What Can Cycling Behavior Tell You About Your Well Pump?

"Cycling" is a term that you'll often come across in the world of plumbing and HVAC. Despite the phrasing, this doesn't mean that your home's appliances have decided to take up spinning classes. Instead, cycling refers to the concept of duty cycles. In layman's terms, a duty cycle is the amount of time that a machine spends running versus sitting idle.

Your well pump doesn't run continuously but instead fills a pressure tank to a preset level. The pump's duty cycle is the time required to reach the cut-out point set on your pressure switch. When operating normally, your pump should only run when the tank's water pressure falls low enough to trigger the cut-in point. Any other cycling behavior may indicate an underlying problem with the system.

Recognizing the Signs of Pump Cycling Issues

Your home's water pump typically operates in a reasonably predictable manner. If you pay attention, you may notice slight changes in water pressure throughout the day. These changes occur as the tank pressure decreases until the tank reaches the cut-in point and the pump refills it. Any variance should be minor and barely noticeable.

If your well system is having issues, then one typical symptom is short cycling. A short cycling pump will briefly turn on and then off again, seemingly at random. Depending on the underlying cause, you may notice fluctuations in your water pressure during this time. In particular, you might see a sudden drop in water pressure followed by a low return to normal as the pump operates.

Intermittent or excessive cycling is another potential cause for concern. In this case, your pump may turn on even when your tank's pressure is above the cut-in point. You might also notice your pump constantly running, wasting water and electricity for no reason. These issues can place additional strain on the pump, leading to excessive wear and premature failure.

Repairing a Short or Intermittently Cycling Pump

Before condemning your pump, check your home for leaks, dripping faucets, and other potential sources of hidden water usage. Your pump may be cycling not because of an issue with the unit itself, but because of undetected excess water usage. If you can't find anywhere that you may be wasting water, then it's time to consider repairing the pump.

In many cases, pump cycling issues are the result of faulty pressure switches. The pressure switch controls when the pump turns on and off, so a failing switch can lead to short or intermittent cycling. Leaks in the pump's tank or plumbing can also cause it to cycle more than necessary since it won't be able to maintain system pressure.

Paying attention to the duty cycle of your well pump can alert you to many potential issues. If you notice these problems, it's best to contact a qualified well contractor as soon as possible to conduct a water well pump repair. Quickly diagnosing and fixing the problem will save you money on your utility bills and may even prevent a more costly failure.