water wellIf you get your water from a well – for drinking or for irrigation – chances are that you use a well pump. These out-of-sight devices are typically out of our minds until something goes wrong. There’s obviously an issue if a well pump stops functioning completely, but you might not think about a performance issue with a well pump if you don’t notice any problems with your water supply but only see an unexplained spike in utility bills.

Here are a few quick tips from the July issue of Carolina Country, a publication of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives that offers the co-op’s customers some great advise on saving energy.

If your well pump is running continuously: Check your pipes and faucets! A leaky pipe or an open faucet (don’t forget to check exterior hoses and sprinkler connections that are seeing heavy use during this time of year) can cause there to be insufficient pressure in the tank. When the tank isn’t full, the pressure switch in your well pump won’t turn off, so the pump runs continuously to keep up with what it thinks is increased demand. Likewise, if a floating pressure switch isn’t properly set, it also could cause a lack of tank pressure and same result. What it costs: The average homeowner with a ½ horsepower pump could see a $40 a month spike in their bill. That doubles to $80 a month for a one-horsepower pump.

If your pump continuously turns off and on: Have your plumber check your foot valve. This is a one-way valve installed near the bottom of a well that allows water to come into the system, strains out dirt and debris, and prevents water from leaking back out. When the foot valve is leaking or sticks open, water flows back out, and pressure in the tank drops. That drop in pressure tricks the motor into turning on and off. What it costs: If your pump runs three-fourths of the time, it adds approximately $26.40 a month to your bill for homeowners with a ½ horsepower pump and 39.60 a month for those with a ¾ horsepower pump.

What if your pump just won’t turn on? One of the quickest diagnostics that a homeowner can do his or herself is simply checking your home’s circuit breaker box to ensure that nothing has tripped. Next, check fuses to make sure they haven’t blown or need to be replaced. Then, make certain that wiring connections are not loose. If that fails, the pressure switch is the next likely culprit, and you may want to call in a professional to take it from there.