What is Short Cycling and Why is it a Problem?
Short cycling, as the name implies, is when your well pump turns on and off rapidly or more frequently than it should. It means that the pump is not running long enough to meet the water demands of your household. Instead, it turns on frequently for a short time, then off and on again, causing wear and tear on the pump components and the electric switch that controls it. Short cycling is not only a nuisance, but it also increases your electricity bills and reduces the lifespan of your well pump.
If your well occasionally turns on and off, that is normal and no cause for concern. But if it keeps doing so, then you have a short cycling issue that needs fixing. There are several reasons why your well pump may be short cycling, as outlined below.
Pressure Tank Issues:
One of the most common causes of short cycling is a faulty pressure tank that cannot hold enough water to meet the household’s demand. The pressure tank is responsible for storing water that is pumped from the well and easing the cycling of the water pump. If the pressure tank is damaged or has a leak, it won’t hold enough water, and the pump will need to work harder and turn on more frequently to meet the household’s water needs.
Leaking pipes in your well pump system can cause short cycling. When pipes are leaking, they reduce the water pressure in the system by allowing water to escape, resulting in the pump turning on more frequently than necessary. Checking and repairing any leaks can solve the short cycling issue.
Wrong Pump Size:
Another reason for short cycling may be the wrong-sized well pump installed for your household’s water demand. If the pump is too small, it will turn on and off frequently because it can’t keep up with your household’s water demand. On the other hand, if the pump is too big, it will pump excess water, causing the pressure switch to turn it off before it meets the household’s demands.
Pump Switch Issues:
The pump switch is the component that controls the on and off cycle of the well pump. If the switch is faulty or not installed correctly, it will cause problems with the well’s water supply, leading to short cycling and other issues. A professional well pump technician can help determine if the switch is the problem and make any necessary repairs.
Well pumps rely on electricity to operate. Electrical issues such as faulty wiring, a damaged motor starter, or a weak breaker can cause the pump to turn off and on frequently, leading to short cycling. An electrician can help diagnose and fix any electrical issues.
In summary, short cycling is a common problem with well pumps that causes wear and tear on the pump components, increases your electricity bills, and reduces the lifespan of your well pump. Several reasons can cause short cycling, such as pressure tank issues, leaking pipes, wrong pump size, pump switch issues, and electrical issues. Identifying the cause of the problem and making the necessary repairs can help avoid unnecessary expenses and ensure regular water supply to your household.
Check your pressure tank for issues
If you’re experiencing short cycling on your well pump, one of the most common culprits is a pressure tank issue. Pressure tanks play an essential role in maintaining water pressure, pressure consistency, and reducing the need for the pump to cycle on and off regularly. The pressure tank has two chambers, one filled with air and the other with water. The air chamber on top of the tank maintains the pressure at which the pump kicks on, while the lower chamber holds water.
If the pressure tank and the pressure switch are working correctly, the pressure switch will sense when the pressure in the tank has dropped below a specific level. It will then signal the pump to turn on and pump more water into the tank. Once the pressure in the tank hits the maximum set pressure it turns the pump off. When multiple fixtures are using water the pressure will decrease, and the pressure switch will signal the pump to turn back on.
However, the air chamber’s pressure can lower over time, and the pressure switch will not detect the correct pressure levels in the tank, causing short cycling. The air in the bladder can escape or become compressed, reducing the tank’s overall capacity to store and hold water. This reduction in the tank’s size can lead to short cycling. It’s essential to check the air pressure in the air chamber frequently.
To test your pressure tank’s air pressure, turn off the power supply to your well. Then locate the valve stem on the top of the pressure tank and use a tire gauge to see what the current air pressure is. The most efficient way is to drain all the water out of the tank and check the air pressure. The goal is to make sure you add air precisely at the recommended pressure found below the valve cap, which is typically around 2psi below the “pressure on” level or what the owners manual says.
If your pressure tank’s air pressure is below the recommended level, you can use an air compressor to add air until it reaches the optimal pressure. Once you have added air, turn the power supply back on, and you should see some improvement in the well pump’s performance. If you have done all of this and there is no change, the bladder may have failed and may need to be replaced.
Another issue to watch out for is the waterlogged pressure tank. A waterlogged tank occurs when the air chamber has been compromised, and water is in it. It can cause pressure on the bladder and preventing the tank from functioning correctly. You can check if your tank is waterlogged by turning off the power equivalent to your well pump, draining all the water out of the system, and then checking the air pressure. If the pressure does not match recommendations, and you see water seeping out of the valve, that’s a good indication that the pressure tank is waterlogged, and it needs replacement.
Pressure tanks play an essential role in the well pump system, and checking them frequently can prevent short cycling in the long run. Make sure you check your pressure tank at least twice a year to avoid any costly repairs down the road.
Inspect the Well Pump Control Switch
If your well pump is short cycling, the first thing you should examine is the control switch. A control switch is an electrical device that controls the operation of a pump. In simpler terms, it turns the pump on or off depending on the level of water in the well or storage tank. The switch is responsible for sensing the water pressure or level and turning the pump on or off accordingly.
So, how do you inspect the control switch? First, you need to locate it. The switch is usually located near the pressure tank or the well pump itself. You may need to remove the cover or a panel to access it. Once you’ve located it, visually inspect the switch for any signs of damage or wear and tear. Check for burns, melted wires, or signs of corrosion. If you notice any of these, you’ll need to replace the switch.
If the switch looks fine, the next step is to test it with a multimeter. A multimeter is a device that can measure voltage, current, and resistance. To test the switch, you’ll need to set the multimeter to measure resistance or continuity. Then, disconnect the wires from the switch terminals and touch the multimeter probes to the terminals. If the switch is functioning properly, the multimeter should indicate that there is continuity between the terminals when the switch is closed and no continuity when the switch is open.
If the switch fails the continuity test, you’ll need to replace it. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, you should hire a professional to do it for you. Replacing the switch involves disconnecting the old switch and connecting the new one. You’ll need to make sure that the wires are connected to the right terminals and that they’re securely fastened.
Once you’ve replaced the switch, test the pump to see if it’s still short cycling. If it is, then the switch may not have been the problem. In this case, you’ll need to move on to the next step of troubleshooting.
Inspecting the well pump control switch can be a simple fix for short cycling. By visually inspecting the switch and testing it with a multimeter, you can determine if it’s the culprit of the problem. If it is, replacing the switch should solve the issue. However, if short cycling persists, you’ll need to continue troubleshooting to identify the root cause.
Test and replace the pressure switch if necessary
If your well pump is short cycling, the problem could be caused by a failing pressure switch. The pressure switch is responsible for turning the pump on and off based on the pressure in the tank. Over time, the switch can wear out, causing it to malfunction. Testing and replacing a pressure switch is a straightforward process, but it does require some basic electrical knowledge. If you are not comfortable working with electricity, it is best to call a professional.
The first step in testing the pressure switch is to turn off power to the well pump at the breaker box. Next, remove the cover from the pressure switch, which should be located near the pressure tank. Carefully disconnect the wires from the switch terminals and label them so that you know which wire goes where. Use a multimeter to test the continuity of the switch contacts while the pump is running. The switch should be closed while the pump is running and open when the pressure reaches the cutoff point. If the switch fails this test, it needs to be replaced.
Replacing the pressure switch is a simple process, but it does require some preparation. Before you begin, purchase a replacement pressure switch that matches the original switch in voltage, amperage, and pressure settings. Make note of the current pressure settings on the old switch. You will need to set the new switch to the same pressure settings.
Begin by turning off power to the well pump at the breaker box. Next, remove the wires from the old pressure switch, taking care to label them so that you know which wire goes where. Remove the old switch from the water line and attach the new switch in its place. Be sure to use teflon tape on the threads to ensure a tight seal. Next, reconnect the wires to the new switch, making sure that they are connected to the correct terminals.
Once you have installed the new pressure switch, it is important to set the pressure settings to match the old switch. This can be done using the adjustment screws on the top or side of the switch. Make sure you set both the cut-in and cut-out pressures to match the old switch.
After you have replaced the pressure switch, turn on power to the well pump and monitor the system to ensure that it is functioning properly. If your well pump is still short cycling after replacing the pressure switch, there may be a more serious issue with the pump or the well system. In this case, it is best to call a professional to diagnose and repair the problem.
Short cycling is a common problem with well pumps, but it can usually be easily fixed by testing and replacing the pressure switch. If you have basic electrical knowledge and the right tools, you can perform this repair yourself. However, if you are not comfortable working with electricity, it is best to call a professional. By following these simple steps, you can get your well pump working properly and avoid costly repairs in the future.
Call a professional if you’re still experiencing issues
If none of the earlier solutions have proved effective in fixing short cycling well pump, despite your earnest efforts, then it is time to consider calling in a pump professional. This is particularly true if you suspect that the problem with your well pump lies in the pump itself or the well’s infrastructure. Such problems can be quite intricate and technical, requiring specialist skills, tools, and equipment to resolve.
Before calling in a professional, acquaint yourself with some key facts that you will need to provide them with relevant data that will help them determine the problem. For instance, they may ask you to provide the following:
- The well’s depth and location
- The type of well pump you have and its size
- The age of the well pump
- The distance between your well pump and the pressure tank
- Any recent changes, such as system upgrades or adjustments, that may have impacted your well pump’s performance
- A detailed description of the signs and symptoms you are experiencing, including any unusual noises, leaks, or drops in water pressure
With this information, the pump professional will perform a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis of your well pump to identify the root cause of the short cycling problem. They will employ various methodologies to test the integrity of your well pump and suggest possible solutions based on the outcomes they observe. These solutions may include:
- Repair or replace faulty parts
- Clean or replace clogged pipes or well screens
- Adjust the water pressure switch or install a new one
- Replace the well pump entirely and install a new one
- Install anti-short cycling devices to prevent future short cycling problems
If a well pump replacement is necessary, the professional will recommend one that is adequate for your water usage needs and compatible with your well infrastructure. They will then install the new pump and ensure that it is working efficiently and effectively before leaving.
Remember, it is crucial to hire a licensed, experienced, and reputable well pump professional when you encounter short cycling well pump issues. Look for online reviews, referrals, and credentials to verify their credentials and ensure that they can deliver quality service. It is also a good idea to get a written estimate of the costs of the repair or replacement before starting work to avoid any surprises or hidden fees, and you can budget accordingly.
In conclusion, short cycling well pump problems can be quite frustrating and inconvenient if left unaddressed. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you will be able to diagnose and resolve most short cycling well pump issues using DIY methods. However, if your DIY attempts do not succeed in fixing the problem, do not hesitate to contact a professional well pump technician to help you out and save you time, money, and energy.