Low pressure & flow problem

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ironmanvsaquaman

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I've been experiencing low water pressure and flow. I started checking it over the last few weeks. Pressure fluctuates but it usually hovers between 12 and 24 PSI. Flow also fluctuates. The best I've measured is 1.5 GPM, but that's rare. It's been as low as almost 0.5 GPM at times.

I let it ride for quite some time, but I've had a need to use a pressure washer this summer and can't because of the poor flow, so I finally got the landlord to send the well guy over to take a look.

The well guy said the softener was plugged, so he put the system in bypass. The pressure at the tap shot up to 38 PSI, and the flow was noticeably better, but by the end of the day the pressure was back down again. Flow and pressure are better than they were before the well guy came, but since then the pressure hasn't been any higher than 30 and usually hangs in the teens or low twenties.

I'm looking for suggestions as to what the problem could be, now that the softener is out of the equation.

There is a large (and pretty old, I think) pressure tank. Maybe 30" diameter and 8 feet tall galvanized steel. Three or four feet up from the bottom is a sight glass/tube. I can't see a water line and to my eye it looks totally full and not totally empty, so I'm guessing that means it's waterlogged. I wouldn't think that would cause reduced pressure, just more frequent runing of the pump. Am I right/wrong about that?

The well guy said the pump is on a 30/50 pressure switch, so to me that means the pressure should never be below 30 PSI (when not running any water). The whole system is in a VERY damp location and I noticed that the pressure switch is missing its cover. Could it be malfunctioning due to corrosion, or perhaps a blow it took which is why the cover is off?

I've been in the dark about the condition of the system and the causes of my water issues the whole time I've lived here. The pump and softener system is located in the basement of an outbuilding which I didn't have access to until a few days ago. From the softener, a pipe runs underground to feed the house.
Do you think the low flow and pressure could be caused by a leak in the underground pipe?
If so, I assume the pump would be running more than it should.
I have no idea how deep the well is, but can you generally hear the pump running if you're standing above the well?

There are no gauges on the system, so the only pressure measurement I can take is at the tap in the house. I can't compare it to the pressure at the well to indicate whether there is a leak or not.

The pump was replaced less than a year ago. I'm not sure how old the previous pump was, but I'm wondering if it burned out prematurely because it was running overtime. If that's the case then the new pump is on its way to premature burnout too.

What are your thoughts on possible causes?
It sounds like the well guy needs to pay a second visit. What should I make sure he checks?

Thanks!

Here's the pressure tank. You can also see the pressure switch with the missing cover at the lower end of the blue cable.
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Sight glass.
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Wellhead.
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LLigetfa

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You are correct that a waterlogged tank should not affect pressure. The sight glass looks to me to be full of water. The well guy should not have ignored a waterlogged tank.

In the following pic, you show a check valve and some sort of air maker. If the air maker is a snifter valve type, the check valve in that position will prevent it from working. If it is a micronizer type, it needs a significant GPM to work. Can you detect air getting sucked in at the valve? Maybe it is only used to manually air up the tank. While adding air manually, some water needs to be draining from the tank. I don't see an AVC on the tank for automatically managing air volume.

Is there not a drain valve at the base of that tank where you can connect a pressure gauge?
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Valveman

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The valve LL has marked "air maker" is a check valve with a Schrader screwed into it. LL is correct that the one he labeled "check valve" will prevent the Schrader from adding any air to the tank. The tank is water logged. The water line should be at the bottom of that sight glass. Open a faucet and attach a compressor to the Schrader to blow out the water to the below the sight glass, then turn the pump back on. A waterlogged tank will cause the pump to cycle on/off rapidly, which will make the pressure seem very low. But I don't think that is your biggest problem. It sounds like the pump is never reaching 50 and shutting off. Probably have a hole in the drop pipe or the bleeder orifice has blown out.

Sorry about the low pressure. The pump is large enough to deliver all the pressure you want. It is the tank and controls that is causing the low pressure. Switching to a Cycle Stop Valve system can deliver such strong pressure people tell me they no longer even need soap in the shower. Lol!


PK1A sub pitless house.jpg
 

ironmanvsaquaman

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Thanks for your replies.
In the following pic, you show a check valve and some sort of air maker. If the air maker is a snifter valve type, the check valve in that position will prevent it from working. If it is a micronizer type, it needs a significant GPM to work.
So an "air maker" is a device which draws a small volume of air into the tank to reduce the frequency of manual draining?
From a quick search, it looks like the micronizer style is a venturi device that uses the velocity of the pumped water to draw in some air with it and a snifter draws air in during the momentary backflow or "bounce" when the pump shuts off?
And the AVC (Air Volume Control) is a valve that regulates the air volume / water level. Is the AVC always a float type valve or are there other styles?
Both styles of air makers require and AVC, correct?

Regardless, based on what Valveman posted and what I've seen, I don't think there is any sort of automatic air volume regulation for the pressure tank. With the way the system is now, I think it just needs to be manually drained from time to time.

Is there not a drain valve at the base of that tank where you can connect a pressure gauge?
Not sure, but I think it's more than likely there is. I will go back down there and check soon. Would the drain valve likely have garden hose thread on it?

It would also be pretty simple to add a tee to the top of the pipe that the pressure switch sits on and install a permanent gauge there. Would that be an appropriate location?
 

ironmanvsaquaman

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Thanks Valveman. I'm hoping you can elaborate on a couple points.
The valve LL has marked "air maker" is a check valve with a Schrader screwed into it.
Just want to make sure I'm clear on this. Both components LL called out in the picture are check valves? Is one of these valves unnecessarily redundant?

LL is correct that the one he labeled "check valve" will prevent the Schrader from adding any air to the tank.
This is confusing to me. The check valve you refer to is between the pump and the Schrader, not between the Schrader and the tank. Even if it were on the other side of the Schrader it would be oriented to allow air to flow into the tank anyway. It seems that either I'm not understanding what you're trying to say, or my pictures aren't doing the job and have given you the wrong idea about how the system is laid out. I'm really thrown off because after saying that the check valve will prevent me from putting air in the tank through the Schrader, you suggest I put air in the tank through the Schrader. I hope that doesn't come off as snarky, I just feel like I must be missing something.

Can you please clarify?
Are you implying that a Schrader will work like a snifter in certain setups?
 

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Yes you need an AVC with any air maker. But air makers and bleeder orifice/Schrader fittings are not good at maintaining the proper air charge anyway. Most people end up using a compressor and blowing air in the tank on a regular basis anyway. Don't see air in the sight glass, need to add air, Pump cycling on and off rapidly, need to add air.

Unless you have iron or sulfur in the water adding air is not needed. In those cases people get tired of manually adding air and/or replacing the pump too often, so they switch to a diaphragm style tank. Air stays in the diaphragm and doesn't need to be added all the time the way the old hydro-pneumatic tanks do. Switching to a diaphragm style tank and adding a Cycle Stop Valve would eliminate the maintenance problems and give you shower pressure you never thought possible.
 

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Thanks Valveman. I'm hoping you can elaborate on a couple points.

Just want to make sure I'm clear on this. Both components LL called out in the picture are check valves? Is one of these valves unnecessarily redundant?


This is confusing to me. The check valve you refer to is between the pump and the Schrader, not between the Schrader and the tank. Even if it were on the other side of the Schrader it would be oriented to allow air to flow into the tank anyway. It seems that either I'm not understanding what you're trying to say, or my pictures aren't doing the job and have given you the wrong idea about how the system is laid out. I'm really thrown off because after saying that the check valve will prevent me from putting air in the tank through the Schrader, you suggest I put air in the tank through the Schrader. I hope that doesn't come off as snarky, I just feel like I must be missing something.

Can you please clarify?
Are you implying that a Schrader will work like a snifter in certain setups?
Schrader/snifter are same thing. Your Schrader is on the check closest to the tank, so you can use it to add air to the tank with a compressor. The other check valve will prevent the pipe from draining from the Schrader to the bleeder orifice that should be about 5' down the well. With the check valve closest to the pump the Schrader is unable to automatically add air to the tank.
 

ironmanvsaquaman

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Thanks Valveman for the clarification on the Schrader/snifter thing. I get it now.

Probably have a hole in the drop pipe or the bleeder orifice has blown out.
...the bleeder orifice that should be about 5' down the well.
So... what if there is no bleeder orifice?
Below are some pictures of the old pump and down piping, which are still sitting behind the building that houses the well and equipment. The pump was replaced about a year ago, and I assume the down pipe is all new too since the old stuff is right there with the old pump. There is no sign of a bleeder orifice in the top section of old pipe which is about 21 feet long. Could it be lower? I'm not sure what it would even look like. Would it be installed in a tee, or would it resemble a coupling with a port on the side?

I realize I can't say for sure that the current system doesn't have a bleeder just because it was absent on the old one, but I kinda doubt it does. Not sure how important it is, though.

There's about 150 to 170 feet of drop pipe. Can you hear the pump run at that depth or detect vibration or rushing water in the pipe?

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Didn't meant to forget you. The bleeder orifice is usually screwed into the side of tee about 5' down the well. However, someone could have just drilled a hole in the old pipe somewhere in the top joint. Your probably right that you don't have one, as most pump guys these days don't even know what it is. A bleeder is only important if you want the tank to automatically get the air it needs. Without the bleeder or hole in the pipe, you just have to manually add air to the tank on a regular basis. It is good that you do not have a bleeder, so you can easily change to a bladder/diaphragm style tank when you get tired of having to add air all the time. The air in diaphragm cannot get out, so there is basically no maintenance. Adding a Cycle Stop Valve will allow you to use a much smaller tank, will make everything last longer, and give such strong constant pressure you will no longer even need soap in the shower. Lol!

PK1A submersible well seal.jpg
 

Reach4

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Almost no maintenance for a precharged pressure tank. They usually recommend checking the precharge annually, although I do it about every 4 years.
 

ironmanvsaquaman

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Didn't meant to forget you. The bleeder orifice is usually screwed into the side of tee about 5' down the well. However, someone could have just drilled a hole in the old pipe somewhere in the top joint. Your probably right that you don't have one, as most pump guys these days don't even know what it is. A bleeder is only important if you want the tank to automatically get the air it needs.
No worries about the delay. I didn't get around to adding air to the tank until yesterday. I was taking my time to do a little research and make sure I understood exactly how this system was set up so I didn't rupture the tank. Initially I thought there was no place to check the tank pressure which made me really hesitant to add air, but after looking around some more I found a gauge and Schrader valve right below the pressure switch which was obscured by a mess of electrical tape. The gauge is now a ball of rust from years of damp conditions, but the Schrader valve was free so I could use my own gauge. I wasn't able to find a drain valve on the tank. If there is one, it must be up against a wall.

It also took me a while to figure out how to turn the pump off, and even longer to work up the courage/stupidity to touch the electrical panel. It's very rusty and obviously gets wet when it rains, though it was dry at the time. I wore rubber gloves. I later realized I could have also just pulled the face off the relay/capacitor box and that would disable the pump.

My main concern about the lack of bleeder was freeze protection. The system is in a basement of and outbuilding, but it's not climate controlled and there are hatches in the ceiling to the outdoors which are not at all weather tight.

Anyway, yesterday I added air to the tank. I intended to pump it down so the water level was at the bottom of the sight glass, but I ended up pumping the tank completely dry. It seemed to be taking forever and the sight glass was still full of water. I realized the tank was dry once air started coming out of the Schrader when I checked the pressure. Apparently the ports of the sight glass are clogged with rust and it's permanently full of water. I just checked it this afternoon hoping it would slowly drain down, but it's still full.

The waterlogged tank was definitely a culprit in the low flow problem, but not the only one. I've found two other contributors.
The biggest one, I think, is that the pressure switch is a 20/40 PSI.
The other one is elevation. The tank is probably 12 to 14 feet underground, and the taps on the first floor are a few more feet above ground. I watched the pump run until it kicked off, and the pressure read 40 PSI at the switch. I checked it in the house and it only read 33. I did a quick search and the 7 PSI difference is what you'd expect to see across about 16 feet of elevation, which matches up with the plumbing arrangement here. With a switch that lets the pressure get down to 20, I'm often left with only 13 at the house, and even worse on the second floor. This is all consistent with the pressures I've been seeing as I've monitored it over the last couple weeks.

When the well guy came out, he said the system had a 30/50 switch. That's probably what he installed the last time he serviced it, but I don't think he realized it had been changed out since then. There are at least half a dozen roached pressure switches plus some relay/capacitor boxes scattered about the floor in the area. Apparently they don't last long in the moist conditions down there. Some were 30/50, some were 20/40. Not sure why the guy switched between ranges. Going to a lower pressure might have been his way to fix a leak, or cut power use???

I'm sure a higher range switch would make a big improvement, but the existing pressure tank seems pretty sketchy to me. I sort of volunteered to maintain the salt in the softener and keep tabs on the system, since the guy that was supposed to do it hasn't been. But with the unusable sight glass it makes that task a lot tougher. Plus, that whole basement is really sketchy and every time I go down there I see something that makes me more reluctant to go down there the next time.

What are your opinions on fixing the sight glass? Will disturbing fittings on an old tank like this one just result in a permanent leak?

A CSV system with a diaphragm/bladder tank sounds mighty appealing to me right now, but it all has to go through the landlord.
I think I'll try swapping out the pressure switch to hold me over in the meantime.

Any other thoughts/suggestions are welcome.
 

ironmanvsaquaman

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Also, if any of you are knowledgeable about water softeners, I'm having problems with that too.
I'm trying to identify the brand/model of my softener so I can determine if parts are available. The guy that came to look at it said you can't get parts for it anymore, but It's only 10 years old so I'm a little skeptical.

I started a thread about it, but it hasn't gained any traction. Here's the link to the thread if you think you can help. Thanks!

 

Valveman

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A sight glass being clogged up is not uncommon. A sight glass is uncommon though. Most people just blow all the water out of the tank the way you did anyway. As long as air is not blowing a glass out of your hand at the sink you really can't have too much air in a tank. I don't think you have a bleeder in the well. I don't think it would work if there was, because of the double check valve on the well head. When a bleeder orifice system does work it only drains water from the Schrader on the check valve down to the bleeder in the well. Everything after the check valve is susceptible to freezing. The small fittings to the pressure usually being the first to freeze. Doesn't take much to keep it from freezing if you cover up all the holes in the walls and ceiling.

Moisture can cause pressure switch and start boxes to fail. But they usually fail from the pump cycling on and off too much. Switches and capacitors on the floor is a good sign air is not getting added to the tank as needed. Without a bleeder system you will need to blow the water out of that tank every month or so.

You are correct about losing 7 PI to the 16' elevation. You will also lose another 10 PSI or so through any filters or softeners. You just have to turn up the pressure switch to make up for these things. All those switches are the same. You can adjust them from as low as 20/40 to as high as 50/70. 30/50 is probably about as best as you can do with that old tank, as they are only rated for 75 PSI when they are new. Sight glasses may not be rated for as much as the tank.

The hardest part about switching that over to a PK1A system with the little 4.5 gallon size tank is getting that old tank and stuff out of the way. The little 4.5 gallon size tank with a CSV is all you need, would be easy to keep from freezing, and would deliver much stronger pressure. You have enough pump to work at 50/70 pressure where the CSV could give you a strong and constant 60 PSI. That would still be 47 PSI constant after the elevation and softener and would be so strong in the shower you will no longer need soap. With the old tank and a 30/50 switch the pressure at your shower is only about 17 PSI before the pump starts. I would have to run around in the shower to get wet with only 17 PSI. Lol!
 
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