Well problem - pump dont always kick in when it should.

I have a deep well with submercible pump. It's always worked fine, but lately on occasion it seem to not want to start on occasion. This is on a farm. When I use small amounts of water in the house it's fine, but when I fill large livestock water tanks (100 gal or more), it will run for awhile, then it spits and sputters, the water stops flowing for a minute or so, and then it begins pumping again.
I have a good knowledge of both plumbing and electrical, but I have not encountered this problem before.
The pressure tank (bladder type) is fairly new, I replaced it 2 to 3 years ago. And I would think the pump itself must be ok, or it would not pump at all. Nor do I suspect a wiring short, or the breaker would blow.
What I am suspecting is possibly the pressure switch having burnt contacts, or the little hole in the bottom is clogging with crud/rust. This switch is in a pit and not easy to get to, so before I go down there, I thought I'd post this on this newsgroup and see what others have to say about it.
The other thought I have is this: Could the starting capacitor be getting weak? That's located in a shed, so that is easy to get to, but before I replace it, I thought I'd ask. It seems to me that capacitors are either good or bad, and there is no in between with them, but I know they can change capitance, and wonder if that could cause the pump to not start at times?????
That's about all there is to the system, so it's got to be one of those things?
Anyone ever have this problem?
I should note that the pressure switch is set to Approximately.... ON - 30LBS OFF - 50 LBS
It appears it will go up to normal (50lbs), but drops down to zero and stays there for a minute or so before it starts again.
Appreciate all help. Thanks in advance.
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wrote:

Does it pump air? Could the problem be a lack of water? Plugged holes in the casing?

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On Thu, 03 Nov 2011 20:14:59 -0500, Dean Hoffman

No, it dont pump anything, the water seems to be going backward (I'm on a hill with the well near the bottom of the hill).
I never had a water shortage in the past either. The well is nearly 500 feet deep.
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On Nov 3, 6:02 pm, snipped-for-privacy@myplace.com wrote:

That is the symptom my ssystem had. Problem. The 1/4" riser pipe to the switch was so plugged with crud I had to use a drill to clear it. It would run, over pressure before it turned off and be very slow to start again.
The bit about "spits and sputter" sounds like your well may not be recovering or keeping up with the drawdown.
Harry K
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On Thu, 3 Nov 2011 19:06:45 -0700 (PDT), Harry K

I'm suspecting the riser pipe too. This water does have a lot of minerals, which I know from the toilet buildup, which requires an acid to remove every few months. When I replaced the tank, I found that pipe nearly clogged too. I'm not sure about OVER pressurem because it never went above 50lbs (actually around 47 from what I recall). I know I tried to get it up to 55 or 60 and it would not go that high.

Anything is possible, but I have never had a water shortage, and this well is nearly 500 feet deep. There is no lack of water around this part of the country either. The spit and sputter is the water going backwards. I'm on a hill and the well is near the lowest point. I know several times when i was filling livestock tanks and in the house the toilet tank begings to start filling. I guess that the lack of pressure on the toilet fill valve opens it. So, water from uphill goes into the toilet.
One other thought, do submercible pumps have a foot valve? Maybe the water is flowing back into the well??????
I guess if all else fails, they do sell inline one way valves that I could try. But I'll start with the electrical stuff first.
Thanks

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On Nov 3, 10:43 pm, snipped-for-privacy@myplace.com wrote:

Yes a submersible has a checkvalve built in. If it fails, you can jury rig the system by putting a checkvalve prior to the pressure tank. Best place is as close to the well head as you can get.
Harry K
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On Thu, 3 Nov 2011 17:34:20 -0700 (PDT), tim birr

I'm suspecting the pressure switch too. I looked in the control box where the capacitor is, to look for charred connections, etc. All looks fine. I may try another capacitor just for the hell of it. I dont think they are too costly. But first I plan to go in that pit and check the pressure switch.
That webpage is very good!
Thanks
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On Thu, 03 Nov 2011 19:02:09 -0600, jw wrote:

Just to state what may already be obvious ...
I have two wells and they do that all the time because that's what they're designed to do.
The well pumping causes a localized v-shaped 'cavitation' in the water table such that the pump spins faster when it is no longer submerged in water. Topside, a current-aware switch senses the lack of load, and shuts off the pump for a specified period of time (adjustable).
After that period of time, generally fifteen minutes to an hour, the well has recovered, and the pump turns back on.
Until it happens again. And again. And again. All day. All night.
This is how my well is designed anyway.
You did mention you understood the controls of your system so that may not be the case ... but ... as I said ... at the risk of stating the obvious ... I provide this information.
Good luck!
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First thing I would do is determine if the pump is actually running when it' not producing water. With a clamp-on amp meter you can determine that. Or even with a VOM you can find out if voltage is constantly going to the pump. That's where I would start before talking anything apart. If the pump is running and not producing water, then you know it has nothing to do with the pressure switch. From the description, it could be anything from a bad switch to a well that no longer has sufficient water.
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On Fri, 4 Nov 2011 07:08:43 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net"

This I can answer without any clamp on meter. There is a yard hydrant right next to the well. I can hear the pump running when I'm right by the well. I turned on the hydrant, and got water, but all of a sudden the water stopped flowing. I did not hear the pump, and even put my ear to the well cap. Pump was not running. All of a sudden I heard it kikc on, and water began coming out the hydrant again. So, I do know the pump is not kicking on when the water stops, but it will kick on after a minute or two.
That pretty much tells me that the problem is somewhere in the electrical system. I'm gonna crawl down in the pit this weekend and check that pressure switch. I suspect that is the problem.
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On Fri, 04 Nov 2011 16:59:36 -0400, Tony Miklos

My hydrant is directly to the pump pipes from the well. So the check valve has to be down in the pump or foot valve. Everything else goes to a storage tank located in a deep concrete pit. In that pit is the tank, pressure switch, and pressure gauge. (the pit keeps stuff from freezing in winter). There is a shed directly next to this pit, and the control box with relay and capacitor are in the shed. Wires go to the pit for the pressure switch from the shed, and more wires go to the well for the pump.
I only know that hydrant is directly to the pump, because I replaced all the piping in that pit except the feed pipe between the well and the pit. That hydrant was already there when I moved here. From the pit, there is a pipe that feeds the house, and the hydrants in the two barns.
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On Sat, 5 Nov 2011 05:18:37 +0000 (UTC), U vigilance

Of course it dont run constantly, that is what the pressure switch is for. This well has never run out of water. I really do not know what it would do if it did run out of water. But now, it does shut off.
Actually I have sort of figured out the problem. It is electrical. See my other replys.
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On Fri, 4 Nov 2011 07:08:43 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net"

Here's the latest. I was in the shed by the pump control box yesterday. The pump tried to kick on, and the relay in that box started to chatter, making all sorts of noise for a half minute or more, and finally kicking on. I heard it shut off, and waited till it turned on again. Once again, it began to chatter. I hit the box with my hand, and it kicked on as soon as I hit it. I opened that control box (again), and looked at the relay. All the wires are tight, and I took them all off and cleaned the terminals. Putting it back together did not solve the problem. I've come to the conclusion that the relay must be bad. They can not be opened, so I just have to replace it. I intend to replace the relay, and probably the capacitor at the same time.
Before I do that, I still wonder if the pressure switch could be burnt and I know the relay depends on the pressure switch for kicking that relay on and off. The thought is to bypass the pressure switch for a few seconds and see if the relay still chatters. I'll have to do some temporary wiring to do that, because the control box is made so the actual relay and capacitor are disconnected when the box is opened. I'll just remove the romex to the control that goes to the pressure switch, and run a scrap of cable to a wall switch for testing.
At least I now know what is going on, and it has to be either the relay or the pressure switch (or capacitor).
By the way this capacitor has THREE wires coming out of it. I've never seen one with more than two. Weird....
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On Sat, 5 Nov 2011 09:30:51 -0700 (PDT), Harry K

The only electrical component in the pit is the pressure switch. The other stuff (control box) is in the shed and easy to get to. Putting the tank in the house would require a ton of wire. You said 1/4 mile, and that is actually about the distance from the house to the well. There would have to be wire run all that distance to the pump. The shed/garage is 10 feet from the well, but is not heated. The pit, (an old cistern), is in between the well and the shed. It takes a 16 ft. ladder to get down there leaving 6 inches of ladder to spare, and I can barely get into the opening. The cistern is all concrete, but I must have a sump pump down there, since it will get standing water after heavy rains. When the former tank sprung a leak, the pit filled half way with water because the sump pump was bad. Amazingly, the breaker never blew yet the pressure switch was under water..... Thats when I replaced the tank, pressure switch, gauge, and sump pump, all at the same time, along with some of the piping.
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On Nov 5, 1:25 pm, snipped-for-privacy@myplace.com wrote:

Moving the tank wouldn't add any wires. The pressure switch can be anywhere, it doesn't need to be by the tank. Since all your controls are in the shed you really would gain much any how.
Your descriptionof the hole, the problems you have had, etc. really hilite reasons that wells should _never_ be terminatedin a below ground pit. That type of installation should have died 50 years ago. Teh community well I was on befoe drilling my own was in a 'hole in the ground' That's when I learned to hate the asinine things.
Harry K
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