Water pressure advice needed

Here is my situation:
Upstairs in my two story house early this morning, I opened a sink faucet tap. There was no water stream...just spitting and coughing. The downstairs water worked when I tried it, but then it didn't, sputtering out. It takes me a long time to figure things out, so maybe ten minutes passed while I tried. Then, when I opened a tap again, there was sufficient pressure in the system to create flow both upstairs and downstairs. I even took a moderately long shower. It was nice...the luxury a morning shower always is. Had I not observed the problem earlier, I would have had no suspicion that there was one.
After drying myself off, I tried the upstairs faucet tap again, just to reassure myself that everything was alright. No water came out...just spitting and coughing. Second verse, same as the first....
I cut the power to the water pump and to the water heater, went under the house, and drained the pressure tank, so that I could test its static air pressure...it was a little under by a few pounds maybe, but surely not enough to fail to push a stream of water through the pipes. I used a portable air tank to bring the pressure up to the recommended psi anyhow, just in case. What the hell do I know, anyhow?
I then powered up the system and watched the pressure gauge to make sure it was cutting out at the required pressure. It did...but then I observed a strange, slow, drop in pressure...from the 50 psi cut-off down to 40 psi, where it seemed to hold steady. I thought maybe I had left some faucet in the house in an open position, but when I went into the house to check, everything was off....
When I went back under the house to re-check the status of the pressure, the gauge read 50 psi and was holding steady...just where it should be, standing ready to serve up water as soon as a tap is opened....With no appliances calling for any water for some 40 minutes, the gauge has held at 50.
So...I have no good understanding, really, of what exactly is happening. I'm focused on that slow, steady pressure drop from 50 to 40 when no taps are open...but that conflicts with the current status of it holding at 50...Was the slow steady pressure drop just a one-time thing?...Was it even significant?...What is going on?...(And, for those of you who find amusement in unanswerables...*Is* there any such thing as one-time thing?)
To anyone kind enough to respond constructively to this query, please accept the appreciation of a man befuddled by both water and life.
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re: Second verse, same as the first....
Hi Henry!
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I dont have an answer but just a guess, its a well, and water is draining back down when it shouldnt
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I'm thinking along those lines as well. In fact, one can hear what sounds like gurgling, draining noises coming from the system at various times. I went so far as to hunt for some sort of check valve, but was not able to find one. Likely one exists, perhaps even submerged in the well itself....
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Wells may use foot valves. Replacement could be a hassle, so getting help from a well service company might be wise.
Joe
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Joe -
I'm moving more and more to thinking that it is the foot valve....Thank you for responding with your insight
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aribner1 wrote:

Foot valves are usually at the well head underground. Your's may be leaking.
--
Claude Hopper :)

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Don't some well pumps, at least for shallow wells, have the check valve as part of the pump, located right where the input pipe attaches? I'm sure I've bought pumps like that in the past but always added a second check valve in the down pipe. The one in the pump operates in the horizontal mode and was less reliable as I remember, not being helped by gravity except that pulling down on the water. That being said, I've experienced the same symptoms you describe, in the past, when it was time to pull the point and replace on a shallow "driven" well. Once while burning paint with a propane torch to make it easy to scrape of the outside walls, I saw a cobweb flame up and fall down inside the wall. I ran down the ladder, grabbed the hose, turned it on and started back up the ladder. By the time I got to the top, only about 10 ft., the water was no longer coming out the end of the hose. Tense moments while I waited to see if there was any smoke.
Tom G.
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On Wed, 26 Nov 2008 07:32:58 -0800 (PST), aribner1

Has somebody secretly tapped into your plumbing?
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Clarifying the 'footvalve' bit:
If you have an above ground pump, then you will have a footvalve at the bottom of the pipe string in the well.
If you have a submersible pump, the valve is part of the pump.
If the system pressure was holding steady for several minutes at any point on the guage - there is no leakage.
Possible causes:
1. Pressure switch is failing. That is my guess as it sounds like an intermittent problem, i.e,. now it works, now it doesn't. New one is cheap so it isn't worth trying to fix the old one.
2. The small riser tube (1/8" pipe) the pressure switch is mounted on is partially plugged with crud - I had that happen to my system. Fix is easy, disconnect the wires to the switch (draw a diagram of which wire goes where), unscrew switch and pipe - clean (or replace) the pipe.
Harry K
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