Bad Well Pump or Something Else?

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1victorianfarmhouse

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This morning I woke up and had no water pressure. It was maybe in the mid thirties outside, we haven't had a real frost in the Chicago area yet.

Last night I thought the water pressure was a little low, but didn't check anything. I used and flushed the toilet a couple of times in the night, but both bowls and tanks were full this morning. There have been a few times in the past where the chain got doubled over on itself and drained the water supply, but once fixed all was well, no pun intended. No leaks anywhere, and both outside hoses are turned off.

I checked the breakers for the well pump, flipped them back and forth, and they seem to be fine. No electrical issues anywhere in the house.

The pressure gauge at the tank registered zero, and tonight it still registers zero, with no fluctuating. I used a tire gauge to check the pressure at the fitting on the top of the tank, and it showed 18 psi.

So, am I correct in guessing the well pump is the culprit instead of low tank pressure? I think it was installed in 1993, according to some writing on the pressure tank. Then there is more writing on the tank from 2005 that says 1hp, set 228' and a decal stating it is a Franklin Electric 1hp pump.

If it is the pump, I am thinking I might be able to replace it myself, as I have easy access to the well cap, along with a portable engine hoist and chains, etc. Might need a T-handle from what I read?

Fortunately I have several gallons of water stashed to get me by.

Comments from the experts always welcome!

Vince
 

1victorianfarmhouse

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I've been doing some research on well failures, and none of the symptoms mentioned were happening. The well just stopped pumping with no real warning signs, and the pump does not cycle on and off like usual. I've attached a picture of the control box with the cover removed, in case it's of any interest, and the pressure gauge can be seen in the background. Tomorrow I'll check the voltages at the control box and see what I can see inside the well head. Of course, comments are welcome as I am new to this aspect of well diagnosis.

Thanks!

vince

IMG_6544.jpg
 

JoeD

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You won't see anything looking down the well except some wires and pipe.
Start by checking for voltage on the switch input and output. A quick simple test would be a small tap on the switch. It might get it going if the switch is stuck.
 

1victorianfarmhouse

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Interesting. So I went and got my digital meter, set it to the 200Vac scale.

From two separate outlets, I get almost 120v with the red lead in the small side and the black lead on the larger side.

At the breaker panel, I have two breaker positions listed for the Well, but only one switch. Opening the box up, I can clearly see the black wire goes to the position with no switch. The white wire goes to the position with the switch. I check with a screwdriver to see if the screws are tight. The black one is tight, but the white one can be tightened about a quarter turn. This does not make an immediate difference.

In the control box I have four wires. Red and black from outside (well pump), and white and black from inside (house).

With the breakers off, I don't get any readings at the control box.

With the breakers on, at the control box I get about 77-78 v from the red and black wires (pump), and 1__ v from the white and black wires (house). Yes, that is a 1 in the far left position with no numerals in any of the other spaces to the right of the 1.

So, any interesting conclusions, or should I maybe move this to the Electrical forum?

Thanks!

Vince
 

beachguy005

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What do you mean by..." I have two breaker positions listed for the Well, but only one switch"?
 

1victorianfarmhouse

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Joe, thanks for the suggestion. I did try rapping on the switch with a metal wrench in several areas, and the needle on the gauge bounced a bit from the impact, but nothing happened. Maybe it will cycle on but so far it has not. I have never looked inside the well head, and now my curiosity is piqued, but I do doubt if I'll find anything useful.

Beach, I hope the attached picture explains what I mean. The white wire goes to the top breaker with the switch tab, the black wire goes to the position below it with no switch tab.

Vince

IMG_6553.jpg
 

beachguy005

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As I thought. You have a 2 pole breaker that controls both poles with that one toggle. Turn the breaker off, then back on. Check the voltage from each screw terminal to ground and you should get 120 volts + -, at each pole. That will tell you if the breaker is good.
 

Snoonyb

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In photo #7, that is a 2 pole, 240V breaker and with it in the on position, and your meter in a range above 200VAC and attached to the white and black conductors you should read 240V.

In photo #2 with your meter in the same range and attached to the right/white conductor and the left/black conductor, you should have the same voltage reading.
 

1victorianfarmhouse

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Thanks, Beach! I think we may have hit on the problem. I've tried switching the breaker on and off a few times, but with no luck.

I took the multi-meter and put the black probe in a ground terminal of a nearby socket, and the red probe on the red and then the white screws at the switch. I got 118 volts at each. To try the opposite, I put the red probe in the positive terminal of the socket, and with the black probe in the negative terminal and got 115v. I then put the black probe on the two black wires at the switch, and with the red probe in the positive terminal of the socket, no voltage registered.

Snoony, thanks! I did as you suggested and read 237v with the multi-meter on the 600Vac scale and the breaker in the on position. With the breaker in the off position, no voltage.

So it does indeed sound like the breaker is bad. I've just watched a video of how to replace a breaker, sounds easy.

I'll wait until I see your replies before I high-tail it to the local hardware store...

Thanks!

Vince
 

beachguy005

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With the breaker in the on position just measure, using either probes, between the screw terminal on the breaker in the panel and the ground bar in the panel. Check both poles. If you're getting 120 volts on each pole the breaker would be good.
 

Snoonyb

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Actually, it sounds like the breaker is in proper working order, so if you are going to replace it, save the receipt.
 

1victorianfarmhouse

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Okay, so I can't access the ground bar, but can put the negative probe on some clean metal on the box. With that, I read 119v from both the white wire screw and the black wire screw.

So if the breaker is good, but I cannot get a power reading at the switch, would it be something in the wiring? It's Romex all over, but a quick check didn't show any damage that would prevent current from getting through.
 

1victorianfarmhouse

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Okay, I just checked and there is power getting to the switch. In my cramped position to test the wires, I was testing the wrong black wires with the red and white wires. So there is now 238v coming into and going out of the switch.
 

beachguy005

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So the breaker is good and you have power to the pressure switch. You may have a bad switch. Could be blocked on the pressure side or the contacts could be bad. I would try pushing the contacts closed to see if it runs the pump. Use an insulated screwdriver and not your finger to close them.
 

Snoonyb

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So, when you say "going out", you also found a comparable voltage when reading between the inner red and black conductors?

If so, the switch is closed and the problem lies further down the line, however, before you do any more then simply, (easy for me to say), lift the motor out, either open the switch or put the breaker in the off position and when the motor is out energize it to again check voltages.
 

1victorianfarmhouse

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Yes, I found comparable voltage between the inner red and black connections.

I did open the switch, held it open for a few moments and let it (the contacts on top) spring close again. Didn't seem to do anything that I could feel, but I noticed the pressure gauge was reading about 5 psi instead of zero when I was done. It's still at 5 psi half an hour later.

Are the switch contacts supposed to stay open or closed? I recall the pump did not automatically start pumping right away if the pressure was low.

Lifting the motor out....is that a lot more work than it sounds :) , or can I just lift it up from the well head fairly easily? Especially if the piping is plastic? I'm trying to figure out how it disconnects from the line to the house, unless it requires a lot of digging to get down there.

Vince
 

beachguy005

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The contacts are open until the pressure drops, then the contacts close and send power to the pump. The pump runs until the set pressure is met then the contacts open and the pump stops running.
If the contacts are closed, I would think it has to mean that the pressure is low and the pump is getting voltage and not pumping.
 

1victorianfarmhouse

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Thanks, just wanted to clarify. Makes sense. I am watching videos of removing pumps.....

Is the pump usually bad and need replacing, or is it a case of it probably needing cleaning?
 

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