Universal submersible pump relay control © Daniel Friedman Water Pump Status Indicators
How to tell if the well pump has been switched on

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Well pump controls & relays with pump status indicators & pump protection feature:

This article describes methods useful to determine if a well pump is operating or not. We describe several methods for determining if a remote water pump or submersible well pump circuit is "on".

Additional details are given for the Cla-Val PC-1 pump controller and for Franklin Electric's PumpTec pump controller. In addition to including several pump protection features, both of these devices offer sophisticated well pump status indicators that can help diagnose well and pump problems. Our page top photo illustrates a Universal well pump controller installed in a Minnesota home.

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Well Pump Control Status Indicators & Lights

Photograph of a water pump pressure control switch with the cover onReader Question: Alison said:

[Click to enlarge any image]

This may be a really dumb question, but because our pump is far from the house (switch is in garage)I don't hear when it is running or not. Is there a way to figure that out? It would likely help diagnose the issue if I knew when the pump was or was not running. Did that make any sense? Thank you again. 4/4/2014


Alison it's an excellent question and more important than one might think.

A typical water pump pressure control switch such as the Square D model shown at left makes an audible "click" when it's relay switches the pump on or off, but otherwise this model gives no indication that the pump circuit is "on". At page top we show a Universal remote well pump relay switch that operates a submersible well pump. The Universal pump relay is itself switched on and off by a pressure control switch at the water tank. No indication of "power on" is included on this device.

If the water system uses an above-ground well pump such as a one-line or two-line jet pump, and if the pump is nearby or accessible, you'll hear it running. But a remote well pump or a submersible (in the well) pump is not audible to someone standing by the pressure control switch.

Watch out: Some well pumps, particularly submersible models, can develop pressures high enough to be dangerous. In New Paltz NY a plumber was killed in part because he did not know that the submersible well pump was running. He was messing with pressure tank control settings, over pressurized a water tank which, lacking a required pressure relief valve, burst, injuring him so seriously that as he was working alone, he died.

The problem is that in a well-running water system you may not hear much at all at the water pressure tank when a remote well pump is running.

How to Know the "On-Off" Status of a Remote or Submersible Well Pump

There are several solutions to this "is the water pump running" question

  • If you happen to be close by when the water pump turns on or off you'll here the pressure control switch internal relay click - not a reliable indicator since one might not notice.

    Watch out: just because the pump circuit is "on" that does not mean that the pump is actually running. As you'll see in the next item, some pump relay switches operate a second 240V relay used to turn on higher horsepower water pumps. Further, energizing the pump circuit does not assure that a pump is actually running: the pump itself could be damaged. Measuring the level of current draw (item 3 below) can sort out this confusion.
  • Some water pump pressure control switches operate a separate heavy-duty pump relay, typically switching a 240V circuit, and some of these include an "on" light.
  • An electrician (or other properly-trained individual) can use a clamp-on ammeter on the pump circuit (between the pressure control switch and the pump) to detect when current is flowing on that circuit.

    Watch out: before you go messing with pump wiring turn off the system. There are shock and electrocution hazards. Electrical work should be performed by someone who's qualified.
  • An electrician can easily control a monitoring light - a small indicator lamp - in the well pump circuit so that when that circuit is live the indicator light is on. Note that if your water pump uses 220V then the indicator light probably also has to be a 220V unit. A low-voltage LED may also work in this application.

Cla-Val PC-1 Pump Control Panel with status indicator lights, Cla-Val Inc., www.cla-val.com

  • Some pressure controls for wells may include a pump-on indicator light, LED, or display that gives "on" as well as other pump status information. Cla-Val's Pump Control Panel PC-1 includes indicators of pump operation and other data. Quoting from the company's product description:

    The Cla-Val PC-1 provides control of the pump and pump control valve preventing surges in the system when the pump starts or stops. It consists of a pre-wired electric control panel employing a programmable logic controller to sequence the pump and pump control valve during all modes of operation. The programmable logic controller which is housed in a NEMA 4X rated enclosure provides protection to the pumping system from damage due to mechanical, hydraulic or power failure.

    The PC-1 control includes indicator lights that can describe eleven different conditions using steady or flashing lights giving a sophisticated view of the pump's operation including not just that the equipment is running but that it has reached a proper discharge pressure level.
  • Cla-Val, PO Box 1325 Newport Beach CA 92659-0325 Phone: 949-722-4800 Fax: 949-548-5441 www.cla-val.com. or
  • Cla-Val Canada: 4687 Christie Drive Beamsville, Ontario Canada L0R 1B4 Phone: 905-563-4963 or
  • Cla-Val Europe: Chemin dés Mesanges 1 CH-1032 Romanel/ Lausanne, Switzerland Phone: 41-21-643-15-55

PumpTec well pump control from Franklin Electric, www.franklin-electric.comIn a different approach, Franklin Electric's PumpTec is a neat control that adds pump protection and includes operating indictor lights.

  • Franklin Electric, 400 E. Spring St. Bluffton, IN 46714 Tel: 260-824-2900 Fax: 260-824-2909 www.franklin-electric.com. The company offers a submersible pump service hotline for their products: 800-348-2420. [Please don't embarrass us and yourself by calling Franklin to ask about other pump brands.]

The company's description of their PumpTec controller includes:

Pumptec is a microcomputer based pump protection device that continuously monitors motor load and power line conditions to provide protection against dry well conditions, waterlogged tanks, and abnormal line voltage conditions. Indicator lights provide complete system status, which can be easily viewed without removing the cover.

Pumptec interrupts power to the motor whenever the motor load drops below a preset level or the load drops quickly. Pumptec is optimized to work with Franklin 2- & 3-wire single phase motors from 1/3 to 1.5 HP. An underload (dry well) adjustment is provided to address unusual situations.

The PumpTec controller uses three indicator lights to indicate power, electrical load, and voltage levels. An "underload" indication can indicate that the well is dry while an "overload" indication typically means that there is a problem with the pump motor, causing it to draw excessive current.



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