Short cycling well pump


My water system is losing pressure causing the pump to come on every 3 minutes for about 10 seconds. The leak is somewhere outside the house.
The most likely cause would be a leak in the 40 year old galvanized pipe they used to bring the water to the house. (I had a previous leak this spring of that cause).
I am out of cash for such a major repair at this time and would like to postpone it till spring (bonus time). So my question would be: Would could I expect to happen if I installed a check valve inside the house? I am mainly interested in reducing the short cycling on the pump. What other failures can cause this problem? If there were a pin hole leak in the pipe, would I see it at the surface? Would I be open to contamination?
I expect the fix to be a complete repiping with plastic. I also assume that at some point they would have to pull the pump up to make the attachment. Would it be advisable to replace the pump at that time (40 years old)?
I guess water is not free. You pay for it one way or another. The joys of home ownership......
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jmagerl wrote:

I assume you know your pressure tank is not low or broken. You're risking the life of your pump if you let the problem go on.
Frank
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Had the same prob when I lived in upstate, NY. Ended up being the pressure tank......filled halfway with sand from the well.
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jmagerl wrote:

The short cycling is not due to the leak- the on/off setpoints are too close, or the tank has too little air in it (if its a bladder type tank, the bladder could be shot).
Sneaky leaks often occur in the toilets- either the float controlled fill valve doesn't shut off all the way, or it dribbles water from the tank to the bowl.
If its the fill valve, the water will be up to the top of the overflow tube in the tank. You'll never hear this leak. If its the tank-bowl valve leaking, every once in awhile that toilet will 'run'.
Dave
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

<snip>
The short cycling most assuredly _is_ due to a leak. He says the pump runs every 3 minutes. It won't do that unless the pressure is leaking down. Improper precharge or maladjusted pressure switches only cause problems when water is being drawn.
Harry K
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jmagerl wrote:

Actually, as I think someone else pointed out, I think the more probable cause of this type of cycling is the pressure tank. Either it is waterlogged or low on air pressure, or both (the latter causing the former). If it doesn't have a major leak in the bladder or diaphragm (which depending on the type, of course) you might be able to prolong its life somewhat by draining it as competely as possible and then resetting the air pressure properly (it should be at 2 lb below the setpoint when empty). This may at least extend the time before you absolutely have to do something (then again, it may not, but it's definitely worth a shot).
If it were from a leak, I think you would have chance to find it from the leak unless the pipe is really deeply buried or you have very wet climate anyway so a wet spot isn't easily noticed.
I don't see the check valve solving anything.

If it is indeed submersible pump and the line down the well is also galvanized, then yes, to replace it will require pulling the pump. Whether it needs replacing can be told by the well service folks from a test on the pump and motor. At that age, its likely to have enough wear that you could indeed, possibly forestall another need to pull the well for quite a while by going ahead, but I'd evaluate it at the time. Of course, that also is partly dependent on how deep a well and how big the pump is.
I also agree that letting it go as is will be more expensive than fixing it now and will likely lead to a complete failure that will result in emergency repair rather than elective which may cost even more (assuming you don't have a practical alternate water supply other than buying water for all your needs or finding another place to live temporarily).
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I suspect a leak because I have a valve in between the pump and the pressure tank. Closing the valve to disconnect the pump, makes the pressure hold steady. When I open the valve, the pressure starts to fall.
The tank has no bladder and was last checked in the spring for pressure. But just to be sure I will drain it and recharge it. Its on the list for replacement because it really is a pain to have to baby it all the time.

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Are you sure it isn't the check valve built into the pump that isn't letting water drain back down the line? You proved it is from the valve to the pump but haven't proven it is a leak yet. Also could be a broken pipe down to the pump that would cause the same thing as the pump check valve being out of service too and not show up as a leak as it is just putting water back down the well casing.
Rich
jmagerl wrote:

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No I'm not sure at all. I doesn't seem to be pumping air but I havent really let the system run down. I'm thinking that if the leak were above the water level in the well (and in the external pipe), at some point all the water would drain into the well and I would have air in the pipe. if that happened, the next time the pumpgoes on, I would get air. That doesnt seem to be happening. So I either have a leak below the water level in the well or I havent let the system get that low. Tonight, I close the valve that shuts the well off and let it sit to see if I suck air.

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jmagerl wrote:

<snip>
OKay. Ignore all the 'the problem is the tank' replies - it isn't. You are correct - you have a leak and that should have been obvious to everyone from the first post.
The leak is almost (note the 'almost') certainly to be in the pipe from the well to the house because it is where pipe is in contact with the ground that most corrosion occurs (been there and done that - had to replace 1/4 mile of line for my "new" house).
Check valve? Will work but it is only a temporary fix.
With a 40 year old pump - yes, replace it if they pull the well. The line from well to house can be replaced without pulling the well. The pipe going down the well should be inspected as it -might- need replacing also but the entire string won't need pulling to do it.
You said the precharge 'had been checked'. Later is sounds as if you know how to do it yourself. If not:
Shut pump off Drain tank Set pressure to 2 psi below your cut-in.
Another thing to check while working is to see if you have the proper cut in/out differential - should be about 20psi, i.e., 30/50, 40/60. Higher than 60 is not recommended for residence.
Harry K
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Where it all stands: Thanks for all the inputs. You guys scared me enough to call the well pro's in. THey pulled the pump out enough to expose the pitless adaptor, put a pressure gauge on it, and pressurized the pump end of things. THere were no leaks. Next he got out a 5 ft rod and started to push it into the ground following the undergriund pipe, RIght at the well, it went into the ground in one easy stroke. "Found the leak" he saiid. For a temperary fix he installed a check valve inside the house.
Come spring we will be replacing the underground galvanized pipe with plastic. The pipe in the well is still galvanized and I need to consider if that needs replacing also,
The check valve the well guy installed was far superior to anything I could find at HD. IT was spring loaded and worked in any direction and guarenteed a shut off even with no back flow. IT was worth calling the pro in just to not have to deal with the low end stuff that HD sells.
Just for information, I asked Mr. well guy if he could determine how far down the water level was. He pulled out a high power ultrasonic measuring device and in five seconds he said 55 ft. Kewl! Still don't know how deep the well is or how far down the pump is suspended

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jmagerl wrote:

Thank you for the update. It is quite possible that the down pipe in the well is O.K. Usually pipe will corrode in contact with ground not water. They do crud up on the inside though from stuff in the water.
Just curious. If you don't mind, what was the bill for the work they did? Particularly interested in the charge just for the well work, not the fix on the pipe.
Harry K
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snip

I will let you know when I get it
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