Well Pump Breaker Off


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Old 12-15-11, 10:39 AM
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Well Pump Breaker Off

A twin pole 20 amp well breaker (two 120 hots) was shut off two days ago and replaced as the old pole box had another bad breaker this summer. New breaker slammed off with a flash and stays off. As the water pump pressure switch is corroded and as old as 1980, I replaced to same effect. I unhooked the submersible 240 amp 3 wire yellow line in well house, and the breaker now stays on for awhile, then shuts off. This seems to be an underground short. Before I call an electrician to megger, any ideas on diagnosis? Should I check the new breaker on its own? There is a splice between fuse and submersible and will look into where the spice is; ground frozen for now.
 
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Old 12-15-11, 01:39 PM
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Here is a shot of the box. Black and white wires from well breaker exit at lower left conduit and are spliced into submersible line. I will be looking for this splice today.

http://i1131.photobucket.com/albums/.../DSC_0168B.jpg
 
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Old 12-15-11, 02:15 PM
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A twin pole 20 amp well breaker (two 120 hots)
Wrong. That is a 240v 2 pole breaker.

Disconnect the wires at the breaker. Try resetting the breaker. If it resets breaker is good.

Reconnect the wires to the breaker and disconnect the pump and associated devices. If the breaker resets you know the cable is good.

If you have determined the cable and breaker is good reconnect each device one at a time and test. If you reconnect a device and breaker trips you know that is your problem.
 
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Old 12-17-11, 01:01 PM
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Electrician came out and said the underground line has no short. He said the 240 2 Pole (20-20) should be replaced with a 240 2 Pole (30-30). After finding multi-meter audio continuity in all three pump wires at the pump relay, he turned on the breaker and we had water last night. This morning, breaker off. Turned on, everything ran and breaker off again.

I had found audio continuity in the motor wires at the relay, but also had a reading of 11.5 to 15 in resistance (should mean good pump). Electrician seemed perplexed by this and I thought maybe there is a short in the relay box. He said that a leak in the holding tank bladder could also cause the problem.

I am getting a 240 2 Pole (30-30) fast acting breaker today and replacing tomorrow. As the previous breaker never threw, I am suspecting this is not the problem, even though current breaker takes a few throws to set. Maybe a pump motor can run an hour with a short and throw the breaker? Don't know. Will inspect the holding pressure tank. Thanks for the help.
 
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Old 12-17-11, 01:18 PM
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If the cable is not # 10 or larger you can't install a 30a breaker until you install new larger cable.
 
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Old 12-17-11, 03:24 PM
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The cable goes out of the box UF 600V 2-10 with ground white line and comes into the well house 10 AVG 600V TW-INS 3 wire yellow submersible line; so it looks like this will take the 240 2-pole 30-30 amp breaker. Hope that this will not complicate another problem. Planning on replacing the underground line which is 2 inches underground in the beginning run and old. What is the best cable to run and how deep? I would rather use plastic conduit to protect line: what would be the best gauge wire to run with this?
 
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Old 12-17-11, 04:31 PM
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What is the full load amps?
 
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Old 12-17-11, 04:58 PM
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Did the electrician break out his Amprobe and actually MEASURE the current in the line when the pump was running?

A 'fast-acting' breaker may not be what you need or want for a pump circuit. There are start up current surges that may trip the breaker before the pump has time to spin up to speed.

The only way that the pressure tank could contribute to the problem is if the bladder was busted and the air charge was gone and the pump is rapidly cycling... kerchunk kerchunk kerchunk. I think you would notice that... at least see it on the pressure gauge.
 
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Old 12-18-11, 03:30 AM
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The electrician did not use an amp probe/meter to measure the current. I watched a furnace electrician measure current a month ago, and will look to rent or buy one of these. Someone suggested a sticking relay or bad capacitor which makes sense. The pressure tank is about five years old and makes no sound: the pressure at top matches pressure at line gauge: 30 to 50 psi. Breaker seems to throw at 50 psi.

As the new 240-2-pole 20-20 breaker flipped off with the line disconnected from the water pump switch, and capped, this is strange. Electrician said no shorts in underground line. He suggested to replace the fuse with the 30-30 not to solve the problem, but for what the well house should have.

If I replace, I should get a common trip style fuse? I will get an amp meter and also measure the relay and capacitor. For now, I go out and find the breaker off, and have to turn on three times until it sets. Have to resolve this before next wave of sub zero weather and for the holidays! Thanks!
 
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Old 12-18-11, 08:20 AM
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Electrician said no shorts in underground line.
But did he use a megger. That is the more accurate correct way. From your description it just sounds like he used a continuity checker.

Had this pump been running fine on a 20 amp breaker for several months or more before this started happening? If so then something has changed that is causing the problem and you need to find that problem not change to a larger breaker.

You still haven't told us the full load amps of the pump. That is what determines what size breaker you need.

If I replace, I should get a common trip style fuse?
No such thing as far as I know. You have a breaker box. Breaker boxes do not use fuses. Breakers are not a type of fuse. I believe you mean a 2 pole breaker. If this has been working for months or years on a 20 amp breaker you shouldn't have to go to a larger breaker. You need to find out what has changed. If you have changed out to a new 20 amp breaker them you have eliminated it as the cause.

You also probably need to find an electrician with the equipment and knowledge to properly check out the system. My guess at this point would be a bad cable.
 
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Old 12-18-11, 09:29 AM
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I believe it is the cable. Right now the ground freeze is melting and saturated wet: I can't keep the breaker on, but it stayed on last night for a few hours with the ground frozen. The new breaker shut off with the line disconnected. I am planning on digging the 60 foot trench, laying in plastic conduit, and adding an extra line to keep the well house from freezing with heat tape and a lamp. If this does not solve the problem, then it's still progress as I won't be replacing frozen pipes like last winter. The cable runs for two inches under ground for the ten feet I have dug up, in the wrong direction. There is an underground splice somewhere. I want to upgrade this.

How deep should the trench be? Use 10 gauge wire?

I will get the motor amperage today and buying a Harbor Freight amp meter tomorrow. For four years, the pump ran without throwing the breaker once. I agree it must not be the breaker. I had asked about a megger test; the electrician did use a multimeter for the cable short test. I think this cable short is intermittent: a short that comes and goes with ground conditions. Thanks for the help!
 
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Old 12-18-11, 10:48 AM
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A multimeter only uses about 3 volts to test the cable. A Megger uses hundreds of volts. The cable may not break down under low voltage. Burial depth for UF cable is 24". Burial depth for PVC conduit is 18". Burial depth for RMC is 12". If you use conduit you use individual THWN wires. Conduit has the advantage of easy replacement of the wires if they fail in the future.
 
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Old 12-18-11, 06:37 PM
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Sounds like a megger detects shorts under a high load, and that it indicates a short but not the location. I will look this up as it was suggested with another cable this summer. I will be going with the PVC conduit Schedule 40 and individual THWN wires. Thanks and 18 inch deep trench almost done! Just have to dig through some hardpan caliche and ready to go.
 
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Old 12-18-11, 06:44 PM
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The Megger checks the integrity of the insulation under a higher then normal voltage. The continuity check is for shorts and opens. Hipot - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

P.S. Keep your fingers crossed it is the cable. At this point it is only an educated guess. But on the plus side the new system you are installing is definitely an upgrade to what you had.
 
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Old 12-18-11, 07:07 PM
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As troubleshooting goes, it could very well not be the cable, but I have a suspicion it is. I should post a picture of the existing cable as it is 1 inch below the ground at spots. This place has a lot of incorrect work on it, and look forward to having a clean line and outlet running into the well house! The new sub-panel will make it worth the work.
 
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Old 12-20-11, 04:56 PM
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Trench is 20" deep and ready to go. Working in between two blizzards. After the electrician had OKed the line we set that breaker and the pump ran, but the breaker would not set with the thawed, wet ground. I have kept it off, but wish now I had run that megger test as suggested; it would have prevented line shorts from stressing the pump motor, relay, capacitor, and switch. I will find out soon enough! Imagine the pump motor is like an alternator; it can only take so much.
 
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Old 12-21-11, 05:22 PM
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In the future you could always run a temporary line on the surface until you can get it buried. Also you would find out real quick if it is indeed the cable. If the pump is still tripping with the new cable then it's not the cable.
 
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Old 12-21-11, 10:10 PM
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This was the first option I thought of: run a temporary cable. As the condition of the old cable is bad,I went with the ditch. If it isn't the cable, the underground splice and wire will be out of the troubleshooting. I don't like to replace unnecessary parts; but the main box, underground line, and the water pump switch are antiques. I should have run that temporary line anyway.
 
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Old 12-26-11, 03:35 PM
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Any updates Bob? Did the new cable solve the problem?
 
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Old 12-30-11, 07:46 AM
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Electrician back from vacation. Dirt road is snowbound. Conduit was set into 22" deep trench yesterday with pull wire. Four 10 gauge wires (H H G N) getting pulled through tomorrow. Forgot what a shower is like. Hauling water in with a horse. The plan is slowly coming together and hope this is it.

I should have run that UF clothes line from day one, but this is worth the trouble to have a clean line in conduit, clean electric for existing and future well pumps.

Happy New Year ahead!
 
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Old 01-04-12, 10:58 PM
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After 24 hours of running water and well house breaker On, I believe that this problem is fixed! Finished conduit. Ran the four wires. Electrician hooked up and did some neat Liquid-tight conduit work in the well house. The water was not running until we found that inside the Franklin Control box, the connector's had shifted on closing the box yesterday. So the problem was the underground splice and old line shorting with moist ground conditions, diagnosed when I disconnected the line from the well house and it shut the breaker off, repeatedly. We had -30 freezes last year which could have further stressed the UF conductor insulation. We have our water back! I did meet some real characters around at the water refill machine and will miss them.

I had a nice Siemens 80amp 240/120V two breaker box which now serves as a junction box in the well house: real neat and leaves the sub-panel option open.

I can't thank everyone enough for helping through this on DIY Forum: You all made 2012 for us, a real new year!
 
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Old 01-05-12, 06:55 AM
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Glad you got it. Thanks for letting us know.
 
 

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