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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife called while I was at work today to tell me "There's no water in the house". Not what I wanted to hear. :( Our system uses a jet pump hooked to a 36 gallon pressure tank. The jet pump pulls water out of a series of underground rain water filled cisterns. The pump has power to it. The pipe that pulls water from the cistern has a foot valve in it. We recently had a good amount of rain, so I don't think the cisterns are low, but I can't check without a lot of digging. I don't think the foot valve is the problem. But there is NO water coming in the house. The pressure in the bladder of the tank is 21 PSI with no water pushing against the bladder. So this means the bladder is OK, right?
When I turn the electricity on to the pump, it runs for maybe 5 seconds and the pressure switch starts switching on and off in rapid sequence. So my guess is that the pressure switch must be bad, right? Any other suggestions? I really want to fix this ASAP so my family can have water again....

Thanks!
 

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agmantoo
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When the pressure switch starts sounding like a machine gun on rapid fire there is one of two problems. There is restriction on the outlet of the pump between the pump and the tank or the storage tank is full of water and/or the bladder tank is ruptured. I do not know how you got the 21 PSI reading but I would not trust an old gauge but the tank could be a waterlogged tank and that is the current pressure from the jet pump. There is a schrader valve in the top of the bladder tank. Remove the cover from the valve stem and depress the valve core and see if you get water. If you do the bladder tank has a ruptured bladder. IF you have a ruptured bladder in the tank you need to turn the pump off and put air in the tank then reapply power to the pump. That will stop the rapid cycling but you will need to install a new tank.
 

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I have a 2 line well set up. this was here when i moved here, they claimed it worked when the guy left. it doesnt, the pump runs but will not build pressure, the pressure tank does not fill with any water either. If I close the valve, on occasion i can get the pressure to 15, as soon as i open the valve it drops back to zero. I cannot find any leaks, i put a new foot valve on, it stays primed. No pressure, no water. any ideas? i cannot afford to invest money in a temporoary rental location, and the landlords wont do anything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
agmantoo,

Thanks. The 21 psi is from the schrader valve at the pressure tank using a car tire gauge to measure it. No I did not see water come out when I checked the pressure at the valve. Does this mean the bladder is not ruptured?

How would I diagnose and fix a problem of a restriction on the outlet between the pump and the tank?

I did a search of old forums and someone in 2005 posted a posiible problem of corrosion in the 1/4 inch pipe that leads to the pressure switch. Could this be my problem? I don't want to take it apart to check it if I don't need to.
 

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This sounds like a blockage between your pump and the pressure tank.

Low air pressure like you describe in the air side of the tank tells you several things. One, it tells you the tank has air and the diaphram (if any) is not ruptured.
Two, it tells you the pressure is darn low in the system.
Three, it tells you pressure from the pump is not getting to the tank.

The pressure regulator is in some fashion in between the pump and the pressure tank. Typically it's sitting on the pump itself, and has the pressure line running to the outer housing of the pump.

From your description of the pump kicking on and rapid cycling, it's building pressure just fine. But it's all contained in the pump and some of the line, with no air cushioning. That causes a very rapid build up of pressure, and a very rapid loss of pressure. So the pump quickly cycles.

So check the line between the pump and the pressure tank. Hopefully you'll find a valve and find that the valve has magically been closed. Those are easy fixes. Otherwise, you've got to start opening plumbing lines and checking for flow with the pump cycling. Quite messy when you do find flow.
 

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agmantoo
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If the pump stays primed and doesn't make pressure the jet is clogged on the inlet. The jet is above the foot valve and in the water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
No, foxtrapper, the valve had not been magically closed. In the middle of the dark night last night I saw the screw head on the valve and was curious why it was not screwed all the way in....I did not know it was a valve!!! This morning I unscrewed it part way and the pump woprks fine now!!! Praise the Lord!!

Thanks!
 

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agmantoo
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If that screw head was on the outlet of the pump that is the pressure regulator for the pump.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
So I adjusted the pressure regulator valve and had water in the house for a day. Now no water again. The pump was running, generating water pressure, then slowly while the pump remained running the water pressure dropped to 0. I checked the pump (by removing the pressure regulator valve and looking in) and saw no water level. I looked in the pipe that comes from the cistern and there was water there, so I don't think the cisterns are dry. I filled the pump up with water, turned it on, no pressure was generated. Looked in the valve again, low water level. Filled it up again. Did this several times to see if there was an air burp in the system...no improvement. I then ran the pump with the pressure regulator valve removed, just to see if there was any pressure that would make water shoot out the top of the pump, and the water trickled and sputtered out the top of the pump, but no real pressure. So I think there may be one of 2 problems.....
1. The 6 year old jet pump is not working and the easiest thing to do is replace it, or
2. There is a major air leak in the pipe from the cistern to the pump causing the pump to fill with air. ( I doubt this--the black plastic pipe in question has several connections, but the total length is maybe 12 inches, and if air leaked in that fast I think I should be able to hear hissing...) There has been nobody in the pump house to mess with it.

That's the confusing thing----if the pump itself is not working, or if there is a hole in the diaphragm in the pump, would this cause the pump to lose water and fill with air while the pump ran?

Thanks again for any advice....
 

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agmantoo
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You have allowed too much water to exit from the pump into the house system to quickly. When this happens you loose the prime. The line to the pump must remain full of water at all times and if this is a two line setup the second line must also remain full of water at all times. You must locate a plug in the top side of the pump that you can remove and fill the system through that opening lipping full with water. Then you must reinstall the plug and restart the pump. It is best to have a valve on the discharge side of the pump prior to going into the storage/pressure tank. Then start the pump andslowly crack open that valve and let the system run. If there is a pressure gauge on the pump side of any valve prior to the tank observe the gauge and never open the valve to where the pressure drops below 20 PSI. I suggest you read this http://www.nationaldriller.com/Articles/Column/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000100734
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So you think the jet pump is OK?

I am surprised that this problem occured for the first time after having the pump for 6 years--I don't think our family's water usage has changed.

Yes I have a pressure guage on the discharge end of the pump. When the pump started acting up and I primed it today, I could never get this guage to go higher than 5 psi, and most of the time it was zero.

This valve you are referring to--is it the pressure regulator valve on the discharge end that I messed up last time? When it is screwed all the way in, I blocked the outlet of the pump and caused the earlier problem of the rapid machine gun switching of the pressure switch. How far in should the valve be? (I plan to read the article you sent, but right now my mind is to frazzled to concentrate on technical things).

Thanks!
 

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agmantoo
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Get back to the machine gun effect and then slowly open the screw. Just open the screw a couple of turns. If the machine gun effects returns open the valve another turn or two. Always watch the pressure gauge and hold the reading to 20 PSI or more. More is fine. Less is approaching a loss of prime. Once you get the tank filled you can open the screw a couple of more turns. With a full tank it is unlikely that your house plumbing will permit more water being distributed than the pump can supply. It is when the delivery exceeds the supply that you lose the prime and the pump ceases to deliver water. Your situation that you are experiencing is more common than most realize. PS...I referred to a valve as opposed to the regulator because I have no confidence in an old pressure regulator as they are prone to malfunction where as a valve is manually and predictably set. When an older pump with the regulator is in a system I always install an additional valve as I do not trust the regulator.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Agmantoo,

I found a ball valve and installed it between the pump outlet and the pressure tank. With the pump primed and the ball valve closed, I hear the machine gun effect of the pressure switches. As I slowly open the ball valve the machine gun slows down and I can keep the pressure above 20 for a little while, sometime going as high as 40 (my pump is set to kick on at 28 psi and off at 48 psi). The interesting thing is that even after running the pump for a minute or 2, I can have a sudden pressure drop to 0, turn the pump off and find I have lost the prime. I fiddled with it a dozen times tonight with the ball valve in various degrees of open or closed as well as various degrees of opening or closing the pressure regulator valve, but I could not get the pump to maintain adequate pressure. What now?

By the way, thanks for all your help.
 

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agmantoo
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With the pump turned off and a spigot open in the house what is the reading on the schrader valve on the top of the tank? Set the pressure either by adding or releasing air until the reading is 18 PSI for a trial. If you have a valve that goes from the tank to the house close it and the spigot. Prime up the system and open the ball valve and hold the discharge water pressure to above 24 PSI if possible and fill the tank. Once the tank fills open the valve feeding the house. Let the toilets fill and observe the pump and see if it cycles normally. Post your results. I will check back later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Agmantoo,
I put a ball valve between the pump and tank and another ball valve between the tank and sand filter. My system is set up as cistern to pump to pressure tank to sand filter to whole house filter to house. I did notice the sand filter lid has been leaking more at low pressure but it stops leaking as the pressure increases past 15-20 psi. So once my pvc glue is dry (which is taking a while with the colder weather!) I will try to test it again, opening one valve at a time, isolating the sand filter to see if the pump builds up pressure and holds it longer. If this works I may need to bypass the sand filter until I get a new gasket for the lid. I will keep you posted later this evening....

Thanks again.

To answer your question, the schrader valve is set at around 21 psi when the water pressure is 0 at the pump. I will drop it to 18 and see what happens...
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
By the way, when the instructions say that the bladder pressure in the tank should be 1-2 psi less than the cut in pressure on the pump, is that referring to when the pressure tank is empty of water? I guess it must be....so if I drop the bladder pressure to 18 psi, get the system running, do I have to then empty the water from the pressure tank to reset the pressure at the bladder to 28 (the cut in pressure is 30)?
 

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agmantoo
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I believe that your are taking the bladder tank pressure reading with the tire gauge and you are observing the gauge on the pump to determine the cut in and out pressure and to attempt to hold the discharge pressure via the ball valve near 20 psi. IMO the gauge on the pump is giving you a bad reading. I think you have a 20/40 PSI pressure switch and are reading 28/48 which would be 8 PSI high and when using that same gauge to attempt to hold 20 PSI you are too low at around 12 PSI and that is creating your problem with getting the tank filled and losing prime. There are pressure switches sold that function in the 30/50 PSI range and the 40/60 PSI range but the 20/40 PSI far outnumber these. Once the bladder tank is filled the pump will hold its prime and everything should revert to normal. The bladder tank will not have it maximum drawdown but it will function satisfactorily at the lower pressure. While attempting to restore water pressure at the tank and to accomplish a prime that will hold, leave the valve between the tank and the sand filter closed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
OK, things are changing here. In my frustration this morning I went and bought and installed a new jet pump. The pressure switch on it says 30/50. I hooked it up and turned off all valves except the one between the pump and tank. The pump slowly built pressure but only up to about 45 psi (as measured at the shrader valve). The pump never pumped higher than that and it never turned off. As it was pumping into the tank I heard an occasional glub glub in the tank like the sound you hear from a big air bubble rising to the top in a lake. After about 40 psi the glub glub noise stopped.
I put the sand filter in bypass mode and it did not leak at all when I opened the vavle to the sand filter, and the pressure held at 35-40 psi. However the pressure slowly dropped to less than 20 psi as my wife attempted to wash dishes. Apparently for some reason this new pump does not appear to be able to pump up to shut off pressure or keep up with household use. Doesn't make sense. I turned off the pump several times and shut the valve between the pump and tank, thus decreasing the pressure at the pump to 0. Then I checked the pump for prime and each time I had to add water, several times up to 2 quarts. Confusing....
It would be easier for me if I could call you---don't know if you are willing but if you are, please send me your phone number by private message.

Thanks!
 

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agmantoo
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I cannot link up tonight. Possibly in the morning. Have you determined that there is nothing clogging the input line from the cistern to the jet pump?
 

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...I went and bought and installed a new jet pump....The pump never pumped higher than that and it never turned off. As it was pumping into the tank I heard an occasional glub glub in the tank like the sound you hear from a big air bubble rising to the top in a lake.
...However the pressure slowly dropped to less than 20 psi as my wife attempted to wash dishes. Apparently for some reason this new pump does not appear to be able to pump up to shut off pressure or keep up with household use.
Loss of prime means you're sucking air. That also happens to match a glub-glub sound. It can also contribute to lack of pressure buildup.

Couple of things come to mind.

One is the height of your pump above the bottom of the cistern. A single line jet pump doesn't pick up water very high, and looses flow very quickly with height.

Two is the power of your pump. Little ones don't flow much quantity, and you can out run them. A big pressure tank helps, but doesn't cure the problem when there's a long term run on water, like filling a tub or washing dishes.

Three is the height of water in your cistern, and the bottom of the cistern. If the bottom is flat and the water level isn't very high in it, it's easy to pull water faster than it flows over to the inlet, and suck air.

Don't totally discount a broken line in the ground. I've had that, as have others. Mine finally clued me in with the wet spot in the lawn during a drought.
 
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