How Do I Know if My Well Pump is Bad?
Getting water from a well is very convenient and inexpensive. You are always guaranteed of constant water in your house without having to worry about monthly water bills.
It is however not without its cost. Repairs and maintenance to start with are not cheap. One of the equipment that requires regular maintenance is the well pump. But how do you if the pump has still got some life left in it or you need a new one?
If the water pressure in your house is too low or there is no water at all, the pump is running constantly, faucets are spitting air bubbles or the water is dirty, you most likely need a new well pump. An unusual grinding sound from the pump is also a good sign.
A well water pump will last for about 15 years or more, although that will depend on how well it is maintained. Some people have even had theirs last for more than 25 years.
The bottom line here is that well water pumps don’t last forever. So, what are the signs that you need to buy a new pump and not just a normal repair? Below are telltale signs of a bad well pump in detail.
1. There is No Water in the House
If you have absolutely no water in your house, the first thing you will think about is the well pump. But it is not always the problem. Before you take the phone and call the plumber, there are certain things you can do to ascertain if the pump is the problem or you are dealing with something else.
If you are using water from a well and all of a sudden there is no water in the house, you could be having a problem with the pressure tank, electric panel, well pump, broken/leaking pipes or even the well itself.
Check The Circuit Breaker
You well pump is powered by electricity which is controlled from an electrical panel mostly located near the pressure tank. The first thing to do is determine if the well pump is actually being powered.
Access the electrical panel and check the position of the circuit breaker. If it is in the “OFF” position then the pump is not being powered. It is not unusual for the circuit breaker to trip to that position.
In that case all you have to do is flip it back to the “ON” position. This can completely fix your problem but sometimes it doesn’t. If the circuit breaks flips back to the “OFF” position, you clearly have a problem and you need to call in a professional to diagnose and fix the it.
Check the Pressure Tank
The pressure tank which is sometimes also known a as a holding tank is where water from the well is temporarily stored before it flows to your house, as and when needed. Most pressure tanks are blue in color.
Having a pressure water tank prevents means that you do not need to have the pump running throughout the day. Water is stored inside the tank under pressure so that it is able to flow to every faucet/fixture in your house.
When the pressure of water in the tank drops below the set value, the pressure switch activates the pump and the tank is refilled. So how do you know if the reason you are not getting any water in your house is due to a defective pressure tank or pluming within your house.
Your pressure tank is fitted with a pressure gauge, which shows you the pressure of water inside the tank. Most pressure tanks have a setting of between 40 and 60 pound per square inch (psi).
Check the pressure indicated on the pressure gauge. If you have pressure in the tank (20 psi and above), the problem is in your house and not the pump or well.
If the pressure in the tank is too low or even zero, the problem lies with your well pump or the well itself.
Has There Been a Drought?
If you live in area that is or has experienced drought in recent days, you may have no or very little water coming to your house. This is because the water table has gone down meaning that your pump is pumping dry or if anything at all muddy water.
If there has not been a severe dry spell then the water table is clearly not the problem. The most likely problem in this case is a faulty pump or even leaking pipes. But even if the pipes were leaking you should still manage to have some water trickling in.
In conclusion, if your circuit breaker is working properly, your pressure tank reads zero or close to zero pressure and you have not experienced drought in past months, you most likely need to replace your well pump.
2. Low Water Pressure in the House
Low water pressure in the house could be caused by several factors and not just a faulty well pump. So how do you know that the well pump is the issue and not any other problem?
The first thing you do is determine if the low water pressure is only affecting one appliance or all the appliances. If for instances you noticed low water pressure in the kitchen faucet, check the pressure of water from your shower faucet.
If you notice that the low water pressure is affecting only one faucet, you could be dealing with a clogged aerator or cartridge. Fixing these problem is very easy and you can comfortably do it on your own.
If you have low water pressure in your shower head, it is either clogged up or it has a flow restrictor installed. It could also be that the water heater valve is not fully open. In case of low hot water in the shower but cold water is fine, the problem could be an anti-scald device set too high or cross-connected pipes.
If however you notice that there is very low pressure in the whole house, you most definitely have a problem with the well pump or the other well components.
Again go to your pressure tank and check the pressure of water in the tank. If the pressure is low, you either have a defective pressure switch or a faulty well pump.
How Do I tell If the Pump Pressure Switch is Bad?
A pressure switch is one of the most important component in a well system. It is usually located near the pressure tank, adjacent to the pressure gauge. The pressure switch controls the pressure of water in the pressure tank meaning that it should not fall below a certain value and should not be over a certain value commonly known as cut-in and cut-out pressure.
If your pressure tank is set to operate between 40 and 60 psi, the pump will not be running if the gauge on the pressure tank is reading any pressure within that limit. When the pressure falls below 40 psi, the pressure switch activates the pump which pumps water up to the 60 psi reading, then the pressure tanks switches it off.
So how do you know if you are dealing with a defective pressure switch or it is the pump which needs a replacement?
- The Pressure tank reading is above the cut-out pressure limit yet the pump is still running. For your safety, the pressure tank is fitted with a pressure relief valve. If the pressure switch does not switch off the pump at the cut-out pressure, excess water from the tank is expelled through this valve preventing the tank from exploding. If you therefore notice water flooding near the pressure tank you have a bad pressure switch.
- You have low water pressure even though the pump is running – If you pump is running but not cycling, and you still have low water pressure in your house, the pressure switch might be faulty. Although this observation on its own is not conclusive, it might give you a good ideas of where to start looking.
- Your pump is cycling repeatedly – If the water in the pressure tank is not being used in the house, the pump should be off. If the well pump is cycling repeatedly, you are dealing with a faulty pressure switch or leaks in your house.
- The pump does not kick in at the right cut-in pressure.
Check the Water Softener
Before the well water enters your house, it goes through a water softener to make it soft, preventing formation of hard water stains in your fixtures. The water softener has a screen which screens the water flowing to the house ensuring that there are no debris which make their way to the house.
After years of usage, these screen gets clogged by mineral deposits and sediments restricting the free flow of water and hence the low water pressure in the house.
If you are having a good pressure reading on the pressure tank but the pressure of water in the house is low, the water softener can be a culprit. Check out its screen and unclog it if clogged.
If you are getting a low water pressure in your house and the problem is not the pressure switch, clogged faucets or even clogged water softener screens, the problem most likely lies with your well pump.
A well pressure switch is cheaper to replace than a well pump. It is however not something I would encourage you to attempt doing on your own. You are better off calling a professional. At any time if you want to have a look at the inner components of the pressure switch turn off the power to avoid the risk of electrocution.
3. Faucets are Spitting Air
When you turn on your faucets, are you seeing them spit out air bubbles instead of the usual smooth flow of water? The problem could be with your well pump or the pressure tank.
The way the pressure tank works is that it has an air bladder that holds water at a sufficient pressure to move freely within your house’s plumbing network. If the air pressure tank bladder is leaking, air will find its way through your pipes causing your faucets to spurt out air bubbles.
So how do you know that the problem is with the pressure tank and not the pump? Go to the where the pressure tank is located and listen carefully for any sounds coming from the pressure switch.
If your pressure tank’s bladder is leaking, you will hear a clicking noise coming from the pressure switch. This is because the pressure inside the tank is not constant, which prompts the pressure switch to activate the well pump.
You will therefore have a constantly running pump. You should fix this problem as soon as possible. A leaking pressure tank bladder will overwork the pump, considerably reducing its lifespan as well as increase your power bills.
If the problem is not with the pressure tank, it is definitely with the well pump. It means that the pump is not able to pump water from the well and is as a result pumping “dry”. Unless you have experienced drought in past months, this is a good sign that your well pump is failing and needs a replacement.
In rare circumstances, the air could be entering the pipe carrying water from the well to your house through a crack. This is however not something you can figure out on your own.
4. The Pump is Constantly Running
Your well pump should not run throughout. This is why we usually have a pressure tank and pressure switch. If the water in the tank has sufficient pressure to flow freely in your house, the pump should not be running.
If your well pump is constantly running it means that you have a leak somewhere in the pipes, the pressure tank bladder is leaking or the water table is just too low. It could also be the pump itself.
Unfortunately you cannot leave the well pump to run throughout. Not only will that increase your power bills but it will cause the pump mechanism to overheat thereby increasing wear and tear. Even if the pump was not the problem, letting it run for long period of time will wear it out beyond repair leaving you with no option but replacing it.
What you need to do once you notice that the well pump is running through out is to turn off power to the pump and call in a professional plumber.
5. The Water in Your House is Dirty
If you suddenly notice dirty water coming from your well, it means that your pump is pulling out dirt from the well. It could be that it is too big/powerful, or the pump screen is damaged and no longer preventing dirt/silt from passing through.
In the above scenario, the pump can be repaired and does not necessarily need to be replaced.
Dirty water from a well could also be caused by:
- Broken pipes – A broken pipe will permit surface run-off and dirt to mix with well water and hence the dirty water in the house.
- Mineral deposits: High mineral content in the pipes can break down and wash out through your faucets.
6. Rattling/Grinding Noises
There is that noise that a proper functioning pump makes. If you however walk past your well and hear a rattling/grinding noise from the pump then there is a problem with the pump.
These could be as a result of
- Loose parts
- Loose or worn out mounting connections
- Damaged pump impeller or bearings
- Damaged/worn out electric motor
- Bad connection between motor and pump
If you therefore hear a rattling/grinding noise from the well pick up the phone and call a licensed plumber immediately.
It is not very easy to tell when exactly you need to replace your well pump. If you however know where to look the diagnosis might be easier.
In summary, you know that your pump is not functioning optimally when:
- There is no water in the house.
- Water pressure in the house is low.
- Faucets are spitting air.
- Pump does not shut off.
- Well water is dirty.
- High power bills
- Odd grinding/rattling noise