water pump running constantly

Have a problem where my water pressure tank/pump is cycling at the drop of a hat. Seems like it's always running. And sometimes it will kick in when no one's using any water. I would say the thing is running every twenty minutes or so, depending upon water usage. I have a Well X-trol Wx-203 with a submersible pump. If I relieve pressure from the pressure guage ontop it does not spray water, which I was told in an earlier post is how you test for a torn bladder.
Now, recently I changed the pressure gauge on the system and switched out the switch through the help of people on this board. That did seem to fix my water pressure problem; for quite a few days now the water has not been completely shutting off when I use the shower upstairs. I think what was causing this was the fact that the pipe going to the switch was three-quarters of the way gunked up with crap. Changed the switch anyway. It is a 30-50 switch, the same one that originally came with the unit.
To set the air pressure, I turned off the power to the pressure tank and hit the water upstairs and in the utility sink. Eventually, the water stopped. Then with an air compressor I pumped in air through the top -- 29 psi worth, 1 psi short of my 30-50 psi switch.
Yet, I'm contantly hearing that pump kick in.
(I guess I should ask -- is this normal? Maybe it was always doing this but I never payed attention until I started messing around with the switch. But it does seem like it kicks in an aweful lot, and I have to wonder if this is slashing years off the pump's life).
Is what I describe above indicative of something? Is there something I'm overlooking?
Thank you for your time.
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Denaman,
Have you checked the foot valve or check valve? Do you see signs of a plumbing leak between the well and your pump house?
Dave M.
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Thanks guys for the replies.
Can I ask a question -- where would you find a check valve? Did a search on the web and wasn't finding anything.
No, not catching any leaking anywhere.
It was my understanding that you should charge the pressure tank to one psi bellow the cut-in value on the switch. Is that correct?
Brian
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denaman,

That depends I'm afraid. On my well the check valve is called a foot valve and is located at the bottom or foot of my well. Basically it's a "one way" valve.

Turn off your well pump and note down the system pressure. Check the pressure again in an hour. If the pressure has gone down then you have a leak. From your description I bet you see a large decrease in pressure.

That sounds about right.
Dave M.
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On 17 Jun 2006 13:41:17 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

It would be located between the wellhead and your pressure switch. You may not have one - may only have a foot valve like my system. The foot valve is located at the pump - 180 ft down in my case :-(

Unless you have a tiny pressure tank, if the pump is running about every 20 minutes - even with no water usage in the house - my bet is the foot valve is bad. That's a pretty hefty leak to have in the pipe, but could occur if pump torque (when the pump starts) has caused the pipe in the well to sling against the wall and abraded it. I had this happen to the power line to the pump about 3 years after the well was drilled. The installer came out, pulled the pump, spliced the wire and put a spacer around the pipe and wire at that point to prevent future problems. He also inspected the full length of pipe and wire for other abraded spots, but found none. FYI, there were already several spacers along the length of the pipe/wire - just needed one more...
A bad foot valve allows the water to leak back down into the well any time that the pump isn't running. You can install a check valve between the wellhead and the pressure switch and that will prevent the water going back down into the well - a solution, but not the real fix. The real fix is to pull the pump and replace the foot valve - a PITA (or a hire-out job) if the pump is very far down.
You may want to try installing a check valve just to see if the pump quits running all the time - if so, you'll know for sure that the problem is in the well, not in the house or line to the house. AFIK, using a check valve to prevent backflow past a faulty foot valve doesn't cause any problems, but I'm no expert. You may want to contact a local well driller to make sure.
A check valve will also stop backflow if you have a hole in the pipe inside the well, but the pipe itself should empty down to the well water level. If that is the case, I believe that you'd get air in your house line when the pump cuts back on as it would probably push the air faster than it could escape from the hole. If you wound up with air coming out of your faucets - after the initial startup bleeding when you installed the valve - that would be something to look at.
If you're working with PVC installing a check valve is pretty simple, turn off the pump, drain the line, cut out a short section of pipe, glue in the check valve, allow a little time for the glue to set properly, start the pump and bleed off the air in the lines. Dunno what would be entailed with metal pipe - similar procedure, I'm sure, but probably a bit more difficult for the do-it-yourselfer.
BE SURE TO INSTALL IT IN FACING THE RIGHT DIRECTION and it needs to be between the wellhead and the pressure switch. If the check valve is after the pressure switch, your pump will cut on every time the switch is depressurized, but will immediately cut off as it repressurizes the line. If the pressure tank is on the well side of the valve also, the tank will drain and you'll have the same problem you have now.

That is correct - 1-3 psi below cut-in pressure is what the fella that drilled my well recommended.
HTH
Later, Mike (substitute strickland in the obvious location to reply directly) ----------------------------------- snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net
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No joke, Changing a footvalve is a real PITA. I had to do this for my mother-in-law and the well at her houes is 400ft deep. Fortunately for me her husband had always done all his own well work and had the tools for the task including a 20 ft A-frame, block and tackles and come-alongs. This turned into an all day job. I could imagine how bad it would have been without the special tools.
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Researched it a little further and discovered the following. Again, seeing if this is a cut and dry symptom of something (either of the pressure tank or the foot valve elluded to in earlier posts)...before I break down and call in a plumber and then a well guy.
1) If I flush a toilet twice the psi will drop from its maximum of 50 down to 32 psi, just shy of the 30 cut in range.
2) More interestingly, I noticed that the psi will cut out at 50, like it is supposed to, then over the course of a minute or so the needle will drop a good 2 to 8 psi. So that's why the thing is kicking on so often. Sometimes I start out with only half my psi range.
Brian
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On 9 Jul 2006 18:12:42 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Replied yesterday regarding #2, but for some reason it hasn't shown up - added it here. Reread your post and have some thoughts on #1 also.
On #1, check pressure tank air pressure when tank is empty to make sure that it is about 3 psi below your 30 psi cut-in pressure. Sounds like it's much less and only a couple of gallons are available before the pump cuts in. IIRC, you said that you have a bladder tank, so see my reply in the Well Tank thread for more explanation. If I am correct, it's an easy fix that most anyone can do themselves.
On #2, Sure sounds like a bad foot valve or a leak in the pipe - I'm betting on the foot valve, unless you have old metal pipe in the well, then it could go either way. If you cut off the water to the house next to the well and the pressure still goes down, the leak is in the well and one of the two problems mentioned is most likely the cause. An anti-backflow valve between the well and pressure tank will fix the symptoms in this case, but not the actual problem. Dunno that there would be any problem putting in an anti-backflow valve, other than it's just a patch on the real problem.
Either case, foot valve or leak in the pipe in the well, will cause a small amount of extra work for the pump as the line is brought back up to the pressure needed to equalize with the other side of the anti-backflow valve if you go that route. If it's a leak, you also loose some efficiency in bringing the water in the pressure tank back up to pressure since part of it is being lost back into the well and the chance of introducing air into the system if the leak is above the waterline in the well.
These are small losses, but will add up over time. Also, if it's a leak in the pipe, the leak can get worse - if you have metal pipe and it's corroding with age or if it's plastic and pump torque is causing the problem. I had pump torque wear a spot on the power line in two about 3 years after the well was drilled, luckily no damage to the water pipe (black poly) or the rest of the power line, and splicing and a spacer to keep it away from the wall of the well were all that was needed - going on 7 years since the repair now.
Later, Mike (substitute strickland in the obvious location to reply directly) ----------------------------------- snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

The standard answer is 2 psi below. 1 psi is getting a bit close to the cut on pressure. I prefer to read the pressure on the guage attached to the pressure switch. I don't trust different gauges to read the same when working on such close measurements.
The other replies are right on the money. You must have a leak somewhere. If you have a shutoff that will cut off the tank from the house - close it and see what happens. That will isolate the leak as being either before or after the tank.
Harry K
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Yes, I think you're missing something, but not sure what. The 20 min cycling is not normal, so there is still a leak somewhere such as a dripping faucet or connection somewhere, unlikely but possible even inside the well casing. You could start by turning off water to the entire house (if that valve will completely close, that is) and see if that stops the cycling. It could even be an air leak at the tank; is the air pressure still there by the way? Check all the conections around the tank and up to the well casing once you have the house water contained with no dripping faucets, etc..
Our submersible stays off for hours at a time if no water is used.
HTH, Pop
Our submersible stays off for hours at a time if no water is used.
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A pump running constantly, or cycling too often is often caused by a leaking (failed) pressure tank. When it leaks you loose pressure and the pump starts, or keeps running in an attempt to maintain the desired pressure.
Pressure tanks usually last 15 to 20 years but most are only warranted for 5 years or so. Look for water under or around your tank. If it is wet the best action is to replace it. Cost is about $125 to $150 for a typical tank. Installation is usually quite easy.
B
Pop wrote:

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