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WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER FILTERS, HOME USE
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL CHLORINATION & DISINFECTION
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This WATER PRESSURE PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS TABLE provides a table giving step by step checklist for diagnosing water pressure, water pump, and water well problems. We give diagnostic and repair procedures for both municipal water supply problems and well water supply problems.
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Keep in mind that if water is running elsewhere in the building (another shower, sink, dishwasher, clothes washer, garden hose, etc) then the water pressure you will observe at your location will usually be reduced.
Notes: Some of the well pump troubleshooting suggestions in this list can be found at the Betta-Flo Jet Pump Installation Manualfrom the National Pump Co.
Our discussion of bad water pressure or flow begins at WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR and continues, divided into water pressure loss symptoms and diagnostic steps for MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS and separately, WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS.
Also see our other diagnostic guides for water pumps, wells, motors, in table form:
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Comment: working on well and piping systems can cause water filter clogging & loss of water pressure
Just wanted to share a problem that occurred with us the last time we put air in the water pump tank. After putting air in the tank, we turned the pump on and the pump worked fine. Pressure to the first water filter was excellent but there was little to no water coming out in the outlets in the house. Turns out it was the primary filter.
Apparently when you run the water down in the tank to zero, there is a lot of sediment in the line when you turn it back on. This clogged up the primary filter causing little to no water to go to the house outlets.
We discovered this was the cause by removing the filters and just putting the casing back on and then checking the water pressure in the house. Without the filter we had great pressure. So we changed the filters and everything was fine (even though we had just changed the filter two months before). Lesson to learn is when you zero out the pump, make sure you change ALL the filters after the water has built back up (want to wait until it builds back up or you will just get the sediment in the new filters). - Douglas Erb
Thanks for this helpful tip, Douglas - indeed we need to remember that doing any plumbing work can stir up debris in the system that then clogs a water filter. Sometimes where there is no main water filter installed, we can see a similar problem showing up as reduced flow at individual faucets after some work on the plumbing system - unscrew the faucet strainers and flush out the piping and clean the strainers if you see that additional problem.
Question: After replacing a hot water tank we've got lost water pressure. Is it electrical, a clogged filter, bad tank bladder or what?
I have an outside well with an above ground pump. Until a year ago, when I replaced the gas hot water tank located in the attic, I had no well water pressure or water flow problems . The most I could complain about was the occasional specks of fine dirt in the garden tub. Its one year later, and I have started to experience good pressure on hot and cold water for about a minute and half before the water slows and then stops. I simply shut the faucets off and wait for about a 2 minute period and then turn them both back on and the water flows without interruption or loss of pressure. In two recent times the outside sub panel breaker box which houses the A/C and the Well pump breakers, the Well pump breaker was tripped. Do I have an electrical issue (electric pump intermittent failure), a filter or bladder clog, or some other age or sediment related issue. The well is 12 plus years old and delivers throughout the worse droughts here in NC. What should and could I do to fix this? - Vince NB, Charlotte NC
Reply: a clogged water filter stays clogged until it's replaced - it won't get better on its own. A stick tank bladder or control can, however give intermittent water pressure behavior
I'm not sure, Vince, but I don't think that a clogged filter will recover when water is shut off; a flapping bit of debris at a hot water tank or cold water pressure tank can behave that way. The tripping pump breaker is a clue that the pump motor may be failing or overheating. I'd check there.
Question: Water pressure tank is empty after replacing our hot water heater. I think there is a sediment clog somewhere
I recently replaced my water heater without any problems and filled it according to standard practice. While refilling, I noticed a lot of sediment from the faucets, which is pretty common in this area every time water is cut off. I replaced my sediment filter but noticed the pressure tank is empty. Water pressure of the house meets any single appliance demand, but it we try to run two fixtures at once, the water will cut off, about thirty seconds, then turn on again. My current well level is relatively high. My guess is that I have a sediment clog preventing the tank from filling. Would you please offer your insight and perhaps supply a link if this specific issue has already been addressed? Thank you. - Kevin
Question: Bad well pump control box, relay switch, or pressure switch can give water pressure problems
I found your articles extremely helpful for trying to diagnose my poor water pressure/quantity problem. They helped me to understand how my system works and to figure out that our problem wasn't with the pressure tank or pressure switch. I did, however, figure out on my own that the problem was with the control box/relay switch (your articles did help me figure out what the heck that box was and what it did, though). It was an easy fix once I diagnosed the problem. Maybe there should be more mention of the control box and that being a potential cause of poor water pressure. I'm glad I didn't believe the well technician who thought our well was running dry! - Dawn T.
Reply: tracking down a bad well pump relay switch
Dawn thanks for the nice note, and I'm so glad our information was helpful.
Question: Sudden loss of water pressure, adding air to the pressure tank didn't help
I have a 7yr old submersible that feeds our whole house. Turned a faucet on and it has low pressure. Worked fine hours prior. Never had low pressure so never checked air pressure in bladder tank. I looked at the PSI gauge and it reads 10psi. The tank seems empty or close to it. When turning the breaker on and off I hear a gurgling in the pipes tool. The contacts look perfect, I put some air in the tank with a hand pump but nothing changed. I have low low pressure but don't want the pump running so i turned it off for the night. its of course 2am now.
Reply: track down why the well pump is not turning on
KingRay it sounds as if your pump is not coming on, or if it is running, that it is not reaching pressure, either because of a control problem or perhaps low water level in the well. Try going to the table above and scan through the steps from the top of the table (making sure there is electrical power, figuring out if the pump is turning on) to see what helps.
Question: lost water pressure after changing over our pressure tank
I just replaced my "non-pressurized" cold water tank with a "pressure tank". Now, when the pump reaches the low, on pressure, my water slows way down and my pressure drops. What could be causing this? It did not do this prior to the tank change. - Anon
Reply: check for sediment clogging of the pressure control switch; check for wiring errors if you touched wiring connections.
Particularly if your new pressure tank installation did not include a new pressure control switch, the tank change out may have stirred debris that has clogged the sensor port on your pressure switch. Clogging occurs in the small diameter mounting tube (typically 1/8" NPT) that connects the pressure control switch to the water supply piping at the tank bottom, or at the still smaller orifice at the bottom of the pressure control switch. A quick fix is to simply replace these parts.
Question: sudden water pressure spikes of 200 psi
I have an outside deep well that runs all outside irrigation. My pressure tanks are located in my barn about 50 yards from the well head. The well produces 40 gal per minute. Irrigation lines run from my barn to around my house which is 150 to 200 yards away. The where the well and barn are located is a slightly higer elevation than the house. Since installing the system 4 years ago, we have had periodic breaks in the lines between the well and barn. Guys were out this week to test pressure at various points. What we have discovered is that the pressure spikes for about 1 second, at just one spicket to 200 psi. any thoughts? - Rick Gilbert 11/5/11
Reply: dangerous condition, check pressure switch
Watch out: A sudden pressure spike of 200 psi is very dangerous, likely to cause a burst pipe or burst water pressure tank - that can injure anyone nearby. It sounds as if your pressure control switch is not properly sensing the water pressure and not turning off the pump; also check for a double error of both a debris clogged pressure switch and a waterlogged pressure tank.
Question: inadequate water pressure when two things run at once - installer says it's normal
Recently replaced the well water pressure tank since we loose pressure when a toilet is flushed and faucet is turned on immediately after - we called the well people who did the installation, they came out and checked the equipment and told us everything is normal. We never experienced this problem until they replaced the tank - any help will be greatly appreciated. thank you. - George 11/18/11
I don't agree that it's normal to have inadequate water pressure when a toilet tank is filling and you turn on a nearby faucet. If the cutoff pressure at the building is normal (40-50 psi) then you may have a clogged pipe problem.
Question: water pressure just gets worse and worse
We have progressively less water pressure as time goes by. We also have a water softener system. Our water pressure tank read 20psi. Any ideas want is wrong? - Jim Jones 2/18/12
I suspect that your pipes are clogging with mineral deposits - check the water pressure tank at the point when the pump has just shut off; you should see 30-50 psi. If not then the problem is pump or control switch; If yes the problem is not system pressure but rather poor flow.
Question: can an air leak in my submersible pump cause loss of water pressure in my irrigation system - should I dump cream of wheat cereal into the well
I was told by someone that my loss of pressure when i run my lawn irrigation system is caused from air leak in my deep well submersable pump. I was told to take the cap off and put a box of cream of wheats and 5 gallon bucket of water down the pipe. he said it would plug up the air leak and fix the problem. - Anon 2/5/12
Reply: absurd - don't do that
The advice you received is in my opinion idiotic.
First of all a submersible pump is normally under water, so it's not going to suffer an air leak at the pump; if the pump is NOT under-water and thus is picking up air, that means that the well flow rate itself is inadequate - that's a well problem not a pump problem. If that were the case you'd see air coming out of faucets or sprinklers.
Second, dumping goop into a well is not going to fix the well. The best you can hope for is that your cream of wheat clogs up and ruins your pump itself.
Do not dump cream of wheat, nor oatmeal, nor any other gobbeldygoop into your well.
If there are leaks in the well piping anywhere from the well pump to the final sprinkler heads, yes, when the system is running the pressure will be worse than previously.
Question: nearby fruit trees dropped the local water table, now we run out of water
1 hp shallow well jet pump for home shallow well 70-140'. pump was giving 60-70psi easy at first but nearby orange groves keep drain the local wells. Have to shut off pump when they water for frost or during dry season then reprime a day later to stop over heating. we have one bladder tank but no resivor tank. hot water tank is in house also shut off when well shut off. now pump can only barely reach 50, so we lowered the shut off by turning the big spring. the bladder tank doesn't seem to have much water in it but it does seem to have air, but don't know how much is suppose to be in that tank of air or water. has the running dry for a hour or 3 before we noticed the well went dry damaged the impeller or is the problem with the pump they are only about a year old or could it be a problem with the well.
In general, the choices are to improve well yield, drill a new well, or add large capacity water storage at the property and fill those tanks slowly without exceeding your well's flow rate.
Question: after replacing a submersible pump we can't get water pressure, do we need a new tank?
We just replaced a submersible pump (well is about 350 ft deep). When we turned it back on the pressure on the gauge goes up to 50 and turns off and drops down to about 30 but doesnt build back up. Do we need a new pressure tank? - Roger 5/1/12
Roger, if the pressure does not return after falling in your water system then either the pump is not turning on when it should or there is a well piping leak or a control problem.
The water pressure tank smooths the flow of delivery of water as the pump cycles on and off and avoids rapid pump on-off cycling, but it does not determine system pressure.
Try checking for dirt or debris clogging at both the gauge and the pressure control switch, or just replace them.
Question: Dug Well in the Philippines is not giving enough water - what can we do ?
we just built a well for my family back home in the Philippines but until now is not done yet. they already dig 85 ft. it works but the water running for 30 t0 45 mins then it stop. they thought that there is no enough water. they dig more until they reach 110 ft but still do the same. please help us what's the problem? the Pipes, pump or the water level? thank you! -Jean 5/21/12
Jean, by looking into the well you will see where in the course of the depth of the well shaft water is entering. Digging deeper, if it does NOT get lucky enough to disclose new water entry points, is not going to increase the well flow rate. It can, however, increase the volume of water stored in the well and thus give a reserve of water for daily use. Beyond those general remarks, you need someone on scene to determine if you have a well pipe or pump problem.
Question: sudden water pressure & flow problems -
I all of a sudden started having pressure/flow problems. If I am running one fixture and turn on another I lose pressure to the other. For example if I run the shower and the washer starts to fill, the shower will lose all flow. Garden hose being turned on will do the same thing, or just any other faucet in the house.
Often my pressure in a single faucet/shower will be o.k., but not great, other times I will have excellent pressure like before. I seldom have enough water pressure at my outdoor spigots for my hoses to run a sprinkler. I have an approx. 15 year old submersible that seems to be working fine, if I open the ball valve where the water comes into the house from the pump I can fill a 6 gallon water can in a very short time with high pressure and it doesn't seem to slow at all before I have to close the valve.
I have replaced the water pressure switch with the next higher switch, with no real improvement. I do have an approx. 4' tall bladder tank that I increased the air pressure to so it would match the new pressure switch. I'm at a loss, but it would be nice to be able to run a sprinkler again, or not have to run downstairs to shut off the washer before getting in the shower. None of this was a problem until recently, any suggestions would be helpful. - Dan 7/10/12
Dan, if water pressure reaches a normal level at pump shut-off when you are not running any water in the building, say 40 or 50 psi, then the pump is capable of delivering adequate pressure and the problem is elsewhere.
Examples of possible problems in this case include
Question: trouble getting water pumped out of a cistern
Help! I have a cistern with 1 1/2 inch plastic piping and a 1HP (non-self priming) pump. Water is drawn up 6ft vertically, approx. 30 ft horizontaly and down 6 ft to the pump & pressure tank. It is an additional 20 ft to my house. The system was new 3 yrs ago. When it works, it works fine.
The problem is it will work perfectly for a few weeks/months then the pump will not shut off causing a loss/or no pressure to the house. It is increadibly difficult to prime the pump. Once it is running it usually works fine for a few days, weeks ect. I have replaced the pressure switch twice and the pressure tank.
The recent pressure switch change was a couple of weeks ago and it features an automatic shut off component so the pump won't burn out.Lately when the pump won't shut off I have been wacking the switch and everything starts working again (generally for a few days). I have had several plumbers make adjustments.
Comments range from.....air leak somewhere in the line, adjust pressure switch, to insufficent power to overcome check valve. I am unable to make a logical decision what to do. Also if there is an air leak at a joint would silicon be sufficent to fix the problem or should it be replaced? I am considering buying a 1.5 HP self-priming pump? - Mike 11/9/12
Question: sudden, complete, brief loss of all water pressure for 3-5 seconds
It has recently developed that ocassionally all flow at all users will be lost for about 3-5 seconds. It occurs when one user is active (shower) and another turns on (toilet, sink). It may occur sometimes when only one user is active (shower or sink) but I have not been able to verify this.
The pressure switch seems to work OK, but the pressure gauge doesn't work well (must be tapped for the needle to move - I need to change it).
Is this likely to be an air tank problem or a pump problem or something else? I have reviewed the articles and have not found clear direction. - Gary 12/3/12
If the water pressure tank is completely waterlogged, then it is not going to keep ANY water flowing on its own. In that case, as soon as you turn water on the pump comes on as well and runs almost constantly (depending on water usage rate); it may be that your pressure tank is almost completely waterlogged, so when the pump stops (though just briefly as the tank has so little air charge), water flow also stops.
(Dec 22, 2012) Art said:
Question: low house water pressure and significant delay in pump kicking in. We have a jet pump & pressure tank connected to a cistern. Recently the whole house will have a pressure drop in the water to nearly nothing and it takes a LONG time for the pump to kick back in to bring the pressure up. Before the water pressure would taper off, but the pump would kick in rather quickly to bring the pressure back up. Often you could just flush a toilet and the pump would kick in. Now, nothing will make the pump kick in. Thoughts? Art 12/22/12
(Dec 30, 2012) john said:
i have just brought a acreage and this is the first time i have had a well , since moving in i have had very little pressure and the water just trickles out of some taps, so i am looking for some sound advice as to what i should do next . Thanks john
(Jan 6, 2013) Wayne said:
Hi, I have a pump and Pressure Tank, My Problem. I Turn on pump all ok. The Pump Builds Pressure and runs water Great through the faucets as Normal when open... The Pump cuts off the pressure as Norma When Faucets are closed. ... THEN I hear the water running back down the Pipes.?. This cycle starts all over again. Pumps water Pressure Switch Cuts in ..Water runs down the pipes.
(Feb 14, 2013) Carolyn said:
I recently changed out a damaged pressure control box. Pressure box is a 40/60 psi. I believe the pressure only got up to 35 before the pump turned off. Do I need to prime the pump or what? I have less pressure now than I did then.
(Mar 4, 2013) Emma said:
Hi, I have a pump and Pressure Tank, My Problem. I Turn on pump all ok. The Pump Builds Pressure and runs water Great through the faucets as Normal when open... The Pump cuts off the pressure as Normal when Faucets are closed. .. But then it won't start again! It's been working perfectly since renewing pickup line and brand new pump installed! Help please!
(Jan 26, 2014) chris polte said:
I have a water well system that recently has poor water pressure. The house is vacant, so we turn of the breaker to the well when we are not there. The problem is suddenly we have a drastic drop in water pressure. I have done some tests and can't figure out the problem. The tank pressure is 45psi. I changed the pressure switch settings and the pump comes on at 30psi and goes off at 60psi. The only thing that did was let the pressure in the house last 3 minutes instead of one before the pressure goes bad and winds up to a trickle or totally stopping. The spigot on the pump house has wonderful pressure all the time and the spigot in the hot water heater shed has excellent pressure always. The hot water heater is gas. I did notice one of the 2 filters had a slow dripping leak. Never had a pressure problem before until recently recently. Am about to start digging up water line to check for breaks, but how can there be a break if it has great pressure all the way to hot water heater. I don't know what to do next, can someone please help me out here ??
Starting with some arm-waving and speculation, since I trust you've looked through the water pressure loss checklist above:
Something to check is the loss of prime - when we leave a water system off there may have been a slow leak - say a running toilet - that kept cycling the pump from time to time - enough to keep it primed.
Another ugly possibility is that the well flow rate has deteriorated - seasonally or permanently.
Make sure I understand this clearly before we continue: do you mean that water will run continuously but at lower pressure? Or do you mean you are running out of water?
(Jan 26, 2014) chris polte said:
What I mean is this, the water flows great at the spigot at the pump house and the one in the hot water shed, no loss of pressure at either of these. The loss of pressure happens when you turn something on inside the house. Within the last few days, when you turn on for example the kitchen sink, pressure would be fine at 1st, then it would trickle down to almost stopping in about a minute and a half. I increased the settings on the pressure switch to shut off at 60psi rather than 40psi and now the pressure lasts around 3 minutes before it losses pressure. I thought about the well drying up, but if that was the case the spigots would lose pressure to wouldn't they ??
Quite correct Bout well dry up.
Sounds as if there is a clog or a partly shut valve, clogged filter, or an in house pressure tank bladderroblem.
(Jan 27, 2014) chris polte said:
Dan, when you drain the pressure tank, shouldn't there still be some air pressure in the tank ? Wen I drained mine and checked the pressure it said 0. When I refilled it said 50psi. Also the pump kicks off at 60psi and watching the pressure gauge, it slowly goes down to 50psi and holds there, and the tank is still at 50psi. Is this maybe due to a bad bladder ?
(Jan 27, 2014) DanJoeFriedman (mod) said:
Yes Chris. In short, when we drain the pressure tank we are emptying it of water and allowing air to enter at atmospheric pressure. So you are starting with an empty tank at 1 ATM which technically would be about 14.6 psi BUT your water tank pressure gauge is just not that sensitive, and is designed and calibrated to read water pressure in the piping. So your water tank gauge will read 0 when the tank is fully emptied of water and open to the air.
That's where we want to start. When you then turn the pump back on, the air in the tank is pressurized as water enters the tank. When the pump kicks off at 60 PSI and PROVIDED that no water is running in the house AND that the tank itself and its fittings are not leaking, THEN we should see 60 PSI on the gauge - or something close to 60. (These water pressure gauges are not precise lab instruments and also because of pumping effects often when the pump switch cuts off at your set pressure of 60 the gauge pressure will drop just a few psi.
The fact that you see pressure dropping slowly down to 50 argues that there is water running or a leak somewhere.
Try shutting water off into the building - downstream from the pressure tank and its controls - that is between the pressure tank outlet that feeds the house and the rest of house piping there should be a main shutoff valve.
Then go in to the house and open a faucet. After a brief spurt of water you should see nothing coming out. If you do, then the main shutoff at the tank is a little leaky OR water is running by gravity from upper floor piping backwards into the lower floor faucet you opened. (so maybe try this upstairs, or wait and see if the flow stops).
If you do NOT see any water flowing in the house then the main shutoff valve between house and tank is good.
Then if you STILL see tank pressure dropping I'm guessing a check valve or foot valve or well piping are leaky.
Keep us posted.
(Jan 27, 2014) Bill Schultz said:
Have had extreme cold weather here.
Water line to house is close to surface and has a heat cable attached. It certainly
Leave some faucets open in hope that you will relieve increasing water pressure in water supply piping that may be freezing. There is a chance that that will reduce the chance of burst pipes. Of course if water begins to flow at normal rate you'll shut it off.
Often if water supply piping anywhere in the system is PARTLY blocked by freezing but you can get water flowing, by leaving water running you'll thaw out the frozen line. So I'd try that too.
But I would NOT leave a well pump running if no water is being delivered as I'm worried about damaging the pump.
Check that your heating cable is live and working.
Beyond that, you can try using a normal hair dryer to blow warm air on the coldest pipe sections indoors.
Search InspectApedia for the article PIPE FREEZE-UP POINTS for a series of articles on finding where pipes are most-likely to be freezing and how to deal with the problem.
Also search InspectApedia for our article
DE-WINTERIZE a BUILDING
for more suggestions about thawing frozen pipes
Keep us posted.
Thanks for your view.
If water pressure is never improving I suspect
- a damaged pump
Keep us posted. What you find will doubtless help other readers.
Reader follow-up: - found the trouble: well piping leak
(Feb 24, 2014) Bill Schultz said:
Finally getting around to telling what I found with my pump/wellhead.
Stupendous, Bill. Kudos for finding the issue. It's surely true that a well piping leak that is occurring inside the well casing can kill water pressure as well as be hard to spot unless someone pulls the casing top and takes a look. Sometimes we can see the problem as a loss of prime (if the pup is aboveground) but with a submersible pump in the well we don't get that clue.
If you've got any details that might help another reader home in on this particular water pressure loss problem - due to a well piping leak - it'd b a boon if you posted those added comments.
Thanks again for the follow-up;
(Feb 16, 2014) Ron said:
Here's my issue and I'm new at this so please be patient, lately we have been noticing that the water will run fine for awhile and then all of a sudden stop, then after about maybe 1-3 minutes the pump will kick in and then water will flow again. I would like to know where i should start in finding the culprit to maintain an even water flow in the house?
Ron don't worry about not being an expert, none of us knows everything and together were smarter than any individual.
Then rap II tap theressure switch. Let me know if that turns it on.
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