Seeking a well education

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Confess that I don't know a well from a hole in the ground, but since I've been 1/2 owner of one for a couple of years I think I'd like to begin to understand the thing. If you're having a particularly boring day you're welcome to view pics:
http://members.cox.net/prestwich/well/7t.jpg
http://members.cox.net/prestwich/well/8t.jpg
http://members.cox.net/prestwich/well/9t.jpg
http://members.cox.net/prestwich/well/10t.jpg
http://members.cox.net/prestwich/well/12t.jpg
http://members.cox.net/prestwich/well/14t.jpg
I have no idea what any of that stuff is, other than the hose bibs. I think my main questions at this point are:
1. Does all this look reasonable and normal?
2. Do all well systems work more or less the same way, with a set of standard components and sub-systems?
3. Does anyone know of a *good* book, video, or website that explains wells well? I don't know enough to even ask many intelligent questions yet, so I'm thinking such an intro would be helpful.
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Smitty Two wrote:

Ok, here are the basics:
You have a standard cased well with a submersible pump down hole. How far down hole is anyone's guess since a submersible pump can be use in both shallow and deep wells. The pump is what's known as a 3wire type and connects to that control box at the top with a 4 wire cable (4th is ground). The control box contains a starting capacitor and relay. The fitting that connects from the control box is broken, and should be repaired to both protect the pump wires as well as to prevent potential contamination from getting into the well.
There is a check valve and a local hose bib connection by the well, and then it is plumbed underground back to the house. At the house you have the pressure switch which supplies power to the pump control box at the well when the pump needs to run, and you have a large storage tank that appears to be the older air charged variety. That tank will have some variety of float valve / air intake setup to maintain a charge of air at the top of the storage tank.
Everything you see on the other side of the tank is not part of the well system, it is usage related. There appears to be a lawn sprinkler control valve that is no longer connected, something that looks like it could be a pressure limiter and/or back flow preventer, and a ball valve that could be feeding most anything. You'll have to trace where those pipes go to know much more about them.
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*No. There is a broken electrical conduit nipple for the pump controller at the wellhead. The controller looks like it was made for indoors. Duct tape is not an approved cover fastener. The wiring at the tank is for indoors, but the tank looks as though it is outside. It looks as though you need an electrician to clean this up.

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Agree with the above. This clearly never passed an inspection.

All wells don't work the same way. As Pete pointed out what you have is a submersible type pump where the pump is located down the well casing. It's connected to a tank which holds some reserve amount of water so the pump doesn't have to kick on with each draw of water. That type of system is very common.

Unfortunately, no.
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On 7/18/2011 7:50 PM, Smitty Two wrote:

_WITH_ the broken connection???? Or was that done after the sale I'd guess then?
While not the absolute neatest installation, it would appear to be functional and that's all the the well guy would care about; he'll not be a Code enforcement specialist (whatever Code is applicable, if any, if is rural may be very little).
In a relatively dry area, (like here in SW KS) we've routinely used boxes of the type and they're fine even after 40+ years so it doesn't bug me much at all on that count.
I would/do, however, agree the broken mount should be repaired ASAP and a much more rigid mount for that box be made than simply the conduit connector. Guessing further, I'd wager a (very) small amount somebody hit it w/ a mower at some time... :)
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Given what you have to work with, I'd think a piece of steel fastened to the upright pipe coming out of the well head with a couple of hose clamps might be your best option. They have square tubular type stock at HD or Lowes that might give you the right distance between the pipe and the electrical connection that the box needs to mate up to. Then you could mount the box to that.
Kind of amazing that a well expert would give that whole thing an OK on a pre-sale inspection. I don't expect them to be an electrical guru, but at the very least, if I was giving an opinion I'd say something along the lines of "Strongly suggesty you have the electrical portion of this evalutated by an electrician because it does not appear to comply with code...." Did a home inspector not red flag the electrical? Or did he call it out and they get off the hook based on the well guy?
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On 7/18/2011 11:49 PM, Smitty Two wrote:

Now _THAT_ is truly amazing... ...

I will add that almost universally add a small weather shield (a simple 3-sided box of two sides and a top) around these boxes to keep direct rain off. There are at least five I can think of sitting here at the 'puter that have been in place from early/mid-60s to as early as mid-50s that are all still in good shape. So, while it isn't Code, where wet isn't all _that_ wet, the boxes aren't a serious real problem. (I'll also note that in the wet areas of the barn, farrowing shed, around the corrals that the extra level of rated enclosures is needed and are used as well as sealed for spark containment in grain dust or other potentially explosive dust environments so am not oblivious to the possible issues.)

I'd say it would be ok for the repair of the conduit connection, sure, but I'd suggest a much more solid mount for the box than that--sink a 2" or larger pipe or a fence post or something similar really solid and mount the box on it, leaving only the connection to the well head would be my suggestion.
--
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dpb wrote:

I recommend a little "doghouse" for the well head as well.

My preference would be a standard Unistrut base plate anchored to the concrete pad around the well head, with a foot or so of Unistrut sticking up to mount the control box to. You could also strap a piece of Unistrut to the well casing with a couple large stainless hose clamps. The rigid offset connection between the control box and the well head needs to be replaced with a section of flexible conduit like the other connection to the control box.
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On 7/19/2011 9:43 AM, Pete C. wrote: ...

I'd forgotten there was a pad around it...that'd work, surely. (No pad at wellhead here; don't think of that...the field control box is on the power pole some distance away w/ underground cable. Owing to this being a second well, the pressure tank is far removed in the old wellhouse where the pressure switch is mounted).
Other than this well is quite deep compared to what am used to here (150-200 ft, generally), is basic system albeit a little klunky in execution.
But, if he has water, the rest is really simply aesthetics other than the likelihood of the broken connector eventually leading to a wiring failure if not fixed (which clearly he's intending to do sooner rather than not)...
--
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Start with a plumber and get rid of all the excess fittings. I have seen some messes in my time, but that takes the cake.
Harry K
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Soem of that and that abortion on top of the well.
Harry K
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*The hole in the wellhead may be able to be retapped. I would not mount the new weatherproof controller right on top like that even if it is "Professionally" duct taped together. I would install a short piece of wood in the ground and mount the controller remotely or put it indoors. I'm not sure where you can buy a new controller. You could call some electrical supply companies.
The BX wiring on the pressure switch is not rated for outdoor use and the armor is broken.
This installation may have passed inspection by a home inspector, but it never passed inspection by the town electrical inspector. You may be able to go down to town hall and find out if an electrical permit was ever issued for the well installation.
If you have to ask, then I say no it is not a DIY repair.
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I was thinking of a mounting post too, but the problem then becomes that the existing wires from the well head won't be long enough, unless there is enough slack inside the well. He could splice extensions on inside the well casing, but that requires opening the well, which could be another pain.

Plumbing supply or places that sell submersible pumps online would have them. But he could probably put a new piece of liquidtight or similar with fittings on the existing one.

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John Grabowski wrote:

I would mount the controller on a short piece of unistrut and a base plate anchored to the cement and I would build a small "doghouse" enclosure to cover the whole well head. The broken rigid offset fitting should be replaced with a section of flexible conduit as was used on the other connection to the control box. I don't see any reason to replace the control box unless it has internal damage. New controllers if needed would be found at ant plumbing supply place selling the "3 wire" pumps they control.

Yep, I'm not sure the pressure switch itself is rated for outdoor use either. I would think enclosing the whole mess in a service closet of sorts would be the way to go. Make it a bit larger and store yard tools in it as well.

Never check on permits *after* you own the place, only before. After the fact, just cleanup what is crap and go with it. No sense in opening up a can of worms with some nazi inspector.

I'd agree. I would think it shouldn't be more than a couple hours work and not a lot of materials expense to get it fixed up. If you provide a reputable electrician with the pictures they should be able to provide an accurate quote.
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On 7/18/2011 7:59 PM, Smitty Two wrote:

Not obvious to me it is a check valve. In any case there needs to be a check valve at the bottom. Else you are refilling the pipe to the surface when you start the pump. A check valve at the surface can't hold a 1200 ft column of water. Whatever the brass fitting is it looks like it has a schrader valve.

Yes.
I agree with others and am not impressed with the electrical.
Don't think it was covered and it may be way to obvious... The pressure tank has air in the top. When you pump water into the tank it compresses the air. After the pump shuts off at the high pressure setting the compressed air feeds water into the building. As the air expands the pressure drops, until the pressure switch low cut in pressure and the pump starts again. The tank air slowly dissolves into the water and the amount of air slowly decreases making the pump cycle more often. Pete briefly touched on controls to add air to the tank as it is "used up". I don't see any in the pictures unless air is added from a compressor through the schrader valve.
A better (and more expensive) way of making a tank is to have a bladder between the water and air. The bladder moves up and down as the tank pressurizes. The bladder keeps the air charge from dissolving into the water. All the tanks like this that I have seen have a schrader valve at the top to add and check the air charge.
--
bud--

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bud-- wrote:

The arrow on it implies that it has a check valve function. It may have additional functions. The submersible pump at the bottom should have it's own check valve.

Yes, the whole thing setup is a bit hacked together. If it were my place I'd spend a day ripping it apart and redoing it in a much neater configuration.

I think the fitting where the pressure gauge is attached on the tank may be the air control. I believe I have seen similar ones and they have a float inside and whatnot.

Pre-charged bladder type tanks are certainly more common these days.
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It's a water pressure gauge. The pressure of the water and air are equal.

Can't tell from the pics. The bladder type tanks have a shrader valve on the top that you use to charge the bladder. If yours has it, then it's that type. I would expect that it is as that is what is normally used on a submersible settup.

All the non-bladder type tanks I've seen, ie the old style, had an automatic means to self-regulate the air. But the ones that worked that way were all on systems that had a pump right at the tank, not submersible. Essentially there is some type of gizmo that goes into the tank at the mid-position, where your gauge is. That gizmo detects the air/water level, keeps it at that point in the tank. If the water gets higher, the gizmo, which is connected to the suction line, lets some air in during a pump cycle.
If you don't have that kind of system to re-introduce air, then eventually the tank will have too much water, not enough air, leading to short pump cycles. On you settup if it doesn't have a bladder, I don't know of any way to get air into the tank except as you say, via a compressor.
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Not quite: the pressure guage measures system pressure, i.e., what is coming out of the tank outlet.
The air bubble is known as the "pre-charge" and set normally to 2psi below the cut-in pressure setting. It is set with the pump turned off and the tank drained (as far as it can be) by opening a spigot or faucet at a low point in the system.
The cut-in/out pressure is adjusted by pulling the cover off the pressure switch. Usualy has two screws. Tall one adjusts both cut-in/ out at the same time. Short one adjussts the spread between them. That is usually 20 psi. Normal residential settings are:
20-40 - rare as the system pressure at cut-out is not enough to do a decent job of showers or sprinkler heads.
30-50 - common but again a bit weak for a good 'needle shower'.
40-60 - normal and is the max recommended for residential use - pressres above that cause unneeded wear/stress on fittings.
Of course pressure at the switch has to consider switch and useage location. Thus a switchk at the bottom of a hill and house on top needs more pressure due to the elevation distance. Pressure allowance is .43 or .46 psi per foot rise. (I forget which is correct, too lazy to look it up). Pipe distance from switch to point of use will also cause some pressure loss as well.
To add a bit more confusion. The pressure guage and switch don't even need to be at the tank, they can be anywhere in the system. Normally they are at the tank and the tank is "normally" at the useage elevation. Again they don't have to be.
Harry K
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Forgot about addign air. In a non-bladder tank, the air bubble will gradually be absorbed into the water adn thus decrease the 'pre- charge' pressure over time (note that it has no effect on _system_ pressure). If the float or 'snifter' valve fails, you have to add air manually. How often? 6 months to a year at a guess. When needed? when the pump cycle begins to get too short. Known as "short- cycling". As teh air bubble decreases the run time of the pump to bring the system pressure up gets shorter. Left alone you get 'short- cycling' On, few seconds, off. Destroys a pump in short order.
"snifter valve" injects a small shot of air with each pump start. I know what they do but really don't understand how they operate.
The nuisance of draining and adding air soon becomes bad enough that one replaces the snifter or float valve ...or throws out the antique tank and replaces it with a bladder type.
Harry K
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Smitty Two wrote:

The pressure switch monitors water pressure. The air charge at the top of the tank provides something for the water to compress and provides the pressure to force the water out of the tank when you open the faucet. When the water pressure drops below the setpoint of the pressure switch it turns on the pump to fill the tank and thus compress the air at the top again. As noted, there is hysteresis and the pressure switch shuts off the pump once the pressure is up above the hysteresis. The amount of water between the two points is the drawdown or the useable capacity of the tank.

As I noted there are air volume controls installed on this type of tank, there is no compressor involved. I believe there are a few types, one of which may be part of your pressure gauge assembly on the side of the tank. If it's working, leave it alone, when the tank springs a leak replace it with the more modern bladder type tank, the newest of which have replaceable bladders.
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