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rosberney 01-19-2010 09:58 PM

Shallow wells loses prime
Please.... I have a shallow well. Recently, my pump takes too long to prime. I have water in my lines, but when them pump calls for water, I hear air in the pipes from both the pump and the faucetts and it takes too long to catch the prime. I have been told that it could be the foot valve. In the past, if my well level is low, I have water first and then it could loose its prime. Now, it's opposite. I don't have prime (hear the sucking sound) and then the water comes and the pump shuts off after about 2 minutes (vs. 15 sec.when all is good). Foot valve?

willowgirl 01-19-2010 11:38 PM

Yes that sounds like it would be your foot valve, Its not usually hard to change it. When you pick one up, I would spend the extra few dollars and get the cooper one ( I think its copper ) instead of plastic so it will last.
I'm not sure how your wells are there, but the ones around here are quit deep. When i went to change it this year, I was pleasantly surprised that the previous owner had attached a line to it to make it coming out the top of the well. It made it much easier to make the change. They also had a weight on it that would slide back and forth. So when you put it back down in the well it helps hold it down.

You probably have a ( I think its called ) check valve on the pump that helps it keep the prime once its been primed. That may be part of the problem. I would say its one or the other hopefully, and not a cracked pipe along the away. :)

DangerMouse 01-20-2010 05:39 AM

sounds to me like the check valve.... I'd be looking at that first.....


rosberney 01-20-2010 07:47 AM

Thank you so much!!

DangerMouse 01-20-2010 07:50 AM

not a problem, let us know what you find out?


Porky 01-20-2010 08:38 AM

Suction leak!
It's a suction leak somewhere between the checkvalve on the pump (if there is one) and the check valve in or near the well. The foot valve in the well is probably OK!

When there are two check valves on a pump suction line, when the pump shuts off and both check valves close. Then when there's a suction leak, the pressure eventually drops in between the check valves sometimes allowing air to enter the suction line when the pump starts again. This will cause the pump to reprime slowly or in some cases won't prime again at all. Until you allow the air that entered the pump to be discharged by removing the priming plug, the pump won't usually reprime it's self at all.
Another indication of a suction leak between check valves is that the when the pump starts, it will pump water for a few seconds then lose it's prime when the traped air enters the pump.

Solution: First find the suction leak and repair it. Keep in mind that a suction line may suck air but not leak water!
Next: I recommend removing the check valve at the pump if there is one in the well. This way the suction line is always pressurized when the pump shuts off preventing air from entering the suction line and pump.

Suction leaks are probably 70 % of the problems when dealing with jet pumps. Check and foot valves are about 20% of the problems and the pump is probably 10% of the problems

Note: As another responder recommended, always use brass check valves! PVC check valves usually only last about a year. Some pump installers love them, they are cheap and insure an automatic yearly service call.

Porky Cutter, MGWC
Master Ground Water Certified

DangerMouse 01-20-2010 08:48 AM


Originally Posted by Porky (Post 386104)
The foot valve in the well is probably OK!

My thoughts exactly.....Thanks Porky!

Originally Posted by Porky (Post 386104)
always use brass check valves!



rosberney 01-20-2010 06:25 PM

Suction leak?
Next question... how do you detect and repair a suction leak??? I am very new to the world of home repair (just divorced). I have a friend coming here tomorrow and we were going to check the foot valve. How would we find a leak if it's not the foot valve? :( The pipes up from the well and into (under) the house are galvanised. I don't kow if that matters or not.
p.s. what a GREAT website! Wonderful, fast responses! Thanks to all!

willowgirl 01-20-2010 10:08 PM

What type of pump do you have, is a piston pump or jet Pump? I would try the easier things first to try and find out what the actual problem is.

I think if you do end up changing the check value the brass is the way to go, as they others are saying above. ( I think I called it cooper above. ) Either way, I would check it to see if its plastic since your checking things out anyways. If it is plastic I'd change it just to avoid future problems.

I live in Canada so our well systems may be different, as I'm not sure what Porky means about there being a Check valve near the well??

I think if somehow the foot valve ends up to close to the water line it will suck water and air. So maybe it just needs to be lowered. Mine is on a long pipe that if not pushed down all the way can cause problems.

I would be interested in hearing how things go and what the problem was once its all done. You should take some pics if you can.

Porky if you have a chance can you explain to me about what your calling the suction line? Do you mean there is a separate line from the water line? I'm sorry if it sounds like a silly question, maybe its different pump system used here. We just have the main water line going to well.

rosberney 01-20-2010 11:29 PM

pump losing prime continued
It is a jet pump. Just a thought; about 3 weeks ago, I lost all water. When uncapping and looking down the well (shallow well about 25') the pipe from down the well and the connecting pipe to the house was disconnected. I re-connected the 2 and had water for about a week. Then, the problem occured. Last night, I ran the dishwasher and because it called the pump for water soon after each shut off, the water came back next to normal. It's when the pump doesn't call for water soon that is when the problem occurs. If it calls for water within a few minutes, it is almost normal. Question.. When the pipe from the well lost connection to the pipe to the house (underground) the foot valve was on the bottom of the well. Could that have damaged it? The foot valve, I mean. I can hear the pump pulling the water very long... like it's pulling it from the bottom of the well each time. Hope my explanation makes sense, it is hard to explain but each help answer is GREATLY APPRECIATED!

willowgirl 01-21-2010 12:01 AM

I think it could have been damaged, especially if it was plastic one. Do you know why it became disconnected?? Is the connection below the waterline or above it. (where you re-connected it) If its above the water line, I wonder if its sucking air at that connection? Maybe you can use Teflon tape and screw it back in to make it a tight connection.
( I'm just trying to give suggestions, I'm not a plumber but I have run into these things before. I'm sure someone will let you know if they don't think what I'm saying is correct )

It that's fine I would change that foot valve, Hopefully one of those two things is your problem. They are easy to fix and not much money for the part. ( Make sure that the foot valve is sitting under the water line. Our wells here a pretty deep, so we have a weight attachment to the end of the pipe to help when we lower it back down into the well and to keep it in place. ) I'll try to find some pics tomorrow of it but not sure where there at.

If that doesn't fix the problem you may have a crack in your waterline which could cost a lot of money. :(
I don't think it would be the check valve because I've never really heard of one failing to hold the prime. I've been warned about jet pumps for my area because of the long pull from well to the house. I was told it can burn out your pump if it looses its prime and keeps running. I have one jet pump that I've had for about a yr now and know on wood, its been working great.

I have some pics of the dry well in my album on here, and it shows a pic of the new piston pump I put in a few years ago if you wanted to have a look.

willowgirl 01-21-2010 12:02 AM

How far is the well from your house? Is it up hill or down.

Porky 01-21-2010 06:12 AM

Suction Leak!
It's a suction leak somewhere between the foot valve and the pump. I suspect it's where it came apart sometime back.

Willowgirl suggested using Teflon Thread Tape and that's fine. Personally we always preferred #3 Permitex on suction lines.

A good way to locate a leak in a suction line is while the pump is running and pumping is to put shaving cream around any suspected leak above the water line in the well and the pump intake (suction). If there's a leak you can see it because it will suck the shaving cream into the leak and you can see it at the leak as it is sucked in because it leaves an indentation in the foam as it is sucked in.

A side note to Willowgirl: People all over the world have different names for the same thing! A suction line is any single line from the water supply (well) to the pump inlet. If it's a pump with 2 lines to the well, the larger line is considered the suction line and the smaller line is considered the pressure line.

Porky Cutter, MGWC
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rudolph58 01-21-2010 12:36 PM

Is there a air volume control on the pressure tank or is it a pre charged tank?

rosberney 01-21-2010 12:52 PM

It is about 6 ft, slanted down.

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