What To Do If Well Pump Pressure Drops Suddenly?


Your well pump is your greatest ally when it comes to keeping a constant water flow in your home. However, in order to keep doing its job, the pump needs maintenance and care.

Even so, various problems can occur. One of the most common issues is a sudden drop in well pump pressure. This can happen for various reasons, and it can be either a simple or a complicated fix.

Leaks in the system are the most likely reason for a sudden drop of pressure in the well pump. It’s also possible that there’s been a power outage, or a filter might be clogged. Leaks generally need professional fixing, but you might be able to clear the clogs on your own.

Leaks In The System

This is one of the likeliest reasons behind a sudden drop in water pressure. It doesn’t matter if you have a constant pressure or a conventional well pump.

Both of these systems use water reservoirs to hold water. In order to control a regular, tight flow, pressure is built up in the system. In most cases, pressure is somewhere between 40 and 60 PSI.

Whenever water leaves the system, be it voluntary or involuntary, pressure starts dropping.

Now, what happens if there’s a leak in the system? 

Water starts leaving the system even if you haven’t turned on a water-based appliance. If the leak is small, then the rate of pressure-dropping will be low.

However, if there’s a large leak – a burst pipe, for example – then, the pressure can drop at astonishing rates. 

A large leak can achieve the same effects as turning on all the sinks, showers, and water-based appliances in the home.

If you try to turn on the shower, it’s likely that you’ll just get a few drops out of it.

How to Fix a Leak?

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about fixing a leak, unless you’re a qualified professional. It’s difficult to identify, locate and fix leaks without the proper tools and knowledge.

What you can do, as a homeowner, is know how to recognize a leaky well pump. Some of the most common signs are pools of water near the tank or near piping.

If you find a pool of water in your yard above a waterline, and there’s been a drop in water pressure, it’s likely that you have a burst pipe.

However, the most damning sign of a leak is the pump itself. If you hear it turning on and off too many times, despite no one using water, there’s likely a leak.

Power Outages

The first thing to keep in mind is that most homes that drain well water use submersible pumps. These pumps operate on electricity.

So, if there’s a power outage, you’re essentially left without any water. Even if there is water in the reservoir, the pump won’t be able to force it through the pipes.

If there’s a power outage, then there’s literally nothing you can do about the pump. The system itself is fine, but there’s nothing to power the pump to move water around.

The only thing you can do is use a backup generator for your pump and other crucial appliances. Many families use this, but buying, installing, and using a generator is complicated.

It’s also possible to use a gas-powered generator to run the pump, but it’s important to keep the size of your pump in mind. Larger pumps need larger, more powerful generators to run them.

Minor Electrical Issues

While we’re on the topic of electricity, it’s also possible that there’s some sort of internal pump problem. After all, they’re electronic devices, and failures are entirely possible.

This is why most good manufacturers offer a warranty – you can fix your pump or get a free replacement.

Plugged Filters

According to most professionals, plugged filters are the most likely reason behind low pressure. It’s actually more likely for your filter to plug than it is for your pipes to develop a leak!

Every water system has a filter (or multiple filters) that are there to remove any sediments. You don’t want to be drinking and showering in dirty water, after all.

What can happen, though, is the clogging of sediments in the filter. Higher-quality water rarely clogs filters and it takes a lot of time for sediment to build up.

Water of lower quality, on the other hand, can clog up a filter very quickly.

Some owners don’t know this, but filters need changing.

How often you should change your filter depends on the pump, the filter itself, and the quality of water in your well. A general rule is that filters should be changed twice a year.

There are three main signs of a clogged filter: low water pressure, bad-tasting water and sensors. Some modern pumps have filter sensors with a blinking light to notify you if your filter gets clogged.

The sediments building up could be minerals, but also something much larger; like sand or dirt. If you have sand or dirt in your water, then there are much bigger problems at hand than just low water pressure!

Wells water shouldn’t contain sand and dirt. If it does, it’s important to test your water immediately and have it cleaned.

Changing Your Water Filter

The good news is – you can do this on your own. Unlike with leaks, you don’t need to call a professional to change your water filter.

All you need is a new, clean water filter and some tools.

To change a water filter: 

  1. Buy a make and model that fits your system. 
  2. Turn off the water at the main shut-off valve before doing anything else, otherwise, you’ll be soaking wet.
  3. Release water pressure (there should be a pressure release button or lever near the pump). After that, turn the housing system clockwise to unscrew it (you might need a wrench).
  4. Once you’ve taken the housing off, take out the old filter and replace it. All that’s left to do is screw it back in and make sure it’s tightly wound.

After that, you can turn the water on using the main valve!

Faulty Pressure Switch or Sensor

Well, pumps use a pressure switch to decrease or increase pressure. Once tank pressure reaches the bottom line (usually around 40 PSI), the sensor will react.

The switch flips and the tank sucks in more water from the well. The same happens when it reaches the upper limit (around 60 PSI). The sensor recognizes it and stops the pump.

However, if the sensor or the switch are broken, they could fail to react to a drop in pressure. That way, pressure will drop way below 40 PSI, which causes the dripping.

It’s possible for both the sensor and the switch to stop working due to wear and tear. A faulty switch or sensor will need replacing, so the only solution for this is to call in an expert.

It Might Not Be the Pump

Even though your pump is the basis of your water system, it’s not the only possible reason behind low water pressure.

Just to name a few: water regulators, water heaters, and bad piping are just as suspicious as your water pump.

A water pressure regulator’s job is to keep track of water spending and regulate water pressure. As the water reaches your home, it will reduce the pressure if it’s too high.

It’s possible for a water pressure regulator to misread pressure levels and overregulate pressure, causing a sudden drop!

The video below details how to troubleshoot a water pressure regulator: 

Water heaters can also have clogged piping and filters. The easiest way to diagnose this is by observing hot water. 

If pressure drops only when you’re using hot water, then there’s likely a problem with the heater.

Lastly, we have bad and corroded piping. Just like pump pipes, they’re usually blocked by a buildup of minerals. Similarly, corrosion can also occur, especially if the water in your area isn’t high-quality.

To End

The most common reasons behind a drop in water pressure are sediment buildup in the filter, leaks, and power outages. However, other electrical failures, as well as a faulty switch or sensor are also possible.

It’s also possible that the problem isn’t even with the pump, but with your in-house plumbing and appliances.

Tom Lovric

Tom is a writer with plenty of hands-on home maintenance experience, as well as a passion for energy efficient homes. If he's not writing, you can find him running, hiking, or playing football (but you're more likely to find him watching it on TV)!

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