Thursday, February 23, 2012

When A Well Pump Dies - Part 2

Sorry... just realized I never told people what happened with the pump.

About $1200 and several days later we had a working well again.  (Those of you who think that owning your own well is an inexpensive proposition should consider that number carefully before committing to it.  Well maintenance is not cheap.)

The best guess at the problem is that the slime (seen in the pictures from the earlier post) built up on the pump to the point that it loaded down the motor.   That might make more sense if you understand something about how at least some well pump controllers work:
  • A float switch in the tank indicates that the tank needs water.  (Our tanks are big - 5000 gallons each - and in theory it takes a bit of a drop before the float switch says the level is low.  In parts of the country with colder weather they don't use storage tanks, but they'd better have good wells that can keep up with demand in that case.)
  • The pump controller turns the pump on via a relay.
  • The pump controller monitors the current drawn by the pump, which starts at one value and changes substantially when the pump runs the well dry.  When that happens, the pump is no longer under load, the controller detects it, and turns it off.
  • Alternately, if you have a good well, the float switch hits the high water mark in the tank and the controller turns the pump off for that reason.
There are other complications, of course, like a timer to let the well recover before the pump is turned on again, but they don't really matter for the purposes of this discussion.

In our case it appears that the slime on the pump made it look as if it was under load - and moving water - even when it had pumped the well dry.  That meant the controller didn't turn the pump off, and since the water is the coolant for the pump, it wound up getting really hot and melting the pipe as previously documented.

The fix mostly involved cleaning the pump.  They bench tested it and found it was still OK, which is good and saved us a lot of money.  We also installed 40' of stainless steel pipe just above the pump to add more heat sink should this ever happen again.

I also get to put chlorine (in the form of bleach) down the well a couple of times a year now to kill off the bacterial slime that builds up and (hopefully) avoid this in the future that way too.

Such fun.  But we have a working well again, and the power bills are back to normal.  (Well, they were back to normal, but then a technician misread our old analog meter while installing a new smart meter, and I'm having PG&E look into that mess, but life moves on.)

May your water always flow.


  1. life in the mountains is never dull!

    Did you know Blogger has changed word verification? It now is using two very hard to reas word images. In the Blog community that I am involved with, there has been a movement to encourage people to remove the word verification feature. We are doing this by posting a comment that says that in the future we will not leave coments on a post that requires word verification.

    Blogger does have a spam filter built in, and if any get thru it is easy to delete them.

    Hope you remove it too

  2. Hmmm... I had no idea they had changed verification. I haven't had to verify things myself when replying to comments on my own blog, but perhaps that will be different this time. Will see in a minute.

    I've had blog spam before, and turned on verification a long time back as a result. Not sure if the spam detection stuff will work well enough, but I can try it, I suppose.

  3. And I had to do no verification at all to comment here. Hmmm...

  4. Thats one of the strange things about it. If you are coming from your own blog and leaving a reply, you do not get the word verification request, so you can't really tell if it is on or not. Your's is still on.

    I didn't have it on so I didn't have to deal with it, but when it came up I knew I had to ask someone else to see if mine was on.

    Rick, one of the RV bloggers, wrote a good post to show how to get it turned off. It seems that you have to go back to the old Blogger format to do it.

    His post is here

    I am not a robot, and I will type in the scrambled words because you are my friend, but I had to switch from my iPad to my laptop to be able to see them!

  5. OK... Just did what your post suggested and turned it off. Odd that Blogger doesn't give us a way to do that in the new user interface. The whole automated spam comment moderation thing should be taking over for that.

    Anyway, I'll try it for a while and see if I get spam, and how bad. If I do get it I may turn word verification back on. We'll see.

  6. And *seconds* later I got my first spam comment to a post on my book review blog. I am still moderating all comments, so it didn't go live, but it appeared just seconds - literally; not an exaggeration - after removing word verification.

    I also enabled anonymous comments, though, and I think I have to disable that. If you aren't willing to prove who you are I don't think I want to hear from you. Back to the control panel. *sigh*

  7. Interesting. I moderate anonymous comments on posts that are more than 14 days old. I have never gotten a spam that was posted on my blog. I just checked the spam folder in "comments" and there were 8 spam and 2 comments that were not spam but had been caught. I delete the spam and publish the ones from my friends.

    I usually read my comments by going to the comment folder (?) menu (?) accessed with the pull down list next to view blog on the dashboard. It took me a while to find it on the new Blogger dashboard. I use it because that way I can see comments from all my posts as they come in.

    I am an active blogger, reading every day.

    Your word verification is off now.


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