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Well Pump Analysis: The In’s and Out’s

Well Pump Systems

There’s no denying it’s amazing you can turn on your faucet and water comes out at a steady pace for you to wash your hands, clean the dishes and take a shower. For those that live in a home with public water service there’s no real concern that the water will not come out when the faucet goes on.

For those of us that live in a home or operate a business on a private well occasionally we find ourselves wondering when it may be time for repairs or even a new pump. Inevitably there will comes a time when your well system will leave your pipes dry, have pressure surges, low pressure or even air coming out of the faucets.

There are three major components to any well system. The well pump, a pressure tank and pressure switch. There are various other parts and accessories, but these three are found in all well systems.


Well Pump

There are three pump types currently available: jet pumps, submersible pumps and constant pressure pumps. Both the submersible and jet pumps are fixed speed motors controlled by an on/off pressure switch. The constant pressure pump is a variable speed pump controlled by sensors and flow switches. Most private wells utilize standard fixed speed submersible pumps but there are a fair number of jet pumps still in operation throughout the country.


Well Pressure Tank

The pressure tank is usually located inside the building it services close to where the water line from the well enters the building. Pressure tanks are generally either blue or grey steel but more commonly fiberglass. Traditionally steel tanks were used because of the low cost to manufacture however with advances in technology fiberglass tanks are becoming more commonly seen: they are lighter, easy to install and have a longer life expectancy than steel. The tank holds water pumped from the ground in half of its interior space (generally the lower half) with an expandable air-charged bladder above the stored water. When the pump turns on water is forced into the tank compressing the air bladder. When the pump is turned off, pressure remains in the tank and plumbing system until you open a faucet or other fixture.


Pressure Switch

The pressure switch is the link between your pressure tank and well pump. The pressure switch uses two springs: one for cut-on pressure (generally set for 40psi), the other for cut-off pressure (generally set for 60psi). When water pressure in the tank falls to 40psi, the switch will close allowing power through to the pump. It runs the pump until 60psi is achieved inside the tank which then tells the switch to open and cut power to the pump.


Symptoms of a Problem


Pressure Surge:

Short burst of high pressure with immediate drop in pressure (hi/low/hi/low). This occurs every time water is run, the entire time the water is on. Occasionally, it could be just the pressure switch but generally it is the bladder in the well pressure tank that has failed. This should be addressed by a professional as soon as possible to limit the possibility of damaging your well pump.



Air can be caused by several factors. Generally, air is attributed with a failed pressure tank bladder but could also be symptomatic of a failing pump, piping or pitiless adapter seal. If you have air coming out of the fixtures, it’s time to get a professional involved.


No Water:

No water coming out means that you have used all pressurized stored water from the pressure tank and the pump has not come on. This could be a bad pressure switch, wiring issue, or worse, a failed well pump. Be sure to enlist the services of a trained professional for any well pump or well system problems. Be sure to always use a qualified, licensed professional to service your well system! Some states, counties and municipalities have licensing requirements for well systems. Make sure to check your local health department.

  1. john Mahoney
    | Reply

    Thank you for talking about the importance of calling in a professional when your water pump has irregular pressure. My uncle is having problems like this with his pump and since it just started he hasn’t paid much attention to it. I can see how anyone looking for this would need to assess the situation as fast as possible in order to know what to do to minimize damages to their system and their plumbing.

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