump that can draw it down further.
     
  14. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    [​IMG]

    A 5.5 inch ID casing holds 1.234 gallons per foot. With a low-yield well, the pump could be placed farther down to allow for storage.

    As the water level in the well falls, the amps would be expected to drop some.

    Changing breakers is cheap, but you might as well measure the current. A 15 amp 2-pole breaker is also appropriate for a 3/4 HP pump.
     
  15. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

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    Retired
    Location:
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    If the GPM is still 3 and the static water level is still 39 feet and you draw it down during heavy use, it should come back up to 39 feet at a rate of 3 GPM. The pump should not actually dead head but rather just slow to the rate the well is recovering.
    If it appears to be dead heading, meaning the the pressure never climbs after all water use stops, then there is a possibility there is a leak in the line that is as fast as the well can recover. Is there any check valve between the pump and the tank that might mask a leak?
     
  16. FarmerTyson

    FarmerTyson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2019
    Location:
    Durham NC

    Good to know! That makes sense. Thank you!

    I hope the wire isn't chafed anywhere. I didn't touch it (except at the switch side) and it would be a huge coincidence (which I know is possible :)) that this occurred at the same time.

    I actually have my CSV sitting in my shop now! Being that this is all new to me, I'm taking it in steps in case something happens, I can easily point to a few things rather than an entire list of things - like now hahah!

    Ok good to know on the low cut-off. Maybe I'll return it when it comes in.

    One thing I have noticed, when I drain from the boiler valve at the Tee, it will drain much faster than what the pump can supply. I'm guessing this is ok? (Not to confuse the two, but it just came to mind)
     
  17. FarmerTyson

    FarmerTyson Member

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    Jul 30, 2019
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    Durham NC
    Hahaha! That's too funny! He's actually quite an impressive guy - diesel mechanic, certified Yamaha mechanic, NC State University's farrier, just one of those guys that knows how to do everything.
     
  18. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Joined:
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    Retired
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Depends on the size of that valve as to how many GPM you can draw it down. You should measure it with a pail and a stopwatch. A typical garden hose spigot might move around 5 GPM. If the pump cannot produce enough GPM, it could be that it is by design or it could be that you have a hole in the pipe, masked by a topside check valve.
     
  19. FarmerTyson

    FarmerTyson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2019
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Very fitting!! There's the connection! And a good idea... hmmm

    I'll definitely do both today. New breaker and measure the current draw. Should I up this to a 2-pole, 20 amp? Or probably better to leave as is.
     
  20. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

    Joined:
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    Occupation:
    Pump Controls Technician
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    My guess is the pump will only be set at 200-300 feet.
     
  21. FarmerTyson

    FarmerTyson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2019
    Location:
    Durham NC
    I don't think it's dead heading; it will continue to climb even when using water in the house - shower, sinks, and toilet flushes. I checked out a high demand scenario after I put everything in and I was pleased with what I saw (with my limited knowledge).

    Definitely no check valve between the well head and pressure tank. I'm assuming there is one at the pump, but I did not put one in - as per the advice on this forum - you might have also commented on that too! I'm now seeing why you guys advised against it; could've been one more link in the chain.

    Thanks!
     
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