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WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
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 FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Well pump pressure control switch adjustment: This article describes How to Find & Adjust or Repair or Replace the Water Pump Pressure Control, what it looks like, where it is usually connected. If you need to adjust water pressure at a building served by a private pump and well system, or if your well pump is acting badly, this pressure control switch may need adjustment or repair/replacement.
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In the sketch above the pump pressure control switch is item #4 - we show this switch in more details in photographs provided 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 water supply is from a municipal water main rather than a private well, see WATER PRESSURE REGULATOR ADJUSTMENT.
This is a typical Water Pump Pressure Control Switch, normally found mounted on piping at the water pressure tank such as in this Square D Pumptrol® Switch example where you see a small gray-covered box with electrical wires coming in (power) and out (to pump) of it.
The pump pressure control switch, by being connected
to the actual water piping in the building, senses the water pressure and when necessary, turns the water pump on.
Well Pumps Controlled Directly by the Pressure Control Switch - when is a separate relay switch needed?
The well pump pressure control switch type shown here can be used to control well pumps wired either for 120V or 240V power supply, up to 15-amps. This switch serves both above ground jet pumps and smaller horsepower submersible well pumps.
For larger horsepower submersible well pumps that draw greater than 15A current, as we mentioned above, a separate heavy duty (higher ampacity capacity) pump relay switch is used to turn on and off the pump motor. The pump pressure control switch senses changes in water pressure in the system and according to its cut-in/cut-out setting, that device in turn operates the WATER PUMP RELAY SWITCH which in turn operates the well pump.
A Guide to Building Water Pressure by Adjusting or Repairing the Water Pump Pressure Control Switch
If the water pump "short cycle" is very short, clicking on and off, there could be a shortage of air in the water tank, or there could be a problem with the pump control pressure switch itself, or even a dirty and clogged water filter if one is installed on the system. Dirty water filters and other causes of rapid water pump on-off cycling are discussed at CAUSES OF SHORT CYCLING.
These water pump short cycling problems happen with both in-building jet pumps and with in-well submersible pumps. It's trickier to notice
a short cycling submersible pump since you won't hear the pump motor, but you will hear the pump relay clicking on and off, or
you can see the water pressure gauge cycling up and down rapidly.
This photo shows a green-painted pressure control switch, mounted on the left side of the one line jet pump. You can see a copper tube that runs from the bottom of the pump pressure control switch bottom over to a fitting at the top center of the face of the jet pump.
[Click to enlarge this or any photo]
This tube is sensing system water pressure inside of the pump housing. The bottom of the pump (or water) pressure switch contains a rubber diaphragm that is pushed on by water pressure conducted to it through this tube. The diaphragm in turn operates the pump relay that turns the water pump on and off.
If the water supply is high in sediment often sediment will clog the pressure sensing opening at the bottom of the pressure control. We've tried cleaning out this orifice but it's never proven to be a lasting repair. If your pump pressure switch stops responding to changes in water pressure it probably needs to be replaced.
A defective water pressure control switch. Switch contacts can burn-up, or the opening into the switch
which senses the water pressure in the system can become clogged with sediment or debris. This usually
shows up as failure of the pump switch to turn on or off at all, rather than short cycling. But the switch could be damaged or improperly adjusted, causing "short water pump cycling."
Details about this switch are at WATER PUMP PRESSURE CONTROL SWITCH
Technical note: Clogging of the Water Pump Pressure Control Switch if your water has a high level of silt, debris, or minerals, it's possible that the tubing or piping connecting the pump pressure switch to the pump or water piping (red arrow in photo at left), or the pump switch bottom orifice through which the pressure switch senses the water pressure in the system has become clogged.
The small diameter of this tubing and still smaller diameter of the pump switch orifice makes clogging easy if your well water is high in sediment or minerals.
On rare occasions we can tap on the well pump control switch and it will begin working again, but not for long, and not reliably. Another water pressure control switch failure is the rupture of a rubber disk or "bladder" inside the switch itself. If you detect or suspect a defective pressure control switch, try replacing it with a new one.
We see a similar problem affecting water pressure gauges on private water systems: debris or mineral deposits can clog the pressure sensing orifice on the water pressure gauge, causing it to fail to respond at all, or to respond inaccurately to changes in water pressure.
When we find a clogged water pump pressure switch or the tubing connected to it, or a clogged water pressure gauge, we replace those items. A well pump pressure gauge that does not respond to pressure changes is potentially unsafe as it could lead to excessive pressurization of the water tank and building piping.
Watch out: some pump pressure control switches may mount directly to a water pressure tank without an obvious 1/8" or 1/4" ID mounting tube. In our pressure switch photo at left the red arrow points to the mounting base for the pressure control switch and you'll see that this control was screwed right into the water tank at a threaded tapping.
But the pressure sensing membrane found on the bottom (or in this case on the left side in our photo) of the pressure control switch can still become damaged or the orifice that admits water (and pressure) is easily clogged. The effect of debris clogging at a water pump pressure control switch is the same regardless of whether or not a longer mounting tube is used to mount the switch to the water system.
Reader Question: we don't have the money to hire someone - how do we do pump switch adjustment ourselves
We dont have the money to hire some one to do this it is the well itself so how do i do it ourselves - Mike 7/29/12
Watch out: messing with a pump pressure control switch exposes live electrical connections - you can be killed if you touch live wires. Another catastrophe to avoid is setting the pressure too high, causing leaks or worse, a burst water tank that could injure anyone nearby.
How to increase both the water pump pressure control cut-in and cut-out pressure
I have a square d control. It cuts off at 40 psi and goes down to 20 psi before it comes back on which is to low when I am using one sprinkler. I want it to come on at 30 psi. I can't understand how to do that looking your directions. Pls help - John 5/19/11
How to increase the water pump pressure control cut-in and cut-out pressure:
If the pump keeps running forever even AFTER you have turned off the water, then it is not capable of reaching 50 psi and you'll have to lower that setting to avoid burning up the water pump.
How to Identify the Brand or Model of Water Pressure Control Switch
Take a look at the embossed design (such as a Square-D) or look for label text as illustrated below.
Reader Question: Can you identify the manufacturer of this water pump pressure control switch on a mobile home?
Your site has been so (extremely) helpful. Thank you for the information.
I am wondering if you, being familiar with water pump systems, know the manufacturer of this Pressure Control Switch? Only a few letters are readable (at the bottom), but I am hoping it is enough. - J.X.
Reply: Looks like a Square-D pressure control switch
Perhaps we can identify this pump pressure control switch from several things that are legible on the switch tag:
From the yellow wire in the photo bottom, most likely this is a 120V switch; so even though we know it's serving a mobile home it's not a 12V device. (Some mobile homes and motor homes use 12V pumps for managing their water supply.)
Second, the layout of the data tag and the remaining letters at the bottom of that tag look a lot like "SQUARE D COMPANY. You can just make out the letters ".... QUAR ..." that's a compelling argument for Square D.
[Click any of our images to see an enlarged, detailed version. ]
Finally, if you look at the switch cover you might see a "D" with a rectangle embossed around it, or best yet, you might see the company name and details on a label stuck to the interior of the switch cover.
In any event from the data tag on the switch, a standard 120V/240V pressure control switch made by Square D or similar manufacturers should be just fine if you need a replacement.
You might turn off electrical power, remove the control switch, and take it to your local plumbing supplier for a match. To remove the switch you may need to plug the piping where the switch senses water pressure or drain water pressure from the system.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Why won't the pressure control switch cut-on at low pressure?
Water tank is set at 50/70 why wont it cut on at low pressure - it only clicks like missing its starting point .
We had points replaced last year but it still wont start (kick on) we had left home for a week and only cut water supply off to house and cut off hot water heater - now it wont work right - Barry.
Reply: Check for a clogged or blocked sensor on the pressure control switch - replace the switch assembly
If your pressure switch is not turning the water pump on it could be a clog in the pressure sensor switch or its mount, or you need a new switch. Often debris in the water supply clogs the small orifice on the bottom of the pressure control switch. That orifice is intended to allow water (or air) pressure in the water piping to press against a diaphragm that operates the pressure control switch.
In sum, if your prior repair replaced just the internal points assembly in the pressure switch, the switch may be old enough that its sensor is clogged.
Question: why does our water tank sometimes not fill up properly?
May I ask a Well Question as my Water Well Repair man is stumped. Our Well is a gusher. No water level issues. The Well Pump is working inconsistently.
For example, our 5,000 gallon Storage Tank will be half full and the Well Pump will not fill the tank. I turn the Well Pump off then ON right away and it works again. As I use the water in the tank it will pump just fine for days then, days later, I will check the tank.it is half full. I turn the Well pump on and off and it starts up again.
My Well repair man replaced the PUMP SAVER in the electrical box. Still having this issue. It did not resolve it. Our Well Pump is only 4.5 years old. We replaced the Float Value about 4 years ago. The Booster Pump is 4 years old. So everything is fairly new. We live in California in a mild climate. No snow, no freezing. Any thoughts/suggestions would be gratefully appreciated Y.A. 11/14/2014
Reply: not sure, but check the pressure control switch first - but you may have a well flow problem
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that would permit a more accurate, complete, and authoritative answer than we can give by email alone. You will find additional depth and detail in articles at our website.
That said I offer these comments: I was a bit baffled too, and I'm not sure what's going on. But I think an important key is your observation that switching the pump off and immediately back on seems to cure an intermittent problem.
From that I suspect a problem with the pressure control switch. The problem could be electrical, in the switch itself, or more likely in the pressure sensor component of the switch. If debris clogs the tiny opening that lets the switch sense water pressure the switch may not respond properly. Switching it on and off can be enough of a mechanical disturbance to get it running again.
Next time you see this problem, before turning power on and off, try just tapping on the pressure switch. Leave its cover on (shock hazards), just rap on the exterior of the box.
Watch out: about your comment that you observe the pressure tank just half full. The water level in a pressure tank indeed will be below "full" if users stopped running water before pressure in the tank fell below the cut-in pressure. But if you keep running water and pressure falls to zero and the pump does not turn on, then indeed there is a control or switch problem
Also, to be clear, water pressure tanks are never completely full of water. That condition would lose the air charge, the tank would not work properly and the pump would short cycle - that's a waterlogged pressure tank. ( WATER TANK AIR LOSS SIGNS)
Watch out: The real problem may be lack of water in the well. Something you wrote makes no sense to me. If your well is a "gusher" with no water quantity or flow problems, it would be, well frankly, bizarre to have installed a 5000 gallon water pressure tank. And on a "gusher" well you would probably not need a pump saver. Those components are things we associate with a water well with very low flow or recovery rates.
In such circumstances the installer installs a very large water storage tank and sets up the system to draw water from the well very slowly (or not at all depending on well condition) so the large water storage tank is what assures a ready water supply to the building, not the well itself.
In such circumstances, even a small change in the water table or aquifer supplying the well could mean loss of well water and loss of water in the system - seasonally or longer.
When I mentioned TANK – I meant water Storage Tank, not pressurizer tank. We have A LOT of landscaping and pump water into a 5,000 gallon storage tank with a float value. Our pressurizer tank is the normal size. We only use our Well water for landscaping, not our house.
Reply: got it. Thanks for the clarification; let me know what happens when you mess with the switch. I forgot to mention that the two common clog places are at the base of the switch itself and in the small diameter tube or pipe that is used to carry water and pressure to the switch base. Typically we'd replace both of those parts if we thought that was the problem. The risk of debris clogging of the pressure switch is greater for wells that deliver water with sediment.
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