One minute you have clean, flowing water from your faucet, and the next you don’t. Nothing. Bone dry. This usually indicates a problem with your home’s water well pump system. Most wells in New Hampshire and Massachusetts use submersible pumps, which are installed within the well deep within the ground. This can make checking the actual pump difficult. If you’re handy with electrical systems, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the problem. If you're not, call in a professional.
CHECK THE POWER TO YOUR WELL PUMP
Water well pumps are powered by electricity. They are usually run on their own circuit, which you can check in your home’s breaker box. Next, check to see if the pressure tank switch has flipped. When a large amount of water is drawn from the pressure tank, it can flip the switch and shut the system down. This is meant to be a fail-safe in the event there is a catastrophic event, like a burst pipe. Look for a small silver bar on the top of the feed line from the well pump to the tank. If it’s resting parallel to the ground, it’s been tripped. You can easily reset it by closing all the water valves leading to the delivery system and then lifting the handle until it engages. Wait for the pressure tank to fill and then reopen the water valves.
BAD WIRING, FAULTY INSTALLATION
Did you recently install a new pump, or have one installed for you? New electrical well water pumps should be problem free, but there are those rare cases where a component can have faulty wiring straight from the box.
If the new pump made a humming or buzzing noise when it was first powered up, it could mean that the wiring was installed improperly. If you have an ohmmeter, check the color coding or the wiring. Check you pump’s owner manual for the specific readings, but in general, the highest amplification readings on the indicator screen of the ohm meter are the red to black wiring. Yellow to red is checked next. The lowest reading is the yellow to black wiring. If the readings do not match the specifications in the operator's manual, then the connections are not correctly matched. If this is the case, you will need a replacement pump, which should be covered by the warranty.
CHECK THE CONTROL BOX
If you suspect there is a problem with the control box, take a look inside. Look for small cylindrical components, called start capacitors. If you see searing or ooze around the connectors, the capacitors need to be replaced. This is usually an inexpensive fix. There could also be malfunctions with other components within the control box, which can be measured with an ohmmeter. If components are all reading normal, you can move on to another cause.
CHECK THE POWER GOING TO THE WELL
Checking the wiring under your well cap is one way to determine how far along in the wiring the electrical problem goes. Go to your home’s wellhead and remove the cap. You will see three wires spliced with twist-on connectors. These can be removed and the bare wires can serve as test points. If voltage is present, it means that electricity is flowing from your home to that point. That indicates a problem within the well, at which point you should call a professional. If there is no voltage present, there is an electrical problem between your home and the well. Again, calling a well water professional can help you identify the problem from this point.
Skillings & Sons are well water experts that respond to no-water emergencies and flooded basements 365 days a year. Call us if you suspect you have a problem with your well pump.