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Thread: I seem to have a pretty unique shallow pump problem.

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member mccabechristian's Avatar
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    Default I seem to have a pretty unique shallow pump problem.

    Hey there, I have been looking through this forum for two days now for anything that could lead me to solution. I could not find anything that fit so I hope I am not repeating a previous thread. I recently purchase one of those Utilitech plastic internal cast iron 1/2 Horsepower centrifugal pumps from Lowe's "it was all the budget I could get from my wife". It draws from an irrigation ditch. The foot valve/check valve is down in a plastic basin sunk into the ditch. The pump runs fine with adequate pressure for 15 zones of sprinklers.

    Here is the problem. I decided to install a pressure switch because I didn't like waking up at 2am to flip the breaker. I'm new at this so it did not occur for me to look at the pressure more than seeing what it was when the sprinklers were running. I installed a pressure switch but then I noticed that the pressure remains constant at 40psi when all zones are off. When all zones are on... 40psi. When the pump turns off the pressure drops to 0 slowly over about 1/2 to one hour.

    My first thought, leaky check/foot valve. Opened it up and looked, completely clean and functional. The foot valve is about 1 foot from the bottom of the plastic basin which is about 3 feet out and 3 1/2 feet down from the pump. Second thought, leak in sprinkler line. So, I closed the gate valve in the output line "which is located 3 feet from the output T" to see if pressure would adequately build as it should... stayed at 40 psi. K, if I keep gate valve closed and turn pump off, the PSI drops very quickly. While still off if I open the gate valve the PSI shoots to 40, then drops slowly. I have gone through the thing and taken every piece apart and put on enough gunk, glue, and teflon tape to plug a mediocre dam "all in the right application places of course".

    So, my question... what the heck could it be and what the heck can I do?

  2. #2
    Porky Cutter,MGWC Porky's Avatar
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    If using a pressure switch you must have a small tank as well. If you do have a tank and the pressure still drops you still have a leak somewhere!
    Porky Cutter, MGWC
    (Master Ground Water Consultant)

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member mccabechristian's Avatar
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    This is something I wondered about. I was told that the backflow from the sprinkler heads being closed would create enough pressure to activate the switch.

  4. #4
    Moderator valveman's Avatar
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    Without a pressure tank, you only have to leak a thimble full of water before the pressure drops and the pump restarts.

  5. #5
    Plumbing Contractor for 49 years johnjh2o1's Avatar
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    Why not just put the pump on a timer?

    John

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member mccabechristian's Avatar
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    I don't want to go on a pump timer because the irrigation ditch is not consistent. It runs 4 days a week but sometimes from upstream water usage it is not sufficient to run the pump. It's more just in case I am not home I want the switch to be pressure activated. Does that make sense? So you're saying a 4.4 gallon tank or is that just your picture? But wouldn't shutting the gate valve create at least some pressure in the line? It shows me holding at 40psi. Thanks for your help. Like I said, I don't know much about this stuff. In terms of a tank, I have a half acre lot and around 15 zones. What size do I need? Also, haha, installation?

  7. #7
    Moderator valveman's Avatar
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    Does the pump cycle on and off rapidly while you are using water?

  8. #8
    DIY Junior Member mccabechristian's Avatar
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    No, if I leave all sprinkler heads closed, it just stays at 40 psi as well as when strinkler zones are open. When I flip the breaker the pressure drops to zero. That's why I figured a leak in the line because no pressure builds in the line past 40. So, I closed the gate valve located after the output line T so that I could see if pressure built there. Pressure did not build, so my assumption was faulty foot valve. I went in and checked and it is fine... unless I need another check valve in addition to that foot valve/check valve combination thing.
    Last edited by mccabechristian; 05-14-2012 at 06:45 PM.

  9. #9
    Moderator valveman's Avatar
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    A good footvalve is all you need. Sounds like your pump can only build 40 PSI. Makes it hard to use a pressure switch when even 20/40 setting is too high for the pump. Without a pressure tank the pressure will drop off quickly. To properly use a pressure switch you need a pump that can build enough pressure for the pressure switch setting, and a pressure tank. Then if your pump comes on when not using water, you have a leak or a bad footvalve.

  10. #10
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccabechristian View Post
    I don't want to go on a pump timer because the irrigation ditch is not consistent. It runs 4 days a week but sometimes from upstream water usage it is not sufficient to run the pump. It's more just in case I am not home I want the switch to be pressure activated. Does that make sense?
    Not really unless your pressure switch has a low pressure cutoff. If the pump runs when there is no water, you risk ruining the pump.

    If the pump won't shut off because it cannot build enough pressure, you risk deadheading the pump and ruining it.

  11. #11
    DIY Junior Member mccabechristian's Avatar
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    Well, I'm going to fix it with a baseball bat or admit defeat. I went and got an additional check valve today and a ball valve for the outlet just in case the old gate valve wasn't closing off enough to show a build in pressure. I installed both and thought I was in luck... it surged to 50 then dropped off to 40psi again. I closed the gate valve to see if I could isolate some pressure and.... stayed at 40 psi. I've looked all over for leaks and see none between the ball valve "about 4 feet up in the outlet pipe" and the foot valve. Does this pump regulate it's own pressure output? Told you it was a unique problem. Also, when the pressure drops to 0, it doesn't lose prime. I look in there and still full of water.

  12. #12
    Plumber patrick88's Avatar
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    is the pump holding prime or just the pipes. I am thinking having a small tank would help with this.
    I'm just starting to work with an old friend of mine to bring solar electric and hot water systems, wind turbines, Flex Fuel Boilers, batteries, hydroponic gardening, books, pellet grills and more. Also the parts for DIY installation.

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