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Thread: What is the problem- is it my well, the pump, tank, or something else?

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member npkr's Avatar
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    Default What is the problem- is it my well, the pump, tank, or something else?

    Hello,

    I would greatly appreciate any advice, ideas, or insight. I'm sorry for the length of this but I tried to include as much detail as possible.

    I have been having a problem with my water pressure over the last 6 months or so, with it going low during showers and other higher usage times more often and to a greater extent than in the past. Now my irrigation system seems to be effected and I have new seed out on the yard after new landscaping.

    I had some landscaping done around my backyard pool two weeks ago which included installation of a new irrigation system in the backyard only. However, I noticed that not only does the shower pressure virtually disappear at some point or points in the irrigation cycles (which are more frequent than usual because of the need to water after hydroseeding more frequently).

    I noticed earlythe other morning that one of the zones (zone 15 of 18 total) would peter out in the middle of the stations set watering time- the heads would just drop into the ground and continue to bleed water with time still counting down on the control panel in my basement. Zone 1 &2 are off (established mulch beds), 3 to 5 cover the front yard, and 6 to 18 cover the backyard. Zones 6 to 18 is the new backyard system (the prior one being destroyed by digging the pool) installed by my irrigation contractor two weeks ago. Zones 6-16 are rotary or spray head zones, while 17 & 18 are both drip irrigation zones for the new planting beds around the new pool. The way it is programmed now, front yard zones 3, 4, &5 (rotary heads, 30 minutes each zone) irrigate first, followed by 6-16 (rotary and spray heads, about 12 to 15 minutes each), followed by 17 &18 (drip irrigation, one hour each). There is a 10 minute station delay between each station (which I increased a few days ago from the 5 minutes the contractor programmed).

    I tried to do some diagnostic maneuvers of my own thinking this morning:

    First, I ran zone 15 earlier in the cycle, moving it up manually to follow zone 12, in case the well was running low/dry. It worked fine. However, all subsequent zones 6-16 also went through their stations without a problem. Even after all 16 zones had watered, I was able to have zone 15 water again without any difficulty. I will say that I notice on most zones that the water pressure drops a bit after the water seems to run out of the tank below the tanks pressure switch "cut-on" point (40 psi) when the well pump is activated, but it is not severe and watering seemed satisfactory. Then I remembered, because it was a weekend- today, Saturday, no one had taken showers that early in the morning (6:30am). Usually, by this time on a weekday, four showers would have been taken, potentially dropping the well's water level significantly.

    Up to this point, I was at least pleased that everything seemed to be working ok. However, when I manually turned on zone 17 (drip irrigation) after finishing watering and testing maneuvers for 6-16, the well tank pressure gauge dropped somewhat quickly to the 40 psi cut-on point, the well-pump was triggered and audibly began pumping as usual. But about 20-30 seconds after the pump started, the pressure would drop suddenly and precipitously from about 38 psi to 16 psi (within 3-4 seconds). Well pump could be heard to continue pumping. Over the next 10 to 15 minutes it slowly decreased to 12 psi when I turned zone 17 off. Before shutting it off I repeated this several times and each time it had the same sudden drop in pressure at the same point. I then turned on zone 18, also drip irrigation, and it did the same thing as 17- sudden severe pressure drop, pump still running. I wondered if this zone might have a leak. My irrigation contractor looked at it this morning and couldn't find one. He thinks the pump is going bad.

    The pump is a 2-wire, 1 hp pump, installed in 1993 when the home was built, as far as I know. I bought the home 10 years ago and doubt although do not know for sure that the pump was ever replaced. So I am presuming the pump is 20 yrs old. Per dep of health well test records: the well is 220 ft deep, static water level 40 ft, pump positioned 180 feet down from grade. With 1 hp pump, show 10gpm down to 7gpm over 24 hours with static water level depth after 24 hrs at 160 ft., overall well yield 8 gpm.

    I should add that I had a well contractor out a couple of days ago to take a look. He doubted it was the well pump going bad. He said they either work or don't work- 'mine is working so it should be ok,' he said. He said rarely is it a problem with the well itself. He did charge/pressurize the tank which he said was quite low at 18 psi to, I think, 38 psi, and changed out the gauge and switch. He said it could be the metal pipe fitting leading into the tank that sometimes clogs as another possibility. He doubted it was the tank itself- it is Amtrol WellXTrol, 60 gallon tank, stamped 1992. He said it seemed to be in good condition at least from the way it looked on the outside. He said he did not detect a leak in the bladder.

    I have no idea what is going on here. I'm more confused than when I started looking into it. Is the well running dry or depleting too rapidly? Is the pump "going bad" but not dead yet? (My irrigation contractor said that under stress the pump may go into a protect mode or overheat and go from 220 to 120volt?- not quite sure what he said), Do I need a new well tank, new t pipe or a new pump, or both? Do I need a new or deeper well? Is it not producing enough water anymore? Could there be an unseen leak in zones 17/18 ( I think they are tied in together with a common feeder)?

    Any suggestions? I could really use some help here and it will be greatly appreciated. I'm hoping to avoid an expensive piecemeal replacement of the entire system which I feel might end up occuring without a true diagnosis of the problem.

    Thank you.

  2. #2

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    My old pump did this also. It was for 2 houses and cattle. It just couldnt keep up with demand. Did ok as long as only one thing was on. The pump was worn out. I think mine was about 16-18 years old. Got a new one, solved the problem and this was 13 years ago now. Hope mine last's a few more years!

  3. #3
    DIY Senior Member craigpump's Avatar
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    Did your pump guy pull the pump up to check the yield of the well and check the flow and pressure test the pump at the well?

    Maybe the well isn't making the same amount of water it did when it was originally drilled.

    If not, he is assuming it is ok without really knowing.

    Same thing with the tank. Did he take the fitting off the T to see if it was clogged?

    If not you need someone who will diagnose your problem and not make assumptions.

  4. #4
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by npkr View Post
    He doubted it was the well pump going bad. He said they either work or don't work- 'mine is working so it should be ok,' he said.
    I wore out the wet end of my former pump and you can find other threads on this forum that did as well.

    craigpump is spot on.

  5. #5
    Sprinkler Guy Wet_Boots's Avatar
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    Since a controller capable of operating 18 zones has more than a minimum of functions, you should look to set a delay after one or more zones operate. During the delay period, there will be no watering, and the water level in the well can recover.

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member npkr's Avatar
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    Thank you for your responses. Wet Boots, I have a 10 min delay which I had increased from 5 minutes but without any noticeable improvement.

    I checked the pressure a short time ago and it is holding steady at 40 psi on zone 11 with 4 rotary heads 2 hours into irrigation cycle and halfway thru zone 11 (nobody has taken showers yet). Still confused as to the cause of this problem.

    From replies to my problem on this thread and others on this forum it seems one or more of the following is the cause of my low/dropping water pressure:

    1) The well is going dry/level dropping down to inlet of pump.
    2) The well is not producing as much water as it used to with the result that the static level is dropping more as the pump operation continues, increasing the hydrostatic head later in the cycle and reducing flow rate.
    3) There may be a leak somewhere between the pump and water entry into the house.
    4) The pump may be "going bad" with impeller wear reducing efficiency or pump overheating.
    5) The multi-port T-piece at the well tank or other pipes may be clogged (I do have hard water with a lot of iron and also a fair amount of sediment, but not sand).
    6) There may be a leak at drip zones 17 & 18, although this does not explain why the water bottoms out at zones 15 & 16 (heads drop into ground and bleed midzone), before the drip zones start.
    7) Tank is bad, although the well contractor checked and serviced the tank, charging it with air. He said the tank was ok.

    Are there any other possibilities I have overlooked? Which of the above, if any, do you think are the most likely to be causing my problem?

    I will probably call my well contractor today and have him come out and take a look at the system to replace whatever needs replacing. I'm hoping to avoid unnecessarily replacing the whole system if replacing or repairing only one component will solve the problem. I realize the pump is 20 years old, but from everything I've read here and elsewhere, it seems that the older pumps are of higher quality with more durable motors and components. If I might have another 5 to 10 years left on this pump I would obviously prefer to leave it in place. From what I've read here, the newer pumps may only last 5-7 years.

    I would like to thank all the pros that contribute their time and expertise to this forum and especially those that commented on my problem. This is an invaluable resource to people like me and I greatly appreciate it.

  7. #7
    DIY Senior Member craigpump's Avatar
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    You need someone who will PROPERLY diagnose the problem, not just change parts unti it works.

    Any competent pump tech will have an ohm meter, Amp probe, water level meter, a water meter, and pressure testing equipment on the truck at all times.
    Last edited by craigpump; 09-16-2013 at 04:44 AM.

  8. #8
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    "I should add that I had a well contractor out a couple of days ago to take a look. He doubted it was the well pump going bad. He said they either work or don't work- 'mine is working so it should be ok,' he said. He said rarely is it a problem with the well itself. He did charge/pressurize the tank which he said was quite low at 18 psi to, I think, 38 psi, and changed out the gauge and switch. He said it could be the metal pipe fitting leading into the tank that sometimes clogs as another possibility. He doubted it was the tank itself- it is Amtrol WellXTrol, 60 gallon tank, stamped 1992. He said it seemed to be in good condition at least from the way it looked on the outside. He said he did not detect a leak in the bladder."


    If it was me I would find out why this happened.

    That would indicate a leak.

    I would also turn the watering system off, until I was able to find the problem. You have to many variables all happening at once. A 1 HP pump may not be able to meet the needs of your new system. And your Well may not either.

    Most of the simple stuff can be done by yourself.


    Good Luck.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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  9. #9
    Sprinkler Guy Wet_Boots's Avatar
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    5 or 10 minutes of delay is way too short a time to recharge a well that took hours to run low. Prior to modern solid-state controllers, the delay would be accomplished by having a zone connected to nothing, set for as long as an hour. I would often see wells running dry because an original pump got replaced with a larger one, with no thought of its match with the well capacity or an existing sprinkler system. I recall one original installation that required a watering delay more than twice the running time of a zone.

  10. #10
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wet_Boots View Post
    5 or 10 minutes of delay is way too short a time to recharge a well that took hours to run low. Prior to modern solid-state controllers, the delay would be accomplished by having a zone connected to nothing, set for as long as an hour. I would often see wells running dry because an original pump got replaced with a larger one, with no thought of its match with the well capacity or an existing sprinkler system. I recall one original installation that required a watering delay more than twice the running time of a zone.

    I agree.

    The system was having problems before the new sprinkler system was installed.

    It may be time to back up a few steps, and get the house water working first.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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  11. #11
    DIY Junior Member npkr's Avatar
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    I thought I 'd give an update.

    Had a new well contractor out to take a look yesterday. He uncapped the well, measured the static water depth (which hadn't changed since testing 20 years ago- still 40 ft), then pulled the poly pipe up and ran the pump, measuring output- only about 2.5 to 3 gallons per minute in a bucket. He diagnosed a bad pump.

    I watched most of the whole removal/installation as Monday is my day off and, having not had a shower after working out at the gym, I really couldn't go anywhere.

    When he raised the pump it had a filter cylinder surrounding it which was absolutely caked and clogged with iron and manganese (he said) deposit/sediment. This stuff also ran all the way up the poly pipe.

    He cut off the filter/pump, brought it to his shop, power-washed the filter casing (he said getting a new one couldn't be done- it would take a few days to get one), and drilled about eight 1/4" holes in the bottom of the plastic filter casing, he said to make sure the pump can always get water. He also found that the pump, surprisingly, was a 3/4 HP pump rather than the 1 HP pump indicated in the testing records from 1993, when the house was built. I looked at it and it was American Made! No wonder it lasted 20 years.

    He replaced it with a Sta-rite S10P4HS10221-01 1 HP pump and I asked him to place new wires (12/2), per recommendations on this forum. I hope this is a good pump. That's the only thing I'm concerned about. It's not one of the common pump names I've seen discussed on this forum. Is this pump a decent one? It put out about 14 gal/minute when he did another 5 gal bucket test.

    He watched the draw-down of the new pump over a few minutes from 41 ft to 86 ft, then watched the well recharge for a few minutes and said at that level the well is recharging at about 5 gal/ minute so he thought the upsize to 1 hp should be ok (based on the 1993 testing the overall well production was 7 gal/minute over 24 hours). The well is 220 ft deep with the pump at 160 ft.

    He then adjusted the well tank pressure up to 50/70 (cut on/cut off) to give me a little extra pressure in the house. Anything wrong with doing 50/70 tank pressure? It had been on 40/60 and I know 50/70 is more than the typical tank settings.

    He charged $1987 total for the pump, new wires, cleaning the filter at his shop (very close by), and rest of the labor, a total of 5 hours doing it by himself. Was this reasonable? My feeling is that it probably was but I don't know typical pricing. I'm just asking because if it is reasonable I plan on using him again. He seemed quite competent to me. I'm watching the irrigation system closely and making sure there remains 10 min between stations and no overlap between showers and irrigation times. In a couple of weeks I will be able to water once a day or not at all. so far, no problems over the last 24 hours.

    Does everything with this pump replacement and my contractor's work seem ok?

    Thank you again to everyone who contributes to this forum and those that responded to my thread. I've learned a tremendous amt.

  12. #12
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    It sounds like you got a good well/pump guy and nothing you mentioned raise any red flags.

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    Sprinkler Guy Wet_Boots's Avatar
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    Since your sprinkler system is probably using more water than the recharge rate, keep an eye on that delay between sprinkler zones. Someone could run the numbers on how much water is normally above the pump, and how much time it would take 5 gpm to refill it, if the level were to get near the pump.

  14. #14
    DIY Senior Member craigpump's Avatar
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    I don't care for the bigger holes in the pump screen, they kind of defeat the purpose of the fine screens.

    Not knowing where you are in Mass it's hard to say if that is a competitive price or not, you would pay more here in Fairfield County Ct.

  15. #15
    DIY Junior Member npkr's Avatar
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    craigpump,

    I have the same concerns about the holes drilled in the bottom of the filter. I think he did that because he couldn't get a new filter on short notice and wanted to make sure the pump will always be able to get water even if the slits along the side become gummed up with debris again. Hopefully those holes (in the blue cap at the bottom of the pump filter casing) don't completely bypass the filtration through the slits. I figure that the worst case scenario is that the new pump might not last 20 years like my old one did and I'll have to change the house water filter more often. From what I understand the newer pumps don't last as long anyway. My pump guy said I could reasonably expect 10-12 years from this pump although some on this forum seem to say its more like 7-10 years.

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