How Much Pump Should a Well Pump Pump?

We had to buy a new well pump and water tank (that thingie with the bladder) last summer. It was pretty clear the old system was shot, the pump went off every 10 minutes and …harrrrrrughgghgh.

The first plumber just replaced the water tank (I know, it’s not a “storage” tank, something about maintaining pressure).

But the well pump STILL kept going off, and got a lot noisier. CHAAAAHHHARRRUGGHHH.

The plumber was more thorough and crawled all over the house to try to figure out why the tank wasn’t maintaining pressure. Looked for leaks in the crawl space and all through the plumbing system. He said he could watch the pressure drop, the little needle on the tank showed it. He postulated that it could be the pipe going from the well to the house (because that’s the only part of it he couldn’t inspect), however that patch of dirt (roughly 5’) isn’t muddy or anything.

Well, the new pump STILL goes off inexplicably. It’s MUCH quieter now, but I can’t figure out why it would be running when nobody’s using any water.

Is our pressure tank defective?

Any suggestions for checking for leaks?

We do have a water softener, is there something about those that leads to more water usage?

Hmm. Speaking from purely a ‘I’ve just used the thing’ perspective:

If there are no apparent leaks (air or water), then does the pump have access to enough water? I would think that if there truly are no leaks then that there isn’t enough water accessible to the pump in the well: the pump kicks in, runs out of sufficient water to do its job (perhaps running through the amount that’s there quicker than it is replenished?), shuts down, then later on tries again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

From the times I’ve stayed at a house where there was a well with a pump, I think I’ve heard the pump kicking in once or twice after people have done their evening showers and whatnot. Definitely not every ten minutes or so.

Hopefully someone with actual mechanical knowledge will meander by and offer more suggestions.


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There is a check (one way) valve in the pump suction pipe to prevent water from going back into the well after the pump stops. It may be leaking.

Agree. This is also called a Foot Valve in some areas. If there is no leak elsewhere, the foot valve is the next most likely culprit. It’s usually located at the bottom of the pipe that goes down into the well.
I’ve replaced two of them here over the years, and if your well is 50+ feet deep it’s a major job. The pump must be disconnected, the pipe pulled out of the well, valve changed and then reverse the process. If you have the tools and replacement parts on hand, it takes about four hours of hard work. The pipe (filled with water) and iron valve at the end of it is quite heavy and it helps to have two people to pull it up out of the well. Good luck!

PS: If you’ve had to replace the pump and tank recently, that’s another good sign that the foot valve is also old and in need of replacement.
If you are going to hire someone to do this, try to find a company/tradesman that specializes in wells, rather than a general plumber.

Well guy checking in here.

Your problem is most likely in the well. Like others have mentioned it could be the foot valve. It could also be the pipe in the well. In some cases the well is a pipe itself and there should be a check valve at the front of the pump instead of a foot valve in the well.

A couple questions for you. What type of well is this? dug well? driven point? Is there a well pit? Does the well stick above ground? How many pipes go from the pump to the well? Well depth?

One of the pluses of foot valves failing is the pipe usually isn’t filled with water.

A well pump would pump well all that it pumps if a well pump could pump well.

:: dont hurt me ::

If there’s, say, 36 feet of pipe between the water-line and the foot valve, there’s 36 feet of water in the pipe when you start to pull it out, right? The failed foot valves I’ve worked with were slow leakers; still lots of water in the pipe after it was extracted from the well. (two pipes attached to the foot valve)

You are correct. I’d say it’s about 60/40 when they fail them being a slow leaker vs effectively not there. In any case not having the extra water from the top of the well to the static level is a welcome relief.

One other thing, to prove the leak location, turn off the tap on the outlet of the pressure tank. If the pump still starts, or you see the pressure guage dropping, the leak is somewhere prior to the tap, most likely the foot valve, or in my parents case, the pipe into the well rusted out at the air/water interface. That was 36 metres of 1.5" galvanised pipe lifted out :eek:

I didn’t know you were a well guy – how interesting! Now, “notawellwoman”, I don’t expect to hear from her (nyuck! nyuck!). :stuck_out_tongue: .

The pipe sticks out of the ground about 2’ or so. When he replaced the pump, he and his buddy had lengths of hose and pipe all over the yard, sucker’s down there a long way. Our water table is supposedly pretty high over here.

I didn’t know there were any other replaceable parts involved. This house is almost 40 years old, though; I don’t know when the last time was that someone worked on well issues, but our plumber last summer thought the pump he replaced had been in there for a good long while (it was rusted as all get out - he replaced all the pipes, too, they were stiff black pipes, now it’s white flexible hose).

So is this something I can ignore? It’s not going off every 10 minutes anymore, more like 5-6 times/day that I notice and can’t otherwise explain.

I know that running more often will shorten the life of the pump, but if we’re only here 5 years I doubt I need to care.

Thanks so much, everyone, for your replies and suggestions! I’ve been worried that there was a leak in the crawlspace rotting stuff, but since we haven’t found it I’m glad to think I don’t have to worry about that particular hazard.

At that rate I’d ignore it. Maybe wait until boytyperanma checks back in since he knows more about this stuff.

Your well type is a drilled well.(some people call them artesian wells which they are most often not). If you took of the cap and looked down you would see where the pipe connects to the side of the well to feed into the house.

That is called a pitless adapter. Which could be where the leak is taking place. I’ve seen inexperienced guys mess up that connection several times. The cheaper ones have a rubber O-ring that is easily torn when reconnecting the two peaces of the pitless. The better ones use beeswax to make the seal that guys will scrape off thinking it shouldn’t be there. If you are ever feeling handy you could take the cap off the well and shiny a flashlight onto the pitless and look for water dripping off it.(shut the power to the pump off and don’t drop the flashlight in the well while doing that) you may have to pull a loop of wire out(do not cut it) to see past to the pitless.

The water table for surface water and ground water can be related but are often different. If water from the surface is getting into the well it can be a major problem.

There are lots of parts involved in a well system. With yours, a submersible pump,
you generally replace everything in the well when you need to pull it out rather that pray the old stuff will last through another pump. It does sound like your plumber did replace everything. The foot valve that I and others mentioned does not exist on your system. You instead have a check valve. Most pumps have a check valve built into them. I find those to be of mediocre quality so use an inline check valve immediately following the pump. I wouldn’t be worrying about water leaking back through the pump at this time that would be an extremely rare problem considering the age of the pump.

I’m curious about the flexible white pipe it isn’t something I’ve seen anyone use in a well in my neck of the woods. I use black poly pipe or galvanized steel pipe.

You could probably ignore it. That isn’t abusive conditions to most pumps. Different pumps get different mileages however I don’t know the quality of what is there. It will cost you electricity.

I suspect you may have a runny toilet or such, the first thing I would do is take the cover off each toilet tank and look in to make sure there is no water flowing.

If that isn’t the problem you can confirm if the leak is before or after your main shut off. Pick a night. Before you go to bed, turn the breaker for the pump off. Unplug the softener. Close the main valve. And note the water pressure. In the morning if the pressure gauge has dropped significantly the problem is somewhere between the pump and the main shut off. If not water is leaking somewhere in the house.

My recommendation to any home owner is do not have plumbers work on your well or pressure tank. Anything before the main shut off is the realm of well water professionals or municipal water supply people. Anything after the main valve is too far for the well guys to be going, get a plumber. These things are different skill sets and require different experience.

Oh! Thank you so much for taking the time to explain all of that! I really appreciate your sharing your expertise!

I started out with the plumber because I hoped the problem was IN the house and therefore covered by the seller’s warranty, so we went through them (it’s just like insurance, you have to call before seeking treatment). bzzzzt! Luckily we did have the money to fix it. But I will keep your advice in mind for our next encounter.

Again, thank you so much!

I’d like to offer some kind of reciprocal assistance - it seems like it’s mostly “pay it forward” around here, but if you find yourself pondering an art-related question, I’d be glad to take a stab at it!