How to Diagnose Well Pump Problems
It’s 6:08 am, and you’ve hit “snooze” one too many times. With a deep sigh, you stumble to the bathroom, psyching yourself up for the long day ahead. Still half-asleep, you spin the shower handle. Nothing happens. Or perhaps something happens, but it’s not anything remotely resembling a shower. “What the…” you mutter. You turn the handle back and forth a few times, reciting “lefty loosey, righty tighty” and begging the water to flow. And still: The shower is not showering.
Now you’re wide awake and, apparently, you’ve gone straight to the worst-case scenario because you’ve Googled something along the lines of “What the [bleep] is wrong with my [bleep] well?!” Don’t worry. We’ve seen every well problem in Mebane, and we can help you figure this out. (But first, go get some coffee. We’ll meet you back here.)
Common Well and Well Pump Problems
Although the most accurate way to diagnose well-related issues is to pull the works out of the ground, you can definitely get a good start topside.
Symptom: No water in the house.
Possible Cause 1: There’s no power to the well pump. If your TV won’t turn on, the first thing you check is if it’s plugged in, right? Same here: If you have no water in your house, your first question should be, “Does the well pump have power?” Check both the well switch (located near the pressure tank) and the circuit breaker controlling the pump. If the breaker has tripped, reset it. Assuming it doesn’t immediately trip again, you should be all set. If it does trip repeatedly, chances are good your pump needs to be replaced.
Possible Cause 2 : The well pressure switch has failed. When the pressure in your water tank drops below a certain point, the pressure switch signals your well pump to turn on, so it can draw in more water. If the switch isn’t working, it can’t communicate with your pump. We can test the switch for you and swap it out if necessary.
Possible Cause 3: The well pump controller has failed. The only way to know if your controller is the cause of your problem is to replace it—and then cross your fingers while you wait to see if the pump comes back to life. (Frustrating… and true.) Replacing a well pump controller can be simple or a royal pain, depending on the controller’s location. If it’s mounted outside the pressure tank, you may be able to swap it out yourself. If it’s inside the pressure tank, it’s definitely not a DIY job.
Possible Cause 4: There’s not enough water in the well. When the water table falls below the level of your well pump, it can’t draw up water. Reducing your water use for a few days will help replenish the well’s supply, but in extreme conditions you may need to bring in a Mebane plumber to extend your well depth. Also, the life expectancy of a well pump drawing from shallow water is short, because it will pick up more silt and sand and endure more wear and tear.
Symptom: Sputtering or pulsing water.
Possible Cause 1: There’s air in the system. Air can seep into your system because of a malfunctioning pump or because the well pipe itself has been compromised. The only way to determine where the air’s coming from is to pull up the well.
Possible Cause 2: The pressure tank bladder has failed. Inside your well pressure tank is a bladder that holds a few gallons of water. As the bladder fills (thank you, well pump), the air above it gets compressed—which is what pushes water through your pipes when you open a faucet. If the bladder springs a leak, water seeps into the tank and reduces the available air pressure.
If you notice your water pressure is generally fine until someone opens a second tap or flushes a toilet, it’s likely you need to replace your tank. You may also notice a constant clicking noise coming from the tank; that’s the switch rapidly cycling because of the wonky air pressure—which will wear out your well pump motor in no time.
Symptom: Murky Water
Possible Cause 1: The well pump is failing. Part of your pump’s job is to filter out silt and sand before it reaches the tank. If the pump is failing, it’ll do a lousy job at that.
Possible Cause 2: There’s not enough water in the well. Ugly water can also occur when the pump is pulling from shallow water—which has a higher percentage of yuck.
Symptom: Inflated Electric Bill
Probable Cause: The well pump is running constantly. If your utility bill is suddenly abnormally high for no obvious reason, or if it consistently creeps up over time, there’s a good chance your well pump isn’t cycling off. Usually, that happens because the pump isn’t building up enough pressure, which can often be traced back to a leak in the well’s drop pipe.
It’s also possible there’s a problem between the well and the house. If you notice frequent clicking from your well tank with no water flowing, you may have a broken water line outside. Or, there could be something amiss inside the well itself (other than the pump). You’ll need a pro’s help to diagnose and resolve these issues.