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WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL CHLORINATION & DISINFECTION
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This article describes and identifies the switches, controls, and safety devices used on water tanks and water pumps such as the pump pressure control switch, pump motor relays, water tank relief valve, water tank pressure gauge, water tank air volume control, and water tank air valve.
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This article uses sketches and photographs to assist in locating and identifying all of the controls and switches found on residential water supply systems including the well, water pressure tank, water pump, and their associated valves and devices.
We also provide maintenance and repair and emergency water shutoff tips throughout these descriptions.
In addition to the individual well, pump, and tank component photographs provided in the article below, our photograph at left has a number easy-to-identify water system components that happen to all be in one place:
Guide to Identification of the Water System Components Shown in the Page Top Sketch
The page top sketch is expanded by detailed photographs as we explain each of the components and controls of wells, pumps, and water tanks. In our sketch (sorry the author is a technician but not an artist), you can identify the basic components of a private well system (listed next) but as you'll see in our detailed articles and photos which follow, these components are not always located where they're as easy to spot and name as in our drawing.
Air valve (Label #7 in the page top sketch and shown in the photo at left) or "Schrader valve" (looks like a tire valve). The water tank air valve shown in this photo is one that you should not normally have to use as it's installed on a captive air or bladder type water tank.
At WATER TANK AIR, HOW TO ADD we discuss adding the right amount of air to a non-bladder steel or glass-lined well tank.
An air volume control valve or device is not present on "captive air" bladder type water tanks - this control can take several appearances. Here is a photo of a different type of water tank air volume control.
Details on using and repairing water tank air volume controls are at WATER TANK AIR VOLUME CONTROLS
Check Valves on water piping, well pumps, wells. Shown below.
Check valves prevent back-flow of water through piping for any of several reasons such as preventing loss of well pump prime by a check valve located at an above-ground water pump or at the water pressure tank - see CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY
Electrical Power (Labeled SW in the sketch at page top) - Electrical switch at the water pump. See WATER PUMP ELECTRICAL SWITCHES
Foot Valves on well piping are located on the bottom of the well piping, inside the water well. The foot valve helps prevent loss of prime in the well pump and piping system when the pump stops running - see FOOT VALVES
Piping (Labeled "from pump & well" at left) - Well piping bringing water from the well to the water pressure tank and building. See WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
Piping (Labeled "to house fixtures" at right )- Building water supply piping a main water line leaving the water pressure tank and bringing water to the building and its fixtures.
Our illustration (above left) shows a low-pressure well spool using a clamp-on pitless adapter in a design suitable for artesian wells whose head pressure is equal to or less than 5 psi (a head of 11.5 ft.) - courtesy Michigan DEP.
We illustrate and discuss the use of pitless adapters at PITLESS ADAPTER. Also see
Low Water Cutoff for the Well Pump - Many sources, including the Penn State School of Forest Resources recommend installing a low water cutoff device to protect a well pump that has to operate in an inadequate or low-yield well. That resource describes an electrical low-water cutoff switch.
A low water sensing device to protect a well pump may be installed in an intermediate water storage tank, for example. If your well pump has stopped running and an electric low water cutoff switch is installed you'll want to check that the switch is working properly.
Details about electric and other low water cutoff devices to protect the well pump from damage are described in detail at WATER PUMP TYPES & LIFE EXPECTANCY
The water pump shown in this photo is installed right on top of the water tank and it is easily identified as a "one line jet pump" since we see only a single pipe entering the pump from the well - the black ABS piping coming into the pump from its lower left.
If you do not see a water pump anywhere in the building, and if the property does not use an outdoor well pit or well house, then your well water pump is probably a submersible unit.
The water pump relay switch is a heavy-duty switch that turns on and off a submersible water pump. Some lower ampacity submersible well water pumps may be switched on and off directly by the pump pressure control switch.)
For details about the water pump relay switch, its use, inspection, and repair, See WATER PUMP RELAY SWITCH
Relief Valve (Label #2) - pressure relief valve on the water tank.
Should the water tank rupture, even at fairly low pressures, a bystander could be hurt or even killed.
Shutoff (Label #5) - Main water shutoff valve.
A main water shutoff valve, in this case the blue lever labeled "WATER" with white tape is shown to the left of the pressuregauge and pressure tank drain valve in our photograph (white arrow).
Details about water shutoff valves can be found at MAIN WATER SHUTOFF VALVE
The well water pump pressure control switch is the "brain" of a home pump and well system, sensing the water pressure in the building and controlling the turn-on (at low pressure or "cut-in" pressure) and turn-off (at high pressure or "pump cut-out" pressure) of the water pump itself.
See WATER PUMP PRESSURE CONTROL SWITCH for details. The detailed, step by step procedure for inspecting and adjusting the water pressure control switch is
discussed in detail at ADJUST PUMP PRESSURE CONTROL.
Tailpiece - in the well: The tailpiece is an extension on the bottom of well piping (blue) in our drawing at left.
When the well pump's capacity is known to exceed the flow rate of the well, a tail pipe, tail piece, or low water cutoff control is installed to protect the pump from damage such as that caused by well pump cavitation or motor overheating.
Details about this component are at WELL PIPING TAIL PIECE.
Tank (Label #1) - water tank: The water pressure tank showing air in the upper portion and water in the lower portion of the tank. The water pressure tank in most buildings has the job of smoothing the pressure and flow of delivery of water to the building.
At a property whose water well has very limited recovery rate or flow rate, the water tank may be larger, or there may be several of them installed.
In this case the water tank is also storing a buffer quantity of water for use in the home so that the poor well delivery rate does not directly affect the occupants in the building.
Tee (Label #2) - Bronze tee and water tank pressure relief valve (not always present, but a relief valve should always be installed - add one if it's missing.)
In our photo abov e you can see the bronze water tank tee (blue arrow) attached to the bottom of a water tank, and providing a plumbing connection point for a water tank gauge (green arrow), pressure relief valve (red arrow), and a tank drain valve (yellow arrow) all mounted in this photograph. See TANK RELIEF VALVE
Detailed descriptions of individual water system parts and controls, valves, switches, pumps, piping, etc., how they work, how to diagnose, repair, or replace them are provided in the remaining chapters of this article and are listed just below.
Readers of this document should also see Water pump and pressure tank repair diagnosis & cost an specific case which offers an example of diagnosis of loss of water pressure, loss of water, and analyzes the actual repair cost. If your building has water pressure problems, see WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS. Readers whose wells simply run out of water should also see WELL QUANTITY FLOW TEST PROCEDURE and see WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT.
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: my well pump starts "skipping" (short cycling) at the cut-out pressure.
When my pump reaches the shut off point, it starts skipping......stuttering, then shuts off. I thought maybe the water filter was dirty so I changed it. The pump still stutters. I know ts cannot be good for the points. Any suggestions? Thank you for your time - S.D., Florida
Reply: things to check when the well pump chatters or skips at the top end of the pump pressure cycle
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with a well pump whereas by email our reply may be more of a "guess". That said, here are some things to consider:
Other possible problem sources that cause a pump to chatter or cycle at the end of the pumping cycle:
Let us know what you find - what we learn will help other readers diagnose and fix well and water pump problems.
Question: How to wire up my well pump switch to run when the rainbird water computer turns on
I have a rainbird water computer that I need to switch on a pump at the same time that it opens the electric water tap. Pump uses 220V so I need to get some relays. How do I wire these up? - Godfrey 11/7/11
If you don't have the instructions for your particular Rain-Bird equipment, contact Rain Bird Corporation at 6991 East Southpoint Rd., Tucson, AZ 85756, Tel: (520) 741-6100, or at 970 West Sierra Madre Ave. Azusa, CA 91702, Tel: (626) 812-3400 - the company's online store.rainbird.com provides links to manuals and documents for their equipment.
Question: What size of well pump pressure control switch should I use?
How does one know which pressure switch to use? a 20/40, 30/50, or a 40/60? I have a 30/50 and would like to use a 40/60. Would this damage my system or just give me better water pressure? - Steve B. 5/12/12
Steve. you'd select a water pressure switch among the three choices you list based on a balance between the desired pressure in the home (taller home, long piping runs benefit from higher pressure at the tank), and the capability of your water pump. Typically you can use any of the three without a problem, as long as you make sure that your pump is able to reach the cutoff pressure. If it cannot, but you're close, you can adjust the pressure control switch as needed. A safe bet is the 30/50 switch.
Question: my new water pressure tank came with just a single outlet fitting at the tank bottom - it does not match my old water tank controls and connections - photos of water tank cross unit or "tank tee"
Our photo (at left) shows a water tank cross unit installed on a home in Two Harbors MN. This installation lacks an important safety device - a pressure relief valve. The installer told us he sometimes installs the relief valve inside the well to avoid flooding the building - an unsafe practice because 1. you can't see the valve to know that it is leaking and becoming unsafe and 2. in this case he forgot to do so, leaving this system unprotected.
I am replacing a tank with bad bladder with a new bladder tank. Unbeknownst to me, there is some difference in the set up of the 2 tanks.
The existing tank has the source going directly in the tank (with pressure switch and brass valve inline) and the feed or output is from a separate pipe output fitting in the tank, and the pressure gauge is screwed in another fitting of the tank.
The new tank has only 1 connection at the bottom of the tank, with no separate output fitting or gauge fitting.
Directions with new tank outline using a "tank cross unit"? That shows both the source and feed pipes going into the cross unit which has a pressure switch mounted.
No doubt that scenario allows the use of just the single tank connection for both source and feed. I should mention that I have a deep well submersible pump.
Question - can I use my existing set up and adapt to the single connection new tank by merely placing a tee in that single tank connection and running the source in one end and the feed out the other side of the tee with the 3rd branch of course going into the tank? In additon, "if" I can do that, do I then adapt that pressure gauge in the pipe on the feed side of the tee, or just elimnate it?
Hope I was clear enough and will appreciate any feedback. B.C.
From your description I'm guessing that your tank was sold as a "bare" unit - just the water pressure tank. Other tank assemblies include a brass or bronze tee fitting mounted at that single tank inlet port. The tee, what your instructions call a tank cross unit, incorporates threaded fittings and tappings to accept all of the necessary connections to the water pressure tank: the pressure control switch, pressure relief valve, water inlet from the well, water outlet to the building, a tank drain, and in some cases, a shutoff valve for the line feeding the building.
You can use the new water tank that you have, but you'll need to visit a plumbing supplier to purchase the missing parts.
In our photo at above left as well as in our article above, at WATER PUMP CONTROLS & SWITCHES you can see photographs of the water pressure tank cross unit or water tank tee we are discussing.
You can most likely move over your existing controls and fittings to the new tank cross unit, though in the case of a pressure relief valve and gauge I'd prefer to use new equipment.
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