Friday, January 13, 2012

Dear god, not again

That's what I thought when the water trickled to a halt as I tried to take a shower. Of course I immediately assumed the well had gone dry and/or the well pump had died, and tried to figure out if we could get a second mortgage before the horse ran out of water, and if not how long it would take to walk back and forth from the neighbors' every day with 5-gallon buckets.

I went and flipped the well pump breaker, just because that's the first thing you always try in troubleshooting. I left it alone and sulked for 10 minutes, then went and looked at the pressure gauge to discover it had shot up to 90 psi. So I thought about it for a bit, then turned on all the taps and drained the pressure down to 35, then cut the taps off and watched the pressure gauge. It refused to budge. I powercycled the pump again and it kicked back on and went up to 75 psi (still too high, but less likely to make me think it was going to explode). That amount of testing convinced me that the problem was with the pressure sensor, the little switch dealie that tells the pump when to pump more water into the pressure tank.

Fortunately those are cheap ($30) and standardized. I went and bought a new one, watched some youtubes, sulked for a while about the unfairness of it all, then got to work. I turned off the power to the pump (and to the water heater for good measure), drained the tank, took the cover off the switch and triple-checked it wasn't still electrified, and took the switch off.

The little T-pipe leading up to the switch and the switch itself were completely clogged with iron and gross black stuff. I dug around in my new white junk drawer and found a pointy stiff piece of wire and chiseled out all the iron deposits from everything I could reach. Then I rinsed everything off, teflon taped the seams, and screwed it back together. It actually worked. I'm gonna wait a couple days and make sure it doesn't break again and then I can return the unused new switch.

Every day, I appreciate the miracle of showers more and more.


  1. If you ever get bored fixing your house, come live with me. I'm sure we can find LOTS of stuff to keep you occupied around here!

  2. Thank you! I am saving this post! I am so sure this is eventually going to happen to me, and you will save me the sulking part ... i hope! Glad you got it worked out.

  3. I am in awe of your ingenuity!!

    I remember my dad and step-dad working on the pumps and such, back when our ranch houses were run on well water (they aren't anymore as everyone had rural water plumbed in when it came through), but I would be at a total loss these days if I ever had to work on a well system. Gak!

  4. You are a dream girl! Just what I need to re wire all the stables! (any chance?)

  5. I know everyone tells you this, but god you are a handy woman!!

  6. *smile* Is the satisfaction of being an independent woman worth the little discomforts and inconveniences?!

    I had to replace my little pressure sensor thingy this summer too. Apparently - the contacts burn out.

    After replacing the pump itself, and the pressure sensor thingy, there is still one more part that can break. The bladder on the inside of the pressure tank. It's kind of a rubber liner that will get rubs and cuts from the junk in the well water - here it's rust from so much iron. Anyhow - hope that helps with future troubleshooting. :)

  7. Funder--You are so good. I would have absolutely no clue how to do any of that. My local handyman would just be that much richer.

  8. You are more competent at fixing things than most! I am impressed.

    Thought of the well going dry alarmed me when we had one. Water was lowest mid-winter. Thank goodness for piped water.

  9. I am so glad my days of living on well water and dealing with stuff like this are long behind me! Of course, I just hollered for the landlord, who hollered for the plumber, who came a fixed the thing. Except the time I found drowned rats in the well. Then I had a good long freak-out cry first before hollering.

  10. You and that water heater do NOT have a good relationship. Oooh, I know, you should sell the house! That'd show it!

    In the meantime, good work on solving yet another hot water issue. Be sure to taken uber-long, uber-hot showers to make up for all your efforts!

  11. CFS - \m/ we rock! I didn't know there was an air bladder til I looked up how the whole system works. Hopefully it'll hang in there a little longer - the pressure tank is fairly new, maybe 5 years old.

    Jean - eeeek! You must have had a shallow well? Mine's totally sealed, I think the report said it's 120' deep.

    Jen - it wasn't the water heater. It was ALL THE WATER. Sob!

  12. Having experienced a year and a half when we were too poor to fix our pump--with two babies under 4 at home--I would rather live without electric than without water (though, obviously, one needs electricity to run the pump...).

    Add to that the fact that over that particular winter our 3/8 mile driveway was impassable by vehicle, and we had to haul not only water, but kids, groceries, laundry, 5-gallon cans of heating oil, lp tanks, up and down that road in a cheap kid's sled.... "Back-to-the-land" was not all it was cracked up to be!


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