How to diagnose loss of water pressure that later improves or returns "on its own"
When you lose water for some time period but later it returns we think immediately of the following possible explanations
. This article describes common water pressure-loss problems and their causes, and provides links to more-detailed diagnosis and repair articles for each of those situations.
The well is being pumped "dry" and you're waiting for the well itself to recover water. With age however some wells deteriorate and deliver less and less water as their flow rate from the water table into the well diminishes.
This occurs as minerals clog the cracks or passages through which water is entering the well.
A well may be pumped "dry" - and the pump stops delivering water, or the well may be pumped down to a low flow rate - or a low recovery rate, which in some installations may permit the pump to continue to run but it will deliver water only at a reduced rate.
Low Well Water well pipe tailpieces:
Some wells that are known to have intermittent low water problems may be equipped with a special tailpiece on the water pick-up end of the well pipe precisely to prevent the well pump from becoming damaged when water level in the well drops too low.
The tailpiece permits the in-well water pump to continue to run by recirculating well water within the pump but by halting delivery of water or slowing delivery of water to the building.
See WATER PUMP LIFE EXPECTANCY where we describe these conditions and parts in more detail.
This is a very likely cause of the intermittent loss of water or water pressure symptom.
Well pump motor is overheating: if a well pump motor is overheating for any reason (low voltage, bad start/run capacitor, damaged motor, damaged pump impeller parts, loss of water in the well, pump running dry) it may be a model that will turn itself off when too hot. A thermal sensor inside the pump motor housing handles this job.
With the motor off for a cool-down period, the thermal sensor automatically resets and the pump will run again. Typically the "off" time is 15-20 minutes. If the pump on-off activity is erratic or very long, it could be that the problem is a bad thermal sensor switch.
Note that other electric motors may have a thermal reset switch that is mechanical and "pops out" to show a red "reset button" that must be pushed back in manually. If the motor is still too hot, pushing the button won't work - the button won't stay in. See
A pump is shutting down on thermal overload and you're waiting for it to cool down and automatically re-set its overload switch.
If the well pump is visible in the building you can diagnose this condition:
If the pump keeps running and you have no water there is a problem with the well or well piping or foot valve in the well -- maybe. See contrasting cases after this list.
Or on occasion, the pump could itself be damaged - its motor is spinning but the pump impeller is broken and the pump is not moving water.
Explanation: If the well pump keeps running and you have no water it is also possible that the pump itself is defective, such as having broken internal parts so that the motor runs but the pump does not move water.
But if the impeller blades in the pump are broken, the pump may spin but no water is moved inside the pump housing - the water supply system would have poor water pressure or it may have no water and never recover.
By contrast with cases where you lose but then recover water pressure in the building are cases where you lose and do not recover water pressure or flow:
You'd have either no water or only very low pump output no matter what conditions in the well.
Or the pump has lost its prime. If the water tank is empty the pump may need to be primed.
See WELL PUMP PRIMING GUIDE
If the pump is in the well you can't see these conditions directly but an electrician or plumber can do some diagnosis from the building by noting the amperage draw on the pump circuit.
If inside the well there is a leaky or broken water line rising from the pump, the pump could run but deliver less or no water to the building. If this defect is present, the system will not recover to normal operation on its own. In may cases the pump will deliver some water pressure but it is poor.
If the well pipes come disconnected completely, the pump may run but no water will be delivered.
How to boost water pressure in a building by installing a pressure booster pump and pressure tank is discussed in detail at WATER PRESSURE BOOSTER PUMP
If the building water supply stops and takes minutes to hours to recover,
you may have problem with the well flow rate.
But the problem of lost water supply and pressure could be
more mechanical: a bad well pump.
The well pump, in turn, could have been damaged or hastened to the end of its
life by a bad water pressure tank which has caused well pump short-cycling. Short cycling of the pump motor can burn up
the pump relay control.
Readers of this document should also see WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES how to diagnose the need for air, how to add air,
stop water pump short cycling to avoid damage - water storage water pressure tank safety.
Continue reading at WATER PRESSURE INTERMITTENT LOSS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Questions & answers on intermittent loss of building water pressure: troubleshooting, causes, repairs. .
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Thanks to reader René A Valencourt, CCP, MCTS,
CTB, Inc. for technical editing 10 Sept 2009.
Smart Tank, Installation Instructions [ copy on file as /water/Smart_Tank_Flexcon.pdf ] - , Flexcon Industries, 300 Pond St., Randolph MA 02368, www.flexconind.com, Tel: 800-527-0030 - web search 07/24/2010, original source: http://www.flexconind.com/pdf/st_install.pdf
Typical Shallow Well One Line Jet Pump Installation [ copy on file as /water/Jet_Pump_Grove_Elect_Jet_Pumps.pdf ] - , Grove Electric, G&G Electric & Plumbing, 1900 NE 78th St., Suite 101, Vancouver WA 98665 www.grovelectric.com - web search -7/15/2010 original source: http://www.groverelectric.com/howto/38_Typical%20Jet%20Pump%20Installation.pdf
Typical Deep Well Two Line Jet Pump Installation [ copy on file as /water/Jet_Pump_Grove_Elect.pdf ] - , Grove Electric, G&G Electric & Plumbing, 1900 NE 78th St., Suite 101, Vancouver WA 98665 www.grovelectric.com - web search -7/15/2010 original source: http://www.groverelectric.com/howto/38_Typical%20Jet%20Pump%20Installation.pdf
Water Fact Sheet #3, Using Low-Yielding Wells [ copy on file as /water/Low_Yield_Wells_Penn_State.pdf ] - , Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Cooperative Extension, School of Forest Resources, web search 07/24/2010, original source: http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/XH0002.pdf
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