Well Pump Tripping Circuit Breaker

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by OnlyWhnChasd, Aug 5, 2014.

  1. OnlyWhnChasd

    OnlyWhnChasd New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Hello,

    I've read through a couple of other threads on here regarding well pumps and circuit breaker issues but haven't come across a scenario quite like what we are dealing with, so I'm hoping for some help. :)

    Our well pump trips the breaker after running the water for an extended period of time. The first time it happened, it occurred while refilling the 60 gallon hot water heater. The second time it occurred while trying to fill up the kiddie pool. During normal use (baths, showers, laundry, dishwasher, etc.) we have experienced no problems.

    I don't think it's an issue of overpumping because there is no loss of water pressure or diminished flow before the circuit pops, but I don't know enough to say for sure. We do have a 40 gallon pressure tank so maybe that is why? Pump is a Goulds 3/4 HP 3-wire. It is a bedrock well, 412 feet with the pump hung at 386 feet. 6" well diameter, 15 gpm and 1 hour recovery time to static water level which is 85 feet.

    I'm hoping we're not looking at having to replace the well pump, but from what I've been reading I'm afraid that may be the case. Wondering if there are any other possible causes to consider?

    TIA for any help!
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

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    2,219
    Location:
    IL
    Tell us about the breaker.
  3. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,458
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    When running water for an extended period of time, does the pump cycle on and off every few minutes or does it run continuously at low pressure?
  4. OnlyWhnChasd

    OnlyWhnChasd New Member

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    9
    Reach4, it is on a 2-pole (I think that's what you call them) 50 amp breaker--two 25s that are "connected" together so it is one switch.

    Valveman, that is a great question. I am embarrassed to say I don't know. How do I tell when the pump is running? That seems like such a stupid question. I'm ashamed for myself. LOL
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

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    2,219
    Location:
    IL
    That is a very large breaker. I would expect a 15 amp 2-pole breaker. If it is going bad , that would be a cheap fix. In fact, I think I would change that anyway, since a 50 amp breaker would not provide the right protection. 50 amp breaker would be marked 50, and it would be two 50 amp breakers in tandem. Maybe you are not looking at the right breaker. You could turn off that breaker, and make sure the pump does not run with the candidate breaker off. [​IMG]

    It would be interesting to measure the current with a clamp-on ammeter around one of the wires hooked to the breaker. That might be accessible at the pressure switch. You may have a friend with such a meter.

    If you remove the pressure switch cover, you could watch the action and see when the pump runs. Or listen to the clicks with the cover in place. When the pump is on, expect the pressure gauge to be rising in a common system. Expect the pump to stay on at least one minute each time.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2014
  6. OnlyWhnChasd

    OnlyWhnChasd New Member

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    9
    Interesting about the breaker. I always figured more was better so I never thought you could have one that was too large. I will look at having that swapped out. That would be awesome if that was the fix. I'm currently having visions of needing a new well pump--something that I would imagine is not going to be cheap on a 400+ foot well!

    Now that you've explained how (and I thank you for that!) I will investigate how the pump is running. Possible the pressure tank is bad? I do notice that when I fill the washing machine in the basement that the water pressure to drop throughout the house. Could that be a sign of a bad pressure tank or just part of living on a well? This stuff is all new to me...
  7. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,219
    Location:
    IL
    A breaker won't blow because it is too large. However 50 amp breaker blowing without something smoking (exaggerating a bit) is suspect. I also hope the only problem is the breaker.

    The pressure drop when you fill the washing machine is unusual. Most washing machines don't draw water so fast. A clogged or under-sized whole-house filter could cause such a symptom of the whole house pressure dropping when filling the washer.

    Look at the pressure gauge at the pressure tank while filling the washer. I expect it to not instantly drop during such a load. You can troubleshoot that problem after you get the first problem resolved.
  8. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,458
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    “Living on a well” does not automatically mean you won’t have good water or good pressure. Many times straight well water is higher quality than municipal water. Even well water with some kinds of quality issues can be mitigated easily to provide water quality equal or better than municipals.

    As for pressure, it is your pump system. You can make showers so strong it will peel skin like a car wash if that is what you want.

    With a little research and study, you can figure out how to have the water quality and pressure you desire. It is not that hard when you have places to ask questions as you go along.
  9. OnlyWhnChasd

    OnlyWhnChasd New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Back the the breaker--I misread your previous post and I think I'm misunderstanding the breakers. It is not a 2-pole 50 amp. It is a 2-pole with each switch labeled 25 amp--like the picture you posted above only 25 on the labels instead of 50. So perhaps the breaker is about right then as a 2-pole 25 amp?

    As for the pressure drop, I wouldn't be surprised if the whole-house filter is undersized. To me it looks tiny--smaller than a soda can. The only whole-house filters I've seen before have been those big canister ones that have the special wrench thingie to pry them apart.

    Thanks for the tip about checking the pressure gauge when filling the washer. I will do that. Breaker issue is definitely the priority though!
  10. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

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    4,458
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    If the pump is running continuously when the breaker trips, it is most likely a motor or wire problem. If the pump is cycling on and off every few seconds or minutes while you are using water for extended periods of time, the cycling has probably already damaged the motor. The sooner you stop the pump from cycling the better.

    You might get lucky and have a bad starting capacitor or even the breakers could be bad. You could stick in a new pair of 30’s and see what happens.
  11. OnlyWhnChasd

    OnlyWhnChasd New Member

    Messages:
    9
    We've stopped doing anything that taxes the well pump for extended periods--no kiddie pools this summer! Hopefully the pump hasn't been damaged. :( Now I'm nervous to try and run it to failure to troubleshoot it for fear it will fail completely. Since it doesn't happen during the course of normal everyday use, maybe I should just let sleeping dogs lie until next spring when we are in a better position to pony up $$$ to replace the well pump. Ugh.
  12. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,219
    Location:
    IL
    1. I would check the wire size at the pressure switch. If it is #14 or #12, that is what I would expect with a 3/4 HP 240 V pump. If the wire is bigger, then I suspect your pump may be bigger than 3/4 HP. How old is your pump and controller? You may see a number printed on the wire, even if you don't know wire sizes by looking. Don't touch. Just look, after you pull the cover. Put the cover back on then.

    2. Valveman suspects that it is possible that the pump is not restarting all of the time. Watching the pressure gauge during one of your big fills that pops a breaker could show that. Replacing the capacitor in the controller is not so expensive either. More expensive than a breaker, but still fairly cheap. Since you are not wanting to repeat your test too often, maybe you could record the pressure gauge by shooting a movie with a camera, evn the one on your smart phone, so that you could review the event.

    If during the movie, the pump goes on and off a few times, that could point to a problem and solution.

    There are more troubleshooting things that could be checked.
  13. OnlyWhnChasd

    OnlyWhnChasd New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Checked the wire, it is #12. I don't know how old the pump is. The house itself was built in 1989 and we just bought it about six months ago. I'm looking at the controller and it lists a model of Goulds pump that was available in its 2009 product catalog (came up when I Googled) so maybe not that old? However, maybe they same model pump is available today that was available 20 years ago. I don't know how that works. I suppose it's also possible the controller is new but the pump isn't?

    I may pop the cover on the controller and just see if there is any evidence of the capacitor being bad. I've read that sometime they leak a tar type substance when they go bad?

    I am guessing around $2-3,000 to replace the pump, so I'm all in for replacing the breaker/capacitor/controller! Of course they way things usually work for me is all that stuff is replaced and I still end up spending $3k.
  14. craigpump

    craigpump Member

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    939
    Location:
    ct
    $3000.00 sounds like a lot, but when you factor in the amount of water that $3000.00 investment will give you, the water is damn near free.
  15. OnlyWhnChasd

    OnlyWhnChasd New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Ha! You are correct, of course. We recently moved from a municipality where we averaged around $800 per year for water. So of course a $3000 well pump that will last 15 years or so is indeed a good investment. Doesn't make the check any less painful to write though!
  16. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    Location:
    Houston, TX
    A 3/4 HP motor should not require 25 Amps or even close to that at 230V.

    Why would you want to up the breaker to 30 amps ?

    5750 Watts should make something smoke on the well motor controller, if it is drawing 25 amps.

    Chance is that there is something else on that circuit, Maybe a pool filter pump, or air conditioner, Water Heater ?
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2014
  17. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,458
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    My book shows a 25 amp breaker is the right one to use for a 3/4HP. I would use a 30 anyway, because there is usually a light or something else tied in.
  18. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,106
    Location:
    Houston, TX

    I guess I missed something. A 3/4 hp motor will run on a 20 amp 120V outlet. Start current may be higher, but a good breaker should not trip, unless the Pump Dead Heads.

    On 240V a .75 HP motor should run on 10 amps, no problem, if all is working correct.

    I need to buy a new book and go back to school, I guess.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2014
  19. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,458
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    I agree with you, but that is what the book says.

    Deadheading would actually drop the amps by about 50%.
  20. OnlyWhnChasd

    OnlyWhnChasd New Member

    Messages:
    9
    The only thing on that breaker is the well pump and pressure tank. Water heater, heat pumps, lights, washer/dryer, etc. all have other breakers. So... final word, is a 25 amp breaker the correct size for a 3/4 HP pump? And if so, would the fact that the breaker is tripping (and nothing is smoking at the control box :)) indicate that the breaker might possibly be bad? I guess getting a hold of an ammeter and finding out what the pump is drawing would be the next thing.

    Thanks for all the help. I truly appreciate it. If nothing else it has me thinking. Which of course will either help or hinder the diagnosis process. :D
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