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Old 10-05-2017, 07:41 AM   #1
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Problem with my well, no water in the morning only?


I'm struggling with my well right now. A little backstory, we've lived in this house for 9 years now and aside from replacing the pump shortly after moving in and the pitless adapter a few years ago the well has been trouble free. It's a 300 foot well, the pump is hung at about 280' and the water level is usually around 125' so there's never been an issue with it going dry or anything. The trouble started about 2 months ago. I woke up one morning to shower and the water pressure was very poor. Went to the basement and the gauge was showing ~20 psi. Checked the breaker and it was fine, checked for 240v going to the pump at the pressure switch and that was fine, went outside and pulled off the well cap and I heard the pump running but I wasn't getting any pressure. I had to go to work, so I killed the breaker and left for the day. When I came home I went back to diagnosing it, turned the breaker on, and got plenty of water pressure. Pump worked fine for another couple days and did it to me again first thing in the morning when I was trying to shower. I know that a failing pump can sometimes be limped along by giving it a rest, so I figured the pump was going out again. It had only been in there 7 years, which was disappointing, but not unheard of around here (acidic water). Usually I'd fix this myself but I was going out of town for work so we called a local well installer. They came out and replaced the pump. They also noticed that my pressure tank bladder had leaked internally, and they figured that was what did in the 7 year old pump. Made sense to me, so I replaced the pressure tank, switch, and check valve in the house. The old pump, and the new pump, are 1 hp 10gpm stainless units (Gould when I did it, currently a StaRite from the well company). No excessive sediment, I only change the sediment filter every 6 months or so.

Two months later and I'm having the same problem. Tuesday I woke up, started showering, and half way through the water dropped to a trickle. Breaker was fine, switch was fine, pulled the cap and heard the pump running. Killed the breaker and went to work. Since this pump was put in by a professional it has a warranty, so we called them back out. They turned the breaker back on and the pump ran fine. They said the amp draw was good, so it wasn't a bad impeller. They pressure checked the line and found the line to the house is leaking (not a huge leak because they did get it pressurized with air for a little while). They told me that the pump must have run all night and emptied the well, and after resting a couple hours the water table came back up. I was a little skeptical for a few reasons. For one thing, I don't get any air or sediment in the lines, so it must be a really small leak. Secondly, I have a check valve in the house before the pressure tank. Once it's up to pressure for the night even if the line outside leaks down the pump shouldn't kick on, and if the pump did kick on it shouldn't have a problem filling the tank and kicking off again? I mean, the leak isn't going to magically get better in the day time and worse at night?

I can believe there's a leak, it's a 30 year old house with a 30 year old buried plastic pipe, so we're getting quotes for the excavation and I'll run a new line. In the mean time the water quit again during my shower this morning and now I'm not sure what's going on. When I got up the tank was reading 55 psi (full charge) and the pump was not running. So it theoretically could not have been dropping the well level all night, although I didn't pull the cap and drop a line in the well to check the level. I got halfway through my shower and the pressure started dropping. I decided to let it keep running while I watched the gauge. Over the course of about 15 minutes although the pump was running the pressure slowly dropped to below 20 psi. I shut the shower off and continued the check on the gauge. In 15 minutes the pressure had only come up to 43 psi, and it stalled there because in 15 more minutes of the pump running continuously the pressure was still only at 43 psi. I don't have a clamp-on ammeter so I can't check the pump current draw, but I decided to do another experiment. I killed the breaker for 5 minutes. When I flipped it back on the pressure in the tank went up to 55 psi in less than a minute and the pump kicked off.

I have no problem believing the new pump is going bad already. These things happen from time to time, bad assembly or whatever. What's weird to me is that this is the same failure mode of the pump from 2 months ago. It only gives trouble in the early morning when I try to shower. If it's an issue with the water table shouldn't it be worst later in the day when there's more draw on the system? If it's from the pump not running why doesn't it fail in the evening? It sits unused just as long during the day when I'm at work as it does at night when I'm sleeping?

I'm going to have to call the well company back out because it is not the leak that is causing me to be without water in the mornings, but now I'm concerned it may be something besides the pump? And that maybe the pump 2 months ago wasn't actually bad either? I'm going to buy a clamp-on ammeter to check the pump draw the next time I lose pressure. I'm also going to start checking the water level in the well in the mornings (maybe, that's tough when I leave for work before 6 am). Any other suggestions? Maybe there's some sort of odd debris in the well that floats up and jams the pump overnight? Or is it really just bad luck and a new pump failed in 2 months the exact same way the old one did?
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Old 10-05-2017, 10:41 AM   #2
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Re: Problem with my well, no water in the morning only?


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They told me that the pump must have run all night and emptied the well, and after resting a couple hours the water table came back up.
Sounds like a possibility.
In the morning when you have no water go out to the well and drop string with a float on it to see what the water level is. Try it again later when the water is working.
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Old 10-05-2017, 06:34 PM   #3
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Re: Problem with my well, no water in the morning only?


What size is your tank?
Must be kind of small if a 10 per minute pump can go from 43 to 55 in less than a minute.
Presumably your cut on/cut off pressures are 35/55.

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Secondly, I have a check valve in the house before the pressure tank.
Is the pressure switch after the check valve? If so I agree with your logic.

Suspect that it is the using of the shower that is causing the pump failure, not the daytime/nighttime thing. Largest volume of water being used for longest period of time.

Check electrical connections at breaker. Suspect a poor connection is causing over heating and reducing amperage to pump. The pump is only humming not running. The pump trying to keep up with shower and is creating heat. Poor connection would have to be at breaker because connections were remade at switch when changed out. Might want to just replace the breaker in case the fault is in the breaker itself.
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Old 10-05-2017, 07:58 PM   #4
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Re: Problem with my well, no water in the morning only?


Harold, you're correct. The plumbing is pump (with an internal check valve)->pipe to house->check valve->pressure tank/switch/gauge (they're all in the Christmas tree)->house filter->neutralizer->etc. it's actually a 32 gallon pressure tank (switch set to 35/55, tank pressurized to 37). It takes a good 3 or 4 minutes to fill from 35 psi, but the last 10 psi seem go faster than the first. Maybe 'less than a minute' was optimistic, but I had been staring at that non-moving gauge for a half hour at that point

The breaker is an interesting theory. I think I want to get an amp-meter first and try to 'catch it in the act' rather than replace the breaker now and always be left wondering if that was really the culprit, but I will keep that in mind. I will say that the breaker and the wiring is about the only thing I haven't replaced in the last 2 months?
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Old 10-05-2017, 10:50 PM   #5
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Re: Problem with my well, no water in the morning only?


A 32 gallon tank, which has about 14 gallons of usable water at cut off pressure, fits my concept of what is happening.

With tank at or near cut on pressure, a 10 gal pump, a leaking pipe, and a long shower could very well cause a poor electrical connection to over heat.

A tank at or near cut on pressure means the water for the long shower is being provided by the pump alone. A tank at or near cut off pressure would not put so much demand on the pump and not cause the over heating. That may explain what appears to be erratic behavior.

After giving it a little thought, a poor connection creates heat, heat increases resistance, increased resistance causes voltage drop. Lower voltage means less power at the pump. Less power means pump cannot move as much water and runs longer which increases heat even more.


You probably can see the signs of heat in the insulation near the faulty connection.
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Old 10-10-2017, 07:09 AM   #6
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Re: Problem with my well, no water in the morning only?


So since Friday the well has been fine. This morning it quit during my shower again. Since I have now purchased a clamp-on amp meter I was able to take some readings of current draw before resetting the breaker. The well was drawing right around 6.7 amps per leg. Shouldn't a 1 hp motor at max draw closer to 8 amps per leg? So either the motor isn't working as hard as it should (possibly low water in the well), or else it could be that upstream something is limiting the current (breaker)?

When I get home and restart the breaker I'll see what the pump draws when it is making adequate pressure.
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Old 10-10-2017, 07:10 AM   #7
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Re: Problem with my well, no water in the morning only?


Pump will draw less current when not pumping water. It is not working as hard.
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Old 01-05-2018, 08:06 AM   #8
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Re: Problem with my well, no water in the morning only?


A follow-up for anyone curious what the issue was. The root cause seems to have been a crack in the buried water line. I guess somehow it was at times sealing up, possibly from shifting ground or from a temperature change in the pipe plastic, but it finally cracked too bad for me to get any water at all. Had to dig a trench around the garage and bury a new one, and have had no issues since (although I'm still gun-shy of every little pressure change during a shower).
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Old 01-05-2018, 02:04 PM   #9
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Re: Problem with my well, no water in the morning only?


Thanks for closing the loop on this.

Running out of water during a shower is no fun, not surprised you're gun-shy.

Had a boiler which would trip off (long since fixed) at inconvenient times. In the shower (or just before) was the worst!
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