Pennsylvania Well pump cycling (video)

Discussion in 'Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by Jasonr114, Nov 3, 2014.

  1. Jasonr114

    Jasonr114 New Member

    I live in central PA and moved into a 3,000 sq foot house, with a 14 year old open loop system w/ a dump well, that we bought earlier this year.

    The unit seemed to work fine in the summer - every now and then we would notice low domestic water pressure. The unit has been off the last two months with the nice fall weather. Now that we are heating again, when the unit is heating the house, the domestic water pressure is just about worthless.

    Currently the 3 HP well pump (little over a year old) is cycling on - building pressure to 70 psi - the pressure quickly drops - and the cycle starts again. I believe the pump is at 700 ft in a 900 ft well. I have a nice video of the cycling here: I am pretty sure this cycling was happening before we turned the unit back on, there was just no reason to take notice.

    The attached pictures provide more information about the setup, including the geothermal unit - although I think the problem is elsewhere. This cycling happens even when the valve that sends water to the house and geothermal is closed - so with my limited knowledge I believe the problem is in the pressure tank.

    I called a local geothermal guy and he gave me a few things to look for, but none of that really helped. They will come out and give everything a good look over, but they wanted me to look for simple problems first.

    Does anyone have any advice?

    Attached Files:

  2. Jasonr114

    Jasonr114 New Member

    The pressure tank air pressure is at 65 psi

    Attached Files:

  3. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I was just in PA.

    What is your delta P through the unit?

    Are you sure the bladder in the tank is ok?

  4. Jasonr114

    Jasonr114 New Member

    Not sure of the delta through the unit, I am at work now. How do I check if the bladder is damaged?
  5. geoxne

    geoxne Active Member Forum Leader


    Call your well pump guy fast. You have a major leakage some where between the pump check valve and your pressure tank. I would shut the pump off until it gets resolved.

    Also, someone has been playing with your pressure switch adjustments. Original install notes 30/50 pressure switch. You shouldn't be pumping to 70. That pressure and cycling can damage a bladder tank set to 28psi.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
  6. geoxne

    geoxne Active Member Forum Leader

    Your low domestic water pressure has everything to do with your leak and nothing to do with the geo unit. Higher pressure only makes the leak worse and may cause greater damage.
  7. heatoldhome

    heatoldhome Geo Student Forum Leader

    Your bladder tank needs to be set 1-2 psi below your pump turn on pressure.
    Im guessing you have a 20 psi differance between start up and shut off pressure. So if your pump starts at 50 psi the the bladder needs to be set at 48 psi.

    Right now your well pump only slightly fills the bladder tank and when the water pressure falls to 65.5 the tank is empty. You should never fully empty a bladder tank if its setup correctly.

    Fugure out your pump turn on set point then lower the air pressure in the bladder to 1-2 psi lower than that. My guess is you need to remove about 20 psi of air.

    If water comes out when you remove the air the bladder has gone bad.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
  8. Jasonr114

    Jasonr114 New Member

    Thanks for the information. I just spoke with the person who serviced the tank/well last. They will be out tomorrow to try and fix what is broken.

    The service guy said that it sounds like the check valve in the well is damaged - when the pump stops pumping, it sounds like the water is flowing back up and out of the supply line from the well. He said if that is the problem, he maybe able to install a check valve inside to solve the issue - without getting into the well. Of course, this was all over the phone diagnosis - so I guess I will find out tomorrow afternoon.

    I guess there could be a leak - but it would have to be in the supply line from the well (in a trench) or in the well itself - as this is happening even when the water is turned off to the house/geo.
  9. birkie

    birkie Member

    My first impression upon seeing the video is a bad check valve at the pump. Usually, you see pressure variations that cause the needle to jump at the *end* of the pumping cycle, as the check valve slams shut. Yours is exactly the opposite. What's probably happening is that the pump is actually spinning backwards as water is rushing through it due to gravity in the 'off' part of the cycle. Then once power is back on at the pump, the pump traumatically reverses itself and starts spinning in the right direction. This is a forceful event that can easily destroy a pump, so it'd need to be fixed right away!

    A check valve outside the well won't work, as you can't keep 700' of water column in place via vacuum.

    To me, it sounds like you need to have the pump pulled, line inspected, and check valve replaced (if that is indeed the problem). Do not let them put check valves anywhere other than directly above the pump.
  10. Jasonr114

    Jasonr114 New Member

    Birkie - I think you are correct. When I talked to the tech who serviced the well with the previous owner, he said that the previous owner had gotten an estimate to replace the entire pump - because they would need to bring in a mini-crane to pull out the well pump - at considerable cost. The previous owner must have balked and passed the fun on to me.

    Kinda sucks, but we got the house at a large discount because it was a short sale and had other issues.

    It seems like the previous owner may have just pumped up the pressure in the air tank so there was enough pressure to get some domestic water pressure with the geothermal on. I lowered the pressure to 50 PSI and now have no domestic water pressure when the geothermal is on.

    The tech should be arriving at my house now (I am at work) to check out the situation. It sounds like there is no easy fix and I may have to get prices for either pulling/servicing the existing pump or even replacing it. My guess is that the cost of pulling such a deep well will kind of force my hand into purchasing a new well pump.
  11. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    One gets what one pays for.

    I am sure no one wins in a short sale, but the bank.

    Sorry for your luck. Please do not pass blame onto a guy trying to save his ass. You sound like you think an oversight was aimed at your check book. What would you have done if in his/her shoes?

    Cut loss and start over?

    Why buy a new well pump if you only need a check valve?


    It could be the geo system failed.

    Good luck,

  12. geoxne

    geoxne Active Member Forum Leader

    Raising the air pressure in the pressure tank will not raise the water pressure of the system. Only changing the pressure switch settings will change the pressure of the water system. "Heatoldhome'' is correct the air bag pressure in the tank should be set a couple psi below the cut in setting of the pressure switch. The air pressure can ONLY BE CHECKED when there is no water pressure in the tank. The correct air pressure setting prevents the tank from emptying completely before the pump turns back on.

    Hopefully it is just the pump check valve given the existing pump is a little over a year old. You will have to decide if the pump is worth replacing now given the high cost of pulling the pump in such a deep well. Get the well system operating properly including proper pressure switch settings and appropriate pressure tank precharge (have tank checked also after suffering such abuse) before you address any geo unit issues. The water is not going to get where you want if most of it is dumping back in the well.

    Once the well water system is operating properly check the flow at the HP. I didn't see any flow controls in your posted photos. It might be flowing more than it needs.
  13. Jasonr114

    Jasonr114 New Member

    I would like to thank everyone for their feedback. So the tech came out yesterday and installed a new value before the pressure tank - the old one was cracked. Attached is the invoice and the repair - $400 seems like a lot to replace that valve. The tech said the air tank was not damaged. Now the system has stopped cycling every minute - as the pressure is maintained in the tank. Something is wrong with the well pump or the check value at 250 ft that is allowing the water to drain back into the well, causing the well line to fill with air, causing water hammer when the pump turns back on. So for the short term, the pump is not destroying itself as quickly and we have usable water pressure - except when the geothermal is running.

    Attached is a picture of the info from the well cap. 700 ft well, well pump at 500 ft - installed in 2000 when the house was built. The kicker is that it is 500 ft of 1 inch galvanized pipe. The tech gave me non-itmeized estimate of $9600 to remove the old and install/replumb a new well. Seems a little pricey. My guess is that they plan to sub-contract out the removal of the 500 ft galvanized pipe, the tech told my dad (who was at the house for the repaid) that the last well like this they removed they did with a backhoe and it was a huge hassle. This leads me to believe that $9600 gives them a large labor buffer or is their nice way of saying "we will do it, but don't really want this job".

    I called midatlantic geothermal back and told him where things stood now, he said that a "normal" well around 200 ft would be between $2-3k, but he would run the numbers for my situation and call me back. I made not mention of the $9600 figure. He called me back and said that we can discuss the specifics once he sees the well and inside (he was going on memory from his last visit) but he couldn't see it costing more than $5000. They are doing 2 installs jobs now and it will be 4 weeks until the work can be done.

    I plan to call a few more business today and get some more rough numbers.

    I have a few questions:

    1. Right now I still do not have enough pressure for domestic and the geothermal. I am assuming this is because they pump is slowing failing?
    2. What would be the DIY way to pull out the 500 ft galvanized pipe? This sounds pretty difficult at best, I do have access to a loader. How will the professionals remove it
    3. My understanding is limited, but it seems that having the geothermal pull water after the pressure tank is going to always deplete the tank quickly, leaving me low domestic water pressure, what am I missing?
    4. The geothermal guy mentioned using a regular franklin pump, that he does not find the newer constant pressure pumps to be reliable, does this seem correct?

    Thanks again for the advice.

    Attached Files:

  14. heatoldhome

    heatoldhome Geo Student Forum Leader

    (EDIT; I did not see the above post till after I posted this)

    Just watched the video. Defiantly looks like a check valve issue. (I am not a professional well person)
    My well has a check valve in the pump as well as one just after it enters the basement.

    And I did forget to mention checking the pressure in the air tank with no water pressure, as mentioned above.

    A check valve between the pipe into the home and the bladder tank would help, but IMO just band aid the real problem. (Might be considered a short term solution till funds can be sorced for pulling the pump)

    Your well professional should know best what you need after a service call.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2014
  15. Jasonr114

    Jasonr114 New Member

    Today has been a very interesting day. I opened the yellow pages and started calling "well pump" people. The first 3 people I called told me that they could not remove my well piping because of the length - one guy laughed at the whole situation, wished me the best of luck, and hung up!

    I have to thank the forum here - because I "sound" like I know what I am taking about now.

    One gentleman was very helpful and gave me the name of two "big" well pump business that would have the proper equipment and expertise to remove/repair my well.

    The one large well company quoted me $6500 for all new, $4800 if they reuse the existing wire, and $4200 if they reuse the existing wire and pipe.

    4 phone calls later, I ended up on the phone with the gentlemen who drilled the well in 2000, pulled the 500ft pipe up and replaced the 12 year old pump/control box in 2012 with a mini-crane for under $4000.

    He assured me that the pump itself should be in good repair and that more than likely there is a hole in one of 21 ft sections of galvanized pipe. He said - murphy's law and all - that the leak is probably in the very last piece of pipe.

    He will be out Friday - around 11:00 with a helper to electrically test the pump in the well, pull the well, and find the (hopefully) leaky pipe that needs replaced. $225/hr in labor plus parts - he plans to be done my 4:00pm - only time will tell. Either way, this is all sounding much more reasonable than the original plumbers quote of $96oo.

    I get home from work at noon tomorrow, I will try to take some video/pics of the whole process for those who are interested.

    I am wondering if I can find the required GPM rating for my geo unit online.

    Thanks again for all the help!
  16. heatoldhome

    heatoldhome Geo Student Forum Leader

    I don't recommend this but it will give you a idea whats involved.

    If you drop the pump down the hole, you will have BIG problems!!

    On the lighter note you wont get wet when you pull your pipes apart due to the bad check valve at the pump! LOL
  17. geoxne

    geoxne Active Member Forum Leader

    Your CM GSV048 will require 6 gpm with entering water above 50f. There will not be much left over for domestic use with a 9 gpm rated existing pump (even if it was new). Make sure if you are putting in a new pump that it is properly sized for your needs.

    Your HP might be flowing more than required. Flow rate should be checked.
  18. Jasonr114

    Jasonr114 New Member

    geoxne - Thank you for the information. My house is two stories with 3.5 br's, kitchen & slop sinks, washer, and dish washer - is there some kind of rule of thump for the GPM I would need?

    The original pump was 9 GPM, tomorrow I would find out the GPM of the current 2 year old pump, I am assuming it will be a higher rating, but have no idea.

    How do I check the flow rate on the geo unit? Or is this something left to a professional?
  19. Jasonr114

    Jasonr114 New Member

    Everything seems to be fixed now. Myer Bros came out and pulled the existing well and found an pencil eraser size whole in the 2 or 3 section of pipe closet to the pump and replaced the pipe, and we are up in running. The pump is a 15 GPM pump. The well is 700 foot deep, seems that there is standing water now about 110 feet down, the pump is at about 500 foot - submerged in about 300-400 feet of water. They had me all fixed up in about 4.5 hours with a reasonable bill of $800ish. We will go back to our normal geo and domestic routine and see if things are back to normal.

    Thanks again for all the help.

    Here is a short video of them putting pipe back in:
  20. Calladrilling

    Calladrilling Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    The price is a little high to replace a check valve on the tank... The "estiment" for replacing the well and piping also seems high. I'd be a rich man if I could get that kind of pricing from my customers without having to pull a knife from my back as I leave the front door.

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