Bound pump or frozen well-to-house water line?


Old 02-09-15, 01:54 PM
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Bound pump or frozen well-to-house water line?

We have a 1/2hp 3 wire well pump that is using 20 amps @ 240VAC - 4x its normal current of 5amps. After a few seconds the current drops to zero then jumps up again. (Eg overload, rest, try again). Of course we have no water.

I've tested many things and until today believed that the pump was bound with sand or something similar. However in a attempt to possibly free the bind, I tried to back flow water into the PE pipe just as it enters the pressure tank-check valve. As I removed the PE pipe clamps I heard the air seeping in as expected, but when use a 50PSI transfer pump to force water into 1" PE pipe (garden hose held tight to the opening) , very quickly it started spaying out and when I released the hose, water sprayed out of the PE pipe.

To me, this says that the PE pipe to the well head is blocked and that I compressed the air allowing some water into the pipe which was then shot back out at me. Eg, I made a PE pipe pressure tank!

Its been 55 hrs since the well pump was working so possibly the water line between the well head to house water has since frozen? Or possibly this was the initial cause?

We're in MA close to the NH border. Its been bitter cold for a month (no snow on the ground) but in the last 2 weeks there been plenty of snow insulation.

However, the area where the well pipe enters the house has an open air roof and thus has no snow It appears to be mostly sand in this area.

Would a plugged water line exhibit the same / similar symptoms as a stuck pump turbine?

I've check the pump wires and there is 5 ohms across the wires, with 7K to ground. I've also tested the Webtroll 3 wire control box. The capacitor seems fine, not sure about the relay/SSR. Also tried using another controller, but its relay just rattled like crazy so I didn't proceed further.

Finally, my plan is/was to try to pull the pump myself. Yesterday I found the heal-head but it is covered with a 30" disk concrete disk that is 6-8" thick and appears to be a dome underneath. Its was partially covered with soil and is frozen in. I've chipped away at it and found that a 12" drill could be used to get though about 6" of frozen soil - after which its very soft. I paused this project until it warms a bit (tomorrow 31 and sunny!). Covered with several layers of cardboard boxes and shoved the snow back on for insulation. If I can get it to budge, my tractor a lift it.

Not yet ready to give up and spend what I'm sure will be much more than $1500 to replace the pump.

I've been melting snow using water from the HWT and then pumping it back into the pressure tank. So the 4 of us are living on ~20 gallons per day.

TIA for providing some insights!
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Old 02-09-15, 04:51 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

If there is a check valve at the pump, where there should be, you aren't going to be able to blow anything back down the well pipe.

My guess would be a frozen line between the pump and the tank.
Old 02-09-15, 05:58 PM
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If it is frozen, there are folks skilled in thawing them out . . . . we have a few up here which I've even had occasion to use.

With the polyethylene pipes, they have to gain access to the outlet of the pipe and then thread another pipe (tube) down towards the well, and then they pump steam down the tube to thaw out the frozen section.

Were it galvanized steel pipe (as mine used to be, they would used heavy duty welding cable to heat the pipe up under ground.

Both methods work best when the pipe run is less than 100'. It's a seasonal business; and people will pay whatever the market will bear when they have no water in mid-winter.
Old 02-10-15, 05:23 AM
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There is a check valve at the pressure tank, but at the pump - no idea. I *suspect* there isn't as work I did last summer (adding a mixing T for PH adjustment) didn't get tightened enough and so air would be sucked in as the water fell back into the well. This are then ended up in our pipes. However, there have also been water hammer issues with well pump on/off and so maybe there is a 2nd CV that is intermittent. I replaced the CV at the pressure tank - but don't recall if that fixed the hammer....

Anyway I've snaked a 1/2 vinyl tube in about 25ft before it became stuck. I've been circulating water over night. The water come out cold - but not at ~33 if there were thawing. I'm wondering if there could be a fitting in the ground that prevents me from getting further.

At this point, I'm ready to try a strong calcium chloride solution - our system is already fowled with melted snow....

However, is the motor current what one would expect? I'd expected 48 amps (240V/5ohms) for a stalled motor, as 20 amps would mean its spinning at 40% of no-load speed. However, there is an inductive term I've not considered that might make up the difference.

Today I try to get that monster cap off the well.
Old 02-10-15, 07:53 AM
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Most submersible, down the hole, pumps have a check valve built into the assembly. If there is a leak in the pipe down the well either due to a hole in the pipe or a loose fitting it's common to add another check valve above ground as a Band-Aid fix to avoid pulling the well and fixing the problem.

You'll get very slow results trying to thaw by feeding water into the end of the pipe. The water you're introducing only has contact on the small face of the ice so you'll need patience. I don't see how salt water will help as it is a liquid spraying on the face of ice. The warmth of the water will have more thawing affect than it's salt content though the salt will help some. I just doubt it would be worth the effort.

As for the water not coming out at 33f that all depends on the temp of the water you're putting in and the flow rate. It will only come out near freezing if you match the temp and flow rate to end up at 33f. So, the water temp coming back out is very poor at indicating what's going on inside the pipe.

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