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WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
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How to prime the water pump using a garden hose:
This article describes how to prime a water pump to restore water pressure to a building by using a garden hose connected to another water supply source. If you don't have a garden hose, a nearby working water supply, or don't like this idea, at the end of this article you'll find links to alternative approaches to restoring the water pump to operation.
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This pump needs to send water down into the well (and through a special valve at the end of the water pickup-pipe in the well) in order to bring water back to the building.
If your water pump is a submersible unit the pump is located down in the well itself. In this case if you have not got water pressure, the problem may be with the pump or the well itself, but it's not a loss of prime - submersible water pumps are self-priming.
If your water pump is a one-line jet pump, it is sucking water from a shallow well; you probably don't need to do so, but the instructions below show how to prime the well pump and they should work equally well for either a one-line jet pump or a two line jet pump.
If your water pump keeps losing prime, a shallow well jet pump well line could have
A leak in the well line piping itself can also lead to loss of prime. If priming the well water pump using one of our methods shown below seems to fix the problem but soon the well pump loses prime again, your plumber will want to check for a bad foot valve in the well or a leak in the well piping between the well and the building.
But where a jet pump is installed, you may have lost prime at the pump. The pump motor will run but no water is delivered. If this happens it is possible to re-prime the pump with water from another source. Check valves installed at the proper location at the pump and perhaps elsewhere can help prevent loss of prime on this system. (Other problems that can give the same symptom include internal damage to the water pump, a well that has run dry, or a piping leak between the well and the building it serves.)
Steps in Using a Garden Hose to Prime the Well Pump
If your 2-line jet pump (or other above-ground well water pump) loses prime and cannot draw water from the well, don't let it keep running as you may burn up the pump motor or damage the pump internal parts. Take these steps:
The steps below describe how to use an ordinary garden hose connected to another water supply source to prime a well pump. We give very detailed instructions, but actually the procedure is very simple and if it works, your pump will be primed and working in just a few minutes.
If your well pump has lost prime and you are about to try opening a plug on the water pump housing to add priming water you might see that the plug is badly rusted and corroded - or there may be other reasons why you don't want to start taking apart plumbing fittings, such as - it's Sunday night and there is no chance of purchasing any replacement parts if you break something.
Our photo (left) shows the priming plug on a Goulds two-line jet pump. If you click to enlarge the photo you'll see that we might have been able to remove and replace this plug but we decided to try the garden hose priming method first since we didn't want to disturb this rusty part.
Prime the Pump Using a Garden Hose Without Access to the Water Pressure Tank or Well Pump
Question: Troubleshooting loss of well pump prime after a storm
Feb 15 2015 E.B. asked:
After a power outage last night during our latest storm (which is continuing), my pump lost its prime.
I am attempting to use your garden hose method to restore the prime--am fairly desperate and have questions--I am on my third attempt but should probably count it as second since the first time I only let it run for maybe 10 minutes.
The water flowing from the donor house to my house was coming slowly--I am guessing that the small diameter of the washing machine hose accounts for that.
I do not know how to tell when the water stops flowing into my house and do not have any pressure gauge for the tank--am trying to avoid opening the pump housing because the concrete top of it is very heavy--last time I opened it I damaged my back--I weigh about 115# and am 65 years old.
The pump began running as soon as I restored power--I let it run two minutes and cut the power as you suggested--and am trying the procedure again.
Any suggestions would be appreciated--in case you wish to call my number is 804-512-8503
We want to let the hose run until you think no more water is flowing into your pump and piping - with the pump turned off;
How about trying this - just inventing - connect the donor hose and turn it on at its source.
GO into the house; open a faucet closest to where water enters your house.
When you see water coming out of the faucet, then try shutting off the donor hose and turning on the pump.
Keep me posted.
Reader follow-up: power outage during cold weather froze the pipes, preventing priming and preventing pump operation
I appreciate your information--have resorted to plumber and problem resolved--apparently during the time of the power outage water froze in the pipe as it comes from the pump. I am reasoning that this prevented the water from entering the pump and well shaft.
I would appreciate your opinion as to whether the garden hose method would have worked (even with my lack of expertise), but for the frozen pipe from the pump. Your directions are great-clear and easy to follow. I know that there will be more power outages and the resultant loss of prime and would like to be able to rectify the situation myself.
Reply: details of remote-priming of a water pump without access to the pump or pressure tank
Your email led me to think about using the garden hose pump priming method when there is not convenient access to the pump itself. In that case we're rather flying blind and with few instruments, but it may still be worth a try.
What I was thinking but didn't add ( I worry about giving so much information that I suffocate or in your case drown the reader) was that if we're talking about a well pit, for example, wherein are located the pump, tank, controls, and perhaps the well head, and if we can't open the well pit to hook up a garden hose to a pressure tank drain or a drain near the pump itself, then hooking up a garden hose anywhere on the system might let us push water backwards into the pump to help prime it.
But if there were say a burst pipe anywhere between where we hook up the hose and the pump and tank themselves, we might just be pushing water into - well who knows where - and we might not know it.
For that reason I suggested hooking up the hose, turning it on, then opening a faucet in the home. IF we see water coming out of the faucet we've pressurized the system. If we don't then
Before assuming that a water problem is due to the well itself, remember that there could be other troubles, even simply a loss of power to the pump. See WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE an specific case which offers an example of diagnosis of loss of water pressure, loss of water, and analyzes the actual repair cost.
Continue reading at PRIME the PUMP, HOW TO If you do not have such a source available, we provide alternative methods, or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: shallow well pump keeps losing prime
I have a shallow well that the pump will lose prime. It will prime up to pressure at currently 45 psi, once demand increases the pressure will go gradually down and suddenly drop 10 - 12 psi thus losing prime at 10 - 15 psi to never recover until I prime again. Attempting to prime, there's alot of air bubbles. I just replaced the check valve and bladder tank. I times i can take a long hot shower with no problem or if I just flush the toilet it will lose prime. Can anything be drawn from this?
Bob: on intermittent loss of well prime, you'll need to determine if the leak is in well piping between house and well bottom ( perhaps a leaky well line or bad foot valve) OR a leak at the water pressure tank or an above ground well pump. Shut off all water to the house and watch pressure in the system. If it drops then the leak is outside.
Question: how do I find out what kind of pump I have
well water in rural area, no home within range. pump under ground other suggestions. How do you determine what type of pump you have? - Anonymous 6/11/11
Reply: how to figure out what kind of well pump is installed
What type of well pump do I have?
See WATER PUMP LIFE EXPECTANCY for details about different types of well pumps.
Question: pressure switch keeps tripping, have to re-start pump, no water enters the water ank
I have been having problems with my pressure switch, it keeps tripping, I always have to go out and restart the the pump. I figured the switch was bad so I changed it. Now the tank won't fill and so there is no build in water pressure. I can turn the pump on but it quits running after a few minutes. Its a submerged pump. - Chris 7/17/2011
Chris, if no water is entering your water pressure tank you could have a tank with a collapsed internal bladder; that would be the case if the pump actually runs and is delivering water, but no water enters the tank.
Conversely, if the pump runs but never delivers water, say because well water level has fallen too low or because the pump itself is damaged, the pump motor may run until it overheats and goes off on thermal reset.
See our diagnosic suggestions at WATER PRESSURE PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS TABLE
Question: does a home water pump need a water tank?
does a home water pump need a water tank. can i run the water pump without a water tank. some days no water will reach 2nd floor. and some days even on the 1st floor water is weak. currently running no pump. - Ian 9/25/2011
Why do we need a water pressure tank?
Question: pump priming success using a garden hose connection
I used this workaround with great success. It saved me from having to mess with the pump at all. With this solution you really don't need to touch the pump or any of the plumbing. Very clever! DanMan 9/30/2011
Quite so, Dan. In fact we started using this procedure of finding a way to "back prime" the well pump and piping by connecting a garden hose to a good water source (say a nice neighbor) when dealing with pumps that were so old and rusty that it was perfectly obvious that trying to open a pump priming plug or well pipe connection was going to lead to a whole day or more of repairing and replacing parts.
(May 29, 2011) loyd said:
thank you for your help
Question: we run out of water
(Oct 29, 2011) JAMES BIXBY said:
Pump runs and pumps water until water is gone from pipes and pump housing water is gone.
James, please see WATER PRESSURE PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS TABLE and let me know if you have further questions.
Comment: multiple pump-prime attempts needed
(May 26, 2012) mrac5 said:
After 3rd time it worked like a charm. Thanks!
(Sept 1, 2012) Evelyn said:
We are losing our prime, we have a one line jet pump, 1 1/4 inch line, 140 feet to well and about a 19ft drop, the pump sits below the water line, we have primed from the foot valve many times, we are priming from the foot valve and had the water working, but have lost the prime again, this is the third foot valve, and we have replaced the pump with another one and made sure the pump worked before installing. Help!!
(Oct 28, 2012) Dave said:
my well is on a hill about 15 higher than my basement where my pump and tank are located..spent all day trying to prime my 2 line jet pump and push that water up the hill to fill all my lines..tried the garden hose method...pump was primed and running under 15 minutes...thans to whoever came up with this idea!
(Nov 18, 2012) karen said:
motor to electric well water pump running, but no water is pumping through. What can we do?
If priming the pump still gets no water then there is a piping leak, a damaged pump, or similar problem.
If priming the pump gets water but the pump keeps losing prime, most likely there is a bad foot valve, check valve, or a piping leak....
Or of course your well could be dry.
(Nov 27, 2012) Stacie Andrews said:
Hi, My switch reads 58 psi but I'm getting nothing but air throughout the house. We have a submersible pump. Where should I start?
(Nov 30, 2012) David L said:
My pump runs 5 min build up the pressure to 50psi, then stop, the pressure keep dropping for about 2 min, then down to about 40 psi, the pump starts again. I use 20kwh electricity a day just the pump. I can hear the water running back down to the pump with the "sssssssss" noise. There is no control value between the pump and the wall leading to the well. If I add a check value between the pump and the wall, do you think it will solve the problem?
That hissing noise is typically air escaping from an air volume (AIR VOLUME CONTROLS, WATER TANK) control that is releasing excess air. Your well may use one of several types of SNIFTER & DRAIN BACK VALVES
(Dec 30, 2012) cory said:
my pump won't catch a prime
Cory if you are priming through the pump opening you may have success with the garden hose approach in the article above. Othewise I suspect a well piping leak or loss of water in the well or a damaged well pump.
Question: jet pump ran constantly after an electrical power outage
(Jan 8, 2013) Billy Ray said:
After loss of power during a short blackout the Jet pump constantly ran and no water as coming into the house. I attempted to prime the line via an opening on top of the jet pump which house a pressure gauge. The water would come to the top and blow out of the opening. i continued on with this for days, adding water till it gets tot he top and re screwing the gauge back on then tuning the pump on to no success. I finally decided to check the foot valve and found that it was broken; so I replaced the foot valve; still no water.
found a crack on the larger pipe where it was connected to the jet pump; so I cut the length of the crack off, then purchased new pipe and cut it to length and attached with a connector. still no water is coming into the house whatsoever and I'm not sure what to do at this point. I do however hear water coming into the larger pipe when I'm in the man hole that the well originates from and can hear water running back down the well when the pump is shutoff. it's almost like the water is coming up to the pump, but stopping there and not entering the house.
Often a bad check valve or foot valve is slowly leaking water from the pump back into the well, but because we have electical power, when pressure drops the pump comes back on and restores pressure and water to the water tank often enough that the system never loses prime.
We describe this process as one of th causes of WATER PUMP INTERMITTENT CYCLING
But when we lose electricity the pump can't keep re-priming itself so we lose prime and lose water.
You may need to prime the system.
If that doesn't work and if we are sure there are no other well piping leaks (check in the well too), then possibly that long run-time on the pump ran the pump dry and damged the motor, bearings, or pump impeller.
Then see - WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
(Mar 1, 2013) Dan said:
Hello, I'm trying to troubleshoot a problem with the water system in my home. The information at this site has been a big help thinking the problem through, but I haven't figured it out yet. I'm hoping you may be able to help. My home has a pump and pressure tank that draws water from a buried 1500 gallon water tank in the yard. The buried tank is filled from a well with a well pump which is triggered by a float switch in the tank. Recently the pump to the pressure tank in the house started to run continuously without increasing pressure in the tank. I shut the pump off via the circuit breaker and found the water line into the house from the buried tank was empty (that pipe has heat trace to prevent freezing and so was hot to the touch, indicating it was empty).
I checked the buried tank through the stand pipe and found it was over 1/2 full and so that was not the problem. I then reset the circuit breaker to the pressure tank pump and after about 30s of running it began building pressure to 50 and shut off and there was water in the waterline to the pump again. However, a day later the problem reappeared: pressure tank pump was running without building pressure and water pipe into the house was empty despite the buried tank having water in it. Again, I tripped and reset the circuit breaker and the pump ran and built pressure and all was well. This problem seems to reoccur every day or so.
The only change I've made to the water system in my house recently was replacing the hot water heater last month. When I replaced it, I added 2 ball valves to the waterline upstream from the pump. All the soldered connections seem good. It seems there might be a problem with the line between the tank and the house, but I don't understand why resetting the the pump solves the problem for a day or 2. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
(Mar 11, 2013) jessica 3/11/13 said:
my question was should i replace the pressure gauge now that i already replaced the pressure switch due to kept on tripping and had to refill water for repriming pump, not building any pressure.??
It's very inexpensive and now is a good time to replace a gauge that is damaged or ot working. And if the root problem was debris clogging at the pressure switch then the gauge may be clogging too.
Question: pump doesn't lose prime or I primed it but still have no water. How do I diagnose & fix the problem?
Jan 25, 2014) Anonymous said:
my pump doesn't loose prime, but it still will not bring water into the basement--why?
(Mar 7, 2014) Kevin Airheart said:
My pump came on and pumped water for about 10 mins then shut off...Now when U turn it on U can hear the pump running but no water...
Anon, if you get no water into the building and the pump has prime there may be loss of water in the well, a well piping leak, or a frozen pipe.
Diagnose loss of water pressure
To see a list of things to check
Since you had water for a time, if you lost water while the pump was still running that suggests that either the well has run out or there has been a leak in well piping, or the pump itself is damaged;
If you lost water after the pump shut off, then turned back on, the well may have lost prime, perhaps from a bad foot valve or check valve.
Question: I have water pressure but the pump is running a long time
(Mar 11, 2014) connie said:
A friend came this afternoon and primed the pump . He also added air to the blue tank.
We can't tell without further diagnosis, but the problem could be
- a leak in the well piping
If you turn off water into the building and the pump still can't bring the pressure tank up to pressure high enough to turn off the pump, then the problem has been narrowed down somewhat.
For a diagnostic procedure see WATER PUMP WONT STOP RUNNING
Question: primed the pump but still get no water. What might be wrong?
5/27/14 George McVey said:
Shallow well is 15 meters deep, 5+ meters of water. A 1hp jet water pump is rated for 22 meters head pressure, but NO water comes out. Foot valve was checked and working properly. Primed pump using prime hole, after filled with water, water level stayed up. Returned prime screw, turned on pump...and still very little water for a few seconds, then nothing. Is pump worn out? What does it take to repair pump?
George the pump impeller could be damaged, but before replacing the pump I'd try a more thorough priming. Often if you are filling the pump cavity with water (priming the pump) but the whole line to the well is air-filled, that single water dose isn't enough. The pump quickly draws air into the pumping chamber and is air bound again.
The solution is repeated priming through the pump prime opening, or easier is to use the garden hose hookup for priming as described in the article above.
If that still doesn't work see See WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
Keep me posted
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