Days Without Water: 5

Discussion in 'General Plumbing Help' started by KickForward, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. Jan 13, 2014 #1

    KickForward

    KickForward

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    Hello All -

    Long story short: My family is without water completely now and I'm a bit at a loss for next steps.

    We bought our home a year ago. It sits on top a small mountain (knob as they call them down here) and the water has never been working that great. We have city water, but the meter is roughly 250' below the house. There has always been air coming out of our lines and the pressure was never that good. Our last plumber, of which we've had three now, removed the old pump and bladder tank under the house and installed a 1/2hp pump & pressure tank from Tractor Supply. I'm pretty sure it's this one:

    http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/sto...ith-7-gallon-pre-charged-pressure-tank-1-2-hp

    The air in the lines persisted and actually got worse. Within a couple weeks, the new tank started leaking around the seals at the motor. They came back and replaced it, but then it started happening again. They thought about installing a holding tank before the pump that would slowly fill up so that the pump wouldn't have to work so hard. The thought was that the pump had to work too hard and was burning out the seals. I could never get them to return to test their hypothesis so now I'm with a tank that I think is completely burnt out. It runs, but makes a lot of racket and leaks like crazy.

    Almost a week ago now we've not been able to get water out of our setup at all. I checked the meter yesterday and it's not moving and the ground is soaking wet about 15 feet before it. I called the water company out here today to take a look but they assured me the meter is fine and there's water coming out. They 'broke the nut' on the line attached to the meter and water started shooting out. The water line feeding my pump under the house has no water in it. I'm starting to wonder if the water pressure I have at the meter is not even enough to reach my house. I guess the problem could just be my pump is completely done and I need a fourth one now.

    There's a spigot in the front yard that's connected in-line to our supply line to the house that I dug up today to see if it was causing the line to freeze but it seems fine. I unscrewed a cover at the base and some water poured out, but then settled and there was mostly air. I had the pump running but there seemed to be no water that was able to make it to there, let alone the house.

    Short of digging up my entire line and inspecting it, what do you all think I should do next? My thought is to get a reading somehow off the meter at the bottom of our property to find out how much pressure is there. From there I can find exactly if I should be getting the water to the house on it's own, or if indeed I'll need a pump, and what size. I could also try connecting an air pump at the meter and see if I can get air to come out at the house and that might give me a good idea as to whether or not I should just get a better pump or if I'll need to replace the line with possibly a bigger diameter.

    This is a view from our house to the basic elevation change below:

    [​IMG]

    The line wraps around the house (from what I believe) and is about 600' in length.

    [​IMG]

    I tried not to ramble much, but I fear I went on longer than most will read. I should've been more on top of this during this last year, but with moving 600 miles from home, managing 20+ acres, and having our first child in the Spring, I feel like I'm always behind the 8 ball.

    I'm sure you'll have many questions for me and I'll do my best to answer right away. I'm feeling a little desperate right now and am thankful for any and all suggestions I can get.

    - Josh
     
  2. Jan 14, 2014 #2

    phishfood

    phishfood

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    Is that 250' in elevation difference, or 250' in length? Water loses .434 PSI per foot it goes upward, plus whatever friction loss. So if it really is 250' higher, than you need roughly 110 PSI at the bottom of the hill just to get water to the top of the hill.

    The air in the lines sounds to me like there is a leak somewhere in the supply line, and the pump is sucking air through it. That would fit in with the wet spot you mentioned. Have you tried digging in that area to see if you can locate your supply line?

    I am going to send a PM to one of our members who is more experienced than I am (by far) with pumps, hopefully he will check in.
     
  3. Jan 14, 2014 #3

    KickForward

    KickForward

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    Thanks so much man. My father-in-law is good friends with a plumber back in PA who has done a lot of work on his farm. It seems it's hard to find someone knowledgable enough for my situation.

    The elevation change is about 250' and I'm guessing the line is about 600' from the house (pump) to the meter. So it's 250' over 600'. Obviously I'd like to know better. The meter is a 1" meter so I have all 1" line running on my property.

    The wet spot was before the meter so that's why I called the water company since it would be their responsibility. It's winter now and just a soaking mess outside with the weather we've been having. Trying to track down a wet spot that looks like i should inspect more is pretty impossible right now.

    I asked the guy from the water company if he could test the pressure at the meter, but he couldn't for whatever reason. He estimated it to look like around 150psi from the way it was coming out after he disconnected my line from the meter. I highly doubt that's accurate. If so, I've done the math (as best as I could figure out) and that would be plenty to push the water up the hill to my house.

    Another option I have is to have the meter changed to a 2" meter and run all 2" piping up to the house. I know I still need a pump, but I could also be looking at a volume issue as well that's causing the pumps to burn out.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2014
  4. Jan 14, 2014 #4

    phishfood

    phishfood

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    The 1" meter will provide plenty of water. You might consider having the line running up to your house increased in size, so as to cut down on the friction loss. At 600', I would definitely want something bigger than 1" pipe.

    Is the meter turning, even though you aren't using water?
     
  5. Jan 14, 2014 #5

    KickForward

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    The meter is not running. Along with the water running along the ground before the meter made me think there may be a line problem before my property so i called the water company to investigate.

    I didnt know you could put a larger pipe onto a meter. My soil is obviously rocky and there's places where we have exposed 'bedrock'. It's a good possibility the line isn't buried that well in areas, but it shouldn't be frozen at the moment. I know the spigot out in the front yard was only birdied to a depth of about a foot and half.
     
  6. Jan 14, 2014 #6

    jdc

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    The fact that you were getting alot of air and the wet area near the meter makes me think that you have a broken line. I know you said the wet area was before the meter, but that doesnt mean that the break is right there.

    Also, if the spigot you mentioned is only 1-1/2 ft deep, you could very possibly have a frozen line. I dont know where you are or what the weather is like, but here in Cincinnati, we have to have the waterlines at a minimum of 42". Of course, if you were in Florida, that would be a different matter entirely.

    I definitely wouldnt trust the 150psi estimation you were quoted from the guy at the water dept. He told you it "looked like about 150psi"? Wow...wish I could tell what the pressure was just by looking.


    If the meter isnt turning at all, I'd turn it off, break it loose on the house side of the meter then turn it back on slowly. It goes without saying that you should have water through the meter. To get an measurement on your pressure out of the meter, you'll need to do some reconfiguring of your supply line. You'll need to put in a tee and female adapter, screw in a boiler drain then put a pressure gauge on that. (There are other configurations that would work...that's just one way to do it).

    One last thing. I know this sounds nuts, but I've actually seen this happen. Are you sure the supply from the meter is piped to the inlet of the pump and not the outlet? Got a call a couple of years ago from a customer who installed his own pump and had no water. He had piped it backwards. It happens.
     
  7. Jan 14, 2014 #7

    KickForward

    KickForward

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    haha, well the plumber hooked up the pump so I'm sure it's connected right, but yeah I guess that's another thing to check into. thanks!

    I'm in Kentucky, about 40 mins south of Lexington. I really don't think the line is frozen at this point, but it's a good possibility it did this past week. Our water troubles seemed to have subsided a bit during the warmer parts of last year, and as the cold came back, so did our water problems.

    Why do you mention turning the water off, draining the pipe, and then turning it back on?
     
  8. Jan 14, 2014 #8

    speedbump

    speedbump

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    I got the PM and read up on your post.

    If you have a leak before the meter, it almost has to be the water departments problem. I agree, larger pipe will help a lot. Your plumber couldn't have bought a cheaper pump without trying real hard. That is a Bic Pump.

    When people don't have enough pressure (which is unknown) they sometimes have to put a booster pump at a halfway point to boost the pressure up to the house. Or just to fill a cistern large enough to be pumped out of to feed the home.

    I would get all over the city water dept and have them prove to you what the pressure actually is. You pay them for the water, so they should give you some satisfaction.

    If you want a good pump, look at mine: Jet Pumps
    I would also recommend instead of a pump and tank go with a pump and flow switch. The flow switch will turn the pump on when you open a faucet and let it turn off when you close it. If you go with the cistern, then a tank is necessary. If you go with a cistern, I would recommend a submersible pump in the cistern over a jet pump.
     
  9. Jan 14, 2014 #9

    KickForward

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    The water company is going to send a tech out to take a reading of my pressure at the meter.

    I've considered installing a cistern and even collecting rain water when we could. Like I said we have 20+ acres of which about 8 are fenced in pasture. We have a small pond but I'd like to eventually run more lines out their so we can water cattle or sheep. We had horses in there this past summer but had to carry water up every couple of days.

    I'll go with whatever route gives us the most dependable source of water, keeping in mind we'll one day build off our system.

    Your site looks really nice. I'll most likely send you a pm or call when I have a plan. Thanks!
     
  10. Jan 14, 2014 #10

    speedbump

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    Wells & pumps; not a... Professional

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    I wonder what the costs are to have a well drilled? It might be the way to go in the long run. You might call around some of the Drilling companies in your area, tell them where you are and ask what it might cost, well depth etc. Another reason I suggest that is if your water line ever burst after the meter, your water bill could be in the Thousands of dollars. I have heard some horrific stories.
     
  11. Jan 14, 2014 #11

    KickForward

    KickForward

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    considering I'm up on a large hill, I'd imagine I'd have to go deeper than most people. I've heard from locals that most use cisterns instead of wells because of the ground here in central/eastern Kentucky. Something about it. All the limestone I think. I would love one though. Just the prospect of them drilling and not finding water and leaving me with a hefty bill is a bit frightening. I'm pretty sure I have at least one spring on the property so that might be promising, I don't know.

    My brother-in-law lives about 5 miles at most in a straight line from me and is building a new house and they will be installing a cistern.
     
  12. Jan 14, 2014 #12

    speedbump

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    I can help you with everything you need for a cistern except the cistern itself. Shipping would bankrupt you.

    I have known instances where people on a hill can get water shallower than a valley not too far away. I'm not saying it will work for you, but the drillers in your area should know. I'm with you on the no water/big bill scenario.
     
  13. Jan 14, 2014 #13

    KickForward

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    Ok. I'm going to see what the tech says about my pressure. He should be here today or tomorrow. It may be that I'd need to install a new, larger line anyway. If the pressure at the meter will get water up the hill enough to fill a cistern, then maybe that's an option. I can run rain water into it later. If I do anything that takes a lot of water, like pressure washing house, I'll then have a reserve of water to pull from.

    I'm going to continue tracing the line as best I can to see if I can spot an exposed section of line.
     
  14. Jan 14, 2014 #14

    speedbump

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    Wells & pumps; not a... Professional

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    Keep us posted when you find out something. Especially about the pressure. You might also ask the Tech if you can expect to have highs and lows in pressure during different times of day. That happens a lot too.
     
  15. Jan 14, 2014 #15

    KickForward

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    I definitely will. I work from home so I should be able to run into him while he's here.
     
  16. Jan 21, 2014 #16

    KickForward

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    I got some more developments. I drew this sketch to help explain:

    [​IMG]

    The utility company came back out and found 75 psi at the meter. I got an elevation reading of the meter and my house and there's roughly a 170' difference. That's assuming those handheld gps devices are accurate. By my math, that works out to a 73.78psi drop from meter to house. That would explain why when I open the check valve at the bottom of that spigot there's only a little water in there.

    Assuming my line is in good shape, what would be the best way to get water up to the house? My feeble attempt at a plan is to install a water tank a bit down from the house that would fill up over time and then pump from there to the house. I don't know that it would be the best choice, but seems like it would work. I'm pretty confident that the water would naturally feed the tank and my pump would "suck" from a difference of 20' or so elevation instead of 170'. It would also save me having to dig up a whole bunch of line. I think this would also help when we run out of water often.

    I also spent a lot of time digging up my property trying to find exactly where the line was and what I found wasn't good news. The previous owner told me the line followed the back driveway, but it literally runs straight up through the middle of the driveway. It was rutted out when we bought the place last year and I haven't spent any time repairing it as we don't use it. It rutted out so much that the line is exposed in many places.

    Some pics:

    [​IMG]

    This shows where the meter is. The house is up at the top of the hill, that you can't see. The 2nd driveway cuts across about 10' or so up this hill and loops back around the house.

    [​IMG]

    This is standing on the driveway looking up the hill towards the house. The meter is behind me here further down. You can see we don't have much soil here as you start ascending towards the top.

    [​IMG]

    Water line pretty exposed.

    [​IMG]

    Following the driveway up. The house will be on the right.

    [​IMG]

    Not much soil. The line veers off to the right and cuts through the woods towards the house at this point.

    [​IMG]

    Kinda hard to see. I'm standing at the spot of the last pic looking back down the driveway. The line cuts to the left there (I'm 90% sure of) and heads over to the house. This would be about the spot where I would install a water tank at inline with the existing water line.

    So, is my tank idea kinda on the right track, or am I being stupid? Where would the pump go at this point? What kind of pump?

    Thanks!
     
  17. Jan 21, 2014 #17

    speedbump

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    If you go with a large enough tank, you could put a submersible pump in the tank. You would need a pressure tank, pressure switch and other misc. To control the water in the tank, you would use a float that actuates a solenoid valve. That's what will keep the tank full. You can see a diagram here: http://www.pumpsandtanks.com/Helpful-Info/cistern_sub.htm
    The diagram shows a low yield well instead of city water but it works the same. You can mill around on my site and see other things related to this type system.
     
  18. Jan 21, 2014 #18

    KickForward

    KickForward

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    Thanks speedbump. I took a look a more info on your site, but it doesn't seem common that a cistern/tank would be installed so far from house. Will this work if my water tank is 80'-100' from house? Will the bladder tank need to be next to the tank or can it be under the house?

    If I need a bladder tank as well, would a good quality pump and bladder tank be good enough under the house without using this cistern approach? Only problem I see then is the 1" line constricting volume.
     
  19. Jan 21, 2014 #19

    speedbump

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    Wells & pumps; not a... Professional

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    The bladder tank can be anywhere as long as the pressure switch is with it.

    I would use the submersible pump instead of a jet pump. The cistern can be anywhere too, as we can size a submersible to give you adequate pressure from anywhere on the water line. Even at the meter is you like. The further from the house the more wire you have to run, that's the only drawback I see. A simple float/valve system to keep the cistern full and the sub to push the water from the cistern to the tank/house.

    I think your referring to a booster pump under the house. If so, like you said the one inch line may enter into the equation, but you could try it first. Just a 1/2hp jet pump and a flow switch would be all you need. The 1/2hp jet will boost pressure as much as 60 psi. We can trick up the jet to make it do even more pressure.
     
  20. Jan 22, 2014 #20

    KickForward

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    After more thought, I think installing the pressure next to the cistern would make more sense. I don't think our spigot will work right if the bladder tank is installed after it. Plus, if I want to install more water, like in a field or in the barn, I think it'd be smarter to run it from the cistern, not from the house. I guess it might not make much difference.

    Is there any problems keeping the pressure tank outside? I know I'd have to cover it somehow, but do people do that?

    What size pressure tank will I need? How big of a cistern would you recommend? I'm going to dig up the line where I'd like to place it and make sure there's enough pressure at that spot to continuously fill it.
     

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