Well and pump and pressure tank sketch (C) InspectAPedia Water Pump Runs for No Reason, FAQs

  • INTERMITTENT WATER PUMP CYCLING FAQs - CONTENTS: questions & answers abouyt Intermittent or random water pump operation: how to diagnose & correct water pump intermittent cycling "on-off" when no water is (known to be) running in a building.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about diagnosing and correcting intermittent well pump cycling on and off when no water is being used in the building

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Intermittent or no-reason water pump runs, FAQs:

Questions & answers on how to diagnose, find and fix the cause of intermittent or irregular well pump cycling on and off: if the well pump seems to run for no reason or when no water is being consumed.

This article series explains how to diagnose & repair water pump intermittent cycling - the water pump comes on when no water is being run in the building. Intermittent water pump cycling means that the water pump comes on for no apparent reason.

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Intermittent / Unexplained Water Pump Cycling Questions & Answers

Photograph of a clogged water filterQuestions & answers about unexplained water pump cycling on and off, posted originally at WATER PUMP INTERMITTENT CYCLING - topic home.

On 2017-05-15 by (mod) re: can't find the pressure control switch on an irrigation system

Not stupid at all JM if the switch location is not apparent. And you are right that there may be NO externally-visible pressure control switch on your irrigation system pump.

Usually (and in keeping with manufacturer's instructions) a pressure control switch is located very close to the pressure tank - if your irrigation system uses a pressure tank at all. Some water pump systems omit the pressure tank entirely, using a pressure control built right into the pump.


also for photos of typical pressure control switches in their usual locations see

WATER PUMP PRESSURE CONTROL REPAIR where we also discuss how to find the pressure switch

On 2017-05-15 by jman

Stupid question- Where could the pressure control switch be located on an irrigation system? i have a Box underground with the actuators/contorl valves for the different sections of the irrigation system, ill check there when i get home to see if it is in there. possibility it doesn't have one? I don't remember seeing anything that looks like the pressure control switch.

On 2017-05-14 by (mod) re: what could be the problem causing well pump to run for "no reason"


The article WATER PUMP INTERMITTENT CYCLING - topic home lists reasons that a water pump may appear to run for no apparent reason, or at intermittent times when you think no water is being run in the building. Please take a look at that information and then if questions remain don't hesitate to ask and I'll be glad to try further.

On 2017-05-14 by fabian

what could be the problem.

On 2017-05-12 y (mod) re: check for a bad pressure control switch

I think that I would check for a bad pressure control switch. He might try just replacing the switch. Or a pump motor is overheated or overheating, OR there is lack of water in the well and a pump protection circuit is working.

On 2017-05-12 by Anonymous

It stops when the pump stops. I don't have any tanks around the house that would look like a pressure tank. The system as far as I can tell is only for irrigation plumbed into the irrigation system, no home system at all.

The house was built in the 70's i believe before city water was in our neighborhood.

On 2017-05-11 20:58:34.389365 by (mod) re: water and pump stop for a minute or two after running just 10 seconds


Is there water coming out of your irrigation system continuously or does it stop when the pump stops? I ask because there could be a pressure tank included in the system.

On 2017-05-11 by jman

I bought a house and the irrigation plumbed to a well in my yard. Our regular water is city water.

When I turn on the irrigation the pump runs for 10 seconds pumps water to the systems then turns off. All while the Irrigation system is saying to pump the full time and not in this interval.

After a minute or two the pump will kick back on and run for 10 seconds again then shut off. This repeats for as long as the irrigation system is timed to run. First time messing with a Well system and not afraid to get my hands dirty (not shocked lol). What would the professionals recommend to test first or possible solution.

On 2017-04-01 by (mod) re: well pump stops running even though the pressure control switch has the pump turned "on"

Electrician or repair technician would probably start by checking for power to the pump at the pressure control switch. Would be that the switch is closed which should turn on the pump but the points in the switch could be burned and not working correctly.

Lack of water in the world combined with pump protection controls could also keep your pump from running. A pump motor that is overheating could also turn your pump off but normally most pump overheat switches will reset automatically.

On 2017-04-01 by Mary

Well pump stops running even tho pressure switch is calling for water.

On 2017-01-02 by (mod) re: is it normal that the hot tub had no water but the pump turned on

Not normal and not recommended, but certainly possible if someone simply turned on the switch - by bumping it accidentally, for example. Running a pump "dry" can damage it.

On 2017-01-02 15:32:17.781434 by dustin

Hot tub had no water in it and the pump came on. Is this normal

Question: pump starts as soon as I run water

(Nov 11, 2016) rich42fi said:

Since a few days pump starts as soon as I run water, and if I keep water running pump comes on and off at 2 second intervals.( short cycling?)

Also when I am not using water I see the pressure guage slowly ( about every 30 minutes) lowers from 50psi to 28psi, without my using any water at all, and when it reaches 28 psi the pump comes on all by itself and the pressure guage shoots back up to 50psi.( intermittent cycling ?)

Water colour is normal though. I can see small fresh water on floor around where rubber pipe comes from floor to supply the pump! could just be condensation?


Sounds like a water logged pressure tank and a slow water usage rate.

Shown in photo: a one line jet pump and water filter. Clogged filters can cause extremely-rapid pump cycling but not unexplained intermittent pump on-cycles that will be discussed here. [Click to enlarge any image]

Comment: found trouble in the water pressure vessel - fix the leak before trying to replace the pump

(Sept 22, 2016) Anonymous said:

In my case I found the pressure vessel had a problem.
Once i pump air into it from a cycle pump, it works fine for few day but then the pressure goes down and I pump air again.

Surprisngly the pump company and the plumber were advising me to replace the pump altogether.

the pump company is not sellling me the pressure vessel but have selling the servie kit containing everything which is more thena 150 £

Question: pump won't stop running

(July 28, 2016) Steven said:
We have a rural water system with an in house pump and pressure tank. The pump has been running continuously for the last 12 hours. The pressure tank has 30 lbs pressure. When the pump is turned off the pressure drops to 0 in a few minutes.


Sounds like
- a burst or open pipe between house and well
- combined leaky foot valve with worn or damaged pump



(June 22, 2016) karl said:
pump runs for 7 mins then shuts will start back up after a min



look for an overload or a pump protection switch or running out of water

Question: pump stays on for about 2 minutes then turns off for about 1&1/2 minute

(May 14, 2016) Mark said:
My water pump stays on for about 2 minutes then turns off for about 1&1/2 minute. I have no loss of water but will it hurt my pump if it keeps going on and off?


Look for running water or a well piping leak or a bd check valve.

Eventually your system may burn the contact points on the control switch or overheat the motor from repeated starts and stops. I'd find and fix the trouble; if this happens when no water is running in the building there's probably a bad check valve or foot valve in the well.

Question: delay in pump start-up

(May 12, 2016) lydia said:
what causes the water to stop running for some seconds just before the pump starts kicking and only when is starts kicking then the start back running?


I'm not sure, Lydia. Possibly a clogged water filter combined with a debris-clogged pressure control switch. Or the pressure control switch contacts might be burned.

Check for a debris-clogged pressure control switch

Question: why does my water pump start every two minutes

(Mar 16, 2016) Anonymous said:
Pump start every 2 min


look for a running plumbing fixture or a leaky well water pipe or a failed foot valve or check valve.

Question: can a water heater be damaged by leaving the faucet open and running for a long time?

(Feb 25, 2016) Casandra said:
I am just curious as to whether or not it is possible that a water heater can break/malfunction if a faucet is running for a long period of time?


Perhaps if you ran hot water for weeks continuously you'd exceed the duty cycle of the water heater, but it seems unlikely.

Question: faucets are spurting air

(Jan 24, 2016) Ron said:
All Faucet water spurt air and when using the upstairs shower the water almost completely shuts down, pump runs continously during that shower but I lose pressure upstairs (2nd floor)

Peridoc spurts of air from the faucets , could it be the pressure tank is air bound? What is the fix?


Ron, please search InspectApedia for AIR DISCHARGE AT FAUCETS to see the diagnosis and repair of this problem.

(Aug 3, 2014) Robert said:
This page helped me identify that my problem with intermittent pump cycling was due to a leaky foot valve. I really appreciate the availability of this kind of expertise.

Question: intemittent well pump cycling for 5 seconds

(Mar 12, 2014) Mark said:

I would describe our problem as intermittent, (roughly hourly) short cycling, (5 seconds), when no water is being run in building. Normal long cycling also occurs during water use. I am suspecting clogged or defective pressure switch and will check that next. (Deep well, submerged pump, bladder tank)


If you see water pressure below the cut in pressure try tapping on the switch. Clogging can indeed mess up switch operation.

Reader follow-up:

(Mar 13, 2014) Mark said:

I drained the bladder pressure tank, then when I aired it up, the air came out the drain, I concluded that the bladder was ruptured and replaced the tank, as well as the pressure switch, for good measure. However it is still doing intermittent short cycling, (5 seconds), when no water is being run in building, and no leaks have been discovered. When the pump recharges from 30 psi to 50 psi, it takes something like a minute. I don't understand the intermittent 5 second cycling.


Mark, try turning off water into the building; if the system keeps intermittent cycling then we surmise there is a leak between the building and the well piping end inside the well itself.

Question: pump runs non-stop intermittent cycles after we upgraaded our electrical panel

(July 8, 2014) chris said:

recently upgraded my electric panel from 100 to 200 amp. Now that i have power turned back on my sub/pump(drilled well) has been running nonstop intermittent cycles.1st noticed it when showering,lost all pressure. turned the shower off for bout 5 seconds then back on and had full pressure again.

My thoughts were that while the power was off (bout 8 hrs)i had lost my prime even though my gauges were still reading 45.I drained my tank charged it to 28lbs for my 30/50 switch just to eliminate 1 of the potential problems, and im holding the same charge of 45(guessing the switch was adjusted prevoiusly for that reading).

when the pump cycles off i noticed i wasnt hearing the audible sound of the contacts releasing. took the cap of the p/switch and checked. the pump is turning off without the contacts realesing. the contacts are still mobile and dont look bad .

other possibility is when the electric company came . they did back up bout ten feet from tire to well casing not sure if my line got squished? i dont think so because they were on the other side of the well.does the pipeing go from well direct to house? any thoughts would be helpfull



We would not expect an electrical panel upgrade to impact the operation of a well pump unless at the same time someone messed with the pump wiring & controls.

Losing prime, if you regain it, won't lead to intermittent cycling. Rather losing prime leads to the pump running continuously without delivering water (which can damage the pump).

I'd dig up that squashed well piping and look for a leak there. That could cause pressure drop and pump cycling.

Keep us posted

Question: trouble with pump running for no reason on water line shared with neighbours

(July 12, 2014) Ashlee said:

I had always had issues with my well pump. 5yrs ago I replaced the whole line from my home to the well and even replaced the pump. There is a split on the line to my neighbours but that had always been there and the previous home owners never had an issue.

My pump went from turn on (with no water running) every few minutes to almost every 30 secs. It turns on even if when the water is off to the rest of the house


Ashlee there may be a leak in the well piping or in your neighbours well piping combined with a bad check valve

Question: Pump kicks on when no water is running

(Aug 24, 2014) barbara said:

Pump kicks on when no water is running. Changed pressure switch and pressure tank. it is a submersible pump. Put cut offs in line where pipe comes out of well.When you turn t off pressure stays but when you cut it back on it sounds like it sucks back into the well


Sounds like a leak in well piping or bad foot valve or check valve at the pump in the well. When you shut off the water line at the pressure tank, with a single pipe heading back down into the well, water does not quickly exit the pipe (just as an upside down soda bottle doesn't immediately pour out) as air also needs to enter the piping to displace the water leaving.

But when you turn on water between well piping and house there is a supply of pressurized water easily sending water back down into the well.

Then as pressure drops the pump cycles.

Of course I may be mistaken but that's a reasonable guess.

Question: well ran dry, so we installed a big water tank hooked to a house front faucet but we have no pressure

(Sept 15, 2014) John Esquibel said:

My well has run dry we can't drill new one so we have a 550 gallon tank and we got a water pump hooked to it and then it is hooked to one of the faucets in front of the house. I have installed a Check valve so that the water can't go back into the pump but the pump will still run on and off when nothing is running. There is no pressure tank so what can I do to fix this.


John I want to help but I'm baffled by the description of your system. It sounds as if you have just connected your water piping to itself in a loop. We're missing something here.

Basically if a pump runs when you are not running water, you want to read the diagnostic article found above at


Question: I'm having intermittent water pump cycling

(Oct 7, 2014) Steve said:

I'm having intermittent water pump cycling. About every 4 minutes my pump will turn on for about 3 seconds. I checked for leaking pipes and running toilets but all appears normal. I'm guessing the problem lies somewhere between the well pump and pressure tank (tank is 7 years old).

Any suggestions or way I can pin point exactly what the problem is?


Steve if you turn off water into the building and the cycling continues you can bet that it's somewhere between pump and well - including possibly a leak at the pump itself, or the pressure tank.

(Oct 8, 2014) Steve said:
Thanks Dan. The pressure tank doesn't sound water logged. Nice and hollow sounding at the top. I checked the pressure switch and it's opening and closing as it should. Any suggestions on what to do next? Call a plumber right? Trying to educate myself as much as possible.


Steve if you shut off water into the house then watch the pressure gauge - and if you see the gauge fall - then you know there's a leak. Perhaps a bad foot valve.

(Oct 9, 2014) Anonymous said:
Pressure gauge is shot Dan. Doesn't move at all. Have plumber coming over to diagnose.


A stuck gauge, if the equipment runs, means the gauge needs replacement. Check for debris clogging at the gauge port too as that can also mean trouble for the separate pressure control switch.

(Oct 10, 2014) Steve said:
The pressure tank was drained and air pressure checked, 18 psi. He hooked an air compressor up to the tank and recharged it.

Had the pressure gauge replaced. The problem is temporarily resolved as the gauge shows a slow loss of air pressure when water is not running to the house. The tank is an Amtrol Champion 32 gallon which is 8 years old. I gather there is a pinhole leak in the bladder and the tank will have to be replaced.

Question: short cycling continues after replacing a pressure switch

(Dec 21, 2014) Tom Butler said:
I replaced pressure switch and found no water coming out of the bladder tank air inlet, but it is still short cycling. It is coming on at about 40lbs and shutting off at about 60



A more subtle bladder tank failure is a small leak between bladder and air chamber. If that has occurred you may have a partly water-logged pressure tank but since air is still in the top of the tank, pressing the pin in the air valve there won't show water.

If you drain all water from the tank and it's still heavy or sloshes it's got water trapped in the air chamber.

in the more-reading links just above see


Question: losing prime

(Jan 7, 2015) Louie King said:
I do not think my bladder tank has enough water holding in it Air pressure is fine and no water coming out of air valve. Pressure switch seams to come on quick 30/50 setting I'm thinking maybe check valve problem


Louie check valve problems often result in loss of prime.


(Feb 19, 2015) chrisrobb60 said:
I have a pressurised potable water system for my house. The pump operates for a few seconds every 1-2 minutes. The pressure switch seem to operate correctly. The water is supplied to the pump via an atmospheric storage tank. There is no leakage within the house from any appliances, toilets, etc.

There's a check valve between the tank and the pump. With the osolation valves to the house all closed the pump still opeates as per above. Is the problem the check valve?

(Feb 17, 2015) Adele said:
Well water pump runs exactly every two minutes, regardless if water is on or off. Replaced water tank & guage



Sounds like a failed foot valve or check valve or a leak in well piping

Adele, same as my prior comment to Chris

Summing up intermittent pump operation compared with short cycling well pumps

  1. Intermittent pump operation: If a pump is running for no apparent reason and we're not running water in the building (or we think we're not running water there), then I call this WATER PUMP INTERMITTENT CYCLING.

    The time between pump-on cycles will depend on how fast water is leaving the system and might be anywhere from "pump won't stop running at all" (though other problems can cause that too) to "pump runs once in the middle of the night".
  2. Short Cycling pumps: Very short pump-on cycles followed by short pump-off cycles is caused by a water-logged pressure tank (lost air charge) combined with a rapid use of water in the building or by a significant water piping leak somewhere. See WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING. These cycles are typically under 30 seconds.
  3. Chattering pumps: Extremely-short pump on/off cycling or pump chattering is usually caused by a blockage at the pump or water system output, like a clogged debris filter. This on-off cycling rate will typically be a second or less.
  4. Continuous pump operation: if the pump won't stop running the cause may be simply a high water usage rate that exceeds the pump or well's capacity to deliver water or there may be a leak or a bad control.


Continue reading at WATER PUMP INTERMITTENT CYCLING or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see WATER PUMP INTERMITTENT CYCLING FAQs-2 - older water pump running for no reason Q&A



Or see WATER PUMP DRAWDOWN VOLUME & TIME - typical volumes and times between pump cycles depend on well tank size, pressure settings, and other factors

Suggested citation for this web page

INTERMITTENT WATER PUMP CYCLING FAQs at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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