Pump/well tutorial?

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Old 12-17-06, 10:32 AM
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Smile Pump/well tutorial?

I bought a house about a year ago which has a well and pump, feeding a lawn sprinkler system. It has worked flawlessly until only a few days ago, when it unceremoniously quit sprinkling. Here are some facts:

The house is in Bradenton, Florida about a half mile from the Manatee River, on a street which is a cul-de-sac with a duck pond. I point this out because I suspect that I have a pretty shallow well here, given the abundance of groundwater.

The pump is above ground. It pumps into a big cylindrical tank with a drain valve at the bottom, with a pressure meter on the drain port. There is also a valve at the top of the tank which I surmise to be some sort of pressure relief system, since nothing connects to it.

The water goes from the tank to a complicated system of electrically-controlled zone valves, which are controlled by a fancy digital controller which manages 6 zones, a variety of daily programs, etc.

OK, so here is where I start sounding totally ignorant. I have no idea whether this kind of system needs some kind of priming; I am not sure what the function of the tank is; I don't know how to tell if the pump is pumping (it comes on and spins, but clearly no water is emerging).

Is there some kind of online tutorial that explains the components and functions of the plumbing of this kind of well? I want to take a whack at fixing it myself before the inevitable call to the well company and the accompanying horrifying bill. If I can understand how it all is supposed to work, I suspect I have a good chance of at least identifying the problem, and maybe fixing it.

Thanks! This forum system is a tremendous resource; I just discovered it.

JEH
 
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Old 12-17-06, 01:42 PM
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Rainbird has a good site for learning about sprinkler systems:
http://www.rainbird.com/diy/guidedtour.htm

Start there.

Googling "water well tutorial" brings up a Canadian water relief organization and that will help a bit with how water wells work:
http://www.lifewater.ca/ndexdril.htm
You probably have a "shallow" well (less than 25 feet deep) with an above ground pump. I'm going to guess a horse and half motor.

The tank is called a "pressure tank" which most people don't have for irrigation. It's nice to have. but not necessary. Imagine that it is not there, ignore the sprinkler zone system and things get much simpler. The pump pumps water and that comes out of hose -- the Lifewater tutorial makes more sense then.

You may need to replace the "check valve" which allows water to flow one way, but not the other. Look for it to have an arrow on it pointing away from the well and ahead of the pump. "Priming" a pump means filling the pump and all the pipe between the pump and the check valve full of water, then turning it on. Most people in Florida have a bibcock (water faucet) right on top of the pump's outlet for priming. Idea is that you put a hose with two females on it, then run water in from the house until it is full, but most pumps have a plug that you would unscrew to prime it as well. If the check valve has gone bad, you would lose the prime.

Could be the pump has gone bad. There is a switch on the tank that turns the pump on and off, it it goes bad, then to power to the pump=no water, but you say the pump goes on, but no water.

Here is a great tutorial on how to replace a pressure tank and it explains what everything does:
http://www.hammerzone.com/archives/plumbing/well/pressure_tank/replace.htm

Could be a lot of things, but unless you educate yourself enough or call someone that knows something, it is hard for us to even guess.

Get to know your neighbors or people at work better. If you are retired, join clubs. Try to find someone like me that's been living in Florida more than a few years to come and take a look at it. These types of systems are all over Florida because (have you noticed?) water and sewer bills are kind of high. That grass we use sure is thirsty.
 

Last edited by Vey; 12-17-06 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 12-18-06, 05:33 AM
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Pump/well tutorial

Thanks for all the helpful information. I am still in the debugging phase, armed with a lot of new understanding. At the moment, I think I may have a shot pump. I went through the manufacturer's priming procedure, but even though it spins like crazy, it never primes. I suspect that the impeller or something in there may be broken, since my guess is that first, the system went dry due to some leak or something that caused loss of prime, and then the pump ran dry for who knows how long before it croaked. Anyway, that's my operating theory at the moment. Stay tuned... I'll report back when I get it running, and hopefully help someone else in the future.

JEH
 

Last edited by DIYaddict; 12-18-06 at 03:23 PM. Reason: Removed quote/Quoting the entire post is unnecessary
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Old 12-18-06, 08:10 AM
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It usually takes at least three attempts to prime a pump, often 5 or 6 and sometimes even more. I've spent over 20 minutes on some because some pumps are just cantankerous. You have to leave the pump running until the body gets a little warm -- maybe a minute, but hard to say how long in time, a little more than slightly warm rather than time is the best indicator.

The book doesn't tell you that.

So the procedure is to fill the body and pipe back to the check valve, run until the body is warm after watching the water you put in is pumped out, then stop and fill again. Repeat.

If the plug is right on top, I just screw it in a thread or two and let the water squirt out of it. You can even leave it a open to see what is going on and/or put your thumb on top of the hole. If you don't feel or see a little pressure or water rapidly stirring about in there, then the pump is likely shot. You won't see full pressure until it primes, then you get a shower.

This is kind of an experience thing to get it just right -- something I learned about by watching my father and grandfather. That's why I say to try and find someone around there that has a little experience. And if you do get it primed and lose the prime again, or if you change the pump, then change the check valve. The brass ones are better, I think.

Oh, and if you do have to change the pump DO NOT go to HD or Lowe's to get one. Ask here first.
 

Last edited by Vey; 12-18-06 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 12-18-06, 08:24 AM
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Thanks. I just went out there and looked the system over a little more carefully, now that I know enough to be dangerous. First thing I noticed is that there is no check valve and no pressure switch. It looks as if the controller just switches the pump on for however long it is programmed for, and then shuts it off. There may or may not be a foot valve down there somewhere; no way to tell. The pipe coming out of the ground looks like a piece of 1.5" white PVC, but I don't know what may be buried down there. No idea whether there is a casing or not. For what it's worth, the pump is a Flotec FP5162, 1 hp, rated for only 20 feet well depth. The manual says it may take 20 minutes to prime, so I guess I'll gie it another shot, and also follow your suggestions aboe.

I guess I need to call in an expert if this doesn't work...

Thanks for all your help!

JEH
 

Last edited by DIYaddict; 12-18-06 at 03:26 PM. Reason: Removed quote/Quoting the entire post is unnecessary
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Old 12-18-06, 03:10 PM
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Now your talkin' the right lingo. Your description is making more sense, but I can't understand the point of having a pressure tank on your system.

There may be a foot valve on there, and maybe not. The well could be a 4" well that has a piece of PVC down in it with a foot valve on the end. Some people have irrigation wells that were originally drinking water wells before the City brought in City Water pipes. Others have wells they had dug just for the St. Augustine grass and those would be less than 2" since the Water Management District draws a line at 2" or less as to permitting.

You may have to call a pro. No shame in that, my father consulted a water well pro from time-to-time. There was no way he was going to pull a submersible from a hundred or more feet up. My grandfather would almost never call a pro, but my grandmother, unlike my mother, didn't complain (as much) when there was no water to drink. And my wife gets hysterical if I have to turn the water off to fix a faucet. Times sure change.

If you do call a pro, try to be there when he comes. You want to soak up as much as you can from him. Ask about the tank. Ask about the check valve.

I think that Flotec (according to Pumpman here) is made by Sta-Rite, but he says it is a degraded version under a different name -- I think I remember that he said that once.

Flotec is sold mostly at HD and is not very good. They work, but not very well nd they don't last very long. Real Sta-Rites are the way to go from what I have seen, although the old Sears brand pumps were pretty good. Don't know if they still are. Pumpman says they are made by Sta-Rite, too but not as good as a real Sta-Rite, but they are at least $100 cheaper when they are on sale.

You could replace the pump yourself. Not very hard. Put in a check valve, too. Just a little PVC work, but I guess if you call a pro you should let him do it. Try to watch that, too. It's very educational.

If you are on a septic system, you should start boning up on that, too. The time to learn about these things is before they act up, not after. It's hard to tell what is wrong if you don't know how it's supposed to be working in the first place.

--Oh, I forgot to mention that even if you have to hire a pro, your time learning about all this has not been wasted. Honest well men can be a bit hard to find and by learning a little something about all this, you can help keep yourself from being ripped off. Learning the lingo helps.
 

Last edited by Vey; 12-18-06 at 06:26 PM.
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