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Green Road Farm

All about Submersible Pumps & Wells

* Submersible Pump Installation and Operation Guide #1
* Installing a Submersible Pump #2
* Troubleshooting Pumps & Wells #1
* Troubleshooting #2
* Advanced Troubleshooting
* Submersible Pump Wiring
* Pressure Switch Adjustments & Pressure Tank Air Settings
* Bad Smelling Water
* Controlling Weak Wells
* Basics of Electricity
* Well Forums
* Submersible Pumps vs. Jet Pumps
* Common Problems
* Goulds Pump Manual
* Franklin AIM Manual
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Submersible Well Pump Installation & Guide


Typical Submersible Pump & Well Systems

Typical Submersible System - Two Wire System Illustrated (Diaphragm type tank)

Typical Submersible System - Three Wire System Illustrated (Galvanized type tank)


Submersible Pump Installation & Operation Guide:
Pump Selection & Inspection
Pre-Installation Preparation
Motor and Cable Information
Installation of Pump in Well
Above Ground Pipe & Tank Connections
Connecting Bleed Back Valve System
Controlling Weak Wells
Trouble Shooting

Pump Selection & Inspection

1. Select the right pump & motor
Gallons per minute desired + pressure required + depth to pumping level determines which pump size and model is right for your water well system.

2. Inspect your new pump & motor
After purchase, check the pump and motor and other contents of the shipping container for possible damage. Do NOT lift the submersible pump by its attached electric motor cables.

Find the loose owner information plate and check the listed model number against the label data on the outside shells covering the motor and the pump. The entire pump was thoroughly tested at the factory. However, to make sure there is no hidden damage caused during shipment, we suggest checking for free rotation of the shaft prior to installation.


Pre-Installation Preparation

1. New wells

a) Location of pump. Your submersible pump can be installed at nearly any well location for years and years of dependable, trouble free service. For new wells, always locate well to provide for easy removal and replacement of pump. The water tank and electrical controls can, of course, be located some distance from the well.

b) Determine depth of pump in well in order to purchase electrical cables of sufficient gauge and length to reach from pump motor to electrical motor control box - and to purchase galvanized iron pipe, PVC rigid plastic pipe or flexible plastic pipe of sufficient length to reach from pump discharge to water tank. (See cable length and cable-size charts in Sections C2 and C3.)

c) Location of water tank and electrical controls. Always install the pressure tank and electrical controls in a clean dry basement or utility room to avoid dampness and temperature extremes. In any installation where the pump pressure could exceed the storage tank pressure, provide a pressure relief valve piped to a suitable drain.

2. Replacing pump (or motor only) in existing well

a) Turn off power at electrical control box.
b) Remove well seal from top of well.
c) Remove old pump from well.

1. If galvanized iron or rigid plastic PVC pipe was used originally you'll find a number of rigid sections joined together. Pull pipe upward and dismantle each section as your go, untaping or unbanding electrical motor cables from each section until you reach pump.

2) If flexible plastic pipe was used originally, pull pipe upward - coiling pipe and cables in a big circle as you go - until you reach the pump.

3) When old pump is out of well, cut electrical cables as close to original splice connection as possible.

4) While new cable is preferred (because it will remain submerged for a number of years), you may wish to reuse the old cable. Wipe off and clean the insulation, examining carefully for cuts, cracks and abrasions. If in doubt, purchase new cable.

5) If new cable is necessary, measure length of old cable (from pump motor to electrical control box) and purchase sufficient replacement lengths. (See wire-size and cable-length selection charts in sections C2 and C3.)


Electrical Preparation

1. Splicing power cables to pump

After making sure your power cables are the proper AWG size and specified length, splice them to the pump cables (see illustrations):

A. Slip shrink tube over end of each power cable.   B. Match pump cables to power cables and crimp connectors on each pair.
C. Slide shrink tubes over center of crimped connectors and apply heat (from propane torch) from center to both ends of shrink tubes.   D. Splice is complete when sealant flows from ends of shrink tubes. Note: Splice kits are not included with pumps.

WARNING! Splice and wires should be checked for nicks and insulation breakdown prior to installation. To isolate ground leakage in splice and cable, refer to Figure 3 and proceed as follows:

1. Set selector switch on the highest scale (RX 100K) and follow general instructions for ohmmeter tests.

2. Immerse motor, pigtail, splice and cable in tank of water with leads out of water. If cable only is being tested, be sure to have both ends of the cable out of water and the ends connected as shown in Figure 3.

3. Slowly remove cable from water starting with the end which is connected to the ohmmeter. Observe the needle, and when it falls back to left toward infinity or no reading, the damage will be at the point where the cable, splice or pigtail is just above the water.

4. Repair damaged cable, splice or pigtail.

5. If the motor is grounded, it must be replaced. WARNING! After the pump is installed in the well insulation test and motor continuity test should be run.


Installation of Pump in Well
Installing a submersible well pump

1. Attach the safety hook to the pump

Connect the safety hook to the pump using pliers to squeeze the sides of the hook so it fits into the slot in the pump.

2. Attach the pump to the pipe

A back-up wrench should be used when riser pipe is attached to the pump. The pump should only be gripped by the flats on the top of the discharge chamber. Under no circumstances grip the body of the pump, cable guard or motor. When tightened down, the threaded end of the first section of the riser pipe or the nipple must not come in contact with the check valve retainer in the discharge chamber of the pump.

3. Before lowering pump

a) Smooth out any rough spots or sharp edges on the top lip of the well casing with a hammer or metal file to prevent damage to the pump or power cables when lowering into well.

b) As you add additional sections of galvanized iron pipe or rigid plastic PVC pipe, apply pipe compound only to the male threaded ends of each section and tighten to next section.

c) Tape the power cables and safety lifting cable to the pipe, straight up from bottom to top. Do NOT spiral cable around the pipe. Use waterproof tape or nylon lock bands every 20 feet on galvanized iron pipe. Do not allow any excess cable between bands; cable must be as flat against pipe as possible.

4. Lowering the pump

a) Align pump carefully when beginning to lower it down the well casing. Do not let the pump, cables or pipe rub against the well casing. Take care that cable insulation is not dragged or scraped over the top lip of the well casing.

b) Depth of pump setting. Lower pump into well slowly without forcing. Use foot clamp to hold galvanized iron or plastic PVC pipe while connecting the next length of pipe and taping the power cables. (On deep settings, we recommend that a check valve be installed in the pipe 200 ft. above the pump and every 200 ft. thereafter to prevent water shock from traveling back to pump.) Lower pump to at least 10 ft. below the maximum draw down of the water level, if possible, and never closer than 5 ft. from the bottom of the well.

c) Pipe fitting to support pump. When a well seal is used, either a coupling, elbow or tee is installed on the top end of the last vertical length of pipe and is allowed to rest on the outside of the well seal to support the pipe, power cables, safety cable and pump. Most well seals provide a fitting to seal the power cables; but if no such fitting is provided, conduit must be used to protect cables and to prevent water and any foreign matter from leaking into well around cable.

d) Frost-proof pitless installation. In installation where the pipe from the well seal to the water tank is subject to frost or freezing conditions, a pitless installation is recommended.



Above-Ground Pipe & Tank Connections

1. Check pump before connecting piping to tank

With all electrical connections complete and pump now lowered to desired depth, install a gate valve in the discharge pipe near well for preliminary test run (see diagram). Turn on power. Gradually open gate valve and let pump run until water is clear of sand and other impurities. Fully open gate valve. If pump lowers water in the well to a point at which the pump loses its prime, either:

a) Lower pump further down well (if possible); or

b) "Throttle" the pump to the capacity of the well by using a flow valve (see Section F).

2. Connecting diaphragm tank system

a) Connect all piping as shown in diagram.

b) Precharge tank to specified pressure (see instructions furnished with tank). If the system is to be set to operate at 30/50 pressure settings, the tank should be precharged to 28 psi (or 18 psi if system pressure is to be 20/40). Tank precharge pressure should always be 2 psi below the "cut-in" of the pressure switch with no water in the tank.

c) Start pump. Pressure in tank will build up to cut-off pressure of pressure switch setting.

d) The system should now operate automatically.

3. Connecting standard galvanized tank system

a) Connect all piping as shown in diagram.

b) Start pump. Pressure in tank will build up to cut-off pressure of switch setting.

c) The system should now operate automatically.


Connecting Bleed-back Valve System

a) Install the bleeder orifice 5 ft. or more below snifter valve. Check and snifter valves can be installed inside the well casing under the well seal or outside the casing just ahead of the pressure tank. Refer to installation diagram and the table at left for recommended distances on various tank sizes.

b) Connect all piping as shown in diagram.

c) Start pump. Pressure in tank will build up to cut-off pressure of switch setting.

d) After pump has cut-out, open faucet and drain tank pressure to cut-in point of pressure switch.

e) Run the automatic cycle several times and check the air charging cycle. Each time the pump stops, the surface check valve closes and water starts to drain back through the bleeder valve. This causes a vacuum in the discharge pipe and air is drawn in through the snifter valve installed in the check valve. Water will drain down to the bleeder valve, filling the pipe between the check valve and bleeder valve with air. When the pump restarts, this air will be forced ahead of the water into the pressure tank. This method always supplies excess air which is vented off by the automatic air volume control.

f) To check proper operation, a vacuum should be felt at the snifter valve when pump stops. (See illustration for position of bleeder valve, check valve and snifter valve.)


Controlling Weak Wells

The flow valve method is the simplest way to prevent draw down to pump inlet. The capacity of the pump discharge is throttled to equal the well yield. A DoleŽ Flow Valve delivers a constant capacity regardless of pump discharge pressure. The flow valve is installed in the discharge line between the pump and the pressure tank. The usual way to determine what size of flow valve to use is to throttle the discharge gate valve to a capacity that the well will yield without drawing down to pump inlet. After pump has operated at this capacity for a sufficient time to be sure it is suitable, measure the flow in gallons-per-minute and select a flow valve size nearest to this capacity. Install the flow valve and recheck to be sure operation is satisfactory



The vast majority of service calls on water well systems are caused by either waterlogged tanks or by electrical problems.

The submersible pump and water well system should be checked periodically for quality of water, draw down, pressure, GPM, cycling periods (how often the pump starts and how long it runs) and proper operation of all automatic controls.

Never operate the pump for long periods of time with the discharge valve closed. This could cause overheating resulting in damage to the pump and its motor. A properly sized relief valve should be installed before the tank to prevent the pump from operating with the discharge valve closed.

Familiarize yourself with potential problems and trouble-shooting solutions.

Troubleshooting Chart #1


Symptom Possible Causes Corrective Action
Motor will not start but fuses do not blow No voltage at control box or disconnect switch Replace blown fuse
  No voltage at pressure switch Replace faulty pressure switch
No voltage at control box Rewire supply to control box
Cable or splices bad Consult licensed electrician or serviceman
Control box incorrectly wired Reconnect control box correctly
Fuses blow or overload protector trips when motor starts Check fuse size against chart in owners manual Install correct fuse or time delay fuse
  Check wire size against chart in owners manual Install correct size wire
Check control box to see if starting capacitor has blown out Replace starting capacitor. Replace start relay if defective
Check capacitor rating. Check start relay If voltage variation is greater than +/- 10%, call power company or local hydro authority to adjust voltage.
Check that line voltage is within +/- 10% of nameplate voltage while motor is running (under load). Check control box wiring diagram against incoming power hookup. Check your supply wire color coding Reconnect leads to match wiring diagram in control box cover. Reconnect power supply wires so wire color code matches motor lead color code.
Examine all connections and wiring in control box Disconnect power and repair or replace faulty wire. If necessary, pull pump ( make all possible above ground checks first).
Check for locked shaft in pump If pump is locked, replace it. Clean thoroughly of all sand or lime before reinstalling pump.
Consult licensed electrician or qualified serviceman Do not attempt to disassemble pump or motor.
Fuses blow or overload protector trips when motor is running Check that line voltage is within +/- 10% of rated nameplate voltage while motor is running Check that line voltage is within +/- 10%, call power company to adjust voltage.
  Check temperature of control box Do not mount control box in direct sunlight
Compare voltage and horsepower on motor nameplate with those given on control box nameplate or on circuit diagram inside control box cover. Replace control box if numbers do not match.
Check wire size against wiring chart (in pump manual or control box cover). Install correct wire size.
Pump starts too frequently Check all tank connections with soapsuds for air leaks. System must be air and water-tight
  Check for defective switch or switch out of adjustment Readjust or replace pressure switch
Make sure check valves are not leaking back. Replace check valves if necessary
Pre-charged tanks; check tank pre-charge air pressure, check for leak in bladder. Standard tanks check for air leaks. Check Air Volume Control (AVC) Pre-charge tanks: adjust air pressure to 2PSI (13.8kPa) less than pumps cut-in pressure(when there is no water pressure on system). Replace bladder if necessary. Standard tanks: repair or replace tanks, replace AVC if necessary.
Raise drop pipe one length at a time until water stands in pipe Replace pipe above that point.
Measure distance from pressure switch to tank.] Move switch to within 1 ft. (.3M) of tank.]
Little or no water delivered Check Fuse Replace if it is blown
  Check for electricity at Pressure Switch If no electricity, check electrical connections and fusebox and the path to the switch. If there is electricity, try closing the contacts using an INSULATED screwdriver and see if you can hear the pump start.
  Check Pressure Gauge If the pressure gauge is showing no pressure, open the cover on the pressure switch and check the contacts to see if they are open or making contact. If they are making contact check for electricity at the switch. If they are NOT making contact, use an INSULATED screwdriver and push them closed and see if the pump engages.
  Examine valve. If stuck, free valve, if installed backwards, reverse it.
  Determine lowest water level in well while pump is running and compare to pump depth setting. Lower pump further into well (but at least 5 ft. ( 1.5M) above bottom of well). Throttle pump discharge until discharge equals recovery rate of well. NOTICE: Running pump while air locked can cause loss of prime and seriously damage pump.
Check voltage at control box with pump running. Check incoming wire size and power supply wire size against chart in your manual Install larger wire from meter to control box. Install larger wire from control box to pump. If necessary, have power company raise power supply voltage.
Pull pump and check condition of screen. Clean or replace as necessary.
Pull pump and examine check valve. Free check valve.
Make sure system is clear of obstructions and pump is in solid water and operating normally. Replace pump.
Air or milky water discharge from faucets Check for presence of gas in water Remove bladder orifices; plug tees. Be sure plugged tees do not leak. If necessary, separate gas from air before it enters pressure tank.
  Make sure ports and ball-check valves are clear Replace control if necessary

Troubleshooting Chart #2

Problem Probable Cause Solution
Pump motor won't run Blown fuse, broken (or loose) electrical connections. Check fuses, capacitor, relays and all electrical connections.
Pressure switch not closing. Adjust or replace.
Motor overload protection contact open. Contacts will close automatically within short time.
Incorrect control box. Check and replace if necessary.
Improper wiring connections. Check wiring diagram.
Low voltage. Check voltage at control box.
Pump stuck or clogged with foreign matter. Pull pump and examine.
Pump runs, but no water pumped Check valve installed backwards. Reverse and reinstall.
Setting too deep for rating of pump Check rating table.
Pump not submerged; not deep enough in well. Lower pump if possible. Check recovery of well.
Pump in mud, impeller plugged or intake strainer clogged. Pull pump and clean. Check well depth. Raise pump if necessary.
Reduced capacity Strainer or impellers partially clogged or plugged. Pull pump and clean.
Corroded discharge pipe. Replace pipe.
Excessive pump wear. Pull pump and replace worn parts; or replace pump.
Pressure switch won't cut out Pressure switch not set correctly. Revise setting: 20-lb cut-in, 40-lb cut-out; or 30/50 (depending on tank size).
Water level too low in well for rating of pump. Check pump setting.
Switch opening clogged. Clean out openings or, if necessary, replace switch.
Excessive wear on parts. Replace worn parts.
Pump starts too often
runs too long
Waterlogged tank (loss of air pressure. Check tanks for leaks. Recharge with air pressure to proper level. Check air volume control.
Check valve leaks. Replace or repair.
Pressure switch out of adjustment. Adjust to proper setting and check to assure setting remains. If not, replace pressure switch.
Leaks in pipe. Check above-ground piping for leaks. If none, pull pump and check all pipe connections and connection of pipe to pump.


1. No water
  1. Motor runs - you can hear it or feel the pipe vibrate or amp check if you have an amprobe.
    a) Hole in drop pipe or coupling, bleeder valve blown out.
    b) Massive leak in your system. Pump is delivering water just not where you want it to go.
    c) Jammed or backward check valve. It happens.
    d) Pump is out of the water
    e) Pump inlet screen plugged. Very rare.
    f) Pump worn out. Impellers worn. If it has pumped sand or is very old this is possible.
    g) Pump shaft broken or coupling stripped. Very rare these days.
    h) Pump air locked.
    j) Water level has dropped so far pump can't lift to surface.

  2. Motor doesn't run
    a) No power to pump - this is the most common thing.
    b) Motor failed
    c) Wires down well broken or bad splice.
    d) Control box problem, bad capacitor or relay or cover is not on.
    e) Pressure switch problem - easy to fix but usually wishful thinking.
            a) Look at the contacts. If they aren't closed figure out why. 
            b) The switch thinks the pressure is at shutoff level. Did it freeze last night?
            c) Possibly bad pressure switch or plugged inlet.
    Burned contacts don't mean much.
              b) Bugs in the contacts are a common problem. Clean them off with the eraser end of a             wooden pencil. These contacts are always electrically hot.

    f) Overload tripped. Look for a red button on or under control box.
    g) Pump locked up.
    h) Both wires to motor or control box are connected to the same leg in the panel.

  3. Not enough water, or pressure - motor runs, perhaps runs all the time
    A) Leaks - surprisingly small leaks can lose a lot of water. Common problem.
         1) Leaks in your house system. 
                Shut off line between tank and house and see if pump builds up pressure normally.
         2) Down the well: Holes in drop pipe or bleeder valve.
    B) Pump problems
            1) Pump too small for demand
            2) Pump impellers worn by sand
            3) Water level has dropped below what pump is designed for
            4) Check valve jammed either down well or on surface. 
                The nut can also come off the plunger and improper pipe fittings can prevent plunger travel.
            5) Plugged inlet screen. Very rare.
            6) No water in well or pump not set deep enough.
            7) Motor coupling stripped or shaft broken. Sometimes can still pump.
    C. Tank problems
        a) Waterlogged tank will cause pump to go on and off continually. 
            This also results in apparent low pressure. This is very common.
        b) Surface check valve stuck open allowing water to run back down the well or stuck closed preventing water from getting up.
    D. Electrical problems
        a) Improper connections at control box. If color codes were not kept the pump will attempt to start on the run winding and will not be able to continue running
        b) Low voltage. 230 volt pumps will run on 115 volts but not very well and will cut out and reset. 
            This happens when one pole of a two pole circuit breaker has tripped. Pull both poles all the way to off, then back to on.
        c) Motor has internal short which is not bad enough to make it stop totally but results in intermittent operation or less than full speed operation. This is a frequent motor death mode.
  4. Bad water
    A. Milky -air or gas in water.
        1) Natural entrained air or gas - not much you can do about it.
        2) Tank air problem
            a) Bad air volume control
            b) Pumping water level too low allowing air to be sucked into pump
            c) Excessive draw from tank allows air into house lines
    B. Sandy - well problem, made worse by frequent starts, well driller problem
    C. Tastes bad - try an activated carbon filter
    D. Looks bad - particulates in water, try a cartridge filter
    E. Stains sink -Iron and/or manganese in water, water treatment problem
    F. Stinks - hydrogen sulfide gas or methane
    G. Slime in strainers - iron bacteria, chlorinate well
  5. Fuses blow, breakers trip, overloads trip
    A. Happens immediately when power applied to motor
        1) Short to ground in motor, cables or supply wires to pressure switch.
            Remove control box cover or disconnect leads to motor to see where the problem is. 
            Shorts make things trip very fast.
        2) Worn out breaker, wrong size breaker, non-time delay fuses can't take starting current.
        3) Control box problem causing start winding in motor not to operate. Usually times several seconds to trip.
        4) Low voltage
        5) Pump locked up
    B. Happens when motor has been running
        1) Low voltage
        2) Short cycling, too many starts
        3) Control box too hot due to sun or other heat source.
        4) Control box problem - bad capacitor, relay, or wrong size
        5) Fuses or overloads too small.
        6) Circuit breakers worn out - they will only trip so many times.
        7) Frequent low head starting causing up thrust
        8) Worn pump - usually causes low amps but can also cause high amps.
        9) Pumping a lot of sand.
        10) Wires too small or contacts somewhere very bad causing high voltage drop.
        11) Well is so crooked the pump and moor have been forced into a bind. You have to work at it to create this one.
  6. Pumps starts and stops too often(This is very hard on submersible pumps and motors)
    A. Water logged tank.
        1) Galvanized tank
            a) No air charging system - drain tank and open a fitting to break vacuum. 
                This can always be used as a temporary fix on any tank.
            b) Air leak in tank above water level
            c) Surface check valve is leaking and preventing snifter valve from taking in air.
            d) Snifter valve (usually screwed into check valve) is not working. It should suck in air every time the pump stops. Frequent problem area.
            e) Bleeder in well is not letting water leak out of the pipe so air can be sucked in by the snifter.
            f) Pump runs constantly and so never cycles to put air in tank.
            g) Air volume control letting too much air out.
    2) Bladder tank
          a) Bladder is ruptured. Tank will feel heavy and water will come out of tire core valve on top of tank.
         b) Tank has too little pre-charge air in it or, too much. It needs to be just right which is 2 pounds less than the start pressure of the pump, measured with the tank drained and the pump off.
          c) Air logged tank - air volume control bad or too much air being pumped in.
          d) Defective pressure switch or set wrong
          e) Tank too small for pump size and demand.
         f) Check valve on surface may be jammed or partially open

Advanced troubleshooting


    This is for people who are familiar with electricity and have a voltmeter, ammeter and
    ohmmeter and enough common sense not to fry themselves.

    There are two basic symptoms:

    1) Motor does not run

    2) Something trips out

  1. Motor does not run
          A) Makes no sounds - this most likely means no power to motor. First make sure you have put he cover back on the control box if it is 1 HP or less. Start at the pressure switch with the switch wedged open with a non-conductor and measure voltage leg to leg-AND to ground.

    If you do not have 230 volts (unless it is a rare 115 volt motor) trace back to
    the circuit breaker or fuse box. If you have 115 volts to ground on both legs
    at the pressure switch, you have both legs on the same hot leg and thus zero potential difference between them. Put one leg on the other hot leg.

    If you have 115 volts to ground on one leg and zero on the other, one wire is broken or one half of the 230 volt breaker is defective or tripped.

    If everything is zero at the pressure switch the wires are broken or the breaker is bad, or tripped, or the main power is out.

    If everything checks out then there is an open in the motor or in the control box or the wiring to the motor. Start by disconnecting the power at the breaker then di sconnecting the wires that go down the well from the control box. Use an ohm meter to check for continuity between all three wires (or two if it is a two wire pump). Also check each leg to ground. All should be infinity or at least 10 megohms to ground. The resistances leg to leg are small. The yellow is common and the yellow red (start) should be more than
    the black (run) to yellow. An open indicates a broken wire, bad splice or bad
    motor. A low resistance to ground indicates a bad motor or sub cables that are damaged.

          B) Motor hums, buzzes . This is either low voltage, a bad control box, mixed wire color code , shorted motor.

Do all the checks listed in (A) above.
If it is not covered in (A): Then follow the directions for troubleshooting below -

  1. If the pump is new
    Ohm check the wires from the motor.
    The highest amp reading will be Red to Black.
    The next highest Yellow to Red and the lowest Yellow to Black.
    If your readings don’t agree, the color code is mixed down below.
       b) Wrong voltage control box. Only possible on ½ HP pumps where 230 volt or 115 volt motors are made. If 115 volt box is used on a 230 system, the control box relay will be expecting much higher amps and so will not drop out the start winding.
        c) Control box problems.  Sometimes they are bad out of the box.

There are four possible components in a control box: 

Start capacitors- black cylinders- most likely to fail. Look for burned off connectors, black gunk oozing out.  If it looks OK, you need an analog ohm meter. Short across the capacitor to discharge it, then put the ohm meter on it. It should show a low reading which increases to infinity over several seconds as the capacitor charges. These are cheap and readily available at any electric motor shop.

Run capacitors - usually metal cylinders - almost never fail. Overload relays - “Klixons” the red button. They fail. If they trip out, check the amp draw. If it is normal, the overload is bad. By-pass it with a jumper until you can get one. ( or forget about it) 

Start relay- black or blue square. Most difficult to diagnose. It depends on whether they are solid state (blue, or on some original, a small semi-   conductor looking thing) or electro-mechanical, a 2" square with MARS written on it somewhere. See ( for details on this. If you get to this point, just replace the control box. 

Control box problems are often caused by short-cycling of the pump.

  1. Something trips out. This means the pump overload or a circuit breaker or fuse. This does not mean the pressure switch.
    a) First check for proper voltage starting at the circuit breaker
        Then the pressure switch
         Then the leads going down the well.
    This can be difficult with control boxes that have covers that pull the guts out with them. These are for your safety and the manufacturers safety from lawyers, but they are a pain to troubleshoot. People in the industry make jumpers from two old control boxes. Your best bet is to put a short jumper on the three pump leads and wire nut them where you can get a probe on them. This also lets you make amp readings and ohm readings.

    b) Circuit breaker trip. If there are no voltage abnormalities, this is either a dead short somewhere or a bad breaker. If it takes some time to trip, look for bad breaker, too small a breaker or hot breaker box.  It may also be a small ground fault resulting in high amps but usually the pump overload will trip first.   

    If you are looking for a short or ground fault, open the circuit breaker so you don’t blow up your ohm meter, then start at the pump, disconnect the leads going down the well and check each leg to ground. You should get near infinity. Next check the yellow to red and yellow to black. These reading should be very low, 2 to 12 Ohms. The yellow to red should be higher than the yellow to black. The exact readings are available from the web site, but they aren’t  that critical.  If you don’t find anything down the well, start working your way back to the pressure switch, then to the breaker, until something shows up.  Fix it. This will probably require pulling the pump or digging. The good news is that you will get your exercise without paying health club dues. 

    c) Overload trip.  This means high amps or bad overload. Again, assuming nothing showed up on the voltage check, take amp readings on all three wires. Look up the service factor amps on, and compare.  These motors are actually designed for the service factor, i.e. a 2 HP motor is actually a 2.3 HP motor, so it doesn’t hurt them to run at SFA.  If the amps are uniformly high by 10 to 15% it probably means the motor and/or pump end are shot. If one leg is high it indicates a ground fault.  The red leg is the start winding, the black is the run winding and the yellow is common.  Any electrons that go down the red and black have to come up the yellow or go to ground. A single high leg is probably a ground fault.  If you put your amprobe around all three legs at once and have any current show, it is a ground fault. It can be motor or sub cable.

    When the motor starts you should see a momentary blip on the red lead amps which may fall off to zero on small pumps, or fall to a low level on capacitor start/capacitor run control boxes.  If you don’t see this, look for control box problems or an open in the start circuit. This usually is accompanied by high amps on the black-yellow leads as the pump tries to start. It is possible for the pump to start sometimes without the start circuit.

Bad Smelling Water

Bad smelling well water is usually caused from Hydrogen Sulfide - (H2S). It is commonly mistakenly referred to as Sulphur. It is a colorless, highly toxic and flammable gas. That rotten egg smell is the result of the bacterial breakdown of sulfates in organic matter in the presence of oxygen.

H2S gas is produced by bacteria in the ground and the gas is dissolved into the water and/or migrates into your well and water or the bacteria are in the well producing the gas. The gas comes out of solution when the water is aerated and depressurized. The treatment for H2S is to aerate or absorb or oxidize the gas so IOWs there are many way to remove H2S. It should be removed on a POE (point of entry) basis. Regular softeners do not remove it and it can cause resin problems. Regular carbon (charcoal) is not a good choice and disposable cartridge filters aren't either. Carbon is not to be used on water of unknown microbiological content. That's because bacteria thrive in carbon and can create more odor than in the raw water. Your disposable cartridges can cause your softener to fail due to their pressure loss and subsequent reduced water flow to the softener. You charge cartridges based on pressure loss, not looks. We can't see particles less than 45 microns in size. Carbon cartridges are usually rated at 5 microns. Pleated paper cartridges tend to filter smaller particles as they filter larger particles, IOWs they are 'progressive' meaning the more they filter the more they filter. That reduces water flow. The plumber shouldn't have used the cartrdige type filters which as you now see aren't working well.

Use of a solution feeder which is the most maintenance ridden type of equipment there is in the water treament industry That's where you pour bleach into a small tank with a pump on the top and it injects chlorine soution into the plumbing ahead of a retention tank. If so they don't work well especially if there is any fluctuation in the volume of H2S or bacteria in the water. The solution feeder, its required retention tank (maybe 120 gallons) and (there should be a) backwashed filter to remove any color in the water from the oxidation and the chlorine while they take up a lot of space.

Another approach is a chlorine pellet erosion type feeder that mounts on the plumbing like your disposable cartrdige filters and has a special mixing tank that's not much larger than your softener resin tank and then a backwashed Centaur carbon filter which is also not much larger than the softener resin tank. The maintenance is to add chlorine pellets every few months.

You can buy this equipment over the internet and hire someone to install it or find someone to help you install it, and save a considerable amount of money.



Pressure Switch Adjustments

Using your existing pumping equipment, you may be able to increase your water pressure. If the pump is able to produce more pressure, you can adjust the pressure and rebalance the pressure tank to achieve greater pressure in the home. Use caution when deciding to undertake this mini-project. As you increase the pressure range you will be reducing the storage capacity of your pressure tank. This will cause the pump to turn on and off more often, increasing the wear. This usually reduces the lifespan of the pump. Do not raise the pressure above the rating of any of your water using appliances.

If we assume that the pressure switch is a Square D Pumptrol Model FSG-2 (a common model), you can adjust the pressure using the following directions. You will need a 3/8 hollow stemmed nut drive, a volt meter, a tire gauge and an air compressor or bike pump (and a lot of energy).

  • Run water from a faucet and note the pressure at which the pump turns on and off. Choose a new pressure range as a goal. For example if your pressure range is 20/40 your goal may be to raise the range to 30/50.
  • Turn power to the pump off.
  • Turn faucet on until the pressure gauge reads 0 and the water stops.
  • Check the air pressure in the pressure tank with a tire gauge at the air valve located on the tank.
  • Adjust the air pressure in the tank with your compressor (or bike pump) to 2 PSI less than the desired pump turn-on point.
  • Remove the cover from the pressure switch.
  • With the volt meter, check for power at the pressure switch (Line 1 to Line 2, Load 1 to Load 2) To ensure the power is off.
  • Then with the 3/8" nut driver, tighten the nut on the taller spring clockwise. A quarter turn for 1 PSI change is the rule of thumb; however, this varies greatly from switch to switch. We also don't recommend that you raise your pressure over 65 PSI with this type of switch.
  • Replace the cover on the switch and turn on the power.
  • Watch the pressure gauge as the pump fills the pressure tank. When the pressure gets to the cut off point you desire shut the power off and loosen (counter-clockwise) the nut until the electrical contacts on the pressure switch open. Or repeat steps 6, 7, 8, and 9 until you achieve your desired pressure.
  • Turn the power back on
  • Run the water again and verify that the pressure when the pump turns on and off is your desired range. The switch comes factory preset to have a 20 PSI range. We do not recommend that you attempt to adjust the range of the switch
How to Balance a Pressure Tank System

The proper balance in a pressure tank will prolong pump life and give you more steady water pressure in you home. Equipment you will need for this mini-project is a tire gauge and an air compressor or bike pump (and a lot of energy).

 Before you attempt to balance your tank you should take care to ensure that your pressure tank bladder is not burst. A quick unscientific test for this is as follows for this is as follows.

  1. Shut off the power to your pumping system at your fused disconnect or breaker box.
  2. Turn on a faucet until the water stops
  3. When the water stops the tank should have no water left in the tank. Most tanks can be wiggeled back and forth. As you attempt this take note if the tank feels heavier than it should and listen hear if water is sloshing. (Warring: you may cause a break in your plumbing  if you shake your tank to hard tank)
  4. If the tank has extra weight or you hear sloshing of water Please call a Professional.

Now you are ready to balance your tank. To do this follows the below instruction.

  • Run water from a faucet and note the pressure at which the pump turns on and off.
  • Turn power to the pump off. Turn faucet on until the pressure gauge reads 0 and the water stops.
  • Check the air pressure in the pressure tank with a tire gauge at the air valve located on the tank.
  • Adjust the air pressure in the tank with your compressor (or bike pump) to 2 PSI less than the pump turn-on point. (note: if you have a low pressure cut off switch you may want to set is up to 5 PSI less than the cut on point)
  • Turn the power to your pumping system back on.
  • Run water and watch the pressure gauge to see if the on/off cycle is smooth. If the needle has any fast jumps repeat the above steps.

How To Reset a Square D FSG-2-M4 switch (or equivalent)

Low pressure cutoff switches are very common additions to residential pumping systems. These switches require manual resetting, and knowing how to do this can save the homeowner a service call.
Below is the guide to resetting a Square-D low pressure cutoff switch.

Low Pressure cut off switches or M-4 switches are an inexpensive way to help protect your water well pump from running dry. However they are not fool proof. One of the most common over the phone repairs we do is how to reset this switch. Some of the causes of the switch being tripped are:

* Pressure dropped due to home using too much water at one time

* Pressure dropped due to power outage

* Pressure dropped due to water line breakage

* Pressure dropped due to low water in well

Basically, any time your pressure drops 10 psi below the cut-in pressure, the switch will trip. To reset the switch you must hold the lever (see figure B) on the side of the switch up at about a 30 degree angle to restart the pump. If the switch makes an audible "click" the lever is too far. Hold the switch in the on position until the pressure builds back up high enough to reset. The pressure can be read on the pressure gauge usually mounted next to the pressure switch (see figure c).

Pressure switch

Q. How do I set my bladder tank air pressure?

A.  A bladder tank comes from the factory with pressure in the top of the tank. This air pressure will just about never be what the label says it’s supposed to be.  So adjustments are necessary.

Pressure switch’s that tell your pump motor when to start and stop are normally factory set at either 20PSI on and 40PSI off or 30 - 50, 40 - 60. I personally like 40 - 70. That gives a little more water between pump cycles. Regardless of the high pressure setting, the on pressure setting is the one that matters to the bladder tank. If your tank has 30lbs. in it and you want your pump to turn on at 30lbs. You will need to let out two pounds making the bladder tank air pressure 28PSI. The same with 20 on or 40 on. Make the tank pressure two pounds less than the on setting of the pressure switch.The reason for this is to have the pump turn on just before the tank reaches it’s air pressure setting. This prevents the tank from going completely empty when the air bladder hits the bottom of the tank. If this were to happen, the pressure in your plumbing would immediately go to zero since there is no more water to be pushed out of the tank. This condition is not desired when your in the shower. Of coarse the pump will kick on at this point making the zero condition only momentary, but nevertheless aggravating.

Q.  How do I adjust my pressure switch?

A.  Since Square D is probably the most popular pressure switch on the market, that’s the one we will talk about.
The Square D pressure switch and a few other brands that have copied Square D normally have two springs pushing down on a plate supported on top by 3/8” locking nuts.  These nuts can be adjusted to set the desired on/off pressure of your pump motor.

If you are looking to increase the pressure switch settings, you should first adjust the taller of the two springs.  This spring will move the on/off setting evenly.  That is to say a 20/40 setting can easily become a 30/50, 40/60 or anything in between.  To raise the pressure, turn the tall springs nut clockwise a few turns.  Turn on a faucet and watch your gauge. ( a good working gauge is necessary ) When the pump starts, the pressure on the gauge is your on pressure.  Close the faucet, and let the pump shut off.  This pressure is the off pressure.  To decrease the on/off pressure, turn nuts counterclockwise.

To increase the off pressure, turn the short springs nut clock wise a few turns and run water to re cycle the pump.  Keep adjusting for desired off pressure.

I don’t recommend setting switch higher than 70 PSI for many reasons.

Some bladder tanks will not allow much more than the 20 psi differental.  Don’t top out the bladder. This will shorten it’s life dramatically


Submersible Pump Wiring basics

A 2-wire pump actually requires a 3-wire strand of wire as one of the strands is used as the ground wire. 2-wire pumps do not require an external control box, as the starting capacitors and relays are in the motor body.
A 3-wire pump requires 4 wire strands as a ground wire should be included. An external control box containing relays and capacitors supplies the starting voltage when the pump is required to start.

Submersible motors are designed primarily for operation in the vertical, shaft-up position. During acceleration, the pump thrust increases as its output head increases. In cases where the pump head stays below its normal operating range during startup and full speed condition, the pump may create upward thrust. This creates upward thrust on the motor upthrust bearing. This is an acceptable operation for short periods at each start, but running continuously with up thrust may cause excessive wear on the upthrust bearing. For normal thrust bearing life expectancy with motor positions other than shaft-up, minimize the frequency of starts, preferably to fewer than 10 per 24-hour period.

Basics of Electricity

      Principle 1: Electricity are tiny ballbearings.
They are hard to see because they are so small and move so fast.

Principle 2: The speed of the ballbearings are measured in volts.: The speed of the ballbearings are measured in volts.
This can be converted to miles per hour, or furlongs per fortnight if so desired, but volts are nice and tidy.

Principle 3: The number of ballbearings are measured in amps. There are so many in a pound, it is inconvenient to weight them.

Principle 4: The power the ballbearings have is the number of ballbearings multiplied by their speed.
This is just how hard the ballbearings hit. Same principle as getting hit with a water hose.
        Secondary Idea 1 for Principal 4: Two ballbearings going one speed does the same work as one ballbearing going twice as fast. ( 2 x 1 = 1 x 2)
        Secondary Idea 2 for Principal 4: Electrical power is measured in watts.
What is Watts? Watts = Amps x Volts
( Power companies charge by kilowatt hours or 1000s of watts times hours used. This is defined as work.This distinction is important to engineers but not to real people)

Principle 5: The more ballbearings you cram in a pipe, (amps in a wire), the more they rub against the walls. This is resistance and it is measured in ohms.
    Secondary Idea1 for Principal 5: You can get more electrical work from the same size pipe (wire) if fewer ballbearings going faster are used so there is less rubbing (resistance).
    Secondary Idea 2 for Principal 5: Rubbing on the pipe (resistance) results in heat. Heat deteriorates insulation.

Principal 6: Volts, Amps and Ohms are related. A pack of ballbearings will cram itself into a pipe until the resistance to movement they create by rubbing uses up all their available speed. Number of ballbearings= Speed / Resistance, or       Amps = Volts divided by Ohms. (I=E/R)
This is known as Ohms Law and is the basis of all electronics. Use this information to amaze your friends.

An electric motor is a machine to get useful work from electricity. It is also two magnets chasing each other, with one magnet tied to a rotating shaft, while the power company changes their polarity just when the north and south poles start to line up. (This is somewhat cruel but necessary. It is something like dealing with a woman.)

Some people think motors run on smoke because when the smoke gets out, they stop working. This is not true.

There is a practical problem with the magnets in that if they happen to line up north to south on startup, they will stay that way. The reasons for this are too boring to go into and involve things like induced rotor currents and slip. Read on for the exciting conclusion.
Motors can run on AC (alternating current) or DC ( direct current). Some can run on both. AC motors are the most generally used and that is all this is going to deal with.

    The changing of polarity in the magnets is caused by a change from positive to negative in the power supply. It alternates. ( AC = Alternating current). In the USA, thanks to the clock lobby, this happens 60 times per second. One cycle from zero through positive and negative and back to zero on one set of wires is called a phase. (Not technically correct but it helps to make some sense out of this).
    Motors frequently are wound to run on one or more than one phase. In the USA, single phase and three phase are the rule.
    Single phase motors require some mechanics to get around the starting problem. They use a small start winding attached to a capacitor ( a tank for electrons) which changes the phase of the start winding slightly due to the time it takes the capacitor to fill up. They also need a relay to cut the start winding out after startup so it doesn't burn up.
    Three phase power has each phase reach zero 120 degrees out from each other. There is no way for the poles to line up exactly so it will always start.
    The work (not scientifically accurate) that a motor can do is measured in horsepower. By definition, this is 550 foot pounds per second. (It is also 745 watts).
    One horsepower is one horsepower regardless of phase, voltage, RPMs, manufacturer, or political affiliation. So why care about such things? Money.

    All the extra gear a single phase motor needs to ensure starting costs money and it eventually fails so the motors are more expensive and less reliable. There is also a practical size limit of 7.5 H.P. which is where most manufacturers stop making them.
    The amps needed to generate a horsepower are spread over three wires in a three phase motor and two wires in a single phase motor so the wires are bigger with the single phase motor. If it is a submersible motor you still have to run a third wire for the start winding.

In the USA, the common combinations of approximate voltage and phase are: 115 Volts Single Phase. This is house wiring. It is safer because the voltage is lower and so can push less amps through the resistance of some hapless idiot who takes the hair dryer into the shower.( True story. Short messy ending). Appliance motors. Single phase is supplied with a single transformer and thus cheap for the power company to supply and thus popular with them. Usually limited to motors of 1 H.P. or less. 230 Volts Single Phase. Your air conditioner, clothes dryer or electric stove. The main entry power for most new houses. 208 Volts Three Phase. Power companies like it for subdivisions where street lighting is involved. Motors hate it. Power companies don't care. ( It is a personal problem.) 230 Volts Three Phase, Common where loads are small, usually less than 40 H.P. If a transformer neutral ( 4 wire service) is run in, 115 volt single phase can be pulled off from any leg and neutral. Very useful in small industrial and commercial and farm applications. 460 Volts Three Phase, The common heavy industrial and large pump supply. Carries the most energy with the smallest wires and starters. Comes and gets you if you are careless.
    How can you tell? Look on the electric meter, or buy a cheap volt meter . It's a very useful thing to have anyway. ( Old electricians can actually taste the difference but don't try that one at home.)
    Why does it matter?
        1. The voltage and phase available must match the motor you buy or it won't work.
        2. The supply wire size and the starter size depend on amps. For a given size motor, amps depends on voltage. Twice the voltage, half the amps.

A motor rated for two voltages uses the same energy on either. The internal coils are either connected in series or parallel depending on the voltage so it is all the same to the motor.


Submersible Pumps vs. Jet Pumps

Submersible and jet pumps are both used in domestic groundwater systems. When high flow rates and pressure settings are required at high operating efficiencies, submersible pumps are generally preferred. Submersible pumps have the advantage of performing well both in shallow well applications as well as at depth to several thousand feet. An extensive range of submersible pump models is also available allowing a precise match to exact system requirements.

Online Forums for Submersible Pumps and Wells

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