I want to post an experience that I just had with having no water and
gather some opinions from others on what they think about it.
I live in a 7 year old home. The well was dug 430 feet deep. The
pump was about 400 feet deep. I had some folks come out and look at
my 'no water' issue, and they started to troubleshoot by checking the
control panel (which showed it wasn't the culprit) and then they told
me that the next step was that we need to pull the pump out of the
ground....so they started....
At about 280 feet, they approached me and said that there was a break
in the wire, and that they could either fix the break in the wire AND
replace the pressure tank, and control panel for $2800 total. OR they
could do the whole thing (go down the extra 120 feet, pull the pump
out, replace the pump, wire, control panel and water reservoir all for
I didn't get a good answer as to how all these things can start with a
short in a wire. But one explanation is that the casing is @ 200
feet, and beyond 200 feet theres a chance that the pipe moves scrapes
the limestone, then causes a crack in the wire, which then the water
when it hits the break in the wire shorts the pump out.
Some of my concerns - how did the bladder break (how can there be any
correlation with the wire breaking in the well hole)? I didn't get
any good answers on that - just said it was a bad pressure tank and
that they don't like that model (even though they were the folks who
sold it to me).
Why did the control panel need to be replaced? They said that the
capacitor was leaking some white stuff, and because of that it will
probably need to be replaced. Yet, asking them to replace the
capacitor (alone) and not the $187 control panel - they said they
don't do that.
Does anyone else see some concerns here? Oh, I did keep all the
'broken' parts. Maybe someone can help me understand just how broke
the parts are. I plan on filling up the pressure tank with water and
seeing if it does hold air in it. I do remember that when I was
checking the pressure gauge (when I did NOT have water) that it read
50 PSI. How would that show 50 PSI if the bladder in the pressure
tank was broken?
Frustrated, and much much poorer.
Sounds a little pricey but I have not had any well work done in a
couple of years. All these parts can last 20 years and maybe all you
needed was the wire spliced. Guess a lot depends where you live and
Plumbers (a plumber does mine) around here have raised hourly costs
considerably due to increase licensing fees and liability insurance.
Pays to shop around when you can.
I think it would be easier just to give them your checkbook with a half
dozen signed checks. Maybe you can sign them up to your on-line banking so
they can transfer money whenever needed.
I'd find another well service.
Superficially sounds like time for a different well service in the
future, perhaps, or more forceful response. Then again, wasn't there so
an abbreviated recount isn't necessarily conclusive. Just some thoughts
On discovering the break, the service (and I'd be looking, too) would've
looked at the wire condition and tried to come to a conclusion as to
what was the cause of the break. If it were apparent there's a rubbing
problem, would have added an bumper at and at some distance above/below
that point. Depending on condition, would have made a "real time"
decision on whether to splice or go w/ running new wire.
Either way, would have connected pump and tested before making decision
on pump replacement.
Then, once had pump repaired and operating would been time to diagnose
if was a problem w/ the pressure tank or not.
There would be no connection to the tank if the problem began at the
wire break; otoh if there was a bladder leak initially, that could cause
excessive pump cycling and that could have caused the increased wear and
thus indirectly been a contributor to the break...but, still, if they
didn't make the determination of a tank problem by observation after the
pump was working again, that would seem bad technique unless it was
As for the controller, and the caps, it would seem unlikely would need
to replace the controller instead of; I agree on that. Again, unless
they had leaked to the point had caused significant corrosion thus
making it needed. One thing I've noted w/ some is that on the
electrical end they don't want to spend time w/ repair; they'll rather
just replace. Also, if had new controller on the truck but not right
caps, depending on location to shop/distributor and/or time/day, they
get going w/ what have on hand instead of going to get parts.
If they went thru the sequence, probably ok. If just started throwing
parts at it, maybe they tend to pad the call. Again, w/o having actual
"film at 11" it's mostly supposition.
On Tue, 10 Nov 2009 08:40:41 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Because they're "engineers" trained to inspect and diagnose problems at
the module level, not the component level, as so many are these days.
Caps can go bad in various ways. Sometimes they do cause damage to other
components (either outright killing them, or shortening their lifespan),
sometimes not. Hard to say for sure without doing any tests. If it
were me though I'd be spending a couple of bucks on a replacement part and
a few minutes with a soldering iron and then taking it from there.
I suppose on a total bill of $2800 (or $4900) the panel cost is only a
small part of it. I'm curious about that tank though and why that needed
430ft seems hellish deep - ours is about 80ft and I always thought that
seemed like a lot :-) (our pump's at the surface though - maybe they just
can't do that with the deeper wells. I think I did see something in the
manual once saying the 200ft was about the max for the setup we have)
I think we were told around $3500 for having a new well (of similar depth
to our current one) drilled, so maybe $2800 isn't *that* unreasonable, as
I'm sure a lot of the cost is in the labour and equipment, rather than
I seriously doubt any engineers were involved. It is one thing for
someone to tinker on their own time but when the billing clock is
running it makes very little sense to troubleshoot beyond whatever the
field replaceable unit might be unless there is some circumstance such
as a replacement can't be obtained or the item is really expensive and
there is a reasonable chance it can be repaired.
The mere fact that they are proposign to replace every part of the
system tells me they think they are looking at a sucker. Kinda
expected a bid to drill a new well be tacked on.
Get at new company to look at it.
These are the motor start and run capacitors, not some control board
component. A standard home-well submersible pump has to fit in a 4"
diameter circle which means there's no room for them onboard (plus, it
would make for even more maintenance issues to have them downhole as
well). They're those roughly 2" diameter/4" long or so can-types w/
spade terminals so there's no soldering needed, for sure. :)
And, of course, they do have to be specifically-sized for the particular
pump motor hp and starting inrush, etc., they aren't just any cap one
happens to have at hand.
That said, it would seem unusual for the service truck to not have them
onboard for the range of pumps they tend to service, particularly since
this isn't that old an installation and apparently they were the
original installers they should have all the skinny on what pump it is,
etc. This is the most puzzling of all, imo, and I'd be tempted to
follow up on it w/ them.
Go to your well pipe take off the lid. Pull the pressure switch out.. 1st
listen to see if you hear the pump humming.
Take stick and pull the contacts back a few times . Sometimes Ants or
something can get between you contacts.
Has your switch been hit by lightning? Is the black spots on your screws. I
had lightning hit mine and I replaced the switch... About a week later my
pressure was gong off and on high and low. Turns out the lightning went down
my pipe to the ground and busted the pipe.
Look on the bottom of your pressure sitch. Make sure the yellow hose
connected on the bottom is round. Sometimes they
bend and will not let water pressure to your switch...
What is your switch doing... Is it cutting off and on. I had one going off
and on about every 10 seconds.. Turns out the bladder in my tank went out.
Dig down to your tank if it is in the ground. If not go to it check the
pressure in the tank.. You put a gauge on it and water comes out big time
you need a new tank.
Wire you pump directly to a outlet to see if it runs.
All the thing above is what I have delt with over the last 10 years of
having this well.
Ahh, I missed that. He said "Why did the control panel need to be
replaced? They said that the capacitor was leaking some white stuff"
which threw me. Like you say, the start/run caps are probably separate,
just on side grounds alone (and likely with screw terminals).
My assumption was that "control panel" meant a box that had some sort of
low-voltage electrickery inside of it for monitoring and running the pump,
whilst displaying status to the user (our well setup's ancient -
wall-mounted power disconnect, pressure regulator on the pump/motor unit,
expansion tank, and that's it. Nothing I'd want to call a 'control panel' :-)
For sure. But I doubt they're difficult to order...
... or that.
I'm curious as to why this "control panel" needed replacing if the bad cap
is separate - particularly if the OP asked about replacing the cap and was
told that the company don't do that. That reads like they replaced
something that didn't need replacing, and the bad part is still there,
which can't be right. (but I am on the wrong side of having had enough
coffee this morning ;-)
Actually about half the submersible pumps sold today have the
capacitor inside, so size is not an issue. Most companies offer the
same pump either way. Your point about whether it's better to have
the cap above ground for easy replacement is valid. But I recently
had a well installed by a large local well company and they said from
their experience, the subs with onboard cap are just as reliable.
Caps could go bad, of course. A broken wire can cause so much lateral
damage? They only did pin point the broken wire. Rest is mystery to me.
I hate that kind of problem solving. Maybe OP needs a second opinion.
Thank goodness my well is arteisan. Even this day and age there are good
service people who does not do shot gunning as preferred method of
fixing problems. I am always go down to component level, if part is not
readily available I redesign the circuit because I can.
Just two cents from a pump/drilling professional:
We don't stock capacitors/relays for these units in our service trucks
because it's generally cheaper for everyone to pay us to replace the
entire unit that it is to complete diagnostics on the unit & rebuild
it (based on the fact that in my area, 90% of pumps are 1/2 HP to 1 HP
For example, a 3/4HP control box takes 5 minutes to complete the
diagnostic (including finding the specs for that box), and 10 minutes
to disassemble and repair it. At a labor rate of $120 per hour,
that's $20 (based on our residential rate in the greater Seattle WA
area - maybe a lot higher/lower than the rate you pay in your
locale). Now the parts; the manufacturer charges us more for the
individual components as a rebuild kit, than they do for the whole
units - so let's say that we replace the capacitor - list price is
$45. Replacing the capacitor: total cost was $65, plus applicable
taxes, service call fees, etc. The list price for that entire
controller is $78 - that would have included new jumper wires and a
relay, along with the new capacitor - and 30 seconds installation
time, since the front lid is where all the controls are for the 1 HP &
Can I buy capacitors from other sources? Sure, if I had the time to
stock 50 more items in my inventory, I might do that. Believe me,
I've looked into it, multiple times.
For controllers of 1.5 HP or larger pumps, the above isn't always
true, and in those cases we do sometimes replace individual parts.
However, I'd say that in 99% of situations, the controller is so
corroded it's not even worth trying to save any of it.
I'm not trying to defend that companies pricing. I have a similar
contractor in my area who likes to get into projects, then throw out
ridiculously high pricing. Their rationale is that they can sell
1/3rd of the number of jobs and make 2 times the money. I suppose
that's good for them, but I don't see that as sustainable.
The only methods for completing a diagnostic from the surface is to
complete a line continuity test, an amp draw, and a voltage reading.
If the pump can actually move water, then we can do some pressure
testing & flow testing. If it makes pressure & flow - there's no
reason for us to be looking at it. If there's no flow/pressure, and
no continuity, or there's continuity in the circuits to ground, there
exists an electrical issue/short - the only method for finding it is
to pull the pump. High/low amp draw also goes a long way for leading
to solutions to symptoms.
Someone said that pressure tanks can't kill pumps - which is
absolutely incorrect. If a pressure/bladder/captive air/diaphragm
tank has no air charge in it, the pump will begin rapid cycling, which
doesn't allow it to cool properly. This can and will fry controllers,
wires, pump motors, etc. I'd say it's probably the number one killer
I usually check the incoming voltage, and trace it all the way to the
point where the wire goes down the well. Then I'll check the
pressure switch, the continuity in all the circuits, check for shorts
to ground in the pump, shorts to ground in the wire/circuit between
the main breaker and the well house/controller location.
The best advice I can give to anyone - Murphy's law says that if
you're going to install something 500 feet underground, and you're
going to go with the low bid - it'll break in fantastic & expensive
ways! I'd go with someone you trust who appears to do clean work &
knows what they are talking about.
PS www.wellowner.org lists certified installers around the country.
Hey, times are hard...
I had a well guy out a month or so ago, the start capacitor needed changing.
Cost with service call, $120. Still had problems, he came again and
replaced the whole control box, no charge. Later on, more problems...turned
out that ants had set up residence in the pressure switch and their little
ant bodies were keeping the contacts from contacting well. They (contacts)
were also burned a bit. Cost to install new switch with service call, $110.
So what's that have to do with times being hard? Well, I was making
conversation with the guy and asked how things were going. "Bad", he says,
"I'm lucky to make $1000 a week now, used to make $1000 a day". Your guys
still are...and more.
Looks like you need a new service person also. First thing a good one
will check when the pump doesn't run is the pressure switch. You can
even do it yourself and save a bundle on calls. Nothing to it, pull
the little cover and take a peek. Manually operate the contacts with
an insulated screwdriver, check for ants and mice (yes I found that
once in the breaker box). Tap on it gently with a BFH. None work and
the contacts weren't closed? replace it. Around $30 at the store and
a few minutes work - just be sure to note which wires go to which
terminal before undoing them. Whole job of check and change out
should be more than 30 minutes plus trip to the store. If you fiddling
and replacing don't cure it, it may be time for the service call
(would be for me) depending on your knowledge and test equipment you
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